A Cuppa Curiosity

Today, for your reading pleasure, a bit of flash fiction written by yours truly. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

He offered me a cuppa. Quite decent of him, too.

“I suppose I could. Just one, as you insist…”

“I do,” he said, and handed me the cup and saucer. “One lump or two?”

I confess I was a bit slow in answering – may have actually gawped a bit. “I, um… Sorry, but is this tea?”

“Why, no,” he said. “One letter removed, as it happens.”

I held a cup of the sea.

The living sea. A breathing, seething thing. Foamy waves crashed up against their porcelain boundary. I swore I could hear a gull cry.

I said, dubious, “I’m not sure a whole sugar bowl could counter the salt. Is it entirely safe to drink?”

“Well, what is?” he said cheerfully. “Entirely safe, I mean. A proper tea might scald your tongue, set you choking, cover the taste of poison… I knew a fellow, once, who killed himself on orange juice. But never you worry about the salt. The pot will have strained most of it out.”

“Two lumps, in that case. And a spoon of honey, if you’ve got it.”

“Of course, not at all. And I’ll just be back with the biscuits.”

Sea and biscuits. Yes, quite decent of him. I sipped at my bit of ocean, and thought he and I might make rather good friends after all.

A Cuppa Sea

The story’s inspiration.

<<<>>>

Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha – and/or holler at me if you’d like to read an early e-copy of the upcoming Outlaws of Avalon 2.5 for the low, low price of an honest review!

In Pace Requiescat

Once upon a time, there was a broken author.

Following a period of psychological trauma, she lost her voice – she feared, forever. But broken or not, she tried to put words to paper. And when she could not dream up the tale of another, she transcribed a fragment of her own. Weary and sad, she opened her scribble of a short story with the naked truth: “She felt so very tired…

And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.

And that short story went on to win a prize in a creative writing contest.

And you can totally watch the footage of me performing the piece – “In Pace Requiescat” – at the award ceremony. (Video, courtesy of my mother; upload courtesy of my father. Thanks, parents! <3)

WNPL Story Read-aloud

Isn’t that something, though? Even mired down at my lowest point – because of that, even – I created something worthwhile.

Don’t get me wrong: If I could go back and avoid that lowest of low points, I would. I’m still not healed enough to work on drafting a full-length novel – a frustration which leaves me feeling pretty blue, some days. And yet, my voice was not strangled wholly silent after all. I wrote this little story, and won a thing. I’ve subsequently written other short stories, which may or may not get accepted where I’ve submitted them. (Still waiting to hear back. *fingers crossed*) I am still making words.

Maybe I’m a little bit dead inside. But maybe I’m a little bit alive, too.

In Pace Requiescat

The Moon in the Attic, Part 3

Today, for your reading pleasure, the conclusion of a short story written by yours truly. (Part 1, here; Part 2, here.) Enjoy!

<<<>>>

“Goodbye?” I cry. “You’re leaving the sky?”

The moon replies, I’m seriously considering it.

“But, the night!” I protest.

Can get along without me. There are still the stars, after all.

“But, the tides!”

I’ll find a replacement satellite. Your planet’s waters won’t know the difference.

“But… but…!” I’m running low on arguments. “What about me?”

The moon’s song turns sad. I know it will be hard

“Not hard,” I say. “Impossible. Some days, you’re my only light in the darkness. Some days, yours is the only beauty that can reach me. Without that… without you…” Tears ambush my eyes. “How can I last the night?

“Look. I get it. Burnout is a thing – even lunar burnout, apparently. Maybe the rhythm of the heavens is no better than the human rat race. Maybe you need a vacation. And you’re welcome to it! Hideout for a cycle or two. Make my attic your rehab retreat. But it can’t be forever. Please.”

Bawling seems a little more dramatic than I’d planned, but here we are. Blame it on the lateness of the hour. Everything’s awful at two a.m.

The moon’s soft light is like a stroking hand, attempting to soothe. Its music is all shushes and coos.

Suppose, it says at last, we can reach a compromise?

Compromise. Noun. That thing where nobody wins.

Suppose I leave the sky, it muses on, but not your sight?

I sniffle back another sob. “How would that even work?”

Open your eyes.

I do, and move to swipe the tears away, but the moon’s light stops me. It’s brighter than ever. Insistently so. More tears well up against the glare, but never get a chance to fall. The light is pushing back. Pushing… in.

“Personal spaaace!” I wail. “What are you doing?!”

I don’t get an answer. I rub at my eyes, and the huge glowing crescent is gone. Yet, the nighttime attic around me hasn’t dimmed.

A whisper inside says, Look in the window.

Not out the window. In.

There in the glass, my ghostly reflection. And there in my eyes…

Moonlight.

Part 3’s inspiration, as seen on the “Sun’s Rival”-inspired #ISeeYou Pinterest board – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/383931936965233854/

To carry with you, says the whisper, through the dark. I will not leave you, my child.

“Wow,” I say, because wow. “But… what about finding that replacement satellite?”

The whisper sounds like some extraterrestrial cuss. Maybe it’s not too late to get a message to Pluto and Charon. Up on the roof, love, and blink exactly as I tell you

For the end of the story, this seems an awful lot like an incredible beginning.

<<<>>>

Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha – including my latest release, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book 2)”. Already read it? I’d greatly appreciate your review!

The Moon in the Attic, Part 2

Today, for your reading pleasure, the continuation of a short story written by yours truly. (Part 1, here; Part 3, coming later this week.) Enjoy!

<<<>>>

“Why on Earth is the moon in my attic?”

I don’t expect an answer, given that I don’t expect the moon can talk.

But it can. And does. Not in English, or even in words, but in… well, I guess it would be best described as music.

It says something like hello, and sorry to have disturbed you. I gather that it hadn’t intended to introduce itself until morning.

“Oh, that’s all right,” I say, because polite, inoffensive lies are my conversational default. One day I’ll slip up and tell someone what I really think, and then the world will end.

Truth is, I’m not terribly upset to find the moon in my house. Is this in any way logical? No. Can the ramifications of this event be anything short of disastrous? Likely not. Should I be contacting somebody about this? I don’t know who, but probably yeah.

But the moon knows me. I hear my name in its song.

And I know the moon. Sort of.

In one sense, it’s like a favorite celebrity. I know the moon’s stats. I can list its achievements. I recognize its face every time it shows up in pictures.

In another sense, it’s like an old friend. The sight or thought of the moon warms my heart. I feel the love in its light. It’s just always been there, the way family is.

The shining crescent says, Because family is what we are.

Part 2’s inspiration, as seen on the “Sun’s Rival”-inspired #ISeeYou Pinterest board – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/383931936962803207/

Confusion contorts my face. “Biological?”

It laughs. Nothing so Earthly as that. But you hold a part of me. And so you are my child.

I’m somewhere between touched and giddy. “That’s… special. But why are you here?”

The moon’s music sighs. I am old and tired and thin.

“Like a hobbit spread over too much bread?” I’m pretty sure that’s not quite the quote, but I’m tired, too, if not so old. My head’s too full of missing my pillow to bother with first-rate Tolkien references.

Like a moon, it says, with too many phases behind it. Wax and wane, wax and wane… I haven’t the will to grow full again.

So I’ve come down to tell you goodbye.

<<<>>>

Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha – including my latest release, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book 2)”. Already read it? I’d greatly appreciate your review!

The Moon in the Attic, Part 1

Today, for your reading pleasure, the first part of a short story written by yours truly. (Parts 2 and 3 to come later this week.) Enjoy!

<<<>>>

It’s times like these I wish I had a husband.

I’ve told myself I’m not the marrying kind. That my need for solitude and personal space far outweighs my sometimes-desire for romance. That I’d have no hope of a good night’s sleep if I had to share a bed, particularly if my bedmate were known to snore. Or even breathe loudly. Or touch me.

On the other hand, unexplained rustles and thumps in the attic don’t do much toward a restful night, either.

It’s probably burglars. Murdering ones. Or raccoons. Zombie ones. Or a spider of unearthly proportions.

I’m going to die tonight.

Had I a husband, I’d send him up with a broom or a BB gun to take care of whatever unholy pest has come to plague our home. Instead, it’s single, sleepless little me up those stairs. Clutched in my hands, a sizeable stick. Jammed on my head, my Adventure Hat. (Or, for tonight’s purposes, my Guard My Hair From Cobwebs ‘n’ Such Hat.) Tingling in my veins, a potent form of chronic anxiety that can morph into berserker rage at need. …Or anytime I’m harassed by a housefly.

Every dusty step creaks beneath me. Every breath contains a whispered whimper. Have I lived my best life? Have I any regrets? It’s not actually too late to go back downstairs and just burn the house to the ground…

I reach the trapdoor to the uppermost story, and heaven above, there’s a weird glow shining through the cracks. Bright white light, bordering on blue. Not zombie raccoons at all, then. Mutant raccoons. From space.

Therefore, not a spider! That’s some comfort, at least. Feeling slightly less terrified, I push open the door, and…

That is the moon.

That is the moon.

The moon.

Is in.

My attic.

The story’s inspiration.

<<<>>>

Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha – including my latest release, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book 2)”. Already read it? I’d greatly appreciate your review!

The Ballad of the Scarlet Scarf

Once upon a time, an author received some Christmas cash from a kindly old relative.

“Make sure to spend it on something special,” the K.O.R. stipulated – which, as far as the author was concerned, usually translated into “new books, hooray!

But books are not the only special thing, and so the author determined to keep her mind open for a truly out-of-the-ordinary treat.

And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.

litographs-logo

And that truly out-of-the-ordinary treat was to be found on Litographs.com, a shop dedicated to taking something special – books – and making it into something more – books’ insides on t-shirts, totes, and scarves!

The titles to choose from were many, but I knew right away what I wanted: An infinity scarf featuring the text from Howard Pyle’s “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”.

Will Scarlet was likewise excited. “HECK YEAH, my name around your neck! And Allyn’s, spelled wrong! :D”

The order was placed; the scarf printed, shipped, and delivered; the package opened and delighted over and—

“Wait,” said Will, inspecting the scarf line by line, first on one side, then the other, then both all over again. “It’s not there. My name’s not there.”

For the scarf’s text had started at the book’s beginning, and there was not space to print the whole. It stopped after the first 30 thousand words or so – some way before the chapters introducing Will and Allyn.

Will was devastated.

ariel-crying

A short while of his weeping and lying catatonic later, he sprung into action. “Quick, back to the website! Check their exchange policy!”

The policy declared it was all about 100% satisfaction – which, with Will this heartsick over being left off my scarf, we could not be said to have attained. So I mailed it back, and on the online returns/exchanges form spake thus:

While I have no complaint regarding the scarf’s quality (it’s lovely), I* was keenly disappointed to see that my most beloved passage from Howard Pyle’s “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood” was nowhere to be found thereon. So I would like to exchange this scarf for another in the same style, but this time featuring Part Fourth, Chapter One – Robin Hood and Allan a Dale**.

*(cough) I may have left the details re: my emotional character friend out of it.

**Aka, a key inspiration behind the happenings of the newly released Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”. ^o^

The Litographs rep who replied (shout-out to Jack) most graciously informed me that they were unable to just start printing from somewhere in the middle of a book.

“Customize!” Will hollered in my head, because there was the option to order a (moderately more expensive) custom scarf, on which could be printed whichever approx. 30K-word text I uploaded, provided the words were either owned by me (no) or in the public domain (yes!).

Me: “Would that work?”

Jack the Repper: “Sure thing! Here’s a refund for your first scarf, and a link to Project Gutenberg, which may well have the text you seek, saving you the time and trouble of typing it all out yourself.”

…Which, for Will Scarlet, I would have done, if necessary. But happy days, Project Gutenberg had the book’s text online, requiring of me only a little basic copy/pasting.

Fast-forward a few days, to when this new-and-improved beauty arrived…

robin-hood-scarf-on-me

…to much Scarlet rejoicing.

*James Madison voice* “HIGHLIGHTS!”

*James Madison voice* “HIGHLIGHTS!”

Now I’ve got my Merry Minstrel’s Pyle-told tale in three editions – two hardcover books, and a scarf!

robin-hood-scarf-and-books

“What,” Allyn murmurs, “you couldn’t have changed the spelling from ‘Allen’ to ‘Allyn’ when preparing your custom text upload?”

……

…………

The scarf is perfect, shut up.

Legends and Lore[n] (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

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

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

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

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

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Our wizardly employer, Merlin, once described her thus:

McCaughley. Corsets McCaughley, I think of her, to keep her straight with her sister, a jester. But her proper name is Loren. Loren Elaine. … This will be her second year at the Faire. Signed up in the middle of last season to help a short-staffed shop; had the time of her life, so she told me; and the rest is history on my hard drive, somewhere.

“Welcome, Loren!” Will greets the young woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – what makes you think you’re good enough for my Allyn?”

Loren’s reactive noise is laugh-like, incredulous. Her scrunched-up expression sends one brow on the rise. “What are you, his mother?”

“Nope. Just his best friend 5ever.”

“I see. Well, if by good enough for him, you mean good enough to play his lady love in a Renaissance Faire skit, the panel of judges at my audition apparently thought so well of me.”

“In that case, congrats. Would it be fair to describe the role as your dream job? (Since, y’know, your book’s summary straight-up describes it that way.)”

A more genuine laugh-sound. “More or less. I mean, technically, I just wanted to be an actual Merry Man, but this is the closest I’ve gotten to that, so yeah – we’ll call that dream-living.”

Eyes narrowed into a pseudo-intellectual regard, Will inquires, “What is it about the Robin Hood mythos that so deeply appeals to you?”

A tuneless whistle sends a stray strand of hair flying before she brushes it back with the rest of her glossy dark ponytail. “Who even knows what set it off? One day I’m reading the stories in grade school, the next my soul’s begging me to run away to Sherwood. Maybe it’s that fairytale forest setting, of the thrill of stave fights and archery, or the minstrel’s music, or the daring robberies, laughing all the way out of Nottingham’s treasury… You all just make the outlaw life seem so much fun, you know? Ha – ‘you all.’” An amused shake of the head. “As if you’re anything nearer to the real thing than I am.”

“Yeah…” Will Scarlet smiles languidly into the camera. “As if. Did you figure going into the audition that you had the gig in the bag?”

Not Loren’s actual headshot – but wow, stupid close!

Not Loren’s actual headshot – but wow, stupid close!

“Oh, zounds, no. For all I knew, they were looking for a Type, and why would I assume I fit it? Just because the BBC included Anjali Jay among their Merry Men, didn’t mean the Faire would automatically be like, ‘So, for Allyn’s bride, yeah, let’s go Indian. Or at least half that. And make her plus-sized.’ Vexing but true, that’s just not the usual go-to.”

“And yet,” Will observes, “here you are.”

“Here I am,” Loren agrees, smiling broadly. “Talent triumphs. Love overcomes. What a time to be alive.”

“Talking of time, and ways to pass it: When not geeking out over your faux beau and co., your hobbies include…?”

“A bunch of other geeky stuff,” Loren admits. “I’m just that crowd. Theatre, dated music, classic lit… Getting dragged to comic stores and cons by my kid sister, listening to my ex make love to Shakespeare…”

Will sits bolt upright. “Your boyfriend left you for Shakespeare?!”

Loren cracks up. “Maybe would’ve if he could’ve, but no.”

“Oh, well. Guess we’ll have to look elsewhere for scandal. Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret? Or would you rather kiss me? Bearing in mind,” he adds, “that I am Will Scarlet, and therefore a Merry Man, and therefore you’ve basically been waiting to kiss me your whole life, right?”

Loren’s dart-about gaze suggests a search for escape routes. “Um…”

“I’ll do it!” a voice calls out from the audience. “Take me, Will! I love you!”

Loren squints past the lights. “My sister’s here?? Janey, sit down. You’re not—”

“Aw, let her up,” says Will, grinning brightly. “It’s all within the spirit of the show, if not the law’s letter. Lay one on me, Janes!”

An albino-blond teen barrels down the aisle and onto the stage, taking a flying leap into Will’s waiting arms. They kiss like a rom-com’s happy ending, complete with a flamboyant twirl.

“Thespians,” says Loren, eyes rolling to the rafters. “Allyn, what’s the word from your sponsor?”

Cheeks and ears gone abruptly pink, Allyn pronounces, “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment is brought to you by The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale (Outlaws of Avalon, Book 2)’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

marriage-cover-final-front

There’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.

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