In a Faire Fight

Did you ever hear about the most epic fight I ever saw at the Ren Faire?

(Bristol, that is. Black gold. Texas tea.)

‘Twas my first season on cast as a Towne Crier – also, incidentally, the last season where the Fight Cast played the roles of Merry Men. I forget all the details of the staged encounter, but it involved Robin Hood getting caught on the bridge over Lake Elizabeth, forcing him into an outrageous getaway. It was pretty wild. There were Sirens involved.

And of course, me being an author who would go on to pen a whole series of books centered around my own Merry Men in a Renaissance Faire, you had to know I’d use it as inspiration sooner or later – like, say, in the upcoming conclusion of the trilogy.

Since I daresay most of you missed the instigating show at Bristol, and we’ve still got 2 weeks to kill before Outlaws 3’s release, how about we sneak a peek at that scene now? ^^ You can read it below! And/or watch me read it aloud in this video posted to the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page.

zLegendExcerptVid2

Neither option includes Sirens, alas, but you will be treated to merry banter and wonky math! Plus, the vid features my Disney Robin Hood shirt and, well, the kind of faces I make when performing characters. X) Enjoy!

“Sheriff!” a voice barked from the trees beyond the road, and out of their shadows stepped the archer. He pushed back the hood of green from his head, revealing his waves of brown hair, flashing blue eyes, and slim beard framing both strong jaw and mouth drawn into a hard line of anger. “Leave the innocents of Nottingham in peace. Your quarrel is not with them, but with me!”

“Guards!” the Sheriff shouted, a finger thrust toward the archer. “Take him!”

“Oh, prithee do try,” a voice rumbled low – or high, in terms of altitude. Another man stepped from the trees, towering over the first, and with a stout staff at the ready in his colossal hands.

“What are you waiting for?” the Sheriff berated his men, when they only stood staring uneasily at the black-bearded giant. “Grow a spine among you, cowards! We are many, and they only two!”

“Huh,” said the dark woman just now stepping around the giant, a knife a-twirl in her fingers. “Seemeth to me someone’s count is off, somewhere. How many would you say we are, Robin?”

“Well, of course you and I are one heart joined, my lady Marion,” said Robin, with a warm smile for his wife. “But Little John is easily the equal of any two men, so the count thus far is no fewer than three.”

“And was is not but this morn at breakfast, cousin,” said a man garbed in lavish red, come forward to lean casually against his sword placed point-first in the ground, “that you likened me to a dozen good men?”

“Was it yourself thus likened, Scarlet, or your chatter?” asked Robin.

“Or his share of our breakfast?” said Marion.

Will Scarlet laughed with abandon. “Best take both together, and count me as four-and-twenty!”

With lute on back and staff in hand, a youth in dark blues stepped out to join the party, a curvaceous girl with a half-drawn bow at his side. “The final count, then,” he lilted, “is nine and a score, for we are content to add a pair more.”

The girl with the bow arched an eyebrow. “Are we not one, Allyn-a-Dale?”

“Most assuredly are we, May Ellen,” he soothed. “But I deemed it high time someone tried their hand at a factual tally, and it appeared not as if that one,” – he rolled his eyes – “or four-and-twenty, would be Will.”

By now, the Sheriff’s men-at-arms, who numbered a factual four, were looking less at ease than ever. Seeing this, the Sheriff cleared his throat, and adopted a more levelheaded tone.

“Now, Robin,” said he, “I see no need for us to engage in full-scale battle. What profit is it to either of us to risk so many lives? Let us rather be judicious men, and curtail the shedding of blood.”

“Why, my good Sheriff,” said Robin, dryly. “I knew not that wanton bloodshed was so abhorrent to you. In faith, past action on your part has led me to believe just the opposite. But what solution would you put forth?”

“A contest of champions,” the Sheriff said. “My best swordsman, pitted against yours. Should your man win, I give my word that I will no longer trouble the townsfolk to reach you. Should my man win, your band must give itself up to the Law. Are we agreed?”

While the crowd shouted their opinions on the matter, Robin turned a questioning look on his band. “What say you, my Merry Men?” he asked. “All those in favor of accepting the Sheriff’s terms, say: ‘Hey for merry old England!’”

With one voice, the band cried, “Hey for merry old England!”

“Then we are agreed!” Robin answered the Sheriff. “Send forth your champion.”

Smiling smugly, the Sheriff called, “Stand forward, Sir Guy of Gisborne!”

For the rest of the confrontation (and the rest of the novel, for that matter) be sure to get your copy of “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale” – coming in 2 weeks!

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Villains of LEGEND

I love a good wicked villain! In that respect, “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale” is a treat-and-a-half for me, because it’s got not just one bad guy, but three. Since you’ve had a chance to meet most of the heroes in Books 1 and 2, how ‘bout we now take a sneak peek at the antagonists of Book 3?

Villain #1 – Lord Swanton, Sheriff of Nottinghamshire

Sheriff_of_Nottingham

Swanton in a single quote: “Something one learns in the position of Sheriff, Locksley: Somehow, the amount a person is able to give always totals less than what can be taken by force.”

Swanton in a scene:

Swanton swept through the door, his brow deeply furrowed and mouth set in a snarl. “Whiners!” he growled, slamming the door shut behind him. “Whiners, every one of them. Nothing but complaints, all day in and out!”

He stalked around the room like a wolf denied an opening to pounce, his voluminous dark robes swirling with every turn. “I am too hard on them, they say, these hedge-born curs. Hard! It is not I that is hard. I am not the law, only its enforcer — and if those under the law like it not, how am I to blame? Yet do they blame me. And I would care not a whit, if they would only do it silently!”

He threw himself down, grumbling, onto the cushion of his high-backed armchair. “Hard… I suppose snubbing the law would be less hard, would it not? Keeping their coppers for themselves instead of paying their taxes, feasting on ill-gotten meat, oh yes, that would be very easy. Nothing easier than utter anarchy! But we do not all have the luxury of turning our back on the law.”

“Is it a luxury, My Lord?” Allyn asked […]

“Indeed,” Swanton seethed quietly, gray eyes glinting. “A priest is bound by God’s law, a king by his own laws, those below by those given from above. We are not to break the rules, but work within them. …Creatively, if need be.

“To live outside of the law is a privilege that none have been granted, and yet will the lowest of men grasp for it. They scorn the governors placed over them, live by no code of conduct but that which they see fit to devise, and laugh behind the backs now bent beneath the double weight of having to deal with such vermin in addition to our own troubles! Time, funds, and effort which might have gone toward easing the burdens of the common folk, allotted instead to hunting down delinquents and meting out their due punishment. And then the whiners complain to me … only to speak praises of Robin Hood on their next breath!

An ill-placed goblet flew from its perch on an end table to crash into the wall opposite Swanton’s chair. … Swanton sat rigid, the nails of his clenched hands digging into his seat’s armrests, sweat beading on the brow over his wildly glittering eyes. “Play for me, Allyn,” he said hoarsely. “Sing.”

Why I love to hate him: Let’s just say… I can relate.

Villain #2: Sir Guy of Gisborne

Rowan Hood cover

Gisborne in a single quote: “The Sheriff cannot do the half of what I can. […] His tied hands cannot reach out and deal with outlaws as they must be dealt with if they are to be beaten: On their own, lawless terms. And so did he turn to me.”

Gisborne in a scene:

It was like looking at a demon. Tall and wiry, clad in black and darkest brown, with a horse head skin — long face and ears, mane and all — draped over him like an unholy masked helmet. His eyes were in shadow. His teeth, bared in grimace or grin, gleamed white […]

“You thought yourself safe, did you not? You thought I would not play your game. But you are not the only one willing to defy the law’s limits in the name of justice. And this is justice most complete.” The voice dripped with gloating malice. “The great Robin Hood, shot down with his own arrow. And though you will not live to feel it, yet will you hang.”

Straightening, he said, “Take him,” and two of his followers nearest at hand moved forward to obey. Then both startled back with a dual shout […] Robin’s body was gone from the tree […]

Alone of those left alive in the open, the horse-hooded man stood statue still. “Did anyone see that?” he asked.

A man at his side exclaimed, “Of course we saw—”

He got no further than that, the sword in his leader’s hand lashing out to cut him off at the neck.

“I ask again,” he said, voice sharp as bloody steel. “Did anyone see that?”

Why I love to hate him: This creeper gives my spirit chills!

Villain #3: …Well, that would be telling.

Gotta keep some surprises for the book, right? But here, we’ll throw in a scene with this reprobate thug:

“A fine day to you, Goodman Clank-and-Clang,” the man in the road said with a distracting smile. How very much like Will Scarlet his cousin could look, when his expression had mischief in store. “Making rather a lot of to-do about your passing, are you not?”

“’Tis to keep the outlaws away,” the driver said snappishly. “Stand aside, will you?”

Rather than comply, Robin tipped his head quizzically to one side. “Are outlaws truly as easily affrighted as all that? I should rather think they would come running from a mile away at what sounds enticingly like a king’s ransom in coins, clinking together.”

The driver grunted. “Only if a king’s captors are like to take payment in pots and kettles in need of a tinker’s repair. Not much worth robbing there, now is it?”

“Rob?” Robin repeated, as if such a thought had never entered his head. “Why, my good fellow, who’s come to rob you? I stand here only to collect the road’s toll.”

“Toll, is it? And how much is the toll?”

“That depends,” said Robin. “How much have you got?”

All this depravity and more, coming to you in 3 weeks! ^_^

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

Things I Love About Outlaws 3

By the time we hit the October release of “The Legend of Ally-a-Dale”, I’ll have spent enough time reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading this final book in the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy to be heartily sick of it. So this is probably a good time in the publication prep process to remind myself of all the reasons I actually do adore this book. Seriously, the whole series is my favored child, but Book 3 is the best of the best. And here’s why:

Things I Love About #LEGENDofAaD

Medieval Sherwood! Awesome as it is watching my outlaws in a modern Renaissance Faire, we all know that the proper habitat for a Robin Hood story is the one and only Sherwood Forest. (Don’t come at me talking ‘bout Barnsdale. I know some accounts place him there, but I’m not here for that.)

– *hearts for eyes* The bromance is strong with this one. So much so, that I briefly toyed with the idea of titling Book 3 “The Brotherhood of Allyn-a-Dale”. (Would’ve tied into the whole thing with the monks, too, for double the aptness.) But “Legend” just sounded so much more legendary that I decided to let the brotherhood theme stand without titular representation.

Brotherhood of Allyn-a-Dale

The songs. There aren’t many – only two full ones, and a snippet of another (not counting the bonus song at book’s end and the fact that the whole story is laid out like a symphony or something) – but they’re so good. Expect recordings that don’t do them justice, eventually!

– Every time Allyn embraces being a badass. There are several instances of this. It makes me happy. *blubbers something about my baby minstrel’s come so far*

The villains! I can never write enough villains to suit me, but this book has its share – ranging from “ugh, you awful creature, how dare you” to “DELIGHTFULLY CREEPY” to mah boi Sheriff Swanton who

1) coincidentally looks a heckuva lot like Richard Armitage’s Gisborne from BBC’s Robin Hood,

and 2) *cough* is basically me if I’d been born a white nobleman in 12th-century England *cough*.

Swanton Don't Care

When Will Scarlet goes deer stalking.

– When Robin Hood patrols the highway.

– When Millerson… well, that’s really it. Just, when Millerson.

– As I once put it on Twitter:

I love scenes w/ Robin Hood & his homies & nbd physical contact. Merry Men got their problems, but “too bro to touch” ain’t one.

The Final Battle. I… really can’t say much more than that without giving something away, but… yeah. I get way too into it during every re-re-re-read.

The final chapter. *sniffles* Just get there, you guys.

Things I Hate About It, Tho

Time travel. Specifically, having to write a time-travel plot. I didn’t suffer the last time I dabbled in wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff because, I dunno, I guess “The Seventh Spell” was just a li’l angel who let itself come out easy. But “Legend” tangled up my head, man. Probably because, magical shenanigans aside, I tried to hang on to the barest semblance of realism in my portrayal of England under Henry II. But let’s be clear up front, y’all: This is less Historical Fantasy than it is “historical” FANTASY, savvy?

– Every time I work on the book, Will and Allyn get wrecked. That’s the risk you run, living on in the author’s head, outside the book: Rereading means reliving. So I’m very sorry, character friends, for all the feels that you must repeatedly suffer. Yes, you may cry through my eyes whenever you need to.

Release Day is still 5 weeks away?!? I don’t want us all to have to wait that long! But we do. Meaning it’ll be at least that long before I get to hear everything YOU GUYS love about “Legend”! Though I guess you could always list what you love about the cover and blurb…

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.

A Bit of Beauty in the Midst of My Mess

I could be posting about the massive transitions going down in my life, these days. Or I could finally get around to posting the [currently half-written] call-out review I promised back in my Printer’s Row recap. Or I could try to ignore all these sources of stress and do that one thing I actually enjoy: Sharing stuff about my characters. :DDD

C’mon, I gotta go with that one. I found a meme and everything!

Beautiful People Meme

How the Beautiful People meme works, according to Cait @ Paper Fury:

If you’ve never joined in before, THERE ARE NO RULES!! Haha, just kidding. There are rules which basically include (a) link back to this post, (b) include the blog button somewhere in your post, and (c) consider life as a werewolf.

Done, done, and… wow, as life-altering disorders go, lycanthropy would probably not be the worst.

Anyhow, there are character questions to answer! And I hope y’all have been good little DEShipley fans and read Outlaws of Avalon 2, because I’m giving the spotlight to one of the new residents of Avalon Faire, Loren McCaughley, circa right before Book 3 opens.

So Loren, if I may…

What are they addicted to/can’t live without?

“Robin Hood books,” she confesses. “It’s actually horrible. Put a new tale in my line of vision (or an old tale I’ve read a zillion times), and all is lost – most notably, my sense of time and productivity.”

Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.

“I’ll handle this one,” Marion Hood volunteers, because gal pal privileges. “Positives: Unapologetic sense of self, good work ethic when it comes to her areas of interest – (you should see her progress in lute and quarterstaff!) – and, as all Merry Men must be, she’s a jolly team player. Hmm, as for what I’ve observed of the negative side… Has a tendency to let problems go farther than she should before properly addressing them with the appropriate party. Views the world through a bit of a self-centered lens, on the whole. And, well, she’s an actor. You know how they are.”

Loren snorts. “Says she who’s spent the last 30-some summers doing what, now?”

“Um, playing Maid Marion?” she laughs. “I’d hardly call that acting.”

“A Faire point.”

(Seeing what Loren did there, Marion throws up the finger guns.)

Are they holding onto something they should get rid of?

Loren shrugs. “Maybe the odd delusional fantasy or two. But come on, I’m already living in a hidden Faerie land, married to a superhuman from another dimension. Why shouldn’t I someday get the chance to rob somebody on the forest highway, too? Apart from the law, which would obviously be outside the point.”

If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where do they fall on the scale?

“Where does an organized semi-mess fall? I’ll take a 6.”

What most frustrates them about the world they live in?

“Do you know how hard it is to not tell my sister that I hang out with the actual Robin Hood?!”

How would they dress for a night out? How would they dress for a night in?

“Well I mean, that depends on the venue. First non-date with Allyn versus first date-for-realsies – totally different looks for totally different destinations. But in general, probably dark jeans (or jeggings, let’s not pretend), shoes with some shine to ‘em, a flowy top, and moderate bling. If we’re not leaving the house, I vote jammie bottoms and nerdy tees.”

How many shoes do they own, and what kind?

“A few dressy flats, some basic sneakers. WAY too many boots. Same with the sandals.”

Do they have any pets? What pet do they WISH they had?

“No pets, though at this point, I’d take a unicorn.”

Legend proofIs there something or someone that they resent? Why and what happened?

“Ugh. Probably. But according to Marion, I’m not likely ready to deal with it. We’ll see if anything explodes in Book 3.”

What’s usually in their fridge or pantry?

“Takeout leftovers. I am here for reheated whatever, so long as somebody else made it. The kitchen is not my domain.”

*

Thank you, Loren! (And Marion, briefly. ;D) And for the readers currently going, “Man, I really gotta get caught up on the Outlaws books,” you’re not wrong! Only two months ‘til the trilogy concludes with “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”. Which means, oh boy, I better get crackin’ on sweeping through my proof copy. …in addition to everything else on my plate. I’ll keep you guys informed once I scrape together the wherewithal. Ciao for now!

Men in Tights, Wizards, and Other Legendry

3 weeks and a day ‘til the release of Outlaws 2.5, “Truly Great Words Never Die”! As you may have observed via the colorful new image over on my sidebar, the Kindle e-book is currently available for pre-order. And the advance reader copies went out to winners / volunteers / favored friends this past week.

…along with, I belatedly realized, a certain novel cover that I haven’t yet officially unveiled on the blog.

Men in Tights Fail Gif

Welp, there’s only one thing to be done about that: Let the official cover unveiling commence a bit earlier than planned. XD

Wizard Never Late Gif

Pretend this also goes for authors and their covers.

So, for those of you who haven’t already made it toward the end pages of an Outlaws 2.5 ARC … y’all ready for your first look at Outlaws of Avalon 3?!

The blurb:

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.

The cover:

Legend cover 02, front

There it is, you guys. Courtesy of Lars and Milan van de Goor: The face of the third and final novel in the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy – aka, the books of my heart.

My Precious Gif

…aka, my preciousss

The book’s not coming out ‘til October, so don’t lemme start getting all up in my feelings about it just yet. For now, let’s just celebrate how marvelous the cover looks on this fine day that we’ll pretend I intended as Cover Reveal Day all along!

Men in Tights High Five Gif