The Music of Allyn-a-Dale

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

And who better to emcee today’s post than the novel’s M[ain]C[haracter]?

“Very few,” says Allyn, “given that it is a post all to do with music. Specifically, the songs of ‘Ballad’.”

As performed by me!

“…Who, in the absence of a gate between the worlds to grant me access to her recording equipment, is the best we could get.”

Such is life. Introduce the first number, why don’t you.

“The very first? Well, that was an early effort. The story was still in its planning stages. You and I had yet to officially meet. And already the book’s truth pressed itself upon you: It was not to be done without music. You couldn’t just summarize the plot to yourself in plain prose, oh no – you synopsized in rhyming stanzas. Thus was born the novel’s eponymous song.”

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale

Click here to hear the melody, courtesy of my ocarina. And the full set of lyrics can be found in the novel, one verse at the start of every chapter.

Ballad and Ocarina

“With a beginning like that,” says Allyn, “not to mention having already worked on two novellas with my father and master in minstrelsy, she ought to have known there’d be no getting through my book without a song number or five. Yet there she was, NaNoWriMo Day 1, all surprise when from her fingers flowed the following:

A sigh escaped his lips – what Father called a minstrel sigh: An exhalation pulled from so deep inside that it brought a melody up with it. “And where there’s a melody,” Father opined, “there ought to be words of a lyrical kind.”

And so there were, in Allyn’s minstrel sigh…

“So she huffed and fretted and scrambled to find…”

The Naming of Allyn-a-Dale

Click here for the music video!

Naming of Allyn-a-Dale

“After that,” Allyn recalls, “she requested I provide her with more notice before demanding a song on the page. To this I agreed, but not before she had her revenge in the form of” – his eyes narrow, voice dropping to dire levels – “the Rock Minstrel.”

What can I say? I’d had a crazy caricature musician hanging out in my imagination for years, and what better fictional setup in which to drop him than a Renaissance Faire?

Rock Minstrel

“Arguably all very well, but was the ‘Ballad-Off’ scene entirely necessary?”

It both provided an opportunity to illustrate what a regular working day in Avalon Faire is like, and entertained me no end, so yes.

“Hmm,” says Allyn, dubiously. “In any case, it called for my composition of another song, this one inspired by a little ditty from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ – a play which (fun fact for the Robin Hood fans) features a nobleman who runs off to live in the forest with a loyal band of followers. As Will Scarlet would say: #Parallels!”

Sweet Lovers of the Spring

Click here for the music video!

“Being a bard of my word,” says Allyn, “I informed you some hours in advance when I wanted my next song. For it seemed to me that the road trip portion of the book would pass much more merrily for the Men were I to provide them with a song to travel by.”

And you weren’t wrong!

A Merry Traveling Song

Click here to watch me and my lute perform what may be my favorite part of the whole dang novel.

“It was a bit of fun, to be sure,” Allyn chuckles. “And since the book’s bonus song is reserved for those who make it to the back pages of ‘Ballad’, this concludes the day’s post.” He sweeps down in a minstrel bow. “My thanks for your time.”

And our thanks for yours! Readers who want that bonus song’s lyrics – and/or, y’know, the rest of the novel – make sure to get your copy of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”! Available in paperback (Amazon, CreateSpace) and e-book (Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive). And if you’ve already read it, I very much hope you’ll do me the grand favor of leaving a review. Not only might it get you a prize (see my Rafflecopter giveaway), it’s just flat-out a great way to support an author. *performs an author bow of thanks in advance*

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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

If Allyn-a-Dale couldn’t be a minstrel, what would he be?

A disappointment to his father.

Based Upon the Bard (“Never Be Younger” Blog Tour)

BANNER

But soft! What post through yonder blog doth break? It is a tour! And… and okay, I’m not actually Shakespeare. But this book’s got his influence all over it. Read on!

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Written by nine authors, Never Be Younger is a Young Adult collection of Shakespeare retellings. From Othello to Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet to The Winter’s Tale, each story has been crafted with a new spin.

nbyFrom the halls of a high school to hip night clubs to the depths of space, Never Be Younger gives Shakespeare’s classic plays and sonnets a fresh spin for a new audience. Nine authors pay tribute to the Bard by taking his timeless tales to new heights, entrancing readers all over again. A Shakespeare story by any other name still reads as sweet.

All proceeds from the sales of Never Be Younger go to United Through Reading, a charity dedicated to uniting military families through reading. Check out the bottom of the post for how you can win great prizes to celebrate the release!

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Buy now on Amazon and Kobo for only $0.99US

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My review (having received an ARC, dontcha know):

A fun, varied collection, spinning classic Shakespeare storylines into all new contexts. As is generally the case with anthologies, some of the stories left me wanting, while others had me smiling inside and out. The authors of “Never Be Younger” strike me as a clever, imaginative bunch, with much to offer Shakespeare lovers and young adult/new adult readers alike. Definitely worth the read!

Notes from the trenches (i.e., what I scribbled to myself during the reading of each story so I could keep my impressions straight for the writing of the review above):

Star Cross Lovers (S.M. Johnston, E.L. Wicker) = Moves fast; dramatic (that’s Romeo and Juliet, for you), but a fun sci-fi take on the plot; will they or won’t they [die]?

The Scarf (Christina June) = Readers familiar with “Othello” will see to the heart of the conflict from the start, but will the players up to their necks in high school politics realize the truth before it’s too late? Suspeeeense.

A Day of Errors (Jessica L Pierce) = Okay, I am laughing out loud. XD That was great.

Any Way the Wind Blows (Nicole Zoltack) = Felt less credible to me as the story went on.

To Undreamed Shores (Cortney Pearson) = Meh. Sappy romance; not altogether unpleasant, but still. And the “surprise” felt a bit tacked-on; like, oh, by the way, this.

A Witch’s Life (Adrianne James) = Interesting, but the last act felt hasty/abrupt.

Mark the Music (Olivia Hinebaugh) = Ah, some dude [POV] voice mixing it up. Not that Star Cross Lovers and Day of Errors didn’t give a taste of that, but this is… rougher-edged. Not my comfort zone, but kept me invested.

A Gargoyle’s Prom Nightmare (S.M. Johnston, E.L. Wicker) = Mutant teens hiding out among regular high schoolers? Keep going…! Mm, overall impression at the end, fluffy plot with overwrought prose; didn’t leave me satisfied.

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About the Authors

Rachel Bateman: Editor

rachelRachel Bateman is a writer and editor who spends too much time thinking she can out bake the Cake Boss. (Spoiler: She can’t.) She lives in the middle of Montana, but dreams of the South. Rachel is the owner of Metamorphosis Books, an author services company offering formatting and interior layout for independent authors. When not writing, editing, or reading books, she can be found playing with her husband, young son, and small zoo of pets. You can find Rachel on Twitter, and her website.

S.M. Johnston: Star Crossed Lovers & A Gargoyle’s Prom Nightmare

sharonS.M. Johnston is a writer of weird fiction and soulful contemporaries from sunny Queensland, Australia. Her family includes a husband, two sons and a number of fur babies of the feline and cavy variety. You can find Sharon on Twitter, and her website.

Jessica L Pierce: A Day of Errors

jessicaJessica is a somewhat crazy – yet loving – blond. She lives in Green Bay, WI, hates the cold, and loves her completely awesome camo coat. She is passionate about football, baseball, photography and writing, and won’t go near cooked peas. (Raw peapods are fine.)

She is a student at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, and will graduate in December 2015 with a degree in Communication with emphasis in Journalism. She is a sports photographer and her work can be found at: http://www.studio52photos.com You can also find Jessica on Twitter.

Cortney Pearson: The Undreamed Shores

CORTNEYCortney Pearson is the author of Phobic and Such a Secret Place, a mother, musician, and a lover of pink and sparkles. You can find Cortney on Twitter, and her website.

E.L. Wicker: Star Crossed Lovers & A Gargoyle’s Prom Nightmare

EmE.L. Wicker lives in Hampshire, England with her husband and two children. Fueled by the bossy voices in her head, she writes New Adult fiction with a side of romance. You can find E.L. on Twitter, and her website.

Nicole Zoltack: Any Way the Wind Blows

NICOLENicole Zoltack loves to write in many genres, especially romance, whether fantasy, paranromal, or regency. When she’s not writing about knights, superheroes or zombies, she loves to spend time with her loving husband and three energetic young boys, with another little one on the way. She enjoyes horse riding (pretending they’re unicorns, of course!) and going to the PA Renaissance Faire, dressed in garb. She’ll also read anything she can get her hands on. Her current favorite TV show is The Walking Dead. You can find Nicole on Twitter, and her website.

Olivia Hinebaugh: Mark The Music

oliviaOlivia Hinebaugh spends her free time writing. Obviously. The rest of her time is spent playing and reading with her two young children. She also loves: watching Sia’s music videos, quoting Mean Girls, and folding laundry. She actually really does. You can find Olivia on Twitter, and her website.

Adrianne James: A Witch’s Life

adrianneGrowing up Adrianne James couldn’t get her hands on enough books to satisfy her need for the make believe. If she finished a novel and didn’t have a new one ready and waiting for her, she began to create her own tales of magic and wonder. Now, as an adult, books still make up the majority of her free time, and now her tales get written down to be shared with the world.

During the day, Adrianne uses her camera to capture life’s stories for clients of all ages and at night, after her two children are tucked up in bed; she devotes herself to her written work. Adrianne is living the life she always wanted, surrounded by art and beauty, the written word and a loving family.

As a New Adult Paranormal (and sometimes contemporary) author, Adrianne James writes strong women, powerful magic, and love that lasts a lifetime. You can find Adrianne on Twitter, and her website.

Christina June: The Scarf

christinaChristina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters. Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and the world’s most rambunctious four-year-old. You can find Christina on Twitter, and her website.

In honor of “Never Be Younger”s release = a Rafflecopter giveaway

That’s the Spirit (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

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

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

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

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

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Author Alyson Grauer describes Aurael thus:

A manipulative, scheming, slippery, chaotic air spirit whose moral code is basically nonexistent.

“Hoo, boy… Welcome, Aurael!” Will greets the air spirit seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how terrified of you do I need to be, right now? ‘Cause my own story may or may not involve an air-spirit-esque creature trying to kill me and my band, so, um, hahaha, yeah.”

“Oh really?” Aurael twists his mouth into a bemused grimace and goes back to peeling the wings off of a dead dragonfly. “Sounds like a good time to me… And terror is in the eye of the beholder, Will Scarlet.” He shrugs. “I’m only really terrifying if I get bored.” He smiles thinly.

“Right,” Will says brightly. “Good to know. We’ll try to keep things interesting, then. I understand you currently find yourself bound in servitude. Just between you, me, and our viewership, how would you describe your employer? Any perks to working for him? Paid holidays, dental, that sort of thing?”

Aurael’s expression darkens, his eyes like blank slates of lead as spiky protrusions begin to bump out from his brow, cheekbones, nose, skull… He clears his throat and the spikes vanish. He smooths his windblown, silver-blue hair back with a narrow glare. “Dante is a disgusting piece of mortality, if you ask me. He’s manipulative and selfish and snide. He’s self-centered beyond all reasoning, and he’s got eyes for nothing but his own power. Everything else is barely a blip on his brain.” His teeth bare for a moment and they’re shark-like and jagged. “But seriously, no perks, no vacation, nothing.” He pouts thoughtfully. “It’s like being the only trick pony at the circus, if you know what I mean. Complete garbage.”

“Man, and I thought working under Merlin in an immortal Renaissance Faire could get old. But your existence is sure to have some bright spots. How about this: Of your island’s few locals and those recently washed ashore, who do like the most (…or most enjoy tormenting), and why?”

Aurael’s eyebrows shoot upwards thoughtfully at this. A mixture of emotions cross his face as he ponders. Then he squints shrewdly. “I’ll never tire of torturing Karaburan,” he breathes slowly, his lip curled. “Witch-born that he is. His nightmares taste the sweetest.”

The authoress, from the back corner, lifts her hand in contestation of this. “Ahem, if you’ll pardon me,” she says neatly, “Aurael’s favorite person in all the world is Mira. You could go so far as to say he treasures her.”

Aurael’s hair curls into hornlike protrusions, coiling tightly as steam begins to rise from his brow. He scowls and says nothing.

“Adores her, even,” Aly adds.

Aurael’s eyes go black and he stares back at his author, daring her to take one more step.

Aly pauses. “Why don’t you talk about Mira, Aurael? I’m sure Will and the audience would love to know what it’s like for an all-powerful, immortal air spirit to pine for, long for, and against all odds absolutely love a little mortal girl.”

Aurael’s body breaks apart like cloud-puffs, and is replaced with the shape of a massive hideous, steel-silver harpy with terrible talons and a flesh-rending beak. He roars at the author, climbing over the chair to get at her, but bashes face-first into an unseen wall of some kind. The author goes back to taking notes in her book, and harpy-Aurael snarls and snaps and claws at the wall for a moment before hunching its shoulders and peering back over its wings at Will Scarlet.

Will gapes blankly until Allyn coughs from off-camera. “Pun unintended, Will, but we’re still on the air.”

“Ha! Yes! Sorry, I got distracted by the, um, distracting things. Something about a flesh-rending beak. Aaaaanyway, getting back to our happy place: If you were to be granted your freedom, Aurael, what do you suppose you’d want to do with your life? Any long-term dreams or ambitions? Where do you see yourself in— wait, how long does an air spirit tend to live, anyway?”

The question seems to pluck at Aurael’s heartstrings – indeed, if there are any left within him – and he sighs deeply, melting back into the demi-corporeal shape of a silvery-blue man with dark, dark eyes. He sits in the chair again with dignity, as though the harpy form had not occurred. “Immortality is different for everyone,” he admits slowly. “I don’t make plans like that, because I have all the time in the world. Or at least, I did, before I got exiled and captured and all of this grand nonsense.” He seethes quietly. “But I’ll get free again. I will. And Dante will be sorry.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it for one moment,” Will says in placating tones. “Of course, a cunning creature like you will have seen my next question coming from a mile off. Tell me, Aurael, what is your author Alyson’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Nerves and excitement roil in his eyes. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Aurael considers this with a long, smug stare at the author. The author does not look up from her note-taking. Aurael purses his lips and at last folds his arms, putting his feet up on the chair next to him and slouching like a teenager. “Her secrets guard themselves in plain sight,” says the air spirit. “Now that the book is out, anyone at all might stumble upon them. It’s all downhill from here.” He pauses. “And kissing never did anyone any favors, Will Scarlet.” His eyebrows arch, and he smiles that same snarky grin from before. “But if you’re offering, I don’t bite.” His teeth show a little through the grin, still sharp and menacing.

Aly looks up. “He won’t bite you. But watch out for your soul, please – he’ll jab a straw into you like an orange in the old Tropicana commercials and schhhhhluuuuurrrrrpp.”

Aurael scowls. “I don’t even know what that means,” he hisses.

“I know you don’t.” Aly shakes her head. “Never mind.”

“Yeeeaaah, we’ll maybe take a rain check on that kiss,” Will decides. “Or should I say, a full-on tempest check?”

“You shouldn’t,” Allyn advises.

“Oh, come on, it’s perfectly hilarious! Let everyone in the joke with a quick word from our sponsor!”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn dutifully, “was brought to you by Alyson Grauer’s newly released debut novel,On the Isle of Sound and Wonder’.

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

Such Stuff as @DreamsToBecome Novels Are Made On

Everybody get excited! A super rad-tasitical gal is coming out with a book!

…No, not me, this time. …I mean, yeah, me, on December 2nd. But BEFORE that, there is THIS!

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer

I was clamoring to get my hands on an ARC of this one. Alyson Grauer (known as @dreamstobecome on Twitter) is mah girl — not to mention my Ren Faire workfellow and Legends and Lore anthology sister. I had the utmost faith that her debut novel would be a thing of wowsomeness. Guess who was not disappointed?

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The story swept me along with the ease of a wave in a gale, the author’s skillful choreography of questions, revelations, and points of view holding me in thrall page after page. Perhaps it is in part a testament to Grauer’s love of theatre shining through that I felt (uncommonly for me) less like a reader and more like a wide-eyed spectator watching a play unfold on my imagination’s stage, complete with humorous scripting and fantastic special effects. I enjoyed moving back and forth between the ensemble cast – from the independent Mira, to the guileful elemental Aurael, to the piteous Karaburan, to the assorted castaways caught as pawns in a twisted magician’s plot. I may or may not have stayed up until three in the morning to find out how it all resolved.

You don’t have to be familiar with the Shakespearean work behind the novel to enjoy it, for this retelling stands tall on its own merits. And if you do happen to be a “Tempest” fan, I expect you’ll only find more to love.

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Find Grauer on the web: Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest

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On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer

Heck yes, I’ve already ordered my copy! And you don’t have to wait until the official launch date of November 21* to demand your own. Go forth and experience the wonder. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway going on throughout the blog tour (the full schedule of which can be found here). And be sure to watch this space for the Kiss & Tell show scheduled for the 22nd, when Will Scarlet sits down for a chat with one of Alyson Grauer’s company of castaways!

*P.S. – That’s when the release party’s coming to Facebook. You’re ALL invited! Come play!

“Shylock-a-Dale” or “The Merchant of Sherwood”

W.A.I.T. Button

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘The Merchant of Sherwood’!”

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[The curtain rises on a courtroom setup with a forest backdrop. Two tables sit opposite the pulpit serving as the judge’s bench. Seated at the first is Allyn-a-Dale, casting evil glances at the second, where Will Scarlet nervously wrings a handkerchief beside Marion Hood, who’s dressed in a sharp business suit and has stowed her hair away beneath a gentleman’s powdered wig. From his stance beside the bench, Little John speaks.]

Little John/Bailiff: All rise. Honorable Judge Robin Hood, presiding.

[Everyone stands as Robin enters the stage and takes his place behind the pulpit.]

Robin/Judge: Case number eleven-twenty-three, Shylock-a-Dale vs. Antonio Scarlet. What is your suit against the defendant, Shylock?

Allyn/Shylock: Your Honor, I lent the defendant a great sum of money, free of interest, with the understanding it was to be repaid as soon as his fleet of ships returned from their latest venture, or else. But most unfortunately… [fails to suppress a darkly-satisfied chuckle] …his entire fleet has been reported to have sunk in a tempest.

Will/Antonio: Foul! Foul, I say! He put Prospero up to it, I know he did! It wouldn’t be the first time Shylock snuck out of his own play to scheme with the characters from another! Him, Iago, Lady MacBeth, they’re all in on it!

Robin/Judge [with a thump of his gavel]: Order in the court. Pray continue, Shylock. What does your contract with Antonio stipulate in the event he cannot repay the loan?

Allyn/Shylock [grinning wickedly]: In lieu of the money, one pound of flesh.

Will/Antonio [panicking]: I thought he’d accept a bacon-wrapped sirloin! I never would have given my signature if I thought he wanted a chunk out of me!

Allyn/Shylock: Not just any chunk, Antonio. I will have your heart! And maybe a piece of your liver, if you’re still a few ounces shy.

Robin/Judge [frowning]: Why didn’t you have a lawyer look over the fine print for you, Antonio?

Will/Antonio [jerking a thumb toward Marion beside him]: I hadn’t hired her yet. …Him. I meant him. We totally don’t know she’s Portia in disguise.

Marion/Portia [rolling her eyes]: May I approach the bench, Your Honor?

Robin/Judge: Certainly, Counselor.

[Marion steps forward with a copy of the contract in hand.]

Marion/Portia: As you can see, Your Honor, it’s all perfectly clear and distressingly legal. With Antonio flat broke, Shylock is indeed entitled to his pound of flesh. …and only that. [Turns to Allyn in triumph.] If he can carve out a heart without causing any bleeding, fine. But nowhere does it state Shylock has a right to so much as a drop of Antonio’s blood.

Allyn/Shylock [outraged]: The blood is implied!

Robin/Judge: This court does not recognize vague implications as binding.

Allyn/Shylock: But he owes me!

Will/Antonio: I’m willing to renegotiate the terms. As of dinner last night, the offer of sirloin is no longer on the table, but hey, I can pay you in thrills! You ever see a guy juggle flaming knives before?

Little John/Bailiff: You can’t do that in here.

Will/Antonio: Sure I can! I’ve got a guy waiting offstage with flame retardants, just in case.

Robin/Judge: Will…

Will/Antonio: All right, it’s a bucket of soaking-wet socks, but I’m sure that would smother any tiny, incidental blazes just as well.

Robin/Judge [bringing down gavel]: Case dismissed. Trial adjourned. And tell your “guy” to get the laundry in a dryer before it starts to mildew.

Allyn/Shylock [snarling]: I’ll get your heart next time, Antonio Scarlet. Just see if I don’t!

Will/Antonio: If it’s the way to my heart you’re after… [a wink and a smile] …then the next round of bacon-wrapped steaks and ale is on you.

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“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Steven Bourelle and Tyler-Rose Counts,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘Shakespeare while juggling flaming knives’ and ‘wet socks’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! Until next week, friends! Will and Allyn out!”