The [Re]view from Release Day

Hey, everybody! Annabelle, here – unofficial author of today’s brand new releases: “Inspired” (available here and here, “Out of My Head” (available here and here, and “Lightbulb Moments: An INSPIRED Journal” (right here, folks)!

Covers 1, 2, and Journal

I say “unofficial” because, y’know, I’m technically a character (an AUTHOR character, but still), so it’s Danielle’s name that gets pride of place on the cover and copyright documentation and promo. Her plane of reality = her bragging rights, apparently.

But I was still very involved in the making of these books, meaning it’s only right I likewise be very involved in their Release Day blog post. My role in the latter (apart from the intro, obvs)? Rounding up my muse and character friends and assigning them perhaps the most underrated of all reader-related tasks: Sharing their book reviews.

Certainly, book reviews shared from actual, “real-world” readers would be twice as legit and thrice as thrilling for Danielle, but she has 0% control about if or when those get written and posted on Amazon/B&N.com/Goodreads, etc. That’s what’s great about having characters in your head: You’ve got maybe 11% control of them. ;D

So, time to hear it straight from The Guys. What thought ye all of the “Inspired” novels? ^^

<<<>>>

An Enlightening Work for Wordsmiths (5 stars)

“A unique and colorful exploration of not only the world of writing, but the multitude of worlds behind it. Recommended (if not required) reading for any who wish to more intimately engage with their own acts of creation.”

– Lucianíel, elemental muse

Outstanding! Phenomenal! And Super Fun, Too! (ALL THE STARS)

“I love stories! And this one’s really good! (And by ‘this one’, I mean ‘these two’, because duology. But that’s just a fancy name for a single story broken into halves, right?) My favorite thing about its structure is how it moves around between people and perspectives and planes; no staying still and sitting stuck, no sirree! Comes with a great variety of voice, too. And a lot of the chapters are pretty short, so you can speed right through ‘em, which is good if your attention span is kinda … nonexistent. Things that are existant, in spades: This story’s humor and heart. If you’re not laughing and crying, then wow, what even are you? Gimme your story; I’d love to know it.”

– Mach Jenius, brainstorm

Feline Sidelined, But Otherwise Fine (3 stars)

“If you like stories split up among an ensemble cast, good for you; these books do this. But my main investment was in the extraordinary cat character, and he wasn’t given nearly enough page time. What comes of letting humans do the authoring, I suppose. Aside from the mishandling of [what ought to have been] the main plot, though, the story was interesting enough.”

– Abishan, god of all cats

What a Journey! (5 stars)

“I very much enjoyed watching the characters develop over the course of the duology’s arc. From small and scared, to unafraid of taking rightful space. From hard and closed, to open enough that others might come in. From forlorn and isolated, to joined with loved ones in joy. My heart ached along with each of them upon their varied journeys, and by the end, I simply wanted to squeeze the entire company in a hug! (Fortunately, I believe most of them will let me.)”

– Wilbur Lamb, fantasy knight

Has Its High Points (4 stars)

“Skillfully written. Diverse cast. Ridiculous premise, but arguably in an avant-garde kinda way. Personally, I’d have preferred more action, less philosophizing on art and its making; when plot happened, though, it was cool. And I guess there were worthwhile messages, too, for those willing to receive them. Semi-biblical, in that way. … in a number of ways, come to think of it. But yeah, no, do not treat this as scripture. It’s edutainment at most.”

– Uri, heavenly warrior

An Important Gift (5 stars)

“The first word to mind to describe this story of stories is: Important. And different readers, I expect, will find it so for different reasons. For some, it may prove itself a helpful guide in becoming the writer they wish to be. For others, the emotions will resonate; the grief, the fear, the longing, the loneliness… love and laughter and tastes of euphoria. The second description these stories inspire: A gift. For those who made them, those who lived them… and, one may hope, for you.”

– Avelaine (that is all, and enough)

<<<>>>

Thanks, Guys! And thanks in advance to any and all purchasers, readers, reviewers, and fans of the “Inspired” novels (and its companion journal). Don’t hesitate to let us all know what you think of our art! (And, I mean, if you wanna make fan art, probably only a couple of us would actually die of gratitude, so it’s all good.)

Oh! And about the journal: Don’t forget that Danielle’s got a giveaway going on! One lucky somebody is getting a free copy of “Lightbulb Moments”. When? Winner name selected on April 17th. How do you enter? Pertinently enough, by writing reviews! Just link Danielle to your Amazon review of an “Inspired” novel before the April deadline (review both books for double your chances of winning! Copy the review on the Barnes & Noble site for even more points), and a free “Lightbulb Moments” journal could be yours.

Is that it? Did I cover everything I was supposed to? Gads, this blogging thing isn’t as easy as she makes it look… Lemme check my notes… Um, ‘kay, looks like you should know there are gonna be read-aloud novel excerpt videos hitting the authorial Facebook page throughout today, so keep your eyes and ears open for those. That’s it! That’s all! Happy Release Day to us!

Much love from a plane apart,

~ Annabelle Iole Gray (on behalf of Danielle E. Shipley)

The Mark of an Outlaw

Two things.

1 = Y’know “Manifest Reality”? That horror anthology that came out on Valentine’s Day and features a ~daaaark~  little story by yours truly? Well, today the 24th through Friday the 27th, you can nab an e-copy for F R E E ! Dooo it! Tell your friends! And if, once you’ve read the book, you could do all the authors therein a solid by leaving a review, that would be beautiful of you. ❤

2 = Speaking of e-books, the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” pre-order campaign is still going!

For those who’ve forgotten or hadn’t heard, a quick rundown of what that means:

Step 1: Hit up Amazon, Smashwords, and/or Barnes & Noble and make your early purchase of a “Ballad” e-book – yours to read the instant Release Day hits on July 12. (Also distributed through Kobo and Apple iBooks, if that’s your jam.)

Step 2: E-mail me at Danielle.E.Shipley@comcast.net with

2a) proof of your “Ballad” e-book purchase (a receipt or screenshot of such will suffice), and

2b) the address to which you would like me to mail your very own print of the Avalon Faire map.

Step 3: Reap your thank-you goodies (i.e, the outlaw-signed map and an exclusive Smashwords coupon to pass along to a friend).

*Offer good through July 5, 2016 (one week ‘til Release Day)*

To those who have already taken advantage of this offer, first of all, THANK YOU! Second, you will get your maps! They are already signed and ready to go in addressed envelopes! It’s just that my post office situation is absurdly complicated right now, so it’s taking way longer than I’d like to get them shipped your way. No one’s more irritated about this than me, but you have my word: The maps will be sent. …maybe around the time Arthur ushers in the second age of Camelot, I don’t know…

But hey, you don’t have to wait ‘til then to see what the maps’ signatures will look like!

Because that is today’s special treat from Ever On Word to you. ^o^

Finding each of the Merry Men’s personal autographs would have been a daunting challenge – (what do I know about handwriting? I’ll probably get investigated for badly forging my own signature, one day) – if not for an assist from a fictional friend. You [barely] know him as Gilbert, the genius coloring book artist who everyone wants to marry. He was gracious enough to both figure out the outlaw band’s writing styles and provide commentary on what each signature says about the character behind it. So without any more ado…

<<<>>>

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Robin Hood

“A bold, sure ‘R’ to establish his mark, followed by a merely suggestive scrawl for the remaining letters. Were it a charitable work done for another, he’d give it more care all the way through to the end, but he never dwells long on himself. No ‘Hood’ or lordly last name present, as he doesn’t see himself in terms of the names given him by others. Inside, he has ever been simply Robin.”

<<<>>>

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Marion Hood

“In contrast, Marion strongly claims and identifies with ‘Hood’ and its associations – wife to Robin, member of Sherwood’s most honorable outlaws, eschewer of decorous noble life in favor of all of the above. Her writing is a legible mix of flourish and precision, grounded but ever ready to dash ahead. Overall, it speaks of balance – her own, and that which she brings to her familial band.”

<<<>>>

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Little John

“Someone of Little John’s extraordinary size in a smaller man’s world does well to learn frugality of space. His writing demonstrates that wisdom (note the economy of two ‘T’s sharing a single crossbar) as well as a quiet protectiveness (the ‘I’ and ‘L’ sheltered beneath), and his steady, level, minimalist nature (no frills anywhere, and most letters of a comparable size / overall shape). And though everyone from his bandmates to casual fans of the Robin Hood legend call him ‘Little John’, his signature identifies him by the name he was given at birth.”

<<<>>>

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Will Scarlet

“No, of course he can’t use a black pen like everyone else. It must be red, for the color prompts in him the same gut-level response as the sound of ‘Will’. Most of the lines are hasty and sharp, in so much of a hurry to get to the end that he’s as likely to carelessly throw in extra letters as leave them unfinished. He’s not a man of details, but of vivid impressions. But as demonstrated by the grand, showy ‘S’, he’s never too busy to display his foppish side. He’s also left-handed, which may tell you the smallest of somethings about how his brain works (while leaving the rest an unholy mystery).”

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<<<>>>

Allyn-a-Dale

“For the band’s minstrel, a written signature is less about its visual appearance, and more about the movement of making it – the rhythm in the writing. Each letter flows one into the other, smooth and lyrical. An understated, unassuming signature, yet as full of Allyn as any song he sings.”

<<<>>>

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.

Pre-order today!

Band Signatures

Less-Than-Hidden In Plain Sight

Everybody know what day it is?!

“My birthday!” cries Will Scarlet.

No, that was actually yesterday.

“The Ides of March,” says Allyn-a-Dale.

Caesar beware. But that’s not what I’m talking about either.

Elaborate fake shrugs from both. “Then we give up.” “Whatever could it be?” “The suspense!” “Oh, pray, do tell!”

You goof-nuts know perfectly well: It’s Cover Reveal Day for your very first novel!

“Noooooo!” Will gasps in delight.

“Show!” Allyn commands.

Very merrily do I…

Cover and Spine, Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale
(Pictured here: Front cover and spine)

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.

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) — a contemporary YA fantasy coming your way on July 12, 2016!

Huge thanks to Lars and Milan van de Goor for the photography and design!

You can read my thoughts on the cover (and maybe a sneak peek inside of the book itself… *wiggles brows*) via the wonderful volunteers who have joined me in sharing “Ballad”s face on their blogs. (To see me pointing and hollering thanks to them individually, watch my Twitter.) As for here and now, I’mma step aside and let certain other relevant parties share their opinions. Merry Men: Sound off!

Robin Hood

Robin Hood = “Nice,” he says, eyes a-sparkle. “Very ‘spirit of Sherwood.’ Why, the way through the woods looks good enough to commit robbery upon!”

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<<<>>>

Marion Hood = “I love the light,” she enthuses. “You couldn’t do this book’s cover without a touch of magic, and those golden rays provide just that. Plus, how could I not love the robin?”

<<<>>>

Will Scarlet = “Needs more Will Scarlet,” he declares. “Preferably shirtless. Or in lieu of that, at least throw in a showy splash of red, somewhere. But I mean, if we’ve got to go in another direction, this is pretty, too. *Cough*, just not as pretty as me.”

<<<>>>

Little John = *silent nod of approval*

Meekest of Minstrels

<<<>>>

Allyn-a-Dale = “It’s the wrong lute, of course,” he murmurs, with a glance toward me. “A photograph of your instrument, not mine. But the facts aside, the book’s truth shows through rather well. Though it does not show everything – no cover could – I believe it hints at the heart. I can hear my story in it – shining in the sunlight, breezing through the trees, captured in the letterwork’s curves. The music is a match, so I am pleased.”

I could ask for no more. ^o^ …No, scratch that: I could ask that the gorgeous book be out and in readers’ hands YESTERDAY. Alas, we’ve still got a few months to wait. Feel free to add “Ballad” to your to-read list on Goodreads in the meanwhile!

So, world at large – what do YOU think of the cover and novel soon to come? Share below!

The Old and the New

My New Year’s Eve with Tirzah

Walking through her German village – (our German village, I can say for now) – our latest heated argument punctuated by the battle sounds of fireworks.

Staring at the bursts of color in the foggy sky, my expression sobbing while the tears refuse to fall. It’s been a wretched day.

Is this how the old year ends? I mourn. Is this how the new begins? In painful misery? I don’t want that kind of year. Not again.

Maybe a bottle rocket will shoot me.

* * *

Meandering back down a side path. Stopping to stare at a tree – bare except for water droplets glittering in the smoky glow of a streetlamp. Silent music, melancholy beauty.

“That tree is Allyn-a-Dale,” Tirzah says, then looks to the flamboyant sky. “The fireworks are Will Scarlet.”

Will’s laugh through my throat. “Yeah they are.”

* * *

We – the hosts and the host inside of them – take a seat on pathside boulders. Embracing the mists like we’re born of them. Craning to watch the comets erupt.

“It’s hard,” Will says for me, eyes on the showers of light, “when someone who might otherwise be a happy person just… can’t, a lot. It’s like a flu of sadness. You try to drink plenty of fluids, try to get your rest, but all you can really do is let it run its course.”

Through Tirzah, Sy nods. “In her way, your author gets sick as often as mine does.”

“It’s pathetic.”

“It really is.”

Will arches a brow. “Take bets on which of ‘em dies first?”

Sy puts his money on my death; Will goes the other way. Winner’s author gets custody of the dead one’s characters.

Like that hadn’t already been agreed upon.

* * *

Back to the house for a New Year’s toast – she, me, her husband makes three, classy glasses of wood-flavored whiskey for all.

I snap pics of her in her hat and sharp jacket, Gandalf’s pipe balanced at the corner of her mouth. She raises the glass. “Happy New Year, old sport.”

“Mm, yes, I say, rather, *bluster-bluff*.”

She laughs at the toothpick I swirl in my drink and contently chew. “Who needs wood whisky when you can have whisky wood?”

A masterpiece of a movie, thanks to my sister’s Netflix. (“The Illusionsist” – you seen it? You may wish to.)

Always cold, but – with three top layers, a beanie, and T’s ski pants over my jeans – almost warm enough.

Always at risk to feel sad and angry and scared that life will swallow me and my inner fog whole, but for now – through the wee hours – happy enough.

* * *

I expect the year will be much like this.

Happy ‘til I’m not, sad ‘til I’m better, my people and me weathering it all like we do.

It will be hard.

Bits will be glorious – pockets of silent music in the mist.

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https://www.pinterest.com/pin/517280707171823674/

Young Autumn (Part 3)

A piece of flash fiction, as lightly adapted from an inter-author character interaction with Tirzah Duncan.

Part 1

Part 2

<<<>>>

III

 

T: The questions won’t keep forever.

She decides to let one out, and searches for the rightest one.

She began to ask, why me?

But then she felt she knew enough of the answer, somehow.

 

D: I expect she knows as much of the answer to that as he does.

 

T: One question after another seems wrong for the moment, so—

“Ask me something?

I feel like something should be asked, and preferably answered,

But I can’t find it,” she explains.

 

D: He blinks. “Are you comfortable?”

 

T: “I think so,” she answers.

“There’s a tension of sorts, but it’s a comfortable one.”

 

D: “Are you content?” he asks next.

“For us to be what we are –

Whatever we are –

Indefinitely, and perhaps forever?

Or do you feel the need for more?”

 

T: “I… don’t know,” she says honestly.

“I’m content in it now. I can’t speak for indefinitely.”

 

D: He nods. “I am content for now, too.”

 

T: Her mind brushes on the boy she left behind,

And she wonders what, if anything, ought to be told to him.

It seems that something should, but she’s no concept what.

 

D: “What do you suppose he’d like to know?” he asks.

 

T: She opens her mouth, closes it again.

“I don’t know.”

She looks up at him. “You might actually know better.”

 

D: “He’d want to know of any good feelings.

He’d want to know you don’t feel alone, lonely, broken, bereft.

He thinks he wants to know everything, but that’s less than true.

He doesn’t want there to be unhappy things to know.”

 

T: Her lips twitch, skew sideways. “Yeah.”

 

D: “So any good you can tell him, you should.

As for the rest… Well, you have me for that, now.”

 

T: She watches his face,

Feeling over what he said more than thinking over it.

“Is this— what is it, to you?

‘Cause damned if I know what it is.

It’s not simple, is it?”

 

D: “Possibly simple. Certainly not straightforward.

It may not have a name. Not in this day and age.

One saw such things more, in times gone by.

There were more ways of bonding.”

 

T: “Well.” She muses. “I guess you’re my… exception.

My exception to good sense.”

She grins. “You were that from the time you were my idea.

Every sensible person needs one of those, aye?”

 

D: A smile glints in his eyes.

“We keep the sensible from stagnating.”

 

Epilogue

 

D: “All right. Hungry now. Ready for dinner. Will you join me at table?”

 

T: “Sure. Let me finish my class, first? We’ve been out of time.”

As in outside of it.

 

D: He nods. “I’ll wait.”

 

T: “Thanks. Should just be half an hour.”

She kisses his cheek, that feeling right,

And slips back into time and reality.

 

Her head swims at the sudden scene change,

But it’s no worse than standing up too fast.

A deep, slow breath,

And she’s taking notes again.

Funny, how quickly her brain can snap back to practical.

 

*Confusion* *Feelings*

*Questions* *Relationship stuff*

Oh math okay

Young Autumn (Part 2)

A piece of flash fiction, as lightly adapted from an inter-author character interaction with Tirzah Duncan.

Part 1

<<<>>>

II

 

D: Enough dash-about energy gone to be a boy again and take her hand for walking, as first intended.

 

T: There’s a helluva tingling in that.

In the breath-recovering relative stillness, the great question mark presses upward,

Wanting to turn into actual questions,

But she pushes it back down, because this is too nice to be spoilt by thinking about it.

 

D: Piles of the Autumn leaves burn.

He likes the flames, the light, the smoky smell.

 

T: It feels right. Delight, heat, and question all seem mirrored in the environ.

 

D: Some leaves, newly turned, flutter and fall from overhead.

He plucks one from the air,

Tucks it behind her ear.

 

T: She thinks him beautiful.

Not wrong, and not that she’s been blind,

But also not a thought she’s had so wholly before.

 

D: He thinks her… a delicious Red Apple.

Not to consume, but to delight in.

 

T: No questions, no questions, no questions.

It’s hard for her to keep her practical, straightforward, investigative side down,

But she really, really doesn’t want to be bothered with it just now.

 

D: His free hand’s fingers dance in the air, playing afar with the fire’s sparks.

They take on shapes suggestive of butterflies and dragons.

 

T: That’s better. She lets herself be rapt.

 

D: “Do you ever stop to notice,” he says, gaze on the pieces of blue between the boughs overhead, “what a fantastic young-adult cliché we look, right now?”

 

T: Her lips twitch.

“I’ve been working not to think about it,” she says, meaning more than simply that.

“But wasn’t that true from the first moment of

‘You be a human girl, I’ll be a Fey boy’? So it’s your fault.

Only thing I did wrong was have red hair and blue eyes.

I haven’t even bitten my lip.”

 

D: “Oh, never think I blame you! Though the red hair really is a bit much, Apple, did you have to.”

 

T: “That was all Da!” she protests.

 

But it is cliché, right down to the being confused about how I feel about all this, she thinks, cheeks blushing in embarrassment as well as frustration that such feelings are common to the point of overdone.

Feels like all of YA fed her a line.

<<<>>>

To be concluded on Friday.

Young Autumn (Part 1)

A piece of flash fiction, as lightly adapted from an inter-author character interaction with Tirzah Duncan.

<<<>>>

Prologue

 

D: “Spring is wet and green.

Autumn dying. Winter bleak.

Summer… full of life. Rich with life.

I could not choose between them.

Thinking on it, though, I would walk in Autumn.”

 

He departs, and makes a place to be magic.

 

I

 

D: “Apple,” he calls to her mind. “Will you walk in Autumn with me?

Because life is short, and you are pretty?”

 

T: She laughs, pausing time,

And stepping straight out of her self in class into the Autumn woods.

 

D: “Be human,” he tells her. “Be a girl. And I will be Fey and a boy.

Above all, we will be, and be together.”

 

T: She smiles at the words, so fey themselves,

And something in them sits right in her heart.

There’s a lot else spinning around in her mind, a lot of confusion and second-guessing.

But she shakes all that away, for the moment,

To play along with his words.

 

D: He wants to take her hand and walk.

He wants to take the shape of a wolf and frolic, roll and tumble through the leaves.

He wants both, but can’t have both, not in the same moment.

 

T: Which first, then?

 

D: The wolf. It better fits the antsyness.

 

He frisks near and away, tongue lolling like a too-pleased dog.

 

T: She almost snatches his tail a lot,

And stumble-tumbles into leaf piles and underbrush more often.

Can’t. Stop. Giggling.

 

D: He whirls, leaps,

Comes down with paws on her chest, knocking her down.

Lands atop her, boy-shaped,

Laughs and licks her cheek.

Dashes away again.

 

T: Face flaming, still laughing, she up and runs after him again.

She doesn’t play like this on her own. It’s in her,

Her childlikeness and her silliness,

But it takes someone else unlocking it.

(Her father can access some part of it, but the boy she left behind was the only one to open it up this much.)

 

D: (She’s the only one to do this to him.)

T: (Some sort of mutual play-unlocking connection, then.)

D: (Seems so.)

 

He eventually lets her tackle him.

Leaf-rollin’, leaf-rollin’, barky laughter.

 

T: It feels a strange sort of playing to her, half innocent, half… thrillingly more-than.

 

She drops handfuls of leaves on his head.

In this moment, there is no fear, no suspicion.

There is delight, and heat, and…

Question. Uncertainty, but nowhere directed.

It might be any number of questions, if inspected,

But now it just hems the heat and adds to the thrill.

 

D: He butts his big furry head against her, tail a-wag.

For the moment, everything feels perfect.

<<<>>>

To be continued on Wednesday.