Moving and Stuff

First of all, let’s applaud the fact that today I am just saying no to my usual tendency to overthink blog post titles, since clearly this one was the product of 2.5 second’s thought at most. #FirstIdeaBestIdea

Now, onto the good news: By the end of the month, I will be in California, to live with my BFF!

Aaand the bad news: Most of my stuff will not be there with me.

I can check two bags on my flight. One of those bags must necessarily be my lute (because a wannabe minstrel never changes address without it). And I’m flying restricted economy, meaning there’s no room for a carryon bigger than a laptop case.

That leaves one suitcase of space for my worldly goods.

I am nonplussed.

“Now, now,” says the reasonable part of me. “Stuff is just stuff. Most of us can live with far less of it than we hoard. It’s people that matter.”

Quoth my less strictly reasonable side: “MY BOOKS ARE MY PEOPLE.”

Case Full of Books

Lol, these aren’t even my books. They’re just everything I borrowed from libraries in the last couple weeks, as if I’ve got time to read ‘em all. XD

Sure, I can get by on a fraction of my wardrobe. (Boots excluded! You better believe all my most awesome boots are coming with me.) The art on my walls can be grudgingly done without. Much of the miscellaneous junk accumulated over 29 years of life, I won’t miss.

But what about my personal library?? How can a place feel like home without my shelves upon shelves of novels! Short story collections! Tales behind the scenes of stage and screen! Not to mention the ridiculous number of books I’ve bought but haven’t gotten around to reading yet!

There’s no way I can take it all with me, just now. But how can I leave it behind?

“Speaking as someone who canonically escaped a world’s end with nothing but their lute,” says Allyn-a-Dale, with a sideways look for #BALLADofAaD, “you’ll live.”

“The lute, and the hat,” Will Scarlet adds. “And obviously Danielle will be taking her Allyn hat. And your Scarlet hat, too, right?”

Of course. Awesome hats are in the same category as awesome boots.

''Here I Am, New World'' mug

Maaaybe I’ll have space to take some of my “Outlaws”-inspired mugs with me?

“There you are, then! With lute, hats, and the ever-present voice of your loved ones in your head, you’re off through the air to meet your best friend in a world unknown. Congratulations on your dream come true: You are basically turning into Allyn-a-Dale.”

“Except with a mother who picked up a couple boxes to ship some of your books after you,” Allyn points out.

All true, I suppose. If you can be brave and minimalist, I can strive to do the same. And if my story’s anything like yours where most it matters, then it will be well worth it.

*

THIS JUST EDITED IN: I might not actually be going to live in the house I thought, but instead in… a gloriously gorgeous, naturally magical, so-near-and-yet-so-far-from-the-BFF national park??? Which is arguably even more comparable to the Isle of Avalon, so the metaphor stands; I just can’t even with how unpredictable my life is, anymore.

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The Recap of Allyn-a-Dale

Meekest of Minstrels

Hello, people of the Internet. My name is Allyn-a-Dale, and I have been tasked by my author with preparing us all for next week’s release of the final book in the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy (the Kindle edition of which is currently available for pre-order).

For perhaps there are those among you who have caught wind of this novel’s coming, and your interest has been piqued, but alas! You have yet to read through the story’s preceding volumes! What’s to be done? How to begin a tale near its end without losing your way? Easily enough, for you have me to guide you. And really, it’s none too difficult a storyline to follow. Each book, so far as I can tell, is built around a single question:

What would it most hurt Allyn to lose?

Book One = “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale

It would most hurt Allyn to lose… = His father, Gant-o’-the-Lute

Solution = Open Chapter One with Father’s funeral

Important Plot Things to Know ™ =

Ballad Cover, front 02

– Allyn – a young minstrel with a heavenly voice, crippling inferiority complex, and a lute he holds more dear than life itself – is from a faraway, fairytale world

– That world is ending

– A talking wind helps Allyn find a different world via an invisible, interdimensional portal

– That talking wind is Allyn’s great-grandmother, making Allyn himself part-Sky

– Being part-Sky has its superhuman perks

– Allyn’s new world is Avalon Faire – which is to say, the legendary Isle of Avalon (King Arthur, and all that), disguised in 21st-century America as a perfectly typical Renaissance Faire

– Because Merlin the prophet-wizard thinks the best way to preserve mythological heroes is to turn them into immortal actors, courtesy of Fey magic, and never let them Outside

– Time may tell

– Avalon’s not just for the Camelot crowd; infamous outlaw Robin Hood and his Merry Men are there, too

– Allyn joins the band

– …Just in time for a Very Important Magical Item™ to be stolen from the Faire

– If it’s not retrieved quickly, the immortals will die

– Under these dire circumstances, the Merry Men are allowed Outside to chase down the magic thief-or-thieves

– Road trip!

– Shenanigans! Most of them Will Scarlet’s

– Danger! Close calls! Fight scene!

– Magic retrieved! But…

– …Just to be safe, Allyn has to do something, um, completely unsafe

– [Climax]

– Everyone lives safe in Avalon forever after

– Seriously. The forecast says “forever”

– Until…

Book Two = “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale

It would most hurt Allyn to lose… = His father, Gant-o’-the-Lute

Wait, isn’t his father already dead? = Yes he is, but his voice in Allyn’s head isn’t

Solution = Erase Allyn’s memories

Important Plot Things to Know ™ =

marriage-cover-final-front

– Allyn’s second summer in Avalon Faire is coming up

– The cast plans a show based upon the legendary romance of Allyn-a-Dale and his lover

– The part of Lover to be played by Loren McCaughley, a modern Outsider whom Allyn accidentally develops feelings for

– Oops

– Allyn does Foolish Things in the Name of Love™, 100% enabled by Will Scarlet

– Time for a bit of Fey culture as Avalon celebrates Midsummer Eve – a night ripe for even more magic than usual

– Allyn tries to enjoy the party, but is a little bit busy missing his father

– He misses Father even more when all memories of him disappear

– …Only to reappear in the form of Gant-o’-the-Lute!

– Meanwhile, Little John does Foolish Things in the Name of Love™, 100% enabled by Marion Hood

– Allyn divides his time between being belittled by his father and swooning over Loren

– Gant-o’-the-Lute divides his time between being a carelessly abusive parent and… well, no, that’s pretty much all he does

– Will Scarlet hates him on Allyn’s behalf

– Date night for all illicit lovers!

– Things do not go well

– Some things get better

– Some things get worse

– Allyn has to suck it up and— oh, look at that, do something completely unsafe

– [Climax]

– Everyone lives safe in Avalon forever after – including Allyn’s and Little John’s girlfriends! – plus they’re allowed Outside, now

– Guess how long “forever” lasts

Book Three = “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale

It would most hurt Allyn to lose… = Not his father, for a change

Solution = Crueler than ever

Important Plot Things to Know ™ =

Legend cover 02, front

Long ago: Hailed as heroes, killed as criminals, an extraordinary band of outlaws met their end in Sherwood Forest – all except the four who were supernaturally saved, and the one who did not exist. …Not yet.

Now: With Avalon Faire’s living legends finally free to move between the realms of magic and modernity, there’s no dream too fantastic to reach – including that kept alive by a secret society, awaiting only the right time, and the right minstrel, to rewrite history.

Just when the future seems brightest, the Merry Men find themselves thrust into the past, facing a second chance at the lives they might have lived … or the death they might not have the luck to cheat twice. For the otherworldly Allyn-a-Dale, it’s all in a day’s destiny. For an already struggling Will Scarlet, it’s a nightmare that may prove black enough to break him. And for the whole of the band, it’s anyone’s guess whether courage, cunning, and camaraderie can win out against their most infamous enemies: The Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Guy of Gisborne, and – for once in eternity – Time.

There, now. All caught up. Nothing left for you to do but buy the new book once it becomes available. …and, if you would be so kind, to point our way any you know who might enjoy the tale. Truly great legends owe much of their power to word of mouth. 😉 Until next week, readers! *minstrel bow* Fare ye well.

Why I Wrote The Outlaws of Avalon

Ballad Cover, front 02

Why I wrote “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws 1) 

– Because it was my first NaNoWriMo, so I had to write something

– Because I saw Robin Hood at the Renaissance Faire, and I wanted to believe he was real

Robin Hood

– Because meeting Gant-o’-the-Lute made me mad for minstrels

– Because the world of Wilderhark wasn’t big enough for its own legacy

– Because I love an adventure with friends (even if the Merry Men and I didn’t know each other as friends just yet)

– Because unbeknownst to Allyn, he had a story that needed telling

– Because unbeknownst to me, I needed my Will Scarlet in my life

– Because I am a runaway to Sherwood

marriage-cover-final-front

Why I wrote “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws 2)

– Because outside his book world, Allyn continued to grow

– Because our mutual friend Tirzah refused to accept the sorry father/son relationship between Gant-o’the-Lute and Allyn lying down

– Because once I’d seen what their love could be, I had to find a way to get it on paper

Loving Father, Loving Son

– Because the classic story of Robin Hood’s minstrel is a favorite of mine

– Because, as Merlin said, “Legend does have a funny way of becoming prophecy”

– Because intending “Ballad” as a standalone didn’t mean I wouldn’t leap at the chance to spend another novel in Avalon Faire

– Because you knew Will Scarlet wouldn’t be content with just one Outside adventure

Legend cover 02, front

Why I wrote “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws 3)

– Because outside his book world, Will was growing, too

– Because unlike Allyn, when Will Scarlet grows, there are hella growing pains

– Because sometimes the struggle is so real, the character needs to get it worked out in book form to deal with it

– Because I, like Allyn, would do just about anything for our Will

– Because I’d been sitting on this really exciting detail from my Merry Men’s medieval lives, and this was my chance to milk it the best I know how

– Because unbeknownst to me, there was a line in Book 1 that pointed right to how Book 3 would end

– Because stories – like destiny – are a weird mix of our choices and the inevitable

A “Ballad” Tour of Bristol

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

1 – Bookshop! ‘Nough said!

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

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

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

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

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

11 - Map

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

04 - Cartographer

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

01 -Archery

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

09 - Joust

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

13 - Tavern

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

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

And speaking of lutes…

08 - Jester

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

10 - Lake

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

12 - Nook

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

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

And speaking of the Faerie Glade…

07 - Fairie Glen

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

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

02 - Avalon

…There are pieces of Avalon everywhere. ❤

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

Mo’ Men, Mo’ Merrier

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

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

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

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

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

TGW, Ostent 01

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

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

TGW, Alderliefest 01

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

Mr. Scarlet?

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

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

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

TGW, Ecophobia 01

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

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

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

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

TGW, Fallow 01

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

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

TGW, Montivagant 01

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

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

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

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

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

A Merry Indie-pendence Day to You, Too

Should I feel guilty for taking “Independence” – (an actual word) – and “Indie” – (an accepted abbreviation for that word) – and mangling them together in this wise?

Possibly.

But I’ll save my shame for the end of the post. Because before then, I plan to be all kinds of shameless. Promote while the promotions are going on, I always* say.

*(Never before. Never again.)

For real though, it seems like just about everything promo-worthy is happening at once. Such as…

1 – #IndiePrideDay

That was the hashtag going around Twitter, Saturday past. And so I, being the occasional opportunist I am, whipped up a couple of promotional images to share, and spent some time browsing to see what other indie authors had to say for themselves/their work, despite my unfortunate allergy to community.

Also, as of Saturday…

2 – “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” is Half-Price!

…On Smashwords, as part of their Summer/Winter Sale (through July 31st). I should maybe come up with a special promo image for that, too? We’ll see if I bother. In the meantime, if any of you guys or people you know like e-book bargains, check out the whole catalog … or go straight to nabbing your copy of “Ballad”.

And hey, let me know if you pick up any good titles, over there. I’m terrible about actually reading the e-books I’ve already got on my Kindle app (because not even sorry, I’m a hard copy girl), but that probably won’t stop me buying more, if the price is right and the premise intriguing.

Speaking of discounted prices: According to a little notice in my inbox…

3 – Society6 is Hosting a 4th of July Sale!

Society6 Merch

Pictured here, my own personal “Without a Minstrel” mug and “I See You” pillow

Today and tomorrow, everything is 20% off – plus free shipping! So if you fancy any of the merch in my shop, now’s a fine time to get yourself a little something.

And since we’ve got something like an Independence Day theme going, let’s wrap things up with a 4th (of July? Get it? Yeahhhh) and final item. Don’t forget:

4 – Outlaws 2.5 is Available for Pre-Order!

Just a bit over a week ‘til “Truly Great Words Never Die” releases onto Kindles everywhere.

…provided that those Kindles’ owners did right by themselves and purchased a copy.
Truly Great Words promo 04

It’s only 99 cents, and more than worth every penny. So order yours today! Or, I dunno, at least tell somebody else that the book exists, maybe? I’m not feeling the shame yet, but I tell ya, self-promotion is a lot less fun than that holy grail of indie artistry:

Word of mouth.

Stay independent, y’all,

~ Danielle

 

 

 

 

Writing Book Reviews: A Merry Guide

“Hey-ho, all! Will Scarlet, here, luminous fan-favorite* from the lately released Robin Hood fantasy, ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book 1)’. If you’ve chanced to purchase the e-book edition (as opposed to the also-available paperback), maybe you’ll have come across the following message from the author, tucked away at the back.”

Thank you so much for reading my book! I hope you loved it. If you did (or, hey, even on the off chance you didn’t), would you please do me the invaluable favor of leaving a review on your online retailer(s) of choice?

You may or may not be aware of this, but just a few publicly posted sentences of feedback from a reader are a huge deal to the author. So if you’ve got an honest opinion and a handful of minutes, that is all I ask you share with the world. It will be much appreciated.

Thanks once again, and happy reading!

~ Danielle

“And if you’re a reader on the receiving end of that sort of authorial plea, you may have responded with something like this.”

Oh, but I’m no good at writing reviews.

Book Review Guide

“And hey, for all I know, that’s just the plain truth. After all, you’re not the writer here – just a regular person who read a book.

“But guess what, gorgeous? That’s all you need to be! Because your book review doesn’t have to be brilliant; it just has to be honest.**

“Even so, I know consolidating your genuine opinions into a basically coherent review can feel intimidating. That’s where this blog post comes in. A few of my Merry Men friends and I are going to break down the process and show you just how supremely simple writing a book review can be!”

Step 1: Ask yourself, Did I like [insert whatever book title here]?

Marion Hood, adopting the role of Hypothetical Reader A, says, “I absolutely loved it!”

Allyn-a-Dale, as Hypothetical Reader B, says, “I didn’t enjoy it.”

Little John, Hypothetical Reader C, says, “I have mixed feelings.”

“Great,” Will Scarlet replies to all. “Write that down.”

Step 2: See if you can pinpoint any reasons why.

“Reasons?!” cries HRA Marion. “It was just… gaaaauuugh, SO GOOD. So practically flawless! I loved everything!”

An unimpressed HRB Allyn says, “I thought the writing quality was poor. The characters all annoyed me, and the story just felt so… done to death.”

HRC Little John shrugs. “It was interesting to a point, but then dragged too long and got boring. Fun sidekick, though.”

“Fair,” says Will, nodding. “Write that down.”

Step 3: Would you recommend that others read this book?

“READ IT,” Marion demands. “Everybody read it, and somebody make it a movie!”

“If you liked [ostensibly similar book / movie / Broadway show],” Allyn says dubiously, “maybe this book will entertain you. Otherwise, I’d skip it.”

“Fairly sure I’m not this book’s intended audience,” says Little John. “Your mileage may vary.”

“Write that last bit down,” Will Scarlet directs. “And BOOM: You’ve each got yourself a book review!”

Step 4: Post what you’ve got on book review sites (like Goodreads) and dot-coms where the book is available for sale (like Amazon and Barnes & Noble) for the benefit of the author and your fellow bookworms alike!

I absolutely loved it! It was just… gaaaauuugh, SO GOOD. So practically flawless! I loved everything! READ IT. Everybody read it, and somebody make it a movie!

*

I didn’t enjoy it. I thought the writing quality was poor. The characters all annoyed me, and the story just felt so… done to death. If you liked [ostensibly similar book / movie / Broadway show], maybe this book will entertain you. Otherwise, I’d skip it.

*

I have mixed feelings. It was interesting to a point, but then dragged too long and got boring. Fun sidekick, though. Fairly sure I’m not this book’s intended audience. Your mileage may vary.

Will Scarlet grins. “See what I’m talking about? No university-level thesis paper required. Just a few sentences outlining your impression of the book, then choose how you many stars you wish to award. Other valid, even simpler reviews could include:

Super fun. Would definitely recommend.

*

A new favorite. Can’t wait to see what [author name] does next.

*

Reminded me of [some other story]. I really liked it.

“Piece of cake, right? So if you haven’t yet, why don’t you give it a try? For ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’, another Danielle E. Shipley title, and/or any novel, novella, or short story collection that’s had the honor of your readership. Even if you don’t fancy yourself any kind of writer, believe me, friend: Your words have power.”

* “Heck yes, I copped that description of me from a review! ;D”

** “Or, I mean, you could lie, but I’m not sure who that’d be helping, in the end.”