Sneak Peek: An Avalon Christmas Carol

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

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“A Merry Christmas, uncle!”

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

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

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

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

“Out caroling?” Merlin repeated, disbelieving.

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

“Nonsense!” Merlin cut him off curtly.

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

“I do.”

“But it’s Christmas Eve!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good afternoon,” Merlin said again.

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

“Good afternoon.”

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

“Good afternoon.”

“And a Happy New Year!”

“GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!” Merlin bellowed.

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

<<<>>>

christmas-carol-cover-w-text

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

Merlin was asleep, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that

And yet, when you’re a wizard with a legendary gift of prophecy, who can tell whether a dream may be something more?

In the tradition of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic, join Camelot’s court and Sherwood’s outlaws on a spirited journey through Avalon’s past, present, and future.

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

Cover Reveal: An Avalon Christmas Carol

Once upon a November some years ago, an author was struck with inspiration: Why not combine the characters from what would prove itself the favorite of her series with her hands-down favorite Victorian-era Christmas tale? Y’know; for funzies.

That author, of course – *solemn nods* – was me.

Those characters and that series were the Outlaws of Avalon – with a liberal dose of Avalon’s enigmatic wizard.

That Victorian-era Christmas tale was… well, I expect you could easily guess.

That parody project became a novella with unexpected depth.

And with hearty thanks to the artistic prowess of Hannah Vale – (an artist friend made at, wouldn’t you know it, a Renaissance Faire) – Ever On Word is proud to present the cover of…

An Avalon Christmas Carol

christmas-carol-cover-w-text

IS. IT. NOT. EXQUISITE? The holly in the snow! The Fey lights in the tree! The LUTE! Never has a cover illustration been so perfectly in the spirit of both Christmas and Avalon Faire. And speaking of spirits, here’s the book’s blurb:

Merlin was asleep, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that

And yet, when you’re a wizard with a legendary gift of prophecy, who can tell whether a dream may be something more?

In the tradition of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic, join Camelot’s court and Sherwood’s outlaws on a spirited journey through Avalon’s past, present, and future.

Things to know about the book:

– It awaits your “Want to Read” click on Goodreads here.

– It will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon. Official release date = December 6th.

– For the immediate future, it will be available solely on Amazon, and exclusively as an e-book.

– But hey, it’ll only cost 99 cents! A Christmas steal!

– …Especially considering that the book will also include two bonus parodies, AND an excerpt from Outlaws of Avalon, Book Two!

So don’t let this holiday season pass you by without this magic-packed book in your virtual hands! Get your copy! Spread the joyous tidings to your friends! And do let me and/or Hannah know:

What do you think of the cover? ^o^

The Mace and the Mirror

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

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The Book: “Grace the Mace” by Tirzah Duncan

Genre: Fantasy Lit Fic

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

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

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

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

grace-the-mace-cover

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

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

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

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

And such scenes as:

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

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

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

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

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

Gracing the Stage (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Author Tirzah Duncan describes her character thus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grace-the-mace-cover

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Dalvin/Grace. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

The Face of Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

grace-the-mace-cover

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

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

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

The Author, the Prince, and the Wind

FTF Button 2015

Once upon a time, an author looked up to discover that, high goodness, it was that time of year already: The annual, magical Fairy Tale Fortnight was once again come to its host blogs, The Book Rat and A Backwards Story.

Book Rat's Glass Slipper
Speaking of glass slippers… Image via (and the original watercolor created by / up for grabs courtesy of) Misty from The Book Rat.

Enamored with fairytales as she was, the author simply had to get in on the event. And as aforesaid event happened to fall right around the time she released the latest in her series of fairytale mash-up novellas, it was clear as a glass slipper what the author should do: Offer a pair of fun author/character chat vignettes and a giveaway tied-in to her new book!

And that author… *solemn nods* … was me.

And that book is, of course, “The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)”.

Surrogate Sea cover, front

With a little cooperation from my South Wind and the Crown Prince of Denebdeor, I put together a couple of “Inspired”-style interview posts for the entertainment of the fairytale-loving community. You’ll find them here and here, along with a giveaway offering one lucky winner a set of signed bookmarks + a limited-edition “Surrogate Sea Word-Sketch Book” + a paperback copy of “The Surrogate Sea”! You’ve got ‘til the 22nd to enter. Enjoy, and good luck!

And for those of you in a fairytale mood, I hope you’ll check out/subscribe to the new series I’ve begun on Channillo.com, The Wilderhark Talettes! The first of my monthly short stories is up now (all new, and all about a young Edgwyn Wyle, squee!), with the next story comin’ atcha two weeks from today. ^_^

Shooting the Breeze (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, “Our author describes her thus:

The youngest and fairest of the four winds of Welken. While her brothers are known for their stormy strength and cruelty, Vesparya employs a lighter touch – though perhaps one no less powerful. While winds can take any physical form they wish, that of the West will most often appear as a tall, voluptuous young woman, auburn hair breezing all around her, eyes a mesmerizing golden-green.

“Welcome, Vesparya!” Will greets the figure floating above the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – I think I’m in love with you.”

Allyn coughs off-camera. “That wasn’t a question, Will.”

Vesparya’s laugh trills ‘round the stage. “Of course you’re in love with me. I’m the West Wind! You’d need to have no heart to avoid me stealing it – if you can call it stealing when a thing throws itself willingly into your hand.”

A question, Will,” Allyn reminds him, when the host does nothing but smile dizzily.

“Hmm? Yes. A question. Will you marry me?”

Allyn groans.

“Marriage,” Vesparya says contemplatively, drifting side to side over the seat cushion. “That’s not the sort of thing a wind will often do. Austeryn – the South Wind, you know – he’s the only one of us who’s yet bothered with such a long-term commitment. And even in his case, it’s not with a human. He would consider that beneath him.”

Will looks stricken. “Do you share that outlook?”

“Oh, heavens, no,” she says, her smile summer-sky bright. “I love humans! You’re so… well, the first word that comes to mind is ‘easy’.”

“Some more than others,” Allyn mutters, scarcely louder than Will Scarlet’s panting.

“True,” the wind agrees with a sigh. “All too true. I don’t know what enchantment’s touched Denebdeor or whether there’s something in the water, but I’ll swear I’ve never met a heart sturdier than that of a Wyle. Not one of them has thrown themselves at me, and we’ve kept in contact for almost six years!” She blinks wide eyes. “If I knew no better, I’d fear I was losing my touch.”

“Why in the world is your touch so intoxicating?” Will asks, close to falling out of his seat as he drinks deep of Vesparya’s air.

She wafts in circles around her chair. “It’s just what I’m made of – who I am – same as any of the world’s elements are who they are. I really couldn’t help it if I wished to. And why would I? It’s a delight to delight! All power knows there are winds enough to bring unpleasantness into the world. I count it as bliss to counter that wherever I may.”

“That is so great,” Will says drunkenly. “So, hey. You wanna kiss me?”

Vesparya cocks her head. “Aren’t you supposed to ask me something about secrets?”

“Mm? Why? Have you got any?”

“Not really,” she says, shrugging. “That’s more Austeryn’s department, too.”

“Well, there you have it! No choice but to kiss! And to maybe have each other’s babies!”

Vesparya breaks into aerial loops of laughter. “Ah, Will Scarlet, you most amusing man! Here, funny thing – have your kiss.” With that, she places her lips to her palm, and blows a breath of perfumed air across the stage. His smile almost too big for his face, Will drops like a sack of bricks to the floor.

“Dear me,” says Vesparya. “There’s easy, and there’s an endangerment to one’s one health. Perhaps I’d best be off before he bursts something vital.”

“Good of you,” Allyn says appreciatively, crossing over to Will’s side. While the West Wind vanishes from visibility, nothing but the rippling of the stage’s curtain to mark her path off the set, Allyn gives Will’s cheeks a few gentle whacks. “Come now. Pull yourself together. We’ve got to wrap this thing up properly.”

Will mumbles something that we’ll choose to interpret as, “Quite right, Allyn. How ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”

Returning to his post, Allyn announces, “Today’s embarrassment— ahem, I mean Kiss & Tell segment, was brought to you by Danielle E. Shipley’s newly-released fairytale novella, ‘The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)’, the Launch Week celebration of which is detailed in this post.

Surrogate Sea cover, front

The Sea’s storm brought them together, and the Sea’s rules will keep them apart, unless the mute but melodious Muirigan can find another to take her place, freeing her to pursue the human man she loves. But when her plan collides with the schemes of the sly South Wind, a princess’s agenda to look for love in all the most fantastic places, and a prince whose head and heart have been long years at war, the result is a tragedy of errors from which the world might never recover.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says from the floor. “Thanks also to you, beautiful wind, wherever you’ve flown. And thank you, audience of mine. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided in this post, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”