Will He, Nill He (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.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

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?”

“It’s—” Allyn breaks off, scowling at his notes. “Oh, for pity’s sake.”

“What?”

“‘Outlaw, Rennie, general life enthusiast. Lord, I’m sexy’? That’s your bio from the Stranger Than Truth Club Minutes! You can’t interview yourself, Will!”

Will’s brows rise with a distinct lack of unconcern. “Why not? The rest of the Merry Men got interviews. Fair’s only fair. Tell you what, though – if it’ll untwist your hose some, I’ll let you ask the questions. Deal?”

Allyn regards him warily. “Questions of my own devising?”

“As it please you.”

“All right, then.”

Will blithely bounds across to the guest seat, Allyn taking his place. Pulling up a smile, the lovely minstrel assistant-turned-host greets, “Welcome, Will Scarlet! So glad you were open to reasonable alternatives. First things first – why do you think readers should embrace ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’? Apart from the fact that you’re in it.”

“Because I’m in—! …Oh. In that case, because,” Will rallies, “it’s all kinds of fun!” Counting off on his fingers, he lists, “We’ve got the Ren Faire kind, the road trip kind, the portal fantasy kind, the crazy old wizard trying to run an entertainment business on a faerie island smackdab in modern Midwestern America kind – and that’s a kind you just don’t see enough of these days, IMO. And of course, to quote my dear cousin Robin, ‘The Merry Men make everything fun.’”

“Or die trying,” Allyn observes. “What think you of the story’s underlying premise: Robin and company dead, only to return to life in a 21st-century Avalon?”

Will’s smile stretches and sparkles to an alarming degree. “I think it’s bloody insane. But an entirely original addition to the Robin Hood canon, as far as I’ve encountered. Which is good! I love a retelling based in medieval England as much as the next fan, but there’s only so much a writer can feasibly give us to do, in that setting. Whereas if you yank us a few hundred years into the future and expose us to all the wonders of the Information Age…”

“…Which Merlin, in large part, refuses to do…”

The manic smile drops in frustration. “Ugh, I know, he’s the worst. It’s like— you ever watch Disney’s ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’? Well, not to vilify the guy, but Merlin’s a Frollo whose Bible’s the ballads of yester-Britain, and I am a Quasimodo with the radiant good looks of Phoebus, singing to gargoyles about how I need to get the hell out of this cathedral prison and LIVE.”

Allyn blinks. “Father says he’ll accept that analogy if he gets to play Clopin.”

“Oh, for sure. And Esmeralda’s all yours, if you want her. You’re legit part-gypsy, right?”

“One, that’s not politically correct terminology. Two, as far as my world’s ethnicities qualify, yes I am. Three, leaving the Disney crossover alone now, would you say our debut novel does your character justice?”

“Pfft, Lord, no,” Will laughs. “There’s no fitting all of me into one book. That’s literally why it ended up being a trilogy: We needed more storylines to make room for all of our character development! Yours and mine, predominantly, though we get to go deeper with our other bandmates, too. But as far as an introductory tale goes, ‘Ballad’ does well for itself. You get the shiny surface me, as well as important glimpses into the mess I shoved into the closet when I heard guests were coming over. Never you worry,” he says with a wink. “I don’t stay closeted long.”

“On that note,” says Allyn, “since you will not be kissing me…”

“WHAT?! No, come on, you have to make the offer! It’s the title of the show, for crying out loud!”

The minstrel wags a finger. “Allyn’s in the host chair, Allyn makes the rules. So tell me: What is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious Scarlet-centric secret?”

Will’s glum expression brightens. “Scarlet-centric?”

Allyn reaches over to pat Will’s knee. “There, you see? I’m not so cruel. No future book spoilers, though.”

“Right. A Scarlet secret, hmm? This is tough, since I tend to just blab everything… Oh. Well, here’s something. For all that we project confidence to the point of arrogance on her end, narcissism on mine, Danielle and I actually share some similar insecurities. She’s afraid that she doesn’t know how to be interesting, and is annoying, and nobody will want her – which is to say, her books. I’m afraid that I’m too interesting to handle, and am annoying, and nobody will want me – which is to say, me. And also the books I’m in.”

“Well,” Allyn reassures, “I’m close enough to the both of you to know that you are, in fact, frequently annoying. Even so, you have made a remarkable book together, and I trust there’s an audience out there who will have the good sense to love it. Now, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

Grinning widely, Will says, “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment was brought to you by the Launch Week+ celebration of The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) by Danielle E. Shipley, provider of prizes to the following Rafflecopter giveaway winners.”

Avalon Faire Map = Donna S., Laure E., Kimberly D., Mandi S., and Miranda M.

Society6 Tote Bag = Kimberly D.

Paperback of “Grace the Mace” by Tirzah Duncan = CommonBookSense

Surprise Bookmark = Miranda M.

“Congratulations!” says Allyn. “Danielle will be in touch to ensure your winnings are soon are their way. Thank you for taking part in the launch of ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ – available now!”

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says, adding with a laugh, “Thank me, too, Will. 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!”

The Bloopers of Allyn-a-Dale

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”s Launch Week+ is nearing its end! Only this post and one last Kiss & Tell interview to go, at which time I’ll announce the winners of my Rafflecopter giveaway. So if you want your best chance at one of the prizes on offer (including a Merry Men-signed map of Avalon Faire, a tote bag from my Society6 store, a paperback copy of Tirzah Duncan’s “Grace the Mace”, or a one-of-a-kind bookmark), you’ll get those entries in before Friday!

Now, onto today’s hurrah. As I certainly hope you all know by now, “Ballad” is a book, not a movie. And while I’ll take a book over a movie 9 days out of 10, there is one advantage that filmed media have over the printed word:

Blooper reels.

I mean, just imagine how funny it would be to have cut footage of the Merry Men ‘n’ ‘em goofing up their performance of the story!

Or, wait a minute… We totally CAN imagine that! So hey, for today’s post, what say we all just suspend our disbelief for a moment and see what happens “on set”…

Director Will

<<<>>>

Overture, Take 1

Marion’s full lips turned downward in disapproval. The place had been closed to guests for hours. All nonresidents should have been long gone, not loitering around the Faire, and certainly not wandering so deep into Sherwood.

Taking hold of the knife at her hip, she moved away from her half-concealed position and made her presence known.

“Make no sudden movements, please,” she requested, polite but firm, and silently struggling to remove the knife from its sheath. Blast the props department — why wouldn’t the wretched blade come loose? The young man — not yet out of his teens, at first guess — obediently froze.

“Thank you,” Marion said — and, giving up the lost cause of drawing the knife, improvised, “And so you know, I can menace you just as well with my bare hands and razor wit, so take care.”

Quoth the young man, distinctly over-solemn, “No doubt.”

The sniggering author called, “Cut!

<<<>>>

Stanza Three, Take 4

“Aquinore,” the cold one said, moving in the blink of an eye to loom over Allyn-a-Dale. “Wind of the North.” He held out a hand which Allyn did not dare refuse to meet, even though, in the excruciating seconds before the mutual touch was over, he feared with a musician’s panic that his own hand was in danger of freezing right off.

“Austeryn.” The mist-mantled wind gusted smoothly up next. “Wind of the South.” When this touch of greeting ended, to Allyn’s profound relief, his hand felt a little thawed, albeit a great deal wetter.

“Euro—” KRA-BOOM!

“Cut!” cried the author. “Euroval, I told you: Just the hand-clasp, right now. We have to add the lightning and thunder in edits, or you’ll blow out the cameras and mics!”

The Wind of the East scowled. “How is that fair? My brothers got to—”

“Affect the temperature and humidity? Yeah, not the same. Kindly restrain your powerful presence in the next take, alright? From the top of the intros, people. Places!”

<<<>>>

Stanza Four, Take 2

Gawain opened the door wider, admitting another man dressed in the same metal underclothes and crested tunic. The second man stood imposingly tall (compared to all save Little John), his face cool and proud, his sweep of hair an astonishing, if muted, shade of silver-gold. In his hands, he bore an object of some great length enveloped in a purple cloth. This he strode forward to offer up to King Arthur, who stepped down from his elevated seat to remove the cloth, and withdrew from its finely wrought scabbard of golden leather— I say, and withdrew… (psst, Arthur – what’s the trouble?)

Arthur’s brows knitted in vexation. “Sorry, just… *grunts* …can draw the sword from a stone, but not its own scabbard… There we go!” he sighed as the magnificent blade pulled free at last. “Sheesh, are we to have nothing but scabbard troubles in this production?”

Merlin’s ironic look for the camera could’ve come straight out of “The Office”.

<<<>>>

Stanza Five, Take 7

Will led Allyn into the quaintly congested interior of a bookseller’s shop, reasoning to himself that to do so didn’t count as spilling secrets. If anything, it was a cover-up, Avalon-style.

“Behold,” he said, the sweep of his hand sending a shelf-top display crashing to the floor. Jumps and cries of startlement all around, plus an explosive curse from Will Scarlet. “Of all the places to stack a bunch of books …Ahem, anyway.”

A slightly less extravagant gesture indicated the clutter at his feet.  “Novels. Picture books. Coloring boo— Allyn, leave those there! This is still usable! Everybody just carry on like my klutz attack was scripted. Lord knows they usually are…”

“As could my act of tidiness have been scripted,” said Allyn, exasperated, “if you hadn’t said that.”

Will opened his mouth. Closed it. Hung his head. Grumbled a few more words his author wasn’t about to print outright and knelt to help Allyn gather up the books for the next take.

<<<>>>

Stanza Eleven, Take 1

“Oh! There they are!” said Marion, half-risen from her chair. Through the window could be seen the minivan Robin had selected, moving only semi-erratically up alongside the front of the bakery. …and which then just kept on going, right out of frame and beyond. The Merry Men inside the donut shop exchanged glances.

“Wasn’t he supposed to stop and pick us up?” said Marion.

“Yes,” said Robin. “Yes, he was.”

Allyn pointed out, “I did suggest a stunt double do the actual driving.”

“Yes. Yes, you did.”

“Do you think Will even knows where the brake pedal is?”

“No,” Robin said into the hand pressed over his face. “No, I don’t.”

Marion nodded slowly, eyes on the various personnel hastening after the runaway van. “Okey-dokey, then.”

<<<>>>

Stanza Fifteen, Take 3

“…Then, of course, there’s the radio.”

“And what does that do?” Allyn asked.

Will’s eyebrows bowed up. “What, didn’t you know? Radios play music.”

The magic word. “Music? They do?”

“Yep. News shows and sports and things, too, of course, but mostly music. Go on — why don’t you see if you can find a little something to drive by?”

Buzzing with anticipation, Allyn ran his fingers over the hodgepodge of buttons, finally settling on and gingerly pressing the one marked “power.” At once, sections of the system lit up in red and blue-green, and a blast of sound filled the minivan’s interior:

“NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP,

NEVER GONNA LET YOU DOWN,

NEVER GONNA RUN AROUND AND DESERT YOU…”

“No…” Will’s gasp was filled with horror and delight in equal measure. “Who did this?!

Allyn’s wide eyes were all alarm. “What’s happening?”

In the seats behind them, the wickedly laughing Hoods exchanged high-fives, crowing, “#Rickrolled!”

<<<>>>

Ahhh, what could have been! But happily, the first Outlaws of Avalon novel is full of laughs as-is – lauded as “fun, humorous” and “thoroughly delightful”, even without a menu full of special features.

Though really… isn’t a special features menu kind of what this Launch Week+ has been? ;D

<<<>>>

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

AVAILABLE NOW!

*Bonus*: #HypotheticalFAQs

How many wizards does it take to change a light bulb?

Will Scarlet, adopting a glowering gray drawl: “The light bulb will change when it’s meant to.”

A Little Goes a Long Way (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.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

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, “Our author once described him thus:

Slow to speak, quick with a quarterstaff, the face of Robin’s right-hand Merry Man is as unreadable as it is difficult to see without tipping one’s head waaay back. And while Little John may not always feel the need to contribute a great deal to a conversation, his strong and level-headed presence provides much-needed stability in a world where someone thought it was a good idea to let Will Scarlet behind the wheel of a minivan…

“Welcome, Little John!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – why are you so huge?”

Green eyes shadowed beneath heavy black brows perform a slow, flat blink. “Genetics.”

“From a family of giants, then? Any of your ancestors have a run-in with Allyn’s dad? I hear he was an ‘and the beanstalk’ kind of Jack.”

Silence.

“Will,” Allyn hisses from off-camera. “If you’ve prepared any actual interview questions of the non-offensive variety, maybe now’s the time to ask them.”

“Sorry,” Will mutters. “I just… got a bit nervous. He has that effect on me.” He casts a leery glance Little John’s way. “Is it intentional?”

His guest rumbles a longsuffering, “No.”

“Well, that much is better than not, I guess.” Will shifts around in his chair, straightening with a bracing breath. “Y’know, it’s funny – in Danielle’s earliest planning stages for ‘Ballad’, she envisioned that you and I might be best friends. What do you suppose that would have been like?”

“Much like it is now,” Little John replies, his massive shoulders taking on more the essence of a shrug than the actual movement. “You would be a manic pest. I would tolerate it. Everything the same, except you wouldn’t fear me.”

“Hey, in fairness to me, your character is canonically pretty intimidating. Also canonically constant. Will Scarlets, Allyn-a-Dales, even Maid Marions – their inclusion in any given story is hit and miss. But one would have to search a good long while before they found a Robin Hood without his right-hand man. What is it that makes your connection to Robin so unbreakable?”

Little John considers a moment, then answers, “Respect. Trust. And understanding. Whatever our differences of personality or opinion, we know each other’s worth and reliability – and our simple humanity. We’re not in awe of one another. That counts for much.”

“Yeah, I’d imagine that makes both of your lives a lot easier. Now, this one is just me being curious: What would you single out as your favorite scene in ‘Ballad’, and why? No spoilers, naturally.”

Another pause for thought, and then, “Just before we leave on our quest. The exchange in Allyn’s tent, regarding the lute. I appreciated the courage and compassion on display. And the quietness.” The essence of a brow raised wryly. “You make much of the book very loud.”

Will flashes a grin. “It’s a gift. And I’ll beg one more indulgence of you before we call it a wrap. Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret? Or” – the grin takes on an uneasy quality – “would you rather kiss me?”

“Secretly,” says Little John, back turned on the kiss option altogether, “Danielle’s a little miffed that her best friend published me a month ahead of ‘Ballad’. See ‘Grace the Mace’. My AU character isn’t hard to spot.”

Refraining from another obvious remark about the less-than-little John, Will calls behind him, “Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “and a number of enticing prizes for those who care to try for them, was brought to you by the Launch Week+ celebration of The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!”

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Little John! 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!”

The Music of Allyn-a-Dale

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”s Launch Week+ continues!

And who better to emcee today’s post than the novel’s M[ain]C[haracter]?

“Very few,” says Allyn, “given that it is a post all to do with music. Specifically, the songs of ‘Ballad’.”

As performed by me!

“…Who, in the absence of a gate between the worlds to grant me access to her recording equipment, is the best we could get.”

Such is life. Introduce the first number, why don’t you.

“The very first? Well, that was an early effort. The story was still in its planning stages. You and I had yet to officially meet. And already the book’s truth pressed itself upon you: It was not to be done without music. You couldn’t just summarize the plot to yourself in plain prose, oh no – you synopsized in rhyming stanzas. Thus was born the novel’s eponymous song.”

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale

Click here to hear the melody, courtesy of my ocarina. And the full set of lyrics can be found in the novel, one verse at the start of every chapter.

Ballad and Ocarina

“With a beginning like that,” says Allyn, “not to mention having already worked on two novellas with my father and master in minstrelsy, she ought to have known there’d be no getting through my book without a song number or five. Yet there she was, NaNoWriMo Day 1, all surprise when from her fingers flowed the following:

A sigh escaped his lips – what Father called a minstrel sigh: An exhalation pulled from so deep inside that it brought a melody up with it. “And where there’s a melody,” Father opined, “there ought to be words of a lyrical kind.”

And so there were, in Allyn’s minstrel sigh…

“So she huffed and fretted and scrambled to find…”

The Naming of Allyn-a-Dale

Click here for the music video!

Naming of Allyn-a-Dale

“After that,” Allyn recalls, “she requested I provide her with more notice before demanding a song on the page. To this I agreed, but not before she had her revenge in the form of” – his eyes narrow, voice dropping to dire levels – “the Rock Minstrel.”

What can I say? I’d had a crazy caricature musician hanging out in my imagination for years, and what better fictional setup in which to drop him than a Renaissance Faire?

Rock Minstrel

“Arguably all very well, but was the ‘Ballad-Off’ scene entirely necessary?”

It both provided an opportunity to illustrate what a regular working day in Avalon Faire is like, and entertained me no end, so yes.

“Hmm,” says Allyn, dubiously. “In any case, it called for my composition of another song, this one inspired by a little ditty from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ – a play which (fun fact for the Robin Hood fans) features a nobleman who runs off to live in the forest with a loyal band of followers. As Will Scarlet would say: #Parallels!”

Sweet Lovers of the Spring

Click here for the music video!

“Being a bard of my word,” says Allyn, “I informed you some hours in advance when I wanted my next song. For it seemed to me that the road trip portion of the book would pass much more merrily for the Men were I to provide them with a song to travel by.”

And you weren’t wrong!

A Merry Traveling Song

Click here to watch me and my lute perform what may be my favorite part of the whole dang novel.

“It was a bit of fun, to be sure,” Allyn chuckles. “And since the book’s bonus song is reserved for those who make it to the back pages of ‘Ballad’, this concludes the day’s post.” He sweeps down in a minstrel bow. “My thanks for your time.”

And our thanks for yours! Readers who want that bonus song’s lyrics – and/or, y’know, the rest of the novel – make sure to get your copy of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”! Available in paperback (Amazon, CreateSpace) and e-book (Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive). And if you’ve already read it, I very much hope you’ll do me the grand favor of leaving a review. Not only might it get you a prize (see my Rafflecopter giveaway), it’s just flat-out a great way to support an author. *performs an author bow of thanks in advance*

<<<>>>

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

AVAILABLE NOW!

*Bonus*: #HypotheticalFAQs

If Allyn-a-Dale couldn’t be a minstrel, what would he be?

A disappointment to his father.

My Fair Lady Outlaw (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.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

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, “While guest-posing on the blog of Luna Station Quarterly two summers ago, she introduced herself thus:

Hello, Internet. My name’s Marion – perhaps more popularly known as “Maid Marian”, except I don’t use that spelling and I’m quite consummately married.

“Welcome, Marion!” Will greets the woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how the devil did you snag a guest post spot in a spec fic magazine?? I network my hose off in our author’s world, and I’ve never received any such invitation!”

“I’m afraid you were just at a disadvantage this time around, Will,” says Marion, shrugging none too apologetically. “LSQ’s a platform for women’s voices, and you… well, you are, by some definitions, a man.”

“Humph. Shows how far being in touch with your feminine side will get you.”

“I wouldn’t know,” she says, chin propped on fist. “I’ve never felt femininity to be my strongest suit. Yes, certainly I identify as a lady. But strip away the stereotypes, and you’re not really left with much to go on regarding what that definitively means. How much of me is Marion, and how much is the outlaw who’s also a chick? These are the existential questions one wrestles with. And when I say ‘one’, I mostly mean my author after she’s spent too long on Twitter. I’m usually too busy helping Robin try to keep the band in some semblance of order.”

“So, if not ‘the chick’, what do you consider your character role to be?”

“According to one review? ‘The fun aunt.’” She laughs in delight. “I wouldn’t say that’s far wrong. Nor would I say that I’m any one thing in an extreme. On the contrary, what I most try to do is act as a balancing agent within the group. Fill in the gaps, you know? If Robin gets too focused on the job, I give attention to the people doing the work. Where Little John can intimidate just by occupying the same space as the rest of us, I strive to set everyone at their ease. And when you… well.” She rolls a slim brown hand Will’s way. “When you’re you, I’ll usually see what I can do to provide a voice of relative calm and reason. Not always easy, that.” Even as her brows affect a stern set, her eyes are all smiles. “You were a poor influence on me in my formative years.”

“One does try,” Will says graciously. “Now, if you asked any of the other outlaws in ‘Ballad’ who their favorite fellow Merry Man is, their reflex answer would probably be you.”

“What, not Robin?”

“He’d be the first to tell you leaders don’t count.”

“Eh,” says Marion, nodding concession.

Will presses, “But if you had to choose your own bestie among the bandmates…?”

“Oh, that’s nothing like a fair question,” Marion protests. “You, Robin, and Little John have all three been my best friends since the English throne sat King Henry II. And now there’s sweet little Allyn – the Precious Baby Nephew to my Fun Aunt. I can’t be expected to pick a favorite.”

Will wags a finger. “It’s that sort of indecision that creates a love triangle, lady fair.”

She gives him a flat look. “There is no love triangle, Will.”

“But, I mean, technically, isn’t there, kinda?”

Her full lips purse. “Given that I’ve already married one of you? No.”

The host’s shrug is over-casual. “Just ‘cause you’re with one person doesn’t mean you can’t want to kiss another.”

Marion glances ironically at the camera. “Where could this line of conversation be going, I wonder?”

“Which brings me to my final question,” Will continues. “Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret? Or would you rather—”

“How ‘bout a fun fact instead?” Marion says brightly. “Readers may wonder: Why did Danielle choose to end my name in ‘-on’ rather than the more traditional ‘-an’? Answer: For years prior to her first-drafting of ‘Ballad’, she had a Marian-with-an-‘a’ in another story world. Nothing to do with the Robin Hood legend at all, just the little sister of one of the MCs. And that Marian? A good deal more obnoxious than me. Danielle didn’t think the brat deserved to share a name with me, so she gave mine a different spelling to help keep us well separate in her imagination. And after all that, wouldn’t you know? That character ended up getting her name changed in that other story’s reboot. #AuthorLife!”

“Ain’t that the truth,” says a visibly dejected Will Scarlet. “Allyn, why don’t you round out the fun with a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “and a number of enticing prizes for those who care to try for them, was brought to you by the Launch Week+ celebration of The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Marion, m’love. 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!”

The Many Faces of Will ‘n’ Allyn

Outlaws of Avalon Banner

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”s Launch Week+ continues!

My last post discussed the evolution of my vision for Marion Hood’s look. Then you’ve got Will Scarlet and Allyn-a-Dale. As far as the novel goes, this Merry Men pair looks the same now as they did back in draft one. But that’s not to say there aren’t a variety of ways to depict them.

“Too right!” Will jumps in. “For starters – as in, some of the first fan art portraits of us ever drawn – there’s our canonical ‘Outsider’ looks in our author’s typical sketch-in-MS Paint style.”

Will 'n' Allyn, Outside

“As replicated by said author in cosplay form,” Allyn recalls.

Will 'n' Allyn, Outside Cosplay

“Nailed it,” Scarlet approves. “And oh, remember the time she tried to sketch our faces more realistically?”

Will 'n' Allyn, Realistic

Allyn nods. “Those were rather lovely.”

“By which I hope you mean ‘gorgeous’. But if we’re going for ‘adorable’, there’s nothing can top Figurine!Will and Figurine!Allyn, as gifted by Chelsea de la Cruz.”

Will 'n' Allyn figures 02

“Whereas if we’re looking to ride the line between ‘adorable’ and ‘alarming’,” says Allyn, “the clear winner is the result of that ‘Powerpuff yourself’ app.”

Will 'n' Allyn, Powerpuff

Will laughs delightedly. “LOVE those! Almost as much as I love the lookalike avatars Tirzah Duncan made for us in Guild Wars II.”

Will 'n' Allyn, Guild Wars 2

“Not that I’ve got a beard in the books,” Will reflects. “That’s Robin’s look. Clearly, though, I can pull it off. And that expression on your face? So 300% Allyn.”

“I’m not always glaring like that,” Allyn protests.

Will grins. “You will be in a moment.”

“…Why, what are you—”

Will 'n' Allyn, Disney Gone Wrong

“Sweet music, why?” Allyn throws his hands skyward. “Why did Scarlet Elsa ever happen?”

“Because reasons,” Will sniggers, pointing to a past post’s comment section. “And I’m pretty sure you in a Frollo hat kinda just happened for the hell[fire] of it. Danielle practically scams for excuses to play with us in her art.”

Because you two are the absolute best, no matter the forms you take.❤ Expect such works as these to find a place in my website’s Outlaws of Avalon art gallery – coming quite soon.

Of course, my favorite Will ‘n’ Allyn are the ones in their story’s pages. Have all you lovely readers grabbed your own copy, yet?  Its sweet face is waiting for you via Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive… Oh, and don’t forget to try your luck in my ongoing Rafflecopter giveaway! One good book deserves a chance to win other stuff, as they say.

Allyn pulls a rather GW2!Allyn face. “Has anyone ever said—”

“Shh, babe,” Will quiets him. “#LetItGo.”

<<<>>>

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

AVAILABLE NOW!

*Bonus*: #HypotheticalFAQs

What would the merry men be like as cats?

Robin Hood = would be the charming, roguishly benevolent alley cat who runs this town’s kitty underworld

Marion Hood = would be the indoor/outdoor sweetheart who’s got the whole neighborhood of humans eating out of her paw

Will Scarlet = would be the maniacally affectionate ginger beast who jumps ‘n’ humps everything that moves

Little John = would be the massive black tom with bobcat blood who calmly makes off with his pick of the groceries you dropped during your heart attack at his sudden, silent appearance in your path

Allyn-a-Dale = is basically already a cat

The Darkening of Avalon

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”s Launch Week+ continues!

First, a quick reminder that time’s running down on my Wilderhark Tales e-book sale; only one week left to get every book in “Ballad”s prequel series for just 99 cents each on Amazon. Don’t miss out on the chance to fill your e-readers with fairytale goodness!

And second, for this post’s main event, a behind-the-scenes story for you:

Once upon a while back, my BFF Tirzah talked me into watching “Firefly” with her*.

*(By which I mean, I was in my house, she was off in her time zone, and the two of us were on the phone, trying to get our respective computers to stream the episodes in sync with each other. Good/frustrating times.)

My reminiscence could go off in any number of directions from here, but for the purposes of this blog post, the takeaway was this: Looking upon Gina Torres in her role as Zoe Washburn, I found myself thinking, “I could see her as Marion**.”

Zoe

**(By which I of course meant Marion Hood, from my “Outlaws of Avalon” trilogy.)

This idea was noteworthy because, ‘til then, I’d been imagining Marion as white, same as the other 90-some percent of all my characters ever. It’s either my brain’s default setting (call it internalized racism, if you wish; gosh knows I’m privileged in my own mind), or a matter of white imaginary people gravitating toward me more than other races for whatever reasons of their own, but there it is. And on the one hand, Reader Me isn’t much bothered by books or other media with a predominantly white cast. (Unless, y’know, it’s set somewhere that would realistically call for more color.) As I’ve said in the past, that’s not my axe to grind. Then there’s Writer Me, who figures that the other side of the coin is, if it’s not a big deal to me one way or the other, I might as well make an effort at an equal-opportunity mind.

In this instance, there were only a few truths of Marion’s appearance set in stone: Long dark hair, bright eyes (brown or hazel, I can’t quite tell), full lips prone to smiling, middle height, lean build. Based on that, there was zero reason she couldn’t be something other than white. And as far as her background is concerned, it’s not far-fetched to suppose that her father – a noble of some title or another from medieval England – may have had a black wife or mistress. (Fun fact: Black people have existed throughout pretty much all of history.) So boom, executive decision made: My Marion is half-black. (Which I am broadcasting in no uncertain terms now, so that if “Outlaws” ever hits the big screen, fewer people will be shocked that she’s not white even though the book totally told you so, dude.)***

***(Rue and Thresh from “The Hunger Games”, anyone? Sheesh.)

Avalon’s Fey Folk, meanwhile, may or may not be black per se, but they’re definitely dark. Not all of them, mind you; heck, there’s probably a huge range of them that aren’t even human-passing. But Morganne le Fey and most of Avalon’s other resident Faeries? Yeah, they’re brown. Same re-envisioning process as I went through with Marion. All I knew about Morganne’s looks were hair and eye coloring and build. No reason the magical people who populated Europe before it called itself Europe had to be light-skinned all across the board, so they aren’t.

Meaning this gorgeous portrait I did of Morganne years ago is obsolete. Aw well.

Meaning this gorgeous portrait I did of Morganne years ago is obsolete. Aw well.

Meanwhile, Will Scarlet gets agitated when I remind him that he’s totally white, because he likes to fancy that he and I are somehow biological siblings. And I mean, I love being his sister, and I wouldn’t mind if he looked like me. Except he doesn’t.

Some characters’ appearances in my imagination are fluid. Others look like they look, and there’s no changing it. Scarlet falls into that latter category – as do Allyn-a-Dale, Robin Hood, Little John, and Merlin, to name a few other prominent members of the “Outlaws” cast. And as it happens, Allyn is mixed-race; his paternal grandmother, for instance, was brown as I am (*waves to Wendara, back in “The Sky-Child”* – which, again, is currently on sale with the rest of the Wilderhark Tales. Juuuuust sayin’). Yet he’s the palest member of the band. Go figure.

There’s still plenty of room for me to balance the ratio of light to dark characters in my written works. And straight up, a “perfect” balance – whatever that looks like – may never happen. I’m okay with that. My characters’ outsides are far from my main concern. So long as I serve up plenty of diversity of spirit, I’ll feel I’ve done my job.

What about you, fellow writers? How do you settle upon your characters’ looks? And writers or not, recall ye: Leaving a blog post comment is one method of many to obtain entry points in my ongoing Rafflecopter giveaway. So if you’ve got thoughts, I’d love to read ‘em below! And speaking of things well worth reading…

<<<>>>

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

AVAILABLE NOW!

*Bonus*: #HypotheticalFAQs

If the Merry Men were Disney princesses, which would they be??

Robin Hood = Mulan (title princess): The best way to bring honor to us all? Stick it to the law in the name of fighting for what’s right!

*Runner-up = Merida (Brave), cuz dem archery skillz.

*Second runner-up = Tiana (The Princess and the Frog), cuz dat work ethic.

Marion = Cinderella (title princess): Makes most sentient creatures fall in love with her kind heart, resilient spirit, and timely sass.

Will Scarlet = Ariel (The Little Mermaid): A redhead full of reckless curiosity about being a part of that world beyond his own.

*Runner-up = Anna (Frozen), in every way. (Is he elated? Gassy? Who can tell?)

Allyn-a-Dale = Snow White (title princess): Doesn’t let an oppressive, abuse-filled childhood get him down – instead ventures forth with a smile and a song to make a lasting, loving impact on a weirdo familial unit in the middle of the forest!

*Runner-up = Rapunzel (Tangled), cuz same deal, just replace the forest family with – whaddaya know – a thief. Also wouldn’t be shocked if his hair was magic.

Little John = Aurora (Sleeping Beauty): If only because I’m pretty sure she’s the princess with the fewest lines of dialogue out of all the rest. Plus he’s probably favored of fairies.