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.”

Of Cabbages and Book Making

The time has come (the author said) to talk of many things:

Of novels and their sequels – books and their coverings –

And why the day ducks stay in rows is when the pigs have wings.

Of Lemons and of Lemonade

Those of you following me on Twitter may have caught this vague reference to some of my latest news, earlier this month.

JTP News 1

While those who keep up with me on Facebook will have gotten a brief, but more concrete explanation.

JTP News 2

Receiving that kind of e-mail from your publisher is probably NOT on any author’s list of to-dos, but there you are. J. Taylor Publishing has de-listed their catalogue of books from all retail channels and reverted the rights to their respective authors. What this means:

1 = “Inspired” and the “One More Day” anthology are no longer being printed and sold.

1.5 = Congratulations to any of you who’ve already bought your copies – you’re now in possession of a literary rarity. They’ll be worth big bucks once I finally attain author superstardom!

2 = I dunno about the antho, but if I want “Inspired” back up for sale, I’mma have to put it there myself. Which, I mean, I had already been planning to do, once the novel’s rights came back to me. That just ended up happening a couple years sooner than I expected.

So! Look for the re-release of “Inspired” in Spring 2018, complete with a brand new cover, probably some bonus short stories thrown in at the end, and – guess what? – a delightful sequel! I’ve been sitting on “Inspired 2”s manuscript for a little while, now, and am very much excited to get it out in the world alongside its predecessor, just as soon as I’ve finished with my scheduled plans for The Outlaws of Avalon. Which serves as a perfect segue into my next topic…

Of Trials and Traveling

To quote myself:

Hello, all! Author Danielle E. Shipley, here. And this is my tale:

I’ve recently published the first novel in the three-part story of my heart: The Outlaws of Avalon trilogy (a contemporary fantasy retelling of the Robin Hood legend, with some Arthuriana and Renaissance Faire fun thrown in). With Book 1, “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, out in the world, it’s time to ready Book 2 for its March 2017 release. But I’ve run into some unforeseen difficulties.

You see, I’ve been living with a friend in Germany for the past few months, with the intention to stay until next year. However, the situation unexpectedly changed, requiring my return to the U.S. this fall. …Meaning my travel expenses and the cost of Book 2’s cover design will land in my lap at roughly the same time.

As an author – particularly a largely unknown, self-published one – I don’t make a lot of money. Truthfully, at this stage, I’m investing far more in my career than it’s earning back. With time, effort, and luck, that may change. Until then, if I want Book 2’s cover to look every bit as beautiful as “Ballad”s, I could really use your help.

My cover designer’s fee comes to 750 euros. Convert that to U.S. dollars, add in the usual percentage owed to the site hosting this campaign (*tips hat to GoFundMe*), and a fundraising goal of $875 should see me through. The bill comes due at the cover’s completion, which I aim to attain by November’s end. I understand that not everyone can afford to support me by purchasing my books, just now. But if each of you reading this made even a small donation to this campaign – 1 to 5 dollars, 10+ if you’re a Robin Hood-level hero – it could add up to what I need to keep me fiscally afloat.

I would be enormously grateful for whatever amount you can give – so much so, that I happily pledge to thank every donor by name within the acknowledgement pages of Outlaws of Avalon 2. (Unless, of course, you indicate that you’d like to be lumped in with “Anonymous”.)

It’s the characters that make my stories come alive. It’s me that puts it all on the page for readers to experience. And this time around, it’s you that will help make the novel’s face a reality. Bless you for it.

~ Danielle

That’s right – I’ve taken a chance and started a GoFundMe campaign! I very much hope you’ll do me the grand favor of donating and/or sharing the link with others who may be in a better position to give.

GoFundMe

Callooh! Callay! Your help I pray!

(My thanks for listening. ^.^)

Will He, Nill He (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

“As it please you.”

“All right, then.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Society6 Tote Bag = Kimberly D.

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

Surprise Bookmark = Miranda M.

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

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

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

The Bloopers of Allyn-a-Dale

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

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

Blooper reels.

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

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

Director Will

<<<>>>

Overture, Take 1

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

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

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

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

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

The sniggering author called, “Cut!

<<<>>>

Stanza Three, Take 4

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

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

“Euro—” KRA-BOOM!

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

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

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

<<<>>>

Stanza Four, Take 2

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

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

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

<<<>>>

Stanza Five, Take 7

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

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

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

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

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

<<<>>>

Stanza Eleven, Take 1

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

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

“Yes,” said Robin. “Yes, he was.”

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

“Yes. Yes, you did.”

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

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

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

<<<>>>

Stanza Fifteen, Take 3

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

“And what does that do?” Allyn asked.

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

The magic word. “Music? They do?”

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

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

“NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP,

NEVER GONNA LET YOU DOWN,

NEVER GONNA RUN AROUND AND DESERT YOU…”

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

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

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

<<<>>>

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

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

<<<>>>

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

AVAILABLE NOW!

*Bonus*: #HypotheticalFAQs

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

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