Why I Wrote The Outlaws of Avalon

Ballad Cover, front 02

Why I wrote “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws 1) 

– Because it was my first NaNoWriMo, so I had to write something

– Because I saw Robin Hood at the Renaissance Faire, and I wanted to believe he was real

Robin Hood

– Because meeting Gant-o’-the-Lute made me mad for minstrels

– Because the world of Wilderhark wasn’t big enough for its own legacy

– Because I love an adventure with friends (even if the Merry Men and I didn’t know each other as friends just yet)

– Because unbeknownst to Allyn, he had a story that needed telling

– Because unbeknownst to me, I needed my Will Scarlet in my life

– Because I am a runaway to Sherwood

marriage-cover-final-front

Why I wrote “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws 2)

– Because outside his book world, Allyn continued to grow

– Because our mutual friend Tirzah refused to accept the sorry father/son relationship between Gant-o’the-Lute and Allyn lying down

– Because once I’d seen what their love could be, I had to find a way to get it on paper

Loving Father, Loving Son

– Because the classic story of Robin Hood’s minstrel is a favorite of mine

– Because, as Merlin said, “Legend does have a funny way of becoming prophecy”

– Because intending “Ballad” as a standalone didn’t mean I wouldn’t leap at the chance to spend another novel in Avalon Faire

– Because you knew Will Scarlet wouldn’t be content with just one Outside adventure

Legend cover 02, front

Why I wrote “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws 3)

– Because outside his book world, Will was growing, too

– Because unlike Allyn, when Will Scarlet grows, there are hella growing pains

– Because sometimes the struggle is so real, the character needs to get it worked out in book form to deal with it

– Because I, like Allyn, would do just about anything for our Will

– Because I’d been sitting on this really exciting detail from my Merry Men’s medieval lives, and this was my chance to milk it the best I know how

– Because unbeknownst to me, there was a line in Book 1 that pointed right to how Book 3 would end

– Because stories – like destiny – are a weird mix of our choices and the inevitable

Things I Love About Outlaws 3

By the time we hit the October release of “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”, I’ll have spent enough time reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading this final book in the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy to be heartily sick of it. So this is probably a good time in the publication prep process to remind myself of all the reasons I actually do adore this book. Seriously, the whole series is my favored child, but Book 3 is the best of the best. And here’s why:

Things I Love About #LEGENDofAaD

Medieval Sherwood! Awesome as it is watching my outlaws in a modern Renaissance Faire, we all know that the proper habitat for a Robin Hood story is the one and only Sherwood Forest. (Don’t come at me talking ‘bout Barnsdale. I know some accounts place him there, but I’m not here for that.)

– *hearts for eyes* The bromance is strong with this one. So much so, that I briefly toyed with the idea of titling Book 3 “The Brotherhood of Allyn-a-Dale”. (Would’ve tied into the whole thing with the monks, too, for double the aptness.) But “Legend” just sounded so much more legendary that I decided to let the brotherhood theme stand without titular representation.

Brotherhood of Allyn-a-Dale

The songs. There aren’t many – only two full ones, and a snippet of another (not counting the bonus song at book’s end and the fact that the whole story is laid out like a symphony or something) – but they’re so good. Expect recordings that don’t do them justice, eventually!

– Every time Allyn embraces being a badass. There are several instances of this. It makes me happy. *blubbers something about my baby minstrel’s come so far*

The villains! I can never write enough villains to suit me, but this book has its share – ranging from “ugh, you awful creature, how dare you” to “DELIGHTFULLY CREEPY” to mah boi Sheriff Swanton who

1) coincidentally looks a heckuva lot like Richard Armitage’s Gisborne from BBC’s Robin Hood,

and 2) *cough* is basically me if I’d been born a white nobleman in 12th-century England *cough*.

Swanton Don't Care

When Will Scarlet goes deer stalking.

– When Robin Hood patrols the highway.

– When Millerson… well, that’s really it. Just, when Millerson.

– As I once put it on Twitter:

I love scenes w/ Robin Hood & his homies & nbd physical contact. Merry Men got their problems, but “too bro to touch” ain’t one.

The Final Battle. I… really can’t say much more than that without giving something away, but… yeah. I get way too into it during every re-re-re-read.

The final chapter. *sniffles* Just get there, you guys.

Things I Hate About It, Tho

Time travel. Specifically, having to write a time-travel plot. I didn’t suffer the last time I dabbled in wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff because, I dunno, I guess “The Seventh Spell” was just a li’l angel who let itself come out easy. But “Legend” tangled up my head, man. Probably because, magical shenanigans aside, I tried to hang on to the barest semblance of realism in my portrayal of England under Henry II. But let’s be clear up front, y’all: This is less Historical Fantasy than it is “historical” FANTASY, savvy?

– Every time I work on the book, Will and Allyn get wrecked. That’s the risk you run, living on in the author’s head, outside the book: Rereading means reliving. So I’m very sorry, character friends, for all the feels that you must repeatedly suffer. Yes, you may cry through my eyes whenever you need to.

Release Day is still 5 weeks away?!? I don’t want us all to have to wait that long! But we do. Meaning it’ll be at least that long before I get to hear everything YOU GUYS love about “Legend”! Though I guess you could always list what you love about the cover and blurb…

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.

Behold the Brainstorm

So, back at the end of May, I revealed the ridiculously perfect cover for the re-release of my first published novel, “Inspired” – coming better than ever to an online retailer near you in Spring 2018! I also mentioned that the book’s got a never-before-released sequel, which will be coming out at the same time.

I’d thought to share Book 2’s cover probably sometime in June, buuut my cover artist just fell out of communication with zero explanation. (Which, wow, okay, is exactly why I have trust issues.) Fortunately, I discovered a fantastic Plan B. …Or should I say, Geneva B. Thanks to her, Book 2 has a face! And today, you get to see it.

First, the blurb, so you have an idea what you’re in for:

For a brainstorm like Mach Jenius, the rules are made to be broken.

So when a twist of the plot – and of the very laws of reality – thrust masterful muse Lucianíel and his character children into the nonfictional world, Mach swoops into the void left behind, eager to stake his own creative claim on author Annabelle Iole Gray.

But getting replaced in his involuntary absence has Luc feeling, well, unamused.

If Annabelle’s friends fight their way back into her imagination, newcomer Mach will be flat out of luck, out of a home, and out of an artist to fulfill his mad purpose.

Fortunately, he’s never out of ideas…

And now,

.

.

.

behold the cover of

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.

.

Out of My Head”!

Cover 2 w Text, front

Hello-o-o, Mach Jenius. ^o^ Deciding on his look for the cover was tricky, because he rarely chooses to look the same way twice! But together, he and I settled on an appearance that works to represent him as a whole, and the artist made it happen with her signature flair for color.

How ‘bout a look at Book 1 and 2 side by side?

Covers 1 and 2, side by side

Each stylistically different, both entirely awesome. Which, come to think of it, is a perfect metaphor for Luc and Mach.

I can’t wait to give you guys this duology! …But I gotta, because Outlaws of Avalon 3 comes first. So let’s all just try to keep our heads ‘til then.

If the muses allow. ;D

(Feel free to add “Out of My Head” on Goodreads!)

 

Truly Great Words Never Die

Say, does anyone around here remember the fun of Save-a-Word Saturday? Well, the best of it is back, and then some! …Or it will be, this July. Behold: Outlaws of Avalon, Book 2.5.

Welcome to Avalon, where truly great heroes – and words – never die.

Join the Merry Men and denizens of Camelot in a collection of flash fiction as neo-“ye olde” as a Renaissance Faire, every slice of their immortal life served up with an archaism ripe for revival – from “accismus” to “Weltschmerz”, with plenty of laughs in between.

Come for the language lesson, stay for the Will Scarlet shenanigans, along with a facet or two of your Fey isle friends that you’ve never seen before.

Truly Great Words, w text 4

Can we talk about that cover??

“Oh, do let’s!” Will Scarlet jumps in. “That art is phenomenal! Who the heck do we thank?”

That would be Hannah Vale Illustrations and Art, the same talent behind the cover of “An Avalon Christmas Carol”.

“What a concept,” says Allyn-a-Dale, eyes tracing the shape of the lute grown wild. “I hope the like shall never befall my own dear instrument, but visually, it takes one’s breath away.”

Will laughs. “The day your lute becomes a tree is the day you transform into the little blue birdie in its branches.”

Allyn smiles. “There are stranger ways to spend an afterlife.”

As Book 2.5 can attest, along with the rest of your series. X)

Like the Christmas special, “Truly Great Words Never Die” will be e-book only, at least until further notice. So ready your Kindles and compatible apps! Add the title to your Goodreads to-read list! And stay tuned, for the book shall soon be available for pre-order. ^o^

(Interested in reading an early copy in exchange for an honest review? Let me know!)

Troll the Ancient Dickens Carol

We’ve still got several sleeps to go ‘til Christmas, but the holiday cheer is here with the release of “An Avalon Christmas Carol (An Outlaws of Avalon Novella)”! The e-book’s on Amazon for only 99 cents, so you haven’t already pre-ordered your copy, stuff it into your stocking e-reader today!

christmas-carol-promo-type-2

To celebrate, here are 12 Days of Christmas fun facts about the book, its making and inspirations, etc.:

1 = Some of my stories take days, weeks, months, or even years to plan. But I had my little “Christmas Carol” spoof mapped out start to finish in just one day!

2 = …With the second day spent re-reading the Charles Dickens original, to thoroughly familiarize myself with the sandbox I’d be playing in.

3 = Perhaps my favorite characters to cast were the three Spirits. I don’t want to give away who’s who (let the readers be surprised, Danielle!), so let’s just say that some parallels presented themselves very nicely.

4 = The Outlaws of Avalon trilogy focuses more on the Sherwood side of things, leaving the Camelot crowd to take a backseat. But mourn ye not, Arthuriana fans! I’ve got a novel planned just for the Once and Future King ‘n’ ‘em, too. And in the meantime, we’ve got the holiday novella, which gives us our first glimpse into the mind of my Merlin.

5 = Here’s a blast from Christmas Past: Perhaps my earliest “Christmas Carol”-related memory is watching a stage production of the story and feeling bewildered as to why the show would end with Scrooge on the floor, traumatized by his visit from Marley’s ghost. Turns out it was only intermission. Little Danielle was much relieved.

6 = My all-time favorite “Christmas Carol” character? The ever-merry Nephew Fred. No wonder Will Scarlet was so quick to snatch up the role in the parody. ;D

7 = Do you know, I’m not even sure why I love “A Christmas Carol” so much. Apart from Fred, it’s not the characters. It’s not that the plot grips me, or the message that speaks to me. It’s just… always been there, in one telling or another. Its familiarity makes it feel cozy and comfortable and, well, like Christmas. Guess I’m kind of a sucker for nostalgia. X)

8 = Gracious, 12 facts is a lot…

9 = Brainstorming cover ideas before artist Hannah Vale offered her services, I’d considered trying to get a photo of my lute Rosie in the snow. Allyn looked askance at that notion, and was glad I went the commissioned illustration route. Rosie probably is, too.

10 = Talking of lutes, it’s possible (unlikely, but possible) I could’ve gotten though “Avalon Christmas Carol” without a minstrel song number from little Allyn/Tiny Tim, if Dickens hadn’t straight-up written:

…And by and by they had a song, about a lost child travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim, who had a plaintive little voice, and sang it very well indeed.

Welp. That did it. Destiny spake. Hence Allyn’s “Little Lost Winter Traveler” song.

11 = …Which I recently figured out how to play on Rosie.

12 = You can watch us perform the song here!

xmas-carol-still-frame

And that is that. Off you go, now. Buy. Read. Tell your friends. (Review!) And God bless us, every one. ❤

Writing Book Reviews: A Merry Guide

“Hey-ho, all! Will Scarlet, here, luminous fan-favorite* from the lately released Robin Hood fantasy, ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book 1)’. If you’ve chanced to purchase the e-book edition (as opposed to the also-available paperback), maybe you’ll have come across the following message from the author, tucked away at the back.”

Thank you so much for reading my book! I hope you loved it. If you did (or, hey, even on the off chance you didn’t), would you please do me the invaluable favor of leaving a review on your online retailer(s) of choice?

You may or may not be aware of this, but just a few publicly posted sentences of feedback from a reader are a huge deal to the author. So if you’ve got an honest opinion and a handful of minutes, that is all I ask you share with the world. It will be much appreciated.

Thanks once again, and happy reading!

~ Danielle

“And if you’re a reader on the receiving end of that sort of authorial plea, you may have responded with something like this.”

Oh, but I’m no good at writing reviews.

Book Review Guide

“And hey, for all I know, that’s just the plain truth. After all, you’re not the writer here – just a regular person who read a book.

“But guess what, gorgeous? That’s all you need to be! Because your book review doesn’t have to be brilliant; it just has to be honest.**

“Even so, I know consolidating your genuine opinions into a basically coherent review can feel intimidating. That’s where this blog post comes in. A few of my Merry Men friends and I are going to break down the process and show you just how supremely simple writing a book review can be!”

Step 1: Ask yourself, Did I like [insert whatever book title here]?

Marion Hood, adopting the role of Hypothetical Reader A, says, “I absolutely loved it!”

Allyn-a-Dale, as Hypothetical Reader B, says, “I didn’t enjoy it.”

Little John, Hypothetical Reader C, says, “I have mixed feelings.”

“Great,” Will Scarlet replies to all. “Write that down.”

Step 2: See if you can pinpoint any reasons why.

“Reasons?!” cries HRA Marion. “It was just… gaaaauuugh, SO GOOD. So practically flawless! I loved everything!”

An unimpressed HRB Allyn says, “I thought the writing quality was poor. The characters all annoyed me, and the story just felt so… done to death.”

HRC Little John shrugs. “It was interesting to a point, but then dragged too long and got boring. Fun sidekick, though.”

“Fair,” says Will, nodding. “Write that down.”

Step 3: Would you recommend that others read this book?

“READ IT,” Marion demands. “Everybody read it, and somebody make it a movie!”

“If you liked [ostensibly similar book / movie / Broadway show],” Allyn says dubiously, “maybe this book will entertain you. Otherwise, I’d skip it.”

“Fairly sure I’m not this book’s intended audience,” says Little John. “Your mileage may vary.”

“Write that last bit down,” Will Scarlet directs. “And BOOM: You’ve each got yourself a book review!”

Step 4: Post what you’ve got on book review sites (like Goodreads) and dot-coms where the book is available for sale (like Amazon and Barnes & Noble) for the benefit of the author and your fellow bookworms alike!

I absolutely loved it! It was just… gaaaauuugh, SO GOOD. So practically flawless! I loved everything! READ IT. Everybody read it, and somebody make it a movie!

*

I didn’t enjoy it. I thought the writing quality was poor. The characters all annoyed me, and the story just felt so… done to death. If you liked [ostensibly similar book / movie / Broadway show], maybe this book will entertain you. Otherwise, I’d skip it.

*

I have mixed feelings. It was interesting to a point, but then dragged too long and got boring. Fun sidekick, though. Fairly sure I’m not this book’s intended audience. Your mileage may vary.

Will Scarlet grins. “See what I’m talking about? No university-level thesis paper required. Just a few sentences outlining your impression of the book, then choose how you many stars you wish to award. Other valid, even simpler reviews could include:

Super fun. Would definitely recommend.

*

A new favorite. Can’t wait to see what [author name] does next.

*

Reminded me of [some other story]. I really liked it.

“Piece of cake, right? So if you haven’t yet, why don’t you give it a try? For ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’, another Danielle E. Shipley title, and/or any novel, novella, or short story collection that’s had the honor of your readership. Even if you don’t fancy yourself any kind of writer, believe me, friend: Your words have power.”

* “Heck yes, I copped that description of me from a review! ;D”

** “Or, I mean, you could lie, but I’m not sure who that’d be helping, in the end.”

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!”