Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cleavage and Turkey Legs - Part II of Olde Robin Hood



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(Click Here for Part I - My Secret)

So, I poured myself a cup of liquid ambition into my brand new, officially appointed Robin Hood writing mug from Fishes Eddy.

For those unfamiliar with my writing techniques, one thing I do is try to connect a specific cup to the book I'm writing.  So, if I'm drinking from that mug, it is time to think about that project.  It's a bit like pulling a Pavlovian dog on yourself.


(isn't the inside pretty?)

(Note that on the other side is a shepherdess.  THIS WILL BE FORTUITOUS LATER!  And I didn't even know it...)

As I sat there sipping, I wondered to myself, "Self?  How are we going to solve this Robin Hood problem?"

I'd been doing a bit of a Walkabout, see, in sort of the Australian sense.  I packed up all my worldly belongings, I went off to Los Angeles for four months to do a workshop of my play Building Madness, and then moved to NYC for six months to learn how to produce Broadway shows from the incredible folks at the Commercial Theatre Institute.  I could go anywhere. I start research moving to Nottingham for three months... The rents were not that bad.  I mean, especially compared to Manhattan.  And I saw there was even a whole Robin Hood Festival taking place in Nottingham.  I just need to step away from everything I've been building for the past year and max out a couple credit cards.

I was not brave enough.

It's one of those choices I still regret, and wonder where I'd be today if I had taken the other path, because once I finally DID end up in Nottingham, it was life altering.  But I'll get to that later....

For the time being, I decide to take the Poor Man's Version of Robin Hood research and discovered that the New York Renaissance Faire is taking place and their whole theme for the year is... drum roll please... Robin Hood!  I figure maybe that might work instead...?  HUZZAH?

So, I rent a Zip car (which is this thing where you pay a monthly rental membership, and then five million dollars each time you want to take the car out) and drive out into the verdant green of the New York countryside(ish)!

Fresh air!  Blue skies!  This stuff called vegetation!

Now, if any of you have read Maggie Goes Medieval, you may have a sense of deja vu, because I mined this location for all the stories I could squeeze out of it.


Friendly locals

I check the schedule sold to me by a wench with a rose shoved between her bosoms* (see: Killian buying maps in Maggie Goes Medieval) and make my way over to a bridge where Robin Hood and his Merry Crew is going to hold off the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

In case you've never been to a Ren Fest, there are shows that happen all over (jugglers and comedy teams), but there is usually also an overarching storyline, and you can follow Queen Elizabeth or, in this case, Robin Hood, around the festival all day and by closing time, you've got a whole plot.

So, Robin was protecting the bridge.





It was super fun!  Sword fights!  Witty insults!  And I don't know if it was some cast member's kid or just a super fan, but there was this little boy (maybe eight or nine) who just absolutely ADORED the Sheriff of Nottingham.  He would just gaze at the Sheriff with absolute hero worship, hand on his sword, ready to hop into the fray if the Sheriff needed ANYTHING.  He had even dressed up in the Sheriff's colors and I saw him follow him and the guards all day like a groupie.  It just made me all mushy that to see a kid so enthralled and swept up in make believe.

And I head over to the Human Chessboard.  The first RenFest I went to was in Pennsylvania back when I was in high school.  They were less action focused, more story/improv.  Their human chessboard involved William Shakespeare disarming his opponent because the pen is mightier than the sword.  Will also died in my lap by the end.  Needless to say, the Chessboard holds a special place in my heart.

This one was about swords, but TOTALLY fun as Robin's and the Sheriff's men duked it out.






I was at this moment my phone starts dying because I had used it to navigate through the wilds of New York State.  Faint batteries never won faire pictures!

But imagine if you will a castle with a maze, a fairy path (with fairies!) through the woods, a village where people are living as Norman-Saxons, people noshing on turkey legs, a pile of kettle fried chips shaved and mounded like a pile of ribbons, craft booths, weaponry sheds, and...

Lo and behold!  A try-your-hand-at-archery booth!


I ponied up the cash.  Now, bless, they handed me a bunch of weapons and assumed I knew what I was doing.  But as I dropped my arrows and made a right mess of things, a very nice (and patient) guy came over to show me how to aim an arrow before I shot him in the eye.  I did alright and discovered the joys of snapping your wrist with a bowstring if you have a terrible stance and aren't wearing a bracer (which is a leather wrist covering.)  It was very, very educational.

SIDE NOTE:  I also go stumbling around and discovered this show called the Washing Well Wenches.  I have never laughed so hard in my entire life.  These ladies were FEARLESS.  And I went home and immediately wrote Bureaucrazy to try and give a vehicle to women who are THAT funny.  It turns out this is a national troupe, so if you're ever at a RenFest and they happen to be on the docket, bump them up on your "must watch" list.

What else... I decide to pony up the $5 for reserved seating for the joust.  Turns out, I got a seat inside this lovely structure.


And a free flag.






It's totally a hoot, and armed with inspiration that would create Maggie Goes Medieval and Bureaucrazy, and a teeny bit of archery knowledge, and a bit of weaponry info...  

At this point you're going, "Kate?  This was a really nice story about your day at the Faire, but what does this have to do with Olde Robin Hood?'

Bear with.

So...

Almost all the Robin Hood stories we have in popular culture were inspired by these plays written by a guy named Anthony Munday.  He lived around the same time as Shakespeare and, evidently, his Robin Hood plays were a HUGE hit.  But his plays were written in the late 1500s, and the candidates for the real Robin Hood lived around the 1200s.  

So, there are also these ballads that date back to the 1200s (not written down until the 1400s), BUT:
  • Maid Marian is not in the stories.
  • Or the Merry Men.
  • And Robin did not steal from the rich and give to the poor.

I KNOW!  I know.  I can hear you all now, "WHAT??  Any other dreams you want to shatter, Kate?  Maybe ruin Christmas?"

Don't despair!  Hope lies in history!  

So in these 13th century ballads which were told around the fire and in taverns, the only characters in them you've probably heard of are Robin Hood, Little John, Will Scarlett (Scarlocke - Robin's cousin), Much the Miller's Son (Robin's goofy sidekick friend), the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Sir Guy of Gisbourne.  

These are just the ballads, though.

At the same time the ballads were happening, Robin Hood's legend was being spread through theatre.

Now, most of the plays in the 13th century were done by the church as a way to tell bible stories to a population that couldn't read.

But there were these big festivals with ties to pagan fertility celebrations called the May Games.  And they weren't so far off from a modern day Renaissance Faire.  And much like this particular faire I went to, Robin Hood stories were the center.  

Sadly, much like the performances I saw at the RenFest, these plays were not written down and shuttled off to climate controlled storage in the precious writings room at a library.  

There are fragments of these original May Games plays (written down MUCH later), but for the most part, they have been lost to time.  The paper was reserved for monks illuminating manuscripts in dusty towers and political figures.  

(And the reason we have the ballads at all is that someone wrote down these spoken stories in the 15th century.  And the only reason we have ANYTHING about Robin is that a guy grabbed a few scrolls on his way out of a burning building.  Supposedly, there were more. But... fire.)

ANYHOOGLE!

In the written ballads, Robin is a pretty religious fellow, but they sort of smack of the storyteller trying not to get burned as a heretic for telling a tale about an outlaw robbing the church.  

Meanwhile, on the pagan side...  There is this figure called The Green Man.  You've probably seen him.  He is a face surrounded by leaves.  He's been around for thousands of years.  

But right around the 13th century, the Green Man began to morph into Robin Hood.  Robin Hood began to be synonymous with Puck (a mischievous, chaotic, spirit force of the forest)  a.k.a. "Robin Goodfellow" (which you may have heard in Will Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.)  Whatever the real Robin Hood did resonated so hard with the people at the time, they elevated him into an almost deity-like status.  "Robin Hood" became the Summer King at these pagan May Games.  And like the Pied Piper, he would lead the attendees of the Games from one town to the next over where they would good-naturedly "rob" the local church and distribute the alms to the poor.

And who was standing at the side of Robin Hood, King of the May Games?

None other than Maid Marian.

You thought I forgot, didn't you?

The ballads are a total sausage-fest.  But the May Games plays?  

We know that there was a French play dating around 1282 that features a shepherd and shepherdess named Robin and Marian.  While scholars generally believe the names are just a coincidence, for centuries, Robin and Marian continued to be portrayed as sheep people, and Marian's character infused with a lusty, pastoral spirit.  When she finally made her appearance in one of those super rare written fragments of a once complete play, it is in a May Games play where she appears alongside a newly created character named Friar Tuck (there was a real priest by the name of Tuck who was so moved by the stories of Robin Hood, he started robbing from the rich to give to the poor in the 1400s, and he was added to the canon.)

I can hear you now.  "But those are just PLAYS!  They're made up!"

Hold your horses!  What I discovered is that there are a lot of facts in these fictional accounts.  When you start digging deep into the text of the ballads and the things touted as "legend" and then start looking at history, there is emerging proof that they were based upon something real.  And not to go talking crazy, but I think that it is only because of this incredible digital age that historians are beginning to be able to discover things and draw lines they never could before.  Thirty years ago, you had to find some out of print book by some guy who happened to be in a city that happened to have a dusty library with some rare scroll.  But now?  More and more information is getting out.

Which brings me back to Maid Marian.  Originally thought to be a fiction thrown in as an homage to the Virgin Mary/Robin's love interest/sex appeal for the masses in these bawdy May Games plays, it turns out she might have been real.  There are several candidates for the real Robin Hood, which I'll get into later, but TWO of them were married to women named Maud and Matilda, both of which reportedly moved into the greenwood when their husbands got into trouble and started going by Marian.  HOW CRAZY IS THAT???

I'll get into the Merry Men later when we dive into the Barons War.  Oh yeah.  We're going there.  THE BARONS WAR, BABY!

But all this info came later.  At the time I was leaving the Ren Faire, I had no idea that I had just experienced something that may have been very like the one thing that kept the unwritten truths of Robin Hood's life alive for centuries.

As it was, I was packing up all my suitcases and moving back home for what was going to be a very distracted period of time where I wrote everything except Robin Hood.  But the thing is, when you're meant to work on something?  

Tune in Thursday as I suddenly find myself going to England for Valentine's Day and realize I've got a book to write.

Part III - In which I learn the "V" symbol is not for "Victory"

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Monday, August 13, 2018

My Secret

I haven't been writing a whole lot of personal stuff for awhile.  And that's because I've been carrying around a secret for the past two years.

It's funny how an idea gets going in the zeitgeist.  I was terrified of it getting out there before I could finish my manuscript.  As it is, there's a movie coming this fall, a show potentially hitting Broadway, another one running in LA.  But my book is finally finished.  And it is coming your way. And so now I can talk about it.

And here is my secret.


COMING SEPTEMBER 20, 2018

Olde Robin Hood is currently available to preorder exclusively on Apple Books
Only 99-cents!



While my online persona has been the picture of a calm and quiet life, I have actually been to Sherwood Forest.  I have crawled through the prison owned by the Sheriff of Nottingham.  I have walked through the sandstone caves beneath the city, all in the name of research.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It started in the summer of 2016.  I get this call from a fancy publishing lady, sort of the fanciest of the fancy, who had stumbled across my books and was wondering if I had any manuscripts looking for a home.

I didn't.

In case you were wondering, this is THE WORST.

So I'm stumbling around NYC in the sweltering heat, wondering what I'm doing with my life.  I needed a project.  I needed a project FAST.

And then suddenly, up popped this painting of Robin Hood.  And a statue of Robin Hood.

I wander into The Strand bookstore and go wandering through their eighteen miles of books, and end up in the rare and out-of-print room.  There are books in here that cost more than rent in Manhattan.  Which is saying something.

But as I attempt not to drip my drool on their leather embossed beauties, over on one of their shelves I suddenly find this unwanted book just sitting there.

On sale.


This is an early edition of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (he wrote under a pseudonym.)



Probably printed sometime in the late 1800s.  And in case you've never read Ivanhoe, it is the story of Robin Hood.  What I was to learn much later is that Sir Walter Scott started writing Ivanhoe, had no idea where he was going with his plot, dropped by Nottingham, and was like, "Holy crap!  This Robin Hood dude is awesome!  I'm going to write the second half of my book about him."  And he did.

So, long story short, yeah.  I bought it.

ANYHOOGLE.

Now, I'm living up near The Cloisters, this medieval castle on the tip of Manhattan.


It's my favorite place to grab a cup of coffee and write.




This little bird and I became very good friends.

The Cloisters is home to some of my favorite art, including this one titled:  "What Did They Do to Your Neck, Mom?  When Medieval Plastic Surgery Goes Horribly Wrong"


And, "I Love Classic Rock."


I also had my first encounter with a groundhog.  Which I legit wondered if it was an unusually sized rat or a tailless beaver running around NYC.


I digress.

So, I'm sitting there in this medieval castle and go, "By gum!  All signs are pointing to Robin Hood!"  And there's this weird... I don't know what to call it...



But as a writer, if you start noticing themes appearing over and over again around you, it means that the Muse is putting something out into the ether and either you grab it, or you feel like crap a year later when you discover someone else is doing the project you were "too busy" to get around to.

So, I wander into the gift shop there at The Cloisters and what do you think is sitting there on the bookshelf?  A history of King John.


So, I buy this book, all ready to swiftly crank out the stories we all know and love about Robin Hood and King John with my own special flair, because I am Ms. Fancy Flair Pants, and hand over the brilliance I was sure would ensue to the publisher lady in like... a week or something.

But hold the frickin' phone!  I open it up to the intro and discover this passage.


Everything I knew about Robin Hood was a lie!  The cartoons!  The movies!  The television shows!  The EVERYTHING.

My world was rocked.

Folks, the frickin' Hamster Dance song still makes me a little teary because I loved Robin Hood  SO MUCH as a kid.


I realized I was not cool with this betrayal.  Up was down!  Down was up!  Everything I thought I knew was wrong!

And I needed to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Who was Robin Hood?  The REAL Robin Hood?

And so....


Tune in tomorrow to find out how I decide to tackle this problem in...  


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Olde Robin Hood is currently available to preorder exclusively on Apple Books
Only 99-cents!




Olde Robin Hood

Meet the Man Behind the Myth...


Coming September 20, 2018


Rebel.

Outlaw. 

Hero.

An oppressive regime and the man who stood against it, a life lived in such a way that it still resonants nearly eight hundred years later. 

But do you know the real Robin Hood? 

The Robin Hood of popular culture, an enemy of Prince John and loyal nobleman to King Richard, was an invention of a playwright three hundred years after Robin Hood died.

But there are older Robin Hood stories about the real Robin Hood - a poor man exiled for an unjust crime who used his intelligence and skills to fight back.

Discover these ancient histories of Sherwood's favorite son.  The original 13th century ballads are woven together and brought to swashbuckling new life by USA Today bestselling author Kate Danley. 

Enter a world of adventure and chivalry as you discover the man behind the myth, as you meet the Olde Robin Hood.


Available widely in September - sign up for my newsletter to be the first to hear!

*  *  *  *

Want to find out the story behind this story?  Tune in for my recap of the past two years!

Part I - My Secret
Part III - The "V" Symbol stands for WHAT??  (Coming August 16, 2018)



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Of Mice and MacKays



Well, it is officially here, folks.  Book Ten, Of Mice and MacKays, has dropped.  For the next week, I'm offering a special introductory price. April 25, it'll go up, so grab it now!


And not sure if you've missed some books in the series?  Head over to https://www.maggiemackaymagicaltracker.com/books/ and check your library!

And what's on the horizon?  Book Eleven, Auntie Mags, will be coming this fall.  I also have some mysteries (written under the pen name Agatha Ball) and some stand alone fantasy books in development.  WHHHEEEEEE!  Catch all the fun!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Coming this April...


Coming in just a few weeks is Book Ten in the Maggie MacKay: Magical Tracker series!  May I present... drum roll... Of Mice and MacKays

Currently available at as special pre-order price on iBooks, Kobo, and Nook.  But sign up for my newsletter if you'd like to be the first to know when it will be available on Amazon!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Just start writing...

It's funny how this writing thing never seems to get easier.  Oh, sure, it seems like it should.  It seems like if you've been doing something for as long as I've been doing this thing something should get easier.

But it doesn't.

Writing always starts with a bit of euphoria.  Today is The Day that the new project is beginning!  You sit down.  And you stare at the computer.  And you sort of get an idea.  That needs to be researched... and eight hours later you have every recipe for Bakewell tarts ever written down by humans, but not the start of your new book.

And so you say, "Tomorrow!  Tomorrow I shall get up!  I shall get dressed!  I shall go to the coffee shop with my laptop and be That Writer Person Who Is Writing."

But you wake up.

And it takes awhile for the coffee to brew. 

And there are newspaper articles to be read.

And the world is falling down around us.

And eight hours later, there is still nothing on your page...

But you say, "TOMORROW!  TOMORROW SHALL BE THE DAY!"

I have found there is only one way for getting a book written, and that is deciding that tomorrow is today.  And making tomorrow TODAY is a lousy, miserable, horrible decision.  But you gotta do it, otherwise this writing thing never gets done.

And the first day?  The first day is BRUTAL.  Your brain is like one of those ping-pong lotto boxes, with all these little balls bouncing around saying: Laundry! Vacuuming! Dishes! Cooking! Internet! INTERNET! IIINNNTTTEEERNEEEET!!!

And you can't follow the bouncing ball, or else you know you are going to find yourself at 11PM wondering why you haven't written anything again.

So you set a timer for twenty minutes and pray to the Muses to visit you for just TWENTY FRICKIN' MINUTES.  And you turn on some sounds of thunderstorms or ocean waves or coffee shops or coffee shop jazz or maybe some rock or maybe some... WAIT.  You were supposed to be writing.

You sit back down and set that timer.  You just have to do the writing thing for TWENTY MINUTES for it to be a successful day.  You think about how you used to be able to crank out 6k words a day without breaking a sweat.  8k words in a day at a brisk jog.  If you could just cranking out 10k a day, you could have this project done in four days. 

BUT WAIT!  Your ping-pong brain is pinging and ponging and while you may have set the timer, you didn't start it.

And so you do.

And you are miserable and it's awful and right around the 8 minute mark you need a drink of water or a bathroom or SOMETHING!  ANYTHING TO END YOUR SUFFERING!

But you make it through and realize you wrote six hundred words in twenty minutes.  If you can do that again tomorrow, maybe you can do TWO twenty minute sessions.

But tomorrow comes and in fact, you're able to get several twenty minute sessions going.  And the next day?  Even more.  And suddenly, you remember you DO know how to do this writing thing.  And you DO remember how to tell a story.  And all that studying you did of craft and storytelling?  It perhaps wasn't time wasted.  And maybe you might finish this book before your 95th birthday.  You're clipping along!  You're doing 6k days!  You're doing 8k days!

And then something comes up.

And you miss a day.

And suddenly...

You have to start from the beginning.  All over again.

Twenty minutes.

Of hell.

One day at a time.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

London - March 11, 2015

Say what you will about Facebook and their "On This Day" function, this popped up on my newsfeed and was totally taken back.  I had found this bonkers Black Friday sale and it was cheaper to stay three weeks in London than just a week, so... I did it.