#MARRIAGEofAaD: Launched, Asked and Answered

Happy Launch Day to “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”!

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Yes indeed, the second book in the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy is officially out in the world, and available via CreateSpace (paperback), Barnes & Noble (e-book), and Amazon (both). Do both Reader You and Author Me a solid by nabbing a copy. ^o^

In honor of the day, I’ve put together a fun Q&A based on this “writing ask game” spotted on Tumblr. So, newcomers to the series and old fans alike, behold: A whole host of things you didn’t even know you wanted to know about “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”!

<<<>>>

Describe the plot in 1 sentence.

If I may wax intellectual…

When budding eros comes up against problematic storge, with hyper philia running amok, it’s anyone’s guess which love will conquer all.

You: Not in Greek, please?

Me: Much love; such angst.

What’s the time period and location in which the novel takes place?

The early 21st century, in a magical island of ancient Britannia disguised as a Renaissance Faire in the American Midwest.

Pick one sight, smell, sound, feel, and taste to describe the aesthetic of your novel.

Sight: An arrow through the heart.

Smell: Assorted flowers.

Sound: An orchestral string section – with featured lute solos.

Feel: A sun-warmed breeze.

Taste: Popcorn, Chinese takeout, and mead.

#MARRIAGEofAaD Moodboard

#MARRIAGEofAaD Moodboard

How many times does the word ____ appear in the novel?

No word specified, hmm? In that case, the answer is four. An abbreviation of ‘chrysanthemums’ is spoken as an expletive four times.

Which 3+ songs would make up a playlist for the novel?

The book already includes 3 original songs: A cheery spring lovers’ ditty, a sultry jazz number, and a personal piece straight from the heart of Allyn-a-Dale.

What’s the first line of your novel?

May Ellen fought the growing urge to cry.

(For comparison, the first line of Outlaws of Avalon 1 was: “Loren fought the growing urge to panic.” Makes ya wonder who will be fighting which growing urge at Book 3’s beginning. ^^)

Which character is the best liar? Worst?

1) My kneejerk reaction is of course to say Will Scarlet, but while he’s the one most likely to have half the things out of his mouth be technically untrue, the by far better liars would be Little John and Morganne le Fey – the ones with the perfect poker faces.

2) Probably King Arthur. I don’t think the man has a properly dishonest bone in his body.

Which character swears the most? Least?

1) Will Scarlet, hands down.

2) Leila would never.

Which character is most like you? Least like you?

1) The earliest version of she who would become Loren McCaughley was a straight-up self-insert. And even now that she’s Loren for real, we share a number of traits in common – foremost, a mania for all things Robin Hood and a weakness for minstrels. I am likewise a good deal like her adorkable sister.

2) Temperament-wise, I don’t think Leila and I could be farther removed. She’s all sweet-spirited and kind and patient and incapable of seeing the worst in life. You lost me at “sweet”.

Which character would you most like to be?

I’d say Marion Hood is the most ideally situated. All of the best bits of being a Merry Man, less of the torture that comes with being a main character.

Do any characters have distinctive birthmarks/scars?

Allyn-a-Dale’s emotional scars are practically trademark.

What’s a line of dialogue you’re particularly proud of?

Arrgh, the first one that comes to mind hails from spoiler territory! A certain burn from Little John, near the end of Part Sixth. In lieu of that, have this bit from Allyn to Morganne le Fey:

“You are such a creeper.”

Which line from the novel most represents it as a whole?

Never did one so acutely yearn for discomfort as did Allyn-a-Dale.

That or,

“Even if Merlin has our manhood for this, wasn’t it bloody worth it?”

<<<>>>

Tra-la. And remember, if there’s anything else you guys want to know about “Marriage” that the novel’s text doesn’t answer for you – *points to the comments section* – you’re entirely welcome to ask. ;D

“Marriage” Excerpt: Counsel of the Stripe

1 week ‘til the release of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” (the Kindle edition of which is totally available for pre-order)! Here’s two things to help us bear the wait:

readane-bookweek_lose-yourself

1) Now through March 11: It’s Read An E-Book Week on Smashwords! Just in time to get all caught up before MARRIAGEofAaD’s release, you can grab an e-copy of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon 1) for FREE and/or check out all the other free/discounted e-titles from other authors here in the event catalog. Happy e-reading! ^o^

2) Have another sneak peek into Outlaws 2 below!

<<<>>>

There was a sense of ease between them which had not been there before. Which was doubtless why Loren — with him beneath the pavilion, idling away the minutes leading up to their last pre-season wedding before the make-believe real thing — felt free to ask, “So what’s going on with you and the others, lately?”

“You’ve noticed that, then,” said Allyn, wasting no time or effort on denials.

“Couldn’t help but do.”

“A less perceptive individual might well have done, yet would have come to no worse end; I’d rather not discuss the matter.”

“Are you sure? ‘A flow of words doth ever ease the heart of sorrows.’”

Allyn wrinkled his nose at the phrase. “Quoth whom?”

Loren smiled. “The merry Robin Hood himself. Or so I’ve read.”

Funny – I’ve read the same.

Funny – I’ve read the same.

“Well, be it far from me to abuse any word of Robin’s as strictly false,” said Allyn, plucking at the grass they lazed upon. “Even if ‘twas counsel of that stripe that caused the very trouble I still have no wish to discuss.”

“Well, if you’re going to toss out phrases like ‘counsel of that stripe,’ I am ill-equipped to argue,” said Loren. “I guess we’ll talk of other things. Oh!” She brightened. “How would you like to go out tonight?”

Allyn’s very blood seemed to still. “Go… out?”

“Yeah. I thought it would be fun to get together with a few friends from the Faire and have a little hurrah before Sunday’s reopening. Catch a movie, grab a bite, nothing huge. It’d be me, my sister, you… I was thinking of inviting the other Men, too, but if you’re all on the outs…”

“Oh, erm, yes, that would be frightfully awkward.” Rather like my present position, Allyn thought. “Alas,” he continued, mental wheels revolving double-time, “it is my fate to pass this evening in their company and out of yours. We have to rehearse another of our shows tonight. The Golden Arrow Archery Contest. Some last-minute changes came up, and we’ve got to get it all ironed out before the weekend, you understand.”

“Right,” said Loren, her face indeed displaying understanding, combined with disappointment. “That’s really too bad.”

Allyn nodded, rolling his eyes like an Outsider. “Tell me about it.”

Loren was provoked to laughter. “Go back to talking about counsel of the stripe, Allyn Gant. It suits you better.”

<<<>>>

Trouble amongst the Merry Men? Invitations to illegal outings? What all is going on in Book 2?!

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There’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.

Ah. So the answer is, “Plenty!” Here’s hoping this week hurries by. It’s high time this book met the world – and vice versa!

“Marriage” Excerpt: To Say or Not to Say

2 weeks ‘til the release of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” (the Kindle edition of which is totally available for pre-order)! You all know what THAT means. Or maybe you don’t. I’ll tell you:

Excerpt time! Here’s a glimpse into the one of the novel’s early chapters.

<<<>>>

At the end of his less-than-victorious march home, Allyn found an unexpected someone awaiting him outside his tent. The man stood straight and poised, legs planted apart, hands clasped loosely behind his broad back. A soldier at ease. A sentinel on watch. Allyn almost felt as if he ought to stand in line for a glimpse at whatever inside the tent apparently warranted guarding.

Knights of the Round Table being nearly as difficult to sneak upon as most Sherwood outlaws, Allyn and his visitor saw each other at more or less the same moment. With a muffled clink of the hooded mail shirt beneath his Pendraconic-crested surcoat, Sir Gawain gave a genteel bow of greeting. “Good morning, Allyn-a-Dale.”

gawain

Hiii, Sir Gawain! …or as near as Tirzah Duncan can simulate you in Guild Wars II.

Not really, Allyn thought, but did not say aloud. Gawain was only being polite; Allyn could do the same.

“Good morning. Have you been waiting for me long?”

“Since the final blows of the stave match, no longer. Who won, if I may ask?”

“You may, though you hardly need to.”

“Little John, then.” Gawain nodded, doubtless having expected as much. “Well, I’m sure you make him work for it. But if it is now convenient for you, I would ask that you accompany me to the Quarter. Our venerable wizard has requested your presence in his office.”

“And if it were not convenient for me?” Allyn mused.

Gawain shrugged burly shoulders. “Then I would weigh the inconvenience of coming along against that of Merlin kept waiting unduly.”

Allyn’s lips twitched into a half-smile. “Inconvenience or suicide? Merely allow me a moment to completely dress, and we can be on our way.”

“What does he want with me?” Allyn asked of his escort.

“I couldn’t say.”

Allyn slanted a look Gawain’s way. “Did he say?”

“He did not.”

“Ah. But you could have said what he’d said if he had?”

“If he’d said I should.”

“Suppose he’d said what he wanted, but then said to you that you weren’t to say what he said. Would you say he’d said that?”

Gawain took a moment to untangle the convoluted question before deciding, “Unless he said otherwise.”

“And if he’d said what he wanted without saying whether you were to say it or not?”

“Then, as you asked, I’d have told you.”

“And if I hadn’t asked?”

Gawain’s mouth quirked sideways. “Then we could have gone our entire eternity without having ever had this conversation.”

<<<>>>

And wouldn’t that have been just the darnedest shame. So, what’s Merlin want? What game is afoot? Perhaps the book’s summary might yield a clue…

marriage-cover-final-front

There’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.

Come back next week for another sneak peek! And the week after that… “Marriage” time!

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Bard in Blue

Less than a month ‘til the launch of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” (the Kindle edition of which is totally available for pre-order)! And in looking forward, I can’t help looking back – back to the legendary romance that inspired much of my upcoming novel. Back to perhaps my favorite chapter in a treasured telling of my number one literary outlaw. Back to the first meeting between Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood and the minstrel Allan a Dale.

allan-a-dale-tells-his-story

In homage, I’ve recorded a read-aloud video featuring a snippet from the tale. You can watch it here, on the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page. And/or you can join me in gazing at some of these awesome illustrations from my 2016 Barnes & Noble edition of “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”. I maybe / maybe not / definitely have this full-pager of a lovelorn Allen bookmarked.

allan-a-dale-lieth-beside-the-fountain

And I’m sure I don’t even have to tell you who loves this image best…

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Last but not least, allow me to remind you of the fresh spin on this old classic I’ve got coming at you in just a few short weeks:

marriage-cover-final-front

There’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.

See you ‘round the greenwood!

On Me and Matrimony

Ah, Valentine’s Day – or Singles Awareness Day, as I’ve heard it alternatively called.

Like most holidays, it’s just another day to me. But what with the upcoming release of Outlaws of Avalon 2 – “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” – perhaps it’s no surprise that the other day found me with marriage on my mind. My dreams around that much-romanticized institution have certainly undergone a number of transitions, through the years. From innocent…

5-year-old Me: *wants to marry Aladdin*

Aladdin: *is with Jasmine*

5yo Me: “Oh. …Okay, but can I be Aladdin, though?”

*

Tween Me: “Boys are gross.”

Grownups: “You won’t always think so. ;)”

Future Me to Tween Me: *whispers* “Spoiler alert. Everybody’s gross.”

me-to-me

…To psychotic…

Teen Me: *wants to marry Kevin of the Backstreet Boys*

Kevin: *is already married*

Teen Me: “That’s too bad.” *shoulders imaginary shotgun* “…For his wife.”

*

Teen Me: *wants to marry a certain boy from art camp*

Teen Me: *follows him everywhere until he’s sick of me*

Future Me: *bumps into the boy again at a concert* … *also, his fiancée*

Future Me: *smiles the smile of the Forever Alone™ *

*

New Adult Me: *scans every male face encountered, searching for husband potential*

New Adult Me: *is continually confused/disappointed that not one outing yet has resulted in a “how I met your super-cute billionaire grandfather” story*

*

New Adult Me: *wants to marry Edgwyn Wyle*

Edgwyn: *is already married*

New Adult Me: “WHY? Whyyy did I write that?!” *curses self for a fool*

whyyy

Because of course his wife was the only thing standing between me and this fictional character…

…To pessimistic.

Mid-20s Me: “If I truly loved a man, could I really condemn him to a life of matrimonial bondage to an asexual head case like me?”

BFF: “You maybe shouldn’t, no.”

Mid-20s Me: “Nobody asked you, villain.”

*

Mom: “Your special someone is out there.”

Late-20s Me: *smiling the smile of the Forever Alone™ * Okay.

*

Late-20s Me: “If only I could just marry Will Scarlet and call it a day.”

Will: *laughs too loud and long for anybody’s comfort* “Babe, I love you like no other, but not in a million universes would that work.”

Which brings us to this fine February 14, 2017. ^_^

Me after Germany: “I would rather die than live in a house with some man in it again.”

Allyn-a-Dale: “To be fair, you would rather die than do most things, these days.”

Me: “True. Say, Allyn, what are your thoughts on marriage?”

Allyn: *shrugs* “I was raised in a fairytale world. What do I know?”

Me: “Once your second novel is through with you, maybe a little more…

*

marriage-cover-final-frontThere’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.

(Also, the door’s still open for folks interested in an early read ‘n’ review of the book. Hit me up if you want in!)

Babelin to the Bone (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 her authors, Tirzah Duncan, described her thus:

What does a pretty 1600s German girl, burned at the stake on false charges of necromancy, have in common with a jaded Chicagoan telemarketer? Only the bare bones. Babelin has changed a lot, surviving the centuries as an animate skeleton, but one thing that’s stuck with her is a firm dislike for the death magic that claimed her.

“Welcome, Babelin!” Will greets the smartly-dressed skeleton now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – what does it feel like, being nothing but bones?”

“Physically? A bit dull. Some of my senses are gone, some of them are dimmed, and just two – sight and hearing – are completely intact. I’m capable of less pain, which is nice, but I do sometimes miss the vivid sensations and flavors I remember from my full-bodied life. Of course, I’ve probably romanticized them, over the centuries.”

“Nostalgia is kind,” Will agrees. “Certainly more so than the folks who lit you on fire, back in the day. Would you say the charge that got you executed was entirely unfounded, or did you give any reason to believe that you were in fact a practitioner of the dark arts?”

“As unfounded as were most flying around at the time. Frightened people don’t even need a reason, and I gave them this one: I was pretty. I turned people on and I turned them down, so there were enough jealous and disgruntled folk about who wanted badly to suspect me of something. Ah, humans. We’ve been to the moon, but we haven’t changed.”

“Such is life – eternal and otherwise. Speaking of: Unlike other immortals of my acquaintance, you’ve actually lived through and engaged with all those centuries between your birth and now. Worked in a decent amount of international travel, too. Of them all, which has been your favorite time and place, and why?”

skull-selfie

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

Thin gloved fingers lace together. “Hmmn. That’s very relative. Modernity has afforded me the opportunity to communicate and connect with people from a place of anonymity— well, hah, sometimes I have an actual selfie as my icon, but no one assumes it’s actually me. It’s nice to just be taken as a human without having to work through layers of prejudice. Place, though – everywhere has its charms and its repelling factors. Most precious to me have been those times and places where I’ve actually made good friends. There was a washerwoman in London who took it upon herself to scrub me back to whiteness whenever I was looking dingy. She didn’t have a lot to give, but she had soaps and rags, and that was how she knew to reach out to me. Honestly, I didn’t much value cleanliness at the time, but I did value her valuing me.”

“Aww, sweet of her!” Will delights. “Gotta love the good eggs of the world. But I’ve heard rumors there’s a bad one in the area – a dangerous new necromancer, possibly planning something big. Those of us living under the protection of an isle full of Faeries and a wizard may have less to fear than others, but what safety tips have you got for the general public?”

She lets out a whistling breath through her teeth. “I guess the only thing I can suggest is the advice I should follow, myself: educate yourself. There’s a lot of benign necromantic activity in the world, and knowing the difference between simply arcane arts and truly dark arts could save souls.”

“Good to know. And of course we all know what’s coming next: 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 skull-like grin. “Or would you rather kiss me?

The skull tilts. “You know, it’s been a long time since anyone’s offered. Bring it on – no tongue, though.”

“Fair’s fair,” Will laughs, and smooches her full on the… well, teeth. After a friendly “boop” for her nose [cavity], he calls back, “Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Tirzah Duncan and Danielle E. Shipley’s ‘The Dark Siren’, part of the Arcane Arts Anthology – out now as an e-book, paperbacks coming soon!

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, Babelin! 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!”

Of Dawn’s Song and Night’s Dance

Today, for your reading pleasure: A pair of drabbles (stories exactly 100 words in length), and the images that inspired them. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

“So pretty,” he said. “What do you play for?”

“Not what,” she said. “Who.”

“Who, then?”

“Murmuration.”

He tilted his head. “A flock of starlings?”

She nodded hers. “That’s what she’s made of.”

“She?”

“Watch.”

She took up her violin and bowed a favorite tune. At once, the cloud of birds filled the sky – thousands upon thousands, all flying as one. Then their amorphous mass changed… took shape… became…

A woman. Murmuration danced across the dawn, rapture sketched in the living blur of her many-winged face.

“How…?” he breathed.

“How else?” she sighed. “The right song can play anything true.”

dawn-chorus_by_benco42

(Image credit: “dawn chorus” by Benco42)

<<<>>>

“Now what?” he asked, as the moon rose high. Its light shone on the water running down the rocks.

“You’ve witnessed my dawn song.” She pitched her voice over the cascade, raising her violin. “Now see what night’s music brings.”

With her bow’s dance across the strings, the silver stream came alive – came apart – came together into a choreographed company of women.

To his surprise, they took him by the hand and pulled him into their flow. He called back to her, “Is this safe?”

“Keep your head up,” she advised, “and keep breathing. My tune will do the rest.”

river_by_rob_gonsalves

(Image cred: “River” by Rob Gonsalves)

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Also, I’m still looking for folks interested in an early read ‘n’ review of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”! Hit me up if you want in. ^_^ )