A Bit of Beauty in the Midst of My Mess

I could be posting about the massive transitions going down in my life, these days. Or I could finally get around to posting the [currently half-written] call-out review I promised back in my Printer’s Row recap. Or I could try to ignore all these sources of stress and do that one thing I actually enjoy: Sharing stuff about my characters. :DDD

C’mon, I gotta go with that one. I found a meme and everything!

Beautiful People Meme

How the Beautiful People meme works, according to Cait @ Paper Fury:

If you’ve never joined in before, THERE ARE NO RULES!! Haha, just kidding. There are rules which basically include (a) link back to this post, (b) include the blog button somewhere in your post, and (c) consider life as a werewolf.

Done, done, and… wow, as life-altering disorders go, lycanthropy would probably not be the worst.

Anyhow, there are character questions to answer! And I hope y’all have been good little DEShipley fans and read Outlaws of Avalon 2, because I’m giving the spotlight to one of the new residents of Avalon Faire, Loren McCaughley, circa right before Book 3 opens.

So Loren, if I may…

What are they addicted to/can’t live without?

“Robin Hood books,” she confesses. “It’s actually horrible. Put a new tale in my line of vision (or an old tale I’ve read a zillion times), and all is lost – most notably, my sense of time and productivity.”

Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.

“I’ll handle this one,” Marion Hood volunteers, because gal pal privileges. “Positives: Unapologetic sense of self, good work ethic when it comes to her areas of interest – (you should see her progress in lute and quarterstaff!) – and, as all Merry Men must be, she’s a jolly team player. Hmm, as for what I’ve observed of the negative side… Has a tendency to let problems go farther than she should before properly addressing them with the appropriate party. Views the world through a bit of a self-centered lens, on the whole. And, well, she’s an actor. You know how they are.”

Loren snorts. “Says she who’s spent the last 30-some summers doing what, now?”

“Um, playing Maid Marion?” she laughs. “I’d hardly call that acting.”

“A Faire point.”

(Seeing what Loren did there, Marion throws up the finger guns.)

Are they holding onto something they should get rid of?

Loren shrugs. “Maybe the odd delusional fantasy or two. But come on, I’m already living in a hidden Faerie land, married to a superhuman from another dimension. Why shouldn’t I someday get the chance to rob somebody on the forest highway, too? Apart from the law, which would obviously be outside the point.”

If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where do they fall on the scale?

“Where does an organized semi-mess fall? I’ll take a 6.”

What most frustrates them about the world they live in?

“Do you know how hard it is to not tell my sister that I hang out with the actual Robin Hood?!”

How would they dress for a night out? How would they dress for a night in?

“Well I mean, that depends on the venue. First non-date with Allyn versus first date-for-realsies – totally different looks for totally different destinations. But in general, probably dark jeans (or jeggings, let’s not pretend), shoes with some shine to ‘em, a flowy top, and moderate bling. If we’re not leaving the house, I vote jammie bottoms and nerdy tees.”

How many shoes do they own, and what kind?

“A few dressy flats, some basic sneakers. WAY too many boots. Same with the sandals.”

Do they have any pets? What pet do they WISH they had?

“No pets, though at this point, I’d take a unicorn.”

Legend proofIs there something or someone that they resent? Why and what happened?

“Ugh. Probably. But according to Marion, I’m not likely ready to deal with it. We’ll see if anything explodes in Book 3.”

What’s usually in their fridge or pantry?

“Takeout leftovers. I am here for reheated whatever, so long as somebody else made it. The kitchen is not my domain.”

*

Thank you, Loren! (And Marion, briefly. ;D) And for the readers currently going, “Man, I really gotta get caught up on the Outlaws books,” you’re not wrong! Only two months ‘til the trilogy concludes with “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”. Which means, oh boy, I better get crackin’ on sweeping through my proof copy. …in addition to everything else on my plate. I’ll keep you guys informed once I scrape together the wherewithal. Ciao for now!

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Legends and Lore[n] (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 wizardly employer, Merlin, once described her thus:

McCaughley. Corsets McCaughley, I think of her, to keep her straight with her sister, a jester. But her proper name is Loren. Loren Elaine. … This will be her second year at the Faire. Signed up in the middle of last season to help a short-staffed shop; had the time of her life, so she told me; and the rest is history on my hard drive, somewhere.

“Welcome, Loren!” Will greets the young woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – what makes you think you’re good enough for my Allyn?”

Loren’s reactive noise is laugh-like, incredulous. Her scrunched-up expression sends one brow on the rise. “What are you, his mother?”

“Nope. Just his best friend 5ever.”

“I see. Well, if by good enough for him, you mean good enough to play his lady love in a Renaissance Faire skit, the panel of judges at my audition apparently thought so well of me.”

“In that case, congrats. Would it be fair to describe the role as your dream job? (Since, y’know, your book’s summary straight-up describes it that way.)”

A more genuine laugh-sound. “More or less. I mean, technically, I just wanted to be an actual Merry Man, but this is the closest I’ve gotten to that, so yeah – we’ll call that dream-living.”

Eyes narrowed into a pseudo-intellectual regard, Will inquires, “What is it about the Robin Hood mythos that so deeply appeals to you?”

A tuneless whistle sends a stray strand of hair flying before she brushes it back with the rest of her glossy dark ponytail. “Who even knows what set it off? One day I’m reading the stories in grade school, the next my soul’s begging me to run away to Sherwood. Maybe it’s that fairytale forest setting, of the thrill of stave fights and archery, or the minstrel’s music, or the daring robberies, laughing all the way out of Nottingham’s treasury… You all just make the outlaw life seem so much fun, you know? Ha – ‘you all.’” An amused shake of the head. “As if you’re anything nearer to the real thing than I am.”

“Yeah…” Will Scarlet smiles languidly into the camera. “As if. Did you figure going into the audition that you had the gig in the bag?”

Not Loren’s actual headshot – but wow, stupid close!

Not Loren’s actual headshot – but wow, stupid close!

“Oh, zounds, no. For all I knew, they were looking for a Type, and why would I assume I fit it? Just because the BBC included Anjali Jay among their Merry Men, didn’t mean the Faire would automatically be like, ‘So, for Allyn’s bride, yeah, let’s go Indian. Or at least half that. And make her plus-sized.’ Vexing but true, that’s just not the usual go-to.”

“And yet,” Will observes, “here you are.”

“Here I am,” Loren agrees, smiling broadly. “Talent triumphs. Love overcomes. What a time to be alive.”

“Talking of time, and ways to pass it: When not geeking out over your faux beau and co., your hobbies include…?”

“A bunch of other geeky stuff,” Loren admits. “I’m just that crowd. Theatre, dated music, classic lit… Getting dragged to comic stores and cons by my kid sister, listening to my ex make love to Shakespeare…”

Will sits bolt upright. “Your boyfriend left you for Shakespeare?!”

Loren cracks up. “Maybe would’ve if he could’ve, but no.”

“Oh, well. Guess we’ll have to look elsewhere for scandal. Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret? Or would you rather kiss me? Bearing in mind,” he adds, “that I am Will Scarlet, and therefore a Merry Man, and therefore you’ve basically been waiting to kiss me your whole life, right?”

Loren’s dart-about gaze suggests a search for escape routes. “Um…”

“I’ll do it!” a voice calls out from the audience. “Take me, Will! I love you!”

Loren squints past the lights. “My sister’s here?? Janey, sit down. You’re not—”

“Aw, let her up,” says Will, grinning brightly. “It’s all within the spirit of the show, if not the law’s letter. Lay one on me, Janes!”

An albino-blond teen barrels down the aisle and onto the stage, taking a flying leap into Will’s waiting arms. They kiss like a rom-com’s happy ending, complete with a flamboyant twirl.

“Thespians,” says Loren, eyes rolling to the rafters. “Allyn, what’s the word from your sponsor?”

Cheeks and ears gone abruptly pink, Allyn pronounces, “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment is brought to you by The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale (Outlaws of Avalon, Book 2)’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

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.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, McCaughley girls! 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!”

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!”

The Wonderful Wizard of Avalon (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:

As co-CEO of Avalon Faire for the entirety of its existence (and official wizard of Camelot for some centuries before that), the man has a lot on his plate. With a job description that includes juggling the individual and mutual interests of the resident Fey and human folk, maintaining both necessary relations with the Outside and the top-secret magical nature of the Faire, and continually butting heads with an incorrigible Will Scarlet, if Merlin comes across as a little tightly-wound, it’s because he’s earned the privilege.

“Welcome, Merlin!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how in the world did I talk you into this, and will I be able to work such a miracle again in the pursuit of future favors?”

Merlin’s lips purse within the frame of his iconic silver-gray beard. “In no way am I doing this as a favor to you, Mr. Scarlet. This is about the promotion of our author’s latest work featuring our world. I’m not so overbooked that I can’t contribute to the Faire’s marketing efforts. And if that means sitting down for another episode of your nonsense… well, here I am.”

“Sporting of you. So, what can you tell us about your role in Outlaws of Avalon, Book 1.5?”

“Essentially,” Merlin says dryly, “I’ve been cast as Scrooge.”

Will half-conceals a grin. “Apt.”

“Well, it’s a parody of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Someone had to play the lead, and of Avalon’s residents, I suppose I made the most logical choice. As for the rest of the story’s logic, it’s everything bizarre about Book 1, wrapped up in a dream sequence.”

“In other words, ‘Logic for what?’”

“Pretty much,” Merlin confirms. “Beyond the extensive silliness, however, there are elements of actual consequence to the Outlaws of Avalon’s overarching plotline. Heavy themes served up with humor; such is our author’s favored approach.”

“Talking of faves,” Will segues, “which bit of the book do you like best?”

“Hmm.” Merlin strokes his beard in thought. “Possibly Allyn’s song number in the third chapter. A melancholy little thing, but that’s just Allyn-a-Dale all over.”

“And, what, you like him best of all your immortal heroes?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Merlin. “That would be Arthur. Danielle may have written the series for the Merry Men’s sake, but as far as I’m concerned, my king is the sole reason Avalon Faire exists.”

“So, if Arthur didn’t need you to manage him, what do you suppose you’d do with your life?”

Merlin startles. “I… haven’t considered anything like that question in a very long time.” Blue eyes take on a shade of bemusement. “I really don’t know. Maybe get a degree in something? Learn to teach? Seems just the sort of thankless job I’m made for.”

“I’m sure Hogwarts would hire you in a heartbeat. And speaking of matters of the heart, tell me: What is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Will pulls up a dreamy smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Merlin grunts. “The only things I keep better than secrets are my lips to myself when it comes to the likes of you. You’ve had your interview, Scarlet. Don’t think you can blackmail me into more.”

“It’s not blackmail, it’s the rules!”

“And you think you’re the only one in the Faire with a talent for rule-breaking?” The wizard stands with a smirk-like scowl. “I bent nature’s laws before your birth, boy. Remember who you’re talking to.”

“Right now,” says Will, giving up, “I’m talking to Allyn. Hey, minstrel! What’s the word from our sponsor?”

christmas-carol-cover-w-text

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by An Avalon Christmas Carol (An Outlaws of Avalon Novella)’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

Merlin was asleep, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that

And yet, when you’re a wizard with a legendary gift of prophecy, who can tell whether a dream may be something more?

In the tradition of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic, join Camelot’s court and Sherwood’s outlaws on a spirited journey through Avalon’s past, present, and future.

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

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!”

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!”

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!”