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

Love, Letters, and a List

Has anyone else taken notice of a trend, lately, in which books are pitched as “a love letter to [this, that, or the other]”? Like, it’s not just a novel set in a city or country, it’s a love letter to that place. No mere story featuring a certain food or cuisine, but a love letter to that gastronomic experience. That character’s journey of self-discovery via an ‘80s pop musician’s body of work / a genre of film / online gaming / illegal goat racing? A love letter to some past or present obsession that made the author the particular brand of weirdo they are today.

As someone who has neither received nor can recall writing any actual love letters (that one epistolary novel from my authorial youth, may it rest in pieces, doesn’t count), I’m not best qualified to decide whether these vogueish descriptions are accurate, misleading, or running all up and down the spectrum in between. What I do know is, they’ve got me thinking:

If the works of Deshipley were letters, what – or who – would be their loves?

Ever On Word_debby-hudson-DR31squbFoA-unsplash
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash.com

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The Wilderhark Tales = A Love Letter to … True Love

Sure, I could try to break it down book by book – like, “The Song Caster”, love letter to adventure; “The Sun’s Rival”, love letter to the moon; “The Seventh Spell”, love letter to having met Edgwyn Wyle in “The Stone Kingdom” and needing another novella with him in it, pronto. But as a series, the fairytale magic of True Love™ is the heartsong of it all. The love of a princess for her spell-breaking prince; of minstrels for music; of lonely souls for their place in the sky. It’s as cheesy as it is frikkin’ deep, y’all.

The Outlaws of Avalon Novels = A Love Letter to … the Merry Men

By which I mean not only Robin Hood and his legendary band, but also:

– Friendship and

– Bromance and

– Found/chosen families and

– Sherwood Forest and

– Benevolent crimes and

– Renaissance Faire players (especially the ones trained to wave swords about for show).

“An Avalon Christmas Carol” = A Love Letter to … Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

Or a fan letter, at the very least.

“Truly Great Words Never Die” = A Love Letter to … Having Fun with Unusual Words

Likewise, to the founders of Save-a-Word Saturday, who are as much to blame thank for the very existence of this little ebook as I am.

The “Inspired” Novels = A Love Letter to … Imagination

…Or so I wrote in the blurb for their companion journal, before I knew it was cool. ‘Tis only true, though. Imaginary friends. Imaginary worlds. The real-life power that ‘just pretend’ can wield. There wouldn’t be an artwork out there worth calling a letter o’ love without it!

“Date Due” = A Love Letter to … Books and Murder

(Make sure to pronounce the latter with a few extra U’s and R’s, for best effect.)

“So Super Dead” = A Love Letter to … ???

I just… I don’t even know. Sometimes the muse frolics down a path of pure absurdity and all you can do is follow, stopping to pluck the dark, decaying flowers along the way. A labor of love? Absolutely. A letter of love? That may be taking it a bit far.

“Deathsong of the Deep” = A Love Letter to … the Kraken, Of Course!

Which isn’t to say that my tentacled lad was given nearly enough page time, because he was NOT. Something about an entire novel of nothing but Kraken killing people and singing to himself being slightly less compelling than the tale of Molly Worth, Captain Crow, and the crew of the Painted Lady. Like that’s an excuse.

“The Once and Future Camelot” = A Love Letter to … Arthuriana

Most specifically, to the ‘Camelot crowd’ I sorta-kinda met in my Outlaws series, but whom I didn’t truly come to know and grow to love until I began unearthing their full story. Heck, some of them even got letters addressed to them by name on this blog (search ‘Letters to Camelot’ in the sidebar), and I’d assuredly compose even more, if Writer Me weren’t lying unconscious somewhere inside my skull. The legend of Camelot’s fall is, as I’ve often labeled it, the absolute saddest tale ever told, and my emotional wreck of a self is Here For It, body and soul.

<<<>>>

Ever On Word_john-jennings-IcT8l8DDek8-unsplash
Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Have you encountered any memorable ‘love letter’ descriptions in your media, recently? If your favorite books were love letters, they would be to what/to whom? If you’ve read any of the Deshipley love letters listed above, which most deeply touched your heart and why? Share all in the comments!

Yours with love,

~ Danielle

Once and Future Favorites

As of last week, the Artist Artwork Formerly Known as #CamelotWIP is out in the world. In celebration, I’d like to take a moment to carry on with what I’ve been doing since, like, 2016: Gush about my utter infatuation with this book.

Seriously, I’m not remembering if any other writing project of mine has made a hostage of my imagination like this. Not to play favorites but… no, actually, yeah, that’s exactly what we’re playing. Behold, a few (dozen) of my favorite things about “The Once and Future Camelot”!

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~ Favorite Character ~

Why would I even ask myself this when there’s no way I can answer it? I went into drafting this book with a spiked interest in some of the characters and their complicated plot, but it wasn’t until I was neck-deep in the ruins of Camelot that I realized I was falling in love with everyone around me.

With Gawain for his strange serenity; with Lancelot for his rough-edged passion; with Mordred for his secret heart; with Arthur for his impossible love. My spirit tangled with the rich emptiness of Morganne’s. My blood burned in tandem with Bedivere’s. My— well, let’s not go so far as to say ‘love’ is what I feel for Merlin; my inner Will Scarlet’s got too much to process for that.

Anyway, I honestly cannot point to any single character as my certain favorite. Just follow the pain, and you’ll find my heart there.

~ Favorite Relationships ~

(Just went ahead and used the plural, so I can point to more than one. ^o^)

– Galahad x Mordred, because y’all already know I’m here all day for a big ol’ bromance.

– Arthur x Robin Hood; see reasoning above.

– Gawain x Guinevere, because it’s so low-key and tangential yet grounding for both of them to have each other. I think they mutually see one another (in the “Sun’s Rival” sense) better than any other pairing in the story, and something in me takes a relieved sort of comfort in that.

Camelot Dreamcast
Favorites to Play the Cast of #CamelotWIP, as seen on the Outlaws of Avalon Tumblr

~ Favorite Chapter ~

Book 1, Chapter XV. The one I spent all the chapters that came before it absolutely itching to write. The one that could arguably stand as a satisfying short story all on its own. The one that’s been sending delicious thrills through my bones at the very thought of it for three years and counting. That chapter.

~ Favorite Scenes/Moments ~

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

In no particular order…

– The birth of Excalibur

– Knight vs. Hell-beast

– Wizard vs. Lady of the Lake

– Mordred in the rain

– Orkneys in the stable

– “A moment to confer”

– Spring Break Faeries

– Prayer room rebellion

– Arthur x Lancelot, shortly after Now

– Two willing tools of enemies

– Two dragons on the roof

– Two roads diverged in a legend, and he… he chose the harder treachery… and that has me over here bawling.

~ Favorite Narrative Voice ~

I originally thought I could write an entire novel from Morganne’s point of view. I would come to learn that this would not be a viable option. The thing about Morganne is – as once I put it in a Twitter post – she’s basically got ‘magical depression.’ She’s incapable of generating her own emotions, making her POV a necessarily dispassionate experience. It’s a fascinating space to put myself in for the odd chapter here and there, but for a whole book? Exhausting just to contemplate.

camelot-tweet-oncemorewithfeeling.png

For a minute later on, I thought I could tell the book’s second half in Bedivere’s voice. Again, that turned out to be a no, but for opposite reasons. Bedivere’s got feelings and opinions about everything, and if he chooses to talk about it at all, it’ll be in the most smart-alecky way possible. While this can be fun, and makes for hilarious irreverent monologue/dialogue, he couldn’t give all the other characters’ inner lives justice if he tried (which he probably wouldn’t).

All that having been said, those two were still probably my favorite first-person voices to use in this predominantly third-person novel.

Once and Future Mixtape
~ Favorite Songs I Associate with #CamelotWIP~ (as shared on its page on my website)

~ Favorite Quotes ~

Not by any means a comprehensive list, but some of the standouts include…

– The room was thick with breath arrested.

– “Up, Galahad, son of Lancelot du Lac, Champion of the King, and so forth.”

– It was the Age of Chivalry. Unrequited love was the new black.

– Then up goes his head, no matter how heavy. Up goes a smile, no matter how sad.

– “Amendment,” I allow. “I apologize for the villainy.”

– My formative years were all prayers, rites, and living in hope that movable type would someday replace copying the Holy Book by hand.

The cost of immortality? A silent chuckle. Immortality.

– “The sun favors those brave of face.”

– Feeling I must tell you, choosing to say nothing: My kindest, cruelest way of holding power over you…

– Mordred’s lashes, doom of adoring maidens…

– “What else?” said Robin Hood. “Call our congressmen.”

“I would know him,” I point out, and you shoot me a glare of irritation.

“Of course you would. And were it practical to wave you about like a divining wand over every man I met, so would I. But you are not a /tool/, Morganne.”

My lips play the part of a smile. “Meaning I am not biddable.”

You nod your hair into your eyes, shove it back again. “Meaning I need something that is.”

Camelot Tweet, BedivereIsOnFire

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Have you started reading “The Once and Future Camelot” yet? If yes, what are your favorite parts or aspects of the book, so far? If no, but you think you might get around to checking it out eventually, what are you most looking forward to? (Or, hey, did you perchance have a favorite part of this blog post?) Gush along in the comments!

On Fictional Faves, Silliness and Song, and Potentially Grape-Related Skills

sunshine-blogger-graphicFor the second time within the same blue moon, I have been officially tagged by The Story Sponge – this time, for the Sunshine Blogger Award!

The rules are these:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you (thank you, Sponge!) and provide a link back to their blog so others can find them (already to-done above).
  2. List the rules and display an award logo on your blog post (to-doing and to-done, respectively).
  3. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you (aka, the fun-to-the-11th-power part!).
  4. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and notify them by commenting on any of their posts. (Um… I may not know that many nonfictional people. We’ll have to come up with a creative workaround for this bit…)
  5. Ask the nominees 11 new questions. (Challenge accepted.)

Now, to satisfy a certain sponge’s curiosity!

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1 = What is one phenomenal book that you think more people should know about?

eli type mockup

Not counting the ones I wrote? I’m thinking we must need a bigger fandom for The Legend of Eli Monpress” by Rachel Aaron, because I need more fan art to ogle and possibly a movie/TV series to cringingly anticipate.

2 = Who is one of your favorite fictional characters and why?

Obviously, there are dozens of people I could name here, even if I left my own characters out of the mix. Rather than force myself to choose one here and now, allow me to direct you to a vintage Tumblr post of mine, displaying a short list of heroes, thieves, heroic thieves, and villains/antagonists I would gleefully be or be with for a day.

3 = What is a song that you really love at this moment?

Songs from A Secret Garden

Anytime “Papillon” by Secret Garden pops up on my Pandora, my heart just sighs and sinks into the beauty. The song may be named for a butterfly, but to my ear it is gliding swans and figure skating and snowflakes dancing down to melt into the green of a willow-and-waterweeds garden.

4 = If you could acquire one real-life skill overnight, what would it be? (like the ability to perform neurosurgery or play the accordion or balance a grape on your nose for extended periods of time)

I’m torn between the ability to fluently speak all of the secondary languages I’ve ineffectively studied over the years (Spanish, French, Italian, and for the love of tongues, German), and the power to play anything on the piano, like some Mozart-esque musical maniac.

…Actually, that’s just naming the same skill twice, for what is music but yet another language?

5 = If you could acquire one non-real-life skill overnight, what would it be? (like the ability to breathe underwater or control objects with your mind or balance a grape on your nose for extended periods of time)

TEL *claps* E *claps* POR *claps* TA *claps* TION. I have more places to be than I have time and energy to get there. It’s 2019. Where’s the accessible insta-travel for all? Or, at the very least, for ME?

6 = What book surprised you the most this year, and in what way? (It doesn’t have to be one that came out this year)

Robin-Benway-Far-from-the-Tree

I had not expected Far From the Tree” by Robin Benway to make me cry so much, yet there we were.

Also, I finally ended up reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, and hey, who knew the writing was actually so amusing? (Answer: The basically 3 out of every 4 people on the planet who’ve already reread the book 77 times, that’s who.)

7 = Would you rather be a superhero or his butler?

Fun fact: Being a butler is one of my low-key superpowers.

8 = What makes you laugh? (Besides reading this blog, because I already know I’m hilarious)

Me: “Hmm, what does make me laugh every time?”

Tirzah Duncan: “People falling down.”

Me: *laughs*

Make 'Em Laugh

(Disclaimer: I will not necessarily laugh at people genuinely and perhaps painfully falling down in real life! As a slapstick fictional device, though? Yes. Peak comedy.)

9 = What is something that you know is silly but you love it anyway?

Let’s just say the ‘90s produced a plethora of songs/albums just for kiddos, and my 30-year-old self is nostalgically fond of quite a few. (This answer brought to you: “Bananas in Pyjamas”, “Sesame Street”, “Barney the Dinosaur”, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson, “The Little Mermaid” spin-offs, and more.)

10 = Which fictional character would you adopt in a heartbeat?

If I may cheat and name a twofer, I’d snatch up Tod and Copper from Disney’s “The Fox and the Hound”, because ‘heck yes!’ to having a pet fox, and ‘heck no!’ to their canonical life trajectory.

Fox and the Hound

11 = If money was no object, which book would you adapt either into a movie or into a Broadway musical?

OUTLAWS OF AVALON: THE MUSICAL”, pleeeeeease! (On Broadway, or animated by Disney, take your pick.) Or, y’know, I actually do have a trunked manuscript from a decade ago, entitled “Vampire: The Musical!”, which has been begging since conception to make it onto the stage or screen or radio, if I could only figure out how to get it there.

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As for a new set of 11 questions to ask and see answered… that sounds like a bit of fun for a future blog post. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, readers, if you’re just itching to give your own answers to the questions posed above, be ye not shy, but share in the comments!

In Henrietta, Virginia

Once upon a short while ago, mah gurl alerted me to a certain contest.

Raven Recap Contest

The challenge: To summarize the fantastical events of all four books in The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater – (aka, one of my very favorite series in the known universe) – in 200 words or a 1-minute video.

The prize for three lucky winners, chosen by Maggie herself: An exclusive boxed set of The Raven Cycle, plus the contest’s organizers will share the winning entries on their social platforms.

Raven Cycle, Paper Fury Insta
Photo credit to @paperfury on Instagram

I did not initially think to enter, because condensing the plot of even one novel into a 200-word back-o’-book-esque blurb is struggle enough. (I should know. I’ve only had to do it more than a dozen times for my own books.) How in the world to do it for four???

So I put the notion aside. …And then I got dragged out of bed bright and early by my muse, journaled for about an hour, and wound up with a lovely contender of a poem on my hands, fondly entitled “In Henrietta, Virginia”.

Though I hadn’t the patience to count out the words in my handwritten scribbles*, I could tell at a glance that it totaled past 200. That meant that if I wanted my little labor of love to have a shot in the contest, I’d have to call upon my inner bard and recite the poem at sparkling speed.

*(Having subsequently typed it all out, the exact word-count comes to 271.)

Video, recorded. Entry, entered. Winners – as of this post’s drafting – unannounced.

Certainly, I hope to be among the lucky three deemed a cut above the rest by an idolized author! But even if I’m not, it will be something to suppose that she saw art I made in response to hers, and that it gave her joy. After all, were I the author in Maggie’s place, I’d be giddy over a fandom scrambling to put my beloved story into new words.

Non-Stiefvater readers of the blog, meanwhile, are also perfectly welcome to watch my video (linked here!), and/or read the poem at a less break-neck pace below.

In Henrietta, Virginia

A daughter of seers knows two things for truth.

The first she’s been warned of since earliest youth –

To kiss her true love is to kill. Next, her rule:

Avoid the boys from Aglionby school

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

She knows no temptation until she knows them

So living, so deathly – a strange constellation:

 

A young man’s form holds an ancient soul

That yearns and journeys the world over,

Desperate to discover why

He lives this second chance at life.

He knows not the depth of his wealth, nor his power,

Only the call of the legend Glendower

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

A son of a dream dreams a world of his own,

Full of cages to rage in ‘til he reclaims home.

A boy in the dust sells his hands and his eyes.

Could this bondage help free him from family ties?

 

A mantle of green seek a waren of grey.

A poet with blood on his hands finds the way,

Along with a love and a life that he craves,

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

Their searches converse on a line o’ the ley,

The road of the corpses who walk in the day,

But too fast start to fade, become monstrous shades,

Like nightmares that out of thieves’ dreams claw their way

into Henrietta, Virginia,

 

Where you unearth a tomb, expecting one thing,

Only to find the mad light of a tree.

Where hornets are death, unlike robotic bees,

And all could soon fall to the Unmaker’s sting.

 

Ware the words of the forest, the song of the corvids,

You mirrors, magicians, and dreams:

The way you’ve made is the Raven King’s.

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Any other fans of The Raven Cycle (and/or other Stiefvater works) in the da house?! If yes, how well do you think my poem captured the soul of the series? If no, has this post made you at all curious to give the books a read? All thoughts welcome in the comments!

Once and Future Fan Art

The longer I live, the harder it is to find leisure-time activities that hit that sweet spot overlapping ‘productive’, ‘relaxing’, and ‘fun’.

Also hard to find: Fan art for a novel I’m still a couple months or so away from publishing.

Or so it was, until I followed my muse to AzaleasDolls.com and started playing around with virtual dolls designed to resemble my characters from “The Once and Future Camelot” (#CamelotWIP). And just like that, I had both a low-key pastime to appease my creative urges AND a growing collection of Arthurian portraiture!

So, who’s ready to meet some of the faces from Avalon Faire … and/or from the kingdom before?

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Camelot Dolls_Lance x 3

Name, Title: Sir Lancelot du Lac, King’s Champion of Camelot, Knight of the Round Table

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

Strikingly tall and broad of shoulder; face hard as stone beneath his sweep of moonlight hair, silvery gold; advances and blows flowing one to another with the inexorable might of a waterfall. Gawain’s skill, though formidable, looked almost a beginner’s effort next to the ruthless grace of Sir Lancelot.

A Word on the Art: The image on the far left (made in ‘Warrior Maker’) probably has the clearest knightly vibe going for it, notwithstanding its being a bit reminiscent of a Roman centurion. The facial expression is spot on; 10/10 would absolutely see it on Lance’s face at one time or another. In the center is an early sketch effort of mine, produced circa the first-drafting of “Ballad” in late 2010. Not a bad likeness, considering I’d barely even known him or what he looked like. And on the far right, courtesy of ‘Sci-Fi Warrior 2’, we get Lance as a Jedi! Canonically, there is no reason for him to wield an actual lightsaber, but I think we can agree he’d look amazing doing it.

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Camelot Dolls_Gawain x 3

Name: Sir Gawain of Orkney, Knight of the Round Table

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Self-Described in #CamelotWIP:

Gawain didn’t want a seat that rolled around, and too much comfort verged on uncomfortable. His was a square, wooden seat, plain and sturdy, the arms wideset – more or less, Gawain expected, what he himself would be, were he a chair.

A Word on the Art: As with Lance, the far left image was made in somewhat limited ‘Warrior Maker’. The belt he wears holds special story significance; the shield’s just because. Center is a sketch I did at the same time – and on the same piece of paper – as Lancelot’s. In a world where art skews toward slimmer characters, I made it a point to attempt portrayal of Gawain’s huskier build. The far right image, meanwhile, was a gift from my BFF+, fellow writer Tirzah Duncan, during her ‘model a heck-ton of Guild Wars II avatars on Deshipley characters’ phase. Maybe it’s just because it came from her, but number 3 is my favorite. ^_^

Fun Bonus: Side-by-side (…-by-side-by-side) portraits of Gawain and his three younger brothers introduced in #CamelotWIP – Agravaine, Gaheris, and Gareth!

Simulated Orkneys 4

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Camelot Dolls_Bedivere x 3

Name, Title: Sir Bedivere the One-Handed, Captain of the Round Table

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Self-Described in #CamelotWIP:

“Ah.” The knight cut a canny look the king’s way. “So you like your current events like you like your history.”

“Yes, you could—”

“…Strong, dark, and hellishly hot,” Bedivere finished. “Or is that your coffee? No, it’s your captains.”

A Word on the Art: When it comes to depictions of Bedivere, inclusion of a sword is a must – whether it be a basic ‘Warrior Maker’ blade (far left), a mere hilt with the rest of the weapon implied (center sketch), or some sort of rune-engraved monstrosity of steel larger than its wielder (Guild Wars gift from Tirzah, far right). And as regards that third image, the answer is yes: Bedivere does look every bit that deadly hot on the battlefield.

*

Camelot Dolls_Galahad x 2

Name: Galahad of Joyous Gard

First Introduced In: A #CamelotWIP debut!

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

“You’re like a hawk,” a low voice spoke. “The way your eyes move … The way they pierce. What do they search for?”

A Word on the Art: On the left (via Tirzah and Guild Wars), we see Galahad circa Camelot’s fall, at just about 18 years old. Piercing gaze? Check! On the right (via ‘Sci-Fi Warrior 2’), I’d say he’s more 14-ish – just a couple years into his training as a squire. Again, lightsaber technology would not be a thing. That sort of saintly-iconic light burst going on behind him, though… that, I would call, if not canonical, then certainly in keeping with his character.

*

Camelot Dolls_Mordred x 2

Name: Mordred

First Introduced In: A #CamelotWIP debut!

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

Though more than a year behind in age, he’d grown every inch as tall as Galahad, his form just as powerful, with the sinuous grace of a cat’s tail; his face caught between the softness of a child, the strength of a man, and the splendor of an angel.

A Word on the Art: Okay, show of hands: Am I only one who just wants to squish the boy’s softly-strong-and-splendid angel face?? Tirzhah’s Guild Wars version on the left did a passable job (the eyes, apart from being blue instead of gray, are basically flawless), though the ‘Sci-Fi Warrior 2’ adaptation on the right may have, surprisingly, hit even closer to the mark. And I mean, whatever – if Lance and Galahad have lightsabers now, Mordred may as well be a master of the Force. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

*

Camelot Dolls_Guinevere x 3

Name, Title: Guinevere, Queen of Camelot

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Seen by Gawain in #CamelotWIP:

He thought of Guinevere in some half a dozen ways at any given moment. Her Majesty. His uncle’s wife. Something like a second sister, in the absence of his first. The legend-reputed adulteress. The lady of whom he was determined to believe no such thing. The girl plucked first from her father’s home, then from the wilds of the Fey realm, then from Camelot and into an alien place that shared its name but not the half of its soul. He saw them all, layer upon layer upon layer, as she walked the Faire’s streets, or lounged in the castle, or rolled a thunderous strike for the team when she and the knights ventured Outside for the new-formed tradition of Bowling Night.

A Word on the Art: After browsing the site’s options, I found a favorite for Guinevere in ‘Casual Style’. Even then, no single clothing combination could encompass her subtle layers of personality. Hence, a triptych of Outside!Guinevere fashion possibilities.

*

Camelot Dolls_Vivienne x 2

Name, Title: Vivienne, Lady of the Lake

First Introduced In: She was made mention of in “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, but we didn’t actually see her until the holiday dream sequence that was “An Avalon Christmas Carol” (Outlaws of Avalon #1.5).

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

A womanly vision of silver-limned gold, bright as the veiled glow of the moon. Amber skin beaded with water like stars. Ears tapering up like the tip of a dagger. … Eyes an ever-changing shade of silver-blue-green…

A Word on the Art: On the left, an indulgence in a ‘Casual Style’ interpretation of Vivienne. On the right, a far more canonically accurate version via, aptly enough, ‘Elven Portrait’. One thing I appreciated about that one = how I was able to do her ears. Rather than the dainty, pretty little ears traditionally attributed to Elven beauties, the ones seen here read as inarguably inhuman, and even suggest something mer-like, to my eye.

*

Camelot Dolls_Morganne x 2

Name, Title: Morganne le Fey, Faerie Queen

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

Living darkness, drawn in light.

(More detailed descriptions have been given elsewhere, but none could more succinctly capture her essence.)

A Word on the Art: Will Scarlet is of the opinion that ‘Casual Style’ Morganne looks ready to drop it like it’s hot in a music video. He is not wrong. ‘Elven Portrait’ Morganne, meawhile… given the limitations of the medium, that is practical perfection. Nothing but love and respect for my shadowy Faerie Queen.

*

And last for now, but far from the least…

Camelot Dolls_Arthur , Merlin

Names, Titles: Arthur Pendragon, The Once and Future King of Camelot, with Merlinus “Merlin” Ambrosius, King’s Wizard of Camelot

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

In some ways, it was like looking at Gawain a few years hence, for the King bore a strong resemblance to his eldest nephew. Just as truly, it was like looking at no other. The King’s smile creased gently around eyes the rich brown of good earth, and warmed Galahad all up and down. Never before had he received a smile like that.

…and…

Though his gray beard hung low and he leaned against the gnarled staff in his hand, the man did not appear at all frail. What could be discerned of his shape seemed strong beneath a strange robe, too elegantly styled for a holy man’s. And perhaps Camelot’s court made a collection of hawks, for the old man’s blue eyes pierced as sharply as any of Joyous Gard.

A Word on the Art: Central as they are to each other’s lives, it’s only fitting that I fashion a piece showing Arthur and Merlin together. Thanks, ‘Tudors Scene’, for enabling the endeavor! We’re off the Arthurian time period by a good 500 years, so definite liberties were taken with the wardrobe; but hey, no lightsabers, this time! Arthur looks too thin, and Merlin doesn’t look grumpy enough by half. Their relational dynamic, however, is coming across just about right.

<<<>>>

What think you, readers? Any favorites among the artworks presented here today? Any recommendations for free online character creators I might wanna play around with? Any super cool Arthuriana art out there that I should see so we can ooh and ahh together? Tell me about it in the comments!

Of Favored Escapes and Celestial Self-Mates

Once upon a nocturne of the soul, I felt myself magnet-drawn to make poetry.

It’s struck again – the whim, the mood, the muse – and the results are these:

<<<>>>

The first, a sigh for a favored escape…

Magnet Poetry_Sotto Voce

come to the forest

accompany me

leave confusion

enter harmony

 

spirit, slow

quiet within

sotto voce

<<<>>>

The second, an ode to my celestial self-mate…

Magnet Poetry_Quoth the Dusk

quoth the dusk:

 

“there.

through that shroud of crepuscular light:

 

white in black;

a solo of shadows,

filling an adagio sky.

tell-tale music –

signature song by

our moon.

 

do you see?”

<<<>>>

P.S. – If you’d like to support another artistic endeavor celebrating the moon, please see my GoFundMe.

P.P.S. – No blog post coming next week, for I’ll be off trying to relax on vacation. Until afterward, friends!

In Which an Old Tale Shall Shine Like New

Once upon a time, an author wrote of a smile in the dark.

Taking her father’s great hand in her tiny fingers, Laraspur led him to her bed and urgently bade him lay his head on her pillow. […] “Now look!” she said, pointing toward her bedroom window. “Do you see it, Papa? The scary smiling thing? What is it?”

“That?” Edgwyn aimed his gaze as directed and had to quiet a laugh. “Dear heart, that’s only the moon!”

‘Twas but the beginning of a novella-length tale of a large-hearted girl and her quest for the sky, and inspired a number of related art projects from the author – including various drawings, a pretty little song and, one day very recently, an idea for a picture book.

Princess and the Moon, fan art triptych

Mind you, as far as the picture book the author envisioned, her own illustration skills left much to be desired. Thus did she turn to an old Renaissance Faire friend whose fine drawings had paired with other of the author’s works before, inviting her to collaborate on a new masterpiece.

Sun's Rival Cover, full spread udpateAnd that author – *solemn nods* – was me.

That inspirational novella was the fifth of the Wilderhark Tales, “The Sun’s Rival”.

That friend was artist and illustrator Hannah Vale.

And the picture book in the works as we speak is to be called “The Princess and the Moon”.

This is my first-ever effort to make an honest-to-goodness, for-real-and-for-sale picture book (though Hannah has some experience in the area), and I am VERY MUCH EXCITED!

Behold, the back-cover book description:

When a young girl is startled awake by a singular light in the sky, her father spins her a tale made of sunbeams and stardust – the tale of a remarkable princess and the two opposite hearts that loved her. Adapted from “The Sun’s Rival”, Book Five of The Wilderhark Tales novellas by author Danielle E. Shipley, and illustrated by artist Hannah Vale (“The Tale of the Two Royal Sisters”), “The Princess and the Moon” is sure to charm readers young and old, both by day and by night.

Promo Sketch, w text 02

Behold also, the GoFundMe I’ve started to help cover the project’s expenses. (Because quality illustrations cost quantity cash, amigos!)

– Donors of any amount will receive a special thank-you illustration by Hannah Vale.

– Donors of $10 or more will receive one (1) copy of the finished picture book, to have and to hold, to read and to cherish.

– Donors of $30 or more will receive a copy of the book autographed by yours truly.

– Donors of $50 or more will receive book + autograph + a limited edition “The Princess and the Moon” promotional bookmark.

– Donors of $100 or more will receive book + autograph + bookmark + an “I See You” sticker from my Society6 shop (because see you, I do!).

So donate and follow along on the GoFundMe to stay updated on what your dollars are helping to bring into the world! Spread the word to all your picture-book-lovingest friends! And I, for one, shall strive not to bust from anticipation before I’m able to read “The Princess and the Moon” to my beloved baby nephew. ^o^

Excited to see the heart of “The Sun’s Rival” in an all-new format? Have any favorite childhood story book memories to share? Think any other bits from Deshipley canon would make a worthy picture book? Tell all in the comments!

The Umbrella Academy Book Tag (Deshipley Edition, Of Course)

Recent Past Me: “What to blog about, what to blog about, what to blog about…?”

Recent Past Me: *comes across this “Umbrella Academy Book Tag” post on paperfury.com*

R.P.M.: “Perfect.”

Thanks to my housemate living half with me, half on Tumblr, I actually heard about the new Netflix original series in time to hop on the bandwagon (normally I’m five to twenty years behind everything, so this is wild), and just finished watching the first (and, so far, only) season a few weeks ago.

Umbrella Academy Tag

To briefly express my opinions in “WHAMO!” fashion:

– Holy cow, this setup is nuts!

– WAIT, WHAT, SOMEBODY ELABORATE ON THE TENTACLES.

– Reginald Hargreeves is trash.

– Klaus is a Will Scarlet archetype.

– How is this time-traveling hit man so relateable??

– Diego is low-key a mama’s boy and a mom.

– Y’all need to sit down and Talk! To! Each! Other!

– This show is a thin veneer of “cool and funny” over an abyss of PAIN AND STRESS.

– Allyn-a-Dale will definitely be doing Vanya’s look in the last episode for Halloween, this year.

– Well, that had me hooked! Will not be needing Season 2 in my life, thank you, I’ve got enough anxiety as-is.

<<<>>>

Now then! Onto the tag, created by It’s My Birth Write on YouTube. As is my usual, I will be answering these book-themed questions ONLY with titles/characters from the Danielle E. Shipley oeuvre, because 1) these posts get written faster when I can focus in on a narrow category and 2) call it my reward for having self-published more books in the last six years than my burnt-out brain can keep an accurate count of.

1 = HELLO: Name the Best First Book in a Series

Cover w Text 06.3, frontSince two books totally counts as a series, let’s give this one to “Inspired”! It’s got a crazy high-concept premise (fictional folks wandering the line between real and imaginary as they search for a new author to house them / tell their stories). It’s got a distinctive cast of characters (each and every one very much themselves, despite having been deliberately fashioned out of other characters of mine). It’s got heart and angst and eloquent waxing on the majesty of art and its creation! Searches for self and belonging! Elements of mystery! The forging of friendships! Not to mention the Totally In-Depth Author-to-Character Q&A. “Inspired” didn’t demand its sequel – (Deshipley don’t do cliffhangers, yo) – but it hinted very politely that it would appreciate one, and “Out of My Head” and I were entirely happy to oblige. Wouldn’t cry boo to a third book, either, if I ever get around to writing one…

2 = THE HARGREEVES CHILDREN: Name a Big Book Family (dysfunction is optional)

Wilderhark Calendar, October

You want a dysfunctional family? Look no further than the Sky. The Welkens of the Wilderhark Tales are a hot mess – literally, in the case of the sun king, Raeóryn; anti-literally, in the case of Aquinore, Wind of the North. There’s not one healthy sibling relationship in the bunch.

– Raeóryn puts down moon king Lumónd for being the “lesser” light

– Lumónd (and… basically everyone) disdains Raeóryn for being an arrogant dictator

– The brother winds bully their little sister Versparya (West Wind) for the comparative weakness of her breeze and the immutable strength of being their master’s favorite

– Pretty sure Euroval (East Wind) would be slightly less murderous if he didn’t idolize eldest brother Aquinore so

– Pretty sure Austeryn (South Wind) would sell any member of his family to the devil for a slice of cheesecake; and the winds don’t even eat

3 = THE WORLD ENDS IN 8 DAYS: If You Only Had Eight Days Left, Which Book Would You Choose to Be Your Last Read?

Story's End Cover, gallery size

Fortunately, eight days should be time enough to reread all of my books, since High Goodness knows I wouldn’t choose to spend my last week before the apocalypse toiling at my day job. But for my grand finale read, what could be more appropriate than Wilderhark Tales number seven, “The Story’s End”? In addition to worrying over the whispers of fate that warn the end is nigh, I could follow along one last time on the travels of minstrel marvel Gant-o’-the-Lute and his precious little apprentice, the future Allyn-a-Dale. The story would fill me with melancholy, but maybe also a spark of hope. After all, the end of the Wilderhark Tales was only the beginning of the Outlaws of Avalon. Could be that both Allyn and I are on the brink of an all-new adventure…

4 = SPACE BOY: Name a Character Who Plays the Leader, But May Not Be Cut Out For It

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

That’s probably how Arthur Pendragon would describe himself, the poor dear. The Once and Future King of my “Once and Future Camelot” hasn’t had much opportunity to flex his greatness during his afterlife in Avalon Faire, and it’s not doing healthy things for his confidence. But what’s left of his broken kingdom believes in him! As do I! Pendragon for President, 2020!

5 = THROWING KNIVES: What Literary Weapon Would You Want in Your Arsenal?

Song Caster Cover, full spread updateOoh, make mine the Flute Stone from Wilderhark four, “The Song Caster”! I mean, I’ll need to learn to actually play the flute before I’ll be able to wield its unlimited power. But my sister took lessons for years; I’m sure she could give me some pointers … provided I didn’t tell her she was paving the way toward my long-anticipated rise to Dark Lordliness.

6 = I HEARD A RUMOUR: Name a Book That Has a Misleading Plotline

Swan Prince Cover, full spread updateA misleading plotline? Hmm, that’s a toughie. I fancy myself a pretty straightforward taleteller, all told. Although…! I did try my hand at a novella-long misdirection in book one of the Wilderhark Tales, “The Swan Prince”. Obviously, I’m not going to spell it out here, since it’d be Spoiler City for any readers of this post who have yet to experience my little fairytale debut. (Y’all should read it, though. Might not be as polished, storytelling-wise, as my progressively-more-excellent later works, but a nice little audience rightfully fell in love with it anyway.)

7 = KLAUS: Name a Book That Involves the Dead / Ghosts / Etc.

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, galleryThe dead, ghosts, etc.? Sound like a bite-sized description of my second-most-recent novel, “So Super Dead”! I mean, the whole plot basically boils down to: Ghost girl, wanting revenge on the undead guy who killed her, enlists the help of kid who can talk to dead people; numerous casualties occur. (Also, I want an AU in which Nicky sits down to give Klaus, if not the entire Hargreeves family, some much-needed, talk-it-out therapy.)

8 = THE BOY: Recommend a Book That Plays with Time (whether it be in dual timelines, involving time travel, etc.)

Legend cover 02, frontLookin’ right at you, “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”. To quote a reviewer:

Just an aside, if you’ve ever wondered how time travel can reasonably happen, read this. It somehow makes perfect sense. Especially coming from Merlin.

…Which just blew my mind and exploded my heart to read, because y’all don’t even know how much I struggle with time-twisting plotlines, and here’s some stranger saying I nailed it! *high fives, Merlin, medieval Sherwood, Excalibur, and any other magical entity that made this moment possible*

9 = VANYA: Name a Character Who Has Buried Potential

Sir Bedivere the One-Handed. That’s all I’ll say on the matter ‘til we’re closer to launch for “The Once and Future Camelot”. *zips lips*

10 = LUTHER AND ALLISON: Name a Questionable Book Couple, and Why You Do or Don’t Like Them

They may not be my most controversial couple – (that honor probably goes to Austeryn and his wife in “The Surrogate Sea”) – but let’s talk about Gant-o’-the-Lute and Viralei of Carillon (Wilderhark Tales, three through seven). Obviously, what they had is True Love, else the spellwork of a certain Anarchwitch wouldn’t have broken with a kiss. Even so, this minstrel/princess pair seems to argue that a love can be true, yet still be unhealthy. She loved him like a hero. He loved her like music. But I have to doubt that they ever really saw each other, “The Sun’s Rival”-style. Viralei never would have tried to keep Lute in a castle, otherwise. And Lute’s heart, bless and/or shake your fist at it, never really understood the first thing about caring for people in the way that’s best for them. So do I like these two as individuals? Sure. Am I grateful their union gave us Allyn? Absolutely. Do I think their marriage was wise? No, I do not.

11 = HAZEL AND CHA CHA: Pick a Deadly Book Duo

Deathsong cover, remix 01.3Let’s just say if Molly Worth and the Kraken from “Deathsong of the Deep” ever decided to tackle a hit list together, it would be some DEATH TO BEHOLD.

12 = GOODBYE: What’s the Best Finale?

“The Once and Future Camelot” will be. Watch this space.

<<<>>>

Ta-da! Wanna be tagged? You’re it! Have you watched “The Umbrella Academy”? Share your thoughts in the comments! Based on my reactions to this show, is there anything else you think I should be watching on Netflix?