How Now?

How’d the Local Author Fair at the Library Go?

Well enough, thanks very much. Sold a few books (maybe even one or two more than last year? ^^), including a couple copies of My Baby, Volume 1 – i.e., “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”. Also got to geek out with one visitor about the Renaissance Faire that inspired aforementioned baby. *waves to Bristol* So yeah, I’ll definitely be back for the 3rd annual event next year – by which time people will be able to purchase the completed Outlaws of Avalon trilogy!

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How Goes the New Year’s Resolution?

Those who frequent my authorial Facebook page may have seen my pledge to keep my writerly muscles warm by writing a piece of flash fiction every day.

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I have thus far remained on the wagon, with results like this, this, and the following to show for it:

He loves to make clothes. And he loves people. And the clothes he makes loves people, too.

His coats wrap their arms around you in a hug. The scarf hangs ‘round your neck with a weight like a friend just come up from behind, pulling you close for a kiss and “how are you today?”

The skirt of your dress swings and frolics about your legs, puppy-like, delighted by your nearness. The stiffer the breeze, the tighter your hat holds your head. “I’ve got you,” it says, in his voice.

The clothes and their tailor – cut from the same cloth.

Brownie points to anyone who can name the inspiration behind that little drabble. ;D And if I stay the course, there will be plenty more flash fics to come – any number of which will likely make their way onto the blog in time.

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How are ARC Requests Coming Along?

I’ve had more than zero, but would love to give out more. So if you’d like to read and review an advance PDF of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”, get in touch! (Contact page) Got book blogger friends? Give ‘em the heads up! I can only spread the word so far on my own; any added reach would be much appreciated.

Thanks for reading, and now inquiring minds want to know: How are YOU?

Second Time’s the Charm

Two orders of business today in this, my second blog post of the new year.

1 = Cook Memorial Public Library District is hosting its 2nd annual open house for local authors – and I’mma be there! Selling books. Signing books. Seeming generally delightful, if all goes to plan.

So if any of you think you’ll find yourself around Vernon Hills, IL, this Saturday (Jan. 14), drop in at the Aspen Drive branch any time from 2:30 to 4pm. Here’s hoping the event goes even better than last year’s!

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2 = CALLING ALL WILLING BOOK-REVIEWERS! We’re only two months away from the launch of the 2nd book in the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy – “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”. We made its beautiful cover happen thanks to folks stepping forward with GoFundMe dollars. Now the help I’m looking for won’t cost anyone a cent.

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If you (yes, you, sir/madam/your majesty) want to read and review an ARC (advance reader/review copy) of the latest adventure in Avalon Faire, just declare your interest – in the comments below, or via my contact page – and I’ll send you a PDF.

You: “Oh, cool! What’s the book about, again?”

The blurb: “There’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.”

You: “Nice! But um, what if I haven’t read the first book yet?”

Me: “Ballad”s been up for sale for months. Getchu a copy! Or, if you’re flat broke (we’ve all been there), I can slip you a PDF of that as well; just leave an honest review for Book 1, too, and we’ll call it totally square. 😉

And that, my friends, is that. Clamor away for those ARCs, and stay tuned for the word on how the library event goes. ^o^

Open Journal: Who Died?

I don’t recall when I started thinking so, but it occurred to me that the depression I’m going through right now feels a lot like grieving. It’s not a constant thing – not just all the time down and sad, 24/7. There will be moments – minutes – hours – in which I feel pretty much fine. Then I’ll Remember, and boom. Crash. Back down again.

And if this is grieving – if this blue lethargy and difficulty coping with the smallest disappointments and inability to harness the true might of my Get ‘Er Done superpower and authorial magic is all a form of mourning – it begs the question: Who died?

What was it inside of me that I lost during That Time at the end of Germany?

And can it be someday, somehow, returned to life?

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A number of online friends have quietly reached out to me in concern over the past few weeks. Thanks, guys. You know who you are. And if you were thinking of or meaning to check in/offer support and just couldn’t make yourself get around to it, hey – I see you, too. I know exactly how that can go. Engaging with people – even just typing a few words in a private message box – can take more out of you than you’ve got to spare. That’s the case for me, anyway.

I’ve been spending a lot less time in my social media spaces than in days of yore. As an introvert, I didn’t have a ton of social energy to start with, and there’s even less to go around these days. But I’ve yet to drop out of sight completely – in part because I’d hate for everyone to be like, “Haven’t heard from Danielle in a while. And last I saw, she seemed really down. Aw heck, did she kill herself?!”

Because even if you’re not me, whose default assumption that anyone who disappears for an hour is dead, I can see how my disappearing just now could be construed as alarming.

Don’t worry. Wistfully morbid fantasies aside, and despite the fact that I don’t always feel like staying alive, I’m not about to deliberately take my own life. 1, I haven’t got the guts. 2, it would be wasteful, and I detest waste. 3, my loved ones would be too sad. As someone apparently in mourning, I can’t bear the thought of putting my family and friends through this kind of grief and then some.

sometimes-he-comes-in-the-clouds

The thing about grief, though: Life goes on. Drops of joy slip in amidst the rain, and sometimes he comes in the clouds. The whole may hurt, but parts are maybe worth it, if we make it through.

So I’m still here. And barring accidents, here I shall remain. If anybody wants to send over a nice sympathy casserole, though, I’m sure Will Scarlet would make me eat it.

Open Journal: Third Person, Inactive Voice

Danielle has mad respect for people who can sing well while in emotional distress. When she’s sad or angry or anxious, vocal control is the first thing to go. She goes all tight – mouth, throat, chest, and deeper – locking up the words, strangling the sound. Forget making music – just talking’s close enough to impossible.

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The more I have to say,

the less I do,

because I know for sure

you wouldn’t hear me.

Once, at her desk, she scribbled that down, and then crossed it out, then got back to numbly performing her day job.

It seems some people spill all their business on social media. Got angst? Throw a wall of text at Facebook, or rant it out in a long thread of Tweets.

Danielle can’t do that.

Or she could, but she doesn’t, because she’s not sure which would be worse:

Being seen as a melodramatic complainer…

…Or not being seen at all.

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Because I don’t have the time, she thought, re: why she couldn’t get in the NaNoWriMo zone this year.

Because I don’t have the energy.

Because I don’t have the inspiration.

Upon further reflection, none of that was the problem.

The problem is that she’s been broken.

During her last days in Germany, someone wrecked her. Knocked her half-senseless with words. It was all she could do to choke out a stammering reply without crying, and face a morning of mandatory socializing without collapsing, and fake a smile that hid the truth she half-wished somebody would see and save her from.

The day before, she’d been working on a story.

In the days since, trying to explore fiction has been like singing in distress.

Two months later, her author self is still locked up tight, and she doesn’t know how to coax it out again.

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Sometimes, when Danielle’s too upset to talk, she’ll have a character do it for her. Usually Will, if he’s not too upset on her behalf. Or Allyn, if he chooses to favor the conversation with his presence. Or Gilbert, whom you still haven’t met properly, but has been mentioned before a time or two.

Danielle thought of having one of them write this blog post for her. Maybe one of them has. You wouldn’t know. This post’s voice isn’t polished up for show; for sounding how one’s “supposed to” sound. It’s just about forcing the words past a locked-up chest and squeezed-tight throat and clamped-closed mouth, out and free into the open. It’s about speaking the truth aloud (or whatever you call the typed up equivalent), and that’s easier done for Danielle in the third person.

So. Now it’s out.

Which will be worse: Seen, or unseen?

Probably whichever one she has to live through.

The Wonderful Wizard of Avalon (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, “Our author once described him thus:

As co-CEO of Avalon Faire for the entirety of its existence (and official wizard of Camelot for some centuries before that), the man has a lot on his plate. With a job description that includes juggling the individual and mutual interests of the resident Fey and human folk, maintaining both necessary relations with the Outside and the top-secret magical nature of the Faire, and continually butting heads with an incorrigible Will Scarlet, if Merlin comes across as a little tightly-wound, it’s because he’s earned the privilege.

“Welcome, Merlin!” Will greets the man now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how in the world did I talk you into this, and will I be able to work such a miracle again in the pursuit of future favors?”

Merlin’s lips purse within the frame of his iconic silver-gray beard. “In no way am I doing this as a favor to you, Mr. Scarlet. This is about the promotion of our author’s latest work featuring our world. I’m not so overbooked that I can’t contribute to the Faire’s marketing efforts. And if that means sitting down for another episode of your nonsense… well, here I am.”

“Sporting of you. So, what can you tell us about your role in Outlaws of Avalon, Book 1.5?”

“Essentially,” Merlin says dryly, “I’ve been cast as Scrooge.”

Will half-conceals a grin. “Apt.”

“Well, it’s a parody of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Someone had to play the lead, and of Avalon’s residents, I suppose I made the most logical choice. As for the rest of the story’s logic, it’s everything bizarre about Book 1, wrapped up in a dream sequence.”

“In other words, ‘Logic for what?’”

“Pretty much,” Merlin confirms. “Beyond the extensive silliness, however, there are elements of actual consequence to the Outlaws of Avalon’s overarching plotline. Heavy themes served up with humor; such is our author’s favored approach.”

“Talking of faves,” Will segues, “which bit of the book do you like best?”

“Hmm.” Merlin strokes his beard in thought. “Possibly Allyn’s song number in the third chapter. A melancholy little thing, but that’s just Allyn-a-Dale all over.”

“And, what, you like him best of all your immortal heroes?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Merlin. “That would be Arthur. Danielle may have written the series for the Merry Men’s sake, but as far as I’m concerned, my king is the sole reason Avalon Faire exists.”

“So, if Arthur didn’t need you to manage him, what do you suppose you’d do with your life?”

Merlin startles. “I… haven’t considered anything like that question in a very long time.” Blue eyes take on a shade of bemusement. “I really don’t know. Maybe get a degree in something? Learn to teach? Seems just the sort of thankless job I’m made for.”

“I’m sure Hogwarts would hire you in a heartbeat. And speaking of matters of the heart, tell me: What is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Will pulls up a dreamy smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Merlin grunts. “The only things I keep better than secrets are my lips to myself when it comes to the likes of you. You’ve had your interview, Scarlet. Don’t think you can blackmail me into more.”

“It’s not blackmail, it’s the rules!”

“And you think you’re the only one in the Faire with a talent for rule-breaking?” The wizard stands with a smirk-like scowl. “I bent nature’s laws before your birth, boy. Remember who you’re talking to.”

“Right now,” says Will, giving up, “I’m talking to Allyn. Hey, minstrel! What’s the word from our sponsor?”

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“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by An Avalon Christmas Carol (An Outlaws of Avalon Novella)’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

Merlin was asleep, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that

And yet, when you’re a wizard with a legendary gift of prophecy, who can tell whether a dream may be something more?

In the tradition of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic, join Camelot’s court and Sherwood’s outlaws on a spirited journey through Avalon’s past, present, and future.

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

Open Journal: Nothing is Forever

Over my birthday weekend, I dyed my hair. The color doesn’t like to just stick there. I sleep with a towel over my pillows to protect them from stains. Scratching my head leaves my fingertips blue. It’s kind of a weird tradeoff for looking like a boss.

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I’ve been asked whether I’ll go on to dye my hair other colors, in future. I really don’t know. I don’t even know how long I’ll hang onto the blue I’ve got before shaving it back down to black.

It’s a temporary color. It could be gone at any time.

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My day job is technically a temp position.

The workload’s been a bit sporadic, lately. Some days, there’s plenty to keep everybody occupied for a full shift. Others, things slow down to a crawl. I’m the type that’s big on diligence and reliability, so unless I’m instructed otherwise by my higher-ups, I’m there either way, working with what I’m given with the best attitude I can muster. Makes the prize all the sweeter when I’m sent home with a surprise half-day.

If and when the day comes that there’s just not enough work to go around, I may be one of the folks that get let go. Part of me goes, “Oh, no! But… money!” (Since, y’know, the darling book babies only bring in so much, at this point.) The rest of me isn’t that bothered about it. It’s a fine job for now – close to perfect, in some ways – but I wouldn’t want to get stuck doing it for the rest of my life.

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I used to think I wanted to make books for the rest of my life. (During my heavily depressed episodes, the thoughts went more like, “I want to make books until it kills me,” or, “I look forward to being done making books so I can die.”)

There’s still a list of stories I know for certain I need to publish before calling it quits. Beyond that… I don’t know for sure. I’ve still got words in me. I doubt I could or should ever fully turn my back on playing with them. I only wonder if playing so hard over the last few years has burned out my passion, or if I maybe need a season of pursuing something else. What else? I haven’t a clue.

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“So, you’re back from Germany. Where are you going next?”

Again, no clue.

I knew when I went that Germany wasn’t to be my forever home. In part because a “forever home”, however sweetly it’s meant when used it reference to adopted pets and such, is not a thing. There is no forever, in this life. That comes with the next. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

That aside, I want my long-term, settle-down home to be in England. Or Ireland. Or San Francisco. Someplace that calls to my heart in a language I can fluently speak. (So, es tut mir leid, Germany, but that means you’re right out.) As for the exact “where” and “when”, I don’t have any answers.

My future is a big, blurry question mark. My present is just me, pushing through day to day.

It’s not a condition I much enjoy. But on the bright side, I know it’s not forever.

Troll the Ancient Dickens Carol

We’ve still got several sleeps to go ‘til Christmas, but the holiday cheer is here with the release of “An Avalon Christmas Carol (An Outlaws of Avalon Novella)”! The e-book’s on Amazon for only 99 cents, so you haven’t already pre-ordered your copy, stuff it into your stocking e-reader today!

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To celebrate, here are 12 Days of Christmas fun facts about the book, its making and inspirations, etc.:

1 = Some of my stories take days, weeks, months, or even years to plan. But I had my little “Christmas Carol” spoof mapped out start to finish in just one day!

2 = …With the second day spent re-reading the Charles Dickens original, to thoroughly familiarize myself with the sandbox I’d be playing in.

3 = Perhaps my favorite characters to cast were the three Spirits. I don’t want to give away who’s who (let the readers be surprised, Danielle!), so let’s just say that some parallels presented themselves very nicely.

4 = The Outlaws of Avalon trilogy focuses more on the Sherwood side of things, leaving the Camelot crowd to take a backseat. But mourn ye not, Arthuriana fans! I’ve got a novel planned just for the Once and Future King ‘n’ ‘em, too. And in the meantime, we’ve got the holiday novella, which gives us our first glimpse into the mind of my Merlin.

5 = Here’s a blast from Christmas Past: Perhaps my earliest “Christmas Carol”-related memory is watching a stage production of the story and feeling bewildered as to why the show would end with Scrooge on the floor, traumatized by his visit from Marley’s ghost. Turns out it was only intermission. Little Danielle was much relieved.

6 = My all-time favorite “Christmas Carol” character? The ever-merry Nephew Fred. No wonder Will Scarlet was so quick to snatch up the role in the parody. ;D

7 = Do you know, I’m not even sure why I love “A Christmas Carol” so much. Apart from Fred, it’s not the characters. It’s not that the plot grips me, or the message that speaks to me. It’s just… always been there, in one telling or another. Its familiarity makes it feel cozy and comfortable and, well, like Christmas. Guess I’m kind of a sucker for nostalgia. X)

8 = Gracious, 12 facts is a lot…

9 = Brainstorming cover ideas before artist Hannah Vale offered her services, I’d considered trying to get a photo of my lute Rosie in the snow. Allyn looked askance at that notion, and was glad I went the commissioned illustration route. Rosie probably is, too.

10 = Talking of lutes, it’s possible (unlikely, but possible) I could’ve gotten though “Avalon Christmas Carol” without a minstrel song number from little Allyn/Tiny Tim, if Dickens hadn’t straight-up written:

…And by and by they had a song, about a lost child travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim, who had a plaintive little voice, and sang it very well indeed.

Welp. That did it. Destiny spake. Hence Allyn’s “Little Lost Winter Traveler” song.

11 = …Which I recently figured out how to play on Rosie.

12 = You can watch us perform the song here!

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And that is that. Off you go, now. Buy. Read. Tell your friends. (Review!) And God bless us, every one. ❤