The Mega-Launch of Allyn-a-Dale

Outlaws of Avalon Banner

Launch Week? Pfft, no. That’s so Wilderhark Tales. I’ve been waiting on this book’s release since NaNoWriMo 2010. This volume’s the first act in the trilogy of my heart. No way is this Launch Week.

It’s Launch Week+!

A solid month of all things “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”! …Which you can at long last purchase in paperback via Amazon and CreateSpace! E-books available via Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive, and I’m pretty sure it’s on iBooks, too, but I don’t have the app, so I can’t tell. If any of you happen to purchase “Ballad” through Apple, feel free to flash me the high sign.

In honor of “Ballad”s release, e-copies of its prequel series, The Wilderhark Tales, are price-dropped on Amazon to just 99 cents each, now through July 31! If you haven’t yet, now’s the perfect time to stock your Kindle / e-reader with the collection of stories from Allyn’s pre-Avalon world. Start here with Book One!

Wilderhark Covers Lineup 5

And because I’ve yet to have a Launch Anything without a giveaway, naturally I wanna make it rain with prizes, including:

– A Map of Avalon Faire – Merry Men-signed! (5 winners)

– A Tote Bag from the Ever On Word shop on Society6 – winner gets their pick of any in-store design! (1 winner)

– A paperback copy of “Grace the Mace” by Tirzah Duncan – because she’s my BFF and I support her art (1 winner)

– A custom “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” bookmark created by Chelsea de la Cruz – because she’s another BFF and she supports my art with her art! (1 winner)

To get in on the giveaway, you can hop over to the Rafflecopter and rack up entry points by… buying “Ballad”! Reviewing “Ballad”! Adding “Ballad” to your Goodreads shelf! Leaving blog post comments! Following me on Twitter! Et cetera. You’ve got options, is what I’m sayin’.

And speaking of blog posts: Here, for your convenience, is a look at Ever On Word’s schedule for “Ballad”-related fun (complete with placeholder titles which may or may not give you much idea about the content to come).

Tuesday, July 12 = Introductory Post (you are here)

Thursday, July 14 = An Illustrated Summary of “Ballad”, as told by [wait and see!]

Saturday, July 16 = Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell Interview #1

Monday, July 18 = Shooting Hood in the Wood

Wednesday, July 20 = “Ballad” Blackout Poetry

Friday, July 22 = Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell Interview #2

Monday, July 25 = Diversity and Stuff

Wednesday, July 27 = The Many Faces of Will ‘n’ Allyn

Friday, July 29 = Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell Interview #3

Tuesday, August 2 = The Songs of “Ballad”, as performed by me

Friday, August 5 = Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell Interview #4

Tuesday, August 9 = The Bloopers of Allyn-a-Dale

Friday, August 12 = Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell #5, and Giveaway Winners Announced

Also, every post (minus the Kiss & Tell interviews, ‘cause I’m arbitrary like that) is going to end with a bonus treat: A selection from a little giggle project I call #HypotheticalFAQs! (Because until “Ballad” starts pulling in some actual frequently asked questions, Will Scarlet and I are not above making them up.)

Anyone else hyped yet? ‘Cause I’m darn hyped, and super looking forward to sharing all this stuff with you – most especially, the book. ❤

<<<>>>

Ballad Cover, front 02

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

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

AVAILABLE NOW!

*Bonus*: #HypotheticalFAQs

For each of the Merry Men: What’s one weird thing people don’t know about you?

Robin Hood: “I seriously thought I was going to grow up to be a priest or something.”

Marion Hood: “My eye color. My author’s never been able to decide whether it’s brown or green-hazel or what.”

Will Scarlet: “I am unaccountably fascinated by chickens.”

Little John: “I’m fluent in six languages.”

Allyn-a-Dale: “I would quite honestly rather die than give up a private truth on the Internet.”

The Mace and the Mirror

This time last week, the Will Scarlet Kiss & Tell hot seat featured the lead character from Tirzah Duncan’s newly published novella. Since then, I finally scraped together the time and mental wherewithal to collect my thoughts on the book into a review. And it went a little something like this.

<<<>>>

The Book: “Grace the Mace” by Tirzah Duncan

Genre: Fantasy Lit Fic

Blurb: Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

grace-the-mace-cover

My Story: This book and I have a rocky history. As the author’s best friend and critique partner, I was there to read the words almost as fast as they appeared on the page. And my first time through, in that first draft state, I honestly didn’t enjoy it that much. I was there for the relationship between the protagonist’s mother and her creepy-cool new boyfriend – why was Tirzah making me slog through sex and violence and slum politics? What did I ever do to make her think I wanted any part of a gang war?

Then came my second read-through. The novella had passed through its main edits, and now awaited my proofreading eye before going to print. And even as I combed through the words for typos and inconsistencies, I found myself… engaged. None of the subject matter had changed. I hadn’t wriggled out of any of the topics that tend to turn me off. But this time… Well, for one thing, it was no longer a meandering first draft! For another, something clicked between me and the main character, Dalvin (aka Grace).

I can have a tough time connecting with fictional girls. And I’d have thought that a hardboiled mercenary and I would have little enough in common. Yet time and again, here and there, I kept seeing bits of Grace that were just so darn me. Somewhere during that reread, I felt like I got her. Lines like:

…She couldn’t let herself fall into mediocrity. The world was not kind to the mediocre. The world wasn’t kind to anyone, and she trained to be unkind back.

And such scenes as:

“Fire and famine. You’re not worth two copper pups,” she told him, pulling open the mouth of the purse and fishing out two of the coins. She flung them at his feet. “You can’t just give up when it’s all gone to rot. You’ve got to look for the salvage. Maker take it, man, you’ve got to want to survive.”

That sort of view.  The way she could look down in jaded disdain on the world’s ugliness, condemn half of it and the people therein as worthless, and yet, in spite of all, feel deep-down compelled to try to help fix it. To care for people no matter how much or little she actually cared about them. That’s… unsettlingly me.

So between that unexpected resonance and the actually quite good writing over which Tirzah and I first became friends, I came to reassign the story higher value. Plus the mother’s boyfriend is still the best. I can only imagine that readers who love grittiness and gang wars will enjoy this novella even more.

Whaddaya say, readers? Think this book is for you? If yes / maybe / there’s-only-one-way-to-know-for-sure, order your e-copy or paperback today!

(And feel free to pre-order “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale while you’re at it… ^^)

Gracing the Stage (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, “Author Tirzah Duncan describes her character thus:

Dalvin, also known ‘Grace the Mace,’ is a mercenary with a heart of golden ice. Once a rogues’ court cutpurse, the young woman is now content to walk the straight-and-narrow path of killing people for money. In the harsh culture of the Great Graves mountains, the sellsword keeps her life’s motto simple: Survive how you must. Thrive if you can. And for Chance’s sake, keep Mum from being the death of herself!

“Welcome, Dalvin!” Will greets the occupant of the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – do you prefer to be called Dalvin or Grace? Because it seems the people in your book alternate between the two willy-nilly.”

“Well… that’s sort of weird to answer.” Dalvin taps her fingers on the chair’s arm. “We don’t speak English, you know. Totally different world. Grace is the translation of my name’s meaning. Dalvin is the transliteration—its sound. Dal means sublime, high, or absolute. Vin means kindness. So it’s the spiritual meaning of grace, sadly, not the physical meaning.” She makes a face. “Leave it to Mum to pick a name like that.

“My name and my chosen weapon sound conveniently snappy together in English, so I like that… but I really have no preference. Obviously, neither does my author.”

“Coolness! I’ll have to get Tirzah to translate my name into your language, sometime. Allyn, make a note of that.”

Allyn says from off-camera, “Not your secretary.”

“Double-check your contract, babe. Now, Dalvin, this I gotta know: The thieving thing, I’ve done, but I never thought about turning mercenary. Would you recommend it?”

“I prefer it to thieving. Unless you can find political patronage for robbery, you’re always going to have the world against you. Law officers, poor folk, rich folk, nobles, strangers, other thieves… everyone’s out to get you. As a mercenary, at least you always have at least one crown and country behind you—and the Law can’t say much when your boss is their boss.”

“A major perk, to be sure,” Will nods. “But if we could go in a more personal direction, for a moment: From what I’ve read of you, I gather that you and your mother have something of a… complicated relationship. What would you say that stems from?”

Grace sighs. “She’s naïve. Like, stubbornly, impossibly naïve. I don’t even understand how she’s still alive. It’s going to be a weird relationship when you’re going around trying to protect someone, and they’re following you around sabotaging your work. It’s like the toddler who knocks down the blocks as you build them, except the toddler is my mother, and the thing I’m trying to build is her quality of life and very survival.

Will chokes back a laugh. “*Cough*, yeah, that does sound like it’d pose a challenge. One that I’m sure you’re up for, hardened ball-buster that you are. More or less on that topic, your reputation suggests you’ve got a pretty low opinion of— well, I was going to say ‘men’, but no, people in general, really. If you had to name just one person you admire… could you?”

“Oh, sure! Vec, my fellow mercenary, is a brilliant fighter, and a real level-headed guy. I admire anyone who’s calm under fire, skilled, and wins a lot. I guess most of the people I admire are older warriors.”

“Then you’d get a kick out of Camelot,” Will supposes. “And speaking of kicks and deeds done just for ‘em, it’s time for your final question! Tell me, what is your author Tirzah Duncan’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He tries for a pose that suggests seasoned warrior-hood. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Grace scrutinizes her host. (And, apparently, sees right through him.) “I don’t much fancy dandies. Let me think of a secret. Oh, this will mortify her. I can feel her getting squirmy just thinking about it.

“When she was twelve, I think, she was at some thing or another that had karaoke after.” The mercenary begins to snicker. “Alright. Alright. So guess what she wants to sing? The U.S. national anthem. But not the first verse, the second. That’s already stupid, right? But it gets dumber. She knows they won’t have the lyrics she’s wanting, so she spends a good twenty minutes going over them in her head. Then she gets up there, and the first line… what was it? ‘On the shore dimly seen.’ Sure, she remembers it now. Anyway, that goes straight out of her head.”

She’s laughing a little hard. Maybe she won’t be able to get through it. Maybe she shouldn’t try. “No. No, I’m fine. She could have salvaged it there, right, and just sung the damned little song and sat down. But no, now she’s flustered and foolish and up past her bedtime, and so she decides to get angry that the music is playing jauntily fast when she likes it dramatically slow. So what does she do but say, ‘Blast the music! Who needs it?’ and sing the first verse of the national anthem at. Her. Own. Pace. Right over the music.”

Will falls to pieces laughing. “She didn’t!”

Dalvin wipes the corners of her eyes. “Chance and the Maker! I could understand it if she was six, but at twice that? What a total rot-brain!”

Looking straight into the camera, Will vows, “Tirzah, I will not soon let you forget this.  As for you, Non-Secretary Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by the newly released fantasy novella ‘Grace the Mace’ by Tirzah Duncan.

grace-the-mace-cover

Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Dalvin/Grace. 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 Face of Grace

The word on the street: Tirzah Duncan – author of vigilante tale “Cry of the Nightbird” and the chilling “Of Mice and Monsters” (Beyond the Wail paranormal anthology) – and, y’know, my homegirl since NaNo 2010 (aka The Year of the Ballad) – has a new novella up her sleeve.

Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

Y’wanna see the book’s cover? Pfft, rhetorical question. You absolutely do. Because it is all-caps BOSS.

grace-the-mace-cover

See-ee-ee? I mean, the shine on that buckler alone… *standing ovation* Mad praise to the cover artist for this ridiculous masterpiece.

If you’d like to read a sneak peek of the story, you’ll find a few excerpts waiting for you on Tirzah’s blog, The Ink Caster, and scattered throughout her Tumblr, The Muse’s Thrall. And if you’re ready for the full novella (as professionally proofread by yours truly, thank you very much), then you’re in luck, because Tirzah’s aiming to launch her book baby sometime next month. So keep your eyes open as June nears. And in the meantime…

What do you think of your first look at “Grace the Mace”?