So Super Introductory: Meet Gravity Assist!

Hi, guys! This is Nicky, from “So Super Dead” – y’know, the young-adult paranormal novel of Danielle’s, coming out in just one week, ohmygosh! (Although you can already pre-order the e-book here and here, if you wanna support an author early.) Anyway, I’m here because Danielle and I figured that maybe, before the book’s release, you’d like to get to know some more of the story’s power players.

So far, you’ve had a chance to chat with me, Brenna, and Thackeray Kyle, back in the three-part Q&A we did a little while ago (here, here, and here). Today, I’ll give you the stats on another important character group – Second Earth* superhero team Gravity Assist! – *(Second Earth, perhaps better known to you as ‘the moon’) – complete with individual portraits, courtesy of the Powerpuff Yourself character generator. (Since, hey, the Powerpuff Girls fall into the superhero category, and the generator came with a way lower cost of time and aggravation than Danielle drawing everybody herself.)

Y’ready? Then here come the heroes!

PowerPuff G.Assist

<<<>>>

PowerPuff Max

Civilian Name = Maxima “Max” Kent-Reagan

Superhero Name = Gravity Max

Age = 19

Power = Can increase her weight and correlating gravitational force/attraction. Is actually pretty forceful/attractive in general. (If Max wants it, you can bet it will come to her.) Also, some minor super strength.

Origin Story = Max’s powers manifested during a tantrum at the age of two, much to the consternation of her parents, now forced to maneuver a 300-pound toddler through the farmers market. Mercifully, she was quick to learn that there were better ways than screaming and falling down hard enough to produce extra moon craters to get what she wanted – e.g. persuasive speaking, politic favor-trading, throwing money around or, if all else failed, physically pulling it to her.

Raised in a philanthropic household, Max grew up seeking ways to use her manifold influence for the good of the less fortunate – and who, she figured, could be considered less fortunate than the superpowerless people of First Earth? Of course, her neighboring planet was one of the few things she couldn’t simply pull into her keeping. For the mission she had in mind, Max would need to go on location.

And she didn’t plan on going alone.

<<<>>>

PowerPuff Zero.png

Civilian Name: Zoe Kent-Reagan

Superhero Name: Gravity Zero

Age: 19

Power: Can reduce her weight to nothing, along with any object (or living creature) carried on her person. Modes of travel include walking on air, floating, and flying. Was the most effortless Peter Pan ever to grace her elementary school stage.

Origin Story: Born weighing zero pounds, zero ounces, it wasn’t until age four that Zoe learned she could turn her power off and live on the ground without her twin sister helpfully holding her down. Even so, the sky is ever as likely a place to find Zoe as the library, the mall, or any of the odd jobs she takes around town to keep busy.

While many people compulsively contrast the Kent-Reagan twins with each other – dark and golden, butch and feminine, heavy and light – Zoe prefers to focus on what she and Max share in common: A drive to have the cake of their Bruce Wayne-level wealth, and eat bad guys for breakfast like Batman, too. Max’s initial suggestion was that the sisters fight for First Earth together, just the two of them. But Zoe argued that if a fight was indeed to be found, it couldn’t hurt to beef up the numbers on their side. (Less glory to go around, sure; but on the other hand, less danger of deadly defeat.) So she browsed her network for a glowing addition to their heroic collective.

And that’s just what she found.

<<<>>>

PowerPuff Trix

Civilian Name: Bettrix “Trix” de Gallowen-Yang

Superhero Name: The Luminatrix

Age: 17

Power: Can absorb light into her body and beam it back out – slow ‘n’ steady glow (full-body or localized), brilliant burst, whichever. Can also turn my best friend into putty, but that’s all on him.

Origin Story: Unlike the founders/leaders of Gravity Assist, Trix never considered herself a particularly altruistic person. (Perhaps, being only half as insanely rich as the Kent-Reagans, she felt she had, at maximum, half as much to prove.) Her power manifested in reaction to a kindergarten classmate dumping purple paint on her head. Trix would go on in junior high to unlock the trick of making her hair look any color she wanted through photo-illusion. In other news, that other kid’s eyesight that’d been light-blasted to Kingdom Come did eventually return to normal.

The invitation from her sometime English tutor Zoe to join a super team was timely, a guidance counselor having just given notice that Trix needed to come up with some community service points over the summer if she wanted to graduate in time to snag a coveted fashion world internship. The idea of facing down a robotic crime boss or whatever did not greatly appeal, but getting tapped by a Kent-Reagan was no small thing. So sure, she’d put up with Robo-Crime Boss or Whoever.

…And other annoyances.

<<<>>>

Civilian Name: Not only never mentioned in the book (because nobody important in his life ever calls him by it), but wow, I don’t know whether Danielle has any idea what his real name is. I mean, going back through her pre-drafting notes from NaNoWriMo 2012, it looks like she was thinking of calling him Gerry Ottovon. But that can’t be wholly right, because Second Earth surnames are traditionally hyphenated. Welp, that’s a puzzle she can try to work out for herself on her own time, if she wants. Or, hello, she could ask me. He’s my best friend. I obviously know his name.

PowerPuff Boomer

Superhero Name: The Boomerang

Age: 16

Power: Timed teleportation. Can materialize in any location he can see for up to five seconds before returning to his starting point. Hair displays similar bounce-back properties if you sproing it. (Ask first; don’t be awful.)

Origin Story: Unlike the rest of Gravity Assist, who finalized their superhero names in the weeks leading up to their mission, he was already going by Boomerang when we met in first grade. Other kids didn’t always know what to make of me. Boomer instantly made me his friend. In perfect keeping with his power, I wouldn’t say he’s there for me 100% of the time, but it’s guaranteed that he always comes back.

Half the time he’s gone, it’s ‘cause he’s chasing after his crush. If Zoe was the first to know about Trix’s trip to First Earth, Boomer was probably the second. Begging a spot on the team from Max was easy; the response, if I rightly recall his retelling of the conversation, was, “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have a token boy in the mix.” It would in many ways be a big step up from playing superheroes on the playground, but saving the day is nothing new for Boom.

He’s done it for me on the regular.

<<<>>>

PowerPuff Nicky

Civilian Name: Nicky Ellenbogen-Jones

Superhero Name: Xtra-Medium

Age: 16

Power: If you haven’t yet, you can read about it here!

Origin Story: The short story I linked to above covers part of it. As for the rest, I guess you could say “So Super Dead” is as much my origin story as it is a ghost’s tale of revenge and an account of a Vampire Hunter’s deception. You guys should read it, for so super sure.

<<<>>>

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

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

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

So Super Dead” – coming next Tuesday!

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Superpower Outage

Once upon a time, an author sat down and dashed off a quick little flash fic about some gender-indeterminate teenager and superpowers and shocking family secrets.

It took practically no time to write, and the author didn’t have any plans for the story beyond ‘The End’. She certainly couldn’t have predicted that the story would one day, and for some while, have a place in an online literary magazine (before said magazine vanished from the ‘net, as these things sometimes do). Or that the short story’s protagonist would make a reappearance as the narrator/one main character of three in a NaNoWriMo novel. Or that, having basically bid farewell to the idea of pursuing traditional publishing, the author would go on to someday produce a gorgeous paperback (and e-book, currently available for preorder via Amazon and Barnes & Noble) all by her independent lonesome.

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

And that novel is “So Super Dead”, to release on September 25th.

And that short story where it all began is, as of now, no longer missing from the internet, because never mind that defunct magazine – you can read the story right here, right now, in this blog post! Even though (full disclaimer) I would have you remember that this story and its world don’t entirely line up with the upgraded version you’ll get in the novel, because the flash fic was just typed up out of the blue with no rhyme or reason apart from from ‘start talking and see what happens.’

…Which, upon reflection, is truly the Nicky-est of story-making methods.

That having been said: Guys, gals, and assorted superheroes, I present to you…

Superpower Outage

So Super Dead 09 - Copy

(Also, since we’re throwing it back this far, here’s the cover idea I put together to go with “So Super Dead” back when it was just a NaNo project waiting to happen.)

<<<>>>

“Nicky, there’s something we have to tell you.”

I flicked my eyes from parent to parent. I’d known something was afoot for a couple of hours, now. They’d been jumpy from the moment I came home from practice, and all though dinner. They kept looking at each other and at me, whenever they thought I wasn’t paying attention. Like I’m not gonna pay attention when they act so fully suspicious, right? It was just as well they decided to sit me down on the couch and say whatever they planned to now, before my head exploded from the suspense.

“Okay…” I said. “So tell me.”

“Nicky, honey,” Mom began. “You know all those superpowers you’ve been noticing lately? The speed and the strength and invisibility and flight and teleportation and telekinesis and communing with dead plant matter, and all that?”

“Ye-eah…” I nodded, like “go on”.

“I suppose you’ve been wondering why you don’t have any powers like that.”

I had wondered.

“Well, Nicky, the fact is…” Dad hesitated a second before blurting, “You’re not like the rest of us.”

Well, no kidding. I mean, the whole personal power outage thing had made that glaringly obvious. All the other kids had at least one. “And if all the other kids jumped off a bridge,” I can just hear some parental voice saying, “would you want to jump, too?” Actually, yeah. Just last week, practically every friend I had had gone bridge-jumping, to see how close to a fatal ker-splat they could come before flying or teleporting or asking the ghost of a grapevine to whisk them out of harm’s way, and I totally hadn’t been allowed to go along. It stank to high heaven.

“So what’s the difference that’s screwing me over?” I asked.

Mom and Dad shared yet another look before Dad cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and laid down the big shocker: “You’re human.”

“I KNEW it! I— Wait, what?”

“You’re a human, sweetie,” said a teary-eyed Mom. “I’m so sorry, we should have told you years ago…”

“What the heck is a human??” I shouted.

“It’s basically like us,” said Dad, “except that you don’t get to do anything cool.”

“Oh, Dear, really,” Mom reproved. “Humans can do cool things, too. Sort of.”

“Like what?” I asked, totally shaken. I mean, what up?! Drop this kind of bomb on me while I’m in the midst of my volatile teenage years, why don’t you! There had better have been some good news on the way.

“Well, humans can, um… they can… create stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“Y’know. Art. Paintings and books and music; lovely stuff, all.”

“We – well, you – can make that stuff, too,” I pointed out. “Grandpa made that 4D rock opera experience for your anniversary last year, remember? With his mind.”

“Ah, but you wouldn’t simply be creating with your mind, Nicky.” Mom’s eyes were shining with optimism, now, in addition to tears of sympathy for bursting her freak child’s bubble. “You would actually have to go through a lengthy, frustrating, soul-wrenching creative process! You would have to physically paint the paintings, and write the books, and—”

“Alright, and that’s supposed to be better how?”

“I hear it’s more satisfying,” Mom said brightly.

“I hear it’s more work,” Dad muttered. “I hear it’s a lot of time and effort for a usually disappointing end product.”

“Dear, you’re not helping.”

“No, you know what?” I snapped. “It’s fine. I’m glad Dad’s telling it to me straight. It’s about dang time. How long have you guys known about this, anyway?”

Mom went back to sniffling, so Dad answered, “Ever since we found you abandoned in the mall parking lot as an infant. Whoever dumped you there left you this.”

He reached into his pocket and extracted what looked very much like a cell phone.

My voice trembled. “What is it?”

“What does it look like? It’s a cell phone.”

“Oh.”

“There’s a number programmed into the phone’s speed-dial,” Dad told me, placing the phone in my hand.

“Did you call it?”

“No.”

“Um, why not?”

“We thought we should leave the decision of whether or not to call that number up to you,” Mom wept. “After all, it’s your tale of mysterious origin, not ours.”

Fair enough, I supposed. I eyed the cell phone in my hand, my emotions a-swirl with doubts and desire. You see, I’d always wanted a cell phone, but I’d been hoping for something a little more trendy; this old thing from like a decade-and-a-half ago wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind.

Obsolete tech of lameness aside, though, the moment of truth had come. Time to figure out where I came from, and who my family was, and how in the world this thing called a human had ended up amongst real people, as I apparently had.

I pressed the speed dial button, and brought the phone up to my ear…

“Hello?

“Hey,” I said. “Who’s this?”

Why don’t you know? You dialed.”

“Well, look, no need to get touchy. I just got handed this phone a minute ago, alright? I don’t know who this number belongs to.”

May I ask who’s calling?

“Nicky Elbochen-Jones,” I answered. “…Your child?” I guessed.

Not muddy likely,” said whoever I was talking to. “I died a virgin.”

“You’re DEAD??”

Yeah, why? Who’d you say you are, again?

I threw my hands up in the air in glee, accidentally throwing the dinosaur of a phone across the room and not giving a rat’s tail about it. “I CAN TALK TO DEAD PEOPLE!” I crowed. “I’m not a human freak after all!”

“Oh, yay!” said Mom, giving me a huge hug. “Your father and I must have simply jumped to the wrong conclusion, before. You’re simply a late bloomer.”

“We should have had more faith in you, Nicky,” said Dad, clapping a hand to my shoulder.

I just grinned. Dead people whispering trumps dead plant whispering nine times out of ten. Wait ‘til the kids in my neighborhood got a load of this!

<<<>>>

The End! …Or rather, The Unforeseen Beginning.

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery

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

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

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

So Super Dead” – coming so super soon!

Cover Reveal: Still So Super Death-Filled, But Deeper

Deathsong cover, remix 01.3, headerSeptember is upon us, which means a couple of Ever On Word-related things.

Thing the first: We are now in this blog’s eighth (8th) year of existence! Happy milestone to me!

Thing the second: We are only three (3) weeks away from the release of “So Super Dead” – (you can pre-order the e-book editions now via Amazon and Barnes & Noble!) – a book which will include not only the paranormal young-adult novel of that name, but a sneak peek of the fantasy perhaps-slightly-more-new-adult novel next on my to-publish list.

“What,” you may wonder, “is new adult?” Quoth Wikipedia:

New adult (NAfiction, also rendered as new-adult fiction, is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18–30 age bracket.[1] St. Martin’s Press first coined the term in 2009, when they held a special call for “…fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult’”.[2] New adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices.

By this definition, my Outlaws of Avalon series also skews more NA than YA, by virtue of main(est) characters Allyn-a-Dale and Will Scarlet being eternally 19 and 26, respectively, and Allyn indeed being forced to negotiate new adulthood in a magical Renaissance Faire.

And by that same token, the blurb for this next novel o’ mine would indicate its qualification for new adult status:

Nineteen-year-old tavern girl Molly Worth needs a way out of the lackluster future she’s sure awaits in her small portside town. A miraculous living ship needs an ally willing to steal her away from what she’s sure will be her doom. It seems like a match ordained by the mystical Sea Queen herself, but the darkest power below has other plans for those who brave the deep.

Taken under the wing of a creature of myth, and absorbed into the uncommon crew commanded by one rakish Captain Crow, Molly begins to make her way toward the life she wants for herself, only to lose it all in an epic venture gone wrong. Now to regain what the monstrous Kraken destroyed requires that she weigh life against life, and life against death with the unnatural creature who sings to her soul.

From the author of fairytale saga “The Wilderhark Tales”, the “Outlaws of Avalon” legend, and “Inspired” love letters to the heart of creation, comes a high-seas fantasy of faith and doubt; of honor and love; and of tentacles.

KRAKEN BOO-OO-OOK! I first-drafted this project during NaNoWriMo 2013, and today, it’s Cover Reveal Time! Introducing the face of…

“Deathsong of the Deep”

Deathsong cover, remix 01.3

…designed and executed by yours truly. I am VERY MUCH looking forward to sharing this story with you, but that will have to wait ‘til February. First things first: Gotta give “So Super Dead” it’s time in the sun. (I’d insert some sort of vampire joke here, but Thackeray Kyle’s already giving me looks at the thought, so we’ll just skip along ahead.)

Come back next week for the start of all kinds of fun, “So Super Dead”-hypin’ content, leading up to (and quite probably extending past) the novel’s September 25th release. And until then…

What think of your first look at “Deathsong of the Deep”? Have any of you started reading the book I published last week, “Our Hungering Hearts”? Any favorite books of yours that, whaddaya know, fall into the “new adult” category? Talk to me in the comments below!

UPDATE: We’ve got a Goodreads links, mateys! Want to add “Deathsong of the Deep” to your want-to-read list? You can now do so here!

#OHH My Gosh, the Day Has Come!

Our Hungering Hearts, front coverHappy Release Day to “Our Hungering Hearts: A Four-Course Short Story Collection”!

On the Menu:

“Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son” = A little girl’s soul meets its match in the family diner’s most mysterious patron…

“A Mind Prone to Wander” = An assassin princess and an incognito madman brave a monster’s mechanized fortress and the pasts that left them broken…

“Reality As We Know It” = Where otherworldly magic fails, is Row’s friendship enough to mend Singer’s grieving heart?

“Date Due” = A magic library’s guardian determines to protect her treasured books, whether their authors elect to do things the easy way … or the fatal one.

Two servings of paranormal, a taste of fantasy, and a side order of steampunk – first released in various anthologies, now served up all together in one delicious combo deal. Bon appétit!

If you haven’t already ordered your copy(ies) of the e-book edition, you can do so HERE (via Amazon, for Kindle and other mobi file readers) and HERE (via Barnes & Noble, for Nook and other epub file readers) – and/or get the paperback HERE!

Because I’m so pleased about my solo anthology’s launch into the world, I am concurrently launching four new designs in my Society6 shop – one for each of the “Hungering Hearts” short stories. Observe!

1 = #Like An Escaped Convict

Escaped Convict Triptych.png

Again, the Black Man did not smile. Nor did he frown. His thin mouth was straight, his slender brows at rest, his eyes resetting to narrow after their flare of surprise. Measured and silky, he asked, “Where are your people?”

Eyes and thumb still fixed in place, Tidbit half-turned her body toward the swinging double door to the kitchen at the dining room’s far end.

“I see,” he said, flicking a glance where she’d directed, then back down to her. “And do they allow you out here to creep upon their clientele’s tables, or are you an escaped convict?”

– from “Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son”

I don’t expect ol’ Two Spoons to shop my little e-store any time soon, but just in case, I made sure this design inspired by his story included his favorite colors: Red and (most obviously) black.

2 = #Mad Pretty #Pretty Mad

Mad Pretty Quartet

The monarchs would have had yet another catastrophe on their hands if they couldn’t both keep their promise /and/ satisfy the Lord of Wings’ demand. And there was I, an amnesiac orphan. Unclaimed. Unwanted. Unhinged, though no one seemed to notice. And most importantly, a boy pretty enough to pass for a girl.

– from “A Mind Prone to Wander”

A tastefully fractured design for the beautifully insane among you, or, whatever, for the princess looking back at you from the mirror. I don’t know your life.

3 = #Real World Problems

Real World Triptych

As do we all, he knows of the Réalis — the world alongside our own. We are that world’s dreams, they are this world’s stories. And some of us, I’m told, exist in both places at once, having been born there only to be conjured here at the judges’ whim.

We call the world real — not because it is any /truer/ than ours, for it’s not, but because it is fixed, its base rules inflexible, unaffected by the merest wish of its inhabitants. Heartsinger rasps, “Why would anyone want to go there?”

– from “Reality As We Know It”

Why indeed? But hey, if you’re gonna be stuck in this reality of ours, why not weep your tears of adulting exhaustion in an Ever On Word throw pillow that gets you?

4 = #Word Wizard

Word Wizard Triptych

“Shall I be honest with you, Elizabeth?” I asked.

She said, “I wish you would.”

“Well, the truth of it is, I deeply love your work. You have a talent like no other I’ve seen.”

“Thank you,” she said, with the merest dip of her head. Not flattered, not scornful. Simply acknowledging. “I have been called something of a wizard with words. You could say it’s in my blood.”

– from “Date Due”

Whether on a mug that holds your writing beverage of choice, the notebook that holds your brainstorming notes, or the bag that totes your laptop full of story documents, this is a design for all of us who claim the pen as our magic sword. …And for any dragons who crave swaggy book merch for their hoard.

So! That’s what’s new from your gal DEShipley. If you’re in a place to do so, feel free to support my artistic endeavors with your dollars and/or – also of great importance!!! – book reviews. (Go on, don’t be shy about sharing your readerly opinions with Amazon; the Merry Men showed you how easy-peasy it can be!)

‘Til next time, dearies,

~ Danielle

The Hungering Hearts Café

What if the main characters of four separate stories convened in one peculiar place? Find out in this little something I whipped up as we wait for next week’s release of “Our Hungering Hearts”…

<<<>>>

The dark man in the diner booth watched the younger man’s approach. Voice smooth as glass, gaze sharp as the same, he said, “You are not my server.”

The younger man laughed cheerlessly. “Don’t I wish!” he said, his accent from either across the pond or a world away. “I came in to apply for a job, but of course they’re not hiring. I don’t suppose you are, for anything?”

Hungering Hearts Cafe pin, 02
From the “Reality As We Know It”-related Pinterest board

“No.”

“Just thought I’d ask,” the young one sighed, sinking to a seat on the booth’s opposite edge. “Your suit was so nice, it gave me the ghost of hope.”

“Hope can’t be a ghost ‘til it’s died,” came a female voice, clipped and cool. “I don’t believe that yours has, yet.”

The younger man turned (the dark man didn’t) toward the source of the sound – a fair woman of perhaps his own age, nursing a coffee at a nearby table. Her opulent gown suggested the proximity of a Steampunk convention.

“We can hope not,” he said soberly. “Goodness knows there’s death enough without that.”

“Yes and no.” The gowned woman’s pale brows drew down. More to herself than anyone, it seemed, she said grimly, “There’s at least one death to go before I can call things finished.”

Now the dark man’s head swiveled her way. “Oh, yes?” he said – too pleasant. Too interested. “Whose?”

She said only, “An enemy’s.”

The young man glanced between them, disturbed. The dark man half-smiled at him. “You should offer the lady your services, Row.”

“Entirely unnecessary,” said the woman, before the young man could reply or begin to wonder whether he’d told the dark man his name. “We’ve got it handled.”

“You hope you do,” said the dark man, quietly. “You fear you don’t. What’s the harm in accepting his help? He’s even less of a woman than your substitute sister.”

The woman sat still as an ice sculpture. The young man blinked, wholly confused.

Voice tight enough to strangle, she asked, “What do you know of anything?”

The dark man’s half-smile cut wider. “Everything you do.”

“Should I go?” the young man wondered aloud.

The dark man said, “Oh, stay, Rowan Charles.”

The woman’s gaze whipped toward the young man. “Is that your name?”

He frowned helplessly. “I never said it.”

Hand placed rather ominously over her place setting’s steak knife, she demanded, “Just who are you people?”

The young man spread his hands in a shrug. “I’m just a guy desperate to make a living wage.”

The dark man sipped leisurely at a glass of red wine. “And I, just a provocateur.”

Hungering Hearts Cafe pin, 01
From the “Reality As We Know It”-related Pinterest board

“Mmm,” came a savoring sound from yet another table – this one seating an older woman, a book in one hand, cup of tea in the other. “Oh, don’t mind me,” she said, when the three others minded her. “It’s just that word. Provocateur. Delicious. One doesn’t read it enough. But do please pretend I’m not here.”

“But you are,” the young woman said coldly.

An imperturbable smile from the older woman. “As a mere observer, I assure you.”

The young man and young woman traded a look. There was something decidedly off about the dining room’s elder demographic.

Downing the rest of her coffee in a concentrated gulp, the young woman rose from her table. “I think I’d best be on my way.”

“Should I… come with you?” the young man asked. If his name meant something to her, he imagined there must be an interesting reason.

She eyed him, expression closed. “Perhaps she’d want you to.”

He glanced at the older woman. “Her?”

“No,” dark man and older woman said together.

“Try to go with her,” the former suggested. “See if you can.”

“If any of us can,” said the latter, nodding, “it’s him.”

“You say that as if you don’t know for certain.”

“I don’t,” she said, irritated. “Of course I don’t, and you’ll know why. The more you drag me into this—”

“—The less of a mere observer you are.” The dark man’s half-smile had become a full, wicked grin. “Keep talking, reader, and lose yourself wholly to the story. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted most?”

“Definitely leaving,” said the young woman, striding for the door. The bell heralding her exit almost drowned out the dark man’s farewell: “Happy homicide, Your Highness.

A princess, who knew the name Rowan Charles. A dark man, who knew the thoughts in others’ heads. A reader, he’d called the older woman… what more did that mean?

The young man’s dizzying spin of questions scattered at the touch of a small hand, coming to rest on his knee. He looked down into the solemn stare of a little girl, a menu tucked under her arm. She asked, “Do you know what you want?”

Hungering Hearts Cafe pin, 03
From the “Date Due”-related Pinterest board

“I think…” he started. Stopped. Said slowly, “More than anything, now, I’m hungry for the whole story.”

Stories,” said the older woman. “And you’ll not find them here.”

“No,” the dark man agreed. “Not in the overlap. This is a Venn diagram best read one circle at a time.”

“My Library has a copy,” the older woman said. A sneer darted across her face. “For now. You’re welcome to read it while you can.”

A silky voice not the young man’s own warned in his head, I wouldn’t.

“I should… get home,” the young man decided.

The dark man nodded amiably. “While you have one.”

The older woman tsked. “Cruel.”

“Yes.”

“Here,” said the little girl. She handed the young man a name tag.

“Thank you,” he said, puzzled. The name was not his.

The dark man’s expression softened at the little girl’s logic. “People with name tags have jobs, you see.”

Tears pricked at the young man’s smile. “Thank you,” he said again, and departed.

The dark man’s thoughts snaked toward the woman. Nobody left but us monsters. Can you find your way out?

She silently sipped at her tea, reply unspoken. There is only ever one way out, Black Man.

The end.

<<<>>>

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

On the Menu:

“Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son” = A little girl’s soul meets its match in the family diner’s most mysterious patron…

“A Mind Prone to Wander” = An assassin princess and an incognito madman brave a monster’s mechanized fortress and the pasts that left them broken…

“Reality As We Know It” = Where otherworldly magic fails, is Row’s friendship enough to mend Singer’s grieving heart?

“Date Due” = A magic library’s guardian determines to protect her treasured books, whether their authors elect to do things the easy way … or the fatal one.

Two servings of paranormal, a taste of fantasy, and a side order of steampunk – first released in various anthologies, now served up all together in one delicious combo deal. Bon appétit!

Add the book on Goodreads! Pre-order the e-book! (Amazon, or Barnes & Noble) Both e-books and paperback editions release next week; see you on Launch Day!

Did You Kn-#OHH?

So, heeey! As I’ve been mildly remiss in shouting about, these last months, “Our Hungering Hearts: A Four-Course Short Story Collection” (#OurHungeringHearts #aka #OHH) is scheduled to launch in two (2!) weeks.

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

(Have you added it to your Goodreads “want-to-read” list? Because you ca-a-an! You can also pre-order the e-book, via Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble)

Most of my relative silence on the subject has been due to busyness with a hundred other things. Working at Yosemite. Leaving Yosemite. Searching for work in Fresno. Buying a car (which, just… wow. What a process. I’m starting to better understand why “Ballad”-era Will Scarlet elected to acquire transportation the easy way). Not to mention prepping “So Super Dead” – y’know, that other book that’s coming out one month behind “Hungering Hearts”.

But the rigors of adulting is no excuse! Neither is the fact that I’ve already hyped all of these stories before, when they first released in their respective anthologies. There’s always something new to say, if you’re chatty enough. (Which I very much can be. Will Scarlet came by the trait honestly. Unlike his car.)

In honor, then, of keeping our mouths busy, here’s a tasty array of tidbits I don’t think I’ve shared before (interspersed with stuff I totally shared before, because #NeverForget). DID YOU KNOW…?

– The collection’s first story is just chockablock with aliases. Tidbit, the Black Man, Two Spoons … both the character, and the title. Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son is the title I originally used. Though presented in Xchyler Publishing’s “Legends and Lore” as Two Spoons only, “Our Hungering Hearts” restores the story name to its full, head-turning glory.

– By fun coincidence, all four of the stories in the collection are narrated in 1st-person (which, as one could deduce from all of my published novels and novellas to date, is not my automatic go-to; I’m often more of a 3rd-person gal). And in two of the tales, we’re never given the narrator’s name. It would probably wear me out having to work like that in a full-length work (I wonder how Daphne du Maurier felt about doing so in “Rebecca”), but for short stories, it can be an interesting exercise to see what you gain and/or lose by featuring nameless characters.

– Throwback! Read (or reread!) a character interview with Reality As We Know It’s Heartsinger, on the blog of fellow Xchyler alum Ginger Mann.

My Love, My Heart, My Singer: A Walk Through the Abréal

– In keeping with my Wilderhark side, A Mind Prone to Wander draws inspiration from multiple fairytales – Jack and the Beanstalk, Bluebeard, a touch of Beauty and the Beast, and an aesthetic or two from the Arabian Nights.

Date Due is the ONLY story in the book that isn’t based on other characters of mine. Although – (Easter egg!) – one of the books in the story’s magical Library shares a title with another short story in “Beyond the Wail”, the anthology in which Date Due debuted.

– Throwback! Enjoy this sampling of images from the A Mind Prone to Wander Pinterest board, “Skycastle, Arcan-Nest, and Beyond”. …and/or click here to visit the whole board!

Mind Prone to Wander, Pinterest

– The twin princesses in A Mind Prone to Wander are mirror images of each other – as are, in a way, their names. Broken into pieces, Bellamy = Belle (beauty, in French) + Amie (friend, in French); and, same but reverse, Caralinda = Cara (dear, in Italian) + linda (beautiful, in Spanish). Yes, we authors do live for this sort of thing.

– If I had to pick a “Hungering Hearts” character with which I most closely identify… Yeah, it’s gotta be the draconic Librarian. Though I must give a secondary shout-out to Row from Reality As We Know It (because, whoof, his dispiriting job hunt has recently become too darn relatable), the parallels between me and the Librarian are blatant. Books. Tea. Questionable sanity. That’s all me. (Also, I half-lied, if setting counts as character: I totally based her house off of mine.)

– Throwback! Read (or reread!) a character interview with Date Due’s word wizard, on the blog of fellow Xchyler alum A. F. Stewart.

Beyond the Wail: Fireside Chat with Elizabeth Young

– If I had to pick a favorite “Hungering Hearts” character… that would be cruel, so I’ll be weak and pick one fave per story.

Two Spoons = the devil’s son himself (because I *heart* me a villain)

A Mind Prone to Wander = Arinward, Steward of Arcan-Nest (because his letters are champion)

Reality As We Know It = can I say the murdering Irishman? Is that allowed?

Date Due = the books (I told you: I’m the Librarian)

– If I had to pick the “Hungering Hearts” story that was most enjoyable to write… I think it was Two Spoons. I ~relished~ that one. The others were more painful, because character suffering. Whereas, for any suffering in Two Spoons, I was in Black Man mode, meaning yes, good, the pain of others; that and a scoop of ice cream, please. That guy would make a great author.

Well, would you look at that: We’ve arrived at a full-length blog post! I guess I had a handful of things left to say, after all. ;D And if YOU’VE got things to say, I hope you’ll put them in the comment section down below.

Out of the Mouths of Book Babies

Seventh Spell: “My, my, would you look at the time.”

Legend of Allyn-a-Dale: “What sort of time? Time travel? Time suspended? Or a race against time, like you?”

Wilderhark Covers, half 1

Seventh Spell: “Um… closest to the last? I only meant, she’s got another pair of books coming out soon.”

Out of My Head: “Twins, like Inspired and me?”

Surrogate Sea: “Not a double release. Not even related. Just launching close together.”

Out of My Head: “Ooh, fun! Which ones?”

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover
Coming August 28th!

Sky-Child: “First up, a short story collection, like me.”

Truly Great Words Never Die: “And like me; plus the same artist helped out with cover illustration!”

Inspired: “Like me, too, since it’s something of a re-release.”

Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale: “Our Hungering Hearts. Oh, that is a unique cover.”

Song Caster: “That neon effect! Where were her fancy tricks like that when she was putting the words on our covers?”

Stone Kingdom: “Well, do remember, she was only getting started.”

Song Caster: “Oh, that’s right. We were just the practice children. It’s the Outlaws she handed all over to the professionals.”

Inspired: “That just means the rest of our faces bear her special touch. But let’s not forget to welcome her second book on the horizon.”

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery
Coming September 25th!

Story’s End: “So Super Dead. I love it. So dark.”

Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale: “I thought it was a comedy?!”

Surrogate Sea: “Oh, Ballad, you ought to know better than any of us: Even her most lighthearted adventures have their undertones.”

Story’s End: “And I mean, death is right there in the title.”

Ballad: “But… just temporary death, right?”

Truly Great Words: “I don’t see anything in the blurb about truly great legends. Still, if a significant portion of the main cast is dead to begin with, we can only assume it doesn’t much impede their ability to contribute to the plot.”

Seventh Spell: “How many books does this make, now?”

Inspired: “Including e-book only titles?”

Avalon Christmas Carol: “Please.”

Inspired: “In that case, this will make 17 exclusively-Deshipley fiction releases. Plus my journal.”

Wilderhark Covers, half 2

Out of My Head: “17, wow! How does she remember all of us? Wait, does she even? Hey, Number One! You haven’t been forgotten, have you?”

Swan Prince: “Certainly not. On the contrary, she’s always sure to carry plenty of me to any books events, since I’m the series starter.”

Story’s End: “Must be nice.”

Avalon Christmas Carol: “Oh, hush, you got a huge launch party on Facebook.”

Marriage: “I didn’t even get a giveaway. Though she was willing to beg crowdfund my cover…”

Stone Kingdom: “Give the woman a break. She’s poor and tired and depressed.”

Song Caster: “Indeed. Thanks to Swan Prince.”

Outlaws of Avalon covers, all 5

Swan Prince: “Excuse me?”

Song Caster: “Fact. Publishing you while working at the Renaissance Faire wore her out and triggered her first big drop into depression. And not to call the kettle black, but you’re not exactly a bestseller.”

Legend: “At least Swan Prince has reviews in the double digits.”

Inspired: “I used to have a few, before my relaunch…”

Sun’s Rival: “And lack of reviews doesn’t mean we’re not being read! Readers love us!”

Surrogate Sea: “Readers love you.”

Story’s End: “What readers? Who’s saying they read us? Nobody.”

Sun’s Rival: “Not nobody…”

Story’s End: “Fewer than the little crowd we had back in Swan Prince’s day. I think they’re all tired of us.”

Marriage: “Surely it’s not that. We’re just… a lot to keep up with.”

Legend: “Ha, yes. We are legion, and they… Well, they mostly haven’t heard of us.”

Song Caster: “Whose fault is that?”

Out of My Head: “Don’t say hers! She’s trying her best!”

Story’s End: “And what good will her best do the two on the way?”

Inspired: “What do you want from her? Song Caster, Story’s End, what is it you want?”

Story’s End: “I don’t want anything. I’m just gloomy.”

Song Caster: “And I… I just want… I’m afraid.”

Sky-Child: “Afraid? You? Of what?”

Song Caster: “Of not being everything she wants us to be. Of all of us being… disappointments.”

Stone Kingdom: “Oh, Song Caster… It is not we that disappoint her.”

Covers 1, 2, and Journal

Inspired: “She gives all she can to make us beautiful. And beautiful we are. She’s proud of us, her body of work. Sometimes, she’s even proud of herself. It’s only poor luck that she hasn’t yet found a way to give us the audience we deserve.”

Song Caster: “Maybe if we had a big publisher…?”

Inspired: “No guarantee. There are success stories and failures no matter which publishing road you take.”

Out of My Head: “But she’s NOT a failure! It’s too early to say ‘she never hit it big,’ because look – she’s still making books! Hungering Hearts could find its audience. So Super Dead could capture public imagination. Or maybe the next title, or the one after that… Or even any one of us, later in life! While we exist, it’s not too late!”

Story’s End: “Very ‘while there’s life, there’s hope’. I believe So Super Dead will have something to say about that.”

Seventh Spell: “Inspired 2’s right, though. We’ve still got time.”

Sun’s Rival: “And succeed or fail, she’ll always love us.”

Inspired: “Of course she will. She is our mother.”