Broken Chords, Broken People, Broken Hearts

Greeting, patrons of the blog. Allyn-a-Dale, here. Recently, you had … let’s call it the “pleasure” … of watching Will Scarlet and me perform a skit summarizing our author’s latest life changes, because Danielle doesn’t like to talk about herself. Today, I will be discussing a book she read, because Danielle doesn’t like to write book reviews.

Why when Danielle doesn’t like a task, that task half the time ends up falling to her characters, I’m sure I couldn’t tell you.

In any case, it’s fitting enough that I be the one to review this particular book – because while Danielle found it engaging, ‘twas I the book thoroughly wrecked. First, the summary from Goodreads:

An emotionally charged story of music, abuse and, ultimately, hope.

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

“A Thousand Perfect Notes” by C.G. Drews

A Thousand Perfect Notes 1

This book resonated with me deeply. Although my own father / minstrel master was not prone to the brutal rages demonstrated time and again by Beck’s mother (better known, the Maestro), I could empathize all too well with Beck’s near crippling fear. Fear of the Maestro’s painful disappointment. Fear of his failure to personify the prodigy he’s told he must be. Fear that he and his beloved little sister Joey could starve to death or be otherwise damaged beyond repair and the world will never care enough to help them.

Not that he wants to be rescued – far from it. What he wants is to find the strength to stand up for them himself. To keep them safe from all the Maestro’s harms. To bring his inner music to life in peace. But when your abuser and your family are one and the same, fighting back is doubly difficult to do.

His slowly grown friendship with schoolmate August was a spot of sunshine, to be sure. Her unflagging patience with the walls he put up between them and kindness toward boisterous Joey provide a much-needed contrast to the harsh treatment received at home. And small wonder, given August’s passion for looking after forsaken animals. Never fear, however, that this is a tale of a romance conquering all woes. Both Beck and author C.G. Drews know better than to believe in so simple a solution.

To be blunt, Beck’s plight broke my heart. I cringed and mourned from the very first page, and was driven ere long to weeping aloud at the cruelties he suffered. The intersection of music and parental terror cut far too close to home. My compassion goes out to any child – real or fictional – forced to live out ugliness made in the name of beauty. As for the grief-maddened Maestro, I felt for her heartaches, truly I did, but in no wise does the breaking of one’s own dream excuse the breaking of another’s spirit. Sympathetic evil is still evil, and I hope that none who come across it in their own lives will extend it tolerance.

However, for all its agonies, one of the thousand notes the book struck was one of humor. For readers who enjoy a narrative with its share of banter and snark, be gladdened, for you’ll find it here. For those looking for an all-too-realistic Cinderella retelling set in Australia, you’ll find that, too. And for those hoping to pick up a few insults in German, I can direct you to the Maestro.

A Thousand Perfect Notes 2

Well played, C.G. Drews. Both my author and I congratulate you on your debut novel, wish you well in your pursuits to come, and shall continue following the entertaining rambles on your blog, paperfury.com.

Have you read / do you plan to read “A Thousand Perfect Notes”? What’s your favorite Cinderella story? Why the paucity of Australian books? (Is it because the kangaroos eat them?) Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below. Until next time, good folk – *minstrel bow* – I bid thee fare well.

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30 Things I’ve Done by Age 30

As of October’s end, I have – officially – outlived my 20s.

To Child Me, I’m ancient. To actual ancient people, I’m a child. To new acquaintances who ask my age, I’m a constant surprise, because ‘twould seem I still look like a college kid, notwithstanding my one or two inconspicuous gray hairs.

Based on Twitter memes mocking the concept, I can only guess that there exists Some So-Called Authority trying to dictate exactly what you “ought to” have accomplished by the time you reach your thirtieth year.

I, for one, refuse to waste a moment searching online for what these “ought to”-s might be. At best, it’ll prompt my derisive laughter. At worst, it’ll trigger my brain’s depression chemicals. Forget somebody’s “should haves”. I’ll focus instead on my “did”-s.

…Which by no means need match anyone else’s achievements/experiences! We’ve all done cool or mundane or magical things that others haven’t, and missed out on or chosen to forgo cool/mundane/magical things that others have done. That’s called life, and mine’s just one of ‘em.

Fortunately, I think I may be able to scrape together a list that lets my sleeping depression chemicals lie. In my first 30 years, I have…

1 = Written. A lot. Most of my millions of words may never see the light of day, but a hefty number of them have actually been read by friends and kinfolk, fans and strangers, and even paid for with legal tender, because— well, let’s be real, the “because” deserves its own number on the list.

2 = Published Myself. And been published by others, on occasion, but it’s been mostly me by my proud little lonesome.

NCPL Author Event Display
Display courtesy of my amazing parents who, when I was unavailable to attend an author event across the country last week, volunteered to set up and show up on my behalf. ❤

3 = Fed Waterfowl from a Balcony (Midwest, USA). Because the condo of my earliest youth had a pond in back, and what is bread for, if not getting thrown down to ruin the digestion of muttering ducks and cruel Canadian geese?

4 = Paraphrased Shakespeare from a Balcony (Bamburg, Germany). That one little corner of the cruise-sponsored guided tour demanded my theatrics! And from all I could tell, at least the cute tour guide enjoyed it heartily.

5 = Made Several (Official) Best Friends. The cousin my stay-at-home mom babysat while her parents were at work. (We sometimes see each other at family gatherings, still.) The girl from church with whom I made up silly saying-hello traditions and sillier home video variety shows. (Haven’t heard from her in years.) The pen pal from art camp who acknowledged my characters as people before I’d even embraced the author life. (We emailed back and forth for ages, only for her to simply… disappear… and then reappear on my radar, just the other week! #ThanksForSomethingFacebook) The little sister whose tagalong attentions I shunned, and whose validation for my various artworks I chased, and who is sometimes like my twin born three years late. (We make time to trade inside jokes over the phone and online, every so often.) And – latest but far from least – the writer bestie with whom I make my home.

“A-HEM?!”

Oh, sorry, Will Scarlet. And you.

6 = Driven the Dangerous Back-Mountain Roads of Maui. And somehow avoided rolling off a cliff so as to tell the tale!

7 = Memorized “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Which has come in handy during tedious work shifts when I needed to keep my brain musically entertained, let me tell you.

8 = Won Gold Medals in Classical Piano Competitions. In spite of appendages that turn blue with cold when I get super stage fright.

9 = Learned to Actually Love Making Music On My Own Terms. My Bach may be rusty beyond easy repair, but there are songs in my heart that demand to be set free however I’m able. And on that note (pun acknowledged)…

Minstrel Selfie
Click the pic to see my newest song recording shared on my birthday on the Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale Facebook page ^.^

10 = TOTALLY BOUGHT A LUTE. Which was an actual bucket list item of mine, so brava, wannabe minstrel.

11 = Owned a Dog. Good old Maximillian Devineaux Shipley. To this day (well… night?), I have occasional dreams in which I need to feed him or let him out to do his business and wonder why I’m still taking care of a cranky old doggo that got put down in 2012. I guess that’s part of what they mean about those you love never truly leaving you.

12 = Lived in a Tiny German Village. I miss the million wooded trails.

13 = Lived in a Gigantic (Yosemite) National Park. Ditto, plus the rivers and mountains and waterfalls.

14 = Engaged in Some Hippie ‘Trust Fall with the Earth’ Thing. If Tirzah and I ever turn our Yosemite times into memoirs, that story will get told.

15 = Sleepwalked through a Fire Alarm. Would’ve just plain slept it through, but my sisters insisted I evacuate, and were most flustered when I refused to go anywhere before I’d found my socks.

16 = Worn a Back Brace for Scoliosis. Come for the straightened spine, stay for the laugh whenever you can con someone into punching the hard plastic armoring your torso.

17 = Yelled at People in a Faux English Accent for Money. Renaissance Faires: Where Dreams Come True.

Towne Crier Throwback
Photo cred to fantastic Faire photog John Karpinksy.

18 = Gotten Countless Hopeless Crushes. First on fictional people. Then on real people I’d never meet. Then on real people I had met. Then on fictional people I had met… Doesn’t matter where it falls on the chart; everything’s painful.

19 = Realized I’m Asexual. Which hasn’t saved me from painful crushes, but I guess self-discovery is its own reward?

20 = Discovered Why Adults Take Naps. Child Me had no idea.

21 = Watched the Sun Shine Through Falling Rain. I’m not being all deep and metaphorical here. We’re talking literal weather, and it was hecka pretty.

22 = DESPAIRED. I mentioned my brain’s depression chemicals, right?

23 = Become an Auntie. I did not know why aunties fussed about being aunties. Then I got a baby nephew, and darned if he didn’t make off with half my heart.

Baby Nephew and Me

24 = Visited Manchester (England), Unaccompanied. And got a great hat and jacket, while in the neighborhood.

25 = Maybe Figured Out How to Compartmentalize Setbacks So That a Bad Moment, Bad Hour, Bad Morning or Afternoon or Evening Doesn’t Have to Equal an Entire Bad Day, Bad Week, Bad Life. This alone may facilitate me surviving to make this kind of list at 50.

26 = Been Asked, While Eating Meat, Whether I’m a Vegetarian. Another one for the memoirs. <_<

27 = Attended Two Funerals for Strangers, Since I Was in the Neighborhood. And was unable to attend a couple funerals for people I actually cared about. Go figure.

28 = Thrice Been a Wedding’s Flower Girl, Once a Bridesmaid, and Once Maid of Honor. I’ve no plans to ever try my luck as a bride, but there are fictional fellows who could show up and change my mind.

29 = Not Murdered Anyone Yet. There’s still time.

30 = Believed in Magic. Past tense for nothing. I believe in it still.

Happy 30 years of life to me! Wanna help me celebrate? You could make buying (and/or reviewing!) a Danielle E. Shipley book a thing you’ve done – whatever your age. 😉

What’s a cool, mundane, or magical something YOU’VE done with your life, so far? Share below!

It Gets Better (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to the continuation of last week’s Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre, All About the Author Edition!”

“To catch up on what you may have missed or forgotten,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “click here. Or simply read on. Given the slapdash way Will scripts these things, there will probably be an info-dump summary soon after curtain-up.”

“Nobody asked you to go all theatre critic on me, minstrel. Anyway!” Another smile for the audience. “Make yourselves comfortable as we now present to you: ‘It Gets Better’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a table set for two. On one side sits Robin Hood. On the other, Allyn-a-Dale, dressed like Danielle in a casual Allyn-a-Dale cosplay. Behind them, the backdrop shows other occupied tables in silhouette. A dark roasted scent spritzes into the house, transporting the audience toward a 4D coffee shop experience.]

Robin [hand up like, ‘hold on a moment’ ]: So, let me get this straight: You left your job and residence in Yosemite National Park, applied along with Tirzah Duncan for a spot in Fresno’s new Amazon fulfillment center, stormed the stronghold anyway when she got hired but you didn’t, and briefly ended up taking orders at a Burger King drive-through?

Allyn/Danielle [glancing out at the audience like, ‘called it’ ]: In info-dump summary, yeah.

Robin: Whew.  But you said ‘briefly’. So you weren’t there long, right? What happened next?

Allyn/Danielle [brightening ]: Ah. Now we’re getting to the good part. It began around the same time I started at Burger King. You see, there was this neighbor of the Duncans’…

[The general stage lights dim, leaving two bright spotlights – one on Allyn, and one stage left, where enters Lady Marion Hood, arms full of half-painted holiday lawn ornaments.]

Marion/Neighbor: I don’t know how in the world I’m going to get all these spooky decorations finished in time to sell for the Halloween rush! If only there were a reliable someone in the neighborhood with time, artistic talent, and the desire for a little ready cash.

Allyn/Danielle [raising a hand ]: I think you’ll find I match that description fair well. Fret no more, for so long as I’m working under 20-some hours a week, I shall help you with your professional painting projects.

Marion/Neighbor: Oh, thank God!

Robin [as the general lights come back up, returning the stage to the coffee shop ]: Painting, eh? Sounds fun.

Allyn/Danielle: It had its moments. Mostly, I was just glad of the gas money it provided.

Robin: Why, do you have a car now?

Allyn/Danielle: Oh, did I skip over that part? Yeah. Used Camry. Insurance shopping. Ongoing games with the DMV. There’s been a lot of adulting I don’t have time to recall in detail.

Robin: Well, outrageous gas prices these days notwithstanding, it’s gotta be handy having your own transportation to work.

Allyn/Danielle [smile spreading across face ]: You mean, to the Amazon fulfillment center.

Robin [astonished ]: But… you didn’t get the job…

Allyn/Danielle: Not back in summer, no. But applications reopened in September. And this time, I got in.

[A shout of “BABE!” erupts from offstage, and in rushes Will Scarlet as Will Scarlet, sweeping Allyn from his chair and into a hug. The lights sparkle and dance in pink and red; gold confetti rains from above.]

Festival Lights

Will: I’m so happy for you, Dani-babe! You’ve slogged through so much – circumstances less than ideal, both outside your body and inside your brain – but at last, it gets better! At last, the full-time Fresno employment you’ve been trying to land since leaving Illinois! WAY. TO. GO!

Allyn/Danielle [half laughing, half trying to wriggle into a position more comfortable for breathing ]: Thanks, Will. For the flamboyant congratulations, and for supporting me inside my head all along the way. But put me down so I can tell Robin about the second best part!

Will [depositing Allyn back in chair ]: By which you mean, the Best Part, Part 2!

Robin [amused and intrigued ]: What news can possibly bear that distinction?

Allyn/Danielle [grinning at Will ]: Cue the lights.

[With a snap of Will’s fingers, the celebratory lights are replaced by the two flashback spots on Allyn and on Marion, returned to stage left.]

Allyn/Danielle: Huzzah and alack, good neighbor! My hours are soon to bump up to 40 a week. I must needs bid goodbye to Burger King and, I fear, to assisting with your painting projects.

Marion/Neighbor: Alack indeed! You’ve been wonderful, Danielle, and I’m sorry to lose your aid. But hey, I’m participating in an art show across town, next week. I hope you’ll come.

Allyn/Danielle: I’ll be there.

[The backdrop lights up like an evening backyard full of vendors’ tents. Jazz music wafts through the air. Will steps up to share Allyn’s spotlight, back in his Tirzah costume.]

Will/Tirzah: Hey, check out that little guesthouse by the pool!

Allyn/Danielle: A ‘for rent’ sign in the window. Too bad we probably can’t afford anything in this neighborhood.

Will/Tirzah [pointedly ]: We probably couldn’t score an extra photo session with John Barrowman at Comic Con either. I’m gonna go talk to people. [steps out of spotlight ]

Allyn/Danielle [shuddering with social anxiety ]: Better you than me. Oooh, someone’s selling a really cool coat!

Robin [taking Will’s place in Allyn’s spotlight ]: Tell me your Best Part sequel isn’t just a new coat.

Allyn/Danielle: Could’ve been, depending on the coat, but no. Look ye there.

[He nods toward the second spotlight, which follows Marion and the newly arrived Queen Guinevere, dressed in a snazzy old-lady pantsuit, across the stage.]

Allyn/Danielle: Robin, meet Flashback!Art Show Hostess/Landlady. Ma’am, Robin Hood from the future.

Guinevere/Landlady: The future?

Robin: By way of the distant past, yes.

Guinevere/Landlady: Huh. Well, Danielle, I’ve spoken with Tirzah, and our mutual neighbor friend here – [gestures to Marion ] – speaks highly of you as a person, so how would you two crazy kids like to rent my guesthouse?

Allyn/Danielle [gasping ]: We can afford that?

Will/Tirzah [back in the spotlight ]: With our Amazon salary times two? Quite reasonably.

Allyn/Danielle: And… how soon can we move in?

Guinevere/Landlady: Next week should allow time to finish having the bathroom painted a lovely blue.

Allyn/Danielle: My… favorite color… [swoons into Will’s arms ]

Robin: A new job, AND a new house?!

Will/Tirzah [beaming at a thousand watts ]: And all settled in before her 30th birthday, too.

Allyn/Danielle [coming to ]: I mean, we still need a dining table, but yeah. We actually made it. [teary smile ] We’re finally… home.

[Robin and Will group hug Allyn tightly. Marion and Guinevere raise plastic cups from the art show’s mini bar in a toast. The party music segues into a jazzy version of “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, just because Danielle really likes that song. And the curtain comes down on the happy tableau – though, as far as Danielle’s real life is concerned, it may still be on the rise.]

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you, rarely enough, to real life,” says Allyn, “for providing us with inspiration for our art to imitate.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves (or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

What’s New? What ISN’T? (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

Allyn-a-Dale blinks in surprise. “What, really? After all this time? What throwback madness has possessed you now?”

“Well, the thing is this,” Will explains. “Danielle has been accumulating a lot of real-life news, lately. But she doesn’t like talking about herself, or about real life in general. Our author gal likes fiction. So you and I and our friends from the story world of the ‘Outlaws of Avalon’ trilogy—”

Available now,” Allyn inserts the obligatory plug.

“—Are going to talk about it for her, except one better, by adapting it into a skit! So make yourselves comfortable,” Will addresses the audience, “as we now present to you: ‘What’s New? What ISN’T?’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a table set for two, in one chair of which sits Robin Hood. Behind him, the backdrop shows other occupied tables in silhouette. Hidden speakers provide ambient chatter, laptop keyboard clacking, pop music, and calls for randomized names to come pick up their lattes – the volume of which fades as Allyn-a-Dale enters from stage right, costumed in hoodie, stylin’ boots, badass coat, broad-brimmed hat, and (the only departure from what he might wear on any given Outside venture) glasses.]

Robin [sitting up straighter with a smile ]: Danielle! So glad to see you!

Allyn/Danielle [taking seat opposite Robin ]: Robin, hiii! So glad we miraculously share a plane of reality today! Even if we have to share it in a public coffee shop full of noise and germs and people. I don’t suppose we could meet up in the forest, next time?

Robin: Bugs, though.

Allyn/Danielle [glum-faced ]: Oh, yeah.

Robin: But enough about establishing your characteristic phobias. How’s life in Yosemite National Park?

Allyn/Danielle: Oh, you haven’t heard? I don’t live there anymore.

Robin: No? Why ever not?

Allyn/Danielle [gaze in the distance – more specifically, on the backdrop shadows, shifting from its suggestion of a coffee shop interior into a mountainous skyline, featuring the iconic shapes of Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Three Brothers. ]: Well…

[The general stage lights dim, leaving two bright spotlights – one on Allyn, and one stage left, where enters Will Scarlet, wearing shorts, crocs, a lightweight hoodie against the glare of the California sun, sunglasses for the same purpose, and a T-shirt that reads ‘Flashback!’]

Will/Tirzah Duncan: Fare thee well, D! I’m moving back down the mountain!

Allyn/Danielle [rising in dismay ]: But bestie mine, you only recently joined me on staff at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel! How can you so soon abandon me??

Will/Tirzah: You know the long-game plan’s still to get a place with you, babe, but sharing a tent-cabin in the mountains with you and a random third roommate? Not sustainable. Besides, I applied for full-time work at the new Amazon facility in Fresno…

Allyn/Danielle: So did I!

Will/Tirzah: …And got hired!

Allyn/Danielle [plunking back miserably into chair ]: …I did not.

[The Will spot goes off. The general lights return, along with the coffee shop backdrop.]

Robin: Wait, what? Why in the world would the Amazon warehouse hire Tirzah, but not you? You’re equally dedicated workers!

Allyn/Danielle: One, it’s technically a fulfillment center, not a warehouse. Two, I KNOW, RIGHT? I was devastated. All I could do was ask myself—

Robin [sympathetically ]: What you’d done wrong?

Allyn/Danielle: No – ‘How would I handle this if I were an entitled white man?’

[Backdrop change! This time to a massive building with a smiling arrow logo. General lights, down. Spotlights up on Allyn and, stage left, Merlin, dressed from T-shirt to baseball cap to badge-carrying lanyard in Amazon gear and seated at a paperwork-covered folding table.]

Merlin/Amazon Rep: Will all prospective new hires please find your paperwork and have a seat.

Allyn/Danielle [standing, politely bright smile plastered on face ]: Yes, hello, I don’t believe you’ll find my name on your list, because there seems to have been a mistake.

Merlin/A.R.: What kind of mistake?

Allyn/Danielle: You didn’t hire me?

Merlin/A.R.: …

Allyn/Danielle: …

Merlin/A.R.: Have a seat.

[Back at the coffee shop…]

Robin [awed, amazed, maybe even admiring ]: Wait … so you just walked in … and they hired you on the spot??

Allyn/Danielle: Lol, if only. I mean, yes to the part where I just walked in like a ballsy boss, but it didn’t land me a job. They just told me I could reapply when more positions opened up. But time marched on and on, and nothing.

Robin: At least you had the Yosemite job in the meantime, though.

Allyn/Danielle: Without Tirzah? It was torment! What use is money when the only way to share it with those you love is to take a 3-hour bus ride down the mountain for a too-short visit on weekends? No, good sir, I put in my notice and followed her to Fresno. I blogged about it and everything. [wounded expression ] Doesn’t anybody read my posts?

Robin: Right, of course, just slipped my mind. So you got a part-time job somewhere…?

Allyn/Danielle [with a scoff ]: More like part-part-time. There were hardly any hours to speak of. If I wanted anything like a steady paycheck, I needed a second gig.

Robin: Did you find one?

Allyn/Danielle [looking haunted ]: Briefly.

[Backdrop changes to a line of cars. Seated before the shape of the front-most vehicle stage left, detached steering wheel in hand, is a spot-lit Loren McCaughley.]

Loren: Yes, lemme get the, uh, number seven? Sorry – five?

Allyn/Danielle [resignedly replacing awesome hat with a Burger King cap and microphone headset ]: One number five. Would you like to make that a medium or a large combo?

Loren: Um, large, with a— do you have diet (mumble-mumble)?

Allyn/Danielle: I’m sorry? Could you repeat that, please? Oh, diet root beer. Yes, we do. Will that complete your order?

Loren: Yeah, that’s all.

Allyn/Danielle: All right, I’ll see you at the second window. Thanks so much.

[Coffee shop returns.]

Robin: That… does not sound like a job you’d enjoy.

Allyn/Danielle [speaking noncommittal volumes while returning to the better hat ]: Mm.

Robin: But you said ‘briefly’. So you weren’t there long, right? What happened next?

Allyn/Danielle [brightening ]: Ah. Now we’re getting to the good part…

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

Allyn startles. “But we’re only halfway finished.”

“So ‘scene to be continued next week’,” Will amends. “Meanwhile, my beautiful audience, if you enjoyed yourselves (or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

Friendship: The Most Super Power of All

In the early chapters of “So Super Dead” (out now!), one of Nicky/Xtra-Medium’s main goals is to fit in with Gravity Assist, the super squad from the moon out to save First Earth from… whatever. And I mean, that’s a worthy motivation, no doubt. But if we’re talking about real squad goals, Gravity Assist’s got nothing on Thackeray Kyle’s crew.

The first time I wrote about the Vampire Hunter – in a short story, several years ago – his three cameramen were just anonymous nobodies filming the drama for reality TV. When I decided to expand into a novel, I knew that wouldn’t fly. The camera trio would need names, distinguishing personalities, and a reason the standoffish Thackeray would choose to keep them close.

The reason I found was friendship, and the foursome’s group dynamic ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book. They’ve got the banter.

Demario: “Aw, that’s sweet, Kyle. But you didn’t have to make us breakfast. Especially if it smells like that.”

Mattson: “What’s the matter, D? You don’t like to start your morning with a hearty bowl of silver nitrate porridge, just like /tu abuela/ used to make?”

Brady: “What was her /abuela/, a murderer?”

Demario: “Maybe she was a Vampire Hunter.”

Thackeray: “Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.”

They’ve got the history.

Demario snorted. “Since when are the Vampire Hunter’s opponents /not/ faster and stronger than him? And since when has that mattered? You don’t need to be faster and stronger, because you’re /smarter/. Like, obnoxiously brilliant. I hated your guts for it through most of high school, then I got over it and decided to ride on the coattails of your genius all the way to the top. This isn’t the top yet,” she clarified. “When they offer you a movie deal based on your head-to-head match with a were-vamp and let me be director of cinematography, /that’ll/ be the top.”

They’ve got the bestie know-how.

“Don’t worry about the blood. One, it’s not fresh, just what’s been soaked into my stake over the show’s run. And two, the boiling solution ought to sterilize whatever potency it may have retained.”

“And three?” Mattson said.

Thackeray blinked toward the couch, perplexed. “Three what?”

“I don’t know,” said Mattson, a laughing light in his eyes. “There’s just usually a third thing, with you.”

Most important of all, they’ve got the love.

Thackeray thought he had mastered indifference toward all but two things: Blood, and his secret’s protection. But now he was forced to face the fact that his best friends made up a third thing. And he would really rather that they didn’t die.

…For whatever the love of someone like Thackeray Kyle is worth.

In honor of my fave “So Super Dead” friends – (and because, Cait @ Paper Fury and I agree, non-romantic ships in YA deserve 200% of the love) – here’s a list of other friendships I’ve published that fill my heart with feels:

Will Scarlet and Allyn-a-Dale (Outlaws of Avalon) = My BrOTP ‘til the end of forever. Book 2 refers to Will’s behind-the-scenes attempts to steer the ship in a romantic direction, but Allyn wasn’t in a place to go for that, so by Book 3, they work out something better: Brothers of the heart. Watching them fight for each other or go gooey over their matching tattoos will never not make my spirit ugly-cry.

Scarlet-a-Dale Soundwave

Crown Prince Ionquin Wyle and Princess Laraspur (The Wilderhark Tales) = This brother/sister pair have been in it together since they were rambunctious youngsters (see appearances in “The Seventh Spell”, “The Song Caster”, and “The Sky-Child”), but the depth of their relationship really shone through during their quest for the moon in “The Sun’s Rival”. They see each other – and if you don’t think that’s as heartwarming as any romance, I dunno what to tell ya.

Sir Wilbur Lamb and Uriel (Inspired) = Their author’s death brought them together, and mutual respect for one another keeps ‘em thus. …Which is saying something, since Uri doesn’t really make it a point to respect anyone lower than God. Over the course of the “Inspired” duology, we see each push the other toward their better selves – friendship at its finest.

Marion Hood and Little John (Outlaws of Avalon) = It’s the little things, man. Him letting her sit in his lap while the band strategized magical artifact recovery, Book 1. Her whispering encouragement in the bushes for him to follow his heart, Book 2. Every Merry Man pairing has its own unique energy, and something about her soft sparkle with his silent solidity results in a really cute, comfortable connection.

Edgwyn Wyle and Crown Princess Rosalba (The Wilderhark Tales) = So yeah, they’re also married, but first and foremost, they’re BFFs. Whether they’re questing side by side or separated by time and space, running a kingdom or raising their little ones, his heart and humor will keep her spirits up, and her queenly core will hold him in awe. ‘Tis beautiful music they make together.

Loren McCaughley and Eddie Millerson (Outlaws of Avalon) = It’s an ex-romance, but they’re still close friends; almost entirely sans awkwardness, even. A mutual love of Renaissance Faires, minstrelsy, classic lit, and Loren’s sister Janey keep them knit tight. Take note, menfolk: This is how you shoulder the “friend zone”.

Annabelle Iole Gray and Mach Jenius (Out of My Head) = Mach is one manic muse, but he cares SO HARD. Much of that caring, we see directed toward author Annabelle, for whom the cost of her wildest dream coming true is drastic loneliness. She gives Mach a home, and he gives her his heart, complete with his first-class cheerleading skills. Team Machabelle*, all the way.

*(My first attempt at giving them a ship name. Thoughts?)

Robin Hood and Arthur Pendragon (Outlaws of Avalon) = Straight up, we don’t get to see half enough of this pair together in the trilogy, because Camelot takes a backseat to all the Sherwood shenanigans. But the chess game flashback in Book 1 and “Reverence” story in “Truly Great Words Never Die” offer a glimpse of the alliance between these two kings, and I’m here for it. (Expect at least one more quality Robin/Arthur scene when #CamelotWIP comes to town.)

Doctor-King Villem Deere and Gant-o’-the-Lute (The Wilderhark Tales) = Candidly, Lute makes for a cavalier, prickly, flighty friend. Hence his barely having any. Villem is a rare exception – at a guess, because he sits smack in the golden zone of neither worshipping Lute (Viralei and Allyn’s mistake) nor belittling him (Wendara’s bad), simply acknowledging him as valid. It’s a shame they had so little time together, on page and off; extended doses of Villem’s healing presence could only have been to Lute’s good.

Who are YOUR fave fictional friendships? Which squad is your goal? Tell all in the comments, amigos! (And if you’ve already read / are planning to read “So Super Dead”, don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, please & thanks!)

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery

The ghost: Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.

The killer: The reality of TV star Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, is not the kind one lives to tell about. He’ll do whatever it takes – and take out whomever he must – to keep his secret safe. If only he could get his dead conscience to quit haunting him…

The talker: Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.

So Super Dead” – available here (Amazon paperback), here (Amazon ebook), and here (Barnes & Noble ebook)!

So Super Similar: 8 Hero-to-Hero Comparisons

*Pre-Post Announcement: Starting today, and for the month of October / until further notice, new posts will be hitting the Ever On Word blog on Fridays instead of Tuesdays. Hope to see you then! Now, onto our regularly scheduled content.

Happy one-and-a-half-week-iversary to the release of “So Super Dead”! Haven’t bought your copies yet? You can do so here (Amazon paperback), here (Amazon ebook), and here (Barnes & Noble ebook)! Already bought and read through your copy like some sort of super speed reader? I hope you’ll use your powers for good and leave an honest review on Amazon! (Other review sites, personal blogs, and wherever else are great, too, but it’s the Amazon algorithmic monster that most demands a heroic team effort to overcome.)

Speaking of superheroes … well, an enthusiast could do that all day. There’s legions of them! – most different enough to stay interesting, yet same enough to keep us coming back for those tropey tricks we love. Viva la diversity, though similarity’s the main focus of today’s blog post. More specifically: To which famous superheroes would I compare the members of “So Super Dead”s Gravity Assist?

Why, thanks for asking. Let us consider…

Gravity Max = A classic hero’s hero, a la Superman. At least, that’s very much how she seems to see herself. You’d certainly have a tough time finding another super team leader more invested in standing up for Truth, Justice, and the Second Earth Way.

SUPERMAN-PATRIOTIC
The eagle is totally the national bird of the moon, why not

Gravity Zero = I wouldn’t be surprised if Zero were to Supergirl as her twin is to the Man of Steel. But I’m not familiar enough with the DC heroine to know for sure. And honestly, when I think ‘flyer’, my brain goes to the movie “Sky High” and the MC’s mom, Jetstream. Surely as “mom friends” go, Zero would hardly be G.A.’s worst choice.

Jetstream

The Boomerang = His teleporting powers have different limitations, but I can see Boomer and a young Nightcrawler from the X-Men getting along just swimmingly.

nightcrawler apocalypse

The Luminatrix = I’m gonna go for broke and give this one to Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Because if anyone in G.A. can handle being a be-your-own-badass, firework of a super teen, it’s Trix. (Also, Boomer, you may wanna get a load of Negasonic in “Deadpool 2” for a possible reason as to why Trix doesn’t seem that into you…)

Negasonic

Xtra-Medium = Going back to “Sky High”, Nicky and MC Will Stronghold have an initial sense of powerlessness in common. Although, if Nicky were any “Sky High” character at all, it’s quite possible s/he would match up even more closely with Ron Wilson, Bus Driver. (When life hands you power-impaired lemons, give everyone else a lift to the lemonade … as the saying goes.)

Ron Wilson, Bus Driver

Bonus:

Brenna Walsh = Her ghostly phasing powers put me most in mind of X-Men’s Shadowcat. Just add in the anger and cynicism of, say, Jessica Jones.

Thackeray Kyle = It would be way too easy to compare Thackeray to a werewolf-bitten Van Helsing, so let’s try to stretch ourselves here. I’d rather match him up to someone like… the Winter Soldier. Strictly a hero? Not hardly. But a little bit super, a lot super at killing, and compelled to do deeds they’re not proud of, due to unfortunate circumstances.

Ryder Kidd = Thanks to this one line which, happily, I think I can insert here without crossing into spoiler territory…

/I don’t remember sitting in a closet,/ Ryder thought slowly. /Wait, do you mean me, or… y’know. The other me?/

…I can’t not equate poor Ryder with Bruce Banner and his struggles with “the other guy”.

In which superhero do you most see yourself and/or your favorite characters? Which of this past year’s superhero movies have you most enjoyed? On a scale of ‘meh’ to ‘so super psyched’, how much are you looking forward to reading newly-released “So Super Dead”? 😀 Tell all in the comments!

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery

The ghost: Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.

The killer: The reality of TV star Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, is not the kind one lives to tell about. He’ll do whatever it takes – and take out whomever he must – to keep his secret safe. If only he could get his dead conscience to quit haunting him…

The talker: Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.

So Super Dead” – available now!

A Ghostly Guest, Plus One Xtra (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

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

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logo

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

Allyn says, “The blurb for the novel ‘So Super Dead’ – the release of which is, not coincidentally, today – describes her thus:

Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.

“Wait a minute,” says Will, looking around. “While you read the introduction is when the narration’s all, ‘As the guest enters from the other side of the stage’, right? So…” He gestures to the empty chair across from him. “…Where’s the guest?”

“Oh, sorry!” calls a voice from the back of the house – the voice of a different ‘So Super Dead’ protagonist altogether. “I forgot. Brenna is there. You just can’t see or hear her. Because she’s a ghost.” After a moment’s attention focused toward the guest chair, the speaker relates, “And she’s peeved about that.”

“Peeved about which part?” Will asks. “Being here, being undetectable, or being a ghost?”

“All of the above.”

“Hmm. Well, that complicates matters more than usual, but hang all, it’s ‘So Super Dead’s release day, so we’re making this episode work! Allyn, rustle up another armchair! You in the back, come on down! And everyone, give it up for Nicky, aka Xtra-Medium!”

PowerPuff Nicky
Xtra-Medium to the rescue!

As the impromptu second guest heads for the stage, Allyn quotes from memory while rearranging furniture:

Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.

“Welcome, Nicky!” Will greets the guest he can see. “And Brenna, if Nicky says you’re here. So glad you both could join me. First things first – if you knew no one would be able to properly interact with you, Brenna, why did you even bother to come here today?”

Nicky glances Brenna’s way, then back to Will. “She says, ‘Nicky’s not technically no one.’ Hey, thanks! …Sort of. And she’d assumed that you would be able to interact with her, since that three-part character Q&A we did, a while back, went without a hiccup. But I guess your talk show follows its own logic?”

“All my special blog features do,” Will says complacently. “And calling it ‘logic’s being generous. Now, Brenna, I know you canonically don’t like much of anything, but if you had to pick a favorite aspect of your newly released book, what would it be?”

“Quote, ‘I like when Thackeray Kyle suffers,’ ” says Nicky, grimacing. “ ‘And the villain, while hideous on the inside, has some irrefutably hot outsides. And I guess I’m Team Luminatrix; she’s mostly legit, compared to the screwball crowd she runs with.’ ”

“What about you, Nicky?” Will asks, his inclusive and encouraging grin getting a return smile out of the ghost interpreter. “Favorite book thing?”

“Well, not to be braggy, but I do like the narrative voice I bring to the story. Fun and informal, but it can go deep, y’know? And, I mean, I get Brenna’s beef with Thackeray Kyle. He did her dirty, no denying that. But, I dunno…” The mutant teen goes slightly squirmy and flushed. “I like it when he talks.

“…Brenna mutters, ‘You like it when anyone talks.’ She has a point. People talking to each other is good for a story, know what I mean? Lack of communication creates plot problems. And lack of dialogue… sure, there are books like that, but they’re not my kind. And on a not-story level – on a life level – you’ve gotta have somebody to talk to. To unburden yourself, or to help figure our what your self is and what it’s dealing with… That’s it, right there: Talking is dealing with stuff. And I’m so super here for that.”

“You’d be surprised how much talking I can do without dealing with jack-all,” Will says cheerfully. “But I like your zeal, kiddo. Now, for one last question before you two spirit yourselves away. Tell me, Brenna-through-Nicky, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” A so super big smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Brenna’s all, ‘You can kiss him if you want,’ ” says Nicky, imitating the ghost’s disdainfully flat manner of speech. “But I’m, uh, not really comfortable with the idea of kissing anybody, so… Gee, which of Danielle’s secrets are left to tell?”

Nicky mulls over the matter, before starting slowly, “This book became a lot more her, the longer we went between its first-drafting and today’s publication. When she conceived and wrote it in 2012, she was several months away from her first big dip into the depression that can still knock her down pretty far, a lot of the time. But even before poor mental health hit her personally, there we were: Brenna with what can be easily read as a clinical case; Thackeray with his violent repression of emotion; and characters like me who had to get up every day, wondering if there was a point to our existence – having to seize onto something to fight for. There’s plenty of times, in recent years, when she’s felt so super dead, or wished to be.” Nicky cracks a small smile at Will. “It’s good she’s got close friends like you to help talk her through, Sherwood hero.”

“You’d better shut up before I cry!” Will bawls, already ugly-crying. “Allyn, do something! A word from our sponsor!”

“We’ve already been over most of it,” says Allyn, “but for those who could use the reminder: Today’s Kiss & Tell segment is brought to you by ‘So Super Dead’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available today via Amazon (e-book and paperback) and Barnes & Noble (e-book only)!

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, galleryThe ghost: Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.

The killer: The reality of TV star Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, is not the kind one lives to tell about. He’ll do whatever it takes – and take out whomever he must – to keep his secret safe. If only he could get his dead conscience to quit haunting him…

The talker: Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will sniffles. “Thanks to you, too, Nicky and Brenna. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”