In Which an Old Tale Shall Shine Like New

Once upon a time, an author wrote of a smile in the dark.

Taking her father’s great hand in her tiny fingers, Laraspur led him to her bed and urgently bade him lay his head on her pillow. […] “Now look!” she said, pointing toward her bedroom window. “Do you see it, Papa? The scary smiling thing? What is it?”

“That?” Edgwyn aimed his gaze as directed and had to quiet a laugh. “Dear heart, that’s only the moon!”

‘Twas but the beginning of a novella-length tale of a large-hearted girl and her quest for the sky, and inspired a number of related art projects from the author – including various drawings, a pretty little song and, one day very recently, an idea for a picture book.

Princess and the Moon, fan art triptych

Mind you, as far as the picture book the author envisioned, her own illustration skills left much to be desired. Thus did she turn to an old Renaissance Faire friend whose fine drawings had paired with other of the author’s works before, inviting her to collaborate on a new masterpiece.

Sun's Rival Cover, full spread udpateAnd that author – *solemn nods* – was me.

That inspirational novella was the fifth of the Wilderhark Tales, “The Sun’s Rival”.

That friend was artist and illustrator Hannah Vale.

And the picture book in the works as we speak is to be called “The Princess and the Moon”.

This is my first-ever effort to make an honest-to-goodness, for-real-and-for-sale picture book (though Hannah has some experience in the area), and I am VERY MUCH EXCITED!

Behold, the back-cover book description:

When a young girl is startled awake by a singular light in the sky, her father spins her a tale made of sunbeams and stardust – the tale of a remarkable princess and the two opposite hearts that loved her. Adapted from “The Sun’s Rival”, Book Five of The Wilderhark Tales novellas by author Danielle E. Shipley, and illustrated by artist Hannah Vale (“The Tale of the Two Royal Sisters”), “The Princess and the Moon” is sure to charm readers young and old, both by day and by night.

Promo Sketch, w text 02

Behold also, the GoFundMe I’ve started to help cover the project’s expenses. (Because quality illustrations cost quantity cash, amigos!)

– Donors of any amount will receive a special thank-you illustration by Hannah Vale.

– Donors of $10 or more will receive one (1) copy of the finished picture book, to have and to hold, to read and to cherish.

– Donors of $30 or more will receive a copy of the book autographed by yours truly.

– Donors of $50 or more will receive book + autograph + a limited edition “The Princess and the Moon” promotional bookmark.

– Donors of $100 or more will receive book + autograph + bookmark + an “I See You” sticker from my Society6 shop (because see you, I do!).

So donate and follow along on the GoFundMe to stay updated on what your dollars are helping to bring into the world! Spread the word to all your picture-book-lovingest friends! And I, for one, shall strive not to bust from anticipation before I’m able to read “The Princess and the Moon” to my beloved baby nephew. ^o^

Excited to see the heart of “The Sun’s Rival” in an all-new format? Have any favorite childhood story book memories to share? Think any other bits from Deshipley canon would make a worthy picture book? Tell all in the comments!

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The Weight of Words

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallerySince well before the birth of “So Super Dead”, I’ve passed some quick but quality time with its narrating protagonist, Nicky – starting in the flash fic where I first heard himmer’s voice, “Superpower Outage”; again in a second flash fic, which I would eventually rework into the novel’s first chapter; and then there’s the story below. It’s from my Blue Period (late 2016 – hopefully not beyond 2019), characterized by artistic ennui, life fatigue, and general despair. Fortunately, although Nicky may not have been born of such times, s/he is very much made for them. Enjoy…

<<<>>>

Dennis sat dejected on the bench at the edge of a grave – the latest in a small cemetery laid out beside a smaller funeral home, where a too-small funeral and subsequent burial had taken place in a long blink of an afternoon. Everyone involved had been gone for a while, excepting Dennis. He had nowhere else to be.

He didn’t cry, but managed to look quite woebegone nonetheless. Head hung low between hunched shoulders. Elbows sunk down onto lap, wrists dangling loose over knees. Dry eyes hooded and haunted and fixed on the freshly turned dirt. A body lay beneath it, and the moon just kept on spinning in the sky.

Senses dulled by melancholy, he was slow to notice that someone had lowered to a seat on the bench with him. Maybe in Dennis’s early twenties, maybe younger; on the short side, and softly slender. They wore skinny pants, a three-quarter sleeve jacket, and summer fedora, all in a dressy-casual black, rounded off with saddle shoes and a slim gray tie. Only warm copper skin and chocolate-brown eyes kept them from reading like a black-and-white photograph.

“Hey,” they greeted – and the voice did as little as their appearance to push Dennis’s impression from they into a more binary he or she. “How are you doing?”

Dennis didn’t bother to suppress a groan. “I can’t believe people are still asking me crap like that. Why waste the breath? It’s not like you care.”

The someone blinked. “Of course I care.”

“Well, too late,” Dennis snapped, and looked pointedly away, back to the grave.

The someone was quiet for a moment. Then, “Sorry I missed the funeral,” they said. “I didn’t hear about it ‘til an hour ahead of time, and by then I’d committed to a dentist appointment. And wouldn’t you know Dr. Jaybeck was running late? I got over here soon as I could, though.”

Dennis looked up again, belatedly curious. “How did you hear about the funeral? Are you one of my cousins’ friends, or…?” Not that most of his cousins had bothered to come.

“Oh. No,” they said. “Got a notification on my phone. If you don’t mind my asking, what was the cause of death?”

Dennis stared at them flatly. “Suicide.”

“Aw, man.” Their face scrunched up in what was probably sympathy. “Why?”

“Does it matter?”

“I figure it’s got to.”

“You figure wrong.” Dennis turned away – from the someone, from the grave, from everything. “Turns out nothing matters. Not a person’s life. Not a person’s death. I thought…” His voice choked off. Not tears. Just that ache he’d been dragging around inside him for what felt like a little longer than forever. The ache that even now, unfairly, weighed his spirit down. “You’d think that people too busy to care about anything else you had to say would listen to a statement as intense as a shock gun to the head. You’d think that would get their attention.”

They said softly, “So it was for attention.”

Dennis couldn’t hold back a snort that was almost a laugh. “Pretty pathetic, huh, when you say it that way.”

“Pathetic,” the someone echoed. “From Greek. Pathos. To experience. To suffer.” They sighed. “Words mean more when they’re used right.” Another pause, then: “Maybe they’d mean more if they were used on time, too.”

Dennis glanced over his shoulder. “What do you mean?”

“There’s this thing I do,” they said, one knee jiggling up and down. “I talk to people. Help them move past their problems. But the thing is, it’s always like this. Like now. When they’re already dead.”

Dennis watched their eyes trace his name on the grave marker.

“You’re wrong to call it too late. But I admit, it could be earlier. It’s just, my phone doesn’t tell me until after you’ve died. Until you call me, or your number shows up in my contacts.”

“Or you get a notification about the funeral,” said Dennis.

“Yeah,” they agreed.

“That’s… weird.”

They shrugged. “It’s part of my superpower. Talking’s the other part. And listening.” Their gaze searched Dennis’s face. “What is it that you wanted heard?”

“I dunno.” Reflexively, Dennis sniffled. “Anything.”

“Well,” said the someone, settling more comfortably on the bench, “I’m all clear on dental appointments for another six months. You’ve got me for as long as you need. Lay it all on me.”

“Thanks…”

“Nicky.”

“…Nicky,” Dennis said, and talked until the aching weight of unheard words was gone.

<<<>>>

For more Nicky and himmer’s rapport with the deceased, check out my second-most-recent novel, “So Super Dead”!

Hell Hath No Paper Fury (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logoThe 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, “Actually, our guest isn’t a character, per se, but describes herself thus:

C.G. Drews lives in Australia with her piano and the goal of reading every book in existence. Consequently, her brain has overflowed with words and she spends her days writing novels to make you laugh or cry (or both). She never sleeps and believes in cake for breakfast. She blogs at paperfury.com.

“Welcome, C.G.!” Will greets the author now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – any truth to the rumor that you’re low-key three dragons and a cake in a trench coat?”

“Thanks so much for having me, Will! Although  w o w  what an accusation to start with. I am at least four dragons in a trench coat and I keep the cake in my pockets.”

“At least four…” Will’s brows arch high. “Duly noted, and verily impressed. An also impressive fact: You’ve just recently released your second novel, ‘The Boy Who Steals Houses’. Which aspect of the book are you most excited for your readers to experience?”

“Definitely the trauma and heartbreak of my readers while I drink their tears— oh wait um…” C.G. shuffles her notes. “I mean, I’m looking forward to readers getting to meet my motley crew of dysfunctional siblings and the shenanigans that follow a boy named Sam who accidentally breaks into their house and ends up stealing their hearts.”

“Aw, man!” Will twists around in his seat. “Are you getting this, Allyn? Dysfunctional sibling dynamics, shenanigans, and break-ins are three of our favorite things!”

“Um, no, just yours,” says Allyn. “Three of mine would likelier include music, hard-weather friendships, and heartbreak.”

“Hence your soul’s resonance with our guest’s first novel, ‘A Thousand Perfect Notes’. Related questions, C.G.: Of your two protagonists – Beck from ‘ATPN’ and Sam from ‘TBWSH’ – whom did you more enjoy writing, and why?”

“Will!! Are you asking me to choose between my kids?! For shame. I love Beck and Sam both. I loved writing Beck’s carefully built walls of gentle sarcasm and his tenderness towards his little sister and hungry vulnerability for a life where he could have friends and feel safe. And I loved writing Sam’s anxious and soft nature, his absolute need to find a home and belong somewhere, and his super cute dorkiness whenever his crush talks to him.”

“Oh, Sam sounds adorable! I wanna smoosh him with love already! Speaking of things loved, my author Danielle has been much amused by your blog for some time, now – all to do with your excellent voice. Are all Australians so entertaining, or is your online personality something you’ve had to intentionally cultivate?”

“Haha, I mean, are all Americans the same, Will?”

“I wouldn’t know,” says Will, drawing himself up proudly. “I’m Middle English.”

Allyn coughs quietly, “Middle English-American…”

“I’m a well-integrated immigrant, all right?” Back pointedly turned from Allyn, Will gestures to C.G. “You were going to say…?”

“As for my online voice,” she guides them back on track. “I’ve worked hard to develop my writing skills over the years so I’m really pleased it’s turned into being able to blog in a fun and glittery way! I know people who read my books are generally surprised they’re so dark versus my blog being way more lighthearted and comedic. But I like a bit of everything.”

“Variety is indeed the spice of life! And since we’re spicing things up: Tell me, Multi-Dragon Drews, what is your biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Will cranks up the heat on his smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“I think I’d rather pour my guts out, thanks ❤ I think my early blog archives were rather mortifying (shhh no you can’t see them! I’ve deleted!) and I do recall once yelling for my dog but I actually yelled my sister’s baby’s name (my dog is Atticus, the baby is Atlas … it was a mistake bound to happen, ok). So the baby just looked at me in sheer wounded terror that I’d yelled at him. I’m a monster. Still atoning for this.”

“That poor child,” Will sniggers. “Remind me to never get a dog, lest I inadvertently shout for Allyn.”

“You’re always shouting for Allyn anyway,” Allyn observes.

“AM NOT. NOW ALLYN, WHAT’S THE WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, hands over his ears, “is brought to you by ‘The Boy Who Steals Houses’ by C.G. Drews – available as of April 4th, also known yesterday, via Amazon, Book Depository, and elsewhere!Boy Who Steals Houses

Can two broken boys find their perfect home?

Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie.

But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.

“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks to you, too, C.G. Drews! 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!”

The Umbrella Academy Book Tag (Deshipley Edition, Of Course)

Recent Past Me: “What to blog about, what to blog about, what to blog about…?”

Recent Past Me: *comes across this “Umbrella Academy Book Tag” post on paperfury.com*

R.P.M.: “Perfect.”

Thanks to my housemate living half with me, half on Tumblr, I actually heard about the new Netflix original series in time to hop on the bandwagon (normally I’m five to twenty years behind everything, so this is wild), and just finished watching the first (and, so far, only) season a few weeks ago.

Umbrella Academy Tag

To briefly express my opinions in “WHAMO!” fashion:

– Holy cow, this setup is nuts!

– WAIT, WHAT, SOMEBODY ELABORATE ON THE TENTACLES.

– Reginald Hargreeves is trash.

– Klaus is a Will Scarlet archetype.

– How is this time-traveling hit man so relateable??

– Diego is low-key a mama’s boy and a mom.

– Y’all need to sit down and Talk! To! Each! Other!

– This show is a thin veneer of “cool and funny” over an abyss of PAIN AND STRESS.

– Allyn-a-Dale will definitely be doing Vanya’s look in the last episode for Halloween, this year.

– Well, that had me hooked! Will not be needing Season 2 in my life, thank you, I’ve got enough anxiety as-is.

<<<>>>

Now then! Onto the tag, created by It’s My Birth Write on YouTube. As is my usual, I will be answering these book-themed questions ONLY with titles/characters from the Danielle E. Shipley oeuvre, because 1) these posts get written faster when I can focus in on a narrow category and 2) call it my reward for having self-published more books in the last six years than my burnt-out brain can keep an accurate count of.

1 = HELLO: Name the Best First Book in a Series

Cover w Text 06.3, frontSince two books totally counts as a series, let’s give this one to “Inspired”! It’s got a crazy high-concept premise (fictional folks wandering the line between real and imaginary as they search for a new author to house them / tell their stories). It’s got a distinctive cast of characters (each and every one very much themselves, despite having been deliberately fashioned out of other characters of mine). It’s got heart and angst and eloquent waxing on the majesty of art and its creation! Searches for self and belonging! Elements of mystery! The forging of friendships! Not to mention the Totally In-Depth Author-to-Character Q&A. “Inspired” didn’t demand its sequel – (Deshipley don’t do cliffhangers, yo) – but it hinted very politely that it would appreciate one, and “Out of My Head” and I were entirely happy to oblige. Wouldn’t cry boo to a third book, either, if I ever get around to writing one…

2 = THE HARGREEVES CHILDREN: Name a Big Book Family (dysfunction is optional)

Wilderhark Calendar, October

You want a dysfunctional family? Look no further than the Sky. The Welkens of the Wilderhark Tales are a hot mess – literally, in the case of the sun king, Raeóryn; anti-literally, in the case of Aquinore, Wind of the North. There’s not one healthy sibling relationship in the bunch.

– Raeóryn puts down moon king Lumónd for being the “lesser” light

– Lumónd (and… basically everyone) disdains Raeóryn for being an arrogant dictator

– The brother winds bully their little sister Versparya (West Wind) for the comparative weakness of her breeze and the immutable strength of being their master’s favorite

– Pretty sure Euroval (East Wind) would be slightly less murderous if he didn’t idolize eldest brother Aquinore so

– Pretty sure Austeryn (South Wind) would sell any member of his family to the devil for a slice of cheesecake; and the winds don’t even eat

3 = THE WORLD ENDS IN 8 DAYS: If You Only Had Eight Days Left, Which Book Would You Choose to Be Your Last Read?

Story's End Cover, gallery size

Fortunately, eight days should be time enough to reread all of my books, since High Goodness knows I wouldn’t choose to spend my last week before the apocalypse toiling at my day job. But for my grand finale read, what could be more appropriate than Wilderhark Tales number seven, “The Story’s End”? In addition to worrying over the whispers of fate that warn the end is nigh, I could follow along one last time on the travels of minstrel marvel Gant-o’-the-Lute and his precious little apprentice, the future Allyn-a-Dale. The story would fill me with melancholy, but maybe also a spark of hope. After all, the end of the Wilderhark Tales was only the beginning of the Outlaws of Avalon. Could be that both Allyn and I are on the brink of an all-new adventure…

4 = SPACE BOY: Name a Character Who Plays the Leader, But May Not Be Cut Out For It

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

That’s probably how Arthur Pendragon would describe himself, the poor dear. The Once and Future King of my “Once and Future Camelot” hasn’t had much opportunity to flex his greatness during his afterlife in Avalon Faire, and it’s not doing healthy things for his confidence. But what’s left of his broken kingdom believes in him! As do I! Pendragon for President, 2020!

5 = THROWING KNIVES: What Literary Weapon Would You Want in Your Arsenal?

Song Caster Cover, full spread updateOoh, make mine the Flute Stone from Wilderhark four, “The Song Caster”! I mean, I’ll need to learn to actually play the flute before I’ll be able to wield its unlimited power. But my sister took lessons for years; I’m sure she could give me some pointers … provided I didn’t tell her she was paving the way toward my long-anticipated rise to Dark Lordliness.

6 = I HEARD A RUMOUR: Name a Book That Has a Misleading Plotline

Swan Prince Cover, full spread updateA misleading plotline? Hmm, that’s a toughie. I fancy myself a pretty straightforward taleteller, all told. Although…! I did try my hand at a novella-long misdirection in book one of the Wilderhark Tales, “The Swan Prince”. Obviously, I’m not going to spell it out here, since it’d be Spoiler City for any readers of this post who have yet to experience my little fairytale debut. (Y’all should read it, though. Might not be as polished, storytelling-wise, as my progressively-more-excellent later works, but a nice little audience rightfully fell in love with it anyway.)

7 = KLAUS: Name a Book That Involves the Dead / Ghosts / Etc.

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, galleryThe dead, ghosts, etc.? Sound like a bite-sized description of my second-most-recent novel, “So Super Dead”! I mean, the whole plot basically boils down to: Ghost girl, wanting revenge on the undead guy who killed her, enlists the help of kid who can talk to dead people; numerous casualties occur. (Also, I want an AU in which Nicky sits down to give Klaus, if not the entire Hargreeves family, some much-needed, talk-it-out therapy.)

8 = THE BOY: Recommend a Book That Plays with Time (whether it be in dual timelines, involving time travel, etc.)

Legend cover 02, frontLookin’ right at you, “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”. To quote a reviewer:

Just an aside, if you’ve ever wondered how time travel can reasonably happen, read this. It somehow makes perfect sense. Especially coming from Merlin.

…Which just blew my mind and exploded my heart to read, because y’all don’t even know how much I struggle with time-twisting plotlines, and here’s some stranger saying I nailed it! *high fives, Merlin, medieval Sherwood, Excalibur, and any other magical entity that made this moment possible*

9 = VANYA: Name a Character Who Has Buried Potential

Sir Bedivere the One-Handed. That’s all I’ll say on the matter ‘til we’re closer to launch for “The Once and Future Camelot”. *zips lips*

10 = LUTHER AND ALLISON: Name a Questionable Book Couple, and Why You Do or Don’t Like Them

They may not be my most controversial couple – (that honor probably goes to Austeryn and his wife in “The Surrogate Sea”) – but let’s talk about Gant-o’-the-Lute and Viralei of Carillon (Wilderhark Tales, three through seven). Obviously, what they had is True Love, else the spellwork of a certain Anarchwitch wouldn’t have broken with a kiss. Even so, this minstrel/princess pair seems to argue that a love can be true, yet still be unhealthy. She loved him like a hero. He loved her like music. But I have to doubt that they ever really saw each other, “The Sun’s Rival”-style. Viralei never would have tried to keep Lute in a castle, otherwise. And Lute’s heart, bless and/or shake your fist at it, never really understood the first thing about caring for people in the way that’s best for them. So do I like these two as individuals? Sure. Am I grateful their union gave us Allyn? Absolutely. Do I think their marriage was wise? No, I do not.

11 = HAZEL AND CHA CHA: Pick a Deadly Book Duo

Deathsong cover, remix 01.3Let’s just say if Molly Worth and the Kraken from “Deathsong of the Deep” ever decided to tackle a hit list together, it would be some DEATH TO BEHOLD.

12 = GOODBYE: What’s the Best Finale?

“The Once and Future Camelot” will be. Watch this space.

<<<>>>

Ta-da! Wanna be tagged? You’re it! Have you watched “The Umbrella Academy”? Share your thoughts in the comments! Based on my reactions to this show, is there anything else you think I should be watching on Netflix?

Open Journal: In Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss

“Should I be doing this?”

Will Scarlet glanced over to the bed from whatever imaginary thing had his attention. “Doing what?”

Danielle sighed. “Reading this book. Listening to this music station. Wearing these particular layers of hooded garments. ‘Doing this.’”

“Why not?” Allyn-a-Dale wondered, half-concealed behind the sunny window seat’s framing curtain, wholly invisible to anyone who didn’t happen to hold him in their imagination. “What else would you be doing otherwise?”

“I don’t know. A million things. Fixing lunch. Taking a walk. Practicing my lute repertoire. Going through my latest draft of #CamelotWIP. Working on a blog post.”

Will’s vision went momentarily meta. “Well, that last one’s actually happening now. But it never really matters what you’re doing, does it, Dani-babe? You always feel you should be doing something else.”

“Two to five something elses,” Danielle corrected. “Too much to do, not enough time or energy or selves to see it done. What I need is a squad of Deshipley clones.”

Allyn’s lips twitched faintly upward. “So they could all moan over each hour as somehow wasted?”

Danielle snorted a laugh. “On rotation, yes.”

“No time is wasted in the pursuit of your bliss,” Will declared.

Dubious, Allyn asked, “Does she have a bliss?”

“Nobody has a bliss, Allyn,” Will said patiently. “Which is why it must be pursued. Now, Danielle, let’s approach this rationally, since I hear that’s a thing people do. Reading a YA novel from the library whilst smooth jazz plays: Does this spark joy?”

Does It Spark Joy

Danielle arched a brow at him. “Not sure the Marie Kondo tidying method translates to the organization of leisure time.”

“Sure it does! Or it should,” Will maintained. “Chores and day jobs aside, if you’re not having fun with a thing, why keep it up? This is your weekend. Your de-stress time.”

“But trying to de-stress is stressful,” Danielle fretted.

Will sighed voluminously. “Darling, I love you, but ugh.”

“One moment at a time, then,” said Allyn. “Danielle, what do you want to do? Not ‘today’, not ‘this afternoon’, not ‘with your life’; just right this moment.”

“This moment? I want… to review my German.”

“Really?” said Will, in honest surprise. “But you haven’t touched your German lessons on Duolingo since… well, since you switched to Italian, which you haven’t touched in ages, either. Why German? Why now?”

“I don’t know.” Danielle shrugged. “I miss it. Not just living in Germany, but reaching to internalize the language. …Not that I ever succeeded,” she brooded.

“There’s success, and there’s SUCCESS,” said Will.

Allyn asked, “Which is which?”

“Easy. The all-caps one is the version that comes with money and legacy and whatnot. Whereas little successes include taking baby steps to challenge or improve yourself or whatever. Example: When everything stresses you out, but you keep looking for different ways to cope and semi-enjoy your existence anyway.” His smile for Danielle was vividly fond. “That’s a little success you achieve on the regular. So go ahead and brush up on your German. And when that stops sparking your joy, go back to your book, or get lunch, or change into a super stylin’ outfit that no one outside will probably get to see. You’re in the driver’s seat. Pick a direction and punch it!” Will took a break from his non-stop pep talk to breathe and look hopeful. “Feeling inspired, yet?”

“…As opposed to merely caught up in a fictional conversation that could have come straight out of ‘Inspired’?” said Allyn.

“Yes and no,” said Danielle. “The struggle goes on, but I need these reminders. Like, frequently. So thank you for delivering this one in a way that met my nagging need to come up with a blog post.”

Will Scarlet winked. “It’s what we do, babe.”

Allyn smiled in agreement. “Call it our little success.”

Release the #KrakenTat

Once upon a time, an author sat in a tattoo parlor on the isle of Maui. She wasn’t there for herself, but for her sister, who had taken it into her head to get some fresh ink during their vacation with an uncle, and between the pair of them, the author was the only one old enough to drive the rental car.

So while the sister got her work done in the back, the author passed the time by scribbling semi-illegibly in her journal, the words wandering into a conversation with one of her closest characters about what sort of tattoo she would go for, if ever she did. She was pretty sure she never would, out of fear that she’d decide a month or a year or a decade too late that she was tired of seeing any one design etched permanently onto her person. But if she did…

“A kraken,” the character said, without hesitation. “I could totally see you with a tentacle tattoo. […] Same for something with the moon.”

Because that author – *solemn nods* – was me.

And that character – surely to no one’s surprise – was Will Scarlet. Perhaps more surprising, that very day was the one Danielle envisioned the matching tattoos worn by Will and Allyn in “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”.

And most surprising of all, Will Scarlet was 100% on point. Because three years later – coincidentally just weeks after the release of “Deathsong of the Deep” (aka #KrakenBook) – I do most proudly introduce to you… #KrakenTat.

KrakenTat Tryptich
#KrakenTat at 2 hours old.

The Design: Circling the right arm just below the elbow, a musical stave with a treble clef, in which some of the stave’s lines form the irregular peaks and valleys of a soundwave. Rising therefrom, a trio of tentacles, one of which curves possessively around a crescent moon at my wrist.

The Brainstorm Behind It: If I was going to get a tattoo – which I unexpectedly found myself more and more eager to do – it had to be deeply and undeniably me. Hence the tentacles (my soul is a sea monster) and the moon (my soul mate in the sky). I thought at first to have the encircling band in my design look like actual water (my element, naturally), but my searches online for inspiration / a guide for my future tattoo artist yielded nothing that hit me quite right.

What did hit me: Music. (My language beyond words.) And finding an image of a soundwave stave pleased me doubly because, again, “Legend of Allyn-a-Dale” matching tats. (Anything to feel closer to my brothers in Sherwood!)

I wasn’t originally thinking to include the treble clef, but when my artist – (Antonio of Mod&Art Studio) – kept it as part of his rough-draft sketch for my approval, I decided it wasn’t broke and needed no fixing. Also originally, I’d imagined having one or more the tentacles curling all the way around my forearm. But again, the rough-draft sketch didn’t do that, and I liked the way it looked as-was, so I didn’t push the circling tentacles, just the circling stave.

The (3-to-4-Hour) Moment of Truth: The number-one question I’ve received since showing off my new tattoo = “[How much] did it hurt?”

My answer = “It varied.”

Antonio warned me the wrist would likely be the most painful area, and he spoke the truth. On much of my forearm, the pain wasn’t generally much worse than the sensation of a prolonged scratch. On the wrist, though, it felt more like someone was trying to murder me and make it look like a suicide.

I’d hoped Tirzah might be there to distract me and/or keep my spirits up, since she happened to have the day off of work. But alas, the reason she took off work in the first place was because she had a cold, and Antonio requested that she not bring her sniffle-and-cough germs into the workspace. Fair enough. I was on my own.

Fortunately, there was some diversion in the form of a mounted TV bingeing “Good Girls” on Netflix. Over the course of my appointment, I – and a couple of ladies who showed up later to get inked by the other artist in da house – kept us all entertained by offering commentary on the fictional women getting in over their heads in a money laundering racket. And when even that wasn’t enough to take my mind off my arm’s suffering, I internally tapped out and had one of my Camelot knights sit through it for me. (#ChivalryLives)

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The tat-in-progress pic sent to Tirzah during a short break in my ow-ow-ow marathon.

Even with the foresight to eat a big breakfast before what I’d been warned would be a 3-to-4-hour job, by the end, my body was very much ready for food and the cessation of toughing out pain. (Just ha-a-ad to insist on inking a full-circle musical stave bracelet, did I? Ow.) I’d planned to remind Antonio I’d mentioned wanting some white ink added to the moon, but the thought of more work on the wrist did not appeal to me at that point, so I let it go. Antonio gave some brief after-care instructions, I paid up, and Tirzah – back just in time to catch the end of my ordeal – treated me to Ethiopian dinner.

Then came the fun part! Aka, anxiety re: what if I somehow manage to screw up my tattoo skin care and EVERYTHING IS TRAGEDY?!

In order to calm myself down, I spent part of the next morning looking around online for second, third, and fourth opinions for the “so, you just got a tattoo” crowd.

A few generally agreed upon do-s and don’t-s:

DO – Keep the skin clean with antibacterial soap (unscented preferred)

– Avoid prolonged exposure to water (especially chemical pool water) and sun

– Use some manner of protection against germs and drying out (Antonio prescribed thin layers of diaper rash cream A+D, applied as needed over the first four days, and Jergens ultra-healing lotion starting on day five)

DON’T – Let the world’s unwashed hands touch your new tat ‘til it’s healed (takes 2 to 3 weeks)

– Over-protect by keeping bandaged in plastic wrap or mega-thick layers of goop, because now the skin can’t breathe

– Pick at the skin when it starts peeling like a sunburn; it’s a normal part of the process and scratching more skin away will just up your chances for infection

– Panic if the area weeps a little clear plasma; this is also fine and normal (vs. colorful and/or smelly discharges, which will want medical attention)

Epilogue:

As I type this, we are a week in and at “peeling like a sunburn” phase. The pain was down to virtually zero within 24 hours, sensitivity has been steadily dropping, and with every day that passes without incident, my fear decreases as well.

Only another week to go, past this blog’s posting, and my tattoo will be just another part of me – albeit one of my cooler outer parts, revealing to the world a few core pieces of coolness that have been inside me all along.

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Murdoch would approve.

That’s my first tattoo story! Got one of your own to share? See me in the comments!

WHAMO! I’d Like to Shake the Academy…

WHAMO LogoHello, beautiful people! Will Scarlet, here. And it’s time for another edition of “WHAMO!” (which is basically “WWMHO!” – the acronym for “Will Watches Movies, Has Opinions” – but visually catchier).

Today’s pick, though, isn’t a movie. Instead, it’s that great-granddaddy of television specials honoring the medium of movies itself:

THE OSCARS!

Oscars 2019

The Wikipedia-official description:

The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are a set of awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry, given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), to recognize excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy’s voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the “Academy Award of Merit”, although more commonly referred to by its nickname “Oscar”.

The Academy Awards ceremony was first broadcast on radio in 1930 and televised for the first time in 1953. It is the oldest worldwide entertainment awards ceremony and is now seen live worldwide.  […] The 91st Academy Awards ceremony, honoring the best films of 2018, was held on February 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre, in Los Angeles, California. The ceremony was broadcast on ABC.

Stream of Impressions (the highlights):

*Re: the ceremony’s opening ‘boom-boom-claps’* “YAAAASSSS, QUEEN + ADAM LAMBERT! You are indeed rocking me!”

“Aaaand there’s the first obligatory political joke of the night. This year’s show doesn’t even have a host, but you can always count on someone stepping up to throw shade at the government.”

“I have not (to my regret) yet seen ‘The Favourite’, but Rachel Weisz was modeling quite The Look while lol-shooting Emma Stone, in this clip.”

“Is sea god Jason Mamoa wearing a scrunchie on his wrist? A scrunchie that matches his suit, no less?”

“And the documentary winner is… that guy climbing Yosemite free-hand!”

“That arch over the stage looks distractingly like a wig.”

“Am I wrong for envying Melissa McCarthy’s presenter outfit? (The answer is ‘yes’, but I’m not letting that stop me.)”

“Freshly-award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter is several layers of #goals. Related note: Wakanda forever!”

*Having spent several seconds devouring a dazzling J-Lo/Chris Evans combo with his eyes* “…I’m sorry, I haven’t heard a word they said. Which award are they presenting, right now?”

“Hannah Beachler, aka that gorgeous jungle flower fumbling for her production design victory speech on her phone, is the realest thing I’ve ever seen, and I love her.”

“I’m stealing that outfit from Jennifer Hudson and putting it on Danielle so she can unleash her biggest fabulous.”

*Re: James McAvoy/Danai Gurira presenting for Best Sound Design* “Slaaayyy, Okoye! You’re so good at it! (Side note: If James wants to play cousin Robin Hood, like, ever, that offer’s on the table.)”

*Re: Keegan-Michael Key’s entrance* “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”

“Those umbrellas look like an alien invasion, but thanks, Bette Midler, for performing a song much adored by certain of Danielle’s characters.”

*When the “Black Panther” clip plays … and ends* Will: “No! MORE!”

Allyn-a-Dale: “You could have just put in the DVD, but no, you said, ‘Let’s watch the Oscars.’”

“Academy Museum of Motion Pictures? That’s gonna be a thing? Danielle, can we go??”

“Groundbreaking animated masterpiece beats out even mother-loving Disney for Best Animated Feature! History is made! Sing hey and huzzah for ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse’!”

“Anyone else crept out by that camera cut to Willem Dafoe during the ‘Spider-Verse’ acceptance speech? Was that an intentional throwback to yester-Spidey?”

“Okay, but where is my John Mulaney/Peik Lin buddy movie, tho?”

“Aw, man – bet you that woulda been the commercial break where I’d get a cool first look at a ‘Lion King’ remake trailer, if I’d watched this live.”

“If Merlin had said a decade ago that we could look forward to a love duet between Lady Gaga and Rocket Raccoon, no one would have taken him seriously.”

“Wait, Jessica Jones is pregnant?? (Is Luke Cage the father? Or does comic book canon not really affect Krysten Ritter’s day-to-day?)”

“ARGH, I’d managed to forget we lost Stan Lee! Thanks for throwing me back into mourning, In Memoriam!”

“So, Willem Dafoe got a role as Van Gogh, and… nobody told Vincent’s biggest minstrel fan, Allyn? Rude.”

“There’s a movie that’s just called ‘The Wife’? Not even gonna try to dress it up with a descriptor or anything? What comes next – ‘The Daughter’?”

“Olivia Coleman’s acceptance speech for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role is the best of heartfelt British comedy.”

“What the— ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ wasn’t nominated for anything? But it was practically the most perfect film of the year! C’MON, Academy!”

More Coherently Summarized:

Was I entertained? Yes. Can the Oscars get by without a host? Clearly, though neither Danielle nor I would cry boo to them giving the spot back to Hugh Jackman. While I would not at all call myself a fan of the drama factory that is Hollywood, I can’t help but get hype for all the glittery glitz and glamour of Oscars night. Movies are AMAZING, and taking time to recognize not only the big stars that are the face of the films but also the categories of artists working their wizardry behind the scenes is awesome. Even if my top picks don’t score every accolade I think they deserve, there is something to be said just for being nominated. (Looking at you, ‘Black Panther’. You’re totally Best Picture of 2018 in my heart.)

Where are the POC?

More specifically, what is up with not giving ANY kudos to “Crazy Rich Asians”? Sure, there was black power aplenty, up onstage and onscreen, and several shout-outs to the Spanish-speaking community and immigrants in general. That’s all very well, good, and trendy, but is the Academy just going to ignore that “Asians” ran away with the box office? Don’t tell me a romantic comedy can’t be taken seriously as high art, because bullsh*t. That movie was gorgeous. It had scope. And intelligence. And an incredible cast made up almost entirely of a demographic that’s suffered every bit as much racist garbage in this country as any other person of color. (Japanese internment camps, anyone?) I don’t know which stuffy white dinosaurs voted to sweep “Crazy Rich Asians” under the red carpet, but this medieval Merry Man is handing out an entirely unofficial Tied-For-Best Picture Oscar. So there.

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And that’s today’s review! How about you guys? Did you watch the Oscars? Whose wins made you cheer, and who was bloody robbed? What’s your pick for last year’s Best Picture? Who are you wearing tonight? Discuss in the comments below!

‘Til next time, babes ~