Of the Black, Old and New

A piece of flash fiction by yours truly. Enjoy!


Spots are the new black.

I don’t know how that got started. The same way any fashion gets started, I suppose. Somebody shows up wearing such-and-such a thing, and it’s probably seven shades of ridiculous, but they wear it with such confidence that everyone assumes it’s the clothes that did it.

The clothes make the man, right? Or the woman. Or the up-and-coming fashionista child. I guess the clothes really do help to make that last one; can’t have a fashionista without fashion; that’s just ista, isn’t it? Generally, though, how you clothe yourself has no bearing on the person you are. You don what you do because you’re you, and your attire’s just an outer reflection of that.

Say you’re someone important. Is it because you’re wearing a coat with big brass buttons and a hat up to there? No, that’s what you wear to show you’re important – or someone who wishes he were, and is hoping to fool the rest of us. You ask me, the only fool’s the one in that mile-high hat. But nobody did ask me. They ought to have. I may not understand the why of fashion, but I always know the what. So when I say that spots are the new black, you can take that to the bank.

“The new black”… I’d certainly like to know how that expression got started. I mean, I can see why a color would aspire to be black. It’s chic, slimming, goes with all the colors… because of course it is all the colors, mixed all together. Black, the everycolor! But then, so’s white. Why not call a thing “the new white”? Don’t tell me it was after Labor Day. No one buys that rubbish rule anymore. If anything, wearing white after Labor Day is the new black.

Spots and white, then. Oh dear, I’ve just caused a spike in the abduction rate of Dalmatian puppies, haven’t I? Never mind the white. If the spots are black, they’ll go with anything; say… black-spotted gold. That could be big, I think; if it can last. There’s only so much that can be done with it. You can’t go out every night in a little black-spotted gold dress. It’s too much of a statement piece, and when you start making the same statement too often, people stop listening. Black-spotted-gold pumps might get their fair share of use. Or a black-spotted gold purse. And you know, I don’t mean to scare the puppies, but furs are coming back. A black-spotted gold fur coat would scream expense – a must, in fashion. Not as loudly as, say, a black-spotted gold cheetah… Or would those screams be mostly coming from passersby? Screams of jealousy, no doubt. Alarm, yes, but largely jealousy. Anyone who can afford to accessorize with wildcats has gone well beyond the cutting edge. Cheetahs as the new handbag Chihuahua. Now that’s confidence!


The story’s inspiration.

Don’t think you can pull it off? Fine, have it your way. But no one ever made it in fashion by playing it safe. Or playing it sane. Trust me: Madness has ever been the black.


(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Or if you wish, leave a tip on my GoFundMe page; I’m covered for Outlaws of Avalon 2, praise God, but there’s always Book 3 and beyond… ;D )

Of Freedom and Far Horizons

First, if you haven’t yet, check out my #AuThorsday interview on the blog of Sunshine Somerville. Good Outlaws of Avalon talk!

Second, for your reading pleasure: A pair of drabbles (stories exactly 100 words in length) inspired by pieces discovered via deviartART. Enjoy!


I thought, She’s small enough to fit inside my suitcase.

So in she went.

The airport never questioned it and, despite the flight attendants’ judgment, I kept the case in my lap in the air.

We traveled the skies, and then overland by bus, and underground by train – everything blurring past like some long-ago memory.

The broad, winding rivers carried us through enchanted country, beneath the same moon that rises over everywhere.

We posed before windmills, cathedrals, the ruins of castles.

She saw much of the world. Or, well, it saw her.

The dear little thing napped the whole time.


He’d started with vessels tied up at the docks, then scaled it down from there.

Ships in bottles. Ships in paintings. The ship on his great-auntie’s brooch.

He’d heard it said – no, read it on a poster – that a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. And he first of all agreed, and second of all freed the glossy ship from its motivational prison.

Things with sails were meant for sailing, and his fingers were meant for magic. If his liberations made him a pirate, he didn’t much care. The sea’s far horizon was calling.


(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Or if you wish, leave a tip on my GoFundMe page; I’m covered for Outlaws of Avalon 2, praise God, but there’s always Book 3 and beyond… ;D )

Wish I Were Here and There

What I’ll Miss Most About Germany, which I am soon to leave:


– Walks through the woods with Tirzah

– Walks through the fields with Tirzah

– Climbing to sit in stands erected for deer hunters

– …With Tirzah


– The green smell of after-rain

– The golden smell of summer

– The spicy, fruity, woody wood smell of lumber in the forest

– Smelling it all with Tirzah


– Sunsets like a painting and moons like a nocturne

– Rolls of hay and carpets of moss

– Greetings (mine and Tirzah’s) to the water spirit of the little town fountain

– Greetings (Allyn-a-Dale’s) to the slumbering souls in the local graveyard

– Greetings (Will Scarlet’s) to… pretty much everything we came across, while climbing on stumps and picking up sticks and shouting at slugs, etc.


– French fries with mayo from the doner kebab shop

– Cheese and sweet bread from the supermarket

– Coffee and crepes in that selfsame supermarket’s “cool people” corner

– Roasted potatoes at midnight

– Sniffing shot glasses of whisky in the wee hours

– Endless mugs of tea, morning, noon, and night


– Tirzah, minus all the parts of her that drive me crazy

– …

– Craziness with Tirzah


What I’ll Most Love About Returning to the States, which I am soon to do:


– My parents, in person, more than half an hour, once a week

– My Baby Nephew, who blessedly has yet to forget me

– My sisters, now and then

– No roommates who are neither family nor Tirzah


– A library within walking distance

– Another library just a short drive away

– More libraries to which my mother knows the way

– Barnes & Noble and Half-Price Books

– (Also, the within-walking-distance post office, its lack of books notwithstanding)


– YouTube unblocking several of my favorite tunes

– Netflix allowing access to the U.S. list of shows

– Keeping up with “Once Upon a Time” as it airs


– Going to grandmother’s house for Christmas, as in those happy golden days of yore

– My native tongue as the language of the land

– Not living 7 hours ahead of my baseline time zone

– Being allowed to kill any and all creepy-crawlies invading my space

– Pizza as a household staple


– …

– …

– Phone conversations with Tirzah


The Forest’s Shadows Revealed

Those of you who’ve read Xchyler Pub’s “Legends and Lore” anthology — (y’know, the paranormal collection featuring my creeper of a story-child, “Two Spoons”) — may recall the work of one Emma Michaels. (Yes? No? Vague remembrances stirring somewhere in your subconscious?) Eh, well, don’t feel bad if none of this is ringing a bell; you know where to find my work, and if you want a taste of Emma’s, you can always start with her new novel coming out this fall.

A little birdie told me— well, no, that would suggest I heard about it on Twitter. Rather, a little, erm, book of faces told me that today is Cover Reveal Day for aforementioned novel. And me being the sorta-kinda-semi-decent-ish anthology sister that I am, of course I signed on to signal boost. With no more ado, then: Behold!

Shadows of the Forest
Emma Michaels
Publication date: November 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Everyone is dying to live in the Shadows of the Forest.
They gave me three rules to follow in exchange for my brother’s life:
1. Do not enter the West Wing;
2. Do not go outside after darkness falls; and
3. There is only one exit; The Gates.

This is what happened when I broke them…

Add to Goodreads

Author Bio:

Emma Michaels is the award winning author of the Society of Feathers series with over 15 publications under her belt. With a love for all things story-telling this bibliophile plans to take over the world one cup of coffee at a time. A rule breaker who isn’t afraid to have uncommon opinions she is an avid lover of mathematics and stand out fiction which transcends both its genre and format whether books, games, movies, or otherwise. A good story is a good story. When she isn’t online she is out dancing in the Washington rain or seeking new adventures.

Website / Facebook / Twitter

This cover reveal post was brought to you by the letter X, as in Xpresso Book Tours; and the number 5, as in put your hand up high in the comments if you’ve got thoughts on the look and/or sound of Emma’s latest!


Of Starlight and Shadows

Today, for your reading pleasure: A pair of short stories inspired by pieces discovered via deviartART. Enjoy!


And there they were again: The flying whales.

The man paused rowing to stare in wonder – wondering, specifically, at the artistic fascination with whales in the sky.

A magic, majestic aesthetic, to be sure. The grace of great beasts, swimming not through water, but air. A marvel. But nothing, anymore, like an original one.

Well! said the whalesong, musically moaning across the night. I suppose that’s that. Back to the ocean, everyone! Back to what’s original!

The man frowned. He’d only meant—

No, no, sang the sky whales. We’ve clearly let you down, so down we go. Shall we take the stars to sea along with us? Nothing original about a starlit sky.

Or a top hat, sniffed the stars. And yet, you’ll note, he wears one, and probably calls Victoriana vintage. Too hipster for a surrealist skyscape, but never the re-Turn of the Century!

Shamefaced, the man conceded that perhaps he’d judged unfairly. Nothing wrong with an old motif’s variation. There was yet room aplenty in the sky for whales.


And stars, of course.

Quite so.

“Bluescape of the other side” by Ebineyland - http://www.deviantart.com/art/Bluescape-of-the-other-side-628736598

“Bluescape of the other side” by Ebineyland – http://www.deviantart.com/art/Bluescape-of-the-other-side-628736598


“That’s the one,” the shadows whispered. “The one who carries light.”

“Do we fear him?”

“Of course we do. He is utterly strange, and a danger. We cannot exist where he does.”

“And yet, he is surely a wonder…”

“Most surely. How close can we go? How close do we dare?”

“How does he do it?”

“Why does he do it?”

“Send in the bird to learn of him. Light’s no bother to her.”

“But her shadow!”

“The bird is not her shadow.”

A thunderous silence fell. Then…

“The bird is not her shadow.”

“The shadow is not the bird.”

“Then what are we?”

“How can we know?”


“…We brave the light.”

“And see what lasts.”

The shadows eyed the luring light.

“Well, then. Who shall be the first?”

“Meeting with Umbrella Man” by yanadhyana - http://yanadhyana.deviantart.com/art/Meeting-with-Umbrella-Man-408400454

“Meeting with Umbrella Man” by yanadhyana – http://yanadhyana.deviantart.com/art/Meeting-with-Umbrella-Man-408400454


(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Or if you wish, leave a tip on my GoFundMe page; I’m covered for Outlaws of Avalon 2, praise God, but there’s always Book 3 and beyond… ;D )

The Pro Con

“Professional”. I have… feelings about this word.

So often when I see it bandied about – particularly as it pertains to the publishing industry – it seems to have most or all to do with appearances. Writers are told to look professional, as if professionalism were an aesthetic. That rubs me wrong, because it sounds so superficial and snotty. Look like what the infamous They have decided counts as professional, or you’re assumed to be lesser than.

This is professional art.

This is professional art.

I’ve always understood professionalism to be more a matter of competence, and of attitude. My “professional” means punctuality and promises kept. My “like a pro” evokes skill and confidence. In my world, the pros are the ones who know what they’re doing. …Or the ones who fake it like whoa.

You want professionalism in publishing? Treat it like a profession. Sure, that can in part mean showing up in your power suit – your fancy book cover, your elite-approved font, your slick BigShotDomain.com with the killer coding. I’m not knocking those things. No shame in putting your prettiest face forward. That is, after all, exactly why I ran that GoFundMe campaign: To pay the photography and design professionals to make my next Outlaws of Avalon novel looks its beautiful best. But that stuff’s hardly number one on the list of “must do”s, if it belongs on the list at all.

Writing’s never struck me as a power-suited position. Dressing for the job I want involves an assortment of hoodies. And possibly a wizard’s robe. …or a Dark Lord’s.

You want to come off as a professional writer? To me, that’s like math homework: Show me your work.

I’d rather not see a slapdash cover, an illegible font, and a messy web presence not because it says “automatic amateur”, but because it makes me question how much time and care you put into it. I want you to demonstrate that you take your work seriously, whether or not you’ve yet come to the realization that neither you nor any of the rest of us have a clear clue what we’re doing. More than the visual itself, that means a sure command of language. That means engaging with your peers and your public with basic levels of courtesy. That means giving your writing career the best you’ve got.

Also professional art.

Also professional art.

And personal bests will vary – from person to person, and from Past You to Present You to Future You. Some people will like some bests more than others. That’s individual opinion, which everyone’s got a right to. That’s subjectivity, which for better or worse is the name of the game, in the arts. That’s why I don’t want you telling me or anyone else what their work has to look like to count as professional. Go for what you’re going for, and give it your 120 percent.


Of Artist and Muse

Today, for your reading pleasure: A pair of short stories inspired by pieces discovered via deviartART. Enjoy!


Well? said the art. How’s it coming?

“Getting there. Just a little more detail.”

And I’ll be beautiful, right?

“You’re beautiful now. You’re just not finished.”

I don’t see why not, the art sighed. You’ve been working on me forever.

“Well, you have forever. You’re a timeless creation, and sure to outlive me. That’s part of the point of you.”

Only part? What’s the rest?

“Oh, mostly just the joy of watching you come alive.”

You dearly love me, don’t you?

“Yes, I dearly do.”

Tell me why.

“Because you don’t know, or because you like to be told? Don’t tell me I’ve passed on my fragile ego.”

Like artist, like art! Now tell me.

“Because you’re you. And because you’re me. Because you keep me breathing.”

Like your lungs?

“More like my heart.”

And when you’re done with me?

“Oh, my little masterwork. That will never happen.”


You never gave up.

Never stopped searching.

Never stopped chasing your muse.

You fought on without me. Strained through the dark for glimmers of genius long after you’d forgotten how to hope.

I’m sorry. I should have slowed to let you catch me. Should have stayed to help you find your way.

I was wrong to let you suffer so, but don’t you see? I couldn’t bear to end it.

It filled me, somehow, watching you empty. It thrilled me to feel your dreams fall and fade with every failure.

I was a dreadful muse, but you…

You inspired me.


(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Or if you wish, leave a tip on my GoFundMe page; I’m covered for Outlaws of Avalon 2, praise God, but there’s always Book 3 and beyond… ;D )