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!”

The Darkening of Avalon

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”s Launch Week+ continues!

First, a quick reminder that time’s running down on my Wilderhark Tales e-book sale; only one week left to get every book in “Ballad”s prequel series for just 99 cents each on Amazon. Don’t miss out on the chance to fill your e-readers with fairytale goodness!

And second, for this post’s main event, a behind-the-scenes story for you:

Once upon a while back, my BFF Tirzah talked me into watching “Firefly” with her*.

*(By which I mean, I was in my house, she was off in her time zone, and the two of us were on the phone, trying to get our respective computers to stream the episodes in sync with each other. Good/frustrating times.)

My reminiscence could go off in any number of directions from here, but for the purposes of this blog post, the takeaway was this: Looking upon Gina Torres in her role as Zoe Washburn, I found myself thinking, “I could see her as Marion**.”

Zoe

**(By which I of course meant Marion Hood, from my “Outlaws of Avalon” trilogy.)

This idea was noteworthy because, ‘til then, I’d been imagining Marion as white, same as the other 90-some percent of all my characters ever. It’s either my brain’s default setting (call it internalized racism, if you wish; gosh knows I’m privileged in my own mind), or a matter of white imaginary people gravitating toward me more than other races for whatever reasons of their own, but there it is. And on the one hand, Reader Me isn’t much bothered by books or other media with a predominantly white cast. (Unless, y’know, it’s set somewhere that would realistically call for more color.) As I’ve said in the past, that’s not my axe to grind. Then there’s Writer Me, who figures that the other side of the coin is, if it’s not a big deal to me one way or the other, I might as well make an effort at an equal-opportunity mind.

In this instance, there were only a few truths of Marion’s appearance set in stone: Long dark hair, bright eyes (brown or hazel, I can’t quite tell), full lips prone to smiling, middle height, lean build. Based on that, there was zero reason she couldn’t be something other than white. And as far as her background is concerned, it’s not far-fetched to suppose that her father – a noble of some title or another from medieval England – may have had a black wife or mistress. (Fun fact: Black people have existed throughout pretty much all of history.) So boom, executive decision made: My Marion is half-black. (Which I am broadcasting in no uncertain terms now, so that if “Outlaws” ever hits the big screen, fewer people will be shocked that she’s not white even though the book totally told you so, dude.)***

***(Rue and Thresh from “The Hunger Games”, anyone? Sheesh.)

Avalon’s Fey Folk, meanwhile, may or may not be black per se, but they’re definitely dark. Not all of them, mind you; heck, there’s probably a huge range of them that aren’t even human-passing. But Morganne le Fey and most of Avalon’s other resident Faeries? Yeah, they’re brown. Same re-envisioning process as I went through with Marion. All I knew about Morganne’s looks were hair and eye coloring and build. No reason the magical people who populated Europe before it called itself Europe had to be light-skinned all across the board, so they aren’t.

Meaning this gorgeous portrait I did of Morganne years ago is obsolete. Aw well.
Meaning this gorgeous portrait I did of Morganne years ago is obsolete. Aw well.

Meanwhile, Will Scarlet gets agitated when I remind him that he’s totally white, because he likes to fancy that he and I are somehow biological siblings. And I mean, I love being his sister, and I wouldn’t mind if he looked like me. Except he doesn’t.

Some characters’ appearances in my imagination are fluid. Others look like they look, and there’s no changing it. Scarlet falls into that latter category – as do Allyn-a-Dale, Robin Hood, Little John, and Merlin, to name a few other prominent members of the “Outlaws” cast. And as it happens, Allyn is mixed-race; his paternal grandmother, for instance, was brown as I am (*waves to Wendara, back in “The Sky-Child”* – which, again, is currently on sale with the rest of the Wilderhark Tales. Juuuuust sayin’). Yet he’s the palest member of the band. Go figure.

There’s still plenty of room for me to balance the ratio of light to dark characters in my written works. And straight up, a “perfect” balance – whatever that looks like – may never happen. I’m okay with that. My characters’ outsides are far from my main concern. So long as I serve up plenty of diversity of spirit, I’ll feel I’ve done my job.

What about you, fellow writers? How do you settle upon your characters’ looks? And writers or not, recall ye: Leaving a blog post comment is one method of many to obtain entry points in my ongoing Rafflecopter giveaway. So if you’ve got thoughts, I’d love to read ‘em below! And speaking of things well worth reading…

<<<>>>

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

If the Merry Men were Disney princesses, which would they be??

Robin Hood = Mulan (title princess): The best way to bring honor to us all? Stick it to the law in the name of fighting for what’s right!

*Runner-up = Merida (Brave), cuz dem archery skillz.

*Second runner-up = Tiana (The Princess and the Frog), cuz dat work ethic.

Marion = Cinderella (title princess): Makes most sentient creatures fall in love with her kind heart, resilient spirit, and timely sass.

Will Scarlet = Ariel (The Little Mermaid): A redhead full of reckless curiosity about being a part of that world beyond his own.

*Runner-up = Anna (Frozen), in every way. (Is he elated? Gassy? Who can tell?)

Allyn-a-Dale = Snow White (title princess): Doesn’t let an oppressive, abuse-filled childhood get him down – instead ventures forth with a smile and a song to make a lasting, loving impact on a weirdo familial unit in the middle of the forest!

*Runner-up = Rapunzel (Tangled), cuz same deal, just replace the forest family with – whaddaya know – a thief. Also wouldn’t be shocked if his hair was magic.

Little John = Aurora (Sleeping Beauty): If only because I’m pretty sure she’s the princess with the fewest lines of dialogue out of all the rest. Plus he’s probably favored of fairies.

Hooray for the Scarlet, White, and Blue (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every second Friday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘Hooray for the Scarlet, White, and Blue’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a backdrop showing the spires of Avalon Faire’s castle through the prop trees of “Little Sherwood”. Allyn-a-Dale enters and crosses to the center from stage left, Will Scarlet from stage right, both in their typical Faire garb.]

Will: Ah, Allyn! I was just coming to find you.

Allyn: And found me you have, on the way to my tent.

Will: Your tent? You can’t go in there – not today, of all days. It’s the 4th of July!

Allyn: Should that date mean something to me?

Will [scoffs like “duh” ]: Only if you’re going to call yourself an American.

Allyn: Which no one in Avalon is.

Will: Even so, this is a very important holiday. It all started centuries ago at midnight, when Paul Revere rode through the colonial American towns, shouting—

Image via http://www.allposters.co.uk/
Image via http://www.allposters.co.uk/

[Enter Marion Hood. Tricorn hat upon her head, stick horse firmly in hand, she gallops across the stage.]

Marion/Paul Revere: The British are coming! In stylish red coats! One if by land, two if by sea! TO ARMS, AMERICA!

[Exit Marion.]

Allyn [blinking at Will ]: I don’t get it.

Will: Oh, it was all to do with the Boston Tea Party.

[The largest of the prop trees rotates, revealing Robin Hood and Little John in its hollow, sporting waistcoats and powdered wigs, seated at a small table set with a fine china tea service.]

Little John [in an exaggerated British accent ]: More tea, Mr. Jefferson? I can offer you sugar and cream, as well, though sadly, representation along with your taxation is right out.

Robin/Jefferson: That’s outrageous! [throws down napkin ] As a patriot, I won’t stand for it! This means WAR!

[The tree revolves back into its original position.]

Will: After that, it was all kinds of revolution up in the streets – from Washington crossing the Delaware, to Ben Franklin flying kites in a storm, to a mysterious hooded man robbing the king’s men on the forest highway.

Allyn [eyelids lowered to sardonic height ]: You don’t say.

Will: True story. But in the end, the states united and came out on top, to much celebratory fireworks and barbecue.

Allyn: A fascinating history, Will. But I don’t see how any of this bars me from entering my tent.

Will: Erm, mostly because it kind of caught fire when I went in to surprise you with an Independence Day bouquet of sparklers.

Allyn: What?!

[Marion gallops across the stage again.]

Marion/Paul Revere: Those darn red-loving Brits, I tell you!

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience member Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘sparklers’ and ‘mysterious hooded man’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”