Walking the Imaginary Walk, Part 2

Hello again, readers of the blog! It is I, Annabelle Iole Gray: Protagonist from the “Inspired” novels, author of various characters of my own, creator of The Totally In-Depth Author-to-Character Q&A! ® (“Oh, Yes – We Go There” TM), and of its newest subsection in which we explore how characters walk – and how we authors walk when letting aforesaid characters live through us. Last time, I assessed the walks of my jungle cat god and knight of the Order of the Dove. Let’s see if we have space to get through the rest of my fictional BFFs!

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Uri Shoot 04
Danielle as Annabelle as Uri

Character: Uriel, skater angel.

Punchiest Verb for Her Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): “All swagger, all day,” Uri drawls. “Unless the state of your fallen Earth is actively depressing me. Then my walk’s a slump.”

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): It actually kind of varies? Because she has this habit of letting her movements drag a little before spilling forward; like a musical rubato, made physical. So sometimes it’s head-first, sometimes shoulders or elbows, or even her backside if her delayed momentum spins her around. Wow, weirdly, I never consciously noticed before that this is a thing she does. Why do you, Uri?

A rolling shrug. “Cool apathy meets an authentic need to get somewhere eventually?”

Favored Tempo: Faster than she makes it look. That ‘cool apathy’ drag effect reads as slow, but you best believe she covers ground like she means it.

Other Signature Details: Hands in pockets (pants or hoodie vest) are very much her thing. Also, when walking as her, I will frequently find myself squeezing one arm against my side, as if I’m carrying her skateboard. And how she manages to exude slouching while actually walking fully upright is another heavenly mystery to me.

Uri crooks a smirk. “Heaven loves a paradox.”

*

Yves Shoot 02
Danielle as Annabelle as Yves

Character: Avelaine (aka Yves), French ballerina boy.

“Danseur,” he corrects me, because that’s what his father would do, and like muse, like son, apparently.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): “My verbs will depend,” says he, “on the effect I wish to create. Perhaps I glide, or drift, or softly step. My movement is my art, and can be no static thing. But if one must name a signature, imagine my walk is a whisper; full-body susurration.”

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): Most often, his toes will point ahead, daintily parting the air before him. I, not being any kind of dancer, probably look three kinds of ridiculous trying to imitate him, but whatever – it makes me feel all airy-graceful.

Favored Tempo: Slow as a wafting feather. If he needs to move quickly, he won’t get there by walking; he’ll leap or sprint or simply mind-travel himself across the distance. If he’s walking, it means he’s got time to make a moving sculpture of himself.

Other Signature Details: Avelaine’s really not one for straight lines. When walking as him, I’ll take more of a curving, meandering path, steps sweeping, hands stroking, painting the air with my passage. I’m also likelier to walk on tiptoe, as if one pace away from floating off into the sky.

Not that Avelaine can or wants to float. That’s much more the purview of the next guy on the list…

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Luc Shoot 07
Danielle as Annabelle as Luc

Character: Lucianíel, elemental of light – also, my muse.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): Certainly ‘stride’. Sometimes even ‘sail’. Very ‘casual runway model’-esque, in any case.

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): I might say chin. Where Avelaine oft goes about with gaze cast down, watching his foot-sketches, Luc’s head is more up-tilted, pulling him onward.

Favored Tempo: “Utterly sluggish,” Luc says, “for one made of light. But at nearer my full speed, no one could keep pace. So for company’s sake, I slow.”

…To something like a normal person’s version of brisk. My body and its material limitations thank you.

Other Signature Details: As previously hinted, Luc floats – almost never coming within an inch of touching ground. But I’ve got a more standard relationship with gravity, so my version of Luc’s walk better  conveys the commanding weight of his personality. His walk is ownership, confidence, pride. The space he takes is his to manipulate. If all the world’s a stage, the muse is the director, and Lucianíel’s walk warmly claims it so. When I walk as Luc, I am insufferable. …but also sexy, if I do say so myself.

*

“Character!” a new voice bursts through me. “Mach Jenius! Brainstorm, bestest of best friends, brother from another plane of reality— Hey! How come there’s no picture of the Overauthor as you as me?!”

1, because Danielle called for the “Inspired” photoshoot a good while before dreaming up the sequel establishing you. 2, how in the world are we supposed to analyze your walk, Mach? You change physicality like I change shirts when I can’t decide which outfit best says ‘a trip to the bookstore, and maybe burgers after.

“Well, yeah, but surely you can work out some sort of pattern! Thinking cap time.” He plops a silk top hat upon what, for now, are close-clipped mahogany curls. “When you’re walking as me, what do you tend to do?”

I dunno. Sorta… throw myself around the room?

“Aha! As if hurled by a wind! Very brainstorm.”

More like hurled by your mad spastic energy.

“But ‘hurl’ is the verb, is the point. And which body part leads the way?”

I’m not sure. Expect plenty of exaggerated arm gestures, though. Entirely the wrong sort of china shop bull. You have broken things through me, Mach. Including, almost, my wrist.

“You had my profuse apologies for that incident, Anna-babe. What’s the next question, again?”

Favored temp—

“Oh, right! Fast!”

We know. Other signature details?

His top hat flaps its wings thoughtfully. (No, it did not have wings two seconds ago.) “Hard to say. Maybe my signature is that I have no signature. I just start moving, and see where I go.”

That you do. And what about your characters, Overauthor? How do they make you walk?

“Phew-boy,” says Danielle. “More like how don’t they? Will Scarlet’s is a heart- or hips-driven thrust – an expansive, pressing forward, in-love-with-the-world sort of walk. Allyn-a-Dale artfully creeps, slips like shadows, while Gant-o’-the-Lute… well, to quote ‘The Sky-Child’:

[He] never walked. He ran, he sprang, he cavorted, he danced; he was one place, then he was another, but he could not be bothered to /walk/ there.

“Sir Bedivere advances like a Winter Soldier. Edgwyn Wyle strolls like he’s shopping the world’s delights. I’ve got a sheriff that saunters seductively, and a dog-lover who bounces and romps, wobbles and wags. Nicky surges forward, then shrinks back, eager and unsure in equal measure. If ever I walked as Captain Johnny Crow – even in sneakers or slippers or sandals – I’d feel like I’m pacing a ship’s sea-salted deck in weathered but stylish boots.” She laughs incredulously. “It’s a wonder I’m ever caught walking as me!”

In that, by no coincidence, we are alike. And with that, this post comes to its end!

Writers in the house: Have you ever noticed – or put much creative thought into – how your characters move? Readers: Have you come across any characters whose manner of movement lives vividly on in your memory? Hop into the comments and tell all about it!

Walking the Imaginary Walk

Hey, guys! Annabelle Iole Gray, here – protagonist from the “Inspired” novels slash author of first, second, and what-feels-like-fifty-seventh drafts of my own books, thank you very much. And today I’m taking the mic on the Overauthor’s* blog to analyze a phenomenon I have not seen discussed nearly enough in writerly circles. …or, like, basically at all.

*(Overauthor. Noun. Definition 1, a cool title I just now coined to refer to an author of an author, e.g. a nonfictional person who has written/created a fictional character that is likewise a writer/creator of fictional characters. Definition 2, Danielle E. Shipley specifically. Definition 3, probably now what Danielle will want to call herself if she ever takes over as her reality’s Dark Lord.)

On the other hand, you’ve got theater circles. In that context, the following is only common: An actor takes on a role – I mean, really embodies it – and it’s not just about speaking the character’s scripted lines, it’s about becoming them head to toe and moving the way they do. …Or the actor just moves the way they always do and gives that signature physicality to the character because, I dunno, that’s what the director was looking for when they cast them, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about!

You see, as a certain stripe of author (do most authors not do this? Am I the weirdo, here? …as usual?), I too find myself moving differently when hosting various persons from the immaterial plane in my material body. Regular Annabelle walks one way while, say, Annabelle-as-Abishan walks another, and Annabelle-as-Lucianíel walks like something else entirely.

To help show you what I mean – since, y’know, I’m not on the same plane of reality as most of this blog’s readers, so you can’t just watch me demonstrate – I have created a little assessment sheet to communicate the character of walks. Consider it a subsection of The Totally In-Depth Author-to-Character Q&A! ® (“Oh, Yes – We Go There” TM). We’ll call this PART 3-AND-A-HALF: Walking the Walk.

(And for those of you who aren’t familiar with my close circle of fictional friends, I’ll include brief introductions for each as we go along.)

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Shan Shoot 01
Danielle as Annabelle as Abishan

Character: Abishan, jungle god of all cats.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): After a moment’s search through my head’s thesaurus, he decides upon, “Slink.”

An apt choice, Shan. Yours is a decidedly slinky manner of movement. It’s like every placement of your paw contains a purr. Except for when the verb is ‘stalk’; then the silent sound is a predator’s growl.

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): In any of his countless feline forms, Shan’s nose and whiskers blaze the trail. In his man form (and when moving via mine)… Huh. Interestingly, he likes to make my hands go first. Reaching out, touching things, claiming territory as he passes through it. Apart from that, he’s got a lot of languid hip action – the closest he can come, through me, to simulating the movement of his tail.

Favored Tempo: “Relaxed,” says Shan. “Bursts of speed are best reserved for a hunt’s final pounce or fleeing threats. Otherwise, why needlessly expend energy?”

So, a fairly standard cat-titude.

Shan wrinkles his face and calls out, “Luc! The puns have started!”

From a distance, Luc sighs. “It was only a matter of time.”

Other Signature Details: When walking as Abishan, my footfalls come softer than when I’m merely me. People (*cough* my sisters *cough*) have complained I’m sneaking up on them, when that was never my intent. I also spend the pauses peppered into his progress leaning and lounging on walls and furniture. …or practically rubbing against a bookcase.

“Because you love bookcases,” Shan points out. “They are your pleasure to own.”

Things that are not my pleasure = when you try to make me lick my hand.

His blink stands in for a shrug. “Agree to disagree on best hygienic practices.”

*

Wilbur Shoot 01
Danielle as Annabelle as Wilbur

Character: Sir Wilbur Lamb, Knight of the Order of the Dove.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): Wilbur eyes the options uncertainly. “Do I do other than simply walk?”

Hmm… We could maybe use ‘amble’? That’s defined as ‘an easy gait’ – specifically in reference to a horse, and one could argue you’re the nearest thing to a friendly warhorse we’ve got, around here.

That’s got him laughing. “Wilbur the Friendly Warhorse. I aspire to nothing more.”

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): A bit shoulder-steered, I’d say. His posture is cousin to a hunch – like he’s prepared to duck under a low doorway or bow in deference at any moment, or quietly bearing the invisible burdens of the populace. And if that doesn’t just describe the kind of person he is and life he leads, what even does?

Favored Tempo: “Composedly swift,” he says. “I like to keep just busy enough that it doesn’t serve to dawdle. Slower than that, and I begin to feel like an aimlessly wandering sheep.”

Other Signature Details: When walking as Wilbur, I will tend to place myself more carefully than I do as myself. I-as-Annabelle bump into basically everything as a matter of course, whereas Wilbur is a bull acutely conscious of the fact that he’s in a china shop, and if caution is enough to prevent it, not a single knickknack shall break on his watch. Also, walking as Wilbur always leaves me further back in line or waiting at crossing points, because his chivalrous instincts dictate that all others ought to move ahead of him. Low-key, I don’t often have the patience to walk as Wilbur in a crowd.

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…Whazat? Oh. The Overauthor has informed me that this post is maxing out on word-count. But let no one despair! We’ll get a look at my other character friends’ walks another time; like, probably next week, if nothing more pressing to blog about comes up in the meantime.

Before we go, I’m curious to know: How do you suppose one would best describe your walk? (Feel free to use my assessment questions as a template!) Do you ever get so into a character that you adopt their mannerisms? Chatter away in the comments!

“How’s the Writing Coming?”, Plus the REAL Questions

Once upon a FAQs page made 6 years ago (which is a surprisingly balanced combination of ‘totally outdated’ and ‘still relevant to this day’), the world inquired:

How’s your book going?

To which Past Me replied:

Which one? A few have crossed the divide into publishing territory, and I’ve always got something in [various stages of] the works. Everything seems to be going reasonably well, though – maybe even /unreasonably/ well, depending on who you ask and whether or not they believe I’m a cyborg. If you’re asking how book /sales/ are going, that depends. Have you bought them?

Back then, I basically was a cyborg. I was never not writing. I was cranking out books faster than even my steadiest fans could keep pace with. I was… very much setting myself up for the psycho-emotional meltdown that finally caught up with me around the end of The Wilderhark Tales.

(Like, is there a reason “The Story’s End” dwelt more on death and disillusionment than the fairy tales that preceded it? All signs point to yes.)

So fast-forward to nowadays, when anyone who knows I’m an author will still inevitably ask:

How’s the writing coming?

And, I just…

How's Your Book Doing_via Twitter

…never quite know how to answer that.

Because I haven’t really written anything new since – *checks “Record of Stories Read and Written” document* – February of 2018. Blog posts, sure. Tweets ‘n’ things. A fun song. I’m making words. And I’ve been editing old words into new published books.

But is any of that writing?

Not as I once knew it.

Better if anyone were to ask me:

What are you working on, these days?

That, I could answer.

I could point to my picture-book-in-progress with Hannah Vale.

I could recall that I need to wrap up the little chores standing between me and ordering my first proof copy of #CamelotWIP.

(Why am I dawdling so hard on that? Could it be a subconscious foot-dragging born of the knowledge that, once “Camelot” is out in the world, I’ll be retreating into an indefinite authorial hiatus? Am I hesitant to unbind myself from the shackles I’ve forged from social media and self-promotion and straining to make myself seen by an indifferent world? Do I fear freedom? … Or am I just really not looking forward to all the fiddly work it’ll take to make the cover print right? <_<)

The question nobody asks:

How’s your inner author life?

I’ve had no practice answering that one.

But were I to try, maybe I’d mention the evenings I spend in the company of my characters (and Tirzah’s), listening as they hash out their own lives, their feelings, their fears. It’s not writing – and it may never be writing, as far as these specific storylines are concerned. Not every character crisis can adapt itself into another Outlaws of Avalon novel or “Reality As We Know It”. But in its way, it’s contributing to my craft. It’s growing my empathy. It’s coaching me in character development. It’s generating the stuff of imagination from which all art is born. It is – I must remind myself – worthwhile.

Another answer, and one I could give with some relief: I’m having ideas again. Am brainstorming again. Am rediscovering that itch in my heart that can only be scratched with creation. Even believing in my plan to walk away from my public author persona, for a while, it means more than I can express to realize that my writer spirit is waking up from its coma.

Maybe calling it temporarily quits on trying to sell myself will make room for a creative renaissance.

Maybe I’ll remember how to cyborg and return to writing like the wind.

Or maybe that self is never one I’ll get back, but my new self and her art will have just as much value.

Once upon an author bio page made 8 years ago, you hypothetically asked:

Who does this ‘deshipley’ person think he/she is?!

She’s not so sure anymore.

But she’s curious to find out.

Of Music and Dragons and Other Such Magic

Hello. Allyn-a-Dale, here, because Danielle’s too tired to feel like talking but still wanted a blog post written, and we all know to whom this task in such cases fall.

That’s right: To her characters.

In fairness, though, I’m much of the reason behind this post in the first place. You see, she somewhat recently came across another blogger’s post centered around The Imagine Dragons Book Tag (to be explained shortly), and I happen to feel something of a soul connection to multiple Imagine Dragons songs, these days (to be explained or elsewise made evident following the eventual publication of #CamelotWIP). And so it is with less shady side-eye than usual that I take on today’s wordsmithery.

So, The Imagine Dragons Book Tag. The rules are fairly straightforward:

Link back to the tag’s creator (R’s Loft)

Thank the person who tagged you (We encountered the tag on the blog of The Story Sponge, and quoth she, “If you are reading this and you think it looks like fun, consider yourself tagged!” So tagged we are. Our thanks, Sponge!)

Answer the questions (a more-or-less simple matter of matching books to the titles and themes of songs by music group Imagine Dragons)

Tag as many or few people as you like!

As is tradition, all books or short stories used in this post will hail from the ever-expanding works of author Danielle E. Shipley. And because I am bound as a bard to bring music to the masses, be assured that I shall link to all the referenced songs for your listening pleasure. With that, onward we go!

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Gold A Book Where the Main Character Has a Curse (or gift that seems like one)

For stories built upon literal curses, what first comes to mind is the first of the Wilderhark Tales, “The Swan Prince”. The eponymous main character, Sigmund, is bespelled to spend his days as a human boy and his nights as a great gray swan – and by no means is he the only key player in the plot with a life complicated by a witch’s curse, for such is the everyday risk you run in the world around Wilderhark Forest.

Book Banner, Swan Prince

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Less literally, there’s Solwen, also known Balladry Sol, from Danielle’s latest Wilderhark world release, “Windows and Sol”, whose extraordinary affinity for music comes with the curse-like burden of social deviation – for girls, ‘tis said, are not meant to be minstrels. (I doubt that would have stopped Father deciding to raise me as one, had I been born a girl. But then, what use has Father ever had for people telling him things can’t be done?)

FrictionA Book You Resisted Reading Writing

Speaking of Father (which I do not do absolutely all the time, I’ll thank Will Scarlet to remember before he complains to the contrary), there was a certain resistance to the writing of Gant-o’-the-Lute’s origin story, “The Sky-Child”. Not that Danielle wasn’t interested in writing it; she was just more interested in writing other things first. (Mostly things centered around her character obsession of the time, Edgwyn Wyle.) Father was, shall we say, not pleased with the dawdling delay. (Never let it be supposed that the Luc vs. Annabelle standoff  in “Inspired” came from nowhere.)

Book Banner, Sky-Child 2

Cover w Text 06.3, front

And on the subject of “Inspired”, I might mention Annabelle’s notable reluctance to complete her novel’s “Phantom of the Opera”-esque short story, “The Manta and the Mask”. Though I myself cannot but be drawn to the story’s chilling artistry, to dance such darkness upon her laptop’s keys was the most emotionally challenging task Annabelle had yet faced as a writer. One might perhaps not have blamed her for abandoning the project; but bless her courage, she could not abandon its tragic hero.

Monster – A Book with a Negative Character Arc

Manifest Reality cover

Perhaps this calls for a reference to one of Danielle’s less-often-spoken-of published stories, “Sundown” from the “Manifest Reality” horror anthology. Though protagonist Claudia’s hellish descent down the road of vengeance isn’t one to be emulated, Danielle certainly found it satisfying to write. (As satisfying as it would have been to pull a Claudia on the world and its irritations? Possibly not. But life is compromise.)

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

And you’ll not have read it yet, for it has not yet been released (stay tuned), but the arc of a certain character in “The Once and Future Camelot” may or may not take a turn for the negative, when all’s said and sung. One never knows, with wizards.

Demons – A Book Where the Character Has a Secret

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery

Well, there’s a broad question, for you. Characters with secrets make the fictional world go ‘round. See again: “The Swan Prince”, built upon the secrets of Sigmund and Sula. Or “The Once and Future Camelot”, where a certain knight has been sitting on a bomb of deceit that’s not far from detonation. Or, a chilling favorite, the bloody secret of Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, in “So Super Dead”. That one gave Danielle nightmares, when first she wrote it. ^_^

Hear Me A Book You Love That People Don’t Seem to Know About

Based on the sluggish activity on its GoFundMe page, not nearly enough people seem to know of picture-book-in-progress “The Princess and the Moon”. And that is a true pity, for it’s a darling story with endearing illustrations by artist Hannah Vale. If you loved reading of Laraspur and Lumónd in the “The Sun’s Rival”, or if you simply have a soft spot for sweet children’s stories brought to gorgeous life in watercolor, then this is a project to get behind.

Promo Sketch, w text 02

America A Book Set in Your State/Country

Again, “Inspired” would fit the bill. Most of it takes place in the area of St. Louis, Missouri – or in Annabelle’s head, which physically amounts to the same thing. Then there are my Outlaws of Avalon stories, largely taking place in and around the Faerie isle of Avalon – which, many would be surprised to learn, has been hiding out for some while in the American Midwest. And forget not “So Super Dead”, which, when not set on the moon, sees most of the action in Las Vegas, at the Hoover Dam, and in assorted nameless little towns in Wyoming.

Outlaws of Avalon covers, all 5

Whatever It Takes A Book Where the Main Character Won’t Give Up, Despite the Odds

Perhaps the most impossible odds were those in “The Seventh Spell”. You think magic gone wrong is trouble enough? Stir a tangle of time travel into the mix. Honestly, were it not for Father having been his usual miracle self in the midst of the mayhem, I don’t expect a happy ending would have had a prayer.

Book Banner, Seventh Spell 2

But for a more everyday sort of bravery, there’s none better than Balladry Sol. She is very much as the blurb describes her: ‘A girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.’

Song of the Soul Shepherdess, Verse 1
Hear a snippet of Balladry’s minstrel manifesto in this video

Walking the Wire A Book with a Hard-Won Romance

I could answer that. Or I could highlight a theme every bit as meaningful, yet severely underrated: Hard-Won Friendships. …Or, mayhap more accurately, Hard-Won Queerplatonic Relationships. (Feel free to look it up. One basic definition can be found here.)

Beyond Her Infinity

In “The Queen’s Lady” (from “Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea”), we had Moon Melody, determined to act as Morning Joy’s champion at any cost. I defy any fairytale prince to do better by his princess.

And “Reality As We Know It” (from “Our Hungering Hearts”), gave us Row, a lad too good for any world that housed him, and caregiving companion to the deeply troubled Heartsinger. If anyone can out-friend Moon Melody (not that it’s a competition, of course, but if it were…), it’s young Rowan Charles.

Thunder A Book That Rattled You

We’ve no idea, yet, if or when Danielle will get around to publishing it, but writing that one mega-manuscript’s Santa Claus murder scene strongly affected her.

Boomerang A Book You Keep Coming Back To

Well, it’s not every book that inspires her to revisit it as a picture book, so we’ll name “The Sun’s Rival” again.

Bad Liar A Book with an Unreliable Narrator

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

If we interpret that to mean narrators who purposely withhold information, the two that come to my mind are the librarian from “Date Due” (“Our Hungering Hearts”) and Morganne le Fey from “The Once and Future Camelot”. Each one thinks themselves so much the wiser than the rest of us, why trouble our heads with vital details too early in the game?

If, however, ‘unreliable’ is used to mean ‘narrators who aren’t trying to lie, they just don’t know the truth’, that’s more reminiscent of Rowena from “A Mind Prone to Wander” (“Our Hungering Hearts”). That poor soul could hardly tell the sky from the Clouded Sea, and she knew it.

Digital A Book with Lots of Tech/Computers/Video Games

I don’t know about ‘lots’, but “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” – (which, I’ve been told to remind you, is available for free here, through the end of the month) – introduced me to a minivan and a radio, all of it in a technological league well ahead of the fairytale world I’d lately left.

*

And with that, we’ll call this round of The Imagine Dragons Book Tag complete. If you wish to play in your own webspace, consider yourself tagged, and feel free to share the link in the comments below, that Danielle might discover where your imagination (and/or dragons) took you.

Now for a minstrel bow – *hat sweeps low* – and a merry farewell.

~ Allyn-a-Dale

Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Ink

Once upon a venture to the Fresno Pirate Festival, I came upon an author displaying her literary wares. We exchanged chitchat and professional contact info – (as writer types are known to do when crossing paths in the wild) – and the next thing you know, she’s booked herself a free space on the Ever On Word blogging schedule. (Mine’s a hospitable soul, for a pirate.)

Fresno_IMG_20190518_122917364_3
That’s /Captain/ Deshipley, to you.

So settle ye in comfy for…

An Interview with Author Leslie D. Soule!

Me: Tell us about the first story you can remember writing.

Leslie: The first story I can remember writing is one called The Warrior’s Tale, in which my characters go on a series of adventures through the wilderness. It had a very Robin Hood feel to it, and I wrote it when I was really young, probably about 10 or so.

Me: A thousand brownie points to you for uttering the name Robin Hood in your first paragraph! You may stay! Question the next: What is your writing process like? Do you plan and research beforehand, or figure it out as you go? Any special writing habits or rituals you’ve developed over time?

Leslie: So my writing process varies a bit, each time I write a novel. I’ve been participating for the past couple of years in NaNoWriMo, where you try and write a novel in a month, and have to get in around 1,600 words or so per day.

Me: Hail, fellow Wrimo! Although I haven’t had the wherewithal to participate, the last few years, I have very fond memories of my past NaNo adventures. ^_^ But do go on. You were saying…?

Leslie: I usually try and get ahead of the game a bit by using a piece that I’ve already worked on, as I know that I’m bound to skip a day or two, and that extra bit makes me feel better, like I’m not lagging behind on the writing. I usually try and come up with a general idea of where I want the story to go, but I’ve found that it’s more of an organic process than I’d originally thought, and changes come up as you write it. Such as, for the novel I’m currently working on, I ran it by someone and they suggested that I add more characters. As for habits I’ve developed over time, my habit is to get a coffee at Starbucks and try not to write a novel, but just to come up with an interesting scene and sort of go from there.

Me: How do you find your characters? Have any of them just shown up fully-formed in your head and made demands, or are they better behaved than that? Would you consider any of them to be your friends, or is your relationship purely professional? Also, Will Scarlet insists I ask: Would any of them be interested in a guest appearance on the talk show he hosts on my blog?

Leslie: Finding my characters usually comes from being inspired by the works of someone else. Such as, the name of my talking cat character, Greymalkin, is from Shakespeare. He showed up and demanded that I write book 2 in the series, but other than that, they usually don’t give me much trouble. I consider my sorcerer Will Everett to be a friend of mine, and he’s based on an actual guy – a martial arts buddy of mine. I think he’d be interested in a guest appearance on the talk show some time.

Will Scarlet: A Will Basically-Rhymes-with-Scarlet sorcerer, you say? Sounds practically predestined! I’ll be in touch!

Me: What is your biggest, shiniest, most improbable author dream? (A mega-bestseller? A collaboration with a literary celebrity? Your work adapted into a nine-hour opera?)

Leslie: My biggest, shiniest author dream is that my books take off like George R.R. Martin’s have, and that with MY show series, people aren’t disappointed in the ending of it like they have been at *ahem* certain shows. I also want to be able to show up at author events with a giant mechanical/animatronic dragon that breathes fire & releases glittered smoke.

Me: As shiny dreams go, fire-and-glitter-breathing dragons are tough to top.

Will: LORD, yes! Take a page out of Leslie’s dream book, Danielle. You haven’t arrived ‘til you’ve done it with dazzle-matronics.

Me: Which is your Reader Self’s favorite book of all time? (Or, if that’s too cruel a question, you may name three.)

Leslie: I LOVE Tolkien. My favorite books are the three Lord of the Rings books, and The Hobbit, which is its prequel. I’ve always loved Middle-Earth.

Me: I will admit to it being a slow slog for me to get through those books, but thanks to a late-game introduction to the LOTR movies, Middle-Earth and its fellowship of heroes will ever have a place in my heart. ^_^ Now, share a favorite line you’ve written – from a work-in-progress, or already published story, or just something you scribbled and adored.

Leslie: My absolute favorite written line is in my upcoming novel, Retribution, and I don’t want to spoil that part because it’s kind of climactic. But other than that, I particularly like it when Greymalkin admonishes my main character Ash Kensington in book 2 and says, “Who do you think you are – Indiana Jones?!”

Will: I mean… *shrug* Is he/she/they Indiana Jones?

Me: She just told us the name is Ash Kensington, so… probably not?

Will: But who’s to say, though?

Me: Hush, Scarlet. And Leslie, one final question for you: What’s one thing you wished everyone knew about you, but nobody ever asks?!

Leslie: What I wish everyone knew about me was how hard I’ve worked to become a published author, what the journey is like, and how to go about climbing that mountain of authorship that includes writing/getting published/promoting/dealing with difficulties that arise, and such – because it really has taken a lot of effort, and I think that kind of disappears behind the scenes of things, but it makes for much more interesting conversation than just talking about the finished project or my accomplishments.

Me: *nods in sage agreement* The journey is all.

Will: The destination has dragons.

Me: Okay, amending: The journey is, like, a good 80%. Let’s close with an author biographic word from our guest!

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My name is Leslie Soule (pronounced “soul” like that part of you that is innate). I am an author who loves to try new genres and Sacramento, California is my hometown. I have an M.A. in English from National University and am a member of the English Chapter of the Sac State Alumni Association. Follow me on Twitter @Falcondraco

Leslie Soule

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If you’re an author interested in an interview from me (or a character interested in an interview from Will Scarlet), feel free to hit up my contact page, and we’ll get you aboard the Ever On Word ship as soon as the seas permit. ;D

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: How to Hero[ine]

Welcome to the continuation of last week’s meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. A quick ‘hello, again!’ to our current membership: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, Lady Marion Hood from The Outlaws of Avalon (the first book of which is, now through the end of July, available for free on Smashwords.com, courtesy of the semiannual Smashwords Summer/Winter sale).

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Marion (First Lady of Sherwood’s Merry Men): Recall you, in honor of Balladry Sol from Danielle’s newest e-publication, “Window’s and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”, our discourse was centered on heroines / female characters / chicks in fic. To get us rolling again, here’s another quote from “Window’s and Sol”.

…There were any number of things boys could do that girls could not, just as there were things girls could do that boys could not (though fewer of those sprang to mind).

M: Discussion point! The freedoms vs. constraints of being (or writing) a girl character, in Deshipley canon and elsewhere. Who’s got thoughts?

Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure): As you mention writing, an excerpt from the second “Inspired” novel comes to mind…

“I don’t know. She’s just … no fun to write.” Her nose wrinkled again. “Girls never are.”

“No? Why is that?”

Annabelle’s shoulders hunched in a shrug. “Girl characters are … I mean, they don’t…”

“Do they not?” Luc lifted an eyebrow. “And if they do not, where does the fault lie: With the characters, or with their authors? A girl is not an alien, Annabelle. Or at least, no more alien than you.”

“Meh,” she said, her default argument when she had no argument at all. “It’d be easier if all fictional girls were warrior angels with attitude problems.”

“The market may be headed that way,” Luc observed.

Uri (skater girl and Fire of God): Sounds like our Danielle-insert author struggled to identify with her feminine side.

Luc: The larger trouble, I think, was that her feminine side was too busy swooning over male characters to pay the females much attention. And one sees all too often what becomes of fictional women who are treated solely as buttresses in the architecture of a man’s story.

Nicky (genderless super ghost-whisperer): You’d think, though, that problem would only come up when the writers are men. Don’t girls know what goes into being a girl?

Luc: What goes into being a non-fictional girl, perhaps. But fiction is informed by fiction as much as it is by ‘real life’. Artists draw from what they’ve seen in preexisting art. They learn what a story is and how it’s told from other stories. So if the majority of the stories a girl consumes contain only half-sketched, skimmed-over women, that’s what her imagination has to fight against in order to produce better.

M: Same story for minority groups, or anyone who doesn’t match the ol’ protagonist default – straight, white, Western-society man. If creators aren’t exposed to any real variety, they’re less likely to think to incorporate it, and so the default remains.

Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken): And high goodness knows even main female characters have their own default settings in place. Probably thin, probably light-haired, probably more appealing to the boys around her than she believes she is… Oh, I actually managed to tick that last box of the three!

U: I’m batting zero. Fortunately, I’ve got the ‘warrior angels with attitude problems’ shtick down. Watch out, market!

Lar: As far as freedoms, though, girl characters will often be allowed to express more than their male counterparts, who are more usually expected to be stoic overtop of unknowable hidden depths. We get to be whimsical and giggly and act irrationally – because, alas, men prefer to think themselves too logical for such liberties.

N: Way to trap yourselves in your own socially constructed box, dude-folks.

U: Say, Nicky – as neither a girl nor a dude-folk, do you feel like you’ve got any particular constraints or freedoms?

N: Oh, zero constraints. Second Earth society has thus far given its physiologically genderless demographic no rules and no roles. Sounds like unlimited freedom, but it’s more like… if you’re not one or the other, you’re sort of seen as nothing, and nobody knows what to do with you. Probably plenty of phys-gees embrace that chance to just be whatever they feel like, but for me, who on top of everything didn’t have a superpower until my late teens, there were a lot of self-worth issues to work through.

M: Is that the official shorthand, ‘phys-gees’?

N: Never came up in the novel, so… maybe?

M: Well, time may tell. Now, for one last “Windows and Sol” quote.

“Marrying another minstrel never occurred to you?”

Solwen gave a more ordinary shrug. “I guess I assumed none of them would like me. Silly me, for not expecting one who didn’t particularly like me to propose marriage anyway.”

M: ‘Likeable’ girls in Deshipley canon! Who might qualify by conventional standards, and standards aside, which of her girl characters do each of us personally like best?

U: Is there even a conventional standard in place?

Luc: People speak as though there must be, but the topic is so inherently subjective, I don’t see how one can create a universally liked character, no matter their gender.

M: Throw in the fact that people tend to be more critical of female characters as a matter of course, and perfection becomes that much harder to attain.

Lar: Most readers seemed to like me, from all I could gather. ^_^

U: How’d you swing that?

Lar: Kindness coupled with relatable insecurities, I suppose.

U: Well. Color me unlikable, then.

N: Pretty sure Luc already did that. Canonically.

“Hooray, the cat’s chewing something,” said Uri, devoid of enthusiasm. “Now that all has once again been made right with the world, what say we get back to the minor matter of choosing who gets first crack at Annabelle?”

Luc said bluntly, “It will not be you.”

Uri didn’t bat an eye. “Because?”

“Because the best chance for all of you depends on Annabelle having a positive first authoring experience. That includes a friendly relationship with her protagonist. And you are not personable.”

The barest twitch of an eyelash, which she prayed went unnoticed. “Meaning nobody likes me.”

“Meaning,” said Luc, “you are not overly easy to like.”

Luc: Ahem. Shall we look to the second part of the question?

N: Right! Our favorite Deshipley girls! Hard to remember each and every one of them off the top of my head, but one fave that comes to mind for me is Tidbit, from “Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son”.

M: Surprising choice! Why her?

N: Because even at a super young age, she knows exactly what she wants, and she uses her wits and persistence and any resource at her four-year-old disposal to make her dream happen.

U: Her dream of running away with a demon?

N: …That’s not the point. Anyway, who’s your favorite?

U: Probably your ghost, Brenna Walsh. Speaking as the Angel of Vengeance, hers is a motivation I can actually get behind. And yeah, her temperament wouldn’t win her any Likable Girl awards, but it works for me.

Lar: Seems relatability really does count for much. My favorite… oh, that’s hard. My heart’s shouting two things at once. There’s my mother, to start – Crown Princess/Queen Rosalba of Denebdeor – on the grounds that I admire and respect the multidimensional way she navigates both royalty and adventure. But I also very much love the quiet spunk of Molly Worth from “Deathsong of the Deep”. How is one to choose?

Luc: Nothing at all wrong with naming two favorites, child. As for myself, I might select Morganne le Fey. We’ll see more of her in #CamelotWIP, of course, but the glimpses caught of her throughout the Outlaws of Avalon series is enough to intrigue. In her altogether feminine way, she perfectly matches your earlier summary of the male character ideal: Stoic overtop of unknowable hidden depths and, from all one can tell, entirely ruled by Faerie logic.

M: An apt description, that. And since Laraspur’s set a precedent of two top picks, I too shall double up and say the McCaughley sisters. Almost feels like another level of cheating, since they’re from the same books as me, so I’ve spent time with them both on-page and off-screen. But what I like so much about Loren and Janey is how entirely normal they are – something of a rarity, in Danielle’s work! They’re not part-super-creature or royalty or anything at all fantastical; just a pair of contemporary young ladies who tease each other, support each other, go out together to enjoy music and movies and mediocre restaurants, and let their geek flags fly all Ren Faire season long. They’re sometimes at their best, sometimes not, simultaneously special and typical, and always, fully, expressly human. In short, they’re just girls. And the outrageous and magical Outlaws of Avalon plot makes space for them, the way any kind of story can, if the author is willing to consider ordinary girls as worthy of adventures as anyone.

Windows and Sol, cover finishedN: Think we’ll see Danielle play around with more characters of that type, in future?

M: With our author, one never knows what art she’ll do ‘til she’s done it! In the meantime, this session of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club has come to an end. Thank you, my fellow club members, for the dynamic dialogue. And thank you, readers of the blog, for following along. Who are some of your favorite fictional girls, and what is it you most appreciate about them? Tell us all about it in the comments! And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the doings of Danielle’s latest heroine in “Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”. Until next time, everyone. Farewell!

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: Radical Girls and Pre-Revision Boys

Hello, everyone! Lady Marion Hood, here, with another meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. Before we get started, a quick reintroduction to our current membership: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, from The Outlaws of Avalon.

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Marion: ‘Tis a special day on which we gather, friends! The launch day of Danielle’s newest publication, “Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”.

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Once upon a time, ‘wandering songster’ was no kind of career for a woman.

Now one minstrel-in-the-making is going to change Wilderhark’s tune.

From the author who introduced Wilderhark Tales’ Gant-o’-the-Lute and Outlaws of Avalon’s Allyn-a-Dale, a new voice rises into a brave ballad of its own: That of a girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.

“The Soul Shepherdess” – Young Solwen’s fateful encounter with a man o’ music and his sullen apprentice opens her eyes to the road she’s destined to take, along with the hardship that will be her traveling companion.

“In the Window” – Although Harper Rove-a-Day couldn’t feel less qualified to serve as minstrel master to his extraordinary trainee, he just may have what it takes to learn a lesson or two from her.

“The Names She Played” – To hear hidden music is not merely Solwen’s gift, but her only chance in a deadly game with one of the world’s oldest songs.

Tales of singing. Tales of striving. Most of all, tales of true love.

Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken): Congratulations, Danielle!

Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure): Seconded! A story’s flight from the nest is ever a proud occasion.

Uri (skater girl and Fire of God): So today we’re, what, sharing our individual thoughts on the new book? Like we did for “Deathsong of the Deep”?

Marion (First Lady of Sherwood’s Merry Men): Nay, dark angel. Rather, in honor of Solwen’s favored place in our author’s estimation, we will be discussing various aspects of a broader literary topic: Heroines / female characters / chicks in fic.

Nicky (genderless super ghost-whisperer): Nice and on-brand for you, given guest posts of yours that have shown up on the Luna Station Quarterly blog, a time or two.

M: One does try. So, here’s how the conversation will work: I share a quote from “Windows and Sol”, and we discuss a correlated question it raises. To open… well, how about these lines pulled from the book’s opening?

Solwen of Teastone Glass was not a radical girl. …There being little she found more distasteful than disharmony, Solwen was quite content to accept without complaint whatever path was laid before her. She considered herself fortunate, too, that this decision was thus far made easy on her, for neither her family nor the world required aught of her yet that she considered to be much of a trial. As the young daughter of passably well-off glass-sellers, her tasks consisted mainly of doing what she could to keep herself and the shop looking presentable, and staying out of unnecessary trouble – expectations both reasonable and pleasantly met.

M: Radical girls in Deshipley canon – go! Which of her female characters go looking for trouble, or go willfully across the grain?

Lar: For a start, what of you, lady outlaw? One doesn’t join up with Robin Hood’s band without planning to make a little trouble.

M: Lol, poor Allyn did. But as for the rest of us, you’re right – we were rebels, and we reveled in the role.

N: In my book, Brenna might count. An angry ghost whose motivation is to murder her murderer is pretty much the opposite of a well-behaved good girl.

Lar: And there’s my little sister, Lily, who ran from the reasonable idea of marriage to a normal human prince when there were dangerous forces of natures out there for the courting.

U: Yeah, that one went a bit cautionary-tale-shaped, by the end.

Luc: And why shouldn’t girls use their agency to bring about cautionary tales?

M: Agency is indeed the crux of the matter, master muse. A girl given the chance to choose can make a mess of things, or set a wrong aright, or twist any point of the plot in between. For someone like Lily, too reckless to count the cost ahead of time, or for the Brennas with no f*cks to give, acting radically is easy. And me, well, at least I had the Merry Men for a support system. Our Solwen, though, would have much preferred a ‘well-behaved good girl’ lifestyle, if only her bardic calling didn’t necessitate the contrary. While there’s no one right way to rebel, Solwen’s is certainly a way that her author, as an artist, can respect.

U: ‘Cause Almighty knows most artists won’t have society at large in their corner.

Luc: Not until society is willing to recognize the making of art as a ‘real job’, no.

M: All right, new quote and question!

“Merely a shame that you weren’t born a boy, that’s all. You’d have made a fine minstrel, otherwise.”

M: How many Deshipley girl characters can we think of who actually started out as boys in her early drafts?

U: You’re looking at one.

Luc: Ah, yes – a pre-publication reader noted that all of Jean and Annabelle’s characters in “Inspired” were male, so why not consider making at least one of them female? Danielle thought the point well made, and a quick bit of revision later, our gender-swapped angel was reborn.

Lar: Did the revision result in any big changes to your character, Uri?

U: Not a one. Putting an ‘s’ in front of my pronoun didn’t otherwise feminize me in any way – partly because I would’ve refused anyway, but also partly because Danielle thought it would have been all kinds of shady to imply that someone like me isn’t enough of a girl. Hell, go far enough down that slippery slope, and Danielle might not qualify as a girl either.

N: She did the same thing with Gravity Max in my book! Not because any pre-pub readers said anything, but just ‘cause she was looking at the twins – Max and Zero, y’know – and thought, why should the brother get the super strength power and first rank in team leadership, and the second-in-command flyer be the sister? And rather than switch ‘em around, she just made them both girls.

Lar: Wasn’t Demario in Thackeray Kyle’s crew also originally male?

N: Yeah, it was a boys club. So she tried making Demario a woman to mix it up, only to further realize that Demario identified as an AMAB transwoman. Goes to show, you never know what you’re going to get when you pass on the male default.

M: So it does. And, as usual, our discussion is running long!

Luc: Another two-parter, then?

M: Naturally. ^_^ We’ll continue next time exploring questions raised by the text of “Windows and Sol” – which, again, has released just today, so never let it be said that Danielle gave the world nothing to read while they await our club meeting’s second half. ;D Until then, readers of the blog, thanks for joining us! Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments! And farewell!