Open Journal: Everyday Magic

[Note: My brain’s still not decompressed enough to try conveying the experience of my European river cruise in a blog post. But I’m more-or-less settled in Germany now, and it’s a stage of life I’ll want taken down for posterity. So here’s a glimpse into my day-before-yesterday.]

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Walked out to the forest with some Stranger Than True friends in the hope of maybe getting some highly important, “Outlaws of Avalon”-related photos.

We didn’t find the shots I wanted.

Instead, we found magic.

Lots of little everyday magic.

The way the early-fading light hit things.

The many-shaded piles of clouds.

The snow-globe fall of hail, fine as salt.

The rise of smoke like fire-mist from a chimney.

Moss and wood and leaves and stone and stair railings.

A painted sun on an old barn door.

The blue, blue sky reflected in a window.

Shiny glass panes billowing like bubbles waiting to be.

The dance of a willow.

Puddles on the cobbles.

The smell of old rain.

Unexpected incense in the exhaust of a passing car.

Will Scarlet, every few steps: “Stop. Look at that. Wow.”

“Guys. I’m GLAD.”

His heart was worship, and mine was right there with him –

glorying, in wonder at all around and within me.

A fruitless walk, perhaps, but in no wise a wasted one.

(Pictured above = The post-walk view from my window and balcony. Not pictured here = The brilliant moon that rose soon after. #ISeeYou)

Glory, Glory

A reblog of my 30th PerGoSeeMo Psalm from 2011, in honor of Christmas but days away. See you guys after the holiday!

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A humble girl in Nazareth

Is favored above all,

And she sings unto the highest heaven:

Glory! Glory!

Merciful and holy,

The Mighty One who raised his servant lowly!

See how the shepherds leave the hills

To go before the babe who will

Be Shepherd over chosen Israel.

 

Christmas Star

Above the town of Bethlehem,

A host of angels call,

And their voices fill the highest heaven:

“Glory! Glory!

Goodwill to the earth!

The mother of Messiah’s given birth!

See how the kings come from afar

To worship, ‘neath the shining star,

The Savior King of chosen Israel.

 

At Temple in Jerusalem,

An aged man in awe

Lifts his song unto the highest heaven:

 “Glory! Glory!

Light and peace and joy

Will fill the hearts of many, through this boy!

See how the light has yet to dim

For all who still remember him,

And hail the coming of Immanuel.

Creation Within Creation (INSPIRED Days)

Inspired Days Button

Welcome to the continuation of “INSPIRED Days”! – an approximate month of awesomeness celebrating my J. Taylor Publishing novel which has just this last Sunday reached its 6-month semi-anniversary of publication. ^o^

INSPIRED being a book absolutely all about the characters, I thought it only fitting that its main cast get in on the fun. So here’s our third guest post of the party, brought to you by the novel’s resident dude[ette] with a ‘tude, Uri!

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I wonder if Noah felt like this. “Yeah, hi,” says God, “clock’s running down on your world. You and this handful of others may want to get in the lifeboat.

Thanks, but… Dang.

Seriously. That’s like exactly how it happened. What the ever-burning heck?

Yeah, Danielle digi-painted me. She’s into that.
Yeah, Danielle digi-painted me. She’s into that.

It’s not like I was attached to my world, or anything – which totally sounds like sarcasm, but no, for real. Maybe it’s because the place wasn’t fully realized yet. Maybe it’s because I was still in the earliest stages of my character development. I dunno. But I can’t say I miss anything that got swallowed up in the flood of destruction.

Probably the weirdest thing was finding out there’s at least one more layer of reality out there than I figured. I mean, I’ve read books; even read books where, ohmigosh, this whole world’s nothing but a dream / somebody’s computer program / an ant farm / whatever. You see that kind of thing all the time. You don’t expect it will happen to you.

A person of weaker faith could have had her whole religion rocked by what I’ve gone through. But I didn’t see the need for a full-on theology crisis. I’m pretty open-minded. Or almost totally closed-minded, but willing to entertain new ideas so long as they don’t flatly contradict what I believe to be gospel truth. One of those. In any case, I don’t see how having Annabelle and her predecessor as author over my life precludes the existence and omnipotence of an Author, capital “A”.

To quote from a book ranked somewhere below Scripture:

There is creation within creation, and creators can keep creating new things because it is a part of them because they were themselves created. Like a story about a writer who writes a story about a writer a writer who writes a story about a writer, and so on forever, from that single starting place. That first writer. The first creator. And to be the first means he—or she, or something that defies a pronoun—is the only one so great, he didn’t need to be created to be. That’s why he’s worthy to be the God.

The Book of Inspired, chapter twenty-four, verse… Yeah, okay, our novel doesn’t have verses. Regardless, Scripture backs it up.

So God created mankind in his own image.

Genesis 1:27.

Ask a writer. They can tell you: Little pieces of themselves end up reflected in the fictional people they make. Among whatever else, it seems some of us got a mega share of our Author’s creativity, to the point where they, too, can say, “Let there be light,” “Let there be life,” “Let there be this person and this plot point in this crazy story arc,” and whole worlds will appear in the pages for the writer to look over and see that it was good.

So I’m not about to worship Annabelle. (In fact, excuse me while I bust a gut laughing at the thought.) But if the God I serve placed this girl in authority over me, then I’ll do all I’m able to serve her also, and serve her well.

Heaven help us all.

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Thanks, Uri! Reader types who’d love to nab the novel featuring this yin-yang chick of light and snark, remember there’s a giveaway on Goodreads with three paperbacks for the winning. Meanwhile, for the e-reading crowd, the novel’s e-version is on sale all month for a crazy-low 99 cents via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So for anyone who hasn’t gotten hold of a copy yet, the time is now!

Inspired Sale, Kindle and BN

 

**Coming up Monday**: An introductory scene from INSPIRED, retold from Yves’s point of view!

In Which I Contemplate the Disappointing Limitations of Reality

When I was a kid, I had one wish. I wished it on stars, on birthday cake candles, on pennies tossed into a fountain at the mall. Of all the possible and impossible things to want, I wanted to fly. And honestly, I didn’t see what was all that impossible about it.

Faith, trust, and pixie dust; that’s the magic formula, according to some. Well, my pixie dust stash was a little low, but as a child – before I hit my twenties and life finally soured me into a cynic – I had faith to spare. Countless times I hurled myself into the air off of that low bench built into the wall of my old basement, each time sure that this time was the one. This time, I would defy gravity.

Gravity, like the villain it is, was all, “Mwa-hahaha, YOU FOOL!”

By my teen years, I got wise. Flying just was not going to happen for me in this world. Fortunately, there were always other worlds. The one behind the mirror, for instance; the world where my every dream existed as everyday reality. There, I could fly. There, I owned a farm full of puppies, ponies, and tigers. There, whichever cartoon character I was crushing on at the time would adore me and want to hang out and do fun stuff 24/7. It was all there, I knew it was. If only Sarah Maria would move out of my way!

Sarah Maria was my reflection.

Sarah Maria, all grown up and still at her post.
Sarah Maria, all grown up and still at her post.

As one would expect of her, she mirrored my every move. I blinked my right eye, she blinked her left. I raised a hand to touch the mirror’s glass, she reached up as if to give me a high-five. We met palm to palm, she countering my touch with precisely equal pressure. However hard I pressed, so did she. There was no pushing past her. No faking her out and slipping around her all smooth and sneaky-quick. A professional reflection never lets their reverse image through. Sara Maria was just too good. However much I might wish and try and beg, the perfect mirror world was denied me.

Some people like to claim that we control our reality. That it’s our beliefs and attitudes and insistent perceptions that make the rules. That with the right amount of psycho-spiritual clarity, we can do anything. Anything at all. Speaking as she who was once the most blissfully naïve little dreamer there ever was? Yeah, that’d be nice, but no.

Alas for our whims, we are not the Author of this story. We are but his beloved characters. We don’t determine the world’s strictures, we don’t mastermind the plot, we don’t edit out the bits that don’t suit us. We just blunder around – amusingly, tragically, courageously, desperately, even a little impressively, sometimes – trying to find our way to our happiest available ending. For all that the Author has the book all mapped out, we characters are what you call “pansting it”, controlling maybe a little bit more and for sure a whole lot less than we’d like to believe.

With or without pixie dust, our belief can only do so much, in this world.

Thank God for fiction.

In Which I Tell “The Parable of the Cookies”

A father stepped out of the house, for a time. He’d not been gone long before his son headed straight for the kitchen and the jar full of cookies therein.

“What are you doing?” the boy’s sister asked.

The boy rolled his eyes. “What does it look like I’m doing?”

“Disobeying Dad,” the girl answered. “He said we’re not supposed to eat those.”

“But they’re cookies,” said the boy. “I love cookies. I really want cookies right now.”

“That’s too bad, because you’re not allowed to have them.”

The boy turned to look at his sister. “Why do you hate me?”

Cookie Jar

The girl blinked in confusion. “Who says I hate you? I don’t hate you.”

“Obviously you do, because you don’t want me to have any cookies – cookies which, as previously stated, I very much desire. You’ve got some nerve hating me for loving cookies. Isn’t Dad always saying how families are supposed to love each other?”

“Um, I do love you. That’s why I’m trying to keep you from getting in trouble with Dad who, as previously stated, told us we’re not supposed to eat the cookies.”

The boy crossed his arms with a scowl. “I never heard him say any such thing.”

“Well, he said it.”

“Liar. You’re making it up just so I can’t have any cookies.”

“Why in the world would I do that?”

“Duh,” said the boy. “You’re not into cookies. You’re all about, like, applesauce and stuff. Just because you like applesauce, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get cookies. You eat your snacks, I’ll eat mine. What’s it got to do with you, anyway?”

“I just don’t want you to get in trouble,” the girl pleaded.

“I’m not going to get in trouble! Know why? ‘Cause nobody cares whether I eat cookies except you, you sad, hateful little girl. Tell you what: How about instead of trying to dictate my life, you just chill out and accept the fact that I love cookies and I’mma eat ‘em. More than accept it, you should embrace it! My love of cookies is part of what makes me who I am. I am a cookie-lover, and y’know what? That’s awesome. Cookie-lovers unite!”

“Look,” said the girl. “I know you love cookies, okay? I know they’re your favorite, and it’s great to see you as happy as cookies seem to make you. If it were up to me, I’d gladly let you have all the cookies you can eat! But Dad—”

“Would you shut up about Dad?!” the boy exploded. “Stop pretending this is about Dad! Even if Dad said anything about the cookies, which he totally didn’t, he would love me anyway, because parents always love their kids, no matter what.”

“Parents also make rules,” the girl pointed out. “Rules generally prompted by love. Rules with consequences for breaking them.”

“Oh, please, like all of a sudden you care about Dad’s rules? Where was all your ‘Dad says, Dad says’ when you stayed up an hour past bedtime, last week? Or that time when you left the garage door open all night? Or when you ‘forgot’ to feed the dog because you were too busy playing computer games?”

“So, wait,” said the girl. “Because I’m not one hundred percent perfect all the time, I’m not allowed to tell you when I think you’re making a mistake? I’m just supposed to stand back and let you do whatever you want without a word, even if I’m convinced it is a really bad choice that you’ll probably come to regret? That doesn’t sound like love at all.”

“Shows what you know about love,” said the boy, shoving a cookie into his mouth. “Mmm, yum, this right here is love. Have fun being a hater, sis. When you’ve seen the light and are ready to apologize, you know where I’ll be.”

Sighing in sadness and frustration, the girl left her brother in the kitchen, really wishing their Dad would hurry up and come home.

“Announcement, Part 3” or “Omne Trium Perfectum”

What do I mean, “Announcement, Part 3”?? Surely I can’t have more breathtaking publishing news to share with you guys?? Not after my inclusion in J. Taylor Publishing’s “One More Day” anthology and my very-soon-to-be-self-published novella?? What else could there be??

Well, J. Taylor publishing could have signed me to publish a novel.

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Danielle E. Shipley signs with J. Taylor Publishing for her debut novel, Inspired, bringing forth a new perspective in fiction writing.

When a character’s story needs to be told, Danielle E. Shipley’s debut novel, Inspired, to release March, 2014 from J. Taylor Publishing, let’s her characters do the talking.

Apex, NC – April 10, 2013 – Just how real are these people we write off as fiction? That’s the question Chicagoan, Danielle E. Shipley, asked herself as she wrote Inspired, her debut novel, due to release in March 2014.

As many writers can attest, the muse is a fickle creature. For Danielle, the subconscious inspiration for her debut novel, Inspired, is no different, except that her muse didn’t give her hints, it took over. According to Danielle, “Inspired is a consequence of my fascination with my best friends of questionable reality, dreaming about answers to unreal questions, and a mad desire to confess to the world exactly how far from sane I am. From that, this love letter/sympathy note to my characters was born.”

“Danielle writes with a humorous voice, which combined with the storyline and character perspectives, had us both laughing and wondering what could possibly come next,” says J. Taylor Publishing.

While a typical novel is written in either first, second or third person, and from a singular, omniscient or multi-person perspective, Danielle combines them in a way that plays on the emotions, underscores the personal struggles and triumphs of the writer (or any artist with a muse) as well as breaks the normal mode of fiction writing. Inspired isn’t just a story told by its fictional characters, it’s a story driven by its fictional characters. “They’re the cool ones, really; I just write about them,” says Danielle, adding, “Like Inspired suggests, the instant a new novel idea hits, I’ll be chasing after it with wild abandon.”

Danielle’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself … or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words. Lots of them.

Writing isn’t Danielle’s only artistic foray.  Her summer weekends will be spent working where fantasy rules – the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin; it’s her second year on cast—a place that finds her somewhere between a scared newbie and a seasoned vet.

Inspired is planned for release in March 2014. Danielle also has a short story, A Morrow More, in the One More Day anthology set to release December 2, 2013.

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Remember that novel I talked about during my “Change” post? The post with an ending paragraph including, “Y’know what would make a great change for 2013? My becoming a published novelist”? That novel was “Inspired”. And it’s about to make me a published novelist.

Y’know who can be really good at plotting and foreshadowing and all that other good living story stuff? My Author. He’s even tossed in a lovely Literary Three.

So, yeah, I’ve been feeling the best kind of overwhelmed, these last few weeks. Words fail hard, in moments like this, so I’ll leave you with a song which strikes me as thrice appropriate, having to do with ships at long last sailing in, Christmas-like delight, and, of course, the number three.

Three Ships

“Belief” or “Truth”

“So, hey, did you find your phone?”

Evan glanced up from his hand of playing cards. “My…? Oh, no, it’s still missing.” He sighed. “I can’t think where I could have laid it down.”

“Oh.” Oliver frowned. “That’s weird. So who were you talking to?”

“When?”

“A little while ago, when I was grabbing the game from the other room. It sounded like about half a conversation, so…”

“Oh, that.” Evan smiled in remembrance. “I was talking to my Author.”

“Your what?”

“Well,” Evan amended, “your Author, too. Everybody’s Author.”

“You don’t seriously believe in that Author stuff, do you?” Oliver said incredulously.

“Certainly I do. You don’t?”

“Of course not.” Oliver slapped a card on the table and reshuffled the deck. “Some invisible girl in the sky who wrote the world into existence? That’s ridiculous.”

“How so, ridiculous?” Evan asked. “Where do you think we came from, just spontaneously sprung up off the page?”

Oliver shrugged. “Could’a happened. Like, y’know, there’s mysterious imaginative ether, and stuff.”

“Whose imagination?” Evan pressed

“The collective imagination,” Oliver pronounced. “We all imagine ourselves; a basic matter of mass self-belief.”

“I see.” Evan fingered his cards, expression thoughtful. “But what about before we have the cognitive function of make-belief? How do infants exist?”

“Easy. The rest of us believe in them for them, until they’re old enough to believe in themselves.”

“Sweet of us. So who was it who believed in the first babies?”

“Their parents, of course.”

“And where did the parents come from? Were they never babies?”

“Uh…” Oliver squinted at the wall, reviewing the math he’d set up for himself. “Well, look, nobody knows how it got started…”

“I do,” said Evan, setting down a pair of cards. “The Author wrote them, just as she wrote you and me.”

Oliver shook his head. “I don’t buy it. There’s just not enough evidence.”

Evan’s eyebrows rose. “You don’t think this is evidence?”

“What?”

“This dialogue. Our words appearing between quotation marks. The narration around them. It all smacks of Authorship!”

“There’s an explanation for that,” Oliver said vaguely.

“Is there likewise an explanation,” said Evan, “for how I’ve met the Author personally? How we’ve talked together, and laughed together, and how wholly adored I feel whenever she speaks my name?”

“Delusion?” Oliver offered.

Evan looked at him. “Why is my belief a delusion, while your belief is all that bars you from nonexistence? How is any one belief better than any other, unless one of those beliefs is truth? And if we’re dealing with a matter of truth, than what difference does anyone’s belief make?”

“Belief in something makes it true,” Oliver insisted.

“You obviously don’t believe that,” said Evan, “or you’d believe that my belief in the Author makes her true.”

“Yeah… well…” Oliver set his cards down in annoyance. “You know, you are really overcomplicating this.”

“I’ve been trying to simplify it. The truth is very simple: The Author wrote us – is writing us right now! – and will continue to do so until story’s end.”

“If the Author’s so all-powerfully awesome, why would she waste her time writing stories about fictional nobodies?” Oliver challenged.

Card Hand

Smiling, Evan answered, “Because she doesn’t count it a waste. This is what she loves. We are what she loves. And it would please her no end to have you love her, too, as I do.”

“Yeah, well,” Oliver grumbled, “she doesn’t talk to me, does she?”

Evan laughed. “She talks to you all the time! She talks to everything – even inanimate objects, to which she’ll temporarily assign personalities. She likes imaginative role-play. But we are more than a game to her. We are her characters. Her children. Her greatest creation, and her heart’s delight.”

“Then why does she let bad things happen to us?” Oliver demanded. “If you’re so much to her, why did she let you lose your phone?”

“I’d wondered that,” Evan admitted. “In my frustration over the loss, I asked her that myself.”

“Yeah? And what was her answer?”

“She wouldn’t tell me.”

“Ha!”

“But from the other room, you heard me asking,” said Evan. “And now here we are. I think that may be my answer: A plot device to bring you nearer to believing the truth.” Evan chuckled, and spoke as if to the air, “Clever Author.”