The Ballad of the Scarlet Scarf

Once upon a time, an author received some Christmas cash from a kindly old relative.

“Make sure to spend it on something special,” the K.O.R. stipulated – which, as far as the author was concerned, usually translated into “new books, hooray!

But books are not the only special thing, and so the author determined to keep her mind open for a truly out-of-the-ordinary treat.

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

litographs-logo

And that truly out-of-the-ordinary treat was to be found on Litographs.com, a shop dedicated to taking something special – books – and making it into something more – books’ insides on t-shirts, totes, and scarves!

The titles to choose from were many, but I knew right away what I wanted: An infinity scarf featuring the text from Howard Pyle’s “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”.

Will Scarlet was likewise excited. “HECK YEAH, my name around your neck! And Allyn’s, spelled wrong! :D”

The order was placed; the scarf printed, shipped, and delivered; the package opened and delighted over and—

“Wait,” said Will, inspecting the scarf line by line, first on one side, then the other, then both all over again. “It’s not there. My name’s not there.”

For the scarf’s text had started at the book’s beginning, and there was not space to print the whole. It stopped after the first 30 thousand words or so – some way before the chapters introducing Will and Allyn.

Will was devastated.

ariel-crying

A short while of his weeping and lying catatonic later, he sprung into action. “Quick, back to the website! Check their exchange policy!”

The policy declared it was all about 100% satisfaction – which, with Will this heartsick over being left off my scarf, we could not be said to have attained. So I mailed it back, and on the online returns/exchanges form spake thus:

While I have no complaint regarding the scarf’s quality (it’s lovely), I* was keenly disappointed to see that my most beloved passage from Howard Pyle’s “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood” was nowhere to be found thereon. So I would like to exchange this scarf for another in the same style, but this time featuring Part Fourth, Chapter One – Robin Hood and Allan a Dale**.

*(cough) I may have left the details re: my emotional character friend out of it.

**Aka, a key inspiration behind the happenings of the newly released Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”. ^o^

The Litographs rep who replied (shout-out to Jack) most graciously informed me that they were unable to just start printing from somewhere in the middle of a book.

“Customize!” Will hollered in my head, because there was the option to order a (moderately more expensive) custom scarf, on which could be printed whichever approx. 30K-word text I uploaded, provided the words were either owned by me (no) or in the public domain (yes!).

Me: “Would that work?”

Jack the Repper: “Sure thing! Here’s a refund for your first scarf, and a link to Project Gutenberg, which may well have the text you seek, saving you the time and trouble of typing it all out yourself.”

…Which, for Will Scarlet, I would have done, if necessary. But happy days, Project Gutenberg had the book’s text online, requiring of me only a little basic copy/pasting.

Fast-forward a few days, to when this new-and-improved beauty arrived…

robin-hood-scarf-on-me

…to much Scarlet rejoicing.

*James Madison voice* “HIGHLIGHTS!”

*James Madison voice* “HIGHLIGHTS!”

Now I’ve got my Merry Minstrel’s Pyle-told tale in three editions – two hardcover books, and a scarf!

robin-hood-scarf-and-books

“What,” Allyn murmurs, “you couldn’t have changed the spelling from ‘Allen’ to ‘Allyn’ when preparing your custom text upload?”

……

…………

The scarf is perfect, shut up.

Legends and Lore[n] (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 wizardly employer, Merlin, once described her thus:

McCaughley. Corsets McCaughley, I think of her, to keep her straight with her sister, a jester. But her proper name is Loren. Loren Elaine. … This will be her second year at the Faire. Signed up in the middle of last season to help a short-staffed shop; had the time of her life, so she told me; and the rest is history on my hard drive, somewhere.

“Welcome, Loren!” Will greets the young woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – what makes you think you’re good enough for my Allyn?”

Loren’s reactive noise is laugh-like, incredulous. Her scrunched-up expression sends one brow on the rise. “What are you, his mother?”

“Nope. Just his best friend 5ever.”

“I see. Well, if by good enough for him, you mean good enough to play his lady love in a Renaissance Faire skit, the panel of judges at my audition apparently thought so well of me.”

“In that case, congrats. Would it be fair to describe the role as your dream job? (Since, y’know, your book’s summary straight-up describes it that way.)”

A more genuine laugh-sound. “More or less. I mean, technically, I just wanted to be an actual Merry Man, but this is the closest I’ve gotten to that, so yeah – we’ll call that dream-living.”

Eyes narrowed into a pseudo-intellectual regard, Will inquires, “What is it about the Robin Hood mythos that so deeply appeals to you?”

A tuneless whistle sends a stray strand of hair flying before she brushes it back with the rest of her glossy dark ponytail. “Who even knows what set it off? One day I’m reading the stories in grade school, the next my soul’s begging me to run away to Sherwood. Maybe it’s that fairytale forest setting, of the thrill of stave fights and archery, or the minstrel’s music, or the daring robberies, laughing all the way out of Nottingham’s treasury… You all just make the outlaw life seem so much fun, you know? Ha – ‘you all.’” An amused shake of the head. “As if you’re anything nearer to the real thing than I am.”

“Yeah…” Will Scarlet smiles languidly into the camera. “As if. Did you figure going into the audition that you had the gig in the bag?”

Not Loren’s actual headshot – but wow, stupid close!

Not Loren’s actual headshot – but wow, stupid close!

“Oh, zounds, no. For all I knew, they were looking for a Type, and why would I assume I fit it? Just because the BBC included Anjali Jay among their Merry Men, didn’t mean the Faire would automatically be like, ‘So, for Allyn’s bride, yeah, let’s go Indian. Or at least half that. And make her plus-sized.’ Vexing but true, that’s just not the usual go-to.”

“And yet,” Will observes, “here you are.”

“Here I am,” Loren agrees, smiling broadly. “Talent triumphs. Love overcomes. What a time to be alive.”

“Talking of time, and ways to pass it: When not geeking out over your faux beau and co., your hobbies include…?”

“A bunch of other geeky stuff,” Loren admits. “I’m just that crowd. Theatre, dated music, classic lit… Getting dragged to comic stores and cons by my kid sister, listening to my ex make love to Shakespeare…”

Will sits bolt upright. “Your boyfriend left you for Shakespeare?!”

Loren cracks up. “Maybe would’ve if he could’ve, but no.”

“Oh, well. Guess we’ll have to look elsewhere for scandal. Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret? Or would you rather kiss me? Bearing in mind,” he adds, “that I am Will Scarlet, and therefore a Merry Man, and therefore you’ve basically been waiting to kiss me your whole life, right?”

Loren’s dart-about gaze suggests a search for escape routes. “Um…”

“I’ll do it!” a voice calls out from the audience. “Take me, Will! I love you!”

Loren squints past the lights. “My sister’s here?? Janey, sit down. You’re not—”

“Aw, let her up,” says Will, grinning brightly. “It’s all within the spirit of the show, if not the law’s letter. Lay one on me, Janes!”

An albino-blond teen barrels down the aisle and onto the stage, taking a flying leap into Will’s waiting arms. They kiss like a rom-com’s happy ending, complete with a flamboyant twirl.

“Thespians,” says Loren, eyes rolling to the rafters. “Allyn, what’s the word from your sponsor?”

Cheeks and ears gone abruptly pink, Allyn pronounces, “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment is brought to you by The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale (Outlaws of Avalon, Book 2)’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

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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.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, McCaughley girls! 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!”

#MARRIAGEofAaD: Launched, Asked and Answered

Happy Launch Day to “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”!

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Yes indeed, the second book in the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy is officially out in the world, and available via CreateSpace (paperback), Barnes & Noble (e-book), and Amazon (both). Do both Reader You and Author Me a solid by nabbing a copy. ^o^

In honor of the day, I’ve put together a fun Q&A based on this “writing ask game” spotted on Tumblr. So, newcomers to the series and old fans alike, behold: A whole host of things you didn’t even know you wanted to know about “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”!

<<<>>>

Describe the plot in 1 sentence.

If I may wax intellectual…

When budding eros comes up against problematic storge, with hyper philia running amok, it’s anyone’s guess which love will conquer all.

You: Not in Greek, please?

Me: Much love; such angst.

What’s the time period and location in which the novel takes place?

The early 21st century, in a magical island of ancient Britannia disguised as a Renaissance Faire in the American Midwest.

Pick one sight, smell, sound, feel, and taste to describe the aesthetic of your novel.

Sight: An arrow through the heart.

Smell: Assorted flowers.

Sound: An orchestral string section – with featured lute solos.

Feel: A sun-warmed breeze.

Taste: Popcorn, Chinese takeout, and mead.

#MARRIAGEofAaD Moodboard

#MARRIAGEofAaD Moodboard

How many times does the word ____ appear in the novel?

No word specified, hmm? In that case, the answer is four. An abbreviation of ‘chrysanthemums’ is spoken as an expletive four times.

Which 3+ songs would make up a playlist for the novel?

The book already includes 3 original songs: A cheery spring lovers’ ditty, a sultry jazz number, and a personal piece straight from the heart of Allyn-a-Dale.

What’s the first line of your novel?

May Ellen fought the growing urge to cry.

(For comparison, the first line of Outlaws of Avalon 1 was: “Loren fought the growing urge to panic.” Makes ya wonder who will be fighting which growing urge at Book 3’s beginning. ^^)

Which character is the best liar? Worst?

1) My kneejerk reaction is of course to say Will Scarlet, but while he’s the one most likely to have half the things out of his mouth be technically untrue, the by far better liars would be Little John and Morganne le Fey – the ones with the perfect poker faces.

2) Probably King Arthur. I don’t think the man has a properly dishonest bone in his body.

Which character swears the most? Least?

1) Will Scarlet, hands down.

2) Leila would never.

Which character is most like you? Least like you?

1) The earliest version of she who would become Loren McCaughley was a straight-up self-insert. And even now that she’s Loren for real, we share a number of traits in common – foremost, a mania for all things Robin Hood and a weakness for minstrels. I am likewise a good deal like her adorkable sister.

2) Temperament-wise, I don’t think Leila and I could be farther removed. She’s all sweet-spirited and kind and patient and incapable of seeing the worst in life. You lost me at “sweet”.

Which character would you most like to be?

I’d say Marion Hood is the most ideally situated. All of the best bits of being a Merry Man, less of the torture that comes with being a main character.

Do any characters have distinctive birthmarks/scars?

Allyn-a-Dale’s emotional scars are practically trademark.

What’s a line of dialogue you’re particularly proud of?

Arrgh, the first one that comes to mind hails from spoiler territory! A certain burn from Little John, near the end of Part Sixth. In lieu of that, have this bit from Allyn to Morganne le Fey:

“You are such a creeper.”

Which line from the novel most represents it as a whole?

Never did one so acutely yearn for discomfort as did Allyn-a-Dale.

That or,

“Even if Merlin has our manhood for this, wasn’t it bloody worth it?”

<<<>>>

Tra-la. And remember, if there’s anything else you guys want to know about “Marriage” that the novel’s text doesn’t answer for you – *points to the comments section* – you’re entirely welcome to ask. ;D

“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.”

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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!

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Bard in Blue

Less than a month ‘til the launch of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” (the Kindle edition of which is totally available for pre-order)! And in looking forward, I can’t help looking back – back to the legendary romance that inspired much of my upcoming novel. Back to perhaps my favorite chapter in a treasured telling of my number one literary outlaw. Back to the first meeting between Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood and the minstrel Allan a Dale.

allan-a-dale-tells-his-story

In homage, I’ve recorded a read-aloud video featuring a snippet from the tale. You can watch it here, on the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page. And/or you can join me in gazing at some of these awesome illustrations from my 2016 Barnes & Noble edition of “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”. I maybe / maybe not / definitely have this full-pager of a lovelorn Allen bookmarked.

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And I’m sure I don’t even have to tell you who loves this image best…

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Last but not least, allow me to remind you of the fresh spin on this old classic I’ve got coming at you in just a few short weeks:

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.

See you ‘round the greenwood!