Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logo

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “One of his authors describes him thus:

Stolen away as a toddler by a corrupt necromancer and raised as her near-nameless drudge, Kid had nobody to rely on but his own self, until even he and his body began to grow apart. Now this unaging soul roams the earth at will, seeking out the delights of the world of the living before his grown alter ego remakes it all in a more deathly image.

“Welcome, Kid!” Will greets the child bouncing in the air above the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Allyn-a-Dale? ‘Cause it’s uncanny!”

Soul of Kid

As seen on the “Dark Siren”-related Pinterest board, “Bones, Souls, and Hellgates

The adorable boy giggles. Everything about me is uncanny. I’m the bodiless soul of a necromancer! But of course I look like a little Allyn. And of course my body looks like him grown-up. That’s the inspiration behind our characters – from some silly hypothetical scenario Danielle and Tirzah spun out over the phone. Allyn was the Dark Siren, and his younger self was his soul, and I think the knights of Camelot were a team of superheroes, and you were a lovesick maniac.”

“Sounds about right. Getting back to your story proper, what was it like growing up as a forced-labor assistant to a practitioner of death magic?”

“No fun at all,” Kid pouts. “All Mistress Barbara ever did was boss me around. I never got to play outside. I never got to make any friends. I never got to experiment with her books of spells… although I did that anyway, whenever I could do it without her noticing. She wasn’t overly careful about keeping her things warded; or herself, for that matter. Killing her was easy.”

“Um.” Will glances at the camera. “Is this a confession to a murder? Because let me remind you that this is live blog-TV, and I don’t know if I—”

“Oh, it wasn’t me,” says Kid, wide-eyed. “It was my body. That was the night we split, you see – so he could become a more powerful necromancer.” He slumps into his chair – (literally, his ghostly form has sunk partway through the cushions) – muttering sadly, “Souls get in the way.”

“Aww.” Will frowns sympathetically. “So your body hasn’t been much of a friend to you either, huh?”

Voice dropped to an eerie, melodic pitch that sets Scarlet shivering, the soul intones, “The Dark Siren is a friend to no one but death. But,” he goes on more brightly, “I meet other nice people, from time to time. Like the living skeleton I found in Millennium Park! I like her.”

“That’s good. What about ice cream?” Will asks, in pursuit of cheery, death-free topics. “Do you like that?”

Kid pulls a face. “I’m a soul. I can’t eat.”

Will draws back, aghast. “Not even soul food?!”

“Not even corpses,” Kid sighs. “Though those are fun for other things.”

“Haaa, well,” says Will, disconcerted, “there’s time for one more fun thing before we say goodbye. Tell me, what is the biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret involving your co-authors, Tirzah Duncan and Danielle E. Shipley?” A spirited smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“I’ve already tattled on them once,” says Kid, jumping out of his chair. “Kiss me! I’m starved for physical affection!”

“I’ll bet,” says Will, placing a kiss on (and almost through) Kid’s cherubic cheek. In return, Kid’s lips pass through Will’s nose, while his little arms fling around Will’s neck.

“You’re nice, too,” Kid approves. “I hope the Dark Siren doesn’t kill you.”

“Same,” says Will, fondly ruffling the space Kid’s hair does and doesn’t occupy. “Hey, Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by The Dark Siren’ by Danielle E. Shipley and Tirzah Duncan – available now as part of the Arcane Arts Anthology!

arcane-arts-cover

Necromancy killed her body, and necromancy saved her soul. Now all this living skeleton wants is for necromancy to leave her the hell alone. But with a disembodied child-spirit hanging around like a too-catchy tune, and a dread dark-artist preparing to sing the world into its final unrest, our heroine’s left with only one real option: Face the music.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Kid! And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

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Beautiful Books (and the Big Ideas Behind Them)

Somewhere, out in the blogosphere… specifically, on the blogs Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In… a meme is under way…

Beautiful Books Meme

Just like every year, we’re giving our monthly link up “Beautiful People” a small rest so we can focus on “Beautiful Books” [and] our NaNoWriMo projects. The format is the same as Beautiful People. We’ll post 10 questions to answer about your WiP — aka your beautiful book.  Answer the questions in a blog post of your own and then come back here to link up!

I enjoyed taking part in the Beautiful People meme, that one time in August, and I’ve enjoyed participating in National Novel Writing Month several times, though not this year. Fortunately, you don’t need a NaNo project to take part in Beautiful Books. Any story in progress will do. So I’m jumping in with my debut novel, scheduled to re-release in a brand new edition, March of next year – “Inspired”!

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Cover w Text 06.3, front

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I’ve got brainstorming notes on the earliest iterations of “Inspired” going back to May 2011, and the first draft came out over the following December. The spark behind it all started around the NaNo before, when my (brand new, at the time!) best friend and I created the Stranger Than Truth club. Originally, the novel was going to feature not just one author navigating the fictional realm, but two, imagining in tandem. And there’s still room for that to happen, if I ever get around to a sequel centering on that. I just felt there was a lot of groundwork to lay down first.

Describe what your novel is about!

Happy days – I’ve got a blurb ready. ^o^

For a muse like Lucianíel, one story’s end is another’s beginning.

In the wake of his author’s sudden death, Luc takes ownership of her surviving creations—four fantastical characters with tales yet to be told—saving them from unwritten lives crumbling around them and giving them a second chance at a literary future.

Luc finds that chance in the unsuspecting mind of Annabelle Iole Gray, a quirky teen with her head in the clouds, nose in a book, and imagination ripe for a brilliant muse’s inspiration.

Or so he hopes.

Neither Luc nor Annabelle, however, realize all they’ve undertaken. Even with a to-write list including accounts of a shape-shifting cat creature, gentle knight-in-training, vigilante skater girl, and a mystery boy smothering in unspoken fear, the most remarkable saga created between author and muse just may turn out to be one stranger than fiction.

Their own.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

Oh, the “Inspired” gallery on my website may have a few applicable images…

PhotoFunia-Luc and Jean

Inspired, Only the Beginning, 02

Inspired Avengers

Introduce us to each of your characters!

Whoof, there’s a lot, so let’s restrict it to three words each:

Lucianíel = That lightbulb moment

Abishan = Just… total cat

Wilbur = Chivalrous sweetie pie

Uri = Entirely judging you

Yves= Smol, with secrets

Annabelle = Danielle E. Shipley

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

Step 1 = Talk to myself in a Word document until I’ve got a fairly solid idea of the book’s shape.

Step 2 = Outline chapter by chapter, to ensure every puzzle piece gets slotted in somewhere.

Sometimes, Step 3 (or 1-and-a-half, or at whatever point on the list I feel thus compelled) = Ask the characters questions so that I can begin to hear their voices in the answers.

Cover 2 w Text, front

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Since it’s already been written and published once, at this point I’m just eager to have it back on the market again – and with such a beautiful new face! Plus this time, it comes out with a sequel. I’m always excited to give the world something brand new to read. ^o^

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

Oh, perfect, ‘cause there are three different settings.

1 = The Material Plane – aka, the real world. Like Annabelle’s home, inspired by the house where Childhood Me used to visit my dad’s family over Thanksgiving.

2 = The Immaterial Plane – aka, the world of imagination. Where muses live, and where some characters may choose to hang out, if they’re self-aware enough to know they’ve got an author’s mind to roam.

3 = Book Worlds. The intersection of material and immaterial. Fictional, yes, but no less real to the people who inhabit the story. One of “Inspired”s special charms is that it offers a glimpse into several.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Boiled down to one word, Luc’s main goal = security. In this, Annabelle is both a tool and an obstacle, because while she’s willing to be the author for Luc and his loved ones, she’s basically just in it for the fun. Clash of motivations. Expect fireworks.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Nothing like putting in the time on the craft to mature an artist! Not that Annabelle doesn’t still have plenty of growing up to do by novel’s end, but you can see she’s getting there.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

Themes… How ideas are planted… How stories grow… How people can blossom, with a little help from their friends – real, imaginary, and in between… As for how I want readers to feel at novel’s end, how else? Of course I want them to walk away inspired.

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And that is that! Related note: I am currently seeking folks interested in providing an early read ‘n’ review of “Inspired”. Is that you? Talk to me!

Over, out, and good luck to any o’ y’all doing NaNo this year. ^o^

The OG Bad Guy (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logo

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

Allyn’s face goes bloodless white, eyes wide on his clipboard. “Will…” he virtually whispers. “This… tell me this name isn’t right.”

“That depends,” says Will. “What’s the name?”

The camera zooms in for a close-up of Allyn’s terror. “Sir Guy of Gisborne.

“Yep,” Will confirms. “That’s who we’ve got. You gonna read that introduction now, or…?”

“No.” Allyn’s already backing offstage. “Dale no. I can’t be here for this. Have your fun without me.” Tossing the clipboard to Scarlet, he adds, “And try not to die.”

With a shrug, Will carries on alone as, from the other side of the stage, a dark shadow looms. “Friar Tuck once described him thus:

He is a devil among men, is what he is. […] One of those unknown mercenary sorts who appear out of the blue wherever there are men with riches and motive enough to pay their blood money. He has been Sheriff Swanton’s ruthless right hand the greater part of this past year, dubiously knighted and set loose to do the unethical and, often enough, unlawful filthy work with which His Lordship of Nottinghamshire would not soil his hands, in addition to his primary assignment.

“Welcome, Sir Guy!” he greets the figure stalking toward the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – why the long face?”

Gisborne regards him through the eye hollows of his masking hood, fashioned from the dark hide of a horse head. He says, his voice a frigid growl, “Is that supposed to be funny?”

“A joke, yes. Funny, to me. In all seriousness, though, what’s with the getup?”

“It’s a signature,” says Gisborne, dropping into his seat with the deadly grace of a panther’s pounce. “One designed to disquiet. Fear is a valuable tool.”

“And one you wield well,” says Will, with a glance toward where his minstrel partner vanished. “So, you’re the Sheriff’s dirty business guy. How’d you land the gig?”

Gisborne fingers the hilt of his sword. “It came to my attention that he was having difficulty keeping certain of his jurisdiction’s troublemakers in check. I offered my services. The rest will be history, once I’ve completed my task.”

“The main of that task being?”

“The death of Robin Hood, and all his so-called Merry Men.” His disconcerting gaze holds Will. “You wouldn’t know where I could find any of them, would you?”

“Not a one,” Will squeaks brightly.

“Very odd. I’m told they have a band member called Will Scarlet.”

“Weird. Also weird: Nobody seems to know a darn thing about your backstory. Give us a tidbit. Any fun childhood facts?”

The gleam of his eyes darkens and returns in a slow blink. “I was born of necessity.”

“Tell her hello for me. Any hobbies?”

“Doling out justice.”

“Oh, fun! Robin’s all into justice, too. Rumor has it. No way I’d know personally. Y’ever think you two could be friends?”

“I make no friends of outlaws.”

“Only of Sheriffs who hire you to step outside the law on their behalf?”

Gisborne scoffs. “I am not Swanton’s friend. I am his teeth.”

“How ‘bout his minstrel?” Will inquires. “What’s your opinion of Allyn-a-Dale?”

“Small,” Gisborne says tersely. “Though my instinct says he’s larger than he seems. Swanton ought not be so quick to depend on him.”

“Oh yeah, I’m sure you’re by far the more trustworthy. Speaking of things you can count on, it’s time for my final question! Tell me, Sir Guy, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” His smile glitters with its proximity to danger. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Danielle’s secret?” says Gisborne, rising from his seat. “She fancies herself one snap away from villainy, but she’s far too tangled up in her ideas of what she should be to ever become what she’d have to be. One snap alone wouldn’t do it. She would need to employ the likes of me to cut through to her potential. And I don’t see that happening.”

“Probably for the world’s best,” Will supposes – not that Gisborne’s likely to hear, having already prowled off the stage. “Ho, Allyn! The coast is clear. How ‘bout the word from our sponsor?”

Allyn’s head pokes cautiously out of the wings. “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” he says, “is brought to you by The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book 3)’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now, both to buy and to win in this Goodreads giveaway!

Legend cover 02, frontLong ago: Hailed as heroes, killed as criminals, an extraordinary band of outlaws met their end in Sherwood Forest – all except the four who were supernaturally saved, and the one who did not exist. …Not yet.

Now: With Avalon Faire’s living legends finally free to move between the realms of magic and modernity, there’s no dream too fantastic to reach – including that kept alive by a secret society, awaiting only the right time, and the right minstrel, to rewrite history.

Just when the future seems brightest, the Merry Men find themselves thrust into the past, facing a second chance at the lives they might have lived … or the death they might not have the luck to cheat twice. For the otherworldly Allyn-a-Dale, it’s all in a day’s destiny. For an already struggling Will Scarlet, it’s a nightmare that may prove black enough to break him. And for the whole of the band, it’s anyone’s guess whether courage, cunning, and camaraderie can win out against their most infamous enemies: The Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Guy of Gisborne, and – for once in eternity – Time.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Sir Guy! And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

Truly Great LEGEND’s Release

Happy birthday, Kevin of the Backstreet Boys Release Day to “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”! At last, the third and final novel in my trilogy of magically immortal Merry Men is available for purchase – both in paperback (CreateSpace, Amazon) and e-book (Barnes & Noble, Amazon).

Go! Buy! ***Review, pretty please*** I don’t want you here reading a blog post – I want you reading the book!

But for those of you just joining us who don’t know all the excellent reasons why you should be reading the book, here’s a roundup of the “Legend” content I’ve shared over the past weeks:

Things I Love About Outlaws 3 – in which I gush about a few of my favorite #LEGENDofAaD features

Why I Wrote The Outlaws of Avalon – in which I reminisce on the unique reasons behind each Outlaws book’s existence

Villains of LEGEND – in which we meet the bad guys standing ready to antagonize Sherwood’s heroes

An Interview with Will Scarlet – in which the Merry Madman gives an exclusive scoop over on Beyond Your Book (bookauthors.online)

Combination Station: When Legends Collide – in which I guest post re: mashing up Robin Hood lore with Arthuriana on the blog of That Artsy Reader Girl as part of the Magic, Myth, and Mischief event

In a Faire Fight – in which we get to watch a piece of the street entertainment that makes some Renaissance Faires so gosh-darn exciting

The Recap of Allyn-a-Dale – in which Allyn graciously reminds us of the trilogy’s most relevant plot points leading up to the finale

Also, I’ve got a number of new Outlaws 3-inspired designs in my Society6 store. So if you want to support me by adding some pretty mugs, notebooks, and whatnot to your life, shop away.

And oh yeah – I’ve got a Goodreads giveaway going on. Five proof copies of “Legend” from like a month ago are sitting around, begging for loving homes. So now through next Friday, Oct. 13th, you can enter to win one – signed by yours truly. No guarantee what your odds in the raffle will be, though, so were I you, I’d be sure to order a finished copy of the book, too, just in case. ;D

THANK YOU, readers who have journeyed with me to the Faire and beyond thus far. Now to discover where this last stage of the journey will take our outlaws of Avalon…

The Recap of Allyn-a-Dale

Meekest of Minstrels

Hello, people of the Internet. My name is Allyn-a-Dale, and I have been tasked by my author with preparing us all for next week’s release of the final book in the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy (the Kindle edition of which is currently available for pre-order).

For perhaps there are those among you who have caught wind of this novel’s coming, and your interest has been piqued, but alas! You have yet to read through the story’s preceding volumes! What’s to be done? How to begin a tale near its end without losing your way? Easily enough, for you have me to guide you. And really, it’s none too difficult a storyline to follow. Each book, so far as I can tell, is built around a single question:

What would it most hurt Allyn to lose?

Book One = “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale

It would most hurt Allyn to lose… = His father, Gant-o’-the-Lute

Solution = Open Chapter One with Father’s funeral

Important Plot Things to Know ™ =

Ballad Cover, front 02

– Allyn – a young minstrel with a heavenly voice, crippling inferiority complex, and a lute he holds more dear than life itself – is from a faraway, fairytale world

– That world is ending

– A talking wind helps Allyn find a different world via an invisible, interdimensional portal

– That talking wind is Allyn’s great-grandmother, making Allyn himself part-Sky

– Being part-Sky has its superhuman perks

– Allyn’s new world is Avalon Faire – which is to say, the legendary Isle of Avalon (King Arthur, and all that), disguised in 21st-century America as a perfectly typical Renaissance Faire

– Because Merlin the prophet-wizard thinks the best way to preserve mythological heroes is to turn them into immortal actors, courtesy of Fey magic, and never let them Outside

– Time may tell

– Avalon’s not just for the Camelot crowd; infamous outlaw Robin Hood and his Merry Men are there, too

– Allyn joins the band

– …Just in time for a Very Important Magical Item™ to be stolen from the Faire

– If it’s not retrieved quickly, the immortals will die

– Under these dire circumstances, the Merry Men are allowed Outside to chase down the magic thief-or-thieves

– Road trip!

– Shenanigans! Most of them Will Scarlet’s

– Danger! Close calls! Fight scene!

– Magic retrieved! But…

– …Just to be safe, Allyn has to do something, um, completely unsafe

– [Climax]

– Everyone lives safe in Avalon forever after

– Seriously. The forecast says “forever”

– Until…

Book Two = “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale

It would most hurt Allyn to lose… = His father, Gant-o’-the-Lute

Wait, isn’t his father already dead? = Yes he is, but his voice in Allyn’s head isn’t

Solution = Erase Allyn’s memories

Important Plot Things to Know ™ =

marriage-cover-final-front

– Allyn’s second summer in Avalon Faire is coming up

– The cast plans a show based upon the legendary romance of Allyn-a-Dale and his lover

– The part of Lover to be played by Loren McCaughley, a modern Outsider whom Allyn accidentally develops feelings for

– Oops

– Allyn does Foolish Things in the Name of Love™, 100% enabled by Will Scarlet

– Time for a bit of Fey culture as Avalon celebrates Midsummer Eve – a night ripe for even more magic than usual

– Allyn tries to enjoy the party, but is a little bit busy missing his father

– He misses Father even more when all memories of him disappear

– …Only to reappear in the form of Gant-o’-the-Lute!

– Meanwhile, Little John does Foolish Things in the Name of Love™, 100% enabled by Marion Hood

– Allyn divides his time between being belittled by his father and swooning over Loren

– Gant-o’-the-Lute divides his time between being a carelessly abusive parent and… well, no, that’s pretty much all he does

– Will Scarlet hates him on Allyn’s behalf

– Date night for all illicit lovers!

– Things do not go well

– Some things get better

– Some things get worse

– Allyn has to suck it up and— oh, look at that, do something completely unsafe

– [Climax]

– Everyone lives safe in Avalon forever after – including Allyn’s and Little John’s girlfriends! – plus they’re allowed Outside, now

– Guess how long “forever” lasts

Book Three = “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale

It would most hurt Allyn to lose… = Not his father, for a change

Solution = Crueler than ever

Important Plot Things to Know ™ =

Legend cover 02, front

Long ago: Hailed as heroes, killed as criminals, an extraordinary band of outlaws met their end in Sherwood Forest – all except the four who were supernaturally saved, and the one who did not exist. …Not yet.

Now: With Avalon Faire’s living legends finally free to move between the realms of magic and modernity, there’s no dream too fantastic to reach – including that kept alive by a secret society, awaiting only the right time, and the right minstrel, to rewrite history.

Just when the future seems brightest, the Merry Men find themselves thrust into the past, facing a second chance at the lives they might have lived … or the death they might not have the luck to cheat twice. For the otherworldly Allyn-a-Dale, it’s all in a day’s destiny. For an already struggling Will Scarlet, it’s a nightmare that may prove black enough to break him. And for the whole of the band, it’s anyone’s guess whether courage, cunning, and camaraderie can win out against their most infamous enemies: The Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Guy of Gisborne, and – for once in eternity – Time.

There, now. All caught up. Nothing left for you to do but buy the new book once it becomes available. …and, if you would be so kind, to point our way any you know who might enjoy the tale. Truly great legends owe much of their power to word of mouth. 😉 Until next week, readers! *minstrel bow* Fare ye well.

In a Faire Fight

Did you ever hear about the most epic fight I ever saw at the Ren Faire?

(Bristol, that is. Black gold. Texas tea.)

‘Twas my first season on cast as a Towne Crier – also, incidentally, the last season where the Fight Cast played the roles of Merry Men. I forget all the details of the staged encounter, but it involved Robin Hood getting caught on the bridge over Lake Elizabeth, forcing him into an outrageous getaway. It was pretty wild. There were Sirens involved.

And of course, me being an author who would go on to pen a whole series of books centered around my own Merry Men in a Renaissance Faire, you had to know I’d use it as inspiration sooner or later – like, say, in the upcoming conclusion of the trilogy.

Since I daresay most of you missed the instigating show at Bristol, and we’ve still got 2 weeks to kill before Outlaws 3’s release, how about we sneak a peek at that scene now? ^^ You can read it below! And/or watch me read it aloud in this video posted to the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page.

zLegendExcerptVid2

Neither option includes Sirens, alas, but you will be treated to merry banter and wonky math! Plus, the vid features my Disney Robin Hood shirt and, well, the kind of faces I make when performing characters. X) Enjoy!

“Sheriff!” a voice barked from the trees beyond the road, and out of their shadows stepped the archer. He pushed back the hood of green from his head, revealing his waves of brown hair, flashing blue eyes, and slim beard framing both strong jaw and mouth drawn into a hard line of anger. “Leave the innocents of Nottingham in peace. Your quarrel is not with them, but with me!”

“Guards!” the Sheriff shouted, a finger thrust toward the archer. “Take him!”

“Oh, prithee do try,” a voice rumbled low – or high, in terms of altitude. Another man stepped from the trees, towering over the first, and with a stout staff at the ready in his colossal hands.

“What are you waiting for?” the Sheriff berated his men, when they only stood staring uneasily at the black-bearded giant. “Grow a spine among you, cowards! We are many, and they only two!”

“Huh,” said the dark woman just now stepping around the giant, a knife a-twirl in her fingers. “Seemeth to me someone’s count is off, somewhere. How many would you say we are, Robin?”

“Well, of course you and I are one heart joined, my lady Marion,” said Robin, with a warm smile for his wife. “But Little John is easily the equal of any two men, so the count thus far is no fewer than three.”

“And was is not but this morn at breakfast, cousin,” said a man garbed in lavish red, come forward to lean casually against his sword placed point-first in the ground, “that you likened me to a dozen good men?”

“Was it yourself thus likened, Scarlet, or your chatter?” asked Robin.

“Or his share of our breakfast?” said Marion.

Will Scarlet laughed with abandon. “Best take both together, and count me as four-and-twenty!”

With lute on back and staff in hand, a youth in dark blues stepped out to join the party, a curvaceous girl with a half-drawn bow at his side. “The final count, then,” he lilted, “is nine and a score, for we are content to add a pair more.”

The girl with the bow arched an eyebrow. “Are we not one, Allyn-a-Dale?”

“Most assuredly are we, May Ellen,” he soothed. “But I deemed it high time someone tried their hand at a factual tally, and it appeared not as if that one,” – he rolled his eyes – “or four-and-twenty, would be Will.”

By now, the Sheriff’s men-at-arms, who numbered a factual four, were looking less at ease than ever. Seeing this, the Sheriff cleared his throat, and adopted a more levelheaded tone.

“Now, Robin,” said he, “I see no need for us to engage in full-scale battle. What profit is it to either of us to risk so many lives? Let us rather be judicious men, and curtail the shedding of blood.”

“Why, my good Sheriff,” said Robin, dryly. “I knew not that wanton bloodshed was so abhorrent to you. In faith, past action on your part has led me to believe just the opposite. But what solution would you put forth?”

“A contest of champions,” the Sheriff said. “My best swordsman, pitted against yours. Should your man win, I give my word that I will no longer trouble the townsfolk to reach you. Should my man win, your band must give itself up to the Law. Are we agreed?”

While the crowd shouted their opinions on the matter, Robin turned a questioning look on his band. “What say you, my Merry Men?” he asked. “All those in favor of accepting the Sheriff’s terms, say: ‘Hey for merry old England!’”

With one voice, the band cried, “Hey for merry old England!”

“Then we are agreed!” Robin answered the Sheriff. “Send forth your champion.”

Smiling smugly, the Sheriff called, “Stand forward, Sir Guy of Gisborne!”

For the rest of the confrontation (and the rest of the novel, for that matter) be sure to get your copy of “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale” – coming in 2 weeks!

Villains of LEGEND

I love a good wicked villain! In that respect, “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale” is a treat-and-a-half for me, because it’s got not just one bad guy, but three. Since you’ve had a chance to meet most of the heroes in Books 1 and 2, how ‘bout we now take a sneak peek at the antagonists of Book 3?

Villain #1 – Lord Swanton, Sheriff of Nottinghamshire

Sheriff_of_Nottingham

Swanton in a single quote: “Something one learns in the position of Sheriff, Locksley: Somehow, the amount a person is able to give always totals less than what can be taken by force.”

Swanton in a scene:

Swanton swept through the door, his brow deeply furrowed and mouth set in a snarl. “Whiners!” he growled, slamming the door shut behind him. “Whiners, every one of them. Nothing but complaints, all day in and out!”

He stalked around the room like a wolf denied an opening to pounce, his voluminous dark robes swirling with every turn. “I am too hard on them, they say, these hedge-born curs. Hard! It is not I that is hard. I am not the law, only its enforcer — and if those under the law like it not, how am I to blame? Yet do they blame me. And I would care not a whit, if they would only do it silently!”

He threw himself down, grumbling, onto the cushion of his high-backed armchair. “Hard… I suppose snubbing the law would be less hard, would it not? Keeping their coppers for themselves instead of paying their taxes, feasting on ill-gotten meat, oh yes, that would be very easy. Nothing easier than utter anarchy! But we do not all have the luxury of turning our back on the law.”

“Is it a luxury, My Lord?” Allyn asked […]

“Indeed,” Swanton seethed quietly, gray eyes glinting. “A priest is bound by God’s law, a king by his own laws, those below by those given from above. We are not to break the rules, but work within them. …Creatively, if need be.

“To live outside of the law is a privilege that none have been granted, and yet will the lowest of men grasp for it. They scorn the governors placed over them, live by no code of conduct but that which they see fit to devise, and laugh behind the backs now bent beneath the double weight of having to deal with such vermin in addition to our own troubles! Time, funds, and effort which might have gone toward easing the burdens of the common folk, allotted instead to hunting down delinquents and meting out their due punishment. And then the whiners complain to me … only to speak praises of Robin Hood on their next breath!

An ill-placed goblet flew from its perch on an end table to crash into the wall opposite Swanton’s chair. … Swanton sat rigid, the nails of his clenched hands digging into his seat’s armrests, sweat beading on the brow over his wildly glittering eyes. “Play for me, Allyn,” he said hoarsely. “Sing.”

Why I love to hate him: Let’s just say… I can relate.

Villain #2: Sir Guy of Gisborne

Rowan Hood cover

Gisborne in a single quote: “The Sheriff cannot do the half of what I can. […] His tied hands cannot reach out and deal with outlaws as they must be dealt with if they are to be beaten: On their own, lawless terms. And so did he turn to me.”

Gisborne in a scene:

It was like looking at a demon. Tall and wiry, clad in black and darkest brown, with a horse head skin — long face and ears, mane and all — draped over him like an unholy masked helmet. His eyes were in shadow. His teeth, bared in grimace or grin, gleamed white […]

“You thought yourself safe, did you not? You thought I would not play your game. But you are not the only one willing to defy the law’s limits in the name of justice. And this is justice most complete.” The voice dripped with gloating malice. “The great Robin Hood, shot down with his own arrow. And though you will not live to feel it, yet will you hang.”

Straightening, he said, “Take him,” and two of his followers nearest at hand moved forward to obey. Then both startled back with a dual shout […] Robin’s body was gone from the tree […]

Alone of those left alive in the open, the horse-hooded man stood statue still. “Did anyone see that?” he asked.

A man at his side exclaimed, “Of course we saw—”

He got no further than that, the sword in his leader’s hand lashing out to cut him off at the neck.

“I ask again,” he said, voice sharp as bloody steel. “Did anyone see that?”

Why I love to hate him: This creeper gives my spirit chills!

Villain #3: …Well, that would be telling.

Gotta keep some surprises for the book, right? But here, we’ll throw in a scene with this reprobate thug:

“A fine day to you, Goodman Clank-and-Clang,” the man in the road said with a distracting smile. How very much like Will Scarlet his cousin could look, when his expression had mischief in store. “Making rather a lot of to-do about your passing, are you not?”

“’Tis to keep the outlaws away,” the driver said snappishly. “Stand aside, will you?”

Rather than comply, Robin tipped his head quizzically to one side. “Are outlaws truly as easily affrighted as all that? I should rather think they would come running from a mile away at what sounds enticingly like a king’s ransom in coins, clinking together.”

The driver grunted. “Only if a king’s captors are like to take payment in pots and kettles in need of a tinker’s repair. Not much worth robbing there, now is it?”

“Rob?” Robin repeated, as if such a thought had never entered his head. “Why, my good fellow, who’s come to rob you? I stand here only to collect the road’s toll.”

“Toll, is it? And how much is the toll?”

“That depends,” said Robin. “How much have you got?”

All this depravity and more, coming to you in 3 weeks! ^_^