Thoughts from Alongside a Lacy Sea

Today (or ‘however many days ago’, by the time this post goes live) I visited a nearby beach.

The day was cold. Or rather, the beach was cold, and silver-toned, and fog rolled overhead like the gray-brown-green surf below. But out of the hills and nearer my neighborhood, the weather was merely chilly, and warmed by shining sun.

The Bay Area – also known, several microclimates stacked inside a trench coat.

Tirzah was further up the beach (the better to catch a little cell service and chat with family), leaving me all by lonesome. Though ‘lonesome’ is hardly the word, what with all the calling gulls, strutting corvids, and healthful quiet time for company. And, of course, the ocean, heaving and frothing and gliding over saturated sands, sliding like rain-patterned lace over satin, shush, roar, sigh…

Seated on a rock, weathering the cold, I got to thinking (by who knows which roads) about the books I’ve published.

First thought: They make me proud.

Swift second thought: They could have been better.

Thought 1: For crying out loud, let me live.

Thought 2: I’m just saying. She could write them better now.

Could I, though? Yes and no.

I’m close to a decade older than I was when I first started self-pubbing. Since then, I’ve written a heck-ton more words. I’ve been exposed to countless more experiences, conversations, points of view, and stories – both fictional and non. I think about more stuff, and from more angles. I have different ideas about how to make a book its best self.

What I do not have – unlike in days of yore – is the mad creative energy to turn every bit of spare time into art.

So, pure theoretically, if I were to write, say, The Wilderhark Tales today, they could be masterworks. But speaking practically, there is no way I would write The Wilderhark Tales today, because I am Tired™.

A comforting thought, then: Writing my books when I did = writing them the best I ever could.

And I mean, the alternative is what? Waiting until you see the Grim Reaper coming for you across the street, then real quick hitting ‘publish’ on that book file you’ve been fiddling with for the last fifty years? ‘Cause that’s pretty much the only way to guarantee that you won’t come up with a better version of the story later.

Done with her phone call, Tirzah rejoined me nearer the waterline. By now, my fingertips numb and yellow from cold, I was about ready to call the beach trip quits. But first, we detoured a-ways to investigate what had one group of gulls so excited. Some sort of driftwood pile, perhaps? Looked kinda like massive bones.

On the way, I shared my proud/discouraging/comforting musings – including a recollection of The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine. Maybe you’ve encountered them. Tiny little fairy story books, some not even a hundred pages long, spinning their take on The Princess and the Pea, Toads and Diamonds, and the like. Just the right size and subject for Early Reader Me. And an inspiring sight for Pre-Publication Author Me, those candy-colored bite-sized books nestled among other full-sized children’s and middle grade titles on the public library shelf.

“See?” they said to me. “Books don’t have to be thick. And they don’t have to be particularly profound. They can be short ‘n’ sweet fairy tale retellings, and still have a place on shelves and in readers’ hands.”

Another comforting thought: Like Levine’s Princess Tales, my Wilderhark Tales don’t need to be redrafted into something they’re not in order to matter. I wrote them as I wished them to be, and those slim, fanciful novellas are good. Imperfect? Yes. Just like every other book I ever read. Ever wrote. Ever loved.

And turns out? That pile of driftwood was massive bones. A whale carcass had made its way onto the shore, and the gulls were rightly excited about it.

All told, an entirely worthwhile beach trip.

Keep Calm and Magic On

Since the writing of my first NaNoWriMo project in ages, I’ve been spending a lot of time with the main cast from “Big City, Little Magics” – primarily with Sleeves and Manchester, who have sort of unofficially taken over socially as my new Will and Allyn.

This is not to say that Sleeves and Manchester are very much like Will and Allyn (or that muh boys Will and Allyn have fully retired from my brain space, because never). One could argue on paper, I suppose, for parallels between Manchester Leif and Allyn-a-Dale – both of them being singer-songwriters, prone to melancholy in the wake of past and/or ongoing tragedies. But I’m not seeing much in common at all between Will Scarlet and dragon drummer Sleeves, save for one important trait: They’re good at getting to the front of my brain and offering on-call life assistance.

Yes, sir, these are indeed my emotional support characters.

A couple attempts at Sleeves sketches, because my obsessions will out. Did not bother trying to include his tattoos, because he had not yet revealed to me what or where they are.

Sleeves serves best when I’m dealing with anxiety or anger (i.e., the majority of the time), because he has astonishing powers of mood self-regulation which I am striving my darnedest to learn for myself. When depressed, though, I’m better off leaning into Manchester, because he gets it, and his gentle, sympathetic encouragement can soothe places that Sleeves’ rougher-edged approach simply will not reach.

I’ve been getting to know these fellas and the rest of the band better not only through informal hangouts, but also via further writing projects. If you liked “Big City, Little Magics”, rejoice, because I have lately finished drafting a number of short stories and a sequel novella! The sequel will probably join BCLM up on Wattpad.com, ere long. And in the meantime, I proudly present:

Extra-Little Magics” – short stories, flash fics, and vignettes set in the world of “Big City, Little Magics”.

Like my first magical Wattpad upload, it’s free to read. (Ko-fi tips not required, but always appreciated.) I shan’t call the project finished, because I anticipate inspiration will strike for more shorts in the months to come, some or all of which will get added to the published collection. The three stories included so far (same ‘semi-mature’ rating / content advisory as the first novella):

“So This is Christmas” = a Sleeves soliloquy, set during BCLM

“Dearer Than Dignity” = a racy dragon romance, set pre-BCLM

“Odd Pod” = reflections on friendship, from one of seal-kind to another, set post-BCLM

Stay tuned for more happy authorial gushing after the sequel novella goes live. I don’t know if any of y’all have the least idea how truly magical it feels to have words dancing through me again after languishing so, so long at the bottom of an empty well. (Fellow artists in the house, maybe you’ve been there.) In lieu of quality therapy (maybe someday…), getting back into writing like this is doing me a world of good. As is making friends with these parts of myself! …plus Sleeves, who – unlike Manchester, Amygdala, and Couch – is not me, and none of us actually have a clue where the heck in the ether of imagination he came from. (It’s like the inexplicable arrival of Gant-o’-the-Lute all over again.)

Until we magic again,

~ Danielle

New Year, New Magics

Happy New Ye—

*pauses*

*notices it’s practically February*

Yeah okay, never mind.

Clearly, I’ve been up to things that are NOT blogging, this past month or so. But I figure now’s as good a time as any to bring you lovely readers o’ mine up to date. To that end, here’s what newer than 2021:

“Princess and the Moon” Thank-You Gifts

F I N A L L Y, I’ve gathered all the goodies promised to my extra-generous GoFundMe supporters! Picture books = printed. Bookmarks = Vistaprinted. Stickers = straight outta my Society6 shop.

Now all that remains is to get them in the mail, which I hope to accomplish tomorrow or next week, depending. I’ve got all the necessary addresses except – *checks notes* – is there a Pam/Pamela Williams in the house? I would love to see your much-appreciate donation rewarded, so… hit me up!

“Big City, Little Magics”

I mentioned in my December post that my last-ditch attempt at NaNoWriMo led me to create a cherished little project full of witches (and not-witches) and dragons and friendship and writerly angst and Bay Area vibes and and and. I am happy to announce that my obsession with the characters has not died, and I’m already several thousands of words into the sequel.

I may also have made several more character pics in various parts of the internet.

Best Amygdala (aka my inner lover of the world and all its magics, big and small. Made here).

Best Couch (aka my neurotic murder dragon side. Made here).

And I have yet to find a doll/avatar maker that does as perfect a job of capturing Manchester (aka my tragic inner artist. …Not Allyn-a-Dale, the one that’s extra me), so have a super cute Sleeves instead (made here).

In very much related news, my Tirzah was gently adamant that I give her a way to share this novella with the world, so… I let her set up a Wattpad account for me. The story can now be read here, for free (along with a blurb that Tirzah was kind enough to write for me, because my inner Manchester and Couch had WAY too many feelings to let me approach it myself without panic attacks). T likewise talked me into getting a Ko-fi account, so folks can leave tips if they found my words particularly delightful.

Which… a lot of people have??

Not left tips (although a few have! And I thank them!), but found my words delightful. “Big City, Little Magics” is in many ways very different from any of my other published works. If my “Inspired” novels were a picture of my mind, this story’s more a picture of my soul – which I guess swears a lot and is hella queer. XD Fair enough if that’s not up the alley of my usual audience. But more than one of BCLM’s earliest readers told me this was just the story they needed. And high goodness knows it’s been just what I needed. So for everyone in that boat, this Wattpad link is for you.

Lest I begin to doubt whether Tirzah’s as in love with this story as I am, she drew me this fan art with one of its quotes. ❤

Miscellaneous

Meanwhile, I’ve maintained a 389-day streak on my Duolingo French lessons. My maidenhair fern is thriving better than ever. (Turns out she’s a small sip of water every day kinda gal.) Work is still a wild and stress-filled ride because, y’know, pandemic. My hair’s grown out long enough that I can put it up in a Killmonger @ the Museum ponytail. And I am working very hard to figure out how best to manage my neurotic murder dragon brain such that I can maybe sometimes relax and have a nice time.

Wish me well (and best wishes back atcha!),

~ Danielle

Quotes and Aesthetics from a Reclaimed Space

From my NaNoWriMo profile:

The artist formerly known as Mastermaid22. … Prolific indie creative in my Young Adult Phase. Melancholy scribbler in my Blue Phase. Fallow Phase has been a silent scream of a 1/3rd-life crisis. Now reaching for a Renaissance.

*

From NaNo forum on wanting to write again, but…:

It’s been four years since I’ve able to start a new novel project. Edit existing drafts, sure. Scribble flash fics and poems and the odd blog post, sure. But that thing that used to give me so much joy – brainstorming and pre-plotting and whipping out thousands of words in service to a shiny new story… I’ve lost that. To depression, anxiety, trauma, and whatever else. And most attempts to rally and try again are quickly shut down by a sense of utter pointlessness. ‘No one’s gonna read it. It’ll fail to sell, just like everything else you’ve put out there. Nobody but your mom truly cares about anything you create. Your art has no value, and if you’re not creating, neither do you.’

It’s a heartbreaking brain-space to live in. And I’ve come close to never-minding signing up for this NaNo at all. Maybe this is my last ride. Maybe if this NaNo brings no joy, I’ll finally quit trying to write novels forever.

Or maybe I won’t.

It’s too early to say. And although I may ‘fail’ as much as the next writer, I’m not very good at all at giving up.

A quick cover concept, thrown together with Artbreeder.com, Photofunia.com, and basic photo editing programs that came with Windows 10.

*

From my novel summary:

My original project = Was not sparking joy.

My Plan B concept, as randomly generated on ChaoticShiny.com = Anti-witches, unicorns and rock stars in modern Rome. Some things you might run into: corruption, dragons, magic and a natural disaster. Don’t forget about the flail, armor, forge, bastard sword, cavern and hill.

The WIP so far = No sign of unicorns, but I’m getting plenty of mileage from the ‘anti’-witch narrator and her wrathful dragon roommate…

*

Amygdala Wroth ~ The Anti-Witch

“I lugged two boxes of your crystals and candles and grimoires up the stairs last night, but you’re not a witch.”

I make a noise of disgust into my mug. “The word is dead. Used as a weaponized synonym for ‘woman’, then commercialized by Big Magic because neopaganism sells. I reject any and all affiliation.”

Her brow’s still up, but it’s gone amused. “With what all, exactly? Neopaganism? Big Magic? Women?”

“The second one, for sure. As regards the third, all women are magic. It’s just that not all of us know how to tap into our full power. Hell, maybe none of us do. I probably don’t. But I reach for what I can.”

*

Couch ~ The Dragon Roommate

Things I knew about dragons before ever actually meeting one:

– Dragons hoard things.

– Despite having wings, they can’t actually fly.

– Despite science being unable to account for it, dragons can breathe fire.

– Apart from the wings and the fire … and the scales … and the teeth … and the fact that they routinely get away with manslaughter because everyone’s too scared to prosecute … dragons are virtually indistinguishable from humans. […]

Things I knew about Couch, specifically, before agreeing to become her roommate:

– She has a cat.

– She has turned all of her previous roommates into stone.

– She’s a Scorpio.

Things I am learning about Couch now that we live together:

– Time shall tell.

*

Harkness ~ The Selkie Sweetheart

She’s perfect in the way seals are perfect. Their grace in the water. The sculptural quality of their shape. The silly joy they spark while sitting oh-so-roundly and slapping their tummies and skooching up to nose at wildlife photographers’ cameras.

The light in her liquid-dark eyes is perfect. The dimples in her smile are perfect. Her poetic butchery of her second language is perfect. (Or would English be her third language, after le français and the tongue of the seals?)

The way she drapes herself over Couch, casually cuddly, is perfect, as is the artless glee she takes in any little thing. But no, not artless, because you can tell: She knows the effect it has. She sees the pleasure it brings.

*

From another NaNo forum, on using heartache/trauma as inspiration:

The project I abandoned a few days in and the fresh one I whipped up instead have something in common: A character who used to feel confident about their writing/storytelling ability and found joy in it, but doesn’t know how to get to that place anymore – a loss that not only hurts like the dickens, but really carves chunks out of their sense of identity.

Plan B Project also features someone who’s really excited about a writing project, but hasn’t figured out how to translate that enthusiasm into “the right words” on the page, and another someone whose anxiety and misanthropy are messing with her quality of life.

I wonder how many other issues of mine will out themselves before November’s end…

*

Manchester Leif ~ The Broken Writer

“Do you have any idea,” he says quietly, “how people react when I tell them I’ve written my books?”

“I’d imagine they’d be…” I shrug. “Impressed?”

“Oh, yes.” That chuckle had so little cheer, it should have its card revoked. “Everyone is always very impressed. Incredibly excited. It’s so cool that I’ve written a book. They’ll ask what my work’s about, and where they can find it. And then… Almost no one goes on to buy the book, Amygdala. And of the few who do, almost no one gets around to reading it.”

I almost say, That’s a shame. But that look of his tells me it is more than that. So I say instead, “That’s a tragedy.”

*

Sleeves ~ Just Your Average Guy from the Dragon District, I Guess?

“Work’s only bad when your job sucks,” says Sleeves.

I ask, “Does yours not?”

“Nah, man.” He smirks. “According to society, I’m an Underground fighter slash hitman slash tat artist.”

“Only two of those are true of you,” says Manchester.

*

Travis Marina ~ Born of the Bay

Travis holds out a hand for the labradorite, the May I? implied. I pass it along, and he studies it a moment in a particular kind of silence. “Solid,” he says at last, returning it with a nod of thanks.

In a company containing dragons, a selkie, and me, I wonder whether Travis might low key be the most magical of us.

*

From a third NaNo forum, on failure:

I used to be able to hit 50K in under 30 days, no problem. I was a writer on fire (who, conveniently, lived with her parents and didn’t have to hold down a day job while she pursued her authorial goals).

But this year was different. I knew that going in. My fire has been basically burnt out for a long while. Plus I’m adulting full time, and my mental/emotional health has been feeling the effects of 2020.

Could I have forced myself to reach 50K regardless? Yes. Would any of those words have meant anything to me? No. My real goal this November was to revisit the commitment of writing every day, and searching to discover whether doing so could bring me any joy.

The project I started on Nov. 1 did not end up bringing the joy I hoped. So I switched to a different story, seven or eight days in. I used to be a total Planner; this story came with zero planning, dreamed up in half an hour and then let loose without any idea where the plot was going to go. It’s ended up being a deeply personal, introspective, healing project to uncover, written at about half the speed I’d need for ‘winning’ NaNo.

November is done, with some 31K words clocked in. The story’s… somewhere past halfway through. (Hard to know for sure, without my meticulous outlines of old.) I may not work on it every single day, going forward, or may continue on more slowly. But I’m invested in the writing of it, now. I want to and will finish. I haven’t decided whether I’ll ever try to share the finished story with anyone… I have decided that’s not the part that matters. Not with this one.

I did not hit a 50K win this year. But I’ve found pieces of what I’ve been missing in my spirit. …That is its own kind of winning.

*

Aesthetic images put together with Adobe Spark, mostly using images from Unsplash.com, Picrew.com (oh, and DollDivine.com), a couple photos taken on my phone, and a closeup of Eliot Spencer from the TV series “Leverage”, aka the best modern take on the Merry Men that I’ve ever seen.

Oh, and I finished the story. About 36.5K, all told. You still may never read it. But in some ways, it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.

Thoughts from a Mote of Light

As written to myself, this week past, in the wake of just one more 2020 thing…

* * *

Today, a revelation:

*

The world is a great and terrible;

So it has always been.

*

It gets worse, and worse, and worse.

And it gets better.

(It’s… a mood.)

*

A dark sun blinds

As sure as any other,

If you stare.

*

Hurt, fear, and sorrow

Have a lengthy half-life,

*

And hope’s a song too easily forgotten.

*

Therefore,

My dear, you must

Turn from the void

Whene’er you can.

*

Remember motes of light;

The taste of strawberries.

*

Keep a record

Of the right things in your sphere,

*

So when the dark comes crushing down,

You’ve lost the tune

And cannot move your gaze,

*

The truth remains

In reach

Where you can find (if not believe) it.

*

Give the you

That has a broader view

The chance to testify;

*

The you that,

Given time,

May yet return

*

Just long enough

To add a bar or two.

“So Mote It Be” by Tirzah Duncan

Thoughts from the Shadow

This past Wednesday (September 9, 2020), I – like so many in California’s Bay Area – woke to darkness.

And stayed there.

Unlike anyone else among the ogling locals, my head and heart carried Allyn-a-Dale.

In the hour or so between arrival to my jobsite and clocking in for work, my minstrel and I paced the waterside, gazes upon the ominous shadowscape that would go on to fill the day’s news cycle. Past 7am and, thanks to the smoke of numerous wildfires, it looked like night, but murky. Orange. Malevolent.

My words alone could hardly do it or our visceral reactions justice.

But, naturally, Allyn’s can.

* * *

Where the Shadow Lies

The sun – O woe, the sun! –

Is sick in bed;

It cannot rise.

It stays inside a foggy blanket,

Choked on smoke,

Beneath a shadow lies.

*

I peer through morning

Dark as dusk,

Mist red before my eyes.

I thrill and fear

Whatever’s next,

Here where the shadow lies.

*

I quicken my steps,

But where to run?

How do you flee the skies?

My world to darkness falls again,

And daylight feels a lie.

*

O winds above,

Please blow the haze away;

I beg you try.

Free land from fog and fire

And this dim that terrifies.

*

I watch and wonder,

Wait and worry,

Hush my spirit’s cries.

Our later dawn will brighter be,

Beyond where shadow lies.

*

I’ll not let shadow frighten me.

Where it falls,

There I rise.

(My phone wouldn’t take a photo without trying to compensate for the lack of natural light, so here’s a pic that more accurately represents the morning’s view.)

Thoughts from the Cage

In “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”, I wrote:

“I’m fine. I just… I don’t belong here […] I hate this place, I hate being trapped! I want to be able to go out and do things! New and exciting things all the time, not the same places and faces day after day. I had that!” he moaned. “And now what do I have?”

* * *

In my journal this past week, I wrote:

Tirzah has asked of me, for her sake, that I [temporarily, while she gives herself to family] be fine. And so I keep my insides quiet. Hold feeling at a distance. Hide away inside of Avalon. (Am rereading my darling trilogy. Am remembering while I fell so hard in love) […]

What is it I’ve missed so much about the Outlaws books? The stories themselves? The people (of course)? The person I was when I wrote them?

“I miss who I was, too,” muses Allyn. “In the better parts of ‘Marriage’ and ‘Legend’. Before Will’s absence broke me.”

“I miss the process,” Will puts in. “The finding of the stories, and living them on paper. Even when it sucked. It’s… what we’re made for.”

I know. Me, too.

* * *

Aladdin_Trapped

* * *

A month into international lockdown, I wrote:

Let’s run away and keep on running

Our leaping hearts leading, breath falling behind

Air frittered away in gasps of laughter

In living faster, racing our colors past all of the lines

 

Higher, farther,

Our inner world lies vast

Haste now, waste not

A dream that may not last

Before your soul’s stuck fast, let’s run away

 

Let’s drive away and keep on driving

Miss me with an exit, we’ll escape beyond

Cruise to the edge of new horizons

I don’t mind our riding this adventure ‘til the wheels fall off

 

Knowing nothing

Of all that lies ahead

Leaving long gone

The everyday we dread

Before your light’s snuffed dead, let’s drive away

 

Let’s steal away and keep on stealing

All the precious little moments that are ours to take

Share out a cache of mini magics

While we have it, out like a bandit’s just what we’ll make

 

Diving down for

Our treasure sunken deep

Lost then found, all

They said we couldn’t keep

Before your power’s asleep, let’s steal away

 

Let’s feel alive and keep on living

Let’s fall down and fail and keep forgiving

Let’s last the night with the light of the moon

Let’s not stop now, we’ll be out of this soon

* * *

To the Me who penned that song, I write:

‘Soon’ won’t come soon enough.

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!

<<<>>>

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