Thoughts from the Fog

(I’ve been largely wordless for a while, but just lately, whilst scribbling to myself, found a way to answer my lifelong least favorite question: ‘How are you?’ So this, among other things, is how I’ve been.)

*

Fog gets me.

One thought, while driving toward the city: How something insubstantial as fog can make something so there be not there. The Golden Gate. Aged. Iconic. Large. Unmistakable. And yet, sometimes, invisible. Disguised in sky stuff.

(Much like the moon. Kin, maybe, in their souls. Or both just made much of by those who love them.)

Another thought: This place is wonderful. But this place is of America the Terrible. But is this country rotten, or this nation? Or its leaders? How much blame upon the people, how much on the powers that shouldn’t be?

People are awful. Some of them.

People are wonderful. Some again.

Our best and worst are leagues apart and held in single hearts.

This people and place are built of everything.

I don’t know how to bring that back around to the fog.

*

The thing with this pandemic is it makes it hard to find new things to say.

After all these months (has it really only been a few?), it’s just the same old problems over again. Even the new issues are mere reboots of what’s been wrong all along.

This country does not look good naked, and all but the occasional face covering is coming off now.

Some folks are paid to talk about it. Plenty will do it for free. Or for change. But what does someone like me have to add? I’ve seen no more and know no better. All I can do is echo the obvious.

As for other topics… what? I’ve read a book? I’ve watched a show? The light and the water danced beautifully on the bay this morning? It’s nothing to mark the days with. Lack of routine turns to sameness. The new normal is nothing is normal.

Twenty, thirty minutes in a line spaced six-ish feet apart for fifty bucks’ worth of socks.

Remember when we’d browse the mall for fun? Killing time before the times killed us. Making mini memories before yesterday was March and today’s August and what can we point to in between that felt like living?

There’s a version of hell that looks just like this. Probably more than one.

How’s this for bringing it back to the fog: I’m feeling lost in the blur. My existence, my reality, there then not there. Invisible Golden Gate. I’m forgetting myself. I’m a blank-eyed stranger. I’m alone in my own skin, and my skin is a bus heading out into nowhere, empty save for me, yet still crowded with the thought of people who used to inhabit these seats and might want to later, so let’s not get comfortable, legs crossed tight against imagined space invasion.

I’m social distanced from my own heart.

A soul in quarantine.

The virus knows more than one way to steal your breath.

PhotoFunia-1596471104_2

In Which I Have a Lot of Books (and Sometimes Even Read Them)

Once upon a day in the apocalyptic era that is 2020, I read a post by The Story Sponge featuring one of those fun blogging games that likes to make the rounds – namely, the “Do I Have That Book?” Challenge.

And then I forgot and did nothing about it, because my insides have become a wasteland ravaged by anxiety re: current events.

Then I came across the post again, because I’d had the good sense to keep it in my inbox, and – pleasant surprise! – this time, my muse awoke from its coma long enough to help me scour my bookshelves to see if I had enough qualifying titles for a proper play-along.

For the results – (including several very pretty snapshots of books of all sorts) – read onward!

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Do you have a book with deckled edges?

At least one! The dark, brooding, and super-Shakespearean “If We Were Villains” by M. L. Rio.

If We Were Villains

Borrowed it from the library, gave it 5 stars in my heart, and laid hands on my own copy. Will surely get around to re-reading one day.

Do you have a book with 3 or more people on the cover?

Although one could argue, based upon the trio of novellas within, that there are only two people on the cover, we’ll play illustrator’s advocate and call it seven. Behold, “Penric’s Progress” by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Penric's Progress

I didn’t know ‘nerdy young person has to learn to navigate life while playing host to and becoming friends with a tangle of strong personalities who need to ride his/her body to interact with the material world’ was a genre unto itself, but – with both this collection and my own “Inspired” novels sitting on my shelves – apparently it is! Penric and Annabelle Iole Gray would have much to chat about, I’m sure.

Do you have a book based on another book?

I’ll do you one better: A book based on a musical based on a book! “The Complete Phantom of the Opera” by George Perry.

Complete Phantom of the Opera, The

I believe there’s actually a copy of the O.G. “Phantom of the Opera” novel by Gaston Leroux somewhere in the house, too, though I’ve not yet read it.

(*quietly cracks up at the use of the term ‘O.G.’ in the context of Phantom*)

Do you have a book with a title 10 letters long?

A tricky ask, but ignore the subtitle, and I found one! “Over the Top” by Jonathan Van Ness.

Over the Top

The first acquisition in my literary Queer Eye collection, soon followed by the respective memoirs of Tan France and Karamo Brown, and Antoni Porowski’s gorgeous cookbook. Still waiting on the existence of a memoir and/or interior design book from Bobby Berk. Y’all lemme know if you’ve heard anything about that.

Do you have a book with a title that starts and ends with the same letter?

Now see, I could’ve used Tan France’s memoir (“Naturally Tan”), but I didn’t want to feature two Fab 5 titles back to back, so I chose instead “Thorn in My Heart” by Liz Curtis Higgs.

Thorn in My Heart

Is also one of the few titles one could place in the “Do you have a romance novel that reimagines a Biblical love triangle in 18th-century Scotland?” category, so bravo.

Do you have a Mass Market Paperback?

Every title I own in Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” series fits the bill. Pictured here, the last in the series’ second threesome, “The Bands of Mourning”.

Bands of Mourning

…Which I’ll totally have to start reading over from the beginning, because I made it partway through before setting it aside for literal years, and no way in Scadrial will I remember any people, places, or plot that went down.

Do you have a book written by an author using a pen name?

Is it a pen name if it’s just literally your name, but you wrote your previous books under a different name that was… also just literally your name? We’ll say ‘yes’ so I can go with “Fortune’s Pawn” by Rachel Bach (which I have not only read, but have reviewed on my blog!).

Fortune's Pawn, 02 probably

Do you have a book with a character’s name in the title?

Almost the whole of my Robin Hood collection could claim that distinction.

Robin Hood Collection

Be it Robin’s name or Will Scarlet’s – (or, in the case of the relevant novels I’ve written, Allyn-a-Dale’s) – these books like to call themselves after the legendary characters within them.

Do you have a book with two maps in it?

I couldn’t think of any books of mine with multiple maps, so I semi-cheated by using one of my gal’s books instead: “Invisible Armies” by Max Boot.

Invisible Armies

Never thought I’d feel the need to say this, but thank you, Tirzah, for your lifelong fascination with history and warfare. It has at long last come in handy for me.

Do you have a book that was turned into a TV show?

I’m… not sure. Would you accept a TV show that was turned into books? If so, I present the Diagnosis Murder series by Lee Goldberg.

Diagnosis Murder

I’ve always loved a murder mystery. And if those mysteries star Dick Van Dyke as a fun-natured doctor-detective, so much the better. (Also pictured here: A couple of Monk titles – i.e. another murder-mystery-TV-show-turned-book-series by the same author.)

Do you have a book written by someone who was originally famous for something else? (Celebrity/athlete/politician/tv personality…)

Again, setting aside all my Queer Eyes, this time in favor of “Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You” by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Gmorning, Gnight

…Y’know, that guy famous for, what? Some roles on TV, creating and starring in a couple of Broadway musicals, writing songs for Polynesian princesses and lightning lamps in Depression-era London… Nothing major.

Book illustrations by Johnny Sun, with whom I’m not as familiar, though a glance at his bio shows that he has done/is doing A LOT as well.

Do you have a book with a clock on the cover?

It might be in pieces, but that assemblage of gears and Roman numerals on the “Mechanized Masterpieces” anthology definitely looks like a clock, right? Yes, good, I thought so, too. (Also both read and reviewed on my blog, babyyyyy.)

Mechanized Masterpieces, 02 probably

Do you have a book of poetry?

A browse through a secondhand bookstore got me this little treasure: “Old English Ballads: Selected and Arranged for Use in Elementary Schools” by John A. Long.

Old English Ballads

Are all of ye olde poems inside about Robin Hood? No. But are several of them? Yesssssss! Have I bothered to sit down and read them yet? Mind your business!

Do you have a book with an award stamp on the cover?

I’d originally planned to showcase this one in answer to Do you have a book with 3 or more people on the cover?, but changed it up because, while “Penric’s Progress” has a crowd on its face, it lacks the Newberry Honor Book seal proudly displayed upon “The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog” by Adam Gidwitz (with illustrations by Hatem Aly).

Inquisitor's Tale, The

A humorous and deeply thoughtful novel, suitable for middle graders and so-called grownups alike. I highly recommend.

Do you have a book written by an author with the same initials as you?

Ignoring all the books that have my actual name on them, let’s go with “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield – quite possibly the first literary book for grownups I ever loved. I really must get ‘round to her recent latest novel, “Once Upon a River”, sometime. We’ll see how soon my library can hook me up.

Thirteenth Tale, The

Do you have a book of short stories?

Quite a few. Selecting one more or less at random, here’s “Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Folktales” retold by Alison Laurie.

Clever Gretchen

Grabbed secondhand during fairytale collecting phase. (‘Cause hey, for all I knew, I’d have another 27 Wilderhark Tales to write and would need all the source material I could get.) Have yet to read it, but surely … surely … someday.

Do you have a book that’s between 500-510 pages long?

Ooh, toughie! I flipped through a number of my books and couldn’t find anything that fits those exact parameters. But if you leave out the author’s note at the end, queer historical romp “A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzi Lee ends on page 501.

Gentleman's Guide, The

(Not that I would ever leave out the author’s note. I’m a very cover-to-cover sort of reader.)

Do you have a book that was turned into a movie?

How’s about “Ivanhoe” by Sir Walter Scott? I have neither watched the movie nor read the book, but a quick online search confirmed my assumption that such a movie must exist (because don’t most quote-unquote classics of Western literature?), and OF COURSE I’ll read the book eventually. It’s got a guest appearance by ROBIN HOOD, for Sherwood’s sake.

Ivanhoe

Do you have a graphic novel?

Just the one, I think: “The Veligent” by Melody Peña.

Veligent, The

Read and loved it way back when it was more than a fantastic collection of digital pages shared by the author/artist online, and checked in on her every couple years or so to see if I could someday acquire it in physical form. Happy day, I finally got to help Kickerstarter the hardback into being! (And got a magical little Poad™ figurine as a thank-you. ^_^)

Do you have a book written by two or more authors?

Any number of my short story collections could claim this one. Just because I love me a feywood-esque, I’ll choose “The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest” edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

Green Man, The

And it’s just as big a surprise to me as to any of you that I have, in fact, gotten around to reading this one! Miracles abound! Don’t ask me if I remember the details of any of the stories!

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High five, muse o’ mine! We actually made it through the whole of this blog post without getting squished under chronic existential dread. And if you, lovely readers, have felt likewise inspired to share your bookshelves’ contents – or have thoughts/opinions/feelings on any of the titles I’ve featured today – share all with me in the comments!

Until next the blogging bug bites,

~ Danielle

Most Likely to Feature a Lot of Will Scarlet

So there I was, responsibly sheltering at home (as one does during a pandemic), playing a bit of catch-up with the blog posts in my email, when I finally got ‘round to enjoying this post from the inimitable Story Sponge.

And though I say ‘inimitable’, I am very much here to imitate her example by participating in the “Voted Most Likely” Writers Tag! – the rules of which are these, to quote the Sponge:

One: Thank the lovely blogger who tagged you.

Two: Include a link to the tag creator’s page (That would be the lovely Phoebe.)

Three: Use your own lovely Original Characters (OC’s); don’t use a friend’s characters or characters from your favorite fandom. They can be from any project, so long as you created them. For more fun, try to use as many different characters as possible.

Four: Tag *at least* five lovely blogger friends to play along.

In the interest of adhering to the whole of rule number three, I will endeavor not to simply answer ‘WILL SCARLET’ in 60% of the categories. This may prove challenging, given the do-anything, say-anything, be-anything nature of my Merry Maniac, but we’ll give it our best.

Ready as ever? Onward!

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Most Likely to Be a Poet

Are we excluding professional minstrels? Because Gant-o’-the-Lute, Allyn-a-Dale, Balladry Sol, ‘n’ ‘em are already poets on the daily. On the amateur level, Sir Bedivere claimed he half-fancied himself a poet, back in the day. And he did compose that lovely verse about the Sword in the Stone, as recited in Outlaws of Avalon 1. So for giggles, let’s go with him.

Most Likely to Dance in the Rain

Rain or shine, sleet or hail, on the ground or in the air, the likeliest to be found dancing is Avelaine. And oh, be still my heart, it would be like watching some gorgeous song from my Yanni channel on Pandora turned into Monet colors, but animated into an award-winning short film.

Most Likely to Look Good in a Kilt

Fun story: Long ago, in the first year of the best-friendship between me and Tirzah Duncan, my imaginary friends and I decided to throw her a birthday party (over the phone) at which absolutely everyone wore kilts. (There were also bagpipes and highland battles in a rainstorm, because when a party’s 100% make-believe, you can afford to pull out all the stops.) If I rightly recall, most of the men present looked dang good in their kilts, but the two that stand out most strongly in my memory are Robin Hood and Austeryn, Wind of the South (who is really too dangerous a character to invite to parties, but like I said, we wanted a rainstorm, and that’s very much Austeryn’s department).

Most Likely to Get Punched in the Face

Aaaaaand there’s our first instance of Will Scarlet! (Not saying that Bedivere isn’t easily as likely to make people want to punch him in the face… he’d just move out of the way before the punch could land.)

Most Likely to Drop Everything and Become a Sheep-Herder

If the knighthood no longer called to him, and/or his mother sent a message to the tune of ‘Please come home and help with the family business, boy-o; we’re struggling, here’, Sir Wilbur Lamb would do precisely that.

Most Likely to Be Found in the Library

Since she and I are basically the same person, y’all already know it’s gonna be Annabelle Iole Gray. And if you can’t find her there, try the bookstore.

Most Likely to Sleep Through an Earthquake

Probably the same one who canonically slept through getting murdered and thrown back in time into a tree. That’s right: Will Scarlet again.

Most Likely to Steal Food from Other People’s Plates

Book 1 found him stealing Robin’s French fries. Book 2 caught him swiping hush puppies from Allyn. Book 3’s poached deer hadn’t even been gutted yet before he was wrestling its slayer for rights to the venison. Give it up for Will Scarlet, folks! The man can’t be stopped!

Most Likely to Cheat on a Test

Cheaters? Have I written any cheaters?… Ah! He’s not been published yet (unless you count his AU insert in “Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son”), but there’s this guy, Jason – been a character of mine since, shoot, my preteens – who would completely cheat on a test. Not because he didn’t know the answers! He might or might not have bothered to study for this test. But the point is, low-grade villainy is entirely his aesthetic. He would cheat for cheating’s sake and call it a fun time. He needs more therapy than my imagination can provide.

Most Likely to Say “Oops” After Setting Something on Fire

Hi, Will.

Most Likely

Most Likely to Open an Orphanage

While any number of my large-hearted characters would happily do so, the one for whom it would be most strongly supported by backstory would be Doctor-King Villem Deere. The nuns of Our Lady of Relentless Sympathy’s children’s asylum had his back for the whole of his youth. He would consider it an honor to pay it forward during his reign.

Most Likely to Run Off with the Circus

Ok, but picture an AU in which Molly Worth replaced her seafaring fascination with a circus obsession! Imagine Ringmaster Johnny Crow and his ragtag troupe of performers! Anafrid, tamer of tigers or something! Semsen, unsmiling clown of all trades! Young Johnny the acrobat / the sideshow’s Mythical Winged Boy! Murdoch… trained seal? And I have no idea how to fit the Kraken into this, but apart from that, “Deathsong of the Big Top” is sounding like a must-read.

Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

I mean, Thackeray Kyle’s already done it once. I’m sure he could swing it again.

Most Likely to Fake Their Own Death

In a weird way… Thackeray Kyle kinda already did that, too? More like faking/not-faking his own death/not-death, but yeah, that happened.

Most Likely to Die and Haunt Their Friends

Allyn’s loved ones have died and haunted him on more than one occasion. Brenna Walsh died and haunted, but had no friends. Nicky “Xtra-Medium” Ellenbogen-Jones would likely want to haunt himmer’s friends upon death, but given that s/he is the only one among them with the power to communicate with ghosts, that could prove difficult… Y’know what, let’s go with Molly Worth again. She straight-up pulled that number in-text.

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The End! My thanks, Story Sponge, for providing this exercise’s inspiration. ‘Twas fun! As for tagging, if anyone is a) reading this, b) possessed of original characters, and c) down to blog about their shenanigan likelihood, I dub thee tagged. And if any o’ y’all think I totally should have voted in a different character of mine for this category or that, set me straight in the comments. (Haven’t met any or all of these characters, but want to? Check out my books page!)

Until sooner or later,

~ Danielle

A Tale of Two Galleries

We walk into the gallery. Outside, a horsehead sculpture, smile charmingly smug. Inside, acrylic whimsy stretched in magnificent detail across every wall.

She greets us upon entry, compliments our outfits, follows our progress from frame to frame. She talks, she talks, she talks.

“Where did you get your coats?”

We forget.

“Well, coats are great. Now put your coat money toward a thousand-dollar painting.”

Probably a thrift store coat, in at least one case. Hardly a comparable expense.

“Yeah, my daughter’s a thrift shopper. Wears her finds to galleries in Europe. You can buy that painting in hundred-dollar installments, you know.”

We really can’t afford—

“You’d just spend it on food or something, otherwise.”

We really don’t have the space—

“I live in a studio. I had no money, once. Anyone can come up with excuses not to invest in a painting.”

Uh-huh… Ooh, we would live in that painting, if we could…

“You can. If you buy it and put it on your wall.”

(What part of ‘we have neither the money nor the wall area’ is she not hearing? Where does one hang an artwork they skipped on rent to obtain?)

We’re tuning her out, now. Finish our browsing. Purchase a small something to gift a loved one, no thanks to her. Wonder if she really believed that she had ever been like us; and if she was, which path do we avoid so as never to become her?

*

We walk into the gallery. Statuary looms. A four-foot frog, a large-as-life lion, a dark metal horse rampant, all in a cunning and costly clutter.

He points out that the tiny figurines we’re eying in the back-corner cases are such-and-such a price. (Inexpensive enough that we could buy them, exorbitant enough that we couldn’t justify it.) We give him fair warning that we’re too broke for this place, just dream shopping while on a sightseeing jaunt.

“Oh, where are you from?”

Not far, as of recently. In fact, one of us is employed just a few minutes away.

“Nice place to work.”

It is, at that. One of us keeps up the chatter (it isn’t me), while the other (it is) crouches over a bronze – a girl stretched on the ground with a book ‘neath her nose.

He watches from behind the counter, nonchalantly digs into his lunch, asks with mild interest, “What’s she reading?”

To our delight, a half-legible page reveals its heart with an ‘Open sesame’ –the tale of Ali Baba! – and just as magic, one half of our two hearts (mine) falls in love with the girl and her reading. No point looking at the price tag, though. Still no money, no space.

Our other heart half (hers) leaps at a statue of two golden otters, large and sinuous, the usual cutesy take on the creatures eschewed in favor of predatory power.

He – (somehow also like a predator, stately and sensual, but lately fed and therefore less a threat) – marvels at my other half’s impassioned otter rant. “Are you an interior designer?”

No, she’s just got a lot of feelings.

Nearly out the door, we pass a dish fashioned of translucent waves and the undines who dance among them. My eyes, on it, full of longing. Her eyes, on me, all affection. His eyes, on her; his words, to me: “She’ll get it for you.”

She would if she could. She will when she can. Someday, when we’re wealthy, it’s here we’ll return, for readers, otters, undines.

As for paintings… well. We’ll see who’s doing the selling.

Gallery of Us_PhotoFunia-1583632441
A gallery of us, living rich lives on the cheap.

Love, Letters, and a List

Has anyone else taken notice of a trend, lately, in which books are pitched as “a love letter to [this, that, or the other]”? Like, it’s not just a novel set in a city or country, it’s a love letter to that place. No mere story featuring a certain food or cuisine, but a love letter to that gastronomic experience. That character’s journey of self-discovery via an ‘80s pop musician’s body of work / a genre of film / online gaming / illegal goat racing? A love letter to some past or present obsession that made the author the particular brand of weirdo they are today.

As someone who has neither received nor can recall writing any actual love letters (that one epistolary novel from my authorial youth, may it rest in pieces, doesn’t count), I’m not best qualified to decide whether these vogueish descriptions are accurate, misleading, or running all up and down the spectrum in between. What I do know is, they’ve got me thinking:

If the works of Deshipley were letters, what – or who – would be their loves?

Ever On Word_debby-hudson-DR31squbFoA-unsplash
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash.com

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The Wilderhark Tales = A Love Letter to … True Love

Sure, I could try to break it down book by book – like, “The Song Caster”, love letter to adventure; “The Sun’s Rival”, love letter to the moon; “The Seventh Spell”, love letter to having met Edgwyn Wyle in “The Stone Kingdom” and needing another novella with him in it, pronto. But as a series, the fairytale magic of True Love™ is the heartsong of it all. The love of a princess for her spell-breaking prince; of minstrels for music; of lonely souls for their place in the sky. It’s as cheesy as it is frikkin’ deep, y’all.

The Outlaws of Avalon Novels = A Love Letter to … the Merry Men

By which I mean not only Robin Hood and his legendary band, but also:

– Friendship and

– Bromance and

– Found/chosen families and

– Sherwood Forest and

– Benevolent crimes and

– Renaissance Faire players (especially the ones trained to wave swords about for show).

“An Avalon Christmas Carol” = A Love Letter to … Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

Or a fan letter, at the very least.

“Truly Great Words Never Die” = A Love Letter to … Having Fun with Unusual Words

Likewise, to the founders of Save-a-Word Saturday, who are as much to blame thank for the very existence of this little ebook as I am.

The “Inspired” Novels = A Love Letter to … Imagination

…Or so I wrote in the blurb for their companion journal, before I knew it was cool. ‘Tis only true, though. Imaginary friends. Imaginary worlds. The real-life power that ‘just pretend’ can wield. There wouldn’t be an artwork out there worth calling a letter o’ love without it!

“Date Due” = A Love Letter to … Books and Murder

(Make sure to pronounce the latter with a few extra U’s and R’s, for best effect.)

“So Super Dead” = A Love Letter to … ???

I just… I don’t even know. Sometimes the muse frolics down a path of pure absurdity and all you can do is follow, stopping to pluck the dark, decaying flowers along the way. A labor of love? Absolutely. A letter of love? That may be taking it a bit far.

“Deathsong of the Deep” = A Love Letter to … the Kraken, Of Course!

Which isn’t to say that my tentacled lad was given nearly enough page time, because he was NOT. Something about an entire novel of nothing but Kraken killing people and singing to himself being slightly less compelling than the tale of Molly Worth, Captain Crow, and the crew of the Painted Lady. Like that’s an excuse.

“The Once and Future Camelot” = A Love Letter to … Arthuriana

Most specifically, to the ‘Camelot crowd’ I sorta-kinda met in my Outlaws series, but whom I didn’t truly come to know and grow to love until I began unearthing their full story. Heck, some of them even got letters addressed to them by name on this blog (search ‘Letters to Camelot’ in the sidebar), and I’d assuredly compose even more, if Writer Me weren’t lying unconscious somewhere inside my skull. The legend of Camelot’s fall is, as I’ve often labeled it, the absolute saddest tale ever told, and my emotional wreck of a self is Here For It, body and soul.

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Ever On Word_john-jennings-IcT8l8DDek8-unsplash
Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Have you encountered any memorable ‘love letter’ descriptions in your media, recently? If your favorite books were love letters, they would be to what/to whom? If you’ve read any of the Deshipley love letters listed above, which most deeply touched your heart and why? Share all in the comments!

Yours with love,

~ Danielle

Home, Dear Home

A sigh from Gilbert, the elegant one, as he sips at tea and gazes out from the couch, ‘cross the deck, o’er the trees. “It feels like Germany.”

That’s what our hearts said when first we saw the place.

The open house for the apartment was scheduled for a November noon. Tirzah and I arrived with many minutes to spare, and so elected to walk a bit up the hill from the house. And it looked of Germany. Smelled of Germany. Stirred our souls the way a ramble through little German woods and villages ever did. We’d been aching, ever since we parted ways, for the best of our old German home – my inner Gilbert missing it dearest of all. Now here was a piece of it, in Marin County by the bay.

And inside the apartment itself, all was fresh and light and – (compared to our little guest house in Fresno) – spacious. For Tirzah, at last, a proper kitchen, complete with a full-sized oven, a functional dishwasher, counter space. For me? Oh, just everything, everything. Even the things less than perfect called out to be mine.

We had other appointments in other apartments, and sensibly scheduled more, striving to go into them all with open minds. But this first place we toured was the one we wanted. This, we said, smitten, was Crush House. This was our house.

If we could only convince the reticent landlords that we’d be able to make good on the sky-high rent they demanded.

*

A yip from Galliard, the man-puppy de France, as he bounces at the windows over the bed. “Oh, ho-ho! Look you – it is deer!”

It is always deer.

Doe Out the Window_copy
The deer without

The evening we received the keys (inexpressible thanks to the friend of the landlords who’d run the open house and advocated for us every hopeful, fretful step of the way), we stood out on the deck, breathing excitement in and gratitude out, when a step sounded in the underbrush below. We peered through the dark, alert for… what? A man-sized person? A horse-sized dog? Instead, a doe, roaming the yard with nary a care for our voices nearby.

The night before we moved in proper, just transferring the bulk of our luggage from our Airbnb in preparation for the real thing (more thanks inexpressible to the lovely lady and her sons who shared their home with us during that limbo week in between a hotel and the new beginning awaiting us), a shadow walked the road mere paces from our carport. Into the streetlights, a stag – perfectly aware of us, and rightly confident that we would know better than to threaten his progress.

The day we labored our boxes, bits of furniture, and gargantuan mattress up the steps, around the front stoop, into the house (there really is no expressing how thankful I am that this neighborhood’s scenic hills defeated neither us nor the U-Haul that was in no way designed to navigate such a steep, narrow, winding way), a mother-and-fawn duo watched from various vantages. The doe’s bland stare conveyed silent judgment. It was becoming increasingly clear that the herd ran this territory, and they weren’t of the opinion that our presence was adding much community value.

*

A cough for attention from Will Scarlet, the man, the myth, The Most™. “I notice that we have yet to put up our John Barrowman pictures.”

There’s a lot of art we’re still wondering how to work onto the walls. A bit of furniture we’re still wanting to gather. A good deal of progress, however, has been made on both fronts. The aforementioned couch was a vital thrift store find. The papasan chair in our bedroom corner, scooped up for free from the curb while driving back from a day visit to San Francisco. The cubby shelves in our bathroom, purchased from the Target just a parking lot away from an invigorating waterfront walk. Deck table and chairs, obtained via a community app recommended to me while carpooling with a seasonal coworker. Massive desk-and-bookcase unit in the living room… well, the whole of that harrowing tale can be found on my Twitter.

Gazing Out After the Morning's Rain
The deer within

As for art, pieces of us and what we cherish are everywhere. We even managed to arrange sufficient lights, knickknacks, reindeer antler headbands, etc., to bring a sense of Christmas into the space for December. All this while juggling, for the first time: Gas-and-electric bills; internet account ownership; renters’ insurance; a work-to-home commute through actual, ridiculous rush hour traffic. Next-level adulthood is a lot.

But we’re making it happen.

On the days we feel strong and the days we feel weak. Whether we’re acing it or barely scraping by. When dragging ourselves up to alarms that sound before the sun, and while settling down with a plate of leftovers and a comfort Netflix session. This is the miracle we’re making. Our little Germany. Our house of deer. Our imaginary roommates with their cheers, complaints, and constant commentary.

Ours, all ours.

The Deshipley Holiday E-xtravaganza…and You

“An Ever On Word blog post?” you cry. “After all this time!” you thrill. “Are we at last to pick up where we left off in the chronicle of Danielle’s Bay Area Adventure?!”

Ahhhhhhh, no, not today. My brain, heart, and time are still a bit too full with living the adventure to get it all organized for internet consumption, just yet. However, with The Holidays™ upon us, I realized of a sudden that I wish to celebrate this past year’s tests and triumphs! – to toast the new year and its miracles to come! – and, y’know, if possible, to generate some extra dollars as a buffer between me and continual brokenness. To that end, may I present:

The Deshipley Holiday E-xtravaganza Sale!

For one solid month – from now through January 20thalmost the entirety of the Danielle E. Shipley catalog will be available for 99 cents per ebook!

Via Amazon?” you clarify.

And Barnes & Noble, as well!

All eight volumes of The Wilderhark Tales? 99 cents apiece.

Wilderhark Covers Lineup 5

Inspired” novels 1 and 2? Same.

Covers 1 and 2, side by side

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”? An outlier: Actually free on Smashwords, December 25th – January 1st. (Cuz third annual Smashwords End of Year sale, yo.) And the follow-up Outlaws of Avalon novels? Again, just 99 cents each from Amazon and B&N.

Ballad and Marriage and Legend

Short story collection “Our Hungering Hearts”? Madcap paranormal “So Super Dead”? High seas fantasy “Deathsong of the Deep”? Fresh-off-the-presses “The Once and Future Camelot”? All! 99! Cents!

And then you’ve got titles like “An Avalon Christmas Carol”, “Truly Great Words Never Die”, “Beyond Her Infinity”, and “Windows and Sol”, which have been priced at 99 cents all along. (Available on Amazon only.)

Add it all up, and you could fill your e-reader with close to everything I’ve ever published for, like, twenty bucks.

Plus, just think: If even only – *does some hasty math* – thirty-ish people did that, I might be in the clear to order the last two pages of illustrations for picture book project “The Princess and the Moon!

Sidebar GoFundMe

“And wouldn’t that just be a Christmas miracle!” you sigh, enraptured.

You are waaay too invested in my life, Voice of Hypothetical You.

And I dig that.

Spend your pennies! Tell your friends! Gift those folks on your list who have everything except a heck-ton of Deshipley fiction! And in case I’m not back on the blog before the dawn of 2020, Happy New Year to you all. ;D

Time May [Kiss &] Tell

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

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and… Nothing.

“Will!” Allyn whisper-shouts. “That was your cue.”

“Wait, what?!” Will’s voice calls from who-knows-where. “The show’s live now?? But it’s Monday! Danielle never announced a blogging schedule switch!”

“As our band leader may have told you, Danielle has been rather busy turning her entire life upside-down,” Allyn points out. “The old schedule’s right out the window. I expect it’ll be like her days in Germany all over again – blog posts if and when she feels like it, no more predictable than that.”

“Fine, fine. Just lemme grab my other boot. Catch a fellow while he’s in the shower, why don’t you…”

Moments later, Will Scarlet himself hastens – smiling, waving, and briefly maneuvering on one foot – onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Sorry about that hiccup, coming out the gate. 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, “Wikipedia has made brief mention of her thus:

In many works outside the Lancelot-Grail inspired tradition[,] Gawain has sisters. They include […] Clarissant in Chrétien’s Cligés […] An important episode [in Perceval, the Story of the Grail] is Gawain’s liberation of a castle whose inhabitants include his long-lost mother and grandmother as well as his sister Clarissant, whose existence was unknown to him. This tale also breaks off unfinished.

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Clarissant aesthetic, found via Tumblr.

“Welcome, Clarissant!” Will greets the noblewoman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – why have I actually never heard of you until halfway through the drafting of #CamelotWIP? Like, what the high hell, you don’t even show up in our author’s brainstorming notes!”

Clarissant’s mild blink is a peeved cousin of her celebrated brother’s. “To the first, I can only suppose that legend did not find me enough of a villainess to be of concentrated importance to Uncle Arthur’s narrative. Damsels are quested for and forgotten. Girl-siblings, unworthy of mention, unless they provide a nephew of note.” A semi-smile touches her lips. “Only the wicked and the witches leave their mark. Danielle might never have come across my name, were it not for some muse-born conviction that her Gawain had a sister, lost to time. Why she doesn’t seem to have bothered to plan my story arc on paper before working it into her novel, I cannot say. Perhaps she worked out enough of her plans verbally, with Tirzah, that she felt confident she had things sufficiently ordered in her head.”

“What is your arc in the novel? Or, at any rate, what can you tell us of it without mega-spoilers?”

“My part in the tale begins where the first Camelot ends,” says she, tidying any runaway wisps in her thick brown braid. “Its civil war finished and the Round Table decimated, I’m placed in the sideline role oft allotted to women: Alive and alone, left to pick up the pieces. I could have chosen to remain where I was. Instead, I looked to the Fey and seized upon a quest for the future Camelot.”

“Audacity!” Will approves.

“Desperation,” Clarissant corrects. “When you feel you’ve already lost everything, what’s to fear of further risk?”

“That… sounds like a mood I know.”

She studies the sorrow at his smile’s edges. “Yes, I believe we do have that in common, however differently we channel it.”

“Not so very differently, in essentials,” Will maintains. “It’s not as if either of our paths could be called sane.”

“Or called separate,” Clarissant notes. “Indeed, my path intersected with yours in a most astonishing way.”

“And with Allyn’s!”

“Of course with Allyn’s. His powers of protagonism are nothing short of cosmic.”

“Because he is a Chosen One,” says Will. “Whereas you, lady of Orkney, are one who chose.”

“Lady of Listeneise,” says Clarissant, a pleased shade of pink rising in her plump cheeks at Will’s words. “I have been wed and widowed, you know.”

“Belated congrats and condolences. So, now that Danielle’s given you a space in her Camelot legend, what would you most like to be remembered for?”

Clarissant_play
Also, it seems she has lately inspired a stage play! One review found here.

“Part of me would say my destination,” Clarissant says thoughtfully. “Another part would say my journey. Each is its own kind of important, in a tale. Above all, I think I would like to be remembered as my own knight. My own champion and hero, lacking only the title and shiny trappings that would have been mine as they were my brothers’, had I been born a boy. I’d have been one of the Round Table’s best, I don’t doubt.”

“And which side would you have fought for, at Camlann?”

An indelicate snort. “For Arthur’s, naturally. And would have talked my more foolish brothers ‘round into doing the same.”

“Sounds like the right choice, to me! And while we’re on the subject of choices: Tell me, Clarissant, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” A smile of epic proportions. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Oh, I hardly think our author has much time for secrets, these days. You and I may as well share a kiss.”

Thus saying, Clarissant leans forward to set a kiss each to the smile lines bracketing Will’s mouth. Aforesaid lines crease into their customary position as Will calls out, “Ho, Allyn, what’s the word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by ‘The Once and Future Camelot’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now in paperback (here) and e-book (here and here)

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

Everyone knows the story. Nobody knows the truth.

According to legend – and to Merlin’s prophecies – the great King Arthur Pendragon will someday reign again. But “someday” has been a long time in coming, with decades spent confined in Avalon, the ancient Faerie isle disguised in modern times as an everyday  Renaissance Faire. What remains of Camelot’s court pass their summers by putting on famous faces for the Outside world, all the while questioning who they were before death and magical rebirth robbed them of their memories.

For Camelot to rise again, they must remember the fall.

With nothing but centuries of hearsay to mine for clues, the mysteries remain: Were Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot the betrayers, or the betrayed? How came Sir Bedivere to be known as “the One-Handed”, and what hand had he in the kingdom’s undoing? Did the inscrutable Morganne le Fey stand with Arthur, or with his enemies?

And do truly great enemies ever die?

In this epic successor to the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy, the time comes at last for “once” and “future”  to unite, thanks to – (or in spite of) – a king and a wizard, the Round Table and the Fey folk, and one outlaw minstrel whose destiny has only just begun.

“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks to you, too, Clarissant! 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 talk to Danielle about getting them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

In Which the World Scrambles to Catch Up

Robin Hood looks up with a smile and wave from his seat at a coffee shop table. “Danielle! Good to see you again.”

I settle into the seat across from him. “Right? It’s been too long since last time.”

“Just a bit over a year now, I believe – with that so-called coffee shop a mere set on a stage, you portrayed by the Merry Men’s minstrel, and my crazy cousin directing the show.”

“Yeah, well,” say I, recalling fondly, “Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre skits are fun, but take a lot of brain energy to script. Easier just to hang out with you one-on-one in some quiet corner of imagination.”

Robin nods, sipping his beverage. “So, what’s new?” His eyes sparkle through the aromatic steam. “Or might well I ask, what isn’t?

I loose a long and multilayered sigh. “So, so much is new. To start with, remember how excited I was last year about landing that Amazon fulfillment center job?”

“Weeping with delight, if I rightly remember.”

“Mm. Well, the weeping remained,” I say grimly. “Turns out the job’s demands and culture are not, shall we diplomatically say, a good fit for me and Tirzah. Work-related injuries led to her resignation, and I was eager to follow before my own body and soul broke down beyond repair. But until she or I could find another job, I needed to stay where I was; rent for our adorable little home wasn’t going to pay itself, alas.”

Robin’s hum and crinkled expression radiate sympathy. “That sounds like quite the unhappy burden to bear.”

“It was,” I acknowledge, “but for Tirzah’s sake, ‘twas borne voluntarily. Her body and soul needed to know they were in a safe place for recovery before she could fully face the challenge of finding something new.”

JournalQuote_AlreadyASuccess
From my personal journal, Oct. 18, 2019

“Was the Fresno job search better, this time around?”

I’ve only just been served my tea, and I almost snort the first mouthful out my nose. “As desert-dry as ever. Sometimes I’m amazed there are two employed folks to rub together, in that city. Tirzah did come across an extraordinary opportunity elsewhere, though. And by elsewhere, I mean San Francisco.”

San Fran Magic Triptych

Robin’s brows rise. “You love that city.”

“I do! And the idea of moving there…” I break off, speechless with overwhelm. “It would have been magical. But she didn’t get the job.”

“Oh, luv…”

The time-honored nod of a mourner accepting condolences. “That was really hard – to have hopes fly so high, then come crashing down. But it served a purpose. It raised our gaze. We realized that if we aspired to live in or near San Francisco, there was no point continuing to apply for jobs in Fresno. So we centered our efforts on the Bay Area. Even visited there again, at the start of my birthday month, to help cement our intentions via a neuro-linguistic programming conference.”

“Neuro-linguistic…?”

NLP, for short. Any case, we were dreaming big and striving hard for— huh.” A retrospective pause. “It felt like a slogging eternity, but I guess this chapter had its beginnings in July and is in the midst of coming to a close. I’d sort of dared the universe to get me free of Amazon by my birthday.”

“…And?” Robin prompts, when I leave him hanging.

“That’s the day T and I drove three hours, one way, so she could have an in-person interview at an assisted-living facility.” I smile. “And she got offered the job on the spot.”

Robin’s grin could outshine the sun (*cough* nobody tell Raeóryn *cough*). “DAR-ling!”

31 years old

I wriggle with joy. “That was a Wednesday. They scheduled her to start on Tuesday. That gave us less than a week to pack up and move out – which we managed, like the legends we are, though it would’ve been worlds easier,” I say pointedly, “if we’d had a legendary band of outlaws physically present to lug boxes and furniture into storage.”

Robin shrugs his apologies. “You know we’d have been there if we could. Same for when you’re ready to move in somewhere new. Which will be… when?”

“Not entirely sure yet. It’s hotel and Airbnb life, to start with, because Tirzah’s job alone won’t provide income enough to reassure any potential landlords of our financial stability.”

“Ah. So it must wait until you’ve found a job, too.”

A casual sip of my tea. “Oh, I’ve just done that.”

“YOU—?!”

“At a children’s museum. The day before drafting this blog post,” I say, smirking to keep from squealing. “That was a Wednesday. I’m scheduled to start—”

No.”

“Yep. Tuesday.”

JournalQuote_RealMagic
From my personal journal, Oct. 28, 2019

“One week and a whirlwind apart,” Robin marvels. “’Twould seem you’ve got a strong share of magic to work with, after all.”

“’Twould indeed,” I murmur, weary and wonder-filled, tired and twinkling with hope. “It’s been a ride-and-a-half, Robin Hood, but I think it’s taking me where I need to go. Where I want to go, even. I can’t wait to see which blessings land in my lap next!”

“If things carry on at the rate they’ve been,” says Robin, raising his drink in salute, “that wait may not be long at all.”

San Fran Magic Diptych

Once and Future Favorites

As of last week, the Artist Artwork Formerly Known as #CamelotWIP is out in the world. In celebration, I’d like to take a moment to carry on with what I’ve been doing since, like, 2016: Gush about my utter infatuation with this book.

Seriously, I’m not remembering if any other writing project of mine has made a hostage of my imagination like this. Not to play favorites but… no, actually, yeah, that’s exactly what we’re playing. Behold, a few (dozen) of my favorite things about “The Once and Future Camelot”!

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~ Favorite Character ~

Why would I even ask myself this when there’s no way I can answer it? I went into drafting this book with a spiked interest in some of the characters and their complicated plot, but it wasn’t until I was neck-deep in the ruins of Camelot that I realized I was falling in love with everyone around me.

With Gawain for his strange serenity; with Lancelot for his rough-edged passion; with Mordred for his secret heart; with Arthur for his impossible love. My spirit tangled with the rich emptiness of Morganne’s. My blood burned in tandem with Bedivere’s. My— well, let’s not go so far as to say ‘love’ is what I feel for Merlin; my inner Will Scarlet’s got too much to process for that.

Anyway, I honestly cannot point to any single character as my certain favorite. Just follow the pain, and you’ll find my heart there.

~ Favorite Relationships ~

(Just went ahead and used the plural, so I can point to more than one. ^o^)

– Galahad x Mordred, because y’all already know I’m here all day for a big ol’ bromance.

– Arthur x Robin Hood; see reasoning above.

– Gawain x Guinevere, because it’s so low-key and tangential yet grounding for both of them to have each other. I think they mutually see one another (in the “Sun’s Rival” sense) better than any other pairing in the story, and something in me takes a relieved sort of comfort in that.

Camelot Dreamcast
Favorites to Play the Cast of #CamelotWIP, as seen on the Outlaws of Avalon Tumblr

~ Favorite Chapter ~

Book 1, Chapter XV. The one I spent all the chapters that came before it absolutely itching to write. The one that could arguably stand as a satisfying short story all on its own. The one that’s been sending delicious thrills through my bones at the very thought of it for three years and counting. That chapter.

~ Favorite Scenes/Moments ~

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

In no particular order…

– The birth of Excalibur

– Knight vs. Hell-beast

– Wizard vs. Lady of the Lake

– Mordred in the rain

– Orkneys in the stable

– “A moment to confer”

– Spring Break Faeries

– Prayer room rebellion

– Arthur x Lancelot, shortly after Now

– Two willing tools of enemies

– Two dragons on the roof

– Two roads diverged in a legend, and he… he chose the harder treachery… and that has me over here bawling.

~ Favorite Narrative Voice ~

I originally thought I could write an entire novel from Morganne’s point of view. I would come to learn that this would not be a viable option. The thing about Morganne is – as once I put it in a Twitter post – she’s basically got ‘magical depression.’ She’s incapable of generating her own emotions, making her POV a necessarily dispassionate experience. It’s a fascinating space to put myself in for the odd chapter here and there, but for a whole book? Exhausting just to contemplate.

camelot-tweet-oncemorewithfeeling.png

For a minute later on, I thought I could tell the book’s second half in Bedivere’s voice. Again, that turned out to be a no, but for opposite reasons. Bedivere’s got feelings and opinions about everything, and if he chooses to talk about it at all, it’ll be in the most smart-alecky way possible. While this can be fun, and makes for hilarious irreverent monologue/dialogue, he couldn’t give all the other characters’ inner lives justice if he tried (which he probably wouldn’t).

All that having been said, those two were still probably my favorite first-person voices to use in this predominantly third-person novel.

Once and Future Mixtape
~ Favorite Songs I Associate with #CamelotWIP~ (as shared on its page on my website)

~ Favorite Quotes ~

Not by any means a comprehensive list, but some of the standouts include…

– The room was thick with breath arrested.

– “Up, Galahad, son of Lancelot du Lac, Champion of the King, and so forth.”

– It was the Age of Chivalry. Unrequited love was the new black.

– Then up goes his head, no matter how heavy. Up goes a smile, no matter how sad.

– “Amendment,” I allow. “I apologize for the villainy.”

– My formative years were all prayers, rites, and living in hope that movable type would someday replace copying the Holy Book by hand.

The cost of immortality? A silent chuckle. Immortality.

– “The sun favors those brave of face.”

– Feeling I must tell you, choosing to say nothing: My kindest, cruelest way of holding power over you…

– Mordred’s lashes, doom of adoring maidens…

– “What else?” said Robin Hood. “Call our congressmen.”

“I would know him,” I point out, and you shoot me a glare of irritation.

“Of course you would. And were it practical to wave you about like a divining wand over every man I met, so would I. But you are not a /tool/, Morganne.”

My lips play the part of a smile. “Meaning I am not biddable.”

You nod your hair into your eyes, shove it back again. “Meaning I need something that is.”

Camelot Tweet, BedivereIsOnFire

<<<>>>

Have you started reading “The Once and Future Camelot” yet? If yes, what are your favorite parts or aspects of the book, so far? If no, but you think you might get around to checking it out eventually, what are you most looking forward to? (Or, hey, did you perchance have a favorite part of this blog post?) Gush along in the comments!