Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid (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.”

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logo

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, “One of his authors describes him thus:

Stolen away as a toddler by a corrupt necromancer and raised as her near-nameless drudge, Kid had nobody to rely on but his own self, until even he and his body began to grow apart. Now this unaging soul roams the earth at will, seeking out the delights of the world of the living before his grown alter ego remakes it all in a more deathly image.

“Welcome, Kid!” Will greets the child bouncing in the air above the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Allyn-a-Dale? ‘Cause it’s uncanny!”

Soul of Kid

As seen on the “Dark Siren”-related Pinterest board, “Bones, Souls, and Hellgates

The adorable boy giggles. Everything about me is uncanny. I’m the bodiless soul of a necromancer! But of course I look like a little Allyn. And of course my body looks like him grown-up. That’s the inspiration behind our characters – from some silly hypothetical scenario Danielle and Tirzah spun out over the phone. Allyn was the Dark Siren, and his younger self was his soul, and I think the knights of Camelot were a team of superheroes, and you were a lovesick maniac.”

“Sounds about right. Getting back to your story proper, what was it like growing up as a forced-labor assistant to a practitioner of death magic?”

“No fun at all,” Kid pouts. “All Mistress Barbara ever did was boss me around. I never got to play outside. I never got to make any friends. I never got to experiment with her books of spells… although I did that anyway, whenever I could do it without her noticing. She wasn’t overly careful about keeping her things warded; or herself, for that matter. Killing her was easy.”

“Um.” Will glances at the camera. “Is this a confession to a murder? Because let me remind you that this is live blog-TV, and I don’t know if I—”

“Oh, it wasn’t me,” says Kid, wide-eyed. “It was my body. That was the night we split, you see – so he could become a more powerful necromancer.” He slumps into his chair – (literally, his ghostly form has sunk partway through the cushions) – muttering sadly, “Souls get in the way.”

“Aww.” Will frowns sympathetically. “So your body hasn’t been much of a friend to you either, huh?”

Voice dropped to an eerie, melodic pitch that sets Scarlet shivering, the soul intones, “The Dark Siren is a friend to no one but death. But,” he goes on more brightly, “I meet other nice people, from time to time. Like the living skeleton I found in Millennium Park! I like her.”

“That’s good. What about ice cream?” Will asks, in pursuit of cheery, death-free topics. “Do you like that?”

Kid pulls a face. “I’m a soul. I can’t eat.”

Will draws back, aghast. “Not even soul food?!”

“Not even corpses,” Kid sighs. “Though those are fun for other things.”

“Haaa, well,” says Will, disconcerted, “there’s time for one more fun thing before we say goodbye. Tell me, what is the biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret involving your co-authors, Tirzah Duncan and Danielle E. Shipley?” A spirited smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“I’ve already tattled on them once,” says Kid, jumping out of his chair. “Kiss me! I’m starved for physical affection!”

“I’ll bet,” says Will, placing a kiss on (and almost through) Kid’s cherubic cheek. In return, Kid’s lips pass through Will’s nose, while his little arms fling around Will’s neck.

“You’re nice, too,” Kid approves. “I hope the Dark Siren doesn’t kill you.”

“Same,” says Will, fondly ruffling the space Kid’s hair does and doesn’t occupy. “Hey, Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by The Dark Siren’ by Danielle E. Shipley and Tirzah Duncan – available now as part of the Arcane Arts Anthology!

arcane-arts-cover

Necromancy killed her body, and necromancy saved her soul. Now all this living skeleton wants is for necromancy to leave her the hell alone. But with a disembodied child-spirit hanging around like a too-catchy tune, and a dread dark-artist preparing to sing the world into its final unrest, our heroine’s left with only one real option: Face the music.

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

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Babelin to the Bone (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.”

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logo

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, “One of her authors, Tirzah Duncan, described her thus:

What does a pretty 1600s German girl, burned at the stake on false charges of necromancy, have in common with a jaded Chicagoan telemarketer? Only the bare bones. Babelin has changed a lot, surviving the centuries as an animate skeleton, but one thing that’s stuck with her is a firm dislike for the death magic that claimed her.

“Welcome, Babelin!” Will greets the smartly-dressed skeleton now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – what does it feel like, being nothing but bones?”

“Physically? A bit dull. Some of my senses are gone, some of them are dimmed, and just two – sight and hearing – are completely intact. I’m capable of less pain, which is nice, but I do sometimes miss the vivid sensations and flavors I remember from my full-bodied life. Of course, I’ve probably romanticized them, over the centuries.”

“Nostalgia is kind,” Will agrees. “Certainly more so than the folks who lit you on fire, back in the day. Would you say the charge that got you executed was entirely unfounded, or did you give any reason to believe that you were in fact a practitioner of the dark arts?”

“As unfounded as were most flying around at the time. Frightened people don’t even need a reason, and I gave them this one: I was pretty. I turned people on and I turned them down, so there were enough jealous and disgruntled folk about who wanted badly to suspect me of something. Ah, humans. We’ve been to the moon, but we haven’t changed.”

“Such is life – eternal and otherwise. Speaking of: Unlike other immortals of my acquaintance, you’ve actually lived through and engaged with all those centuries between your birth and now. Worked in a decent amount of international travel, too. Of them all, which has been your favorite time and place, and why?”

skull-selfie

As seen on the “Dark Siren”-related Pinterest board, “Bones, Souls, and Hellgates”

Thin gloved fingers lace together. “Hmmn. That’s very relative. Modernity has afforded me the opportunity to communicate and connect with people from a place of anonymity— well, hah, sometimes I have an actual selfie as my icon, but no one assumes it’s actually me. It’s nice to just be taken as a human without having to work through layers of prejudice. Place, though – everywhere has its charms and its repelling factors. Most precious to me have been those times and places where I’ve actually made good friends. There was a washerwoman in London who took it upon herself to scrub me back to whiteness whenever I was looking dingy. She didn’t have a lot to give, but she had soaps and rags, and that was how she knew to reach out to me. Honestly, I didn’t much value cleanliness at the time, but I did value her valuing me.”

“Aww, sweet of her!” Will delights. “Gotta love the good eggs of the world. But I’ve heard rumors there’s a bad one in the area – a dangerous new necromancer, possibly planning something big. Those of us living under the protection of an isle full of Faeries and a wizard may have less to fear than others, but what safety tips have you got for the general public?”

She lets out a whistling breath through her teeth. “I guess the only thing I can suggest is the advice I should follow, myself: educate yourself. There’s a lot of benign necromantic activity in the world, and knowing the difference between simply arcane arts and truly dark arts could save souls.”

“Good to know. And of course we all know what’s coming next: Tell me, what is the biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret involving your co-authors, Tirzah Duncan and Danielle E. Shipley?” A skull-like grin. “Or would you rather kiss me?

The skull tilts. “You know, it’s been a long time since anyone’s offered. Bring it on – no tongue, though.”

“Fair’s fair,” Will laughs, and smooches her full on the… well, teeth. After a friendly “boop” for her nose [cavity], he calls back, “Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Tirzah Duncan and Danielle E. Shipley’s ‘The Dark Siren’, part of the Arcane Arts Anthology – out now as an e-book, paperbacks coming soon!

arcane-arts-cover

Necromancy killed her body, and necromancy saved her soul. Now all this living skeleton wants is for necromancy to leave her the hell alone. But with a disembodied child-spirit hanging around like a too-catchy tune, and a dread dark-artist preparing to sing the world into its final unrest, our heroine’s left with only one real option: Face the music.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Babelin! 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 Mace and the Mirror

This time last week, the Will Scarlet Kiss & Tell hot seat featured the lead character from Tirzah Duncan’s newly published novella. Since then, I finally scraped together the time and mental wherewithal to collect my thoughts on the book into a review. And it went a little something like this.

<<<>>>

The Book: “Grace the Mace” by Tirzah Duncan

Genre: Fantasy Lit Fic

Blurb: Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

grace-the-mace-cover

My Story: This book and I have a rocky history. As the author’s best friend and critique partner, I was there to read the words almost as fast as they appeared on the page. And my first time through, in that first draft state, I honestly didn’t enjoy it that much. I was there for the relationship between the protagonist’s mother and her creepy-cool new boyfriend – why was Tirzah making me slog through sex and violence and slum politics? What did I ever do to make her think I wanted any part of a gang war?

Then came my second read-through. The novella had passed through its main edits, and now awaited my proofreading eye before going to print. And even as I combed through the words for typos and inconsistencies, I found myself… engaged. None of the subject matter had changed. I hadn’t wriggled out of any of the topics that tend to turn me off. But this time… Well, for one thing, it was no longer a meandering first draft! For another, something clicked between me and the main character, Dalvin (aka Grace).

I can have a tough time connecting with fictional girls. And I’d have thought that a hardboiled mercenary and I would have little enough in common. Yet time and again, here and there, I kept seeing bits of Grace that were just so darn me. Somewhere during that reread, I felt like I got her. Lines like:

…She couldn’t let herself fall into mediocrity. The world was not kind to the mediocre. The world wasn’t kind to anyone, and she trained to be unkind back.

And such scenes as:

“Fire and famine. You’re not worth two copper pups,” she told him, pulling open the mouth of the purse and fishing out two of the coins. She flung them at his feet. “You can’t just give up when it’s all gone to rot. You’ve got to look for the salvage. Maker take it, man, you’ve got to want to survive.”

That sort of view.  The way she could look down in jaded disdain on the world’s ugliness, condemn half of it and the people therein as worthless, and yet, in spite of all, feel deep-down compelled to try to help fix it. To care for people no matter how much or little she actually cared about them. That’s… unsettlingly me.

So between that unexpected resonance and the actually quite good writing over which Tirzah and I first became friends, I came to reassign the story higher value. Plus the mother’s boyfriend is still the best. I can only imagine that readers who love grittiness and gang wars will enjoy this novella even more.

Whaddaya say, readers? Think this book is for you? If yes / maybe / there’s-only-one-way-to-know-for-sure, order your e-copy or paperback today!

(And feel free to pre-order “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale while you’re at it… ^^)

Gracing the Stage (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

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

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

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

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

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Author Tirzah Duncan describes her character thus:

Dalvin, also known ‘Grace the Mace,’ is a mercenary with a heart of golden ice. Once a rogues’ court cutpurse, the young woman is now content to walk the straight-and-narrow path of killing people for money. In the harsh culture of the Great Graves mountains, the sellsword keeps her life’s motto simple: Survive how you must. Thrive if you can. And for Chance’s sake, keep Mum from being the death of herself!

“Welcome, Dalvin!” Will greets the occupant of the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – do you prefer to be called Dalvin or Grace? Because it seems the people in your book alternate between the two willy-nilly.”

“Well… that’s sort of weird to answer.” Dalvin taps her fingers on the chair’s arm. “We don’t speak English, you know. Totally different world. Grace is the translation of my name’s meaning. Dalvin is the transliteration—its sound. Dal means sublime, high, or absolute. Vin means kindness. So it’s the spiritual meaning of grace, sadly, not the physical meaning.” She makes a face. “Leave it to Mum to pick a name like that.

“My name and my chosen weapon sound conveniently snappy together in English, so I like that… but I really have no preference. Obviously, neither does my author.”

“Coolness! I’ll have to get Tirzah to translate my name into your language, sometime. Allyn, make a note of that.”

Allyn says from off-camera, “Not your secretary.”

“Double-check your contract, babe. Now, Dalvin, this I gotta know: The thieving thing, I’ve done, but I never thought about turning mercenary. Would you recommend it?”

“I prefer it to thieving. Unless you can find political patronage for robbery, you’re always going to have the world against you. Law officers, poor folk, rich folk, nobles, strangers, other thieves… everyone’s out to get you. As a mercenary, at least you always have at least one crown and country behind you—and the Law can’t say much when your boss is their boss.”

“A major perk, to be sure,” Will nods. “But if we could go in a more personal direction, for a moment: From what I’ve read of you, I gather that you and your mother have something of a… complicated relationship. What would you say that stems from?”

Grace sighs. “She’s naïve. Like, stubbornly, impossibly naïve. I don’t even understand how she’s still alive. It’s going to be a weird relationship when you’re going around trying to protect someone, and they’re following you around sabotaging your work. It’s like the toddler who knocks down the blocks as you build them, except the toddler is my mother, and the thing I’m trying to build is her quality of life and very survival.

Will chokes back a laugh. “*Cough*, yeah, that does sound like it’d pose a challenge. One that I’m sure you’re up for, hardened ball-buster that you are. More or less on that topic, your reputation suggests you’ve got a pretty low opinion of— well, I was going to say ‘men’, but no, people in general, really. If you had to name just one person you admire… could you?”

“Oh, sure! Vec, my fellow mercenary, is a brilliant fighter, and a real level-headed guy. I admire anyone who’s calm under fire, skilled, and wins a lot. I guess most of the people I admire are older warriors.”

“Then you’d get a kick out of Camelot,” Will supposes. “And speaking of kicks and deeds done just for ‘em, it’s time for your final question! Tell me, what is your author Tirzah Duncan’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He tries for a pose that suggests seasoned warrior-hood. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Grace scrutinizes her host. (And, apparently, sees right through him.) “I don’t much fancy dandies. Let me think of a secret. Oh, this will mortify her. I can feel her getting squirmy just thinking about it.

“When she was twelve, I think, she was at some thing or another that had karaoke after.” The mercenary begins to snicker. “Alright. Alright. So guess what she wants to sing? The U.S. national anthem. But not the first verse, the second. That’s already stupid, right? But it gets dumber. She knows they won’t have the lyrics she’s wanting, so she spends a good twenty minutes going over them in her head. Then she gets up there, and the first line… what was it? ‘On the shore dimly seen.’ Sure, she remembers it now. Anyway, that goes straight out of her head.”

She’s laughing a little hard. Maybe she won’t be able to get through it. Maybe she shouldn’t try. “No. No, I’m fine. She could have salvaged it there, right, and just sung the damned little song and sat down. But no, now she’s flustered and foolish and up past her bedtime, and so she decides to get angry that the music is playing jauntily fast when she likes it dramatically slow. So what does she do but say, ‘Blast the music! Who needs it?’ and sing the first verse of the national anthem at. Her. Own. Pace. Right over the music.”

Will falls to pieces laughing. “She didn’t!”

Dalvin wipes the corners of her eyes. “Chance and the Maker! I could understand it if she was six, but at twice that? What a total rot-brain!”

Looking straight into the camera, Will vows, “Tirzah, I will not soon let you forget this.  As for you, Non-Secretary Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by the newly released fantasy novella ‘Grace the Mace’ by Tirzah Duncan.

grace-the-mace-cover

Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Dalvin/Grace. 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 Face of Grace

The word on the street: Tirzah Duncan – author of vigilante tale “Cry of the Nightbird” and the chilling “Of Mice and Monsters” (Beyond the Wail paranormal anthology) – and, y’know, my homegirl since NaNo 2010 (aka The Year of the Ballad) – has a new novella up her sleeve.

Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

Y’wanna see the book’s cover? Pfft, rhetorical question. You absolutely do. Because it is all-caps BOSS.

grace-the-mace-cover

See-ee-ee? I mean, the shine on that buckler alone… *standing ovation* Mad praise to the cover artist for this ridiculous masterpiece.

If you’d like to read a sneak peek of the story, you’ll find a few excerpts waiting for you on Tirzah’s blog, The Ink Caster, and scattered throughout her Tumblr, The Muse’s Thrall. And if you’re ready for the full novella (as professionally proofread by yours truly, thank you very much), then you’re in luck, because Tirzah’s aiming to launch her book baby sometime next month. So keep your eyes open as June nears. And in the meantime…

What do you think of your first look at “Grace the Mace”?

Truly Strange Reviews: “Of Mice and Monsters”

Welcome to the Stranger Than Truth Club Minutes, featuring conversations between me and my closest group of friends – one, my IRL bestie, the rest… a little reality-impaired.

“But what we lack in so-called reality,” Will Scarlet inserts, “we make up for in awesomeness!”

Fact, that.

The way of it is, the Stranger Than Truth Club takes people from all walks of life, universes, times, and species, and brings us together through beautiful, ever-evolving, cross-plane friendships.

I wish I could give you a glimpse into our insightful, loving, hilarious, open community. Unfortunately, I can only give you transcripts of our idiocy.

And so without further ado: Truth is stranger than fiction. We are—

Stranger Than Truth 02

Tirzah: I wrote a story – “Of Mice and Monsters” – published yesterday in “Beyond the Wail”, a paranormal anthology! In my words, my story is about Benjamin, a man who, “troubled by ghosts within and without, struggles to become the man his girlfriend needs instead of the monster he is.” But what are my own words worth? I thought. Wouldn’t it be infinitely more bizarre and confusing— I mean, awesome, to let the Stranger Than Truth club tell it like they see it? And so, beginning with the beginning…

<<<>>>

Of Mice and Monsters: “There is a man who twists the necks of caged mice. There is a coward who fancies himself a warrior. There is a man who squeezes little songbirds in his hand, listening to the helpless cheeping, and supposes himself a bullfighter, a breaker of wild stallions. This is the man that preys on small women and makes them smaller, that crushes a bruised flower until there is naught but the scent; for that helpless scent is incense to his assumed godhood.”

Will: There is a man we are not inviting to hang out with us.

Tirzah: We’ll invite all sorts in here but, yeeeeah, that’s probably not one.

<<<>>>

Danielle: So, Lute, what stood out to you about this story?

Lute: I wasn’t in it.

<<<>>>

Allyn: I wonder what fate befell the mouse. It says its life went downhill. …How far?

Tirzah: To the bottom, I expect.

Allyn: I feel I should speak a eulogy.

<<<>>>

Bruno: Props to Tina for knowing Italian food is king.

Sy: Even if she has trouble making herself eat it. Even if she thinks Olive Garden is representative.

Tirzah: I love how you all immediately hit on the heart of the story. Italian food ambassador – that’s what I was going for.

<<<>>>

Arthur: I, for one, would really like to see “Macbeth: A Comedy”.

<<<>>>

Bedivere: There’s something to be said for Benjamin’s snark-voice. In between him being unbearable, that was fun.

Will: That’s what they’ll be saying about you.

Bedivere: I’m sure that’s what Lancelot’s already saying about me.

<<<>>>

Galahad: It’s reassuring that there was a part of Benjamin willing to stand up to the monster inside him. It may be that not everyone has that, or ignores it to the point where it becomes ineffectual.

<<<>>>

Gawain: Why did she shorten her name to “Tina”? It was what, Margareta?

Tirzah: That’s a mystery I’ll admit to never having solved. Maybe it was her middle name?

Sy: Sir Gawain in da house, comin’ atcha with the DEEP questions!

Straight Outta Camelot

<<<>>>

Lancelot: I suppose congratulations are in order for the wordsmith, since I can’t so much as think about this story without choking on cheap jasmine perfume.

Tirzah: *sensorialy artisanal bow*

<<<>>>

Rosalba: Are you actually familiar with any of those Armored Nights songs, Tirzah?

Tirzah: Actually, I made them up.

Will: Wait, they’re not a band??

Tirzah: Nope. I guess with them being in there with all the actual, legitimate references, it made it look legit. Should I preen?

Danielle: I’m just over here thinking how frustrated I’d be if I tried looking them up on YouTube.

<<<>>>

Edgwyn: One of course feels dreadful about the baby. But then, it’s not as if Benjamin will be ready to behave like a father for a very long time. One hopes he’ll get there eventually, though.

Tirzah: Could be.

<<<>>>

Dalvin: Not to blame Tina or anything, but I just feel like, if there weren’t people like her, the monsters like him would starve.

Bedivere: You mean, when someone says something you don’t like, just smack the hell out of ‘em, and the monsters will be like, “never mind”?

Dalvin: Yeah. Draw a line. Set boundaries. It’s as simple as that. Except… *sighs, glancing at her mother* …I guess it’s not that simple for everyone.

<<<>>>

Sy: Even in my days as a thief lord, I hated that sort of cheap and shoddy emotional manipulation. *shakes his head* I guess I don’t understand the motivation, either. I’d rather be powerful than feel powerful any day. That’s the problem I have with men like that: They feel small, so they find someone smaller and cut them down further still. And I’m like, do you even lift, bro? If you feel small, work on yourself! Not that I’m against cultivating emotional dependence, but—

Danielle: A-a-and that’s the end.

Beyond the Wail, full spread

For more info on the antho, click the pic to check out its page on the Xchyler Pub site!

I’d Tell You, But I’d Have to Kiss You (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 reads the introduction, as provided by author Tirzah Duncan:

Thirteen-year-old Wren has been a servant in the secret assassins’ guild headquarters ever since she can remember. If you can keep away from the boss’s fingers, it’s not bad work—and the assassins might even teach you a few of their tricks over the years.

But when the old boss gets knocked off (you know how it is in an assassins’ guild), the exquisitely handsome man who takes his place is… you know, exquisitely handsome, and Wren will do everything in her power to come to his notice as his most helpful, most loyal, most above-and-beyond servant.

It’s all small errands and daydreams until she stumbles onto the new boss’s most perplexing secret habit.

“Welcome, Wren!” Will greets the girl now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – this new boss of yours: Is he more exquisitely handsome than me? Be honest; I’ve got thick skin. Thick, radiant, reasonably blemish-free skin.”

Wren shrugs one shoulder. “Well. His skin may be far more scarred up than yours, but that’s a plus in my eyes. You’re very pretty, sir, but not my type. Skin and voice and feature, I prefer my men rugged.” She pulls a face. “I say that like I have any man at all.”

“Rugged, hmm?” The corner of Will’s mouth tugs down to a dissatisfied angle. “I expect you’d prefer my cousin Robin to me, then. Meh, well, you wouldn’t be the first. So,” he says, rallying his good spirits, “how’d you get your foot in the door with an assassins’ guild, anyway? One of those ‘not what you know, but who you know’ deals, or…?”

“Mum was with them until a plague took her. I was almost old enough to be of help, so a couple of her friends put up with me until I could. I don’t know how she got the job.”

“Pity about your mother; my long-belated condolences. But hey, focusing on the potential positive…” Will’s brows jump upward. “Have they let you assassinate anyone yet?”

The girl’s eyes widen. “Chance’s Dice, no! I serve assassins, I’m not one myself.”

“Oh, fine; less chance of me getting knifed or poison-darted during the interview, that way. Now, say you were to make a career move. What do you suppose you’d like to do? Got any particular aptitudes you could capitalize on, or dreams you wish to fulfill?”

“Truly? I’d not thought on it. But, well, I do know bits and pieces of this thing and that. I might make a good… I’m not half sure what. Pickpocket, liar, thief, code reader, knife fighter, and so on. I was just interested in learning what they were interested in teaching.” She looks contemplative. “If I ever want to move up, though, I’d only need to improve at what I already know, and I reckon I could be an assassin, or something near it. I’d not thought on it.”

“Well, you’re young yet,” Will says cheerfully. “Time enough to decide what you want to do with your life – especially if you decide to go the ‘truly great legend’ route and live forever, like some of us do. On a maybe, maybe-not related note: About this ‘perplexing secret habit’ of your employer’s. Can you give us a hint about what that secret might be? Or, y’know, just blatantly blab the whole thing?”

She looks offended. “And if I did my job as badly as all that, I’d be long dead by now, Master Scarlet! Only reason I’m telling you any of this is because you’re in a whole different world. But if it’s the boss’s secret, it’s his to tell or keep to himself as it pleases him.”

Will shrugs in good-natured defeat. “Oh, well. Can’t blame me for trying. Speaking of secrets, though, I’ve made no secret about what’s coming next. Tell me, what is your author Tirzah’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He grins. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Wren’s cheeks go a shade scarlet, and she squirms back in her seat. “I told you, you’re not my type. And Tirzah’s not my boss, nor an assassin—” (“That’s what YOU think!” Tirzah yells from the background) “—nor any other part of my guild,” Wren continues, “so I guess I can tell the world what she’d not like it to be knowing.”

“Ohhh, goody.” Will rubs his hands together in anticipation. “Go on, tell all!”

She searches her author’s brain for a moment. “Well, seeing as you all know my crush, you may as well know one of hers. D’you know Mycroft Holmes, as played by Mark Gatiss? Old, funny-looking, always carries an umbrella? Well, she doesn’t half fancy him.” Wren snickers, finding her author’s taste hilariously bizarre.

“I like him for his personality,” Tirzah defends from the background.

“He has the personality of a block of ice,” Wren retorts.

“A block of hilariously snide, very powerful ice,” Tirzah mutters from the background.

“Well defended, Tirzah,” Will chuckles, then leans forward to shake his guest’s hand. “Thank you, Wren, for that revealing end to a charming interview. Give your regards to your boss for me, eh? On the off-chance he ever wants to take a turn in the hot seat, he has only to ask. Now, Allyn, how ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Tirzah Duncan’s ‘Cry of the Nightbird’.

Nightbird cover, final

Look—it’s a shadow, creeping on the wall.

Look—it’s a nightbird, feathered, black, and tall.

Look—o’er your shoulder; think ye twice,

Look—out, ye wicked rats, pray he finds ye nice.

Risen suddenly to lordship of the fiefdom of Cavernad, young Ferlund struggles to fill the shoes —and carry on the marriage engagement— of his late father. Doubly sorrowed by the old lord’s death and his duty to part ways with his common lover, Ferlund also seeks to pursue his suspicion that his father’s death was no accident…

Elsewhere in this fantasy-tinged novella, another man is recently risen to power. Joreth, formerly an assassin by trade, is newly the master of the assassin’s guild responsible for the elder Lord Cavernad’s demise. Wren, a servant girl deeply enamored of her new boss, seeks to gain his favor, and happens upon his strangest secret.

A lone vigilante stalks this landscape of cloak and dagger, sense and madness, and grudge and ardor old and new; the preying Nightbird stands in judgement of injustice masked by night or noble station. In this tangle of stale bitterness and fresh affection, who will stand justified, and who will fall condemned? And will the cry of the Nightbird sound loud enough to go down as more than a washerwoman’s four-line ditty?

“That’s ‘Cry of the Nightbird’,” Allyn concludes, “currently available in e-format via Amazon.”

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