Merry Men

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale: Book One of The Outlaws of Avalon

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.

Cover and Spine, Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale

Okay, full disclosure time: I’m best friends with the author.

Fuller disclosure time: this book is the reason I’m best friends with the author.

I was plugging my own WIP of the time on a National Novel Writing Month forum, and the then-unpublished Danielle E. Shipley messaged me, asking to hear excerpts of my work. Flattered, I sent her my opening scene. Then she sent me her opening scene in return.

Full disclosure again? I winced when I saw the message. Fact is, most people’s first drafts aren’t worth looking at, and I hadn’t actually volunteered myself as a reader for some stranger’s project. But, feeling obligated–after all, she was reading my first draft–I decided to look it over.

I was stunned. It didn’t read like a first draft at all. It read like a–like a novel! Like one I’d keep reading! And so I did, eagerly awaiting every section as she wrote it, as she awaited mine. And over the course of those shared manuscripts and conversations, we became fast friends.

It’s been a few years since then, and the manuscript has been through some revisions. It’s even better now. It’s been through some drafts, and she’s become a better writer. She’s now worked as a player at the Faire that inspired the “What If” behind the story, and she’s gotten to know and understand the hearts of these characters better than ever.

It’s rich and silly and beautiful and hilarious and deep. It’s not one hundred percent to my taste–I tend to like “grittier” and more intrigue-fraught books than this–but it’s an exactly perfect version of what it’s meant to be.

For fans of the Wilderhark Tales, this is the urban fantasy continuation you didn’t know that you needed–but that you desperately needed. For newcomer’s to Miss Shipley’s works, know that The Outlaws of Avalon, while connected to the Wilderhark world, is a series all its own, and a perfectly good place to start. It’s where I started!

 

My Review

For fans of the Merry Men, Ren Faires, or lighthearted, magic-just-around-the-bend urban fantasy, The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale is an automatic win.

As with all of D.E. Shipley’s works, characters are the driving force behind the unique story and beautiful style–and as usual, they are individual, charming, and full of life.

Meet Allyn-a-Dale, a young minstrel whose heart is fresh from a tragedy. He’s just as freshly fallen from the magical secrets of his own world, and into the magical secrets of a modern Renaissance Faire. With his late father’s voice still ringing in his head, (Gant-o-the-Lute is quite the charismatic figure in his own right, even as an imagined echo,) the adaptable bard tentatively finds a new family in the Merry Men.

The Merry Men… you’ll find the upstanding and surprisingly straight-laced Robin Hood, Marion “the fun aunt” Hood, the frighteningly-quiet and hilariously deadpan Little John, and… Will Scarlet. Incorrigible, indomitable, energetic, babbling, brave, manic, shameless, luminous fan-favorite Will Scarlet. Just wait till you meet him. You’ll see. You’ll see.

What might have been a sweet, comedy-filled coming-of-age story takes a sharp and sudden turn into action-adventure, theft, a car chase, magical shenanigans, and battles with fantastic forces. I wish I could show you some of my fan art, but–alas, spoilers! Suffice it to say, Ballad drew me in with its voice, characters, and worlds, but it riveted me with its peril.

In a melodic style that matches the magic and minstrelsy inherent to the story, Danielle E. Shipley spins out a story that is at once fantastic, funny, sweet, melancholy, and dangerous.

Links!

The beautiful paperback is available on Amazon and at Createspace, and the e-book is available via Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Overdrive.

Here’s Danielle’s release post–complete with potential prizes! 😀

 

World Peace or Nah?

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.

“It’s not a disability,” Syawn, my main-character-muse asserts. “We can traverse far more planes and universes than you can. There’s only one you can exist in. There’s only one we can’t exist in. Who’s really the reality-impaired here?”

Fair enough. And ouch, while we’re at it. Still, 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

 

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Allyn: Would you rather go to war, or fight in a gladiatorial ring?

Dorian: Well, on the one hand: a cause, but dysentery. On the other: A fight for nothing but my life, but it’s exciting. I think we’ll go with gladiator. “We who are about to triumph salute you, Caesar.”

Lute: That’s my boy.

<<<>>>

Lancelot to Gawain: Would you rather take a ten-year vow of silence, or have everyone call you Catherine?

Tirzah: [spit-take]

Will: Meanwhile, in Random-Ass Town…

<<<>>>

Guinevere: See world peace happen after having fought against it, or fight for world peace with everything you have, only to fail?

Arthur: To aim and miss well, or to aim well, and miss? As I would see my ends accomplished, I suppose I’d best fight against them. So y’all better step up.

<<<>>>

Will: Would you rather have really big bazooms that nobody pays attention to, or little breasts that everybody ogles all the time?

Marion: … Why?

Sy: Why are you next to Will?

Marion: Yes.

Sy: I’m sorry.

<<<>>>

Allyn: Someone should ask Will if he’d rather be straight or gay. Completely straight, or completely gay.

Tirzah: Remember, some of your worst unrequited crushes are male. You could get rid of a lot of misery with one fell stroke.

Will: I guess I’d have to be straight… [looks askance at Kinsey Scale extremes]

<<<>>>

Danielle: Would you rather live in Scotland, but not be able to write…

Tirzah: FUUUUUUUU—

Danielle: …Or be the best writer ever, but Scotland doesn’t exist?

Tirzah: [loses her sh*t] I can’t let Scotland not exist! I give up my dream – my heart – my soul – my all – for Scotland. It better damn well appreciate, ‘cause I’ve got to be a businesswoman and painter, now.

<<<>>>

Little Allyn: But sweets! They’re the only thing that have always stood me by! Is sex with [redacted] really so wonderful that I wouldn’t be thinking “I wish you were Belgian waffles” the whole time??

<<<>>>

Apple: I couldn’t stand [losing my math savvy]. At least I’d be an intelligent whore in the upper echelons of society.

<<<>>>

Tirzah [trying not to wake her husband with screeches of laughter]: I can’t be too loud now. Be careful.

Danielle: You be careful. I can’t control your volume.

Tirzah: Neither can I!

<<<>>>

Lute: Absolutely everyone makes it into heaven except for you, or things are as they are now – people choose what they choose?

Sy: The first option isn’t in defiance of anyone’s free will?

Lute: No. Miracle of miracles – everyone chooses heaven. Except you.

Sy: [ponders] Well, I’m goin’ to hell for this, but…

<<<>>>

For extras, see my Tumblr post.

Danielle: Is Tumblr all lower-caps?

Everyone: …