Big Struggles, Little Niceties

Couch is having a rough time.

Which is to say, I am having a rough time, and have been attempting to work through some of it via Couch (of “Big City, Little Magics” fame). In some ways, our current struggles are largely unrelated. But in other, more internal ways, we’re both basically fighting the same fight.

I shan’t go into much detail about it right now, because 1) I’m tired and – as I’ve only lately come to realize – 2) I put off reaching out to talk about myself until I feel there’s something nice to share. Still, despite my unhurried pace, I’ve got the majority of the project written; probably only a small percentage to go. Once it’s all finished, of course I plan to upload it to Wattpad alongside all my other “Big City, Little Magics” stories.

And speaking of, I’ve added some fun new fictions to my “Extra-Little Magics” collection. If you enjoyed better getting to know the band through the group text exchanges peppered into Book 2 / “Big Feels, Unlimited Magics”, then these four (and counting?) “Band Chats” should prove a treat! In any case, I had a ton of fun writing them. ^_^

One more nice thing to share: This dope band poster I made for Manchester Leif.

If you think I’m mad I can’t just hop planes of reality and catch one of their live gigs, you’re right.

‘Til next there are nice things,

~ Danielle

Hugely Magical Little Artworks

If I had to name a favorite artist, living or dead, then I would make my apologies to runners-up Van Gogh and Monet and hand first prize to the incredible Geneva Bowers. You may know her as GDBee / Prinnay on Tumblr, or as the Geneva B behind the fan-flipping-tastic cover illustration for my second “Inspired” novel, “Out of My Head”. Or you may not be familiar with her art at all, which would be SHEER TRAGEDY, because her work is just spilling over with JOY and WHIMSY and UNLIMITED MAGICS. Perhaps it’s more than coincidence, then, that I so deeply love gazing upon her pieces: They share hella vibes with my beloved Big City, Little Magics story world.

Matter of fact, I have observed to myself time and again – most recently when drooling over “Weightless”, the brand spanking new artbook I helped fund on Geneva’s Kickstarter – that she’s created many a work that straight-up reminds me of this or that BCLM character.

In celebration, therefore, of my receipt of said book and its connection in my heart to my latest novellas (and related shorts), I took a bunch of photos showing off my characters’ spirits, as happy-accidentally illustrated by GDBee.

**Official disclaimer: All artwork pictured in these snapshots are credited to and the property of Geneva Bowers. If her art brings you joy, I encourage you to support her by visiting her shops on Redbubble, Society6, INPRNT, or TeePublic. (Gosh knows its where my spare dollars like to go!)**

On Air #4 / Amygdala Wroth

I could easily point to a half-dozen other GDBee portraits that scream “Amygdala” to me – either because they more or less look like her, or they simply embody her upbeat, casually magic personality. But in the interest of selecting one image that captured the best of both, I went with this piece from the “On Air” series. (It happens to the be the piece featured on the “Weightless” cover, too!)

Flourish / Manchester Leif

While I wish I could buy this one as a sticker or tote bag or something, it’s so far only available as an art print. Ah well. At least this guy’s look is remarkably akin to Manchester’s. The coloring, the hair texture, the unassuming air… not so much the flowers bursting out of his clothes, although he would totally rock that jacket!

The Knight / Couch

A perfect match for Couch in the GDBee oeuvre, I’ve yet to find. Some share her stylishness, others her fire; some stare at you shadily while sipping tea. But choosing one to stand for all, I’ll flip a coin and go with this – which I actually did buy as a sticker. The face is only semi-her, but the girl’s a fighter out to save herself as best she can. If she could get hold of some metaphorical sword to wield instead of rage and powers of petrifaction, that’d probably be to the good.

Healer (or Cleric) / Sleeves

7/10 for kinda-sorta looking like him, 9.5/10 for carrying the sense of his personhood. Street chill, check. Ties to music, check. Magic stick to cure what ails you… I mean, he’d absolutely own and use it if he could.

Cinderella / Dirigibles / Harkness

Okay, I literally could not choose just one for everybody’s favorite selkie sweetheart, so I’mma cheat with two. On the left, a match for her grace and beauty. On the right, a glimpse of her adventure glee.

Emporium / Travis Marina

I’ll be real, this isn’t what I picture Travis looking like at all. But the part where he’s hanging out behind a small-business counter, looking to hook you up with some (possibly enchanted) elixir or whatnot? That is peak Travis.

The Gardener / Telemachus Cannon

That’s right, there’s even a decent piece of Tel rep in the mix! Why he’d be creepin’ in a shed with wayyy too many eyes is anybody’s guess, but that’s not to say he wouldn’t. It’s Tel. The possibilities are endless as authorial imagination.

Penumbra / Agamemna Wroth

And here’s one for Amygdala’s little sis! That face carries Memma-tude for days, and you already know she crafted that hat herself.

Closed for the Day / Just… the BCML world, fam

A little apartment over a little shop… California palms, a beach perhaps just out of sight… A girl and her dragon companion, making magics in the twilight… That is the universe in which I found my lost word wizardry. That’s the space I turn to for deep breaths of enchanted air. The same air breezing through the colorfully creative skies and streets, oceans and galaxies, greenscapes and cozy corners of Geneva Bowers.

And hey. The Kickstarter may be over, but preorders for the “Weightless” artbook are open now through June 10th! There’s loads more beauty and awesomeness inside than any blog post of mine will do justice. Get a copy of your own to ogle and cherish. The wonder is worth it.

‘Til next we marvel,

~ Danielle

Big Feels, Unlimited Magics

So! I recently uploaded the sequel to “Big City, Little Magics” onto Wattpad.com!

And it may actually take me a minute to remember how to talk about it, because my heart’s still living in another story – a related short, set pre-BCLM, entitled “A Thing About Sleeves”.

As I’ve confessed in blog posts past, I’m a little bit obsessed with muh boi Sleeves right now, and this 6K-ish-word story is an attempt to articulate why.

Told in Manchester first-person, it is essentially:

– A tale of friend-courtship ‘twixt a man and a dragon (sing hey all the way for a bromance!)

– A peek into Sleeves’ life prior to slash outside of the band

– A reminiscence of my visit to Hawai’i, some years ago

– A memo to self – (and to whoever else needs to hear it) – that feeling sad is allowed

Unlike BCLM 1 and 2, this story doesn’t include any original song lyrics. But if you want a song that captures the spirit, like, insanely perfectly, check out “Pacific” by Christa Wells.

I just, urrgh, now I’m mad I finished the story, because it means I don’t get to be writing it anymore. Nice going, me. Good luck digging up another happy place.

In any case, that’s now up on Wattpad, too, as a fresh addition to the shorts collection “Extra-Little Magics”.

BUT! Back to novella number two. I didn’t want to figure out a blurb for it, so I let Amygdala ‘n’ ‘em take care of it for me.

*

Amygdala: “Poll question! What’s the best part of the sequel to ‘Big City, Little Magics’?”

Couch: “Why is there a sequel?”

Sleeves: “Pretty sure the author’s just obsessed with us and wanted to see what else we’ll do.”

Manchester: “Authors do be like.”

Harkness: “My favorite part is the conversations like these, because it is fun that we ask and answer such important questions as ‘What is home to you?’ and ‘What do you think red smells like?’ and ‘What do you love about Harkness?’” *smiling sun emoji*

Travis: “I like— well, /most appreciate/ the Manchester POV chapters. Far from easy, but deeply important. I hope they reach the readers who need them.”

Amygdala: “Of which the author was one.”

Amygdala: “Best part in my opinion? Getting a chance to further explore the different social dynamics between our various friend combos within the band. I like us liking each other. :)”

Sleeves: “I like us speaking probable blasphemies while high.”

Couch: “I like the new song.”

Couch: “Not new to us, but to anyone who hasn’t heard it yet.”

Couch: “Edit: /read/ it yet. (The author needs to get around to making audio for this shit.)”

Manchester: “Best part of the sequel? Same as the best part of the original: Friend-family making the most of their magics to deepen each other’s lives.”

Sleeves: “Plus the Pride Night aesthetics.”

Manchester: “Oh, HELL YES, the Pride Night aesthetics.”

Big Feels, Unlimited Magics: More Days in the Life of Amygdala Wroth (and Friends)

*

All that, and they didn’t even mention the cursed laundromat. Ah well, no blurb can contain the whole of a story’s awesomeness.

Let me know if you read and enjoy my new fics! I accept comments, Ko-Fi tips, fanart, and good vibes sent my way in these trying times.

‘Til next we magic,

~ Danielle

Keep Calm and Magic On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until we magic again,

~ Danielle

Quotes and Aesthetics from a Reclaimed Space

From my NaNoWriMo profile:

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

*

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

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

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

Or maybe I won’t.

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

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

*

From my novel summary:

My original project = Was not sparking joy.

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

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

*

Amygdala Wroth ~ The Anti-Witch

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

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

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

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

*

Couch ~ The Dragon Roommate

Things I knew about dragons before ever actually meeting one:

– Dragons hoard things.

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

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

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

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

– She has a cat.

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

– She’s a Scorpio.

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

– Time shall tell.

*

Harkness ~ The Selkie Sweetheart

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

Manchester Leif ~ The Broken Writer

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

I ask, “Does yours not?”

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

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

*

Travis Marina ~ Born of the Bay

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

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

*

From a third NaNo forum, on failure:

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

Time May [Kiss &] Tell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hullo, everyone! Sorry about that hiccup, coming out the gate. Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Wikipedia has made brief mention of her thus:

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

Clarissant_tumblr_okow37FeuL1tih1eoo3_1280
Clarissant aesthetic, found via Tumblr.

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

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

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

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

“Audacity!” Will approves.

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

“That… sounds like a mood I know.”

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

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

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

“And with Allyn’s!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

Everyone knows the story. Nobody knows the truth.

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

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

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

And do truly great enemies ever die?

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

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

In Which the World Scrambles to Catch Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Weeping with delight, if I rightly remember.”

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

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

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

JournalQuote_AlreadyASuccess
From my personal journal, Oct. 18, 2019

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

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

San Fran Magic Triptych

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

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

“Oh, luv…”

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

“Neuro-linguistic…?”

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

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

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

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

31 years old

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

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

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

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

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

“YOU—?!”

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

No.”

“Yep. Tuesday.”

JournalQuote_RealMagic
From my personal journal, Oct. 28, 2019

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

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

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

San Fran Magic Diptych

Once and Future Favorites

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

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

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~ Favorite Character ~

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

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

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

~ Favorite Relationships ~

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

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

– Arthur x Robin Hood; see reasoning above.

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

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

~ Favorite Chapter ~

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

~ Favorite Scenes/Moments ~

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

In no particular order…

– The birth of Excalibur

– Knight vs. Hell-beast

– Wizard vs. Lady of the Lake

– Mordred in the rain

– Orkneys in the stable

– “A moment to confer”

– Spring Break Faeries

– Prayer room rebellion

– Arthur x Lancelot, shortly after Now

– Two willing tools of enemies

– Two dragons on the roof

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

~ Favorite Narrative Voice ~

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

camelot-tweet-oncemorewithfeeling.png

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

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

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

~ Favorite Quotes ~

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

– The room was thick with breath arrested.

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

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

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

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

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

The cost of immortality? A silent chuckle. Immortality.

– “The sun favors those brave of face.”

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

– Mordred’s lashes, doom of adoring maidens…

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

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

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

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

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

Camelot Tweet, BedivereIsOnFire

<<<>>>

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

The [Once and] Future is NOW!

After months of hype, #CamelotWIP is a work-in-progress no longer. That’s right: “The Once and Future Camelot” is now published!

And when I say “months of hype”, I basically mean… well, I’ve talked about it a lot on Twitter. Had a number of tie-in blog posts. Tha-a-a-at’s about it.

Was a time I’d have organized a giveaway, reached out to a legion of advance reviewers, maybe tried to put together a blog tour. But that was the ‘Once’ Deshipley. The ‘Future’ Deshipley has had neither the time nor the energy for that level of hoopla.

I’ll tell you what I do have, though: A truly great imagination that never dies. And with it, I invite you to join me in pretending that this epic novel got the promotional campaign it deserves. Heck, if we’re dreaming, let’s go all out and pretend this epic novel got a blockbusting theatrical trailer! I’ll even provide the script, complete with dialogue and imagery lifted straight from the actual book. ^_^

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[A knight and a lady engage in passionate goings-on. Murmurs of “Oh, Lance…” and “My queen…” and such in between kisses. Romantic music swells. Candlelight brightens and blurs the scene.]

Sir Bedivere voice-over: “I’ll give ‘em this.”

[Cut to Future Bedivere on a modern family room couch, munching on nachos.]

Bedivere cont.: “That was a lot more tastefully done than a number of comparable scenes we’ve viewed.”

[In the light of the television, Sir Lancelot glowers.]

King Arthur, warningly: “Bedivere.”

Bedivere: “I’m just looking for silver linings, my liege. Related point: The guy they cast to play you. Very pretty.”

[Cut to another dimly lit castle setting and a teen boy (Mordred).]

Mordred: “I believe that statement was technically treason.”

[Quietly epic music]

[Onscreen writing: EVERYONE KNOWS THE STORY.]

Elaine voice-over: “Arthur Pendragon is the chosen King… Chosen not only of the Sword, but of Heaven. And to serve him is to know Heaven on Earth.”

[Montage of a young Galahad taking in his first awesome sight of Camelot… overhead shot of the famed Round Table… Guinevere being presented to Arthur for marriage… knights bowing, banners flying, Excalibur gleaming, yadda-yadda…]

[Onscreen writing: NOBODY KNOWS THE TRUTH.]

Future Lancelot, at Merlin’s computer desk: “Tell me what happened.”

[Cut to Past Lancelot, on trial before the Round Table.]

Future Lance cont., voice-over: “Tell me it wasn’t like that.”

[Montage of basically everybody, Past and Future, looking various shades of miserable, angry, distressed…]

Merlin voice-over: “We cannot move forward until we’ve put what’s behind us to rest. …And I am not the one to remind you.”

[Restless music]

Morganne le Fey, as seen through a scrying bowl: “Merlin… What has caused you fear?”

[Cut to Vivienne, Lady of the Lake, rising like a beautiful menace from her mist-veiled waters.]

Merlin voice-over, ominous: “She’s coming.”

Morganne voice-over: “She could not do it alone.”

[Montage of the Black Knight fighting… Lancelot scowling at who-knows-what… a horned Faerie boy vanishing with a grin into a puff of purple smoke…]

[Onscreen writing: HOW DID THEY FALL?]

Past Lancelot: “I’m… sorry.”

Galahad, flinching away in fury: “Sorry? For which sin sorry?”

[Cut back to Vivienne in the lake, taunting.]

Vivienne: “Can it be that I foresee what you have not?”

[Cut to scene of epic Camlann battle.]

Vivienne cont., voice-over: “Have you yet to dream what’s coming?”

Merlin voice-over, sounding thoroughly shook: “I suppose it was simply time.”

[Cut to a tearstained Allyn-a-Dale.]

Allyn: “How long before we stop believing time to be our ally?”

[Onscreen writing: HOW WILL THEY RISE?]

Past Guinevere, in a courtyard: “I would have you fight for Arthur.”

Future Lancelot, in a parking lot: “It will take all of us.”

[Cut to Arthur, first Past then Future, looking grim as he prepares to pronounce judgement.]

Arthur voice-over, vehement: “If I am ever to be a king again, it will be because I stand up and choose to act like one.”

[Cut to Morganne blowing a bowl of magic smoke into Arthur’s face, rendering him unconscious.]

Morganne voice-over: “We stand as we see fit, little Pendragon. Trust no one any further than that.”

[Chorus of Imagine Dragons’ “Warriors blasts.]

[Montage showing Sirs Gawain, Lancelot, and Bedivere looking knightly… a monstrous dragon spewing a ball of fire… the Green Knight swinging his broadaxe in the forest, transitioning to Guinevere striking a blood-splattering blow with a sword in the moonlight… Arthur fighting shadow creatures in some nightmarish wasteland… some vaguely undead-looking figure blowing to nothing in a gale-force wind… Merlin’s eyes glowing white amidst a galaxy’s worth of burning stars…]

[Music quiets]

Merlin voice-over: “Things happen as they’re meant to.”

[Cut to Future Bedivere, chilling out of medieval uniform.]

Bedivere, flatly: “Things. Not a political scandal, not the unraveling of Camelot… just things.”

[Cut to Future Gawain, pleasantly smiling.]

Gawain: “That’s easily remedied.”

[Title card: THE ONCE AND FUTURE CAMELOT]

Future Bedivere: “A lot’s changed since before.”

Future Arthur: “I wouldn’t say ‘changed.’ I’d say ‘been brought to light.’”

Future Bedivere: “That does sound sexier.”

[Onscreen writing: IN PAPERBACK AND EBOOK NOW]

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Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

THAT’S the kind of hype I’m talking about! If you are now dying to see the movie… erm, that is, read the book, grab your paperback copy here, and/or ebook here (Barnes & Noble / Nook / epub) or here (Amazon / Kindle / mobi)! All purchases, reviews, and word-of-mouth sharing shall be most appreciated.

See you around Avalon,

~ Danielle