A “Ballad” Tour of Bristol

For the first time in a handful of years, the Bristol Renaissance Faire has a bookshop again. This excited me for two reasons.

1 – Bookshop! ‘Nough said!

2 – This presented a possibility that, just maybe, I could see my beautiful book baby, “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, sold in the Ren Faire that had inspired it.

Well, I spoke to the shopkeeper, and she seemed favorably impressed by my nerve in pitching the idea. But alas, the deal didn’t go through – which, as one might expect, did quite a number with my depression for several black-and-blue days.

However, a voice that sounded distinctly like my Robin Hood’s afterword spoke in my head, just because you can’t sell the book in Bristol yet, that doesn’t mean “Ballad” can’t visit its mother Faire.

And, as Robin Hood-esque voices often are, it was right.

Thus did my most recent trip to Bristol center around a photo project for my personal satisfaction – the best results of which I’m happy to share with you all. Come, readers! Let us away to the Faire!

11 - Map

Though Bristol’s not quite Avalon Faire, one has only to compare their maps to see they share a number of features in common. And speaking of maps…

04 - Cartographer

…Here he is – the talent behind the Avalon Faire map, the Cartographer of the Cosmos himself – Jesse Kennedy! (A most EXCELLENT chap. If you ever get the chance to give him your business, then do!)

01 -Archery

Of course my Robin Hood book had to stop by the archery games.

09 - Joust

And what’s a trip to the Renaissance Faire without a lively joust?

13 - Tavern

Fun fact! I had this building, Tuscany Tavern, vaguely in mind when I wrote this bit of “Ballad”:

For on the steps leading up to a pub on a low rise of hill, there stood Robin Hood, and Little John, too. And perched on the rail above them, a notably smaller young man in deep, vivid blue, holding a lute.

And speaking of lutes…

08 - Jester

…This sculpture, called The Jester, was of course only too delighted to welcome “Ballad” home.

10 - Lake

Bristol’s Lake Elizabeth; the inspiration behind Avalon’s Lake Vivienne. Also the location of an extraordinary fight cast performance, my first year as a Towne Crier – one which further inspired a certain scene in Outlaws 3, “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”. (Coming this fall!)

12 - Nook

More inspiration! This little nook nestled between shops is behind the following passage from Book 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”:

Will Scarlet cornered Allyn in one of the minstrel’s favored haunts. An unobtrusive courtyard tucked between two vendors’ buildings, it boasted a prettily carved stone bench by either wall, a trellis roof hung with ivy, and a floor of grass and wildflowers growing in the generous spaces between handcrafted ceramic tiles. Like everything to be seen, heard, and felt in the Faerie Glade, the nook was gently enchanting — made even more so whenever Allyn chose it as the backdrop for a tune upon his lute.

And speaking of the Faerie Glade…

07 - Fairie Glen

…The Bristol equivalent is called the Fairie Glen, and boasts this charming display which I’m sure the world’s smallest Fey would find most inviting.

It all goes to show that, even in a real-world Renaissance Faire…

02 - Avalon

…There are pieces of Avalon everywhere. ❤

For more “Ballad” in Bristol shots not pictured here, keep your eye on the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page; I’ll be posting a photo album shortly. And while it’s still a bummer that you can’t get copies of my Outlaws books in Bristol’s bookshop, they are ever awaiting you via my website – including the newly released Outlaws 2.5, “Truly Great Words Never Die”, and the “Ballad” e-book that’s half-price on Smashwords through the end of July. See you ‘round the Ren Faire!

Shooting Hood in the Wood

Outlaws of Avalon Banner

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

And after a few minutes knocking my head against the blank, white wall of the page, trying to figure out how I wanted to introduce this post and its gallery of images, I came to an inspired remembrance: That sometimes, that’s what bards are for.

So I’m stepping aside ‘til after the main event. Take it away, Allyn-a-Dale!

<<<>>>

An author with a love of tales –

Particularly those retold

About a certain outlaw

And his band merry and bold –

Herself betook and several books

Into the German wood,

To shoot (with camera, not a bow)

A show of Robin Hood.

McKinley 04

Among the many models,

An especial favorite:

A YA reimagining

By another Robin writ.

Cody 02

A new addition to her hoard,

Centered around a Will;

A little younger than her taste,

But she enjoyed it still.

Donald 02

Here, Angus Donald’s grimmer take,

Narrated by myself.

(And purchased, ere the shop passed on,

From a Bristol Ren Faire shelf!)

Lawhead 02

Another tale of Scarlet –

Second in a trilogy

That lends a sort of Celtic air

To Hood’s mythology.

Old Ballads 02

A chance find, and a happy one,

Among used books for sale.

Old ballads – many of Robin Hood;

One even with “Allin a Dale”!

Pyle 05

No such tribute’s complete, says she,

Without a nod to Pyle,

Seen here reposed upon a tree

In harmonizing style.

Shipley 04.2

And last of all, but far from least,

The author’s own addition:

A brand new ballad joins its tune

To the honored Hood’s tradition.

<<<>>>

Beautifully told, thank you, Allyn! There are a few more book-in-the-woods shots where these came from, which will most likely find themselves on display on the Outlaws of Avalon Tumblr.

On that subject, don’t forget that following the Outlaws Tumblr is but one of several ways you can enter into my ongoing Rafflecopter giveaway! I certainly hope you’ll take advantage by some means or another; there’s cool stuff to win!

And if you haven’t yet, now’s a great time to drop everything and purchase your copy of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”! (Via Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive…Take your pick!) Or, if you’ve already read the book, leave a review! Both are not only ways to earn giveaway points, but to fill an author’s sails with a blessed breeze. ❤

<<<>>>

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

AVAILABLE NOW!

*Bonus*: #HypotheticalFAQs

What if robin hood were a woman?

Marion raises a brow. “She might have mentioned that before our wedding.”

Aloha, Comfort Zone

Hawaii 01I’ve recently returned from a trip to Hawai’i. My sister and I flew down to Maui to visit our uncle (MASSIVE THANKS FOR INVITING US, dude!), and if I had to summarize the whole experience in a single word, I believe I would choose… “uncomfortable”.

Hold up! That sounds worse than I mean it. Let me elucidate.

Y’know what’s not comfy? Air travel.

Airports stress me out. The crowds and the busyness. The gazillion signs everywhere and the blaring loud-speaker announcements (for me? Not for me? Do I have to try to figure out what they’re saying? Am I doomed?). The sitting around, waiting to stand around, lined up so I can sit for hours longer in a cramped economy seat on a plane that might (probably won’t, but might) crash and kill me. Also, the struggle [between trying to stay hydrated at flight altitudes and not peeing yourself while waiting for an onboard bathroom to open up] is real. Plus Dianne and I neglected to bring travel snacks, so… that was dumb. But we survived, with a little help from Hangman and charades.

Why not rename it Uncomfortable Beach?

I could honestly get into the idea of using HAZMAT suits as everyday-wear. The world is gross, and I prefer to touch it as little as possible. But you can’t live like that on the many and varied beaches of Maui. Sand calls for sandals – or, just as often, for bare feet. It’s the only way to play with the opalescent waves that act all coy ‘til you’re close enough to drench up to the hips.

People sunbathe for comfort??

For some, “vacation” conjures up an image of lounging on a sunny shore doing absolutely nothing. I’ve never done that before. Now I’ve done it for hours. It was… weird. Getting nothing done. Ignoring any kind of to-do list. Anti-productivity. It should’ve been my kryptonite. Instead, I watched the ever-changing water, and let my mind wander with no clear objective, and startled up straight when Dianne and I spotted what we’re pretty sure was a sea turtle, riding under a wave. We also got painfully sunburnt, ‘cause sunscreen, girls. Use it.

“Adventure” and “comfort” are not synonyms. (Unless you’re Gant-o’-the-Lute.)

IMG_2239b

Maui is not all beaches.

It’s also mountains under a near-constant cap of hazy clouds, periwinkle shadows in the morning mist, or with and a peach-and-lavender twilight behind them.

Big colorful blooms bursting from every bush – hibiscus, African violets (which are orange, of all colors), and blossoms that serve as harbingers of mangoes.

A hundred kinds of greenery – grass and fronds, leaves and needles, trees that twist or reach up tall and straight or look like they’ve got to be either painted or made of playdough.

And hilariously enough, chickens roaming everywhere. Crowing through the forests. Wandering through backyards and way-out-there wilderness. Quite often, crossing the road. (Your guess as to why is as good as mine.)

Over the course of three days, unser Onkel* drove us all over the island. (* German; “our uncle”.) Along the shore, up mountainsides, through a bit of a national park.  We clambered over rocks and watched for whales and kept cool with shaved ice – a local treat that puts snow cones to shame. We cruised the highway with the windows down, island music bouncing from the radio as we crossed a volcanic wasteland. We hiked treacherous paths to overlook hidden coves of red sand or spectacular cliff-side ocean vistas.

Sometimes a sight was such a special kind of gorgeous that it kind of hurt my heart. My photos couldn’t do them justice. I hope my memory will.

IMG_2272b

Nothing comfortable about putting me behind the wheel!

So Dianne and I could explore on our own time, the uncle rented us a car. Dianne, alas, is not yet 25 – the minimum age to drive a rental in this country. That meant the task fell to me: The Shipley voted Least Likely to Be Driving, Because No Thank You. But we weren’t about to let our uncle’s generosity go to waste, so there I was, trying to navigate Maui’s roads of insanity.

Hawaii 03

Why do these street names all look alike? Maybe because you can’t actually read the sign until you’ve almost passed it. Of course, one street can have three or four names, depending on which stretch of the road you’re on; guess you should’ve made that left turn at Albuquerque.

Even with Dianne’s eyes glued to the map on her phone, we got lost as often as we didn’t.

IMG_2435, etc

We also figured out routes to a couple of cool touristy areas, where we could browse potential gifts for our family, and Dianne could get a bangin’ new tattoo, and we could eat perfect ice cream beneath a banyan tree that spread for a block. We made our way to a spot where the waves crash up through a hole in the ground. We somehow survived miles and miles of twisted mountain roads that liked to narrow to one lane with a rock wall on one side and a sheer drop on the other, just in time for traffic coming the other way around a blind curve.

Heaven and hell on a single island. I’m shocked to be alive. Mahalo*, Lord.

(*Hawaiian; “thanks”.)

“Comfortable”s not the word for a night beach.

Because we could, we also drove to a nearby beach after sunset.

Walking the shadowed shore felt illicit, even though we were hardly the only ones out there. The water seemed a dark and formless thing – a place for ghost ships and monsters of myth. We didn’t dare anymore to get close enough to let the waves touch us. Instead, we sat on a lifeguard station abandoned for the day.

Listened to the surf’s stage whispers.

Tipped our heads back to gaze at the stars.

Sang a melancholy medley at the bedazzled sky.

Never comfortable. Better than.

^ Hawai’i in a coconut shell.

Reads and Trees (Love-a-Thon 2016, Mini-Challenge)

LoveAThon 2016

I’m back with more Love-a-Thon fun! This time, a mini-challenge:

We all love books, but there are other things we’re passionate about too! Mash-up a non-bookish hobby/passion/talent/fandom with your bookish life. Do it through photos, art, videos, etc. Get as creative as you’d like!

If there’s one thing I love the way I love books – one thing that provides me a soul-nourishing escape the way they do – it’s the forest. So for this post, I trawled Tumblr for images combining the bibliophilic with the woodsy. Here are some of my favorite finds. Enjoy!

zzForest7

zzForest12

zzForest15

*

Photo credits to:

http://bibliowitch.tumblr.com/post/138683408460/went-hiking-today-and-of-course-took-my-book-along

http://evenings-inside.tumblr.com/post/138309450171

http://koffeebook.co.vu/post/139014464659

http://toxicsugarcubes.tumblr.com/post/138402323645

http://untrustworthyreader.tumblr.com/post/139109186520/new-on-my-reading-list

http://bitingalaxy.tumblr.com/post/138570027598

https://matches-inthe-glitter.tumblr.com/post/138487505980/fairy-tale-aesthetic

http://let-theoceandrain.tumblr.com/post/139042202810/you-are-nature

http://ice-queen-of-hell.tumblr.com/post/138629097615/arbores-loqui-latine-the-trees-speak-latin

http://perdida-entre-las-palabras.tumblr.com/post/139056247886

http://bogotaotonal.tumblr.com/post/138874496602/leyendo-en-el-parque-foto-por-bogotaotonal

http://ther-happy.tumblr.com/post/138484758914/each-time-you-read-a-book-a-tree-smiles-knowing

http://supernaturalshadowplay.tumblr.com/post/138807327396/bookish-shadow-playing-i-took-a-break-from

http://pollyandbooks.tumblr.com/post/138584951107/dreams-of-japan-by-shima-on-flickr

http://alittlebookblog.tumblr.com/post/137891047959/papercutpages-the-woods-are-lovely-dark-and

http://insidethebookreader.tumblr.com/post/132299347054

Any of you know of more gorgeous photos in this vein? Throw ‘em at me in the comments; I will gladly gaze. ^o^

Open Journal: River Cruisin’ Europe

I promised my loyal readers (and whatever random people happen to drop by the blog) that I would eventually tell all about my magnificent river cruise with Tirzah from Amsterdam to Budapest.

But I don’t wanna.

(Aboard ship and in Amsterdam, Netherlands)

The whole thing was just too amazing. Too grand. Too gorgeously surreal. Trying to write it down would be like trying to get last night’s dream on the page upon waking. Maybe I’d capture some of the facts, but it would only further fuzz the memories of the truth – turn what was so rich in the moment into a dry, tired record I’d be totally over chronicling halfway through.

(Kinderdijk, Netherlands)

So I’m not going to bother with a detailed narrative. Can’t do it justice, not gonna try. Instead, I’ll talk impressions. Also – *gestures throughout the post* – there will be pics.

(Cologne, Germany)

1 = Gant-o’-the-Lute has the right idea. I made the questionable decision to travel with two suitcases, a backpack, a lute in a case in a box… and none of the strapping men in my head to manage it all for me. I should’ve taken a page out of my minstrel’s book: Just whatever clothes I was wearing, and the lute strapped to my back. It would have made the nightmare of train connections at the end of the trip a lot easier, lemme tell you.

(Marksburg Castle in Koblenz, Germany)

2 = There are actually competent people in this world, and their prince was our program director. I don’t tend to trust people any farther than I can throw them. Humans have a terrible habit of letting me down. And frankly, the lack of solid communication during the registration process for my trip with Viking River Cruises left me none too reassured as to the quality of the hands into which I was placing myself for two weeks.

But our ship’s program director – a German fellow by the name of Oliver – was an absolute dream.

(Miltenberg, Germany)

His manner was just so… on top of it. Steady and punctual and a brilliant blend of good-humored and no-nonsense. And not only did he keep us regularly informed regarding our onboard schedules and onshore excursions, but when we had to change ships (twice) due to impassably low water levels (rainfall had been scant for some while, along the river route), he made the transition so smooth that we didn’t have to do anything but make sure our bags were packed – he and his people took care of the rest while we sightsaw on land.

The man made me feel secure. Which I never feel.

Really, my only complaint is that he’s already got a fiancée.

IMG_1067

(Würzburg, Germany)

3 = Cruises are a great place to meet the elderly. And a terrible place to avoid them.

(Bamberg, Germany)

4 = Apparently, Tirzah and I come off like a lesbian couple. Was it her green hair? The way we finish each other’s sandwiches sentences? Our tendency to hold hands when we are particularly delighted or I’m in need of comfort while slogging through a depressive slump? There’s no telling. All I know is, the hordes of senior citizens were continually surprised to learn that Tirzah has a husband. Who is not me. Heck, I’m not sure all of them believed us. Fortunately, I didn’t notice us suffering any discrimination based on the ship-wide assumption, so… good on ya for that, yester-generation.

(Nuremberg, Germany)

5 = So, that’s what it’s like to be rich. I’ve written royalty and gazillionaires. I’ve seen movies featuring the likes of Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, and Daddy Warbucks. I can well enough imagine the kind of luxury people like that experience on a daily basis. But I’ve never lived it.

(Shärding, Austria)

Three gourmet meals a day. Attendants standing by to hand you flutes of champagne and warm freshening towels when you return from an intimate Mozart concert in a palace in Vienna. (Yes. We did that.) I just… what even is that life?? And how many books do I have to sell before I can afford to do it again?

(Passau, Germany)

6 = I finally know what a lock is. Not the sort that comes with a key, or a tendril of hair. The locks of rivers and canals. I’d heard of them while proofreading J.D. Spero’s “Forte, but I couldn’t visualize what they were. Now I know: The boat goes in the narrow passage, the gates close behind, the water fills in and raises (or lowers) the boat to the level of the river on the other side, then onward it sails. Our ship passed through several such locks over the course of our journey. It was cool to watch.

(Melk Abbey in Melk, Austria and on the river through the Wachau Valley)

7 = The Baroque aesthetic was insane. Check out the Prince-Bishop’s palace in Würzburg, sometime. See if you can make it past the front stairs without your jaw hitting the floor from opulence overwhelm. It’s really just as well they don’t allow photographs in there; my poor little iPod and I couldn’t have done even a fraction of the place justice.

(Vienna, Austria)

8 = Europe is bae. I shall never tire of castles and cathedrals. I’ll swear the growing greens are greener, the air more delicious, the very cobblestones somehow awash with a magic rarely seen in the U.S. of A. I don’t know where, and I don’t know when, but my home is somewhere on this continent. And I’m closer to finding it than ever before.

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(Budapest, Hungary – end of the line)

Pics ‘Cause It Had to Happen

By rights, this post should be a thousand words, but I’ll wrap it up for you in a few hundred.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve found a new toy.

PhotoFunia

The gist of PhotoFunia.com is simple. Step 1, upload pics into a wide variety of templates. Step 2, enjoy the effect!

I happened upon an image a friend had created with this site, and to understate matters, I was inspired.

(“Five Paintings” effect)

(“Five Paintings” effect) Left to right, top row: Wilbur, Lucianíel, and Yves; bottom row, Abishan and Uri.

Apologies to the pun police, but seriously. Once I saw the gallery templates, I 100% had to create a piece with the main cast of INSPIRED framed on a museum wall. If you’ve read the novel, you know why. Ideally, I would have used actual photos of the characters, but since fictional folk tend to be tricky to capture on camera, I went with shots from my INSPIRED photo shoot instead.

(“National Gallery of Art” effect) Yves had to get his own wing, because reasons. Again, readers will know.

(“National Gallery of Art” effect) Yves had to get his own wing, because reasons. Again, readers will know.

(“Library” effect) And how could I not pay homage to Lucianíel and the late Jean St. John?

(“Library” effect) And how could I not pay homage to Lucianíel and the late Jean St. John?

So much for the necessities. But I figured, why stop there? So I kept playing around. Plugging my novel’s cover into the “Sidewalk” effect facilitated a pleasant delusion of big-time fame.

An author can dream!

An author can dream!

And since my short story in the “Toll of Another Bell” fantasy anthology drops Heartsinger and Row in the middle of London, using the book’s cover in the “London Calling” effect was another case of “couldn’t not”.

PhotoFunia-Toll in London

Naturally, it was only a matter of time before Will Scarlet demanded in on the act. Though my “Outlaws of Avalon” novels are still a while from publication, he’s never seen that as a valid reason not to include him when there’s face time to be had. Long story short (and with a straight-up obvious ending), the man got what he wanted*.

(“Wanted” effect) Of course, if Will Scarlet designed his own wanted poster, it would read more like: “WANTED. By absolutely everyone. So badly, it hurts.”

(“Wanted” effect) Of course, if Will Scarlet designed his own wanted poster, it would read more like: “WANTED. By absolutely everyone. So badly, it hurts.”

*And the puns just keep on coming.

Threw in one for Allyn-a-Dale, too, with the “Old Book” effect, because once again, the perfection was not to be resisted.

PhotoFunia-Allyn's in the Book

So what do you think, gang? Which gussied-up pic was your fave? ^^ And hey, if you end up putting together some cool PhotoFunia images of your own, I’d love to see ‘em!

Better Fashionably Late Than Never

Two things today, Ever On Wordians!

Thing the first: I’ve signed on at the last minute to join the blog blast for Shadow of the Last Men (Next Man Saga #1)” by J.M. Salyards, currently re-releasing through Xchyler Publishing. So behold the trailer!

SoLM_Available_large

J.M. Salyards, About the Author Graphic

For info on the hoopla surrounding the book’s relaunch (did I see something about a giveaway? ^^), check out Xchyler Pub’s homepage.

<<<>>>

Thing the second: It’s Novel Fashion Week 2014! (For real, this time, not like last month’s little tease.)

*Cues up vid to get you pumped, ‘cause you are getting ALL the trailers today*

Novel Fashion Week Vid Still

No, I’m afraid you can’t click the image to make the vid play, this time around. That’s what the link /above/ the pic is for. Sorry for any confusion; I’m technologically lame.

Like I said at the top of August, I’m joining in the event (as hosted by the Kindred Dreamheart blog with a project of Lucianíel-caliber inspiration: A journal entry guest post by INSPIRED leading lady Annabelle Iole Gray chronicling her adventure in cosplaying the widely-varied personal styles of her characters and muse. The super-fun part? The post comes with photos of me cosplaying as Annabelle cosplaying as her characters.

You got to see a great sampling of the shots in my first “INSPIRED Days” post and in my website’s art gallery. Now you can read the Annabelle commentary that goes with it – as well as enter a giveaway in which you can win an exclusive, created-special-for-this-event set of INSPIRED fashion bookmarks, ooh-ah! – by checking out the full post here!

I only made one batch, guys. May the luckiest son/daughter of a gun take all!

I only made one batch, guys. May the luckiest son/daughter of a gun take all!

Stay stylish, readers.

~ Danielle