“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:

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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!

“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!

Cover Reveal: Outlaws of Avalon 2

marriage-cover-sneak-peek-1

It’s the week of Thanksgiving (here in America; pretty sure the Canadians already had theirs), and today I’m thankful that it’s finally time to show the world the face of the Trilogy Of My Heart, Part 2 – more officially titled, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon, Book 2).

If you’ve been following along with my GoFundMe (thanks again to all the wonderful people who spread the word of the campaign and/or donated to fund the cover!), you’ve already read the book’s summary…

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.

…as well as a number of sneak-peeky snippets.

“Villain!” cried Sir Liam.

“So some have called me,” said the archer, nodding. “Still others call me simply ‘Robin Hood.’”

*

“This new ‘Marriage’ show is going to be a big hit with our Robin Hood fans!”

“Is that a bona fide Merlin prophecy, or old-fashioned optimism?”

“Logical extrapolation, boy. People who love everything to do with Robin Hood will tend to love everything to do with Robin Hood. With math that basic, who needs prophecy?”

*

“A three-judge panel? Excellent beginning! Robin, you can be the cool, charming one, Marion can play the ultra-encouraging one who could find something positive to say about a tone-deaf kitten trying for the lead in ‘Lassie: The Musical,’ and lucky Allyn, you get to be the vicious one who tears everything he sees and hears scathingly apart!”

“Starting with this idea?” said Allyn.

Now it’s time to unveil what my donors’ generosity and the combined talent of Lars and Milan van de Goor have produced. Y’all ready?

Here it is.

Front!…

marriage-cover-final-front

…And full spread!

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Can I get an “OOH-ahhhh”?! It’s just what I was looking for to accompany the multi-layered love story that is #MARRIAGEofAaD. Soft and spring-like, floral and fey… and, naturally, featuring the all-important lute.

Full novel release = coming in March, 2017!

Call for advance read-‘n’-reviewers = coming in January!

The book’s addition to your Goodreads “to read” list = could happen right now!

Other Outlaws of Avalon goodness (specifically, “An Avalon Christmas Carol”) = currently available for pre-order!

Your thoughts on the newly-revealed cover = in the comments, if you wish it. ^-^

Happy Thanksgiving Week, everyone!

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!”

IMG_1871_5

<<<>>>

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!

Reading, Review Writing, Rithmatics and a Rook

It’s a double book review day! …because I’ve been sitting on these reviews for a while, and if I don’t put ‘em up on the blog today, when the heck will I?

<<<>>>

Book the First: “The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1)” by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: YA Steampunk Fantasy

Blurb: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in worldbuilding, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.

The Rithmatist

My Thoughts: I picked up this book – my first taste of Sanderson lit – on the recommendation of a friend (holla, Chelsea!), and I gotta say, I really enjoyed it. Who knows how I’d have felt if I’d been left to try to envision Rithmatics on my own (visualization = not my strong suit), but happy days, the book actually included instructional illustrations before every chapter! So instead of feeling glumly out of the loop, I found myself studying the drawings with genuine interest, almost as if I, too, were a student at Armedius Academy.

Of course, not just every student is granted the opportunity to study Rithmatics in depth. For all his unflagging fascination and non-magical skill with the art, Joel has missed out on the chance to become a Rithmatist. (Forever?! Time may tell…) This causes him understandable disappointment, and some measure of scornful frustration at the seeming incompetence of fellow student – and lucky-duck Rithmatist – Melody. But there’s a dire mystery afoot, so naturally the pair figures out a way to ally against the threat.

I had a fun time trying to puzzle out the entity behind the kidnappings and/or murders. And spoiling nothing, I will say that the ending left me both with a satisfying “AHA! I knew it!” and an equally satisfying “What?! Oh my GOSH, I can’t believe it! Sanderson, you excellent fiend!”

Also, the world-building was awesome. And I say that as a reader for whom world-building is generally among the least of my interests. Just the fact that the United States had been reimagined as a bunch of islands tickled me no end. Throw in the charts of Rithmatic defenses, and I was straight-up sold.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Do it, bro.

<<<>>>

Book the Second: “Rook” by Sharon Cameron

Genre: Young Adult [Historical] Dystopia

Blurb: History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Rook 2

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

My Thoughts: Post-apocalyptic dystopia isn’t usually my scene, but this book got away with it clean, thanks to its future setting’s captivating aura of a Europe of centuries gone by.

And oh, the cleverness of the plot! Full of twisty intrigue from the get-go (which I, being neither twisty nor intrigue-y by nature, cannot help but admire), with a latter third careening at a pace that would not let up. On the micro level, I appreciated how the beginnings of each section tended to echo or cunningly follow-up the section before, everything carefully connected and choreographed; it was a treat to see that kind of artistic thought put into the storytelling structure.

Of course, if a story doesn’t have living characters, it’s got nothing.

“Rook” doesn’t got nothing.

*ignores the excess of negatives and questionable grammar* *moves on*

The main villain was scary-smart, so thank goodness the protagonists weren’t lacking in competence. Their schemes were as sharp as their banter, and their relationships dynamic. Also, I freely confess – it didn’t take long at all for René to charm me. I doubt he’d be surprised to hear it.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Do it or face the Razor.

(Do it or you may not know just what is this Razor to which I refer.)

<<<>>>

Such are my thoughts on the “Rook” and “The Rithmatist”. Have any of your own? Share below!

A Little Kick on the Side

I’m not actually here! I’m still cruising Europe!

…Which would account for why I forgot I’d signed on to be a part of yesterday’s Release Day Blast for author Natalie Whipple’s latest. *cough*

But by God’s grace, I remembered that today’s my stop on the book’s blog tour. So real quick before I get back to exploring abroad (recaps on the whole adventure to come eventually), here’s what’s up:

Sidekick Banner

The Book: “Sidekick” by Natalie Whipple

Genre: Contemporary YA

Blurb: Russ is a high school football player who feels like he always comes in second to his best friend, Garret. In sports. In school. With girls. Well, he’s tired of it, and he gets the rather foolish idea that if he can win the heart of the new girl in town before Garret he can prove he’s not just sloppy seconds.

His plan? Use his anime-obsessed sister’s group, who has befriended the new girl, to get closer to her. He’d never tell the team, but he’s been going to Anime Night for years and might even enjoy it. That would ruin his reputation, just like his secret love for cooking and James Taylor.

But pretending to be something you aren’t catches up to you eventually, and Russ can only get away with living two lives for so long. As more than one person reveals they have something to hide, Russ must figure out what and who he really wants in his life. And more than that, he needs the courage to make it happen.

Sidekick Cover

My Thoughts: One thing I really appreciate about Natalie Whipple books is that I have yet to see her put her protagonists in a vacuum. There’s always a group of friends and/or family around to create an authentic, eclectic social environment. It makes reading the story feel a lot like just hanging out with the gang. And this may well be my favorite Whipple-written gang to date – which is why the possibility of the main character fumbling his relationships beyond all hope of a happy ever after felt like such painfully high stakes.

Jealousies, deceptions, and high school politics served as a foil against Russ Pearson’s desire to just get through his senior year without feeling like a loser, come in second place to his best friend. His situation got complicated, but it was no manufactured drama. Just motivated actions, reactions, and consequences – lather, rinse, repeat. Were some of those actions at the top of the cycle ill-advised? Absolutely. But I got it. I got Russ. And I rooted for him like crazy. Plus, much as he tried to downplay it, experiencing his culinary passion added to the story’s homey flavor (pun half-intended).

I received an ARC of “Sidekick” in exchange for an honest review, and it was a genuine pleasure to read.

Purchase links for “Sidekick”Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository

Purchase a signed copy from the author here!

Natalie Whipple

About the Author: Natalie Whipple grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU, with a minor in editing. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook.

She is the author of the TRANSPARENT series, HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW, the I’M A NINJA series, FISH OUT OF WATER, and MY LITTLE BRONY (under K.M. Hayes). In addition to that, she is on the writing team for the cRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera that should be out sometime in 2015.

Blog: http://betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nataliewhipple

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Natalie-Whipple/165166756949250

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/nataliewhipple/

Tumblr: http://nataliewhipple.tumblr.com/

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ZkX6f

And guess what? There’s a giveaway! Enter to win a Kindle e-copy of “Sidekick”! (Open internationally)

Deshipley, over and out.

Early Birds, a Wyrm, and Whatnot (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, “Dawlish, creation of author A.J. Campbell, describes herself thus:

So hey, I’m Dawlish. I’m 15. I like pepperoni pizza and hate diet coke. I live somewhere in the roof-space of Durham cathedral with a load of birds. Actual birds. Jackdaws, mostly. I work for these people called Kate Avery and The Baron – they used to be married or something but they’re not speaking to each other at the moment. Don’t know why. But I owe them big time, and I’m working that off. Mostly by spying on the one for the other. And on this guy called Dick Lampton. He’s kind of an idiot.

“Welcome, Dawlish!” Will greets the girl now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – is that your real name? Or like, a surname/nickname thing? ‘Cause my author’s read through her share of baby naming books, and I don’t believe she’s ever come across the like.”

The girl shrugs, slouching further into her seat. “It’s just a name. It’s mine. I don’t know where it came from. Apparently it’s a place in Devon, but I don’t know, I’ve never been there.” She pauses to pick some of the black polish off her nails. “At least it’s original. Unlike yours. ‘Cause you’re not the same Will Scarlet that the Baron knows, are you? I’ve seen pictures. You look nothing alike.”

Will’s brows arch high. “He knows a me?? Maybe there are parallel universes at play! Lord knows it wouldn’t be the strangest circumstance I’ve been caught up in. Talking of one’s circumstances: What’s it like, having a garret full of Jackdaws as roommates? Come to that, what sort of bird is a Jackdaw, exactly?”

The look on Dawlish’s face is one of disbelief and contempt as she asks, “Where are you from, exactly? Do they not have Jackdaws there? They live, like, all over England, y’know.”

“Well, jolly for England. But it’s been a century or nine since I’ve been there, so I may have missed the species’ discovery. Humor my ignorance?”

She sighs audibly. “They’re birds, about so big… Corvids – that’s the same family as crows and ravens – black and grey. Dark black patch on their head like one of those tiny Jewish things. Very intelligent, very noisy, and they drop feathers everywhere. But I wouldn’t live anywhere without them.”

“What’s a bit of noise and feathers between friends, I always say. Or have never said. I may start saying it. Anyway, these employers of yours – Kate Somebody and The Baron who keeps Scarlet company. If most of your job involves spying on them, you’re bound to know as much as or more than anyone on the subjects. What juicy dish can you share about each of them that won’t get you fired or something? And just what is the nature of the debt you owe them, anyway?”

“I’ve stopped doing the spying thing now. It was getting really boring. Because he’s still blatantly in love with her, and she probably is too only she won’t admit it. It’s like that whole thing on Friends if Ross and Rachel were more sarcastic and English… and probably immortal… and master criminals.”

Will sniggers. “Aw, man, what I wouldn’t pay to watch that TV spinoff…”

Dawlish carries on over him, “They never tell me any of the good stuff anyway – apparently I’m too young or something.” Again, an overly dramatic sigh. “Aaaand I’m not allowed to talk about the debt. Apparently it’s an important plot point or something.”

Will nods, knowing how that goes.

“Also, it’s personal. Look, have you got anything to eat? I was promised dinner if I came and did this, but all I’ve had is some pathetic excuse for tea and biscuits in the green room…”

Off-camera, Allyn says, disgruntled, “What happened to the pizza I ordered in?”

Will turns in surprise. “That was for her?”

“I’d written ‘FOR DAWLISH’ right on the box!”

“Oh. Yeah, I saw that. Guess I was too hungry to make the connection. Sorry about that,” Will addresses his guest sheepishly. “What say Allyn and I take you out for something right after the show? Our treat. We’re nearly done, now. And a little birdie’s probably already told you what the final question is to be. Tell me, what is your author A.J.’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He flashes his legendary smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Dude… I’m fifteen. That would be really weird. And kind of creepy.”

Will coughs into his fist. “…And par for the course. But since I totally ate your pizza, I guess I won’t press the issue. Allyn, how about a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by A.J. Campbell’s ‘Sigil of the Wyrm (Into the Weirding, Book 1)’:

Sigil of the Wyrm, blurb

“As a bit of bonus material,” Allyn continues, “our author’s review of the book is as follows:

Sigil of the Wyrm, my review

You ever enjoy a book too darn much to do more than verbally point and flail? That’s me and “Sigil of the Wyrm”. Fortunately, I had the foresight to scribble down a few of my impressions in real time. So, in lieu of a coherent review, here’s the view over the shoulder of Reader Me:

“Mmm, yum, loving this so far.”

“So lush and English. *elated emoticon*”

“And all the characters are such characters. With smart mouths and secrets and histories. Weirdoes that make you wonder, every one.”

“Delicious, I say! (And if the Baron is legit who I think he is, then the gymnastics of my heart are all the more justified.)”

“So genuinely sad that I’m too tired to continue reading right now. *tragic emoticon*”

“Twists and surprises and cool stuff, and… this is the first of a series, right? Right? Good.”

“Thank you, Allyn – and Danielle,” Will says. “Thanks to you as well, Dawlish. 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!”

<<<>>>

Sigil of the Wyrm, availability

Your copy of “Sigil of the Wyrm” awaits. And don’t forget to enter the tour-long giveaway!

 

Book Release Blog Tour (August 29 – September 5)

Saturday, Aug. 29

Alex Campbell

Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind

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Sunday, Aug. 30

Lurking Musings

Slithers of Thought

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Monday, Aug. 31

The Deep, Dark Library

Cobblestone Scribe

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Tuesday, Sep. 1

Lucy Ayrton, Performance Poet

T.N. Payne, Author

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Wednesday, Sep. 2

Richard A. Usher, Media Creative

Alex McGilvery’s World

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Thursday, Sep. 3

Scott E. Tarbet, Author

Are You Afraid of the Dark

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Friday, Sep. 4

OMega W

Danielle E. Shipley (You are here!)

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Saturday, Sep. 5

R. A. Ridley

Didi Lawson, Author

Musings, Amusings, and Bemusings

The Other Burdin (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, “When asked to send a character over, author Alexander responded thus:

Let’s go with Hartnet. He could use a little love. Poor guy’s got it rough having Ty as a sibling.

“Welcome, Hartnet!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – where in the world do you get off having a studlier jaw than me? Like, seriously.”

Hartnet shifts in his chair, absentmindedly rubs a hand across a day’s worth of stubble on his jaw. “Good genetics, I guess,” he says with a small laugh.

“Hmmph. Well, anyway,” says Will, “subtly” re-angling his face to give the camera a better view of his bone structure. “Your brother Ty is the ‘retired’ demon hunter, and you’re the cop. But you’ve got some demon hunting experience, too, am I right?”

“I can definitely hold my own.” Hartnet sits up a little straighter. His jaw tenses. “Growing up in the greatest demon hunting family of all time, I definitely picked up a few tricks and survival habits. I even get to put them to use against bad guys from time to time. After dealing with an Azreal or even a Jinn, some punk hopped up on this or that isn’t so intimidating.”

Will nods. “Right. Totally. I have no idea what an Azreal is, but if it’s anything like an air spirit or a river siren, then I’m perfectly happy to leave it to the professionals. Moving away from business to your personal life, now, how would you describe your and Ty’s relationship? And how does it feel, knowing your little brother to be in constant danger of death by demons or alcohol poisoning or who knows what?”

“Ty’s a bit of a conceited jerk. He only thinks of himself and his own perspective, everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter for much. He’s kind of the spoiled rock star, reality television show of the demon hunting world. Did I mention I’m adopted?”

“Don’t believe you did, no. But hey, the blood you chose is thicker than the water you’re born into, right? Family’s family, bros are bros?”

Hartnet stares off at the lights. He inspects the back of his hands for a moment. “Yeah, I mean, I’d give my life for Ty, but there are times I think he’d ask for it. That might be his problem. Maybe he’ll grow out of it.” Hartnet shifts a little more in his seat.

“Well, hey, buddy,” says Will, leaning over to pat Hartnet’s knee. “Here’s hoping he will. Now, one last question before we wrap up the interrogation, officer. Tell me, what is your author Alex’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He smiles devilishly. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Sorry, there, but I keep all my kisses for a special lady back home. She’s always got her mind on me. Anyway, if I were one to go around giving away secrets, everyone in the world would know that every night Ty sings ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor to help himself fall asleep. Oops…”

“Haha, does he really?”

Hartnet winks, stands up, and exits the stage.

“Looks like duty’s call won’t wait. Play him out with a word from our sponsor, won’t you, Allyn?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Alexander Nader’s ‘Burdin’s End’:

Ty Burdin, the retired demon hunter who just can’t stay retired.

In the final installment of the Beasts of Burdin trilogy Ty has found himself roped into working for the Agency, a top secret organization with the sole purpose of eliminating all demon activity, yet again. Demon hunting is a full time job, but luckily Ty has managed to work his way down to a ‘consulting’ position in the Agency after a few disagreements and a couple dead superiors.

Ty’s part-time position becomes far more hands on as the demon activity in his region cranks up to eleven. Demons are crawling out of peoples’ minds and into the real world at an alarming rate and it’s up to Ty, once again, to step in and save the day. First step: get over last night’s hangover.

“As a bit of bonus material,” Allyn continues, “our author’s review of the book is as follows:

Gosh, some people’s attitudes are miserable. And not one healthful coping mechanism to be seen. Of course, narrators are rarely known for spreading sunshine and dishing up entertaining sass both at once. And if I can only have one or the other, odds are I’ll go with the sass.

Burdin's End

Despite his efforts to remain retired, Ty Burdin can’t seem to go more than twenty-four hours or so without hunting and/or being hunted by an unpredictable variety pack of demons. His small circle of loved ones (so… basically just his cop brother Hartnet and secretary/fictional biographer Nora) seem content to take Ty’s life at the beck and call of the Agency for granted, but Ty moans and drags his feet every step of the way. His unrelenting backtalk hurled at his boss Helstrom – or, in lieu of an audience, in his own head – made for some good out-loud chuckles (the man really does have a way with words, provided every third word or so can be a vulgarity), though his passive, self-destructive wallowing did start to get old, after a while.

Then I got about three-quarters of the way through the book, and I was just like, whoa. No. Holy cow, but no. I just want Ty to get up, shake himself off, and get his act together. Can I have that? Will Nader give me that? Or is he going to revel in this twisted turn of events like the evil author in me wouldn’t blame him for one bit?

If you think I’m about to spoil the answers to any of that, you’re one scotch bottle shy of a Burdin liquid lunch. In parting, I’ll say only that, 1) the ending went by a little quick for me; 2) it sounds like some positive change may be on the horizon for whoever survives this latest wave of deadly demon activity; and 3) um, no offense to Hartnet, but I may be Team Helstrom now. The guy’s in his own class.

“Thank you, Allyn – and Danielle,” Will says, then calls offstage, “Thanks to you as well, Hartnet. 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!”

Play at a Price (FORTE Blog Tour)

Forte_Banner
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Have you heard about Xchyler Publishing’s newest release? ^^ Well, yes or no, you haven’t heard it from Ever On Word yet, so settle in and have a look, ‘cause here’s what’s up:
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Forte_The BookForte_Author

www.jdspero.com

Facebook, Twitter: @jdspero, Goodreads

Forte_ReviewI got the opportunity to read this book early, and it was both an interesting and a frustrating experience for me.

Interesting, in part, because of the unique way the story incorporated some familiar figures from Greek mythology. In all my years of fascination in that area, I’ve never seen Hermes and Hephaestus portrayed quite like this, so that was an inventive spin. I also enjoyed the story’s location. Call me a sucker for a canal and creepy old houses in the mountains.

Frustrating, largely, because of the protagonist’s poor decision-making. I can perfectly understand loneliness and wishing to feel accepted. We’ve all been there. But I have little patience for those who think popularity is worth turning your back on your passions, blatant self-delusion, and either compromising your principles or going flatly against them. My number one thought for most of the novel was, “Sami, grow a spine!

By the finale, though, there was hope for her. Hope for a number of the characters with their own sets of flaws. The story closed on a high note, and overall, the book’s got atmosphere. I wager there’s an audience who can gain much benefit and pleasure “Forte”, particularly if they like a narrative permeated with athletics, or the arts – or, like Sami, desire the best of both.

Forte_Availability

Feel free to grab your copy today (Kindle or paperback), and/or enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Forte_Book Tour Banner

Official Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/569741183164962/

Blog Schedule:

Different Strokes (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 Mere Joyce describes Maddie Deacon thus:

A 16-year-old former artist who is now unable to participate in her craft due to the memories of being held captive by a painting madman. She used to be a very confident, passionate girl, but now she’s more reserved and sullen.

“Huh,” says Will, reflectively. “That sounds… Allyn, you want to take this one?”

Allyn’s head snaps up. “What?”

Will pops up to his feet. “Traumatized artist. That’s right up your alley. Here, we’ll switch. Take my place.”

“I… are you serious?” Allyn whispers.

“Dead,” Will confirms, hustling Allyn into the host seat.

“Um. Well. Hello,” a dazed Allyn addresses the girl now seated in the chair across from his own. “Welcome, Maddie. First things first, I suppose: Are you okay with,” – he gestures between himself and Will Scarlet, now off-camera – “all this?”

“Um…I-I guess.” *Glances off-stage to where her little sister and a boy her own age give her encouraging smiles, clearly suggesting they forced her into this* “I d-didn’t have much of a choice.”

“I know the feeling,” Allyn mutters. Redirecting his focus back Maddie’s may, his tone gentles. “Before we address the darkness you’ve dealt with, would you share one of your brightest memories from your days of freedom?”

*Jerks thumb at aforementioned boy* “Painting Wesley. H-he’s my…well, he used to be…my best friend. And once, I got to p-paint him. At night, outside, with his cello. The portrait turned out well. I-I even showcased it. At our school’s Art Showcase. It was…it was the piece I showed the night I was abducted.”

“Ah.” Allyn winces sympathetically. “Well, we’ll call that our segue and move on to more difficult matters. During your close to three years of captivity, to whom – apart from yourself and your captor – did your thoughts most often turn, and why?”

“Mostly, I thought about my parents, my sister Autumn, and Wesley. B-But I think I thought of my sister most of all. She’s thirteen now, the age I was when I was t-taken. In all my time away, the one thing I was g-grateful for was that it was me locked up, not her. She’s got an amazing spirit, and she’s just so…alive. I n-never want anything to change that.”

“Quite so,” Allyn nods as a great deal of wet sniffling sounds from off-camera. “Erm, don’t mind Will. He suffers from a tender heart, poor man. And while we’re yet on the subject of suffering: What is it that you miss the most about your art?”

“The rightness of it, if that makes any sense. Painting was once a n-need for me, and s-sometimes I think it still could be. When I find a subject I think I’d like to paint, my fingers itch, and my b-brain starts forming the picture whether I-I want it to or not. It’s like every nerve in my body is on edge, and…and the tension’s not released until the painting begins. It’s h-hard, not being able to l-let it t-take hold. It’s hard not being able to g-give in.”

“So I’d imagine,” says Allyn, his fingers twitching as if plucking invisible lute strings. “Suppose, for a moment, that I am you, at age thirteen. What would you most like to say to me?”

“Well, f-first I would tell you not to wear headphones when you’re walking alone at night. But, then I’d tell you to stop putting off the things you keep planning to someday accomplish. P-portraits you’ve promised to paint, p-people you’ve been meaning to spend more time with. There’s always a theoretical tomorrow, b-but not always an actual one. Do things now, not later. Do them while they’re still easy to d-do.”

“I love you, Allyn!” Will is heard to wail while he has the chance.

Allyn grimaces. “Yes, I know. And I you. But do try to keep it together for just a short moment more. I’ve the last question to go. Tell me, Maddie, what is your author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He glances over his shoulder. “Or would you rather kiss the Scarlet wreck?”

*Glances at Will*

*Glances at Wesley*

“Um…I’ll stick with the s-secret. Well, actually, it’s s-sort of a secret, and s-sort of a proud moment in her life (depends on who is asking), but M-Mere permanently damaged her tailbone, and p-possibly broke it, while dancing to the Backstreet Boys…I-I don’t know how, but she claims it’s the fault of a music video? One where they’re d-dancing in a h-haunted castle or something? S-Sounds made up to me.” *Looks skeptically at Mere*

“‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’!?” Will shouts, an emotional one-eighty rocketing him back into high spirits. “ALL RIGHT!”

Backstreet's Back gif

“Ahem,” Allyn coughs. “The word from our sponsor, please?”

“Right, that! Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Will, “was brought to you by Mere Joyce’s young-adult novel releasing this very day, ‘Blank Canvas’ .

Blank Canvas

Three years ago, sixteen-year-old Maddie Deacon was abducted on her way home from her school’s Art Showcase. Five months ago, she escaped the madman she calls The Painter. Before being taken, painting was Maddie’s life. Now, it’s her nightmare.

Maddie wants to forget her years in captivity. She’d rather spend her time getting reacquainted with her parents and her sister, not to mention her cello-playing, beautiful boy next door and childhood best friend Wesley. But paint is everywhere, and tormenting shadows linger in every portrait she encounters.

When the yearly Art Showcase once again approaches, Maddie has the chance to win a scholarship and start planning a future far away from the horrors of her past. She knows she has to make a choice–confront her memories of The Painter and overcome her fear of the canvas, or give up painting forever.

“Thanks, Allyn, for playing host for a day,” says Will. “Thanks to you as well, Maddie. 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!”

<<<>>>

Release Day Bonus: An excerpt from “Blank Canvas” by Mere Joyce!

“Hello, Maddie,” Tim says, taking a sip from his Healing Expressions coffee cup. I’m glad he and Juliet call me Maddie instead of Madison, like Klara does. I’ve gone by Maddie since my days in preschool, and being called it here makes the office seem slightly less institutional.

Of course, it doesn’t make this moment any less awful.

“H-hi,” I stammer, my voice thin. My feet ache as I force them across the threshold. Tim prefers it if I close the door behind me, but I need to see my escape route. Shakily, I cross the room and sit on the bench along the wall of windows that look down over the parking lot. The cushions are soft, bright orange, and there are pink and green and blue throw pillows scattered along the seat. I grab the blue one, and hug it to my chest as I stare at the world on the free side of the glass panes.

It’s a strange sensation, watching the world like this. In elementary school, at recess, I would sit by the fences backing the neighborhood houses. With my head tilted into the cool fall or warm spring breeze, I would close my eyes and picture the people in those houses, people not working, people working from home, people driving the streets or watering their lawns or relaxing in front of the TV, while I remained stuck at school for another several hours. I have the same thoughts now as I gaze over the parking lot, far out to the park, the townhouse complex, and the streets beyond. So many people sleeping, reading, shopping––all while I’m here, trapped behind a wall of glass.

It helps to keep my back to the easel. Slowly, the panic of my arrival subsides, and I take full gulping breaths until I’ve settled into muted unease.

“How are you feeling today, Maddie?” Tim asks. He remains seated. I get antsy if his six-foot-three inch body looms over me.

“I’m fine,” I lie. I’m never fine. Not anymore. But declaring it is like stating the obvious.

“How’s school?” I can hear a smile in his voice. I like Tim’s voice, with its deep, quietly enthusiastic tone. I’m fairly certain I like Tim, too. Or, at least, I would, if the circumstances were different. If he didn’t have the task of prying, of guiding me into frigid, infested waters every time we meet.

“It’s fine,” I say, shrugging my shoulders.

Tim’s chair scrapes across the floor as he stands. I keep my eyes fixed on the parking lot outside. I’ve found Wesley’s tiny van, and I watch it intently.

Tim approaches, sits on the bench a ways off. “Did you read any papers this week?”

“No.” The tension I nearly shed on the ride over here is creeping back again. I hate therapy. I don’t understand how digging into every unpleasant crevice of my subconscious is supposed to make my life easier.

“How about the news? Did you watch any?” Tim asks, even though I’m already shaking my head.

“Y-You know I didn’t,” I reply, and Tim breathes out, the resulting sound just short of a sigh.

“How many times have you had to avoid his picture?” he asks, and I squeeze the pillow until my fingers are white.

“S-Seventy … S-Seventy-two,” I choke out.

It’s become a habit keeping track of the number of times I stop myself from seeing him. When I go to the drugstore and see the papers lined in a hideous row. When the news comes on, and reporters rehash what happened. In the beginning, it was far harder. There were articles all over, news stories, constant threats to my sanity. Five months on, most of my count comes from the personal attacks, the times I remember something, imagine something, and his face almost manages to push its way in.

“Good. An improvement on last week,” Tim says, the pleasing smoothness of his voice giving the achievement a more respectable air than it deserves. Last week there were seventy-eight occurrences. Having six fewer episodes means nothing, except Tim is trying to be as positive as possible.

Plus, there’s the phone call to consider. Last week might have been an improvement, but I’m certain my methods of diversion will fail to keep me from replaying the conversation I wasn’t supposed to hear this morning.

Mere Joyce

About the Author:

Mere Joyce lives in Ontario, Canada. As both a writer and a librarian, she understands the importance of reading, and the impact the right story can have. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and holds a Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario.

When she’s not writing, reading, or recommending books, Mere likes to watch movies with her husband (she may be slightly obsessed with Alan Rickman), play games with her son, go for walks with her dog, and drink lots of earl grey tea with orange chocolate on the side.

Find Mere here: Blog / Twitter / Goodreads / Pinterest