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! ^_^

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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 Allyn-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.

“Durance” or “A Small but Vital Announcement Re: the ‘Ballad’ Trilogy”

It’s Save-a-Word Saturday! For any who need a reminder of/never knew what that means, here’s how it goes:

Save-a-Word Saturday

1) Create a post linking back to the hosts, The Feather and the Rose.

2) Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in the post. (If you find yourself in want of options, Feather ‘n’ Rose recommended a site that may have some word-lovers drooling. Luciferous Logolepsy. Even its name is old and delicious!)

3) Provide a definition of your word, and use it in a sentence/short paragraph/mini story vaguely related to the particular week’s chosen theme.

4) Sign up properly on the host post’s linky list so participants can easily find each other and share their logophilistic joy.

5) Be a hero by sharing these retro words with the world!

I’ve been participating in the weekly fun via my Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page, giving myself the extra challenge/fun of relating every word I pick to my re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend (a.k.a. the magnum opus to be self-published after the completion of “The Wilderhark Tales”). But I figure, hey, with this week’s vignette all pre-written and ready to go, no reason I can’t post it here for the blog-inclined to see!

Before I launch into today’s vignette, though, I have a SMALL BUT VITAL ANNOUNCEMENT to make (as indicated in the post’s subtitle). Hitherto, I have been referring to “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” and its sequels, collectively, as my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale Trilogy” – or, less officially, “the ‘Ballad’ books”. All well and good but, as Will Scarlet pointed out in a guest post, it doesn’t make for the best trilogy title, since only the first book of the three has “ballad” in the name, whereas all three contain “Allyn-a-Dale”. But to simply call it the “Allyn-a-Dale Trilogy” never sat right with me. I mean, what does that tell people who know nothing of Robin Hood’s legendary minstrel? Not nearly enough, that’s what.

So what’s an author to do? What else but have one of those out-of-nowhere “EUREKA” moments while lying in bed! Without even really looking for it, I have tripped across the very name for the trilogy as a whole, and that name is … *pregnant pause for a drum roll* …

The “Outlaws of Avalon” Trilogy.

Will loves the title because it actually includes him. Reader Me loves it because she sees the words “outlaws” and “Avalon” in the same title and starts drooling like Pavlov’s dog. And Wordsmith Me loves it because it encompasses so much more of the overarching story than even a name as lovely as Allyn’s can do. So that’s what I’ll be calling the trilogy from here on in. And I may or may not get around to changing the name of the “Ballad” page, depending on how much trouble it takes to do so. (If not, no worries; the page name still fits Book 1 of the threesome.)

That is all. And now, onto my word-saving civic duty of the day.

The theme: Dungeons.

The word: “Durance”, a noun meaning “incarceration or imprisonment”.

The Example:

He found him lying back on the low stone shelf that served as the cell’s bed, cheerfully whistling at the ceiling. Robin shook his head. Leave it to Will to treat his durance in the castle’s dungeon as no more than part of a game.

Will’s gaze zipped to the door when he heard the key turn in the lock. “Oh, my hero!” he cried, jumping up to his feet. “How long have we got before the guards come running? Should we try to get away clean, or knock them out and use their gear for disguises?”

Robin rolled his eyes. “Nobody’s coming after us, Will. I’ve smoothed things over with Merlin and you’re free to go, so long as you’re never, ever found surfing the corridors with his desk chair again. What I’d like to know is why you thought you could get away with it in the first place! He warned you after this morning’s tomfoolery that your next instance of misbehavior would land you in lockup!”

“Sure, I know. Just as I knew you’d be down here to break me out, like you do.”

Robin’s mouth had to fight to keep from slipping toward a grin to match his too-charismatic-for-anybody’s-good cousin’s. “You do realize you’re not actually living in a Robin Hood adventure story, right?”

“Of course I’m not.” Will clapped Robin on the shoulder as he slipped past him through the door. “It’s a Will Scarlet adventure story, with frequent cameo appearances by that other guy with the bow and arrows. Thanks for the jailbreak, we’ll do coffee later, bye!”

“Origin” or “How I Ended Up Airing Some Fantastic Dirty Laundry”

The question on deck for the Blogfest Buccaneers: Share your light bulb moment with us. How did you come up with the idea for your WIP?

As is somewhat usual with me, it was a long, meandering train of thought

The “point at which something comes into existence or from which it derives or is derived” of my tale was a character (that’s usual with me, too) – or rather, two of them. The first was a kinda strange lady, and as I lay waiting to fall asleep one night, I mulled over why that could be. I don’t recall when I figured it out, but it had to have been before December of I-forget-the-year, because by the time I’d started in on a collection of Christmas-centric short stories (one of which some of you may remember from this post), I knew what she was. More than that, I knew what a whole bunch of characters in that story world were, and – surprise on me – the answer wasn’t human.

(You know it’s time to switch your genre to fantasy when…)

Meanwhile, in another part of my head, the second, related character was bugging me to let him write a tell-all on his side of the story he didn’t feel was doing him justice. I let him rant for 200-some pages, then stepped in to rewrite it as a more focused memoir. That project sat in the Possibly Salvageable Junk Pile for a good while, along with the first few sorry pages from a companion story.

Fast-forward to early this year, when – after some enthusiastic encouragement from writing-buddy Tirzah – I felt I was finally ready to tackle this old monster project in a new form: A trilogy spanning three generations of one hilarious, heartbreaking, mega-dysfunctional, truly phenomenal family. Strangeness will be explained. Tell-all will all-told. Many of my earliest characters left for years in authorial storage will finally get some time in the sun, as well as plenty of time in the dark.

I’m quite pleased with and proud of the work I’ve done so far, and am looking forward to finishing strong and sharing this beautiful beast with the world! I think fans of YA urban fantasy/paranormal stuff are gonna like it. (:

“Sequel”

It’s kind of hard to be at all aware of popular culture and not know what this noun’s second definition is: “A literary, dramatic, or cinematic work whose narrative continues that of a preexisting work.”

            Hollywood thrives on sequels. (Or, some critics might argue, sequels are killing the industry.) In fact, some of my favorite movies are sequels – “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”, “The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom” (okay, urgent disclaimer, that last one is a former favorite; way, way, way, former)… The reason that I was eager to watch these three movies, which all happen to be the third in their respective series, is that I had seen and enjoyed the movies that preceded them. That right there is the big draw of the sequel: Somebody liked that aforementioned preexisting work enough that they wanted more of it.

            It is a dismal truth, however, that sequels do not always live up to their predecessors. Many books and movies are milked well past the point of quality’s demise. Stories are stretched to ridiculous proportions, or shamelessly recycled, or (sometimes, it seems) barely bothered with, all for the sake of spending a little more time with these characters or in that world (or in the hopes of pulling in a few more dollars).

            As an author, I am faced at every book’s completion with a choice: Do I crank out Part Two/Three/Four…, or do I end it here?

            I could make an illustration of “The Wilderhark Tales”, but that’s been getting more than its fair share of shout-outs on this blog. I’ll use a different example: My “World of the Dream” saga. I wrote the first book without any ambitions for a follow-up. Bruno battles evil in his sleep – action, adventure, witty quips and unicorns, the end. I would have been happy to leave it at that… except that I was soon afterward inspired to do more. I saw a storyline that could be taken farther, deeper, darker, and more urgent than before. I ran with it, and it ended on a note that loudly demanded a third installment. With the trilogy concluded, I would have been willing to swear that that was that.

            That wasn’t that. For all kinds of reasons that I could go into, but then I’d have to kill you (spoilers, don’t you know), there needed to be a Book Four, which I wrote. And frankly, I would love a Book Five. But I don’t think there’s going to be one. Some sort of prequel, doubtful-but-possibly, or another related short story or novella (one has been written already). But not a Book Five. The fourth book’s final chapter felt as truly final as any ending I’ve ever typed.

            I know I said I’d leave “Wilderhark Tales” alone for this one (but it turns out I can’t, because I’m obsessed), but it was really the same way. Once I’d hit the fourth book, I was planning for seven, just because I thought the number suited the series. But by the time I was deep into Book Six, I could feel it: This was the end. Never mind the suitability of seven. Never mind that I could give my tailor seventy times seven books and still find more to say. (And I honestly can’t decide if that’s an exaggeration or not.) That narrative was over, and to try to force another book would have been pathetic overkill. An artist with a heart for quality has to know when to say, “Enough.”

            Whether or not Hollywood will ever adopt that attitude remains to be seen.