In Henrietta, Virginia

Once upon a short while ago, mah gurl alerted me to a certain contest.

Raven Recap Contest

The challenge: To summarize the fantastical events of all four books in The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater – (aka, one of my very favorite series in the known universe) – in 200 words or a 1-minute video.

The prize for three lucky winners, chosen by Maggie herself: An exclusive boxed set of The Raven Cycle, plus the contest’s organizers will share the winning entries on their social platforms.

Raven Cycle, Paper Fury Insta
Photo credit to @paperfury on Instagram

I did not initially think to enter, because condensing the plot of even one novel into a 200-word back-o’-book-esque blurb is struggle enough. (I should know. I’ve only had to do it more than a dozen times for my own books.) How in the world to do it for four???

So I put the notion aside. …And then I got dragged out of bed bright and early by my muse, journaled for about an hour, and wound up with a lovely contender of a poem on my hands, fondly entitled “In Henrietta, Virginia”.

Though I hadn’t the patience to count out the words in my handwritten scribbles*, I could tell at a glance that it totaled past 200. That meant that if I wanted my little labor of love to have a shot in the contest, I’d have to call upon my inner bard and recite the poem at sparkling speed.

*(Having subsequently typed it all out, the exact word-count comes to 271.)

Video, recorded. Entry, entered. Winners – as of this post’s drafting – unannounced.

Certainly, I hope to be among the lucky three deemed a cut above the rest by an idolized author! But even if I’m not, it will be something to suppose that she saw art I made in response to hers, and that it gave her joy. After all, were I the author in Maggie’s place, I’d be giddy over a fandom scrambling to put my beloved story into new words.

Non-Stiefvater readers of the blog, meanwhile, are also perfectly welcome to watch my video (linked here!), and/or read the poem at a less break-neck pace below.

In Henrietta, Virginia

A daughter of seers knows two things for truth.

The first she’s been warned of since earliest youth –

To kiss her true love is to kill. Next, her rule:

Avoid the boys from Aglionby school

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

She knows no temptation until she knows them

So living, so deathly – a strange constellation:

 

A young man’s form holds an ancient soul

That yearns and journeys the world over,

Desperate to discover why

He lives this second chance at life.

He knows not the depth of his wealth, nor his power,

Only the call of the legend Glendower

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

A son of a dream dreams a world of his own,

Full of cages to rage in ‘til he reclaims home.

A boy in the dust sells his hands and his eyes.

Could this bondage help free him from family ties?

 

A mantle of green seek a waren of grey.

A poet with blood on his hands finds the way,

Along with a love and a life that he craves,

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

Their searches converse on a line o’ the ley,

The road of the corpses who walk in the day,

But too fast start to fade, become monstrous shades,

Like nightmares that out of thieves’ dreams claw their way

into Henrietta, Virginia,

 

Where you unearth a tomb, expecting one thing,

Only to find the mad light of a tree.

Where hornets are death, unlike robotic bees,

And all could soon fall to the Unmaker’s sting.

 

Ware the words of the forest, the song of the corvids,

You mirrors, magicians, and dreams:

The way you’ve made is the Raven King’s.

<<<>>>

Any other fans of The Raven Cycle (and/or other Stiefvater works) in the da house?! If yes, how well do you think my poem captured the soul of the series? If no, has this post made you at all curious to give the books a read? All thoughts welcome in the comments!

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Life Hands You Blog Tags? Get Scarlet Aid!

What up, beautiful people! Will Scarlet, here. And— you know how sometimes Danielle will be like, “Hey, there’s this fun-looking blog tag going around, and didn’t nobody officially tag me, but I’m strapped for blogging inspiration, so what-to-the-ever, I’mma play along regardless”? Well, plot twist alert, because this time, called upon by name she was to join in The Imaginary Assistant Tag!

The standard rule rundown:

1 = Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their blog (assistants won’t work for ungrateful bosses). Thanks and smooches to The Story Sponge for invoking D’s participation! She may or may not have jumped in anyway, but it feels pretty dandy to receive a virtually engraved invitation.

2 = Link back to the creator of the tag.The ones to thank here are Mariposa Aristeo and her own imaginary assistant, Aberdeen the Authorosaurus, over at Dino’s Digest. So grammercy, you two!

3 = Tag 5-10 bloggers who need assistants (and if they don’t need them, tag them anyway). As usual, we’re blanket tagging. So if you’re a blanket who wants to play—! Lol, I kid. If you’re anyone who wants to play – bedcovering or otherwise – then blog away.

Now comes the main course of the tag – the part that’s all, “Please answer the following questions so the author assistant agency can find the right assistant for you.” Buuut… I’m not gonna let Danielle do that. Because, my author, I love you, but if left to your own devices, you’d probably overthink this thing, when the obvious answer is standing right in front of you and looking very handsome in the process.

So please, allow me to demonstrate what an absolutely PERFECT imaginary assistant I would be!

What type of creature/species would you like your assistant to be (human, animal, dragon, dinosaur, figment of your imagination, etc.) and why?

I am, as it happens, 100% human, if somewhat Fey-affected. (A few decades on the Isle of Avalon will do that to a person … particularly if they brought you back to life there, immediately following your first of several deaths.) But to be at my most effective for you, I shouldn’t stay in your imagination. Free reign to run amok on your plane of reality, that’s what I need! …Wipe that look off your face; I wouldn’t get into that much trouble. Not instantly, anyway.

What do you want your assistant to look like?

Exactly what I do look like, thank you very much! If it ain’t broke, and all that. Medium tall and god-like physique, gleaming red-gold hair and dazzling blue eyes, a smile made for breaking and repairing hearts, and lots and lots of expensive clothes. We should actually probably hit up the mall, first thing upon my arrival. All very “If Will Scarlet Took Me Out”, ya dig?

What qualities are you looking for in an assistant (responsible, lovable, exasperating, etc.)?

Easy: I can do what you can’t. I’m an extravert unafraid of barging in on others’ conversations and laying on the charm. You could focus on just creating stuff, and I’d take care of the rest!

What job(s) would your assistant be in charge of?

Social media presence, promotion, interaction… also meal preparation, so you have no excuse to accidentally starve. Plus I’ll happily take the lead on all your research-related needs. Look-it-up Guy, at your service! Learning’s ten times more fun when you’re doing it through me.

What would you like your assistant to be named?

You’re fine calling me Will, right? And/or Scarlet? It’s what we’ve done for almost a decade, now, so.

What would you feed your assistant (candy, books, pickles, etc)?

You will not feed me anything. I will feed myself everything. That said, I will occasionally drag you out of the house to enjoy ice cream or boba tea with me, and you will like it.

How would you pay your assistant and what benefits would you offer as compensation for their work?

Oh, babe, do not even worry, I would make you so much money, you’d suspect me of thievery. (And, I mean, fair enough.) I’ll take just a big enough slice of the pie to, well, ensure I can keep buying pie. As for benefits, seeing you happy and successful is all my heart desires! Plus vacations to cool places. You’d have to take me along on those.

What special abilities would you like your assistant to have (i.e. ice powers to freeze writer’s block, super strength to break writer’s block, or super stupidity to stare at you while you’re having writer’s block)?

Special abilities? Girl, I’ll have you know I’m endowed with the super-est superpower of all: The power of FRIENDSHIP! Banishing loneliness with a single bound! Stimulating your wit and whimsy with my ‘Yes, And’ way of life! You can bounce your ideas off me like a trampoline, funniest feedback guaranteed! And if/when I catch you pushing yourself too hard, be assured I will force you to take a break before you pull a Hamilton.

Where would you like your assistant to be from (Jurassic Park, Narnia, your head)?

Oh, you know, here and there. Medieval England. A magical Midwestern U.S. Renaissance Faire. Your head, so arguably Fresno. Home is where you set your sword down, I always say, starting now.

Will you solemnly swear you will not fire your assistant in either sickness or in health, for richer for poorer, smarter or stupider, writing or not writing, for as long as you both shall live?

Darling, you could never fire me, because you’ll never have hired me. I don’t work for you; I just work, and it’s for you. Total difference. And even if you someday decide you’re done with being an author – for a while or forever – you’ll still be my author. My Dani-babe. Good luck ever shaking me off.

Scarlet and Me, Together Forever

So, any other authors/artists out there think they could use my matchless Scarlet brand of assistance? While I don’t expect I’d be available to every single one of you full-time, I’m never farther away than a quick message sent to Danielle via blog, website, Twitter, or whatever. Hit me up whenever you need to. Or, if you’ve got different ideas re: the imaginary assistant that would be right for you, tell all about it in the comments!

Until next time, beautiful people! Scarlet out.

Once and Future Fan Art

The longer I live, the harder it is to find leisure-time activities that hit that sweet spot overlapping ‘productive’, ‘relaxing’, and ‘fun’.

Also hard to find: Fan art for a novel I’m still a couple months or so away from publishing.

Or so it was, until I followed my muse to AzaleasDolls.com and started playing around with virtual dolls designed to resemble my characters from “The Once and Future Camelot” (#CamelotWIP). And just like that, I had both a low-key pastime to appease my creative urges AND a growing collection of Arthurian portraiture!

So, who’s ready to meet some of the faces from Avalon Faire … and/or from the kingdom before?

<<<>>>

Camelot Dolls_Lance x 3

Name, Title: Sir Lancelot du Lac, King’s Champion of Camelot, Knight of the Round Table

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

Strikingly tall and broad of shoulder; face hard as stone beneath his sweep of moonlight hair, silvery gold; advances and blows flowing one to another with the inexorable might of a waterfall. Gawain’s skill, though formidable, looked almost a beginner’s effort next to the ruthless grace of Sir Lancelot.

A Word on the Art: The image on the far left (made in ‘Warrior Maker’) probably has the clearest knightly vibe going for it, notwithstanding its being a bit reminiscent of a Roman centurion. The facial expression is spot on; 10/10 would absolutely see it on Lance’s face at one time or another. In the center is an early sketch effort of mine, produced circa the first-drafting of “Ballad” in late 2010. Not a bad likeness, considering I’d barely even known him or what he looked like. And on the far right, courtesy of ‘Sci-Fi Warrior 2’, we get Lance as a Jedi! Canonically, there is no reason for him to wield an actual lightsaber, but I think we can agree he’d look amazing doing it.

*

Camelot Dolls_Gawain x 3

Name: Sir Gawain of Orkney, Knight of the Round Table

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Self-Described in #CamelotWIP:

Gawain didn’t want a seat that rolled around, and too much comfort verged on uncomfortable. His was a square, wooden seat, plain and sturdy, the arms wideset – more or less, Gawain expected, what he himself would be, were he a chair.

A Word on the Art: As with Lance, the far left image was made in somewhat limited ‘Warrior Maker’. The belt he wears holds special story significance; the shield’s just because. Center is a sketch I did at the same time – and on the same piece of paper – as Lancelot’s. In a world where art skews toward slimmer characters, I made it a point to attempt portrayal of Gawain’s huskier build. The far right image, meanwhile, was a gift from my BFF+, fellow writer Tirzah Duncan, during her ‘model a heck-ton of Guild Wars II avatars on Deshipley characters’ phase. Maybe it’s just because it came from her, but number 3 is my favorite. ^_^

Fun Bonus: Side-by-side (…-by-side-by-side) portraits of Gawain and his three younger brothers introduced in #CamelotWIP – Agravaine, Gaheris, and Gareth!

Simulated Orkneys 4

*

Camelot Dolls_Bedivere x 3

Name, Title: Sir Bedivere the One-Handed, Captain of the Round Table

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Self-Described in #CamelotWIP:

“Ah.” The knight cut a canny look the king’s way. “So you like your current events like you like your history.”

“Yes, you could—”

“…Strong, dark, and hellishly hot,” Bedivere finished. “Or is that your coffee? No, it’s your captains.”

A Word on the Art: When it comes to depictions of Bedivere, inclusion of a sword is a must – whether it be a basic ‘Warrior Maker’ blade (far left), a mere hilt with the rest of the weapon implied (center sketch), or some sort of rune-engraved monstrosity of steel larger than its wielder (Guild Wars gift from Tirzah, far right). And as regards that third image, the answer is yes: Bedivere does look every bit that deadly hot on the battlefield.

*

Camelot Dolls_Galahad x 2

Name: Galahad of Joyous Gard

First Introduced In: A #CamelotWIP debut!

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

“You’re like a hawk,” a low voice spoke. “The way your eyes move … The way they pierce. What do they search for?”

A Word on the Art: On the left (via Tirzah and Guild Wars), we see Galahad circa Camelot’s fall, at just about 18 years old. Piercing gaze? Check! On the right (via ‘Sci-Fi Warrior 2’), I’d say he’s more 14-ish – just a couple years into his training as a squire. Again, lightsaber technology would not be a thing. That sort of saintly-iconic light burst going on behind him, though… that, I would call, if not canonical, then certainly in keeping with his character.

*

Camelot Dolls_Mordred x 2

Name: Mordred

First Introduced In: A #CamelotWIP debut!

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

Though more than a year behind in age, he’d grown every inch as tall as Galahad, his form just as powerful, with the sinuous grace of a cat’s tail; his face caught between the softness of a child, the strength of a man, and the splendor of an angel.

A Word on the Art: Okay, show of hands: Am I only one who just wants to squish the boy’s softly-strong-and-splendid angel face?? Tirzhah’s Guild Wars version on the left did a passable job (the eyes, apart from being blue instead of gray, are basically flawless), though the ‘Sci-Fi Warrior 2’ adaptation on the right may have, surprisingly, hit even closer to the mark. And I mean, whatever – if Lance and Galahad have lightsabers now, Mordred may as well be a master of the Force. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

*

Camelot Dolls_Guinevere x 3

Name, Title: Guinevere, Queen of Camelot

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Seen by Gawain in #CamelotWIP:

He thought of Guinevere in some half a dozen ways at any given moment. Her Majesty. His uncle’s wife. Something like a second sister, in the absence of his first. The legend-reputed adulteress. The lady of whom he was determined to believe no such thing. The girl plucked first from her father’s home, then from the wilds of the Fey realm, then from Camelot and into an alien place that shared its name but not the half of its soul. He saw them all, layer upon layer upon layer, as she walked the Faire’s streets, or lounged in the castle, or rolled a thunderous strike for the team when she and the knights ventured Outside for the new-formed tradition of Bowling Night.

A Word on the Art: After browsing the site’s options, I found a favorite for Guinevere in ‘Casual Style’. Even then, no single clothing combination could encompass her subtle layers of personality. Hence, a triptych of Outside!Guinevere fashion possibilities.

*

Camelot Dolls_Vivienne x 2

Name, Title: Vivienne, Lady of the Lake

First Introduced In: She was made mention of in “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, but we didn’t actually see her until the holiday dream sequence that was “An Avalon Christmas Carol” (Outlaws of Avalon #1.5).

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

A womanly vision of silver-limned gold, bright as the veiled glow of the moon. Amber skin beaded with water like stars. Ears tapering up like the tip of a dagger. … Eyes an ever-changing shade of silver-blue-green…

A Word on the Art: On the left, an indulgence in a ‘Casual Style’ interpretation of Vivienne. On the right, a far more canonically accurate version via, aptly enough, ‘Elven Portrait’. One thing I appreciated about that one = how I was able to do her ears. Rather than the dainty, pretty little ears traditionally attributed to Elven beauties, the ones seen here read as inarguably inhuman, and even suggest something mer-like, to my eye.

*

Camelot Dolls_Morganne x 2

Name, Title: Morganne le Fey, Faerie Queen

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

Living darkness, drawn in light.

(More detailed descriptions have been given elsewhere, but none could more succinctly capture her essence.)

A Word on the Art: Will Scarlet is of the opinion that ‘Casual Style’ Morganne looks ready to drop it like it’s hot in a music video. He is not wrong. ‘Elven Portrait’ Morganne, meawhile… given the limitations of the medium, that is practical perfection. Nothing but love and respect for my shadowy Faerie Queen.

*

And last for now, but far from the least…

Camelot Dolls_Arthur , Merlin

Names, Titles: Arthur Pendragon, The Once and Future King of Camelot, with Merlinus “Merlin” Ambrosius, King’s Wizard of Camelot

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

In some ways, it was like looking at Gawain a few years hence, for the King bore a strong resemblance to his eldest nephew. Just as truly, it was like looking at no other. The King’s smile creased gently around eyes the rich brown of good earth, and warmed Galahad all up and down. Never before had he received a smile like that.

…and…

Though his gray beard hung low and he leaned against the gnarled staff in his hand, the man did not appear at all frail. What could be discerned of his shape seemed strong beneath a strange robe, too elegantly styled for a holy man’s. And perhaps Camelot’s court made a collection of hawks, for the old man’s blue eyes pierced as sharply as any of Joyous Gard.

A Word on the Art: Central as they are to each other’s lives, it’s only fitting that I fashion a piece showing Arthur and Merlin together. Thanks, ‘Tudors Scene’, for enabling the endeavor! We’re off the Arthurian time period by a good 500 years, so definite liberties were taken with the wardrobe; but hey, no lightsabers, this time! Arthur looks too thin, and Merlin doesn’t look grumpy enough by half. Their relational dynamic, however, is coming across just about right.

<<<>>>

What think you, readers? Any favorites among the artworks presented here today? Any recommendations for free online character creators I might wanna play around with? Any super cool Arthuriana art out there that I should see so we can ooh and ahh together? Tell me about it in the comments!

Walking the Imaginary Walk, Part 2

Hello again, readers of the blog! It is I, Annabelle Iole Gray: Protagonist from the “Inspired” novels, author of various characters of my own, creator of The Totally In-Depth Author-to-Character Q&A! ® (“Oh, Yes – We Go There” TM), and of its newest subsection in which we explore how characters walk – and how we authors walk when letting aforesaid characters live through us. Last time, I assessed the walks of my jungle cat god and knight of the Order of the Dove. Let’s see if we have space to get through the rest of my fictional BFFs!

<<<>>>

Uri Shoot 04
Danielle as Annabelle as Uri

Character: Uriel, skater angel.

Punchiest Verb for Her Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): “All swagger, all day,” Uri drawls. “Unless the state of your fallen Earth is actively depressing me. Then my walk’s a slump.”

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): It actually kind of varies? Because she has this habit of letting her movements drag a little before spilling forward; like a musical rubato, made physical. So sometimes it’s head-first, sometimes shoulders or elbows, or even her backside if her delayed momentum spins her around. Wow, weirdly, I never consciously noticed before that this is a thing she does. Why do you, Uri?

A rolling shrug. “Cool apathy meets an authentic need to get somewhere eventually?”

Favored Tempo: Faster than she makes it look. That ‘cool apathy’ drag effect reads as slow, but you best believe she covers ground like she means it.

Other Signature Details: Hands in pockets (pants or hoodie vest) are very much her thing. Also, when walking as her, I will frequently find myself squeezing one arm against my side, as if I’m carrying her skateboard. And how she manages to exude slouching while actually walking fully upright is another heavenly mystery to me.

Uri crooks a smirk. “Heaven loves a paradox.”

*

Yves Shoot 02
Danielle as Annabelle as Yves

Character: Avelaine (aka Yves), French ballerina boy.

“Danseur,” he corrects me, because that’s what his father would do, and like muse, like son, apparently.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): “My verbs will depend,” says he, “on the effect I wish to create. Perhaps I glide, or drift, or softly step. My movement is my art, and can be no static thing. But if one must name a signature, imagine my walk is a whisper; full-body susurration.”

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): Most often, his toes will point ahead, daintily parting the air before him. I, not being any kind of dancer, probably look three kinds of ridiculous trying to imitate him, but whatever – it makes me feel all airy-graceful.

Favored Tempo: Slow as a wafting feather. If he needs to move quickly, he won’t get there by walking; he’ll leap or sprint or simply mind-travel himself across the distance. If he’s walking, it means he’s got time to make a moving sculpture of himself.

Other Signature Details: Avelaine’s really not one for straight lines. When walking as him, I’ll take more of a curving, meandering path, steps sweeping, hands stroking, painting the air with my passage. I’m also likelier to walk on tiptoe, as if one pace away from floating off into the sky.

Not that Avelaine can or wants to float. That’s much more the purview of the next guy on the list…

*

Luc Shoot 07
Danielle as Annabelle as Luc

Character: Lucianíel, elemental of light – also, my muse.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): Certainly ‘stride’. Sometimes even ‘sail’. Very ‘casual runway model’-esque, in any case.

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): I might say chin. Where Avelaine oft goes about with gaze cast down, watching his foot-sketches, Luc’s head is more up-tilted, pulling him onward.

Favored Tempo: “Utterly sluggish,” Luc says, “for one made of light. But at nearer my full speed, no one could keep pace. So for company’s sake, I slow.”

…To something like a normal person’s version of brisk. My body and its material limitations thank you.

Other Signature Details: As previously hinted, Luc floats – almost never coming within an inch of touching ground. But I’ve got a more standard relationship with gravity, so my version of Luc’s walk better  conveys the commanding weight of his personality. His walk is ownership, confidence, pride. The space he takes is his to manipulate. If all the world’s a stage, the muse is the director, and Lucianíel’s walk warmly claims it so. When I walk as Luc, I am insufferable. …but also sexy, if I do say so myself.

*

“Character!” a new voice bursts through me. “Mach Jenius! Brainstorm, bestest of best friends, brother from another plane of reality— Hey! How come there’s no picture of the Overauthor as you as me?!”

1, because Danielle called for the “Inspired” photoshoot a good while before dreaming up the sequel establishing you. 2, how in the world are we supposed to analyze your walk, Mach? You change physicality like I change shirts when I can’t decide which outfit best says ‘a trip to the bookstore, and maybe burgers after.

“Well, yeah, but surely you can work out some sort of pattern! Thinking cap time.” He plops a silk top hat upon what, for now, are close-clipped mahogany curls. “When you’re walking as me, what do you tend to do?”

I dunno. Sorta… throw myself around the room?

“Aha! As if hurled by a wind! Very brainstorm.”

More like hurled by your mad spastic energy.

“But ‘hurl’ is the verb, is the point. And which body part leads the way?”

I’m not sure. Expect plenty of exaggerated arm gestures, though. Entirely the wrong sort of china shop bull. You have broken things through me, Mach. Including, almost, my wrist.

“You had my profuse apologies for that incident, Anna-babe. What’s the next question, again?”

Favored temp—

“Oh, right! Fast!”

We know. Other signature details?

His top hat flaps its wings thoughtfully. (No, it did not have wings two seconds ago.) “Hard to say. Maybe my signature is that I have no signature. I just start moving, and see where I go.”

That you do. And what about your characters, Overauthor? How do they make you walk?

“Phew-boy,” says Danielle. “More like how don’t they? Will Scarlet’s is a heart- or hips-driven thrust – an expansive, pressing forward, in-love-with-the-world sort of walk. Allyn-a-Dale artfully creeps, slips like shadows, while Gant-o’-the-Lute… well, to quote ‘The Sky-Child’:

[He] never walked. He ran, he sprang, he cavorted, he danced; he was one place, then he was another, but he could not be bothered to /walk/ there.

“Sir Bedivere advances like a Winter Soldier. Edgwyn Wyle strolls like he’s shopping the world’s delights. I’ve got a sheriff that saunters seductively, and a dog-lover who bounces and romps, wobbles and wags. Nicky surges forward, then shrinks back, eager and unsure in equal measure. If ever I walked as Captain Johnny Crow – even in sneakers or slippers or sandals – I’d feel like I’m pacing a ship’s sea-salted deck in weathered but stylish boots.” She laughs incredulously. “It’s a wonder I’m ever caught walking as me!”

In that, by no coincidence, we are alike. And with that, this post comes to its end!

Writers in the house: Have you ever noticed – or put much creative thought into – how your characters move? Readers: Have you come across any characters whose manner of movement lives vividly on in your memory? Hop into the comments and tell all about it!

Walking the Imaginary Walk

Hey, guys! Annabelle Iole Gray, here – protagonist from the “Inspired” novels slash author of first, second, and what-feels-like-fifty-seventh drafts of my own books, thank you very much. And today I’m taking the mic on the Overauthor’s* blog to analyze a phenomenon I have not seen discussed nearly enough in writerly circles. …or, like, basically at all.

*(Overauthor. Noun. Definition 1, a cool title I just now coined to refer to an author of an author, e.g. a nonfictional person who has written/created a fictional character that is likewise a writer/creator of fictional characters. Definition 2, Danielle E. Shipley specifically. Definition 3, probably now what Danielle will want to call herself if she ever takes over as her reality’s Dark Lord.)

On the other hand, you’ve got theater circles. In that context, the following is only common: An actor takes on a role – I mean, really embodies it – and it’s not just about speaking the character’s scripted lines, it’s about becoming them head to toe and moving the way they do. …Or the actor just moves the way they always do and gives that signature physicality to the character because, I dunno, that’s what the director was looking for when they cast them, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about!

You see, as a certain stripe of author (do most authors not do this? Am I the weirdo, here? …as usual?), I too find myself moving differently when hosting various persons from the immaterial plane in my material body. Regular Annabelle walks one way while, say, Annabelle-as-Abishan walks another, and Annabelle-as-Lucianíel walks like something else entirely.

To help show you what I mean – since, y’know, I’m not on the same plane of reality as most of this blog’s readers, so you can’t just watch me demonstrate – I have created a little assessment sheet to communicate the character of walks. Consider it a subsection of The Totally In-Depth Author-to-Character Q&A! ® (“Oh, Yes – We Go There” TM). We’ll call this PART 3-AND-A-HALF: Walking the Walk.

(And for those of you who aren’t familiar with my close circle of fictional friends, I’ll include brief introductions for each as we go along.)

<<<>>>

Shan Shoot 01
Danielle as Annabelle as Abishan

Character: Abishan, jungle god of all cats.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): After a moment’s search through my head’s thesaurus, he decides upon, “Slink.”

An apt choice, Shan. Yours is a decidedly slinky manner of movement. It’s like every placement of your paw contains a purr. Except for when the verb is ‘stalk’; then the silent sound is a predator’s growl.

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): In any of his countless feline forms, Shan’s nose and whiskers blaze the trail. In his man form (and when moving via mine)… Huh. Interestingly, he likes to make my hands go first. Reaching out, touching things, claiming territory as he passes through it. Apart from that, he’s got a lot of languid hip action – the closest he can come, through me, to simulating the movement of his tail.

Favored Tempo: “Relaxed,” says Shan. “Bursts of speed are best reserved for a hunt’s final pounce or fleeing threats. Otherwise, why needlessly expend energy?”

So, a fairly standard cat-titude.

Shan wrinkles his face and calls out, “Luc! The puns have started!”

From a distance, Luc sighs. “It was only a matter of time.”

Other Signature Details: When walking as Abishan, my footfalls come softer than when I’m merely me. People (*cough* my sisters *cough*) have complained I’m sneaking up on them, when that was never my intent. I also spend the pauses peppered into his progress leaning and lounging on walls and furniture. …or practically rubbing against a bookcase.

“Because you love bookcases,” Shan points out. “They are your pleasure to own.”

Things that are not my pleasure = when you try to make me lick my hand.

His blink stands in for a shrug. “Agree to disagree on best hygienic practices.”

*

Wilbur Shoot 01
Danielle as Annabelle as Wilbur

Character: Sir Wilbur Lamb, Knight of the Order of the Dove.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): Wilbur eyes the options uncertainly. “Do I do other than simply walk?”

Hmm… We could maybe use ‘amble’? That’s defined as ‘an easy gait’ – specifically in reference to a horse, and one could argue you’re the nearest thing to a friendly warhorse we’ve got, around here.

That’s got him laughing. “Wilbur the Friendly Warhorse. I aspire to nothing more.”

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): A bit shoulder-steered, I’d say. His posture is cousin to a hunch – like he’s prepared to duck under a low doorway or bow in deference at any moment, or quietly bearing the invisible burdens of the populace. And if that doesn’t just describe the kind of person he is and life he leads, what even does?

Favored Tempo: “Composedly swift,” he says. “I like to keep just busy enough that it doesn’t serve to dawdle. Slower than that, and I begin to feel like an aimlessly wandering sheep.”

Other Signature Details: When walking as Wilbur, I will tend to place myself more carefully than I do as myself. I-as-Annabelle bump into basically everything as a matter of course, whereas Wilbur is a bull acutely conscious of the fact that he’s in a china shop, and if caution is enough to prevent it, not a single knickknack shall break on his watch. Also, walking as Wilbur always leaves me further back in line or waiting at crossing points, because his chivalrous instincts dictate that all others ought to move ahead of him. Low-key, I don’t often have the patience to walk as Wilbur in a crowd.

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…Whazat? Oh. The Overauthor has informed me that this post is maxing out on word-count. But let no one despair! We’ll get a look at my other character friends’ walks another time; like, probably next week, if nothing more pressing to blog about comes up in the meantime.

Before we go, I’m curious to know: How do you suppose one would best describe your walk? (Feel free to use my assessment questions as a template!) Do you ever get so into a character that you adopt their mannerisms? Chatter away in the comments!

“How’s the Writing Coming?”, Plus the REAL Questions

Once upon a FAQs page made 6 years ago (which is a surprisingly balanced combination of ‘totally outdated’ and ‘still relevant to this day’), the world inquired:

How’s your book going?

To which Past Me replied:

Which one? A few have crossed the divide into publishing territory, and I’ve always got something in [various stages of] the works. Everything seems to be going reasonably well, though – maybe even /unreasonably/ well, depending on who you ask and whether or not they believe I’m a cyborg. If you’re asking how book /sales/ are going, that depends. Have you bought them?

Back then, I basically was a cyborg. I was never not writing. I was cranking out books faster than even my steadiest fans could keep pace with. I was… very much setting myself up for the psycho-emotional meltdown that finally caught up with me around the end of The Wilderhark Tales.

(Like, is there a reason “The Story’s End” dwelt more on death and disillusionment than the fairy tales that preceded it? All signs point to yes.)

So fast-forward to nowadays, when anyone who knows I’m an author will still inevitably ask:

How’s the writing coming?

And, I just…

How's Your Book Doing_via Twitter

…never quite know how to answer that.

Because I haven’t really written anything new since – *checks “Record of Stories Read and Written” document* – February of 2018. Blog posts, sure. Tweets ‘n’ things. A fun song. I’m making words. And I’ve been editing old words into new published books.

But is any of that writing?

Not as I once knew it.

Better if anyone were to ask me:

What are you working on, these days?

That, I could answer.

I could point to my picture-book-in-progress with Hannah Vale.

I could recall that I need to wrap up the little chores standing between me and ordering my first proof copy of #CamelotWIP.

(Why am I dawdling so hard on that? Could it be a subconscious foot-dragging born of the knowledge that, once “Camelot” is out in the world, I’ll be retreating into an indefinite authorial hiatus? Am I hesitant to unbind myself from the shackles I’ve forged from social media and self-promotion and straining to make myself seen by an indifferent world? Do I fear freedom? … Or am I just really not looking forward to all the fiddly work it’ll take to make the cover print right? <_<)

The question nobody asks:

How’s your inner author life?

I’ve had no practice answering that one.

But were I to try, maybe I’d mention the evenings I spend in the company of my characters (and Tirzah’s), listening as they hash out their own lives, their feelings, their fears. It’s not writing – and it may never be writing, as far as these specific storylines are concerned. Not every character crisis can adapt itself into another Outlaws of Avalon novel or “Reality As We Know It”. But in its way, it’s contributing to my craft. It’s growing my empathy. It’s coaching me in character development. It’s generating the stuff of imagination from which all art is born. It is – I must remind myself – worthwhile.

Another answer, and one I could give with some relief: I’m having ideas again. Am brainstorming again. Am rediscovering that itch in my heart that can only be scratched with creation. Even believing in my plan to walk away from my public author persona, for a while, it means more than I can express to realize that my writer spirit is waking up from its coma.

Maybe calling it temporarily quits on trying to sell myself will make room for a creative renaissance.

Maybe I’ll remember how to cyborg and return to writing like the wind.

Or maybe that self is never one I’ll get back, but my new self and her art will have just as much value.

Once upon an author bio page made 8 years ago, you hypothetically asked:

Who does this ‘deshipley’ person think he/she is?!

She’s not so sure anymore.

But she’s curious to find out.

Of Favored Escapes and Celestial Self-Mates

Once upon a nocturne of the soul, I felt myself magnet-drawn to make poetry.

It’s struck again – the whim, the mood, the muse – and the results are these:

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The first, a sigh for a favored escape…

Magnet Poetry_Sotto Voce

come to the forest

accompany me

leave confusion

enter harmony

 

spirit, slow

quiet within

sotto voce

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The second, an ode to my celestial self-mate…

Magnet Poetry_Quoth the Dusk

quoth the dusk:

 

“there.

through that shroud of crepuscular light:

 

white in black;

a solo of shadows,

filling an adagio sky.

tell-tale music –

signature song by

our moon.

 

do you see?”

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P.S. – If you’d like to support another artistic endeavor celebrating the moon, please see my GoFundMe.

P.P.S. – No blog post coming next week, for I’ll be off trying to relax on vacation. Until afterward, friends!