The Wonderful Wizard of Avalon (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:

As co-CEO of Avalon Faire for the entirety of its existence (and official wizard of Camelot for some centuries before that), the man has a lot on his plate. With a job description that includes juggling the individual and mutual interests of the resident Fey and human folk, maintaining both necessary relations with the Outside and the top-secret magical nature of the Faire, and continually butting heads with an incorrigible Will Scarlet, if Merlin comes across as a little tightly-wound, it’s because he’s earned the privilege.

“Welcome, Merlin!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how in the world did I talk you into this, and will I be able to work such a miracle again in the pursuit of future favors?”

Merlin’s lips purse within the frame of his iconic silver-gray beard. “In no way am I doing this as a favor to you, Mr. Scarlet. This is about the promotion of our author’s latest work featuring our world. I’m not so overbooked that I can’t contribute to the Faire’s marketing efforts. And if that means sitting down for another episode of your nonsense… well, here I am.”

“Sporting of you. So, what can you tell us about your role in Outlaws of Avalon, Book 1.5?”

“Essentially,” Merlin says dryly, “I’ve been cast as Scrooge.”

Will half-conceals a grin. “Apt.”

“Well, it’s a parody of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Someone had to play the lead, and of Avalon’s residents, I suppose I made the most logical choice. As for the rest of the story’s logic, it’s everything bizarre about Book 1, wrapped up in a dream sequence.”

“In other words, ‘Logic for what?’”

“Pretty much,” Merlin confirms. “Beyond the extensive silliness, however, there are elements of actual consequence to the Outlaws of Avalon’s overarching plotline. Heavy themes served up with humor; such is our author’s favored approach.”

“Talking of faves,” Will segues, “which bit of the book do you like best?”

“Hmm.” Merlin strokes his beard in thought. “Possibly Allyn’s song number in the third chapter. A melancholy little thing, but that’s just Allyn-a-Dale all over.”

“And, what, you like him best of all your immortal heroes?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Merlin. “That would be Arthur. Danielle may have written the series for the Merry Men’s sake, but as far as I’m concerned, my king is the sole reason Avalon Faire exists.”

“So, if Arthur didn’t need you to manage him, what do you suppose you’d do with your life?”

Merlin startles. “I… haven’t considered anything like that question in a very long time.” Blue eyes take on a shade of bemusement. “I really don’t know. Maybe get a degree in something? Learn to teach? Seems just the sort of thankless job I’m made for.”

“I’m sure Hogwarts would hire you in a heartbeat. And speaking of matters of the heart, tell me: What is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Will pulls up a dreamy smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Merlin grunts. “The only things I keep better than secrets are my lips to myself when it comes to the likes of you. You’ve had your interview, Scarlet. Don’t think you can blackmail me into more.”

“It’s not blackmail, it’s the rules!”

“And you think you’re the only one in the Faire with a talent for rule-breaking?” The wizard stands with a smirk-like scowl. “I bent nature’s laws before your birth, boy. Remember who you’re talking to.”

“Right now,” says Will, giving up, “I’m talking to Allyn. Hey, minstrel! What’s the word from our sponsor?”

christmas-carol-cover-w-text

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by An Avalon Christmas Carol (An Outlaws of Avalon Novella)’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

Merlin was asleep, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that

And yet, when you’re a wizard with a legendary gift of prophecy, who can tell whether a dream may be something more?

In the tradition of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic, join Camelot’s court and Sherwood’s outlaws on a spirited journey through Avalon’s past, present, and future.

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

Troll the Ancient Dickens Carol

We’ve still got several sleeps to go ‘til Christmas, but the holiday cheer is here with the release of “An Avalon Christmas Carol (An Outlaws of Avalon Novella)”! The e-book’s on Amazon for only 99 cents, so you haven’t already pre-ordered your copy, stuff it into your stocking e-reader today!

christmas-carol-promo-type-2

To celebrate, here are 12 Days of Christmas fun facts about the book, its making and inspirations, etc.:

1 = Some of my stories take days, weeks, months, or even years to plan. But I had my little “Christmas Carol” spoof mapped out start to finish in just one day!

2 = …With the second day spent re-reading the Charles Dickens original, to thoroughly familiarize myself with the sandbox I’d be playing in.

3 = Perhaps my favorite characters to cast were the three Spirits. I don’t want to give away who’s who (let the readers be surprised, Danielle!), so let’s just say that some parallels presented themselves very nicely.

4 = The Outlaws of Avalon trilogy focuses more on the Sherwood side of things, leaving the Camelot crowd to take a backseat. But mourn ye not, Arthuriana fans! I’ve got a novel planned just for the Once and Future King ‘n’ ‘em, too. And in the meantime, we’ve got the holiday novella, which gives us our first glimpse into the mind of my Merlin.

5 = Here’s a blast from Christmas Past: Perhaps my earliest “Christmas Carol”-related memory is watching a stage production of the story and feeling bewildered as to why the show would end with Scrooge on the floor, traumatized by his visit from Marley’s ghost. Turns out it was only intermission. Little Danielle was much relieved.

6 = My all-time favorite “Christmas Carol” character? The ever-merry Nephew Fred. No wonder Will Scarlet was so quick to snatch up the role in the parody. ;D

7 = Do you know, I’m not even sure why I love “A Christmas Carol” so much. Apart from Fred, it’s not the characters. It’s not that the plot grips me, or the message that speaks to me. It’s just… always been there, in one telling or another. Its familiarity makes it feel cozy and comfortable and, well, like Christmas. Guess I’m kind of a sucker for nostalgia. X)

8 = Gracious, 12 facts is a lot…

9 = Brainstorming cover ideas before artist Hannah Vale offered her services, I’d considered trying to get a photo of my lute Rosie in the snow. Allyn looked askance at that notion, and was glad I went the commissioned illustration route. Rosie probably is, too.

10 = Talking of lutes, it’s possible (unlikely, but possible) I could’ve gotten though “Avalon Christmas Carol” without a minstrel song number from little Allyn/Tiny Tim, if Dickens hadn’t straight-up written:

…And by and by they had a song, about a lost child travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim, who had a plaintive little voice, and sang it very well indeed.

Welp. That did it. Destiny spake. Hence Allyn’s “Little Lost Winter Traveler” song.

11 = …Which I recently figured out how to play on Rosie.

12 = You can watch us perform the song here!

xmas-carol-still-frame

And that is that. Off you go, now. Buy. Read. Tell your friends. (Review!) And God bless us, every one. ❤

Sneak Peek: An Avalon Christmas Carol

The December 6th release of “An Avalon Christmas Carol” – essentially, the Outlaws of Avalon Holiday Special™ – is only a week away! To mark the occasion, here’s an early glimpse into the e-novella’s opening pages. Y’know. So you can get an idea of what you’re in for. ;D

<<<>>>

“A Merry Christmas, uncle!”

Merlin looked up from his paperwork, his brows – a silvery gray a match for the beard hanging low from his chin – drawn down in irritated surprise. “Excuse me?”

“A Merry Christmas, I say!” cried the young man again, his handsome, ruddy face aglow with smiles for the ancient wizard behind the desk on the low dais at the office’s rear. “And God save you!”

“That he save me from your foolishness, Mr. Scarlet, is my daily prayer,” said Merlin, glowering over his spectacles. “What’s all this ‘uncle’ business? And what in the world are you supposed to be dressed like?”

“Oh, this?” said Will Scarlet, tipping his top hat to a subtly more rakish angle over his red-gold hair. The accessory added an air of style to the outfit which included a vaguely shabby dress coat (burgundy red) and heavy woolen scarf (faded vermillion) informally tossed over one shoulder. “Isn’t it a riot?” He grinned. “Just screams ‘nineteenth-century man about London.’ I thought it the very thing to wear Out caroling this evening!”

“Out caroling?” Merlin repeated, disbelieving.

“Yes, you know – going house to house, cheery candles raised high, singing jolly tunes and being offered warming treats like cider and chocolate and cookies and figgy pudding, one can only hope,” he laughed, “since goodness knows we won’t go until we get some!…”

“Nonsense!” Merlin cut him off curtly.

Will’s brilliant blue eyes blinked in astonishment. “Christmas caroling nonsense, uncle! You don’t mean that, I’m sure?”

“I do.”

“But it’s Christmas Eve!”

“Yes, I am in possession of a calendar. But I don’t see what the day has to do with your going Outside to torture people with your attempts to carry a tune, let alone your insistence on naming me your uncle. You know perfectly well that you’ll not be leaving the Faire – not for caroling, nor for any reason short of a dire emergency of the sort we faced this past summer.”

Will’s lips puckered into the beginnings of a pout. “Why not?”

The wizard’s pale blue gaze was hard and sharp as flint. “Really, Mr. Scarlet?”

“All right, all right, I know your so-called reasons why. Maintenance of secrecy, avoidance of death, so forth and etc. You don’t have to be so cross about it.”

“Don’t have to be so cross about it…” Merlin muttered, halfway to himself. “What else can I be, when I live in a world with such a fool as this? If you don’t have anything more important to speak of than empty plans and ‘Merry Christmas,’ then good afternoon.”

“It would be a great deal of fun, you know,” Will Scarlet wheedled.

“Good afternoon,” Merlin said again.

“I don’t see the harm in our going, just this one night. It needn’t be far, it wouldn’t be long, and you know you’d be invited to come along, right? You’re what, a baritone? I’m sure we could work out some killer harmonies…”

“Good afternoon.”

Will sighed. “I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute and so much the definition of a spoilsport. But I’ll keep my Christmas humor to the last (with little thanks to you). So a Merry Christmas, uncle!”

“Good afternoon.”

“And a Happy New Year!”

“GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!” Merlin bellowed.

“Getting out of your office,” Will said cheerfully, already tripping backward to the door. “Good afternoon, by the way.”

<<<>>>

christmas-carol-cover-w-text

Sorry, Merlin, but the shenanigans only go deeper down from here – as hinted at in the book’s blurb…

Merlin was asleep, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that

And yet, when you’re a wizard with a legendary gift of prophecy, who can tell whether a dream may be something more?

In the tradition of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic, join Camelot’s court and Sherwood’s outlaws on a spirited journey through Avalon’s past, present, and future.

One week to go, then we’re ringing in the Christmas season, Outlaws of Avalon style! Feel free to pre-order and/or add to your Goodreads “to read” list now!

Cover Reveal: An Avalon Christmas Carol

Once upon a November some years ago, an author was struck with inspiration: Why not combine the characters from what would prove itself the favorite of her series with her hands-down favorite Victorian-era Christmas tale? Y’know; for funzies.

That author, of course – *solemn nods* – was me.

Those characters and that series were the Outlaws of Avalon – with a liberal dose of Avalon’s enigmatic wizard.

That Victorian-era Christmas tale was… well, I expect you could easily guess.

That parody project became a novella with unexpected depth.

And with hearty thanks to the artistic prowess of Hannah Vale – (an artist friend made at, wouldn’t you know it, a Renaissance Faire) – Ever On Word is proud to present the cover of…

An Avalon Christmas Carol

christmas-carol-cover-w-text

IS. IT. NOT. EXQUISITE? The holly in the snow! The Fey lights in the tree! The LUTE! Never has a cover illustration been so perfectly in the spirit of both Christmas and Avalon Faire. And speaking of spirits, here’s the book’s blurb:

Merlin was asleep, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that

And yet, when you’re a wizard with a legendary gift of prophecy, who can tell whether a dream may be something more?

In the tradition of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic, join Camelot’s court and Sherwood’s outlaws on a spirited journey through Avalon’s past, present, and future.

Things to know about the book:

– It awaits your “Want to Read” click on Goodreads here.

– It will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon. Official release date = December 6th.

– For the immediate future, it will be available solely on Amazon, and exclusively as an e-book.

– But hey, it’ll only cost 99 cents! A Christmas steal!

– …Especially considering that the book will also include two bonus parodies, AND an excerpt from Outlaws of Avalon, Book Two!

So don’t let this holiday season pass you by without this magic-packed book in your virtual hands! Get your copy! Spread the joyous tidings to your friends! And do let me and/or Hannah know:

What do you think of the cover? ^o^

A Pair’s Portrait, and Part of the Sky

Only 3 weeks (WHAT? GAH! HOW IS SEPTEMBER ALMOST GONE?!) until the launch of “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)”. To mark* the occasion (*you’ll see in half-a-sec what I did, there), have a look at this gorgeous piece of work from my treasured Wilderhark Artist, Yana Naumova!

Allyn, color final, gallery size

That’s right, it’s one of three new bookmark designs made just for “Story’s End” – which you can bet will feature in a giveaway during the online Launch Party, coming soon to Facebook. If that young man by the fire looks familiar to frequenters of this blog, there’s a solid reason for that. ;D And of course we all know Gant-o’-the-Lute – up in a tree again, just like in his personal bookmark for Book Four.

What’s he thinking about, up there? The same wish he’s held in his heart from the start of things, as glimpsed in “The Song Caster” and laid bare in “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”. Attune your ear and listen. Hear the music? It’s not “Part of Your World” – a fair guess, given the identical melody and lyric structure, but no. This is not the song of a Disney mermaid longing for land, but that of a Wilderhark minstrel who craves higher still…

<<<>>>

Look at this trick. Isn’t it neat?

Wouldn’t you think that my talent’s complete?

You’d think of me, wouldn’t you, that I can do anything?

*

Look at me now. Don’t I astound?

Watch me be a wonder while you wonder how.

One hour around me, and now you’re sure I can do anything.

*

I can top all your top virtuosos –

Any instrument, and any score;

Best you at your best game with my eyes closed.

But so what? Not enough. I want more.

Sky Child, cropped

I want to leave where the people are.

I want to see where no man’s yet ventured.

Land’s been done into the ground.

Try the sea, you say? …Ha. Cute.

*

But even a ship only sails so far.

Higher’s required for my adventure!

Impossible? Ah, you’re forgetting:

I’m Gant-o’-the-Lute.

Rays of Songlight - Copy

You’re free to walk. You’re free to run.

I mean to make my way to the sun,

And hang gravity! I long to be

Part of the sky.

*

What would I give if I could live up where the winds race?

What would I pay to spend a day there ere I die?

What won’t I try? Won’t be denied. Though I spend all my life in the chase,

I’m not quitting. Sick of sitting. Ready to fly!

On Music's Wings

I’m ready to know where the sunset goes!

Follow it westward, and rise come morning!

Dance over stars that your eyes only spy from below!

*

When can I go? Wouldn’t I love,

Love to explore and soar up above?

The sky’s part of me. And someday I’ll be

Part of the sky.

<<<>>>

Story's End Cover, gallery size

For Gant-o’-the-Lute, “ever after” has been less than happy. With the last of Carillon’s charm over him gone, the minstrel-king puts royalty behind him in pursuit of the music he once knew and the lifelong dream he let slip through his fingers. But dark whispers on the wind warn that time is running out – not only for Lute and the apprentice in his shadow, but the whole of earth and Sky.

The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales”, coming October 13, 2015; now available to add to your Goodreads “To Read” shelf.

The Three Happy Horses (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

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

“Every other Friday—” says Allyn-a-Dale.

“*cough* Give or take,” Will inserts.

“—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 Three Happy Horses’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a stage right spotlight, shining down upon Robin Hood in an armchair, an ornate storybook in his lap.]

Robin/Narrator: Once upon a time, in a world where fairytales and Renaissance Faires collide, there were Three Happy Horses. Happy Horse Pony…

[A light shines on Allyn-a-Dale, his hat sprouting horse ears, and a silky tail hanging from his pants.]

Allyn/Pony [blandly ]: Such happiness is mine.

Robin/Narrator [cont.]: …Happy Horse Stud…

[Will Scarlet leaps into Allyn’s light, sporting horse ears and a tail of his own, in addition to a cool leather jacket.]

Will/Stud: It’s good to be equine!

Robin/Narrator [cont.]: …and the Happy Horse That Took Down Troy.

[Little John steps into the light, his ears stuck atop an ancient Greek warrior’s helmet, his tail red with the blood of his enemies.]

Little John/Trojan Horse [in his typical deadpan rumble ]: Neigh.

(I swear I don't actually have too much time on my hands...)
(I swear I don’t actually have too much time on my hands…)

[As the Three Horses exit stage left, the lights brighten to reveal a festive Faire backdrop, and the beribboned pole standing tall before it.]

Robin/Narrator: May Day upon them and feeling frisky with springtime, the Three Happy Horses thought it would be a lark to go dance around the ol’ Maypole – failing to take into account that the only Maypole within galloping distance belonged to the Queen of the May, a Faerie who did not take kindly to trespassing quadrupeds.

[A trapdoor beside the pole lifts open, revealing an elf-eared Marion Hood, a crown woven of flowers on her head, and a frightful scowl upon her face.]

Marion/May Queen: The local horses better not get any bright ideas today, or so help them all. [retreats back beneath trapdoor ]

Robin/Narrator [as Allyn re-enters the stage ]: Happy Horse Pony was the first to arrive at the fairgrounds, and frolicked ‘round the Maypole with merry abandon.

Allyn/Pony [skipping in resigned circles ]: Tra-la-la, la-la…

Marion/May Queen [bursting from the trapdoor ]: Who dares frolic around my Maypole?!

Allyn/Pony [stopping short with a whinny of alarm ]: Oh, spare me, I pray thee!

Marion/May Queen: Spare you? Ha! Give me one good reason I shouldn’t enchant you into a marble statue for the town square.

Allyn/Pony: Good Queen of the May, if a worthy landmark you desire, only wait until my stablemate appears behind me, for he is far grander a stallion than I.

Marion/May Queen: Is that so? Well then, if he is willing to stand in your place, I shall have him. Await in stone until he arrives, for I’ll not be denied my due!

[Marion throws out a handful of sparkles, and Allyn poses statue-still, a Happy Horse rampant. She returns below the trapdoor as Will Scarlet prances back onstage.]

Robin/Narrator: Not long afterward, Happy Horse Stud entered the fairgrounds, and frolicked ‘round the Maypole with unbridled gaiety.

Will/Stud [capering dizzily ]: Yippee-ki-yay, mare-mounters!

Marion/May Queen [bursting from the trapdoor ]: Who dares frolic around my Maypole?!

Will/Stud [skidding to a stop with a whinny of alarm ]: Don’t be mad, babe – I can change!

Marion/May Queen: Change indeed! Give me one good reason I shouldn’t enchant you into a marble statue for the town square, in place of your pony friend here.

Will/Stud [only just noticing his frozen pal ]: Holy oats! Well, listen, Your Spring Queenliness, I’d make a gorgeous tourist attraction, sure. But if you really want to bring in the sightseers, just wait ‘til my stablemate appears behind me, ‘cause believe me, he’s just like whoa.

Marion/May Queen: Is that so? Well then, if he is willing to stand in your place, I shall have him. Await in stone until he arrives, for I’ll not be denied my due!

[Marion throws out a handful of sparkles, and Will poses statue-still, with a bicep flex and an unmoving wink the audience’s way. She returns below the trapdoor as Little John steps back onstage.]

Robin/Narrator: Now at last, the Happy Horse That Took Down Troy made his way to the fairgrounds, and he stared in some dismay at his petrified friends.

Little John/Trojan Horse: What the neigh?

Robin/Narrator: Thinking quickly, the Trojan Horse sprang into action – which is to say, he first stamped hard upon the ground beside the Maypole, and then stood entirely still.

Marion/May Queen [bursting from the trapdoor ]: Who dares stamp beside—?! [double take ] Oh, my. And who left this positively magnificent statue on my doorstep? Those two Happy Horses spoke true – surely I could have no finer piece of statuary than this. The others are free to go.

[With another handful of sparkles, Allyn and Will return to mobility. …As does, to Marion’s dramatized surprise, Little John.]

Little John/Trojan Horse: CHARGE!

Robin/Narrator: And with that, the Three Happy Horses stampeded the Queen of the May…

Marion/May Queen [falling through the trapdoor ]: Ai-yeeeeee!!!

Robin/Narrator [cont.]: …Who disappeared into the earth, never to be seen again.

Allyn/Pony: Huzzah!

Will/Stud: Good show, Troy! Now, what do you say we get back to our dance? All in favor?

Allyn/Pony and Little John/Trojan Horse [in adamant unison ]: Nay.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audiences members Miranda McNeff and Steven Bourelle,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘horses’ and ‘Maypole’.”

“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! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

Open Journal: Muse on the Fritz

#CampNaNo July was a weird one.

I mean, I guess…
I mean, I guess…

April’s laid-back version of the internationally acclaimed National Novel Writing Month was a breeze, with me getting through my edits of “The Sky-Child and Other Stories” easy as a minstrel strumming a lute. Then came July, and I don’t even know where my brain went.

I’d originally planned to collaborate with Tirzah on a superhero novel set in an alternate universe Hawaii. But as the first of thirty-one days of worldwide writing madness drew near, mounting stresses on several fronts compelled me to beg off on beginning that project until another time. (Bless you, my writing bestie, for your understanding.) What I needed, I decided, was something fluffy and fun. And what better fit that description than a continuation of the “Lord of the Rings” spoof I once wrote for Tirzah’s birthday?

StT LotR Bookmarks
Good, clean, stranger-than-true fun.

Featuring (among many others) Edgwyn, Lute, and Rosalba from The Wilderhark Tales, Allyn-a-Dale, Will Scarlet, and Robin Hood from my (coming soon enough to taste, I swear it) “Outlaws of Avalon” trilogy, Tirzah herself, characters of her creation, and yours truly, the first part of my parody of the classic Tolkien novels and their film adaptations was a glorious mess of a romp. I couldn’t wait to pick up where I left off.

Until, like, Day Three or Four.

The view from my Camp NaNo cabin.
The view from my Camp NaNo cabin.

Out of nowhere, I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

I wanted it written. And I wanted to write. But I didn’t want to write that.

I was hungry for words, and apparently running high on inspiration, but satire just didn’t satisfy. I craved additional scenes to insert in “Outlaws of Avalon” Books 2 and 3. I hankered to begin work on a potential Wilderhark Talette idea that had been sitting for a few weeks. I followed my nose to a couple more verses to the start of an Allyn-a-Dale song found years ago. (And accompanied the finished composition on my Rosie, of course.)

Maybe it was a reflection of my less than stable psycho-emotional state. Maybe it was just these unexpected projects’ time to move up from the back burner to the front of the stove. Maybe somebody spiked the punchbowl at the muse party, because it wasn’t just me – basically my whole cabin reported feeling similarly out of whack this time around, so what even, people?

I didn’t end up getting very far on the story I’d planned to. But I remained committed, at the least, to writing more than zero words every day until I hit my overall goal. And when I was working on whatever I guess I was meant to be, I was in my happy place. (Particularly with the “Outlaws” additions, since those books are always my happy place.)

There may be any number of morals, here.

“Same moral from circa NaNo 2014, if you ask me,” says Will. “Again I say: You need a vacation.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

The Desecration of Smaug (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

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

“Every other Friday—” says Allyn-a-Dale.

“*cough* Give or take,” Will inserts.

“—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 Desecration of Smaug’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a pair of theatre chairs, in which Will Scarlet and Allyn-a-Dale sit side by side, a tub of popcorn balanced between them. Their gazes, enhanced by old-school 3D glasses, are trained outward, as if a movie screen hovers over the Interactive Theatre audience’s heads.]

Allyn [in an aggravated stage whisper ]: Oh, for the love of all, get off the screen!

Will [mouth full ]: You mad, bro?

Allyn: We’re supposed to be watching a hobbit face a dragon, but we keep cutting back to a contrived Elf/Dwarf faux-mance that nobody asked for! Why do book-to-film adaptations always have to change everything?

Will: Everything? Oh, little minstrel, they could have changed so much more…

[The stage lights go out, and a projected title screen appears on the backdrop, reading:

THE HOBBIT: THE DESECRATION OF SMAUG

Desecration of Smaug
More or less like this.

When the lights return, Marion Hood is creeping across the stage on hobbit feet toward a pile of prop gold and jewels.]

Marion/Bilbo Baggins: No sign of the dragon. Maybe he’s long gone from the depths of the Elf king’s cellar after all.

Scary Dragon Voice: Think again!

[Out from the treasure pile thrusts the puppet head of S’more the Candy Dragon.]

Marion/Bilbo: S’more?! But what’s become of Smaug?

S’more: He was delicious. As will you be, little mouthful.

Marion/Bilbo: Not today, sugar lizard. [raises fist high, a band of gold gleaming on one finger ] Magic ring: Activate!

[The stage goes black.]

Marion/Bilbo[‘s voice in the dark ]: I’m… not sure that’s what I meant to happen.

A Distinctly Gollum-esque Voice [accompanied by a pair of eyes glowing ghoulishly ]: Who’s there, Precious? It’s been ages since any but goblinses have come this way.

Marion/Bilbo: Ages? But I was here just weeks ago. Unless… Say, Gollum – does the name Baggins mean anything to you?

Gollum: Baggins? Never heard of a Baggins before.

Marion/Bilbo: Ah, well, that explains it. Must’ve accidently set off the ring’s time travel feature instead of—

Gollum [shrieking, glowing eyes bobbing in agitation ]: Ring?! Thief! You stole it from us!

Marion/Bilbo: Whoopsies. Magic ring: Activate again! Back to the future!

[The lights return, but the treasure pile’s gone, replaced with the interior of a bachelor apartment’s living room. At the window – which conveniently frames an image of Big Ben and the Eye of London – robe draped over pajamas and violin balanced on his shoulder, stands Gant-o’-the-Lute.]

Lute/Guess Who [pauses violin music ]: John, what in the world are you supposed to be?

Marion/Bilbo: It’s for a case, Sherlock.

Allyn [bursting in the apartment door ]: All right, stop, just stop! This is an utter mess, Will, even for you.

Will [popping up from behind the couch ]: A bigger mess than the Elf/Dwarf faux-mance?

Lute and Marion [in unison ]: Easily.

Will: Well then, let that be a lesson in gratitude for you, Allyn. Things can always be worse.

Allyn: And let this be a lesson in plot construction for you.

Will: “This”?

Allyn [slaps tome into Will’s hands ]: A book. Sit. Read. I’ll get the popcorn. [exits through door as Will flips through the pages ]

Will [calling after him ]: Wait. Allyn? I think this book’s broken. The 3D glasses aren’t making the words pop at all

Marion [glancing at Lute ]: Should we tell him?

Lute [indifferently resumes playing violin ]: With what little we’re paid for this nonsense, we don’t owe him that.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audiences members Chelsea and Kelton de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘Bilbo Baggins’ and ‘time travel’.”

“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! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

What Does the Dragon Say? (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 3)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“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: ‘What Does the Dragon Say?’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a rocky wall stretching all across the stage. At the wall’s mid-height, two ramps diverge – the one leading higher clearly marked with an upward-pointing arrow sign that reads “Peak of the Lonely Mountain”, the one leading lower’s downward-pointing arrow sign reading “Hidden Door into Lonely Mountain”. Making their way down this latter ramp are Allyn-a-Dale as Jack Snow, and Will Scarlet in his Mad Hatter ensemble of long-tailed coat and embellished top hat, this time accented with a debonair walking stick and the hat’s feathers traded out for big, colorful lollipops.]

Allyn/Jack: So when you said we’d be returning to the North Pole by way of the Lonely Mountain, you were serious?

Will/Hatter: Of course I was serious! Didn’t you notice I was wearing my serious face?

Allyn/Jack [eyes rolling ]: I noticed you were wearing your wizard face.

Will/Hatter: Wizard hat, dear lad. The hat makes the man!

Sweet ‘n’ stylish image found at https://www.etsy.com/listing/110341254/tiny-top-hat-mini-top-hat-lollipop-candy
Sweet ‘n’ stylish image found at https://www.etsy.com/listing/110341254/tiny-top-hat-mini-top-hat-lollipop-candy

Allyn/Jack [eyes Will’s current hat as they reach the bottom of the ramp ]: Does that mean you think you’re the head of the Lollipop Guild today?

Will/Hatter [laughing ]: Not a far-off guess. Today, I’m the Candy Man himself, Willy Wonka! And you are Jack the Dragonslayer!

Allyn/Jack [alarmed ]: Dragonslayer?! You mean for me to defeat the dragon under the mountain? The great and terrible Smaug himself?

Will/Wonka: “Great and terrible”… You really do think we’re in Oz, don’t you? You’ve nothing to fear, Jack. I’m not sending you down to face Smaug.

Allyn/Jack [sighs with relief ]: Oh, good.

Will/Wonka: I’m sending you down to face S’more, the candy dragon! Hit it, boys!

[While the orchestra breaks into some sort of acoustic techno, a three-man chorus with bushy red tails and distinctly canine masks frisks down the wall’s upper ramp. Will breakdances along as the chorus bursts into song.]

Chorus: Candy dragon in his hole! Watch him sizzle, watch him smoke!

Ooey-gooey, yummy, chewy cocoa-grahams and marshmallow!

Under mountain, he is king! Ruler under everything!

Snack-attack him, get him, Jack! RING-DING-DING-DING-DINGERINGEDING!

Allyn/Jack [baffled ]: Since when does a fox say “RINGDINGERINGDING”??

Will/Wonka: Those aren’t foxes. They’re my personal song-and-dance crew, the Oompa Loompas! Thought you could do with a bit of musical cheering-on before you went to take on S’more.

Allyn/Jack [massaging his temples ]: Hatter, I’m really not in the mood. Do you suppose we could skip the candy factory tour and just carry on toward the North Pole?

Will/Wonka [cocks his head ]: Huh. I would have thought the chosen Santa Claus would be more into stops for sweets en route. Oh well; if you wanna move on, we’ll move on. [waves cane in farewell ] Thanks for the song, Oompa Loompas! Catch ya later, candy dragon!

[Beneath the high point of the wall’s lower ramp, a hidden door slides open, and a massive chocolate-scaled dragon head puppet cranes out, blinking glowing eyes, tendrils of smoke curling from its nostrils.]

S’more: Later.

[The Oompa Loompas squeal and scamper back up the mountain; Allyn and Will cry “YIPE!” and dash offstage. Left alone, the candy dragon bobs its head to the orchestra’s reprise of the music.]

S’more: Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow! Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow!

Flee and scatter, crew and Hatter! Who’s yo daddy dragon NOW?!

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience member Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘candy dragon’ and ‘RINGDINGERINGDING’.”

“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! ‘Til next time, friends:  Will and Allyn out!”

“Robbed” or “How the Sheriff Stole Christmas”

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: ‘How the Sheriff Stole Christmas’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on Allyn-a-Dale – oh,

A fine sight, he, in white robe, wings, and halo –

Sitting high up at the very tip-top

Of an evergreen-like tree-ish-shaped ladder prop.]

~

Allyn: The outlaws of Sherwood liked Christmas a lot,

But the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire did not.

Or rather, with the holiday he had no quarrel,

But how the Hood and his band made the Sheriff’s blood boil!

~

[Enter Will Scarlet with a growl and teeth-gnash

‘Neath the waxy black glory of his false mustache.]

~

Will/Sheriff: How dare they make merry! How dare they go free!

Well, I’ll ruin their day, oh-ho-ho, just you see!

I’ll steal all the gifts from their dearly loved peasants!

For what is a Christmas without any presents?

~

[Will dashes to and fro all over the stage,

As Allyn continues from the script’s next page.]

~

Allyn: So the Sheriff betook himself right through the wood

To a small village known to be friendly with Hood.

He searched high and low in his villainous zeal,

On the hunt for wrapped packages that he could steal.

But lo and behold, not a parcel was there,

For the poverty-stricken had no cash to spare.

~

Will/Sheriff: That’s what I call a nuisance. How am I to filch

From a bunch of poor people with zip, zero, zilch?”

~

Allyn: The Sheriff thought it over, then, aha, had a plan,

And back to his Nottingham castle he ran.

That night, as the peasantry slept, he returned,

His wicked grin glinting beneath eyes that burned.

~

[After a brief trip offstage, Sheriff Scarlet is back,

With Sirs Gawain and Bedivere pulling a cartload of sacks.]

~

Will/Sheriff: Man-at-Arms One and Man-at-Arms Two,

Take the sacks from the wagon. You know what to do.

Spread out. Leave no hovel unvisited. Quick!

~

Allyn: And they ghosted through town like so many Saint Nicks,

Leaving gifts under trees that they hung all with lights –

Shawls, boots, and winter coats, new hats and tights,

Toys and candy for the young ones, and oodles

Of fine supper fare with meat, veggies, and noodles.

~

Gawain/Man-at-Arms One: Can the Sheriff’s coin cover costs of this amount?

~

Bedivere/Man-at-Arms Two: It’s coming out of the “Stick It to Hood” account.

~

Allyn: Come the morning, Sheriff and co. ducked out of view,

Peering out to see just what the peasants would do.

All their attention held by the scene at their fore,

They noticed not, at their back, the coming of one more.

~

[Will’s crew crouching to one side of the ladder-tree,

Enter Robin Hood walking up to join the three.]

~

Robin Hood: Why, hello there, Sheriff, and Joyeux Noel.

What brings you to this humble village, pray tell?

~

[Will Scarlet and knights jump in well-feigned surprise,

And turn to face Robin with hate-narrowed eyes.]

~

Will/Sheriff: Well might you ask, Hood! For your information,

I’m here to bring to these folks some cruel devastation!

~

Robin Hood [raising an eyebrow]: By giving them gifts they could never afford?

By seeing them happy and well-fed and warm?

I don’t see how you figure that, Sheriff of mine.

~

Will/Sheriff [flustered]: Well… I… it seemed like a bad idea at the time…

I’ve forgotten a step. What am I missing, Men?

~

Bedivere/Man-at-Arms Two: Give the peasants their presents, then take them again.

~

Will/Sheriff: Right! Yes! That was it! What think you of that, Hood?

~

Robin Hood: I think it’s high time you got out of Sherwood.

‘Tis a season of peace, so my asking’s polite.

You’ll leave quietly now, or it’s after a fight.

~

Will/Sheriff: Says you and what army? We’re three to your one!

~

Marion [poking her head out around the other side of the ladder-tree]: Shows how well he can count, doesn’t it, Little John?

~

[With the entrance of Marion and Little John behind,

Will Scarlet goes pale as honeydew rind.]

~

Allyn: Shouting curses most ill-befitting the day,

The Sheriff and posse quickly went away.

~

Little John [gaze following the exit of Will and the knights]: That one’s got naught of Christmas spirit at all.

~

Robin Hood [shrugging]: Methinks his heart may be two sizes too small.

~

Allyn: Thus it was the Sheriff, through no love of his own,

Made the loveliest Christmas one town had e’er known –

Proof that even malicious deeds may come to good

With some Christmas magic. …and, of course, Robin Hood.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Tirzah Duncan,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘noodles’ and ‘It seemed like a bad idea at the time…’”

“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!”