Of Music and Dragons and Other Such Magic

Hello. Allyn-a-Dale, here, because Danielle’s too tired to feel like talking but still wanted a blog post written, and we all know to whom this task in such cases fall.

That’s right: To her characters.

In fairness, though, I’m much of the reason behind this post in the first place. You see, she somewhat recently came across another blogger’s post centered around The Imagine Dragons Book Tag (to be explained shortly), and I happen to feel something of a soul connection to multiple Imagine Dragons songs, these days (to be explained or elsewise made evident following the eventual publication of #CamelotWIP). And so it is with less shady side-eye than usual that I take on today’s wordsmithery.

So, The Imagine Dragons Book Tag. The rules are fairly straightforward:

Link back to the tag’s creator (R’s Loft)

Thank the person who tagged you (We encountered the tag on the blog of The Story Sponge, and quoth she, “If you are reading this and you think it looks like fun, consider yourself tagged!” So tagged we are. Our thanks, Sponge!)

Answer the questions (a more-or-less simple matter of matching books to the titles and themes of songs by music group Imagine Dragons)

Tag as many or few people as you like!

As is tradition, all books or short stories used in this post will hail from the ever-expanding works of author Danielle E. Shipley. And because I am bound as a bard to bring music to the masses, be assured that I shall link to all the referenced songs for your listening pleasure. With that, onward we go!

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Gold A Book Where the Main Character Has a Curse (or gift that seems like one)

For stories built upon literal curses, what first comes to mind is the first of the Wilderhark Tales, “The Swan Prince”. The eponymous main character, Sigmund, is bespelled to spend his days as a human boy and his nights as a great gray swan – and by no means is he the only key player in the plot with a life complicated by a witch’s curse, for such is the everyday risk you run in the world around Wilderhark Forest.

Book Banner, Swan Prince

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Less literally, there’s Solwen, also known Balladry Sol, from Danielle’s latest Wilderhark world release, “Windows and Sol”, whose extraordinary affinity for music comes with the curse-like burden of social deviation – for girls, ‘tis said, are not meant to be minstrels. (I doubt that would have stopped Father deciding to raise me as one, had I been born a girl. But then, what use has Father ever had for people telling him things can’t be done?)

FrictionA Book You Resisted Reading Writing

Speaking of Father (which I do not do absolutely all the time, I’ll thank Will Scarlet to remember before he complains to the contrary), there was a certain resistance to the writing of Gant-o’-the-Lute’s origin story, “The Sky-Child”. Not that Danielle wasn’t interested in writing it; she was just more interested in writing other things first. (Mostly things centered around her character obsession of the time, Edgwyn Wyle.) Father was, shall we say, not pleased with the dawdling delay. (Never let it be supposed that the Luc vs. Annabelle standoff  in “Inspired” came from nowhere.)

Book Banner, Sky-Child 2

Cover w Text 06.3, front

And on the subject of “Inspired”, I might mention Annabelle’s notable reluctance to complete her novel’s “Phantom of the Opera”-esque short story, “The Manta and the Mask”. Though I myself cannot but be drawn to the story’s chilling artistry, to dance such darkness upon her laptop’s keys was the most emotionally challenging task Annabelle had yet faced as a writer. One might perhaps not have blamed her for abandoning the project; but bless her courage, she could not abandon its tragic hero.

Monster – A Book with a Negative Character Arc

Manifest Reality cover

Perhaps this calls for a reference to one of Danielle’s less-often-spoken-of published stories, “Sundown” from the “Manifest Reality” horror anthology. Though protagonist Claudia’s hellish descent down the road of vengeance isn’t one to be emulated, Danielle certainly found it satisfying to write. (As satisfying as it would have been to pull a Claudia on the world and its irritations? Possibly not. But life is compromise.)

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

And you’ll not have read it yet, for it has not yet been released (stay tuned), but the arc of a certain character in “The Once and Future Camelot” may or may not take a turn for the negative, when all’s said and sung. One never knows, with wizards.

Demons – A Book Where the Character Has a Secret

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery

Well, there’s a broad question, for you. Characters with secrets make the fictional world go ‘round. See again: “The Swan Prince”, built upon the secrets of Sigmund and Sula. Or “The Once and Future Camelot”, where a certain knight has been sitting on a bomb of deceit that’s not far from detonation. Or, a chilling favorite, the bloody secret of Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, in “So Super Dead”. That one gave Danielle nightmares, when first she wrote it. ^_^

Hear Me A Book You Love That People Don’t Seem to Know About

Based on the sluggish activity on its GoFundMe page, not nearly enough people seem to know of picture-book-in-progress “The Princess and the Moon”. And that is a true pity, for it’s a darling story with endearing illustrations by artist Hannah Vale. If you loved reading of Laraspur and Lumónd in the “The Sun’s Rival”, or if you simply have a soft spot for sweet children’s stories brought to gorgeous life in watercolor, then this is a project to get behind.

Promo Sketch, w text 02

America A Book Set in Your State/Country

Again, “Inspired” would fit the bill. Most of it takes place in the area of St. Louis, Missouri – or in Annabelle’s head, which physically amounts to the same thing. Then there are my Outlaws of Avalon stories, largely taking place in and around the Faerie isle of Avalon – which, many would be surprised to learn, has been hiding out for some while in the American Midwest. And forget not “So Super Dead”, which, when not set on the moon, sees most of the action in Las Vegas, at the Hoover Dam, and in assorted nameless little towns in Wyoming.

Outlaws of Avalon covers, all 5

Whatever It Takes A Book Where the Main Character Won’t Give Up, Despite the Odds

Perhaps the most impossible odds were those in “The Seventh Spell”. You think magic gone wrong is trouble enough? Stir a tangle of time travel into the mix. Honestly, were it not for Father having been his usual miracle self in the midst of the mayhem, I don’t expect a happy ending would have had a prayer.

Book Banner, Seventh Spell 2

But for a more everyday sort of bravery, there’s none better than Balladry Sol. She is very much as the blurb describes her: ‘A girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.’

Song of the Soul Shepherdess, Verse 1
Hear a snippet of Balladry’s minstrel manifesto in this video

Walking the Wire A Book with a Hard-Won Romance

I could answer that. Or I could highlight a theme every bit as meaningful, yet severely underrated: Hard-Won Friendships. …Or, mayhap more accurately, Hard-Won Queerplatonic Relationships. (Feel free to look it up. One basic definition can be found here.)

Beyond Her Infinity

In “The Queen’s Lady” (from “Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea”), we had Moon Melody, determined to act as Morning Joy’s champion at any cost. I defy any fairytale prince to do better by his princess.

And “Reality As We Know It” (from “Our Hungering Hearts”), gave us Row, a lad too good for any world that housed him, and caregiving companion to the deeply troubled Heartsinger. If anyone can out-friend Moon Melody (not that it’s a competition, of course, but if it were…), it’s young Rowan Charles.

Thunder A Book That Rattled You

We’ve no idea, yet, if or when Danielle will get around to publishing it, but writing that one mega-manuscript’s Santa Claus murder scene strongly affected her.

Boomerang A Book You Keep Coming Back To

Well, it’s not every book that inspires her to revisit it as a picture book, so we’ll name “The Sun’s Rival” again.

Bad Liar A Book with an Unreliable Narrator

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

If we interpret that to mean narrators who purposely withhold information, the two that come to my mind are the librarian from “Date Due” (“Our Hungering Hearts”) and Morganne le Fey from “The Once and Future Camelot”. Each one thinks themselves so much the wiser than the rest of us, why trouble our heads with vital details too early in the game?

If, however, ‘unreliable’ is used to mean ‘narrators who aren’t trying to lie, they just don’t know the truth’, that’s more reminiscent of Rowena from “A Mind Prone to Wander” (“Our Hungering Hearts”). That poor soul could hardly tell the sky from the Clouded Sea, and she knew it.

Digital A Book with Lots of Tech/Computers/Video Games

I don’t know about ‘lots’, but “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” – (which, I’ve been told to remind you, is available for free here, through the end of the month) – introduced me to a minivan and a radio, all of it in a technological league well ahead of the fairytale world I’d lately left.

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And with that, we’ll call this round of The Imagine Dragons Book Tag complete. If you wish to play in your own webspace, consider yourself tagged, and feel free to share the link in the comments below, that Danielle might discover where your imagination (and/or dragons) took you.

Now for a minstrel bow – *hat sweeps low* – and a merry farewell.

~ Allyn-a-Dale

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Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Ink

Once upon a venture to the Fresno Pirate Festival, I came upon an author displaying her literary wares. We exchanged chitchat and professional contact info – (as writer types are known to do when crossing paths in the wild) – and the next thing you know, she’s booked herself a free space on the Ever On Word blogging schedule. (Mine’s a hospitable soul, for a pirate.)

Fresno_IMG_20190518_122917364_3
That’s /Captain/ Deshipley, to you.

So settle ye in comfy for…

An Interview with Author Leslie D. Soule!

Me: Tell us about the first story you can remember writing.

Leslie: The first story I can remember writing is one called The Warrior’s Tale, in which my characters go on a series of adventures through the wilderness. It had a very Robin Hood feel to it, and I wrote it when I was really young, probably about 10 or so.

Me: A thousand brownie points to you for uttering the name Robin Hood in your first paragraph! You may stay! Question the next: What is your writing process like? Do you plan and research beforehand, or figure it out as you go? Any special writing habits or rituals you’ve developed over time?

Leslie: So my writing process varies a bit, each time I write a novel. I’ve been participating for the past couple of years in NaNoWriMo, where you try and write a novel in a month, and have to get in around 1,600 words or so per day.

Me: Hail, fellow Wrimo! Although I haven’t had the wherewithal to participate, the last few years, I have very fond memories of my past NaNo adventures. ^_^ But do go on. You were saying…?

Leslie: I usually try and get ahead of the game a bit by using a piece that I’ve already worked on, as I know that I’m bound to skip a day or two, and that extra bit makes me feel better, like I’m not lagging behind on the writing. I usually try and come up with a general idea of where I want the story to go, but I’ve found that it’s more of an organic process than I’d originally thought, and changes come up as you write it. Such as, for the novel I’m currently working on, I ran it by someone and they suggested that I add more characters. As for habits I’ve developed over time, my habit is to get a coffee at Starbucks and try not to write a novel, but just to come up with an interesting scene and sort of go from there.

Me: How do you find your characters? Have any of them just shown up fully-formed in your head and made demands, or are they better behaved than that? Would you consider any of them to be your friends, or is your relationship purely professional? Also, Will Scarlet insists I ask: Would any of them be interested in a guest appearance on the talk show he hosts on my blog?

Leslie: Finding my characters usually comes from being inspired by the works of someone else. Such as, the name of my talking cat character, Greymalkin, is from Shakespeare. He showed up and demanded that I write book 2 in the series, but other than that, they usually don’t give me much trouble. I consider my sorcerer Will Everett to be a friend of mine, and he’s based on an actual guy – a martial arts buddy of mine. I think he’d be interested in a guest appearance on the talk show some time.

Will Scarlet: A Will Basically-Rhymes-with-Scarlet sorcerer, you say? Sounds practically predestined! I’ll be in touch!

Me: What is your biggest, shiniest, most improbable author dream? (A mega-bestseller? A collaboration with a literary celebrity? Your work adapted into a nine-hour opera?)

Leslie: My biggest, shiniest author dream is that my books take off like George R.R. Martin’s have, and that with MY show series, people aren’t disappointed in the ending of it like they have been at *ahem* certain shows. I also want to be able to show up at author events with a giant mechanical/animatronic dragon that breathes fire & releases glittered smoke.

Me: As shiny dreams go, fire-and-glitter-breathing dragons are tough to top.

Will: LORD, yes! Take a page out of Leslie’s dream book, Danielle. You haven’t arrived ‘til you’ve done it with dazzle-matronics.

Me: Which is your Reader Self’s favorite book of all time? (Or, if that’s too cruel a question, you may name three.)

Leslie: I LOVE Tolkien. My favorite books are the three Lord of the Rings books, and The Hobbit, which is its prequel. I’ve always loved Middle-Earth.

Me: I will admit to it being a slow slog for me to get through those books, but thanks to a late-game introduction to the LOTR movies, Middle-Earth and its fellowship of heroes will ever have a place in my heart. ^_^ Now, share a favorite line you’ve written – from a work-in-progress, or already published story, or just something you scribbled and adored.

Leslie: My absolute favorite written line is in my upcoming novel, Retribution, and I don’t want to spoil that part because it’s kind of climactic. But other than that, I particularly like it when Greymalkin admonishes my main character Ash Kensington in book 2 and says, “Who do you think you are – Indiana Jones?!”

Will: I mean… *shrug* Is he/she/they Indiana Jones?

Me: She just told us the name is Ash Kensington, so… probably not?

Will: But who’s to say, though?

Me: Hush, Scarlet. And Leslie, one final question for you: What’s one thing you wished everyone knew about you, but nobody ever asks?!

Leslie: What I wish everyone knew about me was how hard I’ve worked to become a published author, what the journey is like, and how to go about climbing that mountain of authorship that includes writing/getting published/promoting/dealing with difficulties that arise, and such – because it really has taken a lot of effort, and I think that kind of disappears behind the scenes of things, but it makes for much more interesting conversation than just talking about the finished project or my accomplishments.

Me: *nods in sage agreement* The journey is all.

Will: The destination has dragons.

Me: Okay, amending: The journey is, like, a good 80%. Let’s close with an author biographic word from our guest!

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My name is Leslie Soule (pronounced “soul” like that part of you that is innate). I am an author who loves to try new genres and Sacramento, California is my hometown. I have an M.A. in English from National University and am a member of the English Chapter of the Sac State Alumni Association. Follow me on Twitter @Falcondraco

Leslie Soule

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If you’re an author interested in an interview from me (or a character interested in an interview from Will Scarlet), feel free to hit up my contact page, and we’ll get you aboard the Ever On Word ship as soon as the seas permit. ;D

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: How to Hero[ine]

Welcome to the continuation of last week’s meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. A quick ‘hello, again!’ to our current membership: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, Lady Marion Hood from The Outlaws of Avalon (the first book of which is, now through the end of July, available for free on Smashwords.com, courtesy of the semiannual Smashwords Summer/Winter sale).

stt book club logo

Marion (First Lady of Sherwood’s Merry Men): Recall you, in honor of Balladry Sol from Danielle’s newest e-publication, “Window’s and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”, our discourse was centered on heroines / female characters / chicks in fic. To get us rolling again, here’s another quote from “Window’s and Sol”.

…There were any number of things boys could do that girls could not, just as there were things girls could do that boys could not (though fewer of those sprang to mind).

M: Discussion point! The freedoms vs. constraints of being (or writing) a girl character, in Deshipley canon and elsewhere. Who’s got thoughts?

Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure): As you mention writing, an excerpt from the second “Inspired” novel comes to mind…

“I don’t know. She’s just … no fun to write.” Her nose wrinkled again. “Girls never are.”

“No? Why is that?”

Annabelle’s shoulders hunched in a shrug. “Girl characters are … I mean, they don’t…”

“Do they not?” Luc lifted an eyebrow. “And if they do not, where does the fault lie: With the characters, or with their authors? A girl is not an alien, Annabelle. Or at least, no more alien than you.”

“Meh,” she said, her default argument when she had no argument at all. “It’d be easier if all fictional girls were warrior angels with attitude problems.”

“The market may be headed that way,” Luc observed.

Uri (skater girl and Fire of God): Sounds like our Danielle-insert author struggled to identify with her feminine side.

Luc: The larger trouble, I think, was that her feminine side was too busy swooning over male characters to pay the females much attention. And one sees all too often what becomes of fictional women who are treated solely as buttresses in the architecture of a man’s story.

Nicky (genderless super ghost-whisperer): You’d think, though, that problem would only come up when the writers are men. Don’t girls know what goes into being a girl?

Luc: What goes into being a non-fictional girl, perhaps. But fiction is informed by fiction as much as it is by ‘real life’. Artists draw from what they’ve seen in preexisting art. They learn what a story is and how it’s told from other stories. So if the majority of the stories a girl consumes contain only half-sketched, skimmed-over women, that’s what her imagination has to fight against in order to produce better.

M: Same story for minority groups, or anyone who doesn’t match the ol’ protagonist default – straight, white, Western-society man. If creators aren’t exposed to any real variety, they’re less likely to think to incorporate it, and so the default remains.

Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken): And high goodness knows even main female characters have their own default settings in place. Probably thin, probably light-haired, probably more appealing to the boys around her than she believes she is… Oh, I actually managed to tick that last box of the three!

U: I’m batting zero. Fortunately, I’ve got the ‘warrior angels with attitude problems’ shtick down. Watch out, market!

Lar: As far as freedoms, though, girl characters will often be allowed to express more than their male counterparts, who are more usually expected to be stoic overtop of unknowable hidden depths. We get to be whimsical and giggly and act irrationally – because, alas, men prefer to think themselves too logical for such liberties.

N: Way to trap yourselves in your own socially constructed box, dude-folks.

U: Say, Nicky – as neither a girl nor a dude-folk, do you feel like you’ve got any particular constraints or freedoms?

N: Oh, zero constraints. Second Earth society has thus far given its physiologically genderless demographic no rules and no roles. Sounds like unlimited freedom, but it’s more like… if you’re not one or the other, you’re sort of seen as nothing, and nobody knows what to do with you. Probably plenty of phys-gees embrace that chance to just be whatever they feel like, but for me, who on top of everything didn’t have a superpower until my late teens, there were a lot of self-worth issues to work through.

M: Is that the official shorthand, ‘phys-gees’?

N: Never came up in the novel, so… maybe?

M: Well, time may tell. Now, for one last “Windows and Sol” quote.

“Marrying another minstrel never occurred to you?”

Solwen gave a more ordinary shrug. “I guess I assumed none of them would like me. Silly me, for not expecting one who didn’t particularly like me to propose marriage anyway.”

M: ‘Likeable’ girls in Deshipley canon! Who might qualify by conventional standards, and standards aside, which of her girl characters do each of us personally like best?

U: Is there even a conventional standard in place?

Luc: People speak as though there must be, but the topic is so inherently subjective, I don’t see how one can create a universally liked character, no matter their gender.

M: Throw in the fact that people tend to be more critical of female characters as a matter of course, and perfection becomes that much harder to attain.

Lar: Most readers seemed to like me, from all I could gather. ^_^

U: How’d you swing that?

Lar: Kindness coupled with relatable insecurities, I suppose.

U: Well. Color me unlikable, then.

N: Pretty sure Luc already did that. Canonically.

“Hooray, the cat’s chewing something,” said Uri, devoid of enthusiasm. “Now that all has once again been made right with the world, what say we get back to the minor matter of choosing who gets first crack at Annabelle?”

Luc said bluntly, “It will not be you.”

Uri didn’t bat an eye. “Because?”

“Because the best chance for all of you depends on Annabelle having a positive first authoring experience. That includes a friendly relationship with her protagonist. And you are not personable.”

The barest twitch of an eyelash, which she prayed went unnoticed. “Meaning nobody likes me.”

“Meaning,” said Luc, “you are not overly easy to like.”

Luc: Ahem. Shall we look to the second part of the question?

N: Right! Our favorite Deshipley girls! Hard to remember each and every one of them off the top of my head, but one fave that comes to mind for me is Tidbit, from “Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son”.

M: Surprising choice! Why her?

N: Because even at a super young age, she knows exactly what she wants, and she uses her wits and persistence and any resource at her four-year-old disposal to make her dream happen.

U: Her dream of running away with a demon?

N: …That’s not the point. Anyway, who’s your favorite?

U: Probably your ghost, Brenna Walsh. Speaking as the Angel of Vengeance, hers is a motivation I can actually get behind. And yeah, her temperament wouldn’t win her any Likable Girl awards, but it works for me.

Lar: Seems relatability really does count for much. My favorite… oh, that’s hard. My heart’s shouting two things at once. There’s my mother, to start – Crown Princess/Queen Rosalba of Denebdeor – on the grounds that I admire and respect the multidimensional way she navigates both royalty and adventure. But I also very much love the quiet spunk of Molly Worth from “Deathsong of the Deep”. How is one to choose?

Luc: Nothing at all wrong with naming two favorites, child. As for myself, I might select Morganne le Fey. We’ll see more of her in #CamelotWIP, of course, but the glimpses caught of her throughout the Outlaws of Avalon series is enough to intrigue. In her altogether feminine way, she perfectly matches your earlier summary of the male character ideal: Stoic overtop of unknowable hidden depths and, from all one can tell, entirely ruled by Faerie logic.

M: An apt description, that. And since Laraspur’s set a precedent of two top picks, I too shall double up and say the McCaughley sisters. Almost feels like another level of cheating, since they’re from the same books as me, so I’ve spent time with them both on-page and off-screen. But what I like so much about Loren and Janey is how entirely normal they are – something of a rarity, in Danielle’s work! They’re not part-super-creature or royalty or anything at all fantastical; just a pair of contemporary young ladies who tease each other, support each other, go out together to enjoy music and movies and mediocre restaurants, and let their geek flags fly all Ren Faire season long. They’re sometimes at their best, sometimes not, simultaneously special and typical, and always, fully, expressly human. In short, they’re just girls. And the outrageous and magical Outlaws of Avalon plot makes space for them, the way any kind of story can, if the author is willing to consider ordinary girls as worthy of adventures as anyone.

Windows and Sol, cover finishedN: Think we’ll see Danielle play around with more characters of that type, in future?

M: With our author, one never knows what art she’ll do ‘til she’s done it! In the meantime, this session of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club has come to an end. Thank you, my fellow club members, for the dynamic dialogue. And thank you, readers of the blog, for following along. Who are some of your favorite fictional girls, and what is it you most appreciate about them? Tell us all about it in the comments! And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the doings of Danielle’s latest heroine in “Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”. Until next time, everyone. Farewell!

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: Radical Girls and Pre-Revision Boys

Hello, everyone! Lady Marion Hood, here, with another meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. Before we get started, a quick reintroduction to our current membership: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, from The Outlaws of Avalon.

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Marion: ‘Tis a special day on which we gather, friends! The launch day of Danielle’s newest publication, “Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”.

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Once upon a time, ‘wandering songster’ was no kind of career for a woman.

Now one minstrel-in-the-making is going to change Wilderhark’s tune.

From the author who introduced Wilderhark Tales’ Gant-o’-the-Lute and Outlaws of Avalon’s Allyn-a-Dale, a new voice rises into a brave ballad of its own: That of a girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.

“The Soul Shepherdess” – Young Solwen’s fateful encounter with a man o’ music and his sullen apprentice opens her eyes to the road she’s destined to take, along with the hardship that will be her traveling companion.

“In the Window” – Although Harper Rove-a-Day couldn’t feel less qualified to serve as minstrel master to his extraordinary trainee, he just may have what it takes to learn a lesson or two from her.

“The Names She Played” – To hear hidden music is not merely Solwen’s gift, but her only chance in a deadly game with one of the world’s oldest songs.

Tales of singing. Tales of striving. Most of all, tales of true love.

Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken): Congratulations, Danielle!

Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure): Seconded! A story’s flight from the nest is ever a proud occasion.

Uri (skater girl and Fire of God): So today we’re, what, sharing our individual thoughts on the new book? Like we did for “Deathsong of the Deep”?

Marion (First Lady of Sherwood’s Merry Men): Nay, dark angel. Rather, in honor of Solwen’s favored place in our author’s estimation, we will be discussing various aspects of a broader literary topic: Heroines / female characters / chicks in fic.

Nicky (genderless super ghost-whisperer): Nice and on-brand for you, given guest posts of yours that have shown up on the Luna Station Quarterly blog, a time or two.

M: One does try. So, here’s how the conversation will work: I share a quote from “Windows and Sol”, and we discuss a correlated question it raises. To open… well, how about these lines pulled from the book’s opening?

Solwen of Teastone Glass was not a radical girl. …There being little she found more distasteful than disharmony, Solwen was quite content to accept without complaint whatever path was laid before her. She considered herself fortunate, too, that this decision was thus far made easy on her, for neither her family nor the world required aught of her yet that she considered to be much of a trial. As the young daughter of passably well-off glass-sellers, her tasks consisted mainly of doing what she could to keep herself and the shop looking presentable, and staying out of unnecessary trouble – expectations both reasonable and pleasantly met.

M: Radical girls in Deshipley canon – go! Which of her female characters go looking for trouble, or go willfully across the grain?

Lar: For a start, what of you, lady outlaw? One doesn’t join up with Robin Hood’s band without planning to make a little trouble.

M: Lol, poor Allyn did. But as for the rest of us, you’re right – we were rebels, and we reveled in the role.

N: In my book, Brenna might count. An angry ghost whose motivation is to murder her murderer is pretty much the opposite of a well-behaved good girl.

Lar: And there’s my little sister, Lily, who ran from the reasonable idea of marriage to a normal human prince when there were dangerous forces of natures out there for the courting.

U: Yeah, that one went a bit cautionary-tale-shaped, by the end.

Luc: And why shouldn’t girls use their agency to bring about cautionary tales?

M: Agency is indeed the crux of the matter, master muse. A girl given the chance to choose can make a mess of things, or set a wrong aright, or twist any point of the plot in between. For someone like Lily, too reckless to count the cost ahead of time, or for the Brennas with no f*cks to give, acting radically is easy. And me, well, at least I had the Merry Men for a support system. Our Solwen, though, would have much preferred a ‘well-behaved good girl’ lifestyle, if only her bardic calling didn’t necessitate the contrary. While there’s no one right way to rebel, Solwen’s is certainly a way that her author, as an artist, can respect.

U: ‘Cause Almighty knows most artists won’t have society at large in their corner.

Luc: Not until society is willing to recognize the making of art as a ‘real job’, no.

M: All right, new quote and question!

“Merely a shame that you weren’t born a boy, that’s all. You’d have made a fine minstrel, otherwise.”

M: How many Deshipley girl characters can we think of who actually started out as boys in her early drafts?

U: You’re looking at one.

Luc: Ah, yes – a pre-publication reader noted that all of Jean and Annabelle’s characters in “Inspired” were male, so why not consider making at least one of them female? Danielle thought the point well made, and a quick bit of revision later, our gender-swapped angel was reborn.

Lar: Did the revision result in any big changes to your character, Uri?

U: Not a one. Putting an ‘s’ in front of my pronoun didn’t otherwise feminize me in any way – partly because I would’ve refused anyway, but also partly because Danielle thought it would have been all kinds of shady to imply that someone like me isn’t enough of a girl. Hell, go far enough down that slippery slope, and Danielle might not qualify as a girl either.

N: She did the same thing with Gravity Max in my book! Not because any pre-pub readers said anything, but just ‘cause she was looking at the twins – Max and Zero, y’know – and thought, why should the brother get the super strength power and first rank in team leadership, and the second-in-command flyer be the sister? And rather than switch ‘em around, she just made them both girls.

Lar: Wasn’t Demario in Thackeray Kyle’s crew also originally male?

N: Yeah, it was a boys club. So she tried making Demario a woman to mix it up, only to further realize that Demario identified as an AMAB transwoman. Goes to show, you never know what you’re going to get when you pass on the male default.

M: So it does. And, as usual, our discussion is running long!

Luc: Another two-parter, then?

M: Naturally. ^_^ We’ll continue next time exploring questions raised by the text of “Windows and Sol” – which, again, has released just today, so never let it be said that Danielle gave the world nothing to read while they await our club meeting’s second half. ;D Until then, readers of the blog, thanks for joining us! Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments! And farewell!

In Which I Battle Like a Bard

Once upon a time, I—

Will Scarlet: “Wait. What do you mean, ‘I’?”

Y’know. I. As in, ‘me, myself, and’.

Will: “But you opened this post with ‘once upon a time’. When you do that, you’re usually like, ‘an author did this or that, and stuff happened, and kingdoms rose and fell, yadda-yadda,’ before finally delivering the big reveal: ‘And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.’”

Allyn-a-Dale: “Wow, Will. Spoilers, much?”

Will Scarlet: “She does it EVERY TIME!”

Not this time! Because I am an unpredictable, plot-twisty wordsmaster, is why.

Now, again from the top: Once upon a time, I came across a Kickstarter / author call for an anthology titled “Sword and Sonnet”. The theme? Battle bards.

Sword and Sonnet

Allyn: “A promising premise indeed!”

Right? So I had me a little brainstorming session, and whipped up a short story featuring a noteworthy minstrel—

Will: “Ha! Noteworthy – like musical notes, right?”

Um, not intentionally. I just meant exceptional—

Allyn: “Like Father?”

No! Like Ballady Sol!

Will: “Cool! So, when does the antho come out?”

A while ago.

Will: “But… you didn’t hype the release at all…?”

Allyn: “Psst. Will. I don’t think her story was included in the book.”

To my disappointment, it was not. Not every excellent story will make every cut. I guess mine wasn’t what they were looking for.

Will: “Well, what the deuce were they looking for?!”

Search me. I haven’t yet read the “Sword and Sonnet” e-copy I received for backing the Kickstarter. Not because I’m bitter! – (*cough* at least, not entirely *cough*) – but because I am really bad about settling down to read non-paper books.

Allyn: “Alas for the world, deprived of your short fiction brilliance. However shall we carry on?”

Pretty sure you’re being at least 80% sarcastic, right now, but there is yet good news. Because you know how I roll, boys: When life hands me a ‘no’…

Will: “You make your own ‘yes’!”

When one publisher closes a door…

Allyn: “You open a window.”

10 segue points to House Gant. Behold the blurb and cover art for…

Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”!

Once upon a time, ‘wandering songster’ was no kind of career for a woman.

Now one minstrel-in-the-making is going to change Wilderhark’s tune.

From the author who introduced Wilderhark Tales’ Gant-o’-the-Lute and Outlaws of Avalon’s Allyn-a-Dale, a new voice rises into a brave ballad of its own: That of a girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.

“The Soul Shepherdess” – Young Solwen’s fateful encounter with a man o’ music and his sullen apprentice opens her eyes to the road she’s destined to take, along with the hardship that will be her traveling companion.

“In the Window” – Although Harper Rove-a-Day couldn’t feel less qualified to serve as minstrel master to his extraordinary trainee, he just may have what it takes to learn a lesson or two from /her/.

“The Names She Played” – To hear hidden music is not merely Solwen’s gift, but her only chance in a deadly game with one of the world’s oldest songs.

Tales of singing. Tales of striving. Most of all, tales of true love.

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Coming next week – and available for pre-order now!

Will: “Nice! So you’re re-releasing Balladry’s origin story from the Wilderhark Talettes and debuting the ‘battle bard’ short, all in one tidy package.”

Allyn: “E-book only, same as ‘Beyond Her Infinity’?”

Correct. ‘Tis more cost effective for me, that way. And since I’ve still got a picture book to fund…

Will: Hint, hint, blog readers! Any and all help would be most appreciated!”

…Wow, if I only had a dollar for every interruption in this blog post. Anyway, keeping costs down on my end means better bargains for the readers. Only 99 cents a copy, folks!

Allyn: “Best of luck wished to you and Balladry Sol on finding your rightful audience. They can be hard to reach, but they’re out there.”

And it is with that belief our author battles on.

(And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.)

(Will: “I KNEW IT!”)

Deejay, the Great and Powerful

(Originally published on the Outlaws of Avalon Tumblr page)

So imagine that you’re a minstrel dropped into this world from a faraway fairytale universe, and your first encounter with 21st-century music went like this:

Whoa-oh-whoa-oh-whoa 

Putcho hands up, hands up!

Shawty on the dance floor,

Shakin’ it like what, wha-what?!

I’mma be with muh baby in the club,

Goin’ all night long!

Don’t you stop my song, dee-ee-jay…”

Teeth gritted in pain, Allyn forced his hands away from his ears long enough to press the power button a second time, bathing the car in near-silence once more. He glowered at Will Scarlet. “What in all hells was that?!”

“I gather that whoever played the radio last was somewhat hard of hearing,” Will said, bouncing back from a cringe of his own. “Though whether they started out hard of hearing, or only became so after listening to hip-hop at such a volume for any extended space of time, is anybody’s guess.”

[…] Brow puckered, he tried again, his finger unintentionally sliding a little bit lower. It proved a happy accident, for the radio abruptly forsook the song about the hip-hop minstrel’s encounter with the highwayman called Deejay (or such was Allyn’s best guess as to what the lyrics had been going on about)…

(From “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, emphasis added)

Weird, sure, but as an isolated incident, it’s just one random nonsense song.

Except the more you listen to hits on the radio, the clearer it becomes that this Deejay person is no mere highwayman.

Clubbers everywhere are praying to this character as if he holds their hearts in his hands.

  • “DJ give us something to ride to”
  • “Play my song, Mr. DJ, I’m in love with the DJ”
  • “Oh DJ, ease my mind will you”
  • “I love the DJ, the DJ loves me”
  • “DJ’s got the party started, there’s no end in sight”
  • “I’m so into you ‘cause I love the DJ”
  • “Last night a DJ saved my life”
  • “The DJ’s gonna save us, DJ’s gonna save us tonight”
  • “Listen to what the DJ’s spinnin’, he’s tappin’ into just what you’re feelin’”
  • “Close your eyes to the DJ, close your eyes and fade away”
  • “DJ! Don’t do this to me – I tried to do my best – I tried not to sing out of key – DJ! Don’t you dare to leave – I tried to be the one – and now I’m on my knees!”
  • “Don’t blame the world, it’s the DJ’s fault”

*record scratch*

What are you, otherworld minstrel, to make of it all? You never once doubted that music has power, but this…

Is the Deejay a wizard?? A legion of demons?? A sentient drug?? Is he God???

In Deejay we move, in Deejay we love, in Deejay we trust! Don’t abandon us, Deejay! We pump blood to your beat! We succumb to your groove! Don’t take my baby from me, Deejay!

It’s Deejay’s party, and we’re just living in it! But of course there are those who resist.

Rebel leader Ke$ha declares “it’s time to kill the lights and shut the DJ down”. She’s backed up by The Smiths, calling for the people to “burn the disco, hang the blessed DJ”.

It is to be war.

And you can only wonder… when the smoke clears… when silence falls … who will be left standing on the dance floor?

marcela-laskoski-118684-unsplash
Thanks to Marcela Laskoski for making this image freely available on Unsplash.com

To Bring the Storm (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logo“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.”

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, “His first entrance in ‘To Walk the Storm’ came with this description:

The Stormbringer appeared. Taller than the most overgrown Great Lander. Stronger than the sturdiest of spine trees. Smooth skin brighter than copper, long hair blacker than core-fire rock, eyes that flashed like his blazing veins of lightning.

“Although, of course,” Allyn continues, “my first introduction to him, in ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’, went more like this:

“Euroval,” said the last of the male winds, the utterance of his name punctuated by an assault of lightning and thunder before he stepped up to present his hand. “Wind of the East.” And at the end of it all, Allyn’s fingers felt warm and dry again, though his whole arm was left tingling and his ears ringing for minutes afterward.

Allyn had never been so politely terrorized in his life.

“Wait…” Will Scarlet’s face has paled from ruddy-golden-fair to seen-a-ghost white. “The Stormbringer is Euroval?!”

“One and the same,” the wind rasps melodically, gusting down into the chair across from Will’s own. His smile glints wickedly. “Nice to see you again, Scarlet.”

“Um, ha! Yes! Totally!” Will falters, his answering smile too wide by half. “Welcome, Euroval! So glad you could join me. First things first – why did no one warn, ah, notify me you’d be coming today?”

Euroval crosses his legs, hair wafting around complacently. “You scheduled an interview with the Stormbringer of the Far Eastern Isles. That is the name my people address me by.”

Will startles. “You have a people?”

“Of course I do. I am the Wind of the East. Thus, the people of the east – the Islanders – belong to me.”

“Why under Welken would the Sun give you a whole region of people to kill with impunity??”

“Kill?” Euroval flashes in disdain. “With an entire world of worthless humans to kill, why would I attack those who belong to me? Who worship me? Who actually care that I exist,” he hisses, “when no one else on earth or in Sky really does?”

Walk the Storm 02

The high-key anxiety radiating from Will takes a sudden dive into something like sympathy. “What makes you think no one else cares?”

Euroval stares Will down from beneath half-lowered lids. “Do you know what my name means?”

“What, Stormbringer?”

“No, fool. Euroval. ‘Realm of nothingness.’ So did the Sun call the Far East’s desert isles, and so did he name me. He thinks me the least of his winds, and my territory the least of his lands. On that last count, the self-important humans of the Great Land agree with him. They live in careless ignorance of my people’s ways, thinking themselves superior simply because they and their land are the larger. You, Allyn,” the wind addresses his great-nephew. “Do you think the traveling Islanders that were your father’s family wouldn’t have sought to move higher in western society, were they allowed? Do you think the famed Gant-o’-the-Lute would have had quite as effortless a minstrel career if he had happened to take after his mother’s dark, foreign looks?”

Euroval returns his full-force glare to Will Scarlet, the crackling air’s movement around him not quite a tornado. “To the world at large, the Islanders and I are all Euroval. Thus do I consider it us against the larger world.”

“Damn,” says Will. “So much for fairy tales. I can’t believe Wilderhark’s racist.”

“Everyone’s racist,” says Euroval, bored. “Every group has a ‘them’ they can blow off as ‘less than us’. For me, as a Welken, that lesser ‘them’ is you humans – excepting the ones from my islands.”

“Huh. So, are the other winds like that about the people in their territories? Aquinore with those in the Farthest North, Austeryn with those in the Farthest South, Vesparya…?”

Euroval laughs a crack of thunder. “Of course not. Aquinore has love for no one and shows no mercy. To be Austeryn’s human favorite would likely mean he extends your life to torture you the longer.”

“(Sounds like an author,)” Will mutters to Allyn.

“And Vesparya…” Euroval flicks a hand. “She’s not worth talking about.”

“(Lesser ‘them,’)” Allyn mutters to Will.

Will inquires of the East Wind, “Do you think having a prominent role in this new short story of Danielle’s will bring you something closer to the recognition you deserve?”

Euroval shrugs. “It’s better than nothing. But the count so far is seven Wilderhark Tales and a short story collection focusing on a silly lot of Great Landers, and the two short stories of ‘Beyond Her Infinity’ that still have a silly lot of Great Landers in them, despite the subtitle ‘Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea’. To date, Danielle knows more words in the language of the Sky than she does in my Islanders’ tongue – several versus zero. So I’m pleased at my story’s publication, but far from impressed at any effort toward… what’s the word humans like fuss about? Equality.”

“Harsh,” says Will. “But not unfair. My final question, however, has ever been asked of all, regardless of race or culture. Tell me, Euroval, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Will’s smile regains its nervous edge. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Oh, do let’s kiss, Scarlet,” the wind purrs, rising from his chair, dragging his host to him with invisible, inescapable force. “For old times’ sake.”

Will accidentally looses a whimper, but rules are rules, and so their lips meet amidst a wild swirl of stage detritus and a dazzling lightning show. The building’s electricity burns out. Will’s hair is a corona of static. Allyn thinks it best to hurry ahead to the word from their sponsor before the whole of the talk show set comes apart.

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” Allyn pitches his voice over the weather, “is brought to you by ‘To Walk the Storm’ from ‘Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now (e-book only) for just 99 cents!

Beyond Her Infinity

Once upon a time, you knew tales of Wilderhark’s Great Land.

But what of the Isles to the Far East?

In “Beyond Her Infinity”, Wilderhark Tales author Danielle E. Shipley spins two short stories with leading roles from the fairytale world’s minority culture.

“The Queen’s Lady” – Three gallant royal guardsmen learn just how far one Islander will go for the sake of her friend: Into a strange land. Into a cruel exile. Even into the hands of a darkly dangerous power.

“To Walk the Storm” – With his country falling to ruin, a king sends his heirs in search of foreign aid. But the favor of the Isles’ supernatural patron is not so easily won.

Tales of loyalty. Tales of passion. Most of all, tales of true love.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says numbly, dropped half-breathless back into his chair as the air falls still with the wind’s departure. “Thanks to you, too, Euroval! 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!”