By Any Other Height

I’ve noticed something peculiar about me.

Say I’m imagining Sleeves, my rock ‘n’ roll dragon homeboy from the “Big City, Little Magics” ‘verse. As near as I can figure, Sleeves happens to be about 5-feet-6-inches tall. And yet, in my imagination, I tend to be viewing him from above. As if I am more than 5-feet-6-inches tall.

Same thing happens when I envision myself alongside my “Wilderhark Tales” / “Outlaws of Avalon” minstrels, Gant-o’-the-Lute and Allyn-a-Dale – both of them in the neighborhood of 5’3”, 5’4”.

And mind you: I too am 5’3”.

So why in the worlds do I picture myself as being so much taller?

For that matter, how much taller do I seem to think and/or feel I am?

As tall as Robin Hood’s right-hand Merry Man, Little John, at 7 feet? No, not nearly; everyone, including my imaginary self, has to look up at him.

What about Sir Wilbur Lamb, from my “Inspired” novels? His in-world author Annabelle marked him down as 6’1”, and I find myself looking up at him, too.

So, good, we’re narrowing this down. Do I think I’m 5’11”, as Manchester Leif noted himself to be in “The Self-Construction of Couch” (BCLM, book 3)? Not quite; he feels a little taller than me – as does Will Scarlet, at 5’10”.

That leaves me apparently thinking I’m somewhere between 5-foot-7 or -9-inches tall – at least on the inside.

I have no idea why my brain behaves this way, but it’s easily the least of my problems.

*

In marginally related news, I’ve lately written another “Big City, Little Magics” short story!

Starring whom: Manchester Leif.

Set roughly when: A short while after Book 3.

What it’s about: Coming out of a soul-fog and into yourself.

The title: “By Any Other Name”.

You’re welcome to read it for free (in the “Extra-Little Magics” section) on ArchiveOfOurOwn.org (also known, AO3).

‘What?’ says somebody. ‘Not on Wattpad.com?’

Nah. I’ve removed all of my works from that platform. Short answer, the terms of agreement there meant Wattpad would be permitted to make money off of my story ideas, and I’m not interested in allowing them that option. But no need to fret, because – like this newest short story – all the BCLM fics once on Wattpad can now be found on AO3. Enjoy at your leisure.

‘Til next I imagine out loud,

~ Danielle

Big Personality! (Little Else Known)

Trying to pin down what Amygdala Wroth looks like has been tricky from the start because, unlike with the majority of my characters, I just jumped in assuming that she looked like me.

Not identical to, but like. And like can mean any number of things.

“And oh, Amygdala was so very happy. So excited. Her eyes sparkled like the world.” (Harkness, “Odd Pod”)

Often, when one hears a Person of Color talk about someone who looks like them, they mean merely someone who shares their race. By that measure, the only criteria for Amygdala’s appearance would be ‘apparently Black, apparently female’. Worlds of wiggle room, there – and at that point, nothing to differentiate her from Couch, until the narrative lists some dragon-specific features that will necessarily set the roommates’ looks apart.

Her presence turns his pathetic closet into a different world. A world half again as small, of course, but twenty times as bright. (Telemachus Cannon, “Chess Not Checkers”)

Eventually, we see Amygdala describe her hair as ‘wisteria-like’. When I wrote it, I intended to evoke the full, fluffy shape of a blooming wisteria tree bough. It wasn’t until I started fooling around with online dollmakers ‘n’ such that I realized Amygdala may have also been describing her hair’s color – a sort of soft purple-pink.

So, hair: Check. Skin: Brown. …Though I wasn’t 100% clear on the shade of brown. Darker than Harkness’s ‘a brown more creamy-fair’ was all I had in mind for sure. But what in relation to Couch? I didn’t want my brain to default to the assumption that Couch – as the dangerous, monstrous, moody one – was the darker of the two. That would be colorist AF. And in the title image I’ve been using since Big City, Little Magics” went up on Wattpad, the Amygdala face ended up being quite a dark shade of brown indeed – which, for all I knew or cared at the time, may have been close enough to her truth.

On the other hand, there were my collection of Picrew avatars and whatnot, in which her skin sported a rainbow of browns, some of them rather light.

Mixed messages a-go-go! Part of that, of course, being due to the limitations of the medium (it’s Picrew; you get the palette you get), the rest being my own indecisiveness.

In her voice is all the power of the ocean. In her eyes, all the blessings of the stars. (Manchester Leif, “Big Feels, Unlimited Magics”)

More than a year now into the BCLM-verse, I believe I’ve decided on where to land. First idea, best idea: Amygdala looks like me. Her face is her own, but our skin tones more or less match. Lordy, though, was that face of her own hard to reach on ArtBreeder! I may have accidentally spent something like two hours trying to manipulate images into a semblance of hers.

But fortune favors the persistent! I am hella happy with the results of my latest labors. Behold ye!

More than wisteria-like hair, more than a Danielle-like complexion, we’ve got that unmistakable, instantly recognizable sunny sparkle spirit. This picture isn’t just her face. It is Amygdala Wroth.

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.

*

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.)

*

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:

*

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

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

Thoughts from Alongside a Lacy Sea

Today (or ‘however many days ago’, by the time this post goes live) I visited a nearby beach.

The day was cold. Or rather, the beach was cold, and silver-toned, and fog rolled overhead like the gray-brown-green surf below. But out of the hills and nearer my neighborhood, the weather was merely chilly, and warmed by shining sun.

The Bay Area – also known, several microclimates stacked inside a trench coat.

Tirzah was further up the beach (the better to catch a little cell service and chat with family), leaving me all by lonesome. Though ‘lonesome’ is hardly the word, what with all the calling gulls, strutting corvids, and healthful quiet time for company. And, of course, the ocean, heaving and frothing and gliding over saturated sands, sliding like rain-patterned lace over satin, shush, roar, sigh…

Seated on a rock, weathering the cold, I got to thinking (by who knows which roads) about the books I’ve published.

First thought: They make me proud.

Swift second thought: They could have been better.

Thought 1: For crying out loud, let me live.

Thought 2: I’m just saying. She could write them better now.

Could I, though? Yes and no.

I’m close to a decade older than I was when I first started self-pubbing. Since then, I’ve written a heck-ton more words. I’ve been exposed to countless more experiences, conversations, points of view, and stories – both fictional and non. I think about more stuff, and from more angles. I have different ideas about how to make a book its best self.

What I do not have – unlike in days of yore – is the mad creative energy to turn every bit of spare time into art.

So, pure theoretically, if I were to write, say, The Wilderhark Tales today, they could be masterworks. But speaking practically, there is no way I would write The Wilderhark Tales today, because I am Tired™.

A comforting thought, then: Writing my books when I did = writing them the best I ever could.

And I mean, the alternative is what? Waiting until you see the Grim Reaper coming for you across the street, then real quick hitting ‘publish’ on that book file you’ve been fiddling with for the last fifty years? ‘Cause that’s pretty much the only way to guarantee that you won’t come up with a better version of the story later.

Done with her phone call, Tirzah rejoined me nearer the waterline. By now, my fingertips numb and yellow from cold, I was about ready to call the beach trip quits. But first, we detoured a-ways to investigate what had one group of gulls so excited. Some sort of driftwood pile, perhaps? Looked kinda like massive bones.

On the way, I shared my proud/discouraging/comforting musings – including a recollection of The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine. Maybe you’ve encountered them. Tiny little fairy story books, some not even a hundred pages long, spinning their take on The Princess and the Pea, Toads and Diamonds, and the like. Just the right size and subject for Early Reader Me. And an inspiring sight for Pre-Publication Author Me, those candy-colored bite-sized books nestled among other full-sized children’s and middle grade titles on the public library shelf.

“See?” they said to me. “Books don’t have to be thick. And they don’t have to be particularly profound. They can be short ‘n’ sweet fairy tale retellings, and still have a place on shelves and in readers’ hands.”

Another comforting thought: Like Levine’s Princess Tales, my Wilderhark Tales don’t need to be redrafted into something they’re not in order to matter. I wrote them as I wished them to be, and those slim, fanciful novellas are good. Imperfect? Yes. Just like every other book I ever read. Ever wrote. Ever loved.

And turns out? That pile of driftwood was massive bones. A whale carcass had made its way onto the shore, and the gulls were rightly excited about it.

All told, an entirely worthwhile beach trip.

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

New Year, New Magics

Happy New Ye—

*pauses*

*notices it’s practically February*

Yeah okay, never mind.

Clearly, I’ve been up to things that are NOT blogging, this past month or so. But I figure now’s as good a time as any to bring you lovely readers o’ mine up to date. To that end, here’s what newer than 2021:

“Princess and the Moon” Thank-You Gifts

F I N A L L Y, I’ve gathered all the goodies promised to my extra-generous GoFundMe supporters! Picture books = printed. Bookmarks = Vistaprinted. Stickers = straight outta my Society6 shop.

Now all that remains is to get them in the mail, which I hope to accomplish tomorrow or next week, depending. I’ve got all the necessary addresses except – *checks notes* – is there a Pam/Pamela Williams in the house? I would love to see your much-appreciate donation rewarded, so… hit me up!

“Big City, Little Magics”

I mentioned in my December post that my last-ditch attempt at NaNoWriMo led me to create a cherished little project full of witches (and not-witches) and dragons and friendship and writerly angst and Bay Area vibes and and and. I am happy to announce that my obsession with the characters has not died, and I’m already several thousands of words into the sequel.

I may also have made several more character pics in various parts of the internet.

Best Amygdala (aka my inner lover of the world and all its magics, big and small. Made here).

Best Couch (aka my neurotic murder dragon side. Made here).

And I have yet to find a doll/avatar maker that does as perfect a job of capturing Manchester (aka my tragic inner artist. …Not Allyn-a-Dale, the one that’s extra me), so have a super cute Sleeves instead (made here).

In very much related news, my Tirzah was gently adamant that I give her a way to share this novella with the world, so… I let her set up a Wattpad account for me. The story can now be read here, for free (along with a blurb that Tirzah was kind enough to write for me, because my inner Manchester and Couch had WAY too many feelings to let me approach it myself without panic attacks). T likewise talked me into getting a Ko-fi account, so folks can leave tips if they found my words particularly delightful.

Which… a lot of people have??

Not left tips (although a few have! And I thank them!), but found my words delightful. “Big City, Little Magics” is in many ways very different from any of my other published works. If my “Inspired” novels were a picture of my mind, this story’s more a picture of my soul – which I guess swears a lot and is hella queer. XD Fair enough if that’s not up the alley of my usual audience. But more than one of BCLM’s earliest readers told me this was just the story they needed. And high goodness knows it’s been just what I needed. So for everyone in that boat, this Wattpad link is for you.

Lest I begin to doubt whether Tirzah’s as in love with this story as I am, she drew me this fan art with one of its quotes. ❤

Miscellaneous

Meanwhile, I’ve maintained a 389-day streak on my Duolingo French lessons. My maidenhair fern is thriving better than ever. (Turns out she’s a small sip of water every day kinda gal.) Work is still a wild and stress-filled ride because, y’know, pandemic. My hair’s grown out long enough that I can put it up in a Killmonger @ the Museum ponytail. And I am working very hard to figure out how best to manage my neurotic murder dragon brain such that I can maybe sometimes relax and have a nice time.

Wish me well (and best wishes back atcha!),

~ Danielle