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!

<<<>>>

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!

<<<>>>

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.

<<<>>>

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.

<<<>>>

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