Books I’ve Read (and My Characters Recommend) in 2017

As of this post’s drafting, I’ve read* 73 books** this year.

*(or listened to on audio)

**(not counting shorts stories, or the bits of flash fiction I wrote myself, or the draft of Part 2 of #CamelotWIP, or the “Inspired” novels I’ve reread in editorial prep for their release next March…)

Do I remember all of them? No. Have I reviewed all of them? Hardly. Weren’t there a couple of other books I totally told myself I’d read but have yet to get around to? Why, yes. But ignoring all that, I still call this a win of a year for reading. And some of the people in my head got to benefit from the words I consumed as well.

Since I plan to give my life-in-upheaval a break by not blogging during December (apart from that one post I’mma schedule for the first), now’s the time if ever there was to do a recap post of sorts.

I’m not gonna do one, though. My characters are.

Please welcome Will Scarlet, Allyn-a-Dale, Loren McCaughley and Sir Bedivere (all of Outlaws of Avalon fame), and Edgwyn Wyle (from the Wilderhark Tales)! Which books would y’all like to spotlight?

Will Scarlet’s top pick = “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” (Mackenzi Lee)

Character Rec'd - Will

“This was SUCH A ROMP, you guys! I wanted Danielle to grab it for me the moment I heard the premise – which she couldn’t actually do, since the book wasn’t even out yet at the time, but it showed up at the library eventually! Monty (the main character, yo) is just ENTIRELY ME. Y’know, if I’d been born in 18th-century England to an awful father, as opposed to 12th-century England to a father I have no memory of. So yeah. This book. My fave. Hands down.”

Honorable mention(s) = “The Alloy of Law” / “Shadows of Self” (Brandon Sanderson)

“Also entirely me: Wayne. Y’know, if I were a cheerful kleptomaniac whose brilliant brain makes no sense. Which I am. So obviously I love him. He is the best. Also, Sanderson’s Mistborn books are just awesome. Amazing world-building. Plots like whoa. And did I mention Wayne. We’ve still gotta get our hands on the next book in the series, though, so NOBODY SPOIL IT.”

Allyn-a-Dale’s top pick = “The Hearts We Sold” (Emily Lloyd-Jones)

Character Rec'd - Allyn

“A girl made desperate from abuse sells her heart to an enigmatic demon, meaning she’s now under contract to battle interdimensional portals and the creatures that lurk within. #Relatable The love interest was nice. The narrative voice was casually decent. I liked the parts that hurt.”

Honorable mention(s) = “A Conjuring of Light” (V.E. Schwab) / “Strange the Dreamer” (Laini Taylor)

“More pain! ^o^ At least one of these made Danielle cry; I don’t recall whether the other did, too, or if she only ached. And sorry-not-sorry, but after everything she put me through in my last book, she owes me this means of catharsis.”

Loren McCaughley’s top pick = “Robin Hood” (J. Walker McSpadden)

Character Rec'd - Loren

“Speaking as someone who knows her way around a classic Robin Hood novel, I felt this version was particularly enjoyable. Like, up there with Howard Pyle’s; definitely more fun than Roger Lancelyn Green’s. (We’ll see how it stacks up against Henry Gilbert’s when we get there. Fingers crossed we start reading it on the plane when Danielle leaves for California!) If you’re a fellow Sherwood junkie, do it.”

Honorable mention(s) = “Remnants” (Stacy Xavier)

“Yeah, okay, this and ‘Ivanhoe’ were the titles that Danielle was going to read this month, but then… didn’t?? And both of them have Robin Hood in them, so I’m less than overjoyed at the holdup. But she’ll definitely make a point of reading ‘Remnants’ eventually, because it’s a Hood retelling, inspired by a Hood photo shoot she was in, written by a fellow Bristol Renaissance Faire cast member. In other words, how could she not?”

(Related note: There’s a giveaway for this book going on right now. Just sayin’.)

Sir Bedivere’s top pick = “The Fall of Arthur” (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Character Rec'd - Bedivere

“Vexingly, the poem isn’t even finished, so the book’s padded out with the author’s son’s speculations and analyses and other stuff that is not the father of modern fantasy waxing lyrical on my king’s demise. Still, speaking for the Camelot demographic of Avalon Faire, if it’s relevant to the lives we lost, we’re reading it. And this was an interesting take on it all, if incomplete. It left my soul wanting, and isn’t that just what thinking on our fallen kingdom’s all about?”

Honorable mention(s) = “Yvain, the Knight of the Lion” (M.T. Anderson and Andrea Offermann)

“Yippee, more Camelot – this time in graphic novel form. Arthur was kind of worthless in this one, as were… wow, pretty much all the men, really. Sorry, damsels and dames, you deserved better. But the lion was on his A-game, the story was about on par for a medieval ballad, and the illustrations made things worthwhile.”

And speaking of Wyles: Edgwyn, take us home!

Edgwyn Wyle’s top pick = “Murder, Magic, and What We Wore” (Kelly Jones)

Character Rec'd - Edgwyn

“A Regency-era spy novel with a focus on fashion! As a tailor, I was very much drawn to main character Annis’s attention to one’s attire and its making. And then – (this is in the book’s blurb, right? It’s not spoiling to speak of it? Ah, good) – she discovers she has a magical sewing talent! Imagine my delight. ^_^ I was easily enough able to predict most of the plot twists, but it was good fluffy fun, for all that.”

Honorable mention(s) = “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” (Danielle E. Shipley)

“This late in the year, Danielle’s mostly forgotten she released this novel back in early spring. But that’s in part why she keeps me around: To remember things for her. Thus do I recall this charming love story – a fine match for my fairytale heart. She’s never sure which book in the Outlaws trilogy to name as her favorite, but mine is without a doubt this one.”

Awwwww, thanks, Edg! And thanks to you all, for sharing your literary opinions.

How about YOU, readers? Which tales have filled your year, so far? What do you think you’ll read next? Discuss in the comments!

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!

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.

“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!”

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.

allan-a-dale-lieth-beside-the-fountain

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

a-stranger-in-scarlet

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!

Cover Reveal: Outlaws of Avalon 2

marriage-cover-sneak-peek-1

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

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

There’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.

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

“Villain!” cried Sir Liam.

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

“Starting with this idea?” said Allyn.

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

Here it is.

Front!…

marriage-cover-final-front

…And full spread!

marriage-cover-final-full

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

Full novel release = coming in March, 2017!

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving Week, everyone!

Will He, Nill He (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?”

“It’s—” Allyn breaks off, scowling at his notes. “Oh, for pity’s sake.”

“What?”

“‘Outlaw, Rennie, general life enthusiast. Lord, I’m sexy’? That’s your bio from the Stranger Than Truth Club Minutes! You can’t interview yourself, Will!”

Will’s brows rise with a distinct lack of unconcern. “Why not? The rest of the Merry Men got interviews. Fair’s only fair. Tell you what, though – if it’ll untwist your hose some, I’ll let you ask the questions. Deal?”

Allyn regards him warily. “Questions of my own devising?”

“As it please you.”

“All right, then.”

Will blithely bounds across to the guest seat, Allyn taking his place. Pulling up a smile, the lovely minstrel assistant-turned-host greets, “Welcome, Will Scarlet! So glad you were open to reasonable alternatives. First things first – why do you think readers should embrace ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’? Apart from the fact that you’re in it.”

“Because I’m in—! …Oh. In that case, because,” Will rallies, “it’s all kinds of fun!” Counting off on his fingers, he lists, “We’ve got the Ren Faire kind, the road trip kind, the portal fantasy kind, the crazy old wizard trying to run an entertainment business on a faerie island smackdab in modern Midwestern America kind – and that’s a kind you just don’t see enough of these days, IMO. And of course, to quote my dear cousin Robin, ‘The Merry Men make everything fun.’”

“Or die trying,” Allyn observes. “What think you of the story’s underlying premise: Robin and company dead, only to return to life in a 21st-century Avalon?”

Will’s smile stretches and sparkles to an alarming degree. “I think it’s bloody insane. But an entirely original addition to the Robin Hood canon, as far as I’ve encountered. Which is good! I love a retelling based in medieval England as much as the next fan, but there’s only so much a writer can feasibly give us to do, in that setting. Whereas if you yank us a few hundred years into the future and expose us to all the wonders of the Information Age…”

“…Which Merlin, in large part, refuses to do…”

The manic smile drops in frustration. “Ugh, I know, he’s the worst. It’s like— you ever watch Disney’s ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’? Well, not to vilify the guy, but Merlin’s a Frollo whose Bible’s the ballads of yester-Britain, and I am a Quasimodo with the radiant good looks of Phoebus, singing to gargoyles about how I need to get the hell out of this cathedral prison and LIVE.”

Allyn blinks. “Father says he’ll accept that analogy if he gets to play Clopin.”

“Oh, for sure. And Esmeralda’s all yours, if you want her. You’re legit part-gypsy, right?”

“One, that’s not politically correct terminology. Two, as far as my world’s ethnicities qualify, yes I am. Three, leaving the Disney crossover alone now, would you say our debut novel does your character justice?”

“Pfft, Lord, no,” Will laughs. “There’s no fitting all of me into one book. That’s literally why it ended up being a trilogy: We needed more storylines to make room for all of our character development! Yours and mine, predominantly, though we get to go deeper with our other bandmates, too. But as far as an introductory tale goes, ‘Ballad’ does well for itself. You get the shiny surface me, as well as important glimpses into the mess I shoved into the closet when I heard guests were coming over. Never you worry,” he says with a wink. “I don’t stay closeted long.”

“On that note,” says Allyn, “since you will not be kissing me…”

“WHAT?! No, come on, you have to make the offer! It’s the title of the show, for crying out loud!”

The minstrel wags a finger. “Allyn’s in the host chair, Allyn makes the rules. So tell me: What is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious Scarlet-centric secret?”

Will’s glum expression brightens. “Scarlet-centric?”

Allyn reaches over to pat Will’s knee. “There, you see? I’m not so cruel. No future book spoilers, though.”

“Right. A Scarlet secret, hmm? This is tough, since I tend to just blab everything… Oh. Well, here’s something. For all that we project confidence to the point of arrogance on her end, narcissism on mine, Danielle and I actually share some similar insecurities. She’s afraid that she doesn’t know how to be interesting, and is annoying, and nobody will want her – which is to say, her books. I’m afraid that I’m too interesting to handle, and am annoying, and nobody will want me – which is to say, me. And also the books I’m in.”

“Well,” Allyn reassures, “I’m close enough to the both of you to know that you are, in fact, frequently annoying. Even so, you have made a remarkable book together, and I trust there’s an audience out there who will have the good sense to love it. Now, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

Grinning widely, Will says, “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment was brought to you by the Launch Week+ celebration of The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) by Danielle E. Shipley, provider of prizes to the following Rafflecopter giveaway winners.”

Avalon Faire Map = Donna S., Laure E., Kimberly D., Mandi S., and Miranda M.

Society6 Tote Bag = Kimberly D.

Paperback of “Grace the Mace” by Tirzah Duncan = CommonBookSense

Surprise Bookmark = Miranda M.

“Congratulations!” says Allyn. “Danielle will be in touch to ensure your winnings are soon are their way. Thank you for taking part in the launch of ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ – available now!”

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.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says, adding with a laugh, “Thank me, too, Will. 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!”

A Little Goes a Long Way (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 once described him thus:

Slow to speak, quick with a quarterstaff, the face of Robin’s right-hand Merry Man is as unreadable as it is difficult to see without tipping one’s head waaay back. And while Little John may not always feel the need to contribute a great deal to a conversation, his strong and level-headed presence provides much-needed stability in a world where someone thought it was a good idea to let Will Scarlet behind the wheel of a minivan…

“Welcome, Little John!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – why are you so huge?”

Green eyes shadowed beneath heavy black brows perform a slow, flat blink. “Genetics.”

“From a family of giants, then? Any of your ancestors have a run-in with Allyn’s dad? I hear he was an ‘and the beanstalk’ kind of Jack.”

Silence.

“Will,” Allyn hisses from off-camera. “If you’ve prepared any actual interview questions of the non-offensive variety, maybe now’s the time to ask them.”

“Sorry,” Will mutters. “I just… got a bit nervous. He has that effect on me.” He casts a leery glance Little John’s way. “Is it intentional?”

His guest rumbles a longsuffering, “No.”

“Well, that much is better than not, I guess.” Will shifts around in his chair, straightening with a bracing breath. “Y’know, it’s funny – in Danielle’s earliest planning stages for ‘Ballad’, she envisioned that you and I might be best friends. What do you suppose that would have been like?”

“Much like it is now,” Little John replies, his massive shoulders taking on more the essence of a shrug than the actual movement. “You would be a manic pest. I would tolerate it. Everything the same, except you wouldn’t fear me.”

“Hey, in fairness to me, your character is canonically pretty intimidating. Also canonically constant. Will Scarlets, Allyn-a-Dales, even Maid Marions – their inclusion in any given story is hit and miss. But one would have to search a good long while before they found a Robin Hood without his right-hand man. What is it that makes your connection to Robin so unbreakable?”

Little John considers a moment, then answers, “Respect. Trust. And understanding. Whatever our differences of personality or opinion, we know each other’s worth and reliability – and our simple humanity. We’re not in awe of one another. That counts for much.”

“Yeah, I’d imagine that makes both of your lives a lot easier. Now, this one is just me being curious: What would you single out as your favorite scene in ‘Ballad’, and why? No spoilers, naturally.”

Another pause for thought, and then, “Just before we leave on our quest. The exchange in Allyn’s tent, regarding the lute. I appreciated the courage and compassion on display. And the quietness.” The essence of a brow raised wryly. “You make much of the book very loud.”

Will flashes a grin. “It’s a gift. And I’ll beg one more indulgence of you before we call it a wrap. Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret? Or” – the grin takes on an uneasy quality – “would you rather kiss me?”

“Secretly,” says Little John, back turned on the kiss option altogether, “Danielle’s a little miffed that her best friend published me a month ahead of ‘Ballad’. See ‘Grace the Mace’. My AU character isn’t hard to spot.”

Refraining from another obvious remark about the less-than-little John, Will calls behind him, “Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “and a number of enticing prizes for those who care to try for them, was brought to you by the Launch Week+ celebration of The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!”

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.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Little John! 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!”

My Fair Lady Outlaw (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, “While guest-posing on the blog of Luna Station Quarterly two summers ago, she introduced herself thus:

Hello, Internet. My name’s Marion – perhaps more popularly known as “Maid Marian”, except I don’t use that spelling and I’m quite consummately married.

“Welcome, Marion!” Will greets the woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how the devil did you snag a guest post spot in a spec fic magazine?? I network my hose off in our author’s world, and I’ve never received any such invitation!”

“I’m afraid you were just at a disadvantage this time around, Will,” says Marion, shrugging none too apologetically. “LSQ’s a platform for women’s voices, and you… well, you are, by some definitions, a man.”

“Humph. Shows how far being in touch with your feminine side will get you.”

“I wouldn’t know,” she says, chin propped on fist. “I’ve never felt femininity to be my strongest suit. Yes, certainly I identify as a lady. But strip away the stereotypes, and you’re not really left with much to go on regarding what that definitively means. How much of me is Marion, and how much is the outlaw who’s also a chick? These are the existential questions one wrestles with. And when I say ‘one’, I mostly mean my author after she’s spent too long on Twitter. I’m usually too busy helping Robin try to keep the band in some semblance of order.”

“So, if not ‘the chick’, what do you consider your character role to be?”

“According to one review? ‘The fun aunt.’” She laughs in delight. “I wouldn’t say that’s far wrong. Nor would I say that I’m any one thing in an extreme. On the contrary, what I most try to do is act as a balancing agent within the group. Fill in the gaps, you know? If Robin gets too focused on the job, I give attention to the people doing the work. Where Little John can intimidate just by occupying the same space as the rest of us, I strive to set everyone at their ease. And when you… well.” She rolls a slim brown hand Will’s way. “When you’re you, I’ll usually see what I can do to provide a voice of relative calm and reason. Not always easy, that.” Even as her brows affect a stern set, her eyes are all smiles. “You were a poor influence on me in my formative years.”

“One does try,” Will says graciously. “Now, if you asked any of the other outlaws in ‘Ballad’ who their favorite fellow Merry Man is, their reflex answer would probably be you.”

“What, not Robin?”

“He’d be the first to tell you leaders don’t count.”

“Eh,” says Marion, nodding concession.

Will presses, “But if you had to choose your own bestie among the bandmates…?”

“Oh, that’s nothing like a fair question,” Marion protests. “You, Robin, and Little John have all three been my best friends since the English throne sat King Henry II. And now there’s sweet little Allyn – the Precious Baby Nephew to my Fun Aunt. I can’t be expected to pick a favorite.”

Will wags a finger. “It’s that sort of indecision that creates a love triangle, lady fair.”

She gives him a flat look. “There is no love triangle, Will.”

“But, I mean, technically, isn’t there, kinda?”

Her full lips purse. “Given that I’ve already married one of you? No.”

The host’s shrug is over-casual. “Just ‘cause you’re with one person doesn’t mean you can’t want to kiss another.”

Marion glances ironically at the camera. “Where could this line of conversation be going, I wonder?”

“Which brings me to my final question,” Will continues. “Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret? Or would you rather—”

“How ‘bout a fun fact instead?” Marion says brightly. “Readers may wonder: Why did Danielle choose to end my name in ‘-on’ rather than the more traditional ‘-an’? Answer: For years prior to her first-drafting of ‘Ballad’, she had a Marian-with-an-‘a’ in another story world. Nothing to do with the Robin Hood legend at all, just the little sister of one of the MCs. And that Marian? A good deal more obnoxious than me. Danielle didn’t think the brat deserved to share a name with me, so she gave mine a different spelling to help keep us well separate in her imagination. And after all that, wouldn’t you know? That character ended up getting her name changed in that other story’s reboot. #AuthorLife!”

“Ain’t that the truth,” says a visibly dejected Will Scarlet. “Allyn, why don’t you round out the fun with a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “and a number of enticing prizes for those who care to try for them, was brought to you by the Launch Week+ celebration of The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

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.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Marion, m’love. 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 Many Faces of Will ‘n’ Allyn

Outlaws of Avalon Banner

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

My last post discussed the evolution of my vision for Marion Hood’s look. Then you’ve got Will Scarlet and Allyn-a-Dale. As far as the novel goes, this Merry Men pair looks the same now as they did back in draft one. But that’s not to say there aren’t a variety of ways to depict them.

“Too right!” Will jumps in. “For starters – as in, some of the first fan art portraits of us ever drawn – there’s our canonical ‘Outsider’ looks in our author’s typical sketch-in-MS Paint style.”

Will 'n' Allyn, Outside

“As replicated by said author in cosplay form,” Allyn recalls.

Will 'n' Allyn, Outside Cosplay

“Nailed it,” Scarlet approves. “And oh, remember the time she tried to sketch our faces more realistically?”

Will 'n' Allyn, Realistic

Allyn nods. “Those were rather lovely.”

“By which I hope you mean ‘gorgeous’. But if we’re going for ‘adorable’, there’s nothing can top Figurine!Will and Figurine!Allyn, as gifted by Chelsea de la Cruz.”

Will 'n' Allyn figures 02

“Whereas if we’re looking to ride the line between ‘adorable’ and ‘alarming’,” says Allyn, “the clear winner is the result of that ‘Powerpuff yourself’ app.”

Will 'n' Allyn, Powerpuff

Will laughs delightedly. “LOVE those! Almost as much as I love the lookalike avatars Tirzah Duncan made for us in Guild Wars II.”

Will 'n' Allyn, Guild Wars 2

“Not that I’ve got a beard in the books,” Will reflects. “That’s Robin’s look. Clearly, though, I can pull it off. And that expression on your face? So 300% Allyn.”

“I’m not always glaring like that,” Allyn protests.

Will grins. “You will be in a moment.”

“…Why, what are you—”

Will 'n' Allyn, Disney Gone Wrong

“Sweet music, why?” Allyn throws his hands skyward. “Why did Scarlet Elsa ever happen?”

“Because reasons,” Will sniggers, pointing to a past post’s comment section. “And I’m pretty sure you in a Frollo hat kinda just happened for the hell[fire] of it. Danielle practically scams for excuses to play with us in her art.”

Because you two are the absolute best, no matter the forms you take. ❤ Expect such works as these to find a place in my website’s Outlaws of Avalon art gallery – coming quite soon.

Of course, my favorite Will ‘n’ Allyn are the ones in their story’s pages. Have all you lovely readers grabbed your own copy, yet?  Its sweet face is waiting for you via Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive… Oh, and don’t forget to try your luck in my ongoing Rafflecopter giveaway! One good book deserves a chance to win other stuff, as they say.

Allyn pulls a rather GW2!Allyn face. “Has anyone ever said—”

“Shh, babe,” Will quiets him. “#LetItGo.”

<<<>>>

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 would the merry men be like as cats?

Robin Hood = would be the charming, roguishly benevolent alley cat who runs this town’s kitty underworld

Marion Hood = would be the indoor/outdoor sweetheart who’s got the whole neighborhood of humans eating out of her paw

Will Scarlet = would be the maniacally affectionate ginger beast who jumps ‘n’ humps everything that moves

Little John = would be the massive black tom with bobcat blood who calmly makes off with his pick of the groceries you dropped during your heart attack at his sudden, silent appearance in your path

Allyn-a-Dale = is basically already a cat

Robin in Da Hood (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, “Wikipedia describes him thus:

Robin Hood is a heroic outlaw in English folklore who, according to legend, was a highly skilled archer and swordsman. Traditionally depicted as being dressed in Lincoln green, he is often portrayed as “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor” alongside his band of Merry Men. Robin Hood became a popular folk figure in the late-medieval period, and continues to be widely represented in literature, films and television.

“Welcome, Robin!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how totally proud are you of your little cousin for getting his own talk show?”

Robin’s face – markedly like the host’s, particularly in the sparkling blue of his eyes – takes on a smile of good-natured irony. “Oh, I always knew you were destined for great things, Will. You’re just that sort.”

“Ha. Must be something in the genes. You, after all, are only one of THE biggest names in… pretty much ever.”

Well-developed shoulders shrug. “Maybe trailing behind King Arthur. But I’d never grudge a personal friend his extra dollop of fame.”

“Robin Hood and the Once and Future King, immortal BFFs. One doesn’t come across that trope very often.”

“Perhaps not,” Robin concedes. “But there is a longstanding precedent for the combination of my legend and Arthuriana. Look up the old tales of Sir Kay, some time.”

“Have you a personal favorite retelling of your tale?” Will inquires. “Or one that you consider truer to your character than the others?”

“A favorite,” Robin muses, calloused fingers drumming idly on a green-hosed knee as he contemplates the ceiling. “I don’t know that I could single out just one interpretation, but I would say I’ve got a type. Your Errol Flynns and such, the ones that embrace the romance and derring-do of it all, perhaps never minding any pretense of historical accuracy.

“There’s more of a trend these days to go all ‘grimdark’ and ‘gritty’ with everything, turning heroes into antiheroes and, I don’t know, adult-ing everything to the nth power. And that’s all very well, in its place. The world can get ugly, and that takes facing like a grownup. But when I see a little boy prancing through the Renaissance Faire with bow in hand and a pointed green cap on his head, or a little girl rallying her merry band to her side in the name of King Richard, or hear of someone on the Outside committing some act of civil disobedience in order to help the people that the law they’re circumventing can’t or won’t…” His eyes sparkle the brighter. “Those are the best Robin Hood stories I’ll ever know.”

“Pulling away from the legend,” says Will, “let’s talk a bit about the man. What is it you’d want readers and viewers and whatnot to know about you personally?”

“Just that,” says Robin, pointing. “That I am a man first, a legend second. I never aspired to this level of fame. I couldn’t have predicted it. Not saying that I regret or resent it, either. I don’t; usually. It just… all got so much bigger than me.” He spreads his hands, mouth crooked ruefully. “I was just a regular (albeit noble) medieval Englishman, trying to do the right thing, one action at a time. Next thing I know, I’ve got a wizard reviving me from a mortal wound and telling me on I’m TV.”

“Don’t it always seem to go?” Will says cheerily. “Speaking of the inevitable, it’s time for the final question. Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” One eyebrow bows upward. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Hmm.” Robin rubs his chin in over-solemn thought. “Seems it would be against the Robin Hood code to betray a lady’s secrets.” A sigh. “Nothing for it, then, but to knock your socks off with the best kiss you’ve had since… well, the last time you found a reason to kiss me.”

With an exultant laugh, Will throws himself into Robin’s lap. “And this, sweet cousin, is why I’d follow you to the edge of eternity and back.” One mouth-to-mouth smooch later: “Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “and a number of enticing prizes for those who care to try for them, was brought to you by the Launch Week+ celebration of The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

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.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, jolly Robin! 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!”