“Marriage” Excerpt: Counsel of the Stripe

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

readane-bookweek_lose-yourself

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

2) Have another sneak peek into Outlaws 2 below!

<<<>>>

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

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

“Couldn’t help but do.”

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

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

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

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

Funny – I’ve read the same.

Funny – I’ve read the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<<<>>>

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

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.

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

Advertisements

“Marriage” Excerpt: To Say or Not to Say

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

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

<<<>>>

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

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

gawain

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

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

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

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

“You may, though you hardly need to.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I couldn’t say.”

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

“He did not.”

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

“If he’d said I should.”

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

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

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

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

“And if I hadn’t asked?”

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

<<<>>>

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

marriage-cover-final-front

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

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

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

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

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

allan-a-dale-tells-his-story

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

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

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

a-stranger-in-scarlet

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

marriage-cover-final-front

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

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

See you ‘round the greenwood!

Sneak Peek: An Avalon Christmas Carol

The December 6th release of “An Avalon Christmas Carol” – essentially, the Outlaws of Avalon Holiday Special™ – is only a week away! To mark the occasion, here’s an early glimpse into the e-novella’s opening pages. Y’know. So you can get an idea of what you’re in for. ;D

<<<>>>

“A Merry Christmas, uncle!”

Merlin looked up from his paperwork, his brows – a silvery gray a match for the beard hanging low from his chin – drawn down in irritated surprise. “Excuse me?”

“A Merry Christmas, I say!” cried the young man again, his handsome, ruddy face aglow with smiles for the ancient wizard behind the desk on the low dais at the office’s rear. “And God save you!”

“That he save me from your foolishness, Mr. Scarlet, is my daily prayer,” said Merlin, glowering over his spectacles. “What’s all this ‘uncle’ business? And what in the world are you supposed to be dressed like?”

“Oh, this?” said Will Scarlet, tipping his top hat to a subtly more rakish angle over his red-gold hair. The accessory added an air of style to the outfit which included a vaguely shabby dress coat (burgundy red) and heavy woolen scarf (faded vermillion) informally tossed over one shoulder. “Isn’t it a riot?” He grinned. “Just screams ‘nineteenth-century man about London.’ I thought it the very thing to wear Out caroling this evening!”

“Out caroling?” Merlin repeated, disbelieving.

“Yes, you know – going house to house, cheery candles raised high, singing jolly tunes and being offered warming treats like cider and chocolate and cookies and figgy pudding, one can only hope,” he laughed, “since goodness knows we won’t go until we get some!…”

“Nonsense!” Merlin cut him off curtly.

Will’s brilliant blue eyes blinked in astonishment. “Christmas caroling nonsense, uncle! You don’t mean that, I’m sure?”

“I do.”

“But it’s Christmas Eve!”

“Yes, I am in possession of a calendar. But I don’t see what the day has to do with your going Outside to torture people with your attempts to carry a tune, let alone your insistence on naming me your uncle. You know perfectly well that you’ll not be leaving the Faire – not for caroling, nor for any reason short of a dire emergency of the sort we faced this past summer.”

Will’s lips puckered into the beginnings of a pout. “Why not?”

The wizard’s pale blue gaze was hard and sharp as flint. “Really, Mr. Scarlet?”

“All right, all right, I know your so-called reasons why. Maintenance of secrecy, avoidance of death, so forth and etc. You don’t have to be so cross about it.”

“Don’t have to be so cross about it…” Merlin muttered, halfway to himself. “What else can I be, when I live in a world with such a fool as this? If you don’t have anything more important to speak of than empty plans and ‘Merry Christmas,’ then good afternoon.”

“It would be a great deal of fun, you know,” Will Scarlet wheedled.

“Good afternoon,” Merlin said again.

“I don’t see the harm in our going, just this one night. It needn’t be far, it wouldn’t be long, and you know you’d be invited to come along, right? You’re what, a baritone? I’m sure we could work out some killer harmonies…”

“Good afternoon.”

Will sighed. “I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute and so much the definition of a spoilsport. But I’ll keep my Christmas humor to the last (with little thanks to you). So a Merry Christmas, uncle!”

“Good afternoon.”

“And a Happy New Year!”

“GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!” Merlin bellowed.

“Getting out of your office,” Will said cheerfully, already tripping backward to the door. “Good afternoon, by the way.”

<<<>>>

christmas-carol-cover-w-text

Sorry, Merlin, but the shenanigans only go deeper down from here – as hinted at in the book’s blurb…

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.

One week to go, then we’re ringing in the Christmas season, Outlaws of Avalon style! Feel free to pre-order and/or add to your Goodreads “to read” list now!

A Few Bars of BALLAD: Stanza Three

To my readership in the U.S., Happy Independence Day, one day late! And Happy Release Day, one week early, to “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”!

Today marks the end of the pre-order campaign, though you can still pre-order the e-book (AmazonSmashwords… Barnes & Noble…) right up until next week, at which time the gorgeous paperback will launch into official availability as well. In the meanwhile…

1) “Ballad” and I had the pleasure of being featured on the Clockwork Bibliophile blog of Shannon Haggerty. Enjoy the interview at your leisure; it’s a good’un.

2) As a last hurrah before the BIG hurrah, it’s time for one more [abridged] sneak peek into the book!

Having worked with a professional man-o’-music once or twice before (hi-i-i, Gant-o’-the-Lute), I knew going into the writing of “Ballad” that a novel centering around Robin Hood’s legendary minstrel would by necessity feature its share of music. That means the lyrical prose which, to hear the remarks of reviewers, has become something of a Danielle E. Shipley signature – not to mention literal lyrics, every time Allyn informed his author it was time to insert a song.

Novel, The Musical

The following excerpt showcases the non-literal, narrative kind of lyricism as our protagonist finds himself out of the world he knew and inside the magical world of Avalon Faire. Our first sneak peek gave of us a glimpse of the isle’s Renaissance Faire disguise. Below, if you keep quiet in the trees, you’ll get an eyeful – and an earful – of the true, Fey heart of the place…

It was quiet here. Or he’d thought it so, at first. But Allyn felt, even before his ears quite heard, the faintest strains of music. It did not sound as if the music’s source could be too far off. And even if it were, what had Allyn to lose by turning to follow it? So follow he did, over the weighty, flat land, through the sharp, colorless wood, until the trees thinned almost to ending, and Allyn could make out the lawn beyond, and the people gathered upon it.

Such people! And yet at first, Allyn was hardly aware of them, so enthralled was he by the sound of their music. High and sweet as the love songs of courting birds, the melody of pipes and flutes lilted through the air. Beneath, an aural tapestry of lusty color and texture, woven by the strings. The light percussive beat of drums and bells kept the frolicsome time to which the men and women danced around a leaping fire, and it was their dancing that made Allyn-a-Dale take note of them at last.

[…] No humans he had ever seen could dance as these people could — so full of spirited, easy grace, in spite of this ground which pulled so hard. And yet, if they were not human, then Allyn could not begin to guess what they were. Not winds, from his limited experience; the evening air held calm around them. Nor was there any golden glow of the Sun in them, though Allyn might have conceded a touch of starlight about their night-dark skin. And what, Allyn wondered, as his gaze focused in closer to their ethereal faces, was he supposed to make of their ears? One and all, their ears tapered up into a dainty, leaf-like point.

…No, not all. There was one among them whose ears were wholly unremarkable — or, in the context of the others with her, quite the opposite. Her lithe figure danced along the inner circle of the lawn, her gown swirling just out of reach of the fire. Her long curls fell around her in a dark cascade, nearly black but for the subtle sheen of gold the firelight revealed. Her eyes, too, were of darkest gold, and all but caused Allyn to gasp aloud when he realized they were staring right at him.

Her look was difficult to understand. She appeared neither surprised to see the youth watching from the wood, nor in any way offended. She did not even appear curious. The look she gave him seemed to say, “I see you” — nothing more. And Allyn hadn’t the least idea how he was meant to react.

“Go over there and introduce yourself, of course,” he could hear Father say. “Give her the ol’ minstrel hello!”

The minstrel hello, Allyn repeated, lips twitching their way into something betwixt a smile and a grimace of exasperation. Is there anything that minstrels do not have in a category all to themselves?

“Nothing at all,” Father’s voice laughed. “We’re special that way.”

Allyn shook his head. I’ll not force myself upon festivities to which I’ve not been expressly invited, he thought. However, we might see what may be done in the way of a minstrel hello.

After first pulling a little further back into the trees, his bashful spirit still unsure whether he truly wanted his presence known, Allyn withdrew his lute from its place at his back. Then, his heart’s rhythm aligned to the drums of the sharp-eared folk, their harmonies washing over and through him like a gentle rain, softly — reverentially — he began to join in their song.

Could they hear it, he wondered? Or sense it, this new line of lutesong threading its way through the established tapestry of the strings? If yes, would they welcome it? If no, would he care? If all he did tonight was become a part of the music — if not a part of the company of music-makers — and no one anywhere but he himself was aware of it, would that not, if only for these few minutes, be enough?

Here I am, new world, his fingers played his shy minstrel hello. Wherever I am, I’m here.

And we, too, can say “hello” to the new, magical world of Avalon Faire in just one! More! Week!

<<<>>>

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.

Coming July 12!

P.S. — You wanna hear/watch me read this excerpt aloud? ‘Cause you can!

A Few Bars of BALLAD: Stanza One

2 weeks ‘til the release of the “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, which means two things:

1) It’s the LAST WEEK to take advantage of my pre-order + thank-you gifts offer! Don’t miss out, y’all!

2) It’s time for another sneak peek inside this soon-to-launch novel of my heart – this excerpt introducing its minstrel protagonist, the one and only Allyn-a-Dale.

Of course, readers of my Wilderhark Tales will have already met him, as well as his father. “Ballad”s first chapter (not counting the prologue we sampled last week) picks up not many days after the series’ final book, “The Story’s End”, left off. If you’ve read it, you’ll have a pretty good idea where that places Allyn emotionally. If you haven’t… well, here’s your chance to find out. Come in closer. But quietly, now. This is a somber occasion.

“He looks all wrong.”

Allyn hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but the words had slipped out of their own volition. And why not, when they were only true? Jackillen Gant did look all wrong. Because he was so pale, his shining light dimmed and sparkling energy gone. Because he was so unmoving, when nothing before could ever hold him still. Because he was clothed in expensive finery, golden crown upon his golden head, inside a grand castle filled with everyone from the land’s highest officials to its lowliest farm girls, every one of them come to pay him honor. Because he had once been king, and now he was dead. All of it wrong, so wrong.

“I know,” murmured Dorian — Allyn’s brother, though quite old enough to have fathered him, had the man lying in the extravagant coffin not beaten him to it. Beside the king of the last nineteen years stood his wife, his sons and daughters (a number of them also older than Allyn), and his twin sister and partner in the rule of Carillon, Queen Ioniana, all of whom belonged in this royal setting more than the dearly departed Jackillen did.

More, too, than did Allyn.

“But it’s for The People,” Ioniana joined in the murmuring. “You understand.”

No, I don’t, Allyn thought. He didn’t understand why his father’s funeral had become this long drawn-out ceremony “for The People,” or why it seemed any action taken by Dorian and Ioniana seemed only ever to be “for The People,” or why “The People,” if they’d cared about Father so much, would want to see him made up without his say-so to look like the king he’d never desired to be.

The whole thing was a farce of the most tragic kind. Had Father been there — alive, that is — he’d have shattered the music of mourning with a countermelody of derisive laughter. “There’s a satirical song in here, somewhere!” he’d say, and would then have proceeded to find it and play it to an audience rolling on the floor with hilarity.

The thought caused Allyn’s lips to twitch. “Go on, lad,” he could hear Father’s voice urging, as it had so often when his lips twitched in such wise. “It won’t break your porcelain face entirely to crack the smallest smile.” And often, to please Father, a full smile would follow.

It didn’t now. It couldn’t. Not when his motivation for smiling lay embalmed in unwanted gold.

“Forgive me, Father,” Allyn whispered, his small hand hovering over the glass lid of the casket. “I should not have brought you here.”

Poor, dear Allyn. Little does he know that the tragic end he’s faced is only the beginning. What adventure lies ahead on the mourning minstrel’s path? Short answer: Summarized past the section break below. Full story: Comin’ atcha July 12th!

<<<>>>

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.

Stay tu-u-uned!

P.S. — You wanna hear/watch me read this excerpt aloud? ‘Cause you can!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzStanza1

A Few Bars of BALLAD: Overture

With 3 weeks ‘til the release of the “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (have you pre-ordered a copy yet? Don’t forget there are thank-you gifts to snatch up!), I thought it high time for a bit of sneak-peekery. Today, we get an abridged look at…

The Prologue!

(Or rather, in keeping with “Ballad”s musical themes, the Overture.)

“A prologue, eh?” you ask. …sounding distinctly, now I think on it, like the voice of Gant-o’-the-Lute. “Aren’t those a bit frowned upon, nowadays?”

By some, I suppose. Just as there are those who aren’t big on opening a book through a side character’s point of view. But lookee there – I did that, too!

“This your idea of living on the edge, is it?”

Pfft, hardly. This has nothing to do with writerly rebellion, and everything to do with the idea that sparked this book in the first place: What if what patrons thought was a run-of-the-mill Renaissance Faire was secretly home to the real-life Robin Hood?

Most of the novel is from an insider perspective, but for the beginning, I wanted to show how Avalon Faire looks to an outsider’s eyes – to provide a baseline of normalcy against which all the magic to follow can more vividly pop. Hence the prologue overture, in which Ordinary Gal™ Loren and her sister take in a typical Ren Faire performance, and— well, why don’t you all step up to the Archer’s Green and watch for yourselves? ^^

The map that could be yours, all yours (and outlaw-signed, to boot!) with a “Ballad” e-book pre-order.

The map that could be yours, all yours (and outlaw-signed, to boot!) with a “Ballad” e-book pre-order.

…A man bedecked in a quite official-looking getup — all bright velvets and a hat to beat the band — took his place on a raised platform to one side of the Green. A fawn-brown young woman in a fuss-free gown of darker browns and greens stepped up beside him, the pair of them in the middle of a conversation so loud, it couldn’t have been intended to remain private.

“What say you, my lady?” the man asked, with a hint of swagger. “Is it not a fine day for a shooting match?”

“I daresay, sir,” the woman agreed, hands held demurely not far below the cascade of curls at her back. “But perhaps almost too fine! ‘Tis a fair-weather day, with scarce a breath of wind in the air. Surely anyone with a bow in hand could send an arrow near the mark in such ideal conditions as these — especially as you’ve placed the targets almost insultingly close by.”

“Close by, say you!” cried the man, gesturing toward the row of hay bales marked with bull’s-eyes that stood, to Loren’s mind, a rather intimidating distance from the Green’s edge. “Far enough, I’d say! Would you have me place the mark on the far side of Nottinghamshire? What man would be able to win the prize then?”

The young woman offered a sly sort of bright-eyed smile. “I know tell of one man who could.”

The spectators around the platform began to buzz and chuckle with anticipation, one or two even going so far as to call out the name they guessed was hinted at. The gaudily dressed man’s face grew comically red.

“Who dares speak that name?” he bellowed. “There will be no talk of that rogue here — not while I’m still Sheriff of Nottingham! This is a contest for honest men, not sneaking scoundrels! For men and women who like to earn their gold through fair play and skill, not tricks and robbery! Show these good people the prize, my lady!”

The crowd ooh-ed and ah-ed as the woman held up the shining article for all to see. “Behold,” cried the Sheriff. “The Golden Arrow! Let whoever aims truest today take the prize. And let’s show my lady, here, that there stands at least one in Nottinghamshire who can shoot better than even this outlaw favorite of hers! Who will aim first?”

A dozen hands shot up and waved wildly in the air, Loren’s among them. The woman on the platform made a short show of consideration before pointing the Golden Arrow at a youngster in a chainmail shirt. Loren could have screamed with jealousy; though she wasn’t overly miffed at having not been selected to shoot first, she’d have killed for some awesome chainmail.

[…] Four random others went up in succession. That Loren was not among them was more of a disappointment than a surprise. By this point in her early adult life, she was more or less resigned to the likely truth that she would never be any kind of Chosen One outside of her fantasies.

“It’s probably just as well,” she muttered as a guy in a hooded green poncho shuffled forward to have his turn. “I’d probably just end up hitting something behind me, anyway.”

“Yeah,” said Janey, the nod of her head setting her floppy hat’s bells jingling. “With the bow.”

Loren was still undecided whether to laugh or knock her sister around a little (for the love of all things medieval, she wasn’t that clumsy!) when a gasp went up from the throng. Green Poncho Guy had hit the target dead center! The crowd’s impressed cheers and whistles at their fellow amateur’s lucky shot filled the air, cut short by another startled intake of breath when a second arrow from the same bow zipped forward, splitting the first bull’s-eye arrow right down the middle.

“Ohmygosh…” Loren whispered, even as the Sheriff leaned over the end of the platform and demanded, “You there! Archer! Show your face!”

“Why, my good Sheriff,” Poncho Guy laughed, the casually grand removal of his hood revealing a fall of chestnut hair and a beard-framed grin. “Can it be that you do not know me — again?”

What comes next?! Well, to start, a short wait. But after that, the release of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” in its fantastic entirety!

<<<>>>

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.

Coming soo-oo-oon!

P.S. — You wanna hear/watch me read this excerpt aloud? ‘Cause you can!