In Which I Battle Like a Bard

Once upon a time, I—

Will Scarlet: “Wait. What do you mean, ‘I’?”

Y’know. I. As in, ‘me, myself, and’.

Will: “But you opened this post with ‘once upon a time’. When you do that, you’re usually like, ‘an author did this or that, and stuff happened, and kingdoms rose and fell, yadda-yadda,’ before finally delivering the big reveal: ‘And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.’”

Allyn-a-Dale: “Wow, Will. Spoilers, much?”

Will Scarlet: “She does it EVERY TIME!”

Not this time! Because I am an unpredictable, plot-twisty wordsmaster, is why.

Now, again from the top: Once upon a time, I came across a Kickstarter / author call for an anthology titled “Sword and Sonnet”. The theme? Battle bards.

Sword and Sonnet

Allyn: “A promising premise indeed!”

Right? So I had me a little brainstorming session, and whipped up a short story featuring a noteworthy minstrel—

Will: “Ha! Noteworthy – like musical notes, right?”

Um, not intentionally. I just meant exceptional—

Allyn: “Like Father?”

No! Like Ballady Sol!

Will: “Cool! So, when does the antho come out?”

A while ago.

Will: “But… you didn’t hype the release at all…?”

Allyn: “Psst. Will. I don’t think her story was included in the book.”

To my disappointment, it was not. Not every excellent story will make every cut. I guess mine wasn’t what they were looking for.

Will: “Well, what the deuce were they looking for?!”

Search me. I haven’t yet read the “Sword and Sonnet” e-copy I received for backing the Kickstarter. Not because I’m bitter! – (*cough* at least, not entirely *cough*) – but because I am really bad about settling down to read non-paper books.

Allyn: “Alas for the world, deprived of your short fiction brilliance. However shall we carry on?”

Pretty sure you’re being at least 80% sarcastic, right now, but there is yet good news. Because you know how I roll, boys: When life hands me a ‘no’…

Will: “You make your own ‘yes’!”

When one publisher closes a door…

Allyn: “You open a window.”

10 segue points to House Gant. Behold the blurb and cover art for…

Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”!

Once upon a time, ‘wandering songster’ was no kind of career for a woman.

Now one minstrel-in-the-making is going to change Wilderhark’s tune.

From the author who introduced Wilderhark Tales’ Gant-o’-the-Lute and Outlaws of Avalon’s Allyn-a-Dale, a new voice rises into a brave ballad of its own: That of a girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.

“The Soul Shepherdess” – Young Solwen’s fateful encounter with a man o’ music and his sullen apprentice opens her eyes to the road she’s destined to take, along with the hardship that will be her traveling companion.

“In the Window” – Although Harper Rove-a-Day couldn’t feel less qualified to serve as minstrel master to his extraordinary trainee, he just may have what it takes to learn a lesson or two from /her/.

“The Names She Played” – To hear hidden music is not merely Solwen’s gift, but her only chance in a deadly game with one of the world’s oldest songs.

Tales of singing. Tales of striving. Most of all, tales of true love.

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Coming next week – and available for pre-order now!

Will: “Nice! So you’re re-releasing Balladry’s origin story from the Wilderhark Talettes and debuting the ‘battle bard’ short, all in one tidy package.”

Allyn: “E-book only, same as ‘Beyond Her Infinity’?”

Correct. ‘Tis more cost effective for me, that way. And since I’ve still got a picture book to fund…

Will: Hint, hint, blog readers! Any and all help would be most appreciated!”

…Wow, if I only had a dollar for every interruption in this blog post. Anyway, keeping costs down on my end means better bargains for the readers. Only 99 cents a copy, folks!

Allyn: “Best of luck wished to you and Balladry Sol on finding your rightful audience. They can be hard to reach, but they’re out there.”

And it is with that belief our author battles on.

(And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.)

(Will: “I KNEW IT!”)

Deejay, the Great and Powerful

(Originally published on the Outlaws of Avalon Tumblr page)

So imagine that you’re a minstrel dropped into this world from a faraway fairytale universe, and your first encounter with 21st-century music went like this:

Whoa-oh-whoa-oh-whoa 

Putcho hands up, hands up!

Shawty on the dance floor,

Shakin’ it like what, wha-what?!

I’mma be with muh baby in the club,

Goin’ all night long!

Don’t you stop my song, dee-ee-jay…”

Teeth gritted in pain, Allyn forced his hands away from his ears long enough to press the power button a second time, bathing the car in near-silence once more. He glowered at Will Scarlet. “What in all hells was that?!”

“I gather that whoever played the radio last was somewhat hard of hearing,” Will said, bouncing back from a cringe of his own. “Though whether they started out hard of hearing, or only became so after listening to hip-hop at such a volume for any extended space of time, is anybody’s guess.”

[…] Brow puckered, he tried again, his finger unintentionally sliding a little bit lower. It proved a happy accident, for the radio abruptly forsook the song about the hip-hop minstrel’s encounter with the highwayman called Deejay (or such was Allyn’s best guess as to what the lyrics had been going on about)…

(From “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, emphasis added)

Weird, sure, but as an isolated incident, it’s just one random nonsense song.

Except the more you listen to hits on the radio, the clearer it becomes that this Deejay person is no mere highwayman.

Clubbers everywhere are praying to this character as if he holds their hearts in his hands.

  • “DJ give us something to ride to”
  • “Play my song, Mr. DJ, I’m in love with the DJ”
  • “Oh DJ, ease my mind will you”
  • “I love the DJ, the DJ loves me”
  • “DJ’s got the party started, there’s no end in sight”
  • “I’m so into you ‘cause I love the DJ”
  • “Last night a DJ saved my life”
  • “The DJ’s gonna save us, DJ’s gonna save us tonight”
  • “Listen to what the DJ’s spinnin’, he’s tappin’ into just what you’re feelin’”
  • “Close your eyes to the DJ, close your eyes and fade away”
  • “DJ! Don’t do this to me – I tried to do my best – I tried not to sing out of key – DJ! Don’t you dare to leave – I tried to be the one – and now I’m on my knees!”
  • “Don’t blame the world, it’s the DJ’s fault”

*record scratch*

What are you, otherworld minstrel, to make of it all? You never once doubted that music has power, but this…

Is the Deejay a wizard?? A legion of demons?? A sentient drug?? Is he God???

In Deejay we move, in Deejay we love, in Deejay we trust! Don’t abandon us, Deejay! We pump blood to your beat! We succumb to your groove! Don’t take my baby from me, Deejay!

It’s Deejay’s party, and we’re just living in it! But of course there are those who resist.

Rebel leader Ke$ha declares “it’s time to kill the lights and shut the DJ down”. She’s backed up by The Smiths, calling for the people to “burn the disco, hang the blessed DJ”.

It is to be war.

And you can only wonder… when the smoke clears… when silence falls … who will be left standing on the dance floor?

marcela-laskoski-118684-unsplash
Thanks to Marcela Laskoski for making this image freely available on Unsplash.com

The Grilling of Allyn-a-Dale (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?”

Allyn looks at his notes, then performs a double take. “It’s… me.”

“Oh, yes? How’s our author describe you?”

“It says,

He’s really something different, that Allyn-a-Dale, but I do believe that under that pathetically earnest exterior, there’s actually some real spirit, and maybe even a modicum of fun.

“Apt,” Will assesses.

Allyn regards him pointedly. “The quote’s from you.”

“And I totally called it. Welcome, Allyn-a-Dale!” Will greets as Allyn grimly picks up his hat and lute and relocates to the chair across from Will’s own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how excited are you that your first novel is finally out?!”

“Somewhat, I suppose,” says the minstrel, curved over his instrument. “That is, I gather that it’s a big deal. I’m certainly quite pleased for Danielle. She has long awaited this release.”

“Well, yeah, but we can listen to her talk about her writerly feelings anytime. This is about you.”

Allyn grimaces. “I never asked for that.”

“Not big on the whole ‘main character’ thing, huh?”

A vigorous shake of the head sets the plume on his hat wagging. “Not by half. That was Father’s business. And I was entirely content to trail in his shadow throughout the concluding Wilderhark Tale*.” He droops. “I’d have gladly carried on like that indefinitely, if he hadn’t died.”

*(Author’s note: “The Story’s End”, currently just 99 cents for Kindle, just like every other Wilderhark Tale! Grab ’em all!)

“But he did,” says Will, not ungently. “Meaning it’s your turn in the spotlight. What did you do when Danielle looked you up with a story proposal, once upon NaNoWriMo 2010?”

Allyn shrugs a shoulder. “I let her find me. I made a start of finding myself with her. The first half of Chapter One was a difficult beginning, but I realized I couldn’t droop along dejectedly forever. A protagonist must be proactive. If I was to be made a main character against my will, I determined that I must strive to be a good one.”

“A brave move, Allyn-a-Dale. And oh, speaking of your will…” Will flashes an expectant grin. “What were your thoughts upon first meeting me? And, y’know, the other Merry Men, but mostly me?”

Allyn’s eyes roll over his smile. “I thought you all more or less peculiar, with you the strangest of all. And I stand by that early impression. Even so, you were on the whole a warm and welcoming group. It was only a matter of time before I began to feel I belonged to you.”

“As you should,” Will approves. “Now, you call yourself a minstrel. What does that mean to you?”

“Why, everything!” says Allyn, straightening at last. “We bards are the voice of music. Father practically had it down to a religion, with him the self-appointed high priest. He left his own lute to my care in good faith, and I endeavor to honor that with my whole heart.”

“So riddle me this,” says Will. “If you could only be one – a strong protagonist, a Merry Man, or a minstrel – which would you choose to be?”

Allyn’s fair face pales further. “That is a choice most cruel. I should need all the strength I could muster to survive the doom you set before me. But if I could have but one, I would dutifully choose minstrelsy, and sing forever a lonesome lament of the friends left behind in Sherwood.”

Will heaves a sigh. “Yeah, that sounds like the Allyn I know.  Let’s lighten things up with one last question. Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He winks in slow-mo. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Allyn regards him, his fingers slowly taking up a tune on his lute. “Do you know,” he says impassively, “how close our author came to leaving you out of the book?”

Will stiffens. “Say what?”

“In the brainstorming stage. She was at first undecided whether to round out the band with a Will Scarlet or a Much the Miller’s Son. ‘Twas no more than the luck of a coin-flip, her settling on you in the end.”

“Dear God!” Will cries. “It wouldn’t be the same story at all without me! A literary apocalypse, that’s what we’d be looking at! I think I’m blacking out…”

“Breathe, Will,” says Allyn, rising to deliver the word from our sponsor. “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment – 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, more or less recovered. “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!”

Scarlet’s Swan Song

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

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

“Every Saturday,” 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. Now…” Allyn turns to Will, eyes narrowed. “Why is today’s skit ‘a very special ’ one?”

“Because,” says Will, “today marks the 1-year anniversary of Danielle’s Wilderhark Tales debut, ‘The Swan Prince’!”

Allyn glances at the calendar. “Ah, so it is! Mercy, how recent and long ago that launch date seems. How are we marking the occasion?”

“I was thinking…” Will spreads his hands before him. “‘Swan Prince: The Musical’!”

Allyn’s expression slackens. “Wait, what?”

***Disclaimer: The following song number is the product of Will Scarlet and is in no way affiliated with Allyn-a-Dale, Gant-o’-the-Lute, or any credentialed minstrel to speak of. All character entities featured are intellectual property of Danielle E. Shipley, author of “The Swan Prince (Book One of the Wilderhark Tales)”, and are performing of their own volition.***

<<<>>>

Book Banner, Swan Prince

[The curtain rises, along with a lively overture from the orchestra, on a backdrop depicting the foliage of Wilderhark Forest. Villem Deere stands stage left, Sula stage right, a pair of prop trees between and a bit behind them. ]

Villem: My knowledge base is a showcase of information diversity.

Aced every last final at my doctor university.

Yet there’s one thing I do not, and simply must, know:

What’s with that Sula girl, yo?

[Sula wrinkles her nose, because for no reason beyond a Will Scarlet script would Villem ever say “yo”, but regardless, she sings on her cue, her gaze following Sigmund as he enters the stage and crosses to disappear behind a tree.]

Sula: Neither spring-loaded steel nor that Doctor Deere can break me.

I’ll keep the whole world at arm’s length for everybody’s safety.

But that Sigmund boy’s drawn me since my first entranced stare.

To ignore him’s more than I can bear.

[Now she rolls her eyes, because bear puns? Really? Meantime, the music swells fuller, intensifying in tone, while a swan’s shadow glides over the backdrop.]

Swan Prince Cover, E-book

Villem: Wondering…

Sula: Wandering…

Both: By moonlight.

Villem: What answers…

Sula: What freedom…

Both: Will come with the sunrise?

Obsession, distraction, and grudging attraction in Wilderhark.

When will what’s in the dark come to light?

[The lights on Villem and Sula darken, while a new spotlight shines center stage between the trees, rippling silver like moonlight on water. From his huddled position in the light’s center, Sigmund draws gracefully up to his feet, spreading vast sleeves designed to look like gray-feathered wings. The music slows and quiets to little more than a plaintive oboe.]

Sigmund: Once upon a time, my life looked sublime.

A prince among worse, ‘til a curse brought me low.

Bound now to a lake and this Sula girl’s fate,

Will my tale end in rapture or woe?

[Music builds again for the return of the chorus. Villem, Sula, and Sigmund sing in three-part harmony, as the stage’s lighting shifts moment by moment from night-dim to a glow like the dawn.]

All: Wondering, wandering, by moonlight.

What changes, what choices, will come with the sunrise?

A search for what’s hiding and lost deep inside of great Wilderhark.

When will what’s wrong be made right?

When what’s in the dark comes to liiight!

[Triumphant orchestral finish.]

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Kim Matura,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘university finals’ and ‘sublime’. Thanks also to the main cast from ‘The Swan Prince’ for being such good sports about this. I’d no idea you all had such tuneful voices!”

“And the song?” Will prompts.

“…Could have been worse,” Allyn says grudgingly. “Far better, but also worse.”

“Thank you very much. If you enjoyed yourselves, dear audience,” 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! And if you haven’t yet, consider celebrating the original Wilderhark Tale’s first full year out in the world by purchasing a copy today – through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace…whatever floats your boat – or recommending it to a friend. Until next week: Will and Allyn out!”

“Type”

Have you noticed a pattern in the sort of people you’re attracted to? Do they tend to have short hair, or curly hair, or light-colored lashes? Are they usually artistic, or scholarly, or reckless daredevils? Would you generally rather that they be taller than you, or shorter than you, funny, or serious, or so overly serious that you can’t help but laugh? Ideals will infinitely vary; even individuals will probably change their minds about what they do and don’t like, over time. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a particularly dire question, and yet it’s one we’ve heard before and will doubtless hear again: “What’s your preferred general character or structure held in common by a number of people or things considered as a group or class?”

            …Or, as perhaps you’ve heard it more commonly asked, “What’s your Type?”

            Physically speaking, my tailor fits my Type pretty well; other examples included a previously-mentioned former Backstreet Boy (bonus points for his lovely singing voice, and extra bonus points for when his hair was long), and Aragorn as seen in the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy (bonus points for a having a sword and wearing a cape). But that’s just one type of Type to have – the “Eye Candy Type”, if you will. Suppose you strip away the physicality, and even the materiality, leaving only personality as revealed in the printed word? (I’d say a minstrel took over that last sentence, except it’s all rhyme and no rhythm; my minstrels, they would have me assure you, have better meter than that.)

            We’re talking now about your “Reader Type” – the sort of characters you’re drawn to, that you love to read about. When it comes to my reading, I’ve noticed some patterns there, too – for example, my infatuation with thieves. Charitable outlaws living it up in the forests of medieval England (referring, of course, to Robin Hood and his merry band), ex-convicts stealing their way to a Victorian gentleman’s lifestyle (looking at and loving you, Montmorency), sociopathic kings of criminals who ruthlessly manipulate their way to whatever goals they set (Tirzah Duncan’s Syawn fits the bill; he even plays dirty by trying to pander to my Eye Candy Type, the punk), whatever. If there’s clever thievery going on, my immediate interest level spikes.

            Actually, I’m attracted to cleverness in general; reading about idiots tends to frustrate me no end. And I don’t like reading about people who are just plain bad, unless of course they are supposed to be the villains, in which case I say, “Never mind, bring on the evil!” I like reading about characters who hang around with awesome friends, and share laughs with them, and stick by them in times of exciting crisis. (Naturally, they should stick by their friends in times of boring crisis, too, but I won’t necessarily want to read about it.) And if these characters happen to be handsome, singing swordsmen on the wrong side of the law, so much the better.

            Do an author’s Reader Types influence their Writer Types – that is, the sorts of characters they find themselves attracted to writing? To some degree, I think. If I don’t want to read about it, I don’t want to write it (although I will admit, writing idiots in small doses can be fun). I enjoy writing characters who are cleverer than me (or at least sneakier and quicker on the draw), and who always have time for witty quips with their pals during escapades, and very sinister villains, and I’ve got a handful of thieves (including my own Merry Men, huzzah!). I also spend a lot of time writing musicians – particularly minstrels, which just goes to show that the Reader Type/Writer Type influence goes both ways: Buzzwords like “minstrel”, “bard”, and “lute” send my immediate interest level through the roof since I’ve written “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”.

            And what of you, Ever On Word followers and guests? When it comes to reading – and, if you’re an author, writing – what’s your preferred general character or structure held in common by a number of people or things considered as a group or class? (If you want something to be doubtless heard again, sometimes you’ve gotta say it yourself. 😉 )