Mo’ Men, Mo’ Merrier

It’s the 1-year anniversary of perhaps my single most personally life-changing project – Book 1 of The Outlaws of Avalon, “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”. (The Smashwords e-book of which, coincidentally, is currently 50% off!) And how better to celebrate than with the release of a related e-book – Outlaws 2.5, “Truly Great Words Never Die”!

“Easy,” says Will Scarlet. “Adding more Merry Men into the mix always makes things better. Invite us into your blog post!”

Like that wasn’t already the plan. ;D My question for you all:

Which of the vignettes in the “Truly Great Words” collection is your personal favorite, and why?

“It’s a tough call,” says Robin, “but I think ‘Ostent’ may be the most special to me. A snapshot of a moment where, although I couldn’t do everything I wished to save the world, I could do one thing to make one precious life a little brighter. *cough-ahem-sniff* …Sorry, I, ah, seem to have some Book 3 feelings in my eye…”

TGW, Ostent 01

Easy there, Hood. We’ve got ‘til October. Marion, what about you?

“Well, just about any of them that feature me spending time with my friends will please me,” says she. “So shout-out to the likes of ‘Lumming’, ‘Ludicropathetic’, and ‘Convive’. But if I can only declare one winner, I’ll give it to ‘Alderliefest’, because even if it’s only Allyn and Gawain on camera, the spirit of Merry Men community is strong within it.”

TGW, Alderliefest 01

“I do like that one,” Allyn agrees, snuggling closer to her.

Mr. Scarlet?

“Aw, man, that’s hard. I’m in like half of them!”

*does the math* Something like 64%, actually, you story hog, you.

Will beams. “Well, let’s go with ‘Ecophobia’, because it’s the first to star both me and Allyn. And everything’s better that way.”

TGW, Ecophobia 01

Allyn’s blushing face tries to hide in Marion’s shoulder. And, I mean, she’s got the smallest shoulders in the burly boys club of a band, but sure, dream big. Little John? Your favorite, please?

After a considering pause, he says, “ ‘Fallow’.”

“The poem? But you’re not even in that one,” Will says. “And neither am I!”

And your absence, says Little John’s stare, goes some way toward the pleasing quiet of the poem’s tone.

TGW, Fallow 01

It’s minstrel-written – ergo, bound to please. Speaking of minstrels, Allyn, your time is come. Which story’s your fave?

“ ‘Montivagant’,” he says, no moment’s thought required. “The last of the stories, and the last to star both me and Will.” He turns a shining smile on Scarlet. “Everything’s better that way.”

TGW, Montivagant 01

*rubs own Book 3 feelings out of own eye* I said wait ‘til October, darn it! Here, lemme bring it back with a reminder of Book 2.5’s blurb and pretty little cover:

Truly Great Words, w text 5, JPG,bestWelcome to Avalon, where truly great heroes – and words – never die.

Join the Merry Men and denizens of Camelot in a collection of flash fiction as neo-“ye olde” as a Renaissance Faire, every slice of their immortal life served up with an archaism ripe for revival – from “accismus” to “Weltschmerz”, with plenty of laughs in between.

Come for the language lesson, stay for the Will Scarlet shenanigans, along with a facet or two of your Fey isle friends that you’ve never seen before.

What about you, readers? Do YOU have a favorite story from “Truly Great Words”? Let me know in the comments – or, better yet, in a review on Amazon (where the book awaits you for just 99 cents!), Goodreads, your blog or social media pages, etc.!

#MARRIAGEofAaD: Launched, Asked and Answered

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

marriage-cover-final-front

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:

readane-bookweek_lose-yourself

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!

The Bloopers of Allyn-a-Dale

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”s Launch Week+ is nearing its end! Only this post and one last Kiss & Tell interview to go, at which time I’ll announce the winners of my Rafflecopter giveaway. So if you want your best chance at one of the prizes on offer (including a Merry Men-signed map of Avalon Faire, a tote bag from my Society6 store, a paperback copy of Tirzah Duncan’s “Grace the Mace”, or a one-of-a-kind bookmark), you’ll get those entries in before Friday!

Now, onto today’s hurrah. As I certainly hope you all know by now, “Ballad” is a book, not a movie. And while I’ll take a book over a movie 9 days out of 10, there is one advantage that filmed media have over the printed word:

Blooper reels.

I mean, just imagine how funny it would be to have cut footage of the Merry Men ‘n’ ‘em goofing up their performance of the story!

Or, wait a minute… We totally CAN imagine that! So hey, for today’s post, what say we all just suspend our disbelief for a moment and see what happens “on set”…

Director Will

<<<>>>

Overture, Take 1

Marion’s full lips turned downward in disapproval. The place had been closed to guests for hours. All nonresidents should have been long gone, not loitering around the Faire, and certainly not wandering so deep into Sherwood.

Taking hold of the knife at her hip, she moved away from her half-concealed position and made her presence known.

“Make no sudden movements, please,” she requested, polite but firm, and silently struggling to remove the knife from its sheath. Blast the props department — why wouldn’t the wretched blade come loose? The young man — not yet out of his teens, at first guess — obediently froze.

“Thank you,” Marion said — and, giving up the lost cause of drawing the knife, improvised, “And so you know, I can menace you just as well with my bare hands and razor wit, so take care.”

Quoth the young man, distinctly over-solemn, “No doubt.”

The sniggering author called, “Cut!

<<<>>>

Stanza Three, Take 4

“Aquinore,” the cold one said, moving in the blink of an eye to loom over Allyn-a-Dale. “Wind of the North.” He held out a hand which Allyn did not dare refuse to meet, even though, in the excruciating seconds before the mutual touch was over, he feared with a musician’s panic that his own hand was in danger of freezing right off.

“Austeryn.” The mist-mantled wind gusted smoothly up next. “Wind of the South.” When this touch of greeting ended, to Allyn’s profound relief, his hand felt a little thawed, albeit a great deal wetter.

“Euro—” KRA-BOOM!

“Cut!” cried the author. “Euroval, I told you: Just the hand-clasp, right now. We have to add the lightning and thunder in edits, or you’ll blow out the cameras and mics!”

The Wind of the East scowled. “How is that fair? My brothers got to—”

“Affect the temperature and humidity? Yeah, not the same. Kindly restrain your powerful presence in the next take, alright? From the top of the intros, people. Places!”

<<<>>>

Stanza Four, Take 2

Gawain opened the door wider, admitting another man dressed in the same metal underclothes and crested tunic. The second man stood imposingly tall (compared to all save Little John), his face cool and proud, his sweep of hair an astonishing, if muted, shade of silver-gold. In his hands, he bore an object of some great length enveloped in a purple cloth. This he strode forward to offer up to King Arthur, who stepped down from his elevated seat to remove the cloth, and withdrew from its finely wrought scabbard of golden leather— I say, and withdrew… (psst, Arthur – what’s the trouble?)

Arthur’s brows knitted in vexation. “Sorry, just… *grunts* …can draw the sword from a stone, but not its own scabbard… There we go!” he sighed as the magnificent blade pulled free at last. “Sheesh, are we to have nothing but scabbard troubles in this production?”

Merlin’s ironic look for the camera could’ve come straight out of “The Office”.

<<<>>>

Stanza Five, Take 7

Will led Allyn into the quaintly congested interior of a bookseller’s shop, reasoning to himself that to do so didn’t count as spilling secrets. If anything, it was a cover-up, Avalon-style.

“Behold,” he said, the sweep of his hand sending a shelf-top display crashing to the floor. Jumps and cries of startlement all around, plus an explosive curse from Will Scarlet. “Of all the places to stack a bunch of books …Ahem, anyway.”

A slightly less extravagant gesture indicated the clutter at his feet.  “Novels. Picture books. Coloring boo— Allyn, leave those there! This is still usable! Everybody just carry on like my klutz attack was scripted. Lord knows they usually are…”

“As could my act of tidiness have been scripted,” said Allyn, exasperated, “if you hadn’t said that.”

Will opened his mouth. Closed it. Hung his head. Grumbled a few more words his author wasn’t about to print outright and knelt to help Allyn gather up the books for the next take.

<<<>>>

Stanza Eleven, Take 1

“Oh! There they are!” said Marion, half-risen from her chair. Through the window could be seen the minivan Robin had selected, moving only semi-erratically up alongside the front of the bakery. …and which then just kept on going, right out of frame and beyond. The Merry Men inside the donut shop exchanged glances.

“Wasn’t he supposed to stop and pick us up?” said Marion.

“Yes,” said Robin. “Yes, he was.”

Allyn pointed out, “I did suggest a stunt double do the actual driving.”

“Yes. Yes, you did.”

“Do you think Will even knows where the brake pedal is?”

“No,” Robin said into the hand pressed over his face. “No, I don’t.”

Marion nodded slowly, eyes on the various personnel hastening after the runaway van. “Okey-dokey, then.”

<<<>>>

Stanza Fifteen, Take 3

“…Then, of course, there’s the radio.”

“And what does that do?” Allyn asked.

Will’s eyebrows bowed up. “What, didn’t you know? Radios play music.”

The magic word. “Music? They do?”

“Yep. News shows and sports and things, too, of course, but mostly music. Go on — why don’t you see if you can find a little something to drive by?”

Buzzing with anticipation, Allyn ran his fingers over the hodgepodge of buttons, finally settling on and gingerly pressing the one marked “power.” At once, sections of the system lit up in red and blue-green, and a blast of sound filled the minivan’s interior:

“NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP,

NEVER GONNA LET YOU DOWN,

NEVER GONNA RUN AROUND AND DESERT YOU…”

“No…” Will’s gasp was filled with horror and delight in equal measure. “Who did this?!

Allyn’s wide eyes were all alarm. “What’s happening?”

In the seats behind them, the wickedly laughing Hoods exchanged high-fives, crowing, “#Rickrolled!”

<<<>>>

Ahhh, what could have been! But happily, the first Outlaws of Avalon novel is full of laughs as-is – lauded as “fun, humorous” and “thoroughly delightful”, even without a menu full of special features.

Though really… isn’t a special features menu kind of what this Launch Week+ has been? ;D

<<<>>>

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

How many wizards does it take to change a light bulb?

Will Scarlet, adopting a glowering gray drawl: “The light bulb will change when it’s meant to.”