Little NaNo, Big Successes

A text from a cherished friend: “Forgot to wish you happy NaNoWriMo!! Are you participating this year?”

What I say: “Not officially. If the muse allows, there are a handful of projects I’d like to work on. But I shan’t pressure myself to meet any metrics of progress. We’ll just keep it chill and see what art gets made. ^_^”

My panicky ass while composing the text: Can you even call it NaNo participation if you don’t sign into the site to announce a project and count your words? And without that day-to-day accountability, will you actually force yourself to accomplish anything? Yeah sure whatever, this isn’t supposed to be about ‘forcing’ anything, I know… but will the ‘keep it chill’ method /really/ result in art getting made, or will the 30 days of November slip by with little to nothing to show for it?

And legit, at the time, I had my major doubts. But the view from today – a third of the way into the month – is a different matter.

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NaNo Project #1 (Ongoing): Hell Will Be Lucky to Have Us*

Perhaps it was only a matter of time. But you guys… I’ve given the “Big City, Little Magics” band their own Tumblr blog.

I wanted them to have a space to talk about whatever and share stuff they like and whatnot. And I figure it’s only fitting that the blog get its start now, during the one-year NaNoVersary of BCLM’s creation.

So if any of you like hanging out on Tumblr, feel free to follow my fictional faves @assortedbaysidebitches

*Blog title inspired by that one line from Pot Chip in Book 2, pah-haha

*

NaNo Project #2 (Complete): The Love in the Lines

From post-draft reflections in my journal:

I’d thought at first that this story needed to be a longer journey, like “The Self-Construction of Couch”. But when I tried starting the story that way, it didn’t feel right. Too… distant? Too dry?

In any case, when I tried this new way in, the words flowed much more comfortably. It put me in that space I love – sitting with the characters, watching how they live, listening to their chatter.

It just felt good, good, good. Making that story happen. Showing Amygdala and Sleeves in their togetherness. Granting Sleeves a joyful gift I’ve been wanting for him in canon.

Interested readers can find the completed short story here, among the growing BCLM collection on Wattpad.com. (It’ll live in the “Extra-Little Magics” section.)

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NaNo Project #3… (As Yet Unstarted)

I won’t talk about this one yet, because sometimes it’s easier to do a thing when no one else knows anything about it. Maybe I’ll break ground on this project within the next few weeks, or maybe I won’t. I’m less scared at the notion of the latter now, having already made myself this pleased with Projects 1 and 2.

Also helping me maintain some of that chill I’ve aspired to, the coming across of the following poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

What is Success?

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;


This is to have succeeded.

To realize how many of these things I have accomplished in these first 33 years of life is a comfort to me.

This may not be the NaNo-est NaNo I’ve done. But I’m sure Ralph Waldo Emerson would agree: It is a Success.

‘Til another successful day,
~ Danielle

Chess Not Checkers

I’ve done it again, folks. ‘It’ being the writing of another story in the “Big City, Little Magics” ‘verse – this one longer than a flash fic, shorter than a novella. Think the same sort of scope as “A Thing About Sleeves”.

Timewise, this story starts at the end of Book 1’s climactic moment. Voicewise, this is our first BCLM tale narrated by Telemachus Cannon. Plotwise, it’s about Manchester’s fears and Tel’s desires and the struggle of learning to live with yourself/selves.

Titlewise, I call it “Chess Not Checkers”. And you can read it here, grouped within my “Extra-Little Magics” collection.

What made me want to go back and explore that piece of the greater BCLM story? Ha, what else? The want came from Tel. I felt it in a dream one night, and was compelled to follow it onto paper. And actually, I’d thought that this project would require an Act II to go with the section I was working through. But ultimately, Act I felt whole on its own, so I let it reach its natural end, and we’ll just have to wait and see whether the Act II thoughts I had ever end up in another story down the line. One never knows.

Case in point: This time a year ago, my AU San Francisco full of witches (and not-witches), dragons, selkies, etc. wasn’t even a twinkle in my authorial eye. I was straight-up doubtful that I would ever complete a new writing project again. Yet here I am now – 100% trash for this world, a diehard groupie for the band, with three novellas and hella small fics (and counting) up to share on Wattpad.com.

Hashtag blessed, y’all.

‘Til next we wanna,

~ Danielle

Big Heart, Little Braveries

I mentioned in my last post that I was working through some personal issues – how else? – by writing yet another sequel to “Big City, Little Magics”.

Since that post (*waves back to distant mid-July*), I am happy to report that:

1) I have bid farewell to a workplace I was more than ready to leave and gained temporary employment elsewhere. To leave the devil I knew was brave. To try my chances with the devil unknown, also brave. Plus the temp gig’s duties include making a lot of phone calls, and if that doesn’t take bravery, what does??

2) Five years after falling into obsession with the soundtrack – and fifteenish months after the heartbreak of our tickets to the show succumbing to the plague – Tirzah and I finally got to watch the musical “Hamilton” onstage. Strangely enough, allowing yourself to reach for a good time can take more bravery than you think. Not just the part where you have to find decent parking in San Francisco, either. The part where you have to make your heart big enough to hold old wounds and new joys together.

3) And oh yeah, I finished the story! A brave project to undertake, yet less scary to try than this series’ first installment. After all, with every little magical tale I create with these characters, the surer I am that it wasn’t a fluke – I’ve really rediscovered my writing.

Presenting my latest from the BCLM world:

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Once upon a time, there was a road trip…

Farther back.

Once upon a time, there was a slaughter…

Farther.

Once upon a time, an unbearable goodbye…

Back.

Once upon a time, there was a monster…

*

Once upon a time, and again, and again,

Several times upon a time, there was a darkness.

And the dark contained a demon – or, perhaps, a deity…

Certainly, the dark contained a dragoness.

*

But ‘contained’ is not the word. Nothing kept in check about it,

Though she fought to hold herself controlled and tight.

Shadows leaking out the cracks, blackness creeping past the edges,

And we all know only wrongness shuns the light.

Right?

*

What if

Once and twice and thrice the monster reached across the times,

Claiming all the potent power of the inverse of the sun?

What if

Time could be rewritten through the act of self-alliance?

If the dragon truly saves herself in this one?

*

What would having that do?

Dream it true.

*

The Self-Construction of Couch” – now available to read (for free! Or for Ko-Fi tips, if it please ye) on Wattpad.com.

‘Til next we brave this life together,

~ Danielle

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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!”