Home, Dear Home

A sigh from Gilbert, the elegant one, as he sips at tea and gazes out from the couch, ‘cross the deck, o’er the trees. “It feels like Germany.”

That’s what our hearts said when first we saw the place.

The open house for the apartment was scheduled for a November noon. Tirzah and I arrived with many minutes to spare, and so elected to walk a bit up the hill from the house. And it looked of Germany. Smelled of Germany. Stirred our souls the way a ramble through little German woods and villages ever did. We’d been aching, ever since we parted ways, for the best of our old German home – my inner Gilbert missing it dearest of all. Now here was a piece of it, in Marin County by the bay.

And inside the apartment itself, all was fresh and light and – (compared to our little guest house in Fresno) – spacious. For Tirzah, at last, a proper kitchen, complete with a full-sized oven, a functional dishwasher, counter space. For me? Oh, just everything, everything. Even the things less than perfect called out to be mine.

We had other appointments in other apartments, and sensibly scheduled more, striving to go into them all with open minds. But this first place we toured was the one we wanted. This, we said, smitten, was Crush House. This was our house.

If we could only convince the reticent landlords that we’d be able to make good on the sky-high rent they demanded.

*

A yip from Galliard, the man-puppy de France, as he bounces at the windows over the bed. “Oh, ho-ho! Look you – it is deer!”

It is always deer.

Doe Out the Window_copy
The deer without

The evening we received the keys (inexpressible thanks to the friend of the landlords who’d run the open house and advocated for us every hopeful, fretful step of the way), we stood out on the deck, breathing excitement in and gratitude out, when a step sounded in the underbrush below. We peered through the dark, alert for… what? A man-sized person? A horse-sized dog? Instead, a doe, roaming the yard with nary a care for our voices nearby.

The night before we moved in proper, just transferring the bulk of our luggage from our Airbnb in preparation for the real thing (more thanks inexpressible to the lovely lady and her sons who shared their home with us during that limbo week in between a hotel and the new beginning awaiting us), a shadow walked the road mere paces from our carport. Into the streetlights, a stag – perfectly aware of us, and rightly confident that we would know better than to threaten his progress.

The day we labored our boxes, bits of furniture, and gargantuan mattress up the steps, around the front stoop, into the house (there really is no expressing how thankful I am that this neighborhood’s scenic hills defeated neither us nor the U-Haul that was in no way designed to navigate such a steep, narrow, winding way), a mother-and-fawn duo watched from various vantages. The doe’s bland stare conveyed silent judgment. It was becoming increasingly clear that the herd ran this territory, and they weren’t of the opinion that our presence was adding much community value.

*

A cough for attention from Will Scarlet, the man, the myth, The Most™. “I notice that we have yet to put up our John Barrowman pictures.”

There’s a lot of art we’re still wondering how to work onto the walls. A bit of furniture we’re still wanting to gather. A good deal of progress, however, has been made on both fronts. The aforementioned couch was a vital thrift store find. The papasan chair in our bedroom corner, scooped up for free from the curb while driving back from a day visit to San Francisco. The cubby shelves in our bathroom, purchased from the Target just a parking lot away from an invigorating waterfront walk. Deck table and chairs, obtained via a community app recommended to me while carpooling with a seasonal coworker. Massive desk-and-bookcase unit in the living room… well, the whole of that harrowing tale can be found on my Twitter.

Gazing Out After the Morning's Rain
The deer within

As for art, pieces of us and what we cherish are everywhere. We even managed to arrange sufficient lights, knickknacks, reindeer antler headbands, etc., to bring a sense of Christmas into the space for December. All this while juggling, for the first time: Gas-and-electric bills; internet account ownership; renters’ insurance; a work-to-home commute through actual, ridiculous rush hour traffic. Next-level adulthood is a lot.

But we’re making it happen.

On the days we feel strong and the days we feel weak. Whether we’re acing it or barely scraping by. When dragging ourselves up to alarms that sound before the sun, and while settling down with a plate of leftovers and a comfort Netflix session. This is the miracle we’re making. Our little Germany. Our house of deer. Our imaginary roommates with their cheers, complaints, and constant commentary.

Ours, all ours.

In Which the World Scrambles to Catch Up

Robin Hood looks up with a smile and wave from his seat at a coffee shop table. “Danielle! Good to see you again.”

I settle into the seat across from him. “Right? It’s been too long since last time.”

“Just a bit over a year now, I believe – with that so-called coffee shop a mere set on a stage, you portrayed by the Merry Men’s minstrel, and my crazy cousin directing the show.”

“Yeah, well,” say I, recalling fondly, “Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre skits are fun, but take a lot of brain energy to script. Easier just to hang out with you one-on-one in some quiet corner of imagination.”

Robin nods, sipping his beverage. “So, what’s new?” His eyes sparkle through the aromatic steam. “Or might well I ask, what isn’t?

I loose a long and multilayered sigh. “So, so much is new. To start with, remember how excited I was last year about landing that Amazon fulfillment center job?”

“Weeping with delight, if I rightly remember.”

“Mm. Well, the weeping remained,” I say grimly. “Turns out the job’s demands and culture are not, shall we diplomatically say, a good fit for me and Tirzah. Work-related injuries led to her resignation, and I was eager to follow before my own body and soul broke down beyond repair. But until she or I could find another job, I needed to stay where I was; rent for our adorable little home wasn’t going to pay itself, alas.”

Robin’s hum and crinkled expression radiate sympathy. “That sounds like quite the unhappy burden to bear.”

“It was,” I acknowledge, “but for Tirzah’s sake, ‘twas borne voluntarily. Her body and soul needed to know they were in a safe place for recovery before she could fully face the challenge of finding something new.”

JournalQuote_AlreadyASuccess
From my personal journal, Oct. 18, 2019

“Was the Fresno job search better, this time around?”

I’ve only just been served my tea, and I almost snort the first mouthful out my nose. “As desert-dry as ever. Sometimes I’m amazed there are two employed folks to rub together, in that city. Tirzah did come across an extraordinary opportunity elsewhere, though. And by elsewhere, I mean San Francisco.”

San Fran Magic Triptych

Robin’s brows rise. “You love that city.”

“I do! And the idea of moving there…” I break off, speechless with overwhelm. “It would have been magical. But she didn’t get the job.”

“Oh, luv…”

The time-honored nod of a mourner accepting condolences. “That was really hard – to have hopes fly so high, then come crashing down. But it served a purpose. It raised our gaze. We realized that if we aspired to live in or near San Francisco, there was no point continuing to apply for jobs in Fresno. So we centered our efforts on the Bay Area. Even visited there again, at the start of my birthday month, to help cement our intentions via a neuro-linguistic programming conference.”

“Neuro-linguistic…?”

NLP, for short. Any case, we were dreaming big and striving hard for— huh.” A retrospective pause. “It felt like a slogging eternity, but I guess this chapter had its beginnings in July and is in the midst of coming to a close. I’d sort of dared the universe to get me free of Amazon by my birthday.”

“…And?” Robin prompts, when I leave him hanging.

“That’s the day T and I drove three hours, one way, so she could have an in-person interview at an assisted-living facility.” I smile. “And she got offered the job on the spot.”

Robin’s grin could outshine the sun (*cough* nobody tell Raeóryn *cough*). “DAR-ling!”

31 years old

I wriggle with joy. “That was a Wednesday. They scheduled her to start on Tuesday. That gave us less than a week to pack up and move out – which we managed, like the legends we are, though it would’ve been worlds easier,” I say pointedly, “if we’d had a legendary band of outlaws physically present to lug boxes and furniture into storage.”

Robin shrugs his apologies. “You know we’d have been there if we could. Same for when you’re ready to move in somewhere new. Which will be… when?”

“Not entirely sure yet. It’s hotel and Airbnb life, to start with, because Tirzah’s job alone won’t provide income enough to reassure any potential landlords of our financial stability.”

“Ah. So it must wait until you’ve found a job, too.”

A casual sip of my tea. “Oh, I’ve just done that.”

“YOU—?!”

“At a children’s museum. The day before drafting this blog post,” I say, smirking to keep from squealing. “That was a Wednesday. I’m scheduled to start—”

No.”

“Yep. Tuesday.”

JournalQuote_RealMagic
From my personal journal, Oct. 28, 2019

“One week and a whirlwind apart,” Robin marvels. “’Twould seem you’ve got a strong share of magic to work with, after all.”

“’Twould indeed,” I murmur, weary and wonder-filled, tired and twinkling with hope. “It’s been a ride-and-a-half, Robin Hood, but I think it’s taking me where I need to go. Where I want to go, even. I can’t wait to see which blessings land in my lap next!”

“If things carry on at the rate they’ve been,” says Robin, raising his drink in salute, “that wait may not be long at all.”

San Fran Magic Diptych

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!

<<<>>>

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.

<<<>>>

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!

My Type o’ Writer

It’s that time of year, again! By which I mean, the one where I have been diligently producing blog content for almost a year and am very tired and wistfully looking at the idea of taking a hiatus. So I’m thinking Ever On Word will go quiet for the month of December. But that leaves today, the last Friday of November. What to blog about??

Fortunately, when Present Me is feeling uninspired, she can often turn to ideas that Past Me jotted down somewhere but never used – such as this list of ‘writer stereotypes’ by Paper Fury. How do I stack up against them? Let us discuss.

  1. Writers stay up late and work best in darkness

This actually used to be true of me. During the height of my creative frenzy (circa 2010 – 2015ish), I legitimately did most of my living in the middle of the night. (See “Open Journal: Creature of the Night.”) But anymore, I have a day job that dictates I be up-and-at-‘em with the winter sun, so bedtime’s 9pm, closer to 10 if I’m being naughty. If I wanna make words, it needs to happen in daylight.

  1. Writers drink a lot of coffee + go to coffee shops to write

Make that “writers drink entirely too much tea”, and I will, first of all, demand how you dare suggest there is such a thing as “too much tea” – (apologize or we duel) – and second of all agree that, yes, I am all about that tea life. And I do quite enjoy tea shops, but not as places to write. Noisy public spaces impede my creative process. My gal Tirzah, however, is a fiend for writing in coffee shops, and I have been known to tag along and occupy myself in other artistic pursuits (*cough* mostly selfies *cough*).

Tea and Coffee Shops
Taking time for tea and/or coffee and/or amateur photography.
  1. The writer uniform is: Pajamas

My pajamas are for bedtime and nothing else. If I want to be able to function outside of bed, I need daytime clothes. …Which can be every bit as slouchy and soft and unsuitable for errand-running as pajamas, but go by a different name in my brains, and Names Have Power. Ask a fairy tale.

  1. Writers are always crying over having to write

If I’m crying creator tears, it’s because I had a total blast making my story / song / blog post / whatever, and eagerly shared the artwork with the world … and the world did not appear to notice.

  1. Writers are partially made of crumbs or are six dragons in a trench coat

My trench coat conceals a kraken.

Fresno_IMG_20181115_073344341_2

  1. Writers are obsessed with stationary

I mean, I did design my own journal… And do have more journals than I expect I will ever actually fill… And spend a lot of time ogling fancy journals while shopping… And am essentially Annabelle Iole Gray from the “Inspired” novels

“Is she a writer?” Yves asked in a near-whisper.

“There’s hope for it,” said Luc. “She cradles two new journals in the crook of her arm, and is considering a third. If they are for her, we can assume her plans to fill them.”

– from “Inspired”

Hello, New Journal 01
From “Lightbulb Moments: An INSPIRED Journal”

Do you like your name, New Journal? It’s Irish, and means ‘fair’. I didn’t think you’d mind being given an Irish name, even if you are, according to a certain tattoo of yours, Taiwanese. What if your Irish parents served as missionaries in Taiwan, and you happened to be born and spent your formative years there before going out to seek your fortune on a book retailer’s shelf here in Missouri, U. S. of A.? Or what if you got the tat because you identify as Asian in your secret heart of hearts, never mind your being genetically second-generation Irish-American? No, make that third-generation. Your grandparents came over on the Titanic – well, partway on the Titanic; emergency switch in transport, mid-Atlantic, history will recall – and I guess their owners must have been wealthy enough to get first crack at the lifeboats, so…

“For heaven’s sake,” Luc said, his voice an almost Abishan-like growl. “Is she planning to write her first novel on the family history of a notebook?”

– from “Inspired”

So… yeah.

  1. Writers hate editing

I hate being told to edit. But I very much enjoy fiddling with what I’ve written, every time I reread it. It’s one of the increasingly few activities I can lose myself and relax in.

  1. Writers will correct your grammar

I very much will. And spelling. And usage. And unnecessary repetition. And punctuation. But mostly in my own head, not out loud, so you won’t even know how much you want to smack me.

  1. Writers want to drink readers’ tears

If I wept writing it, I want you ugly sobbing with me. Fair’s only fair.

  1. Writers hiss at people and live alone in a cottage in the deepest moors

…Close enough.

Meanwhile, in the comments section: Are you Team Tea or Team Coffee? What, instead of or in addition to journals, tops your “I don’t need it, but I nee-ee-eed it” list? Dare I ask who you are beneath the trench coat?

Chat with me in the comments, and I’ll see you all in January!

30 Things I’ve Done by Age 30

As of October’s end, I have – officially – outlived my 20s.

To Child Me, I’m ancient. To actual ancient people, I’m a child. To new acquaintances who ask my age, I’m a constant surprise, because ‘twould seem I still look like a college kid, notwithstanding my one or two inconspicuous gray hairs.

Based on Twitter memes mocking the concept, I can only guess that there exists Some So-Called Authority trying to dictate exactly what you “ought to” have accomplished by the time you reach your thirtieth year.

I, for one, refuse to waste a moment searching online for what these “ought to”-s might be. At best, it’ll prompt my derisive laughter. At worst, it’ll trigger my brain’s depression chemicals. Forget somebody’s “should haves”. I’ll focus instead on my “did”-s.

…Which by no means need match anyone else’s achievements/experiences! We’ve all done cool or mundane or magical things that others haven’t, and missed out on or chosen to forgo cool/mundane/magical things that others have done. That’s called life, and mine’s just one of ‘em.

Fortunately, I think I may be able to scrape together a list that lets my sleeping depression chemicals lie. In my first 30 years, I have…

1 = Written. A lot. Most of my millions of words may never see the light of day, but a hefty number of them have actually been read by friends and kinfolk, fans and strangers, and even paid for with legal tender, because— well, let’s be real, the “because” deserves its own number on the list.

2 = Published Myself. And been published by others, on occasion, but it’s been mostly me by my proud little lonesome.

NCPL Author Event Display
Display courtesy of my amazing parents who, when I was unavailable to attend an author event across the country last week, volunteered to set up and show up on my behalf. ❤

3 = Fed Waterfowl from a Balcony (Midwest, USA). Because the condo of my earliest youth had a pond in back, and what is bread for, if not getting thrown down to ruin the digestion of muttering ducks and cruel Canadian geese?

4 = Paraphrased Shakespeare from a Balcony (Bamburg, Germany). That one little corner of the cruise-sponsored guided tour demanded my theatrics! And from all I could tell, at least the cute tour guide enjoyed it heartily.

5 = Made Several (Official) Best Friends. The cousin my stay-at-home mom babysat while her parents were at work. (We sometimes see each other at family gatherings, still.) The girl from church with whom I made up silly saying-hello traditions and sillier home video variety shows. (Haven’t heard from her in years.) The pen pal from art camp who acknowledged my characters as people before I’d even embraced the author life. (We emailed back and forth for ages, only for her to simply… disappear… and then reappear on my radar, just the other week! #ThanksForSomethingFacebook) The little sister whose tagalong attentions I shunned, and whose validation for my various artworks I chased, and who is sometimes like my twin born three years late. (We make time to trade inside jokes over the phone and online, every so often.) And – latest but far from least – the writer bestie with whom I make my home.

“A-HEM?!”

Oh, sorry, Will Scarlet. And you.

6 = Driven the Dangerous Back-Mountain Roads of Maui. And somehow avoided rolling off a cliff so as to tell the tale!

7 = Memorized “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Which has come in handy during tedious work shifts when I needed to keep my brain musically entertained, let me tell you.

8 = Won Gold Medals in Classical Piano Competitions. In spite of appendages that turn blue with cold when I get super stage fright.

9 = Learned to Actually Love Making Music On My Own Terms. My Bach may be rusty beyond easy repair, but there are songs in my heart that demand to be set free however I’m able. And on that note (pun acknowledged)…

Minstrel Selfie
Click the pic to see my newest song recording shared on my birthday on the Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale Facebook page ^.^

10 = TOTALLY BOUGHT A LUTE. Which was an actual bucket list item of mine, so brava, wannabe minstrel.

11 = Owned a Dog. Good old Maximillian Devineaux Shipley. To this day (well… night?), I have occasional dreams in which I need to feed him or let him out to do his business and wonder why I’m still taking care of a cranky old doggo that got put down in 2012. I guess that’s part of what they mean about those you love never truly leaving you.

12 = Lived in a Tiny German Village. I miss the million wooded trails.

13 = Lived in a Gigantic (Yosemite) National Park. Ditto, plus the rivers and mountains and waterfalls.

14 = Engaged in Some Hippie ‘Trust Fall with the Earth’ Thing. If Tirzah and I ever turn our Yosemite times into memoirs, that story will get told.

15 = Sleepwalked through a Fire Alarm. Would’ve just plain slept it through, but my sisters insisted I evacuate, and were most flustered when I refused to go anywhere before I’d found my socks.

16 = Worn a Back Brace for Scoliosis. Come for the straightened spine, stay for the laugh whenever you can con someone into punching the hard plastic armoring your torso.

17 = Yelled at People in a Faux English Accent for Money. Renaissance Faires: Where Dreams Come True.

Towne Crier Throwback
Photo cred to fantastic Faire photog John Karpinksy.

18 = Gotten Countless Hopeless Crushes. First on fictional people. Then on real people I’d never meet. Then on real people I had met. Then on fictional people I had met… Doesn’t matter where it falls on the chart; everything’s painful.

19 = Realized I’m Asexual. Which hasn’t saved me from painful crushes, but I guess self-discovery is its own reward?

20 = Discovered Why Adults Take Naps. Child Me had no idea.

21 = Watched the Sun Shine Through Falling Rain. I’m not being all deep and metaphorical here. We’re talking literal weather, and it was hecka pretty.

22 = DESPAIRED. I mentioned my brain’s depression chemicals, right?

23 = Become an Auntie. I did not know why aunties fussed about being aunties. Then I got a baby nephew, and darned if he didn’t make off with half my heart.

Baby Nephew and Me

24 = Visited Manchester (England), Unaccompanied. And got a great hat and jacket, while in the neighborhood.

25 = Maybe Figured Out How to Compartmentalize Setbacks So That a Bad Moment, Bad Hour, Bad Morning or Afternoon or Evening Doesn’t Have to Equal an Entire Bad Day, Bad Week, Bad Life. This alone may facilitate me surviving to make this kind of list at 50.

26 = Been Asked, While Eating Meat, Whether I’m a Vegetarian. Another one for the memoirs. <_<

27 = Attended Two Funerals for Strangers, Since I Was in the Neighborhood. And was unable to attend a couple funerals for people I actually cared about. Go figure.

28 = Thrice Been a Wedding’s Flower Girl, Once a Bridesmaid, and Once Maid of Honor. I’ve no plans to ever try my luck as a bride, but there are fictional fellows who could show up and change my mind.

29 = Not Murdered Anyone Yet. There’s still time.

30 = Believed in Magic. Past tense for nothing. I believe in it still.

Happy 30 years of life to me! Wanna help me celebrate? You could make buying (and/or reviewing!) a Danielle E. Shipley book a thing you’ve done – whatever your age. 😉

What’s a cool, mundane, or magical something YOU’VE done with your life, so far? Share below!

Tag, You’re First! (Or Something Like That)

Once upon sometime in June I suppose, I discovered (here) a set of questions calling themselves “The First Tag”. The theme? Writerly firsts. The appeal for me? Obvious.

So what are we waiting for? First things first…

<<<>>>

Who was the first character you ever wrote?

My first actually named, wholly original, given-a-full-story character I can recall was Jesse Cassidy – a middle-school-aged tomboy who liked to bake and hated her classmates but ended up spending most of her time with them anyway. Over a number of years, I wrote her a whole series of chapter books, starting with…

What was the first story you ever finished?

… “How the Nutcracker Suite Went Sour”. In short summary: Jesse finds herself enrolled in a summer ballet class against her will, and is subjected to the disaster that is her (and her hated classmates’) amateur performance of “The Nutcracker”. In retrospect, it was not a great work of literature. But the fun of writing it ensured I would keep making words until I learned how to do it better.

Old School Oscar, Michael, and Jason
Super old sketch of the three boys Jesse would deign to call her friends.

What was the first piece of writing advice you ever heard? Or what was the first bit of advice you used and it actually worked?

Advice? I don’t know. I’ve spent so much time ignoring the voices around me in favor of the voices in my head, that I can’t recall an answer for this one.

Who was your first villain?

Santa Claus’s murderer.

(Would love to go into greater detail about him, but I’m actually planning to make a draft of his story presentable for publication someday, so we’ll all just have to be varying levels of patient!)

Dark Elf Waits
My first (badly shopped, lol) portrait of my OG villain.

What was the first storyworld you ever built?

My first deliberately fantastical world (not, y’know, what was supposed to be a regular world, but that turned out to have a murdered Santa Claus) was called Ohlhallaveil – or, translated from the High Language to English, the Dream World / World of the Dream. I’m not sure yet how to move forward with the first version of the Dream World I wrote, but different forms of it can be found elsewhere in Deshipley canon. ‘Tis a flexible world, like that. And a persistent one.

World of the Dream 2
Poster concept for Book 1 of my first crack at a fantasy series.

What did your first attempt at worldbuilding or mapmaking look like?

Pretty sure my first cartographic attempts were treasure maps that had nothing to do with writing. I was just a kid who liked using up paper on art projects of questionable worth – maps to nowhere, faux subpoenas, a ventriloquist dummy…

When was your first crush-on-your-own-character? I know it happened, don’t lie to me.

I can sometimes find it hard to discern the line between an actual crush and a non-crush fixation, but there was no denying how hard I fell for Edgwyn Wyle when I met him in “The Stone Kingdom”. Earlier than that, though, may have been a brilliant teacher by the name of Frank Llewellyn. Perhaps not coincidentally, he and Edgwyn had a number of traits in common – big build, warm and friendly nature, green eyes ever twinkling in amusement… I definitely had a type.

What was the first character death you ever had to write and how did you handle it?

Pretty sure that was Santa. My first crack at it lacked the emotional intensity of later drafts, but then, Teen Author Me tended to turn up her nose at killing off characters in the first place.

Don’t worry. She grew into a proper psychopath.

When did you first decide that your book needed a full-blown series?

For Jesse Cassidy’s books, I just didn’t want to stop writing them; I liked throwing her and the other kids into new situations, simply to see how they’d [mis]behave. It was different with, say, The Wilderhark Tales, where I didn’t need there to be more books until I’d happened to write two … and fell for Edgwyn. And with The Outlaws of Avalon, it was going to be just “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (currently available for free, via the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale!) as a standalone, but then the darn characters kept growing in my head, to the point where they needed more on-paper stories to contain them. So you never know from whence the motivation will hail.

When was the first time you stepped out of your comfort zone to write a new genre?

Phenomenon 2
Cover/poster/whatever concept for my ACTUAL first fantasy novel.

I was going to cite Ohlhallaveil again, but I JUST REMEMBERED that it wasn’t my first foray into high fantasy. Before that, there was the world of “Phenomenon” – in which people were born semi-asexually out of a special pool of water, and if nobody claimed you as part of their family that was Bad News, and suddenly – Worse News! – monsters were coming out of the pool and making a menace of themselves, so our heroine – named Heroine – and her friends went off on a quest to figure out the problem’s source, the better to save the day… The book wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but with a bit of revision, I daresay it would be perfectly at home with much of the YA fantasy on shelves today.

Phenomenon, Journey Begins
Illustration of Heroine and friends setting out on their first adventure.

What was it like using a prompt for the first time?

I don’t recall, but I expect it was no more nor less challenging than writing without a prompt. It’s all just putting one word in front of the other.

Opening line: share your first, your favorite, and your most recent.

First, for all intents and purposes:

You know, on the whole, I really love my mom. Seriously. But sometimes, I really wish she were someone else’s mom. Like someone on Mercury, maybe. One particular instance comes to mind.

– “How the Nutcracker Suite Went Sour”, circa 2000

Villem Deere 10
My first completed portrait of Doctor Villem Deere.

Favorite – if I absolutely have to choose – by virtue of its simplicity and the pattern it set:

Doctor Villem Deere was not easily surprised.

– “The Swan Prince”, published 2013

Most recent:

The most tiresome thing about war, thought Calia, /born of Knossos, first king of Yassar/, was how it made a hostage of her in the name of preventing her capture.

– A short story (February 2018) I was gonna submit somewhere, but missed the deadline, so it’s chilling out in the drawer for now

What was your first ending like?

“How the Nutcracker Suite Went Sour” went out like it came in: With Jesse complaining.

What was the first ship you ever wrote and, be honest, did you make them a ship name?

Hmm… I think Jesse maybe had a crush called Blue Jay, at one point? If ship names were even a thing, way back then, I didn’t know about it. What would they have been, anyway? Blue Jesse? In any case, she went on to get together with her best friend instead, naturally. I guess that pair could have been McCassidy…

What year was your first NaNo[WriMo]?

The year of our Lord, 2010.

Allyn Ballad Cover.png
My first artwork in honor of the NaNo ‘10 novel that first took me to Avalon Faire

Which novel is memorable for being the first one you ever gave up on?

Oh mercy, I’ve given up on any number of novels – not to mention the novels I haven’t given up on per se, I just don’t know if/when I’ll ever pick up work on them again. But the most memorable surrender has to be the second of my two NaNo 2012 projects, “Singer of Skycastle”. I recycled some of it into “A Mind Prone to Wander” (as seen in “Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures” and soon to be re-released in “Our Hungering Hearts”), but the full-length work I had in mind never made it off the ground. Which only goes to show that you can be a word boss like me and still have a tale get the better of you.

When did you first share your work with someone else and how did they react?

My sisters showed little appreciation for having my dozens of early-author-effort stories forced upon them. X)

<<<>>>

And that is that! Any author types reading this who want to play along? Tag! You’re next! Share your firsts in your own blog post, or down in the comments. ^o^

 

About the Author Bio

Sooo, I’m trying to come up with my next author bio, and it is… unreasonably hard.

Danielle E. Shipley would rather be writing a novel than an author bio.

Because a good bio’s supposed to make me sound interesting, right?

Danielle E. Shipley feels that her books are far more interesting than she’ll ever be. You should read those.

Behind the Books

And relatable. Because, I dunno – the higher the odds of someone reading the bio and going, “Oh, hey! Me, too!” the likelier they are to care about my work?

Like the average adult human, Danielle E. Shipley too has a body comprised of 50 – 65% water.

I Too Am Water

People want to know about where you live, what you do when you’re not writing, whether you’ve got any kids or pets or a high-school-sweetheart-turned husband, some “fun fact” that marks you as just quirky enough… Or maybe they don’t? But a lot of author bios I’ve read include them, so I guess that’s the formula.

Danielle E. Shipley’s only public high school experience was a semester of driver’s ed. When she accidentally wrote the wrong phone number on the form for her learner’s permit, the teacher snarkily assumed it was her boyfriend’s digits, little knowing that Danielle would make it to age 29-and-counting without acquiring a single boyfriend, and will most likely die entirely un-romanced. …Unless you count that one imaginary woodland creature who wished so hard to woo her. And I mean, she had to turn him down, so there you go.

Except I don’t want to be formula. Surely the best author bios stand out from the crowd!

DANIELLE E. SHIPLEY. ‘NOUGH SAID.

Is there any way I can accomplish this without straight-up lying?

Danielle E. Shipley is the bestselling, prestigious-award-winning author of the most popular books on shelves today. Big-name reviewers are calling her, not the next, but the OG J.K. Rowling. She’s pledging her latest billion dollars toward the construction of a colony of castles on officially-recognized planet Pluto. She’ll be the first to live there, with her husband Captain America and a domesticated fox.

Pluto by Bourelle Photography
That time I WAS Pluto.

…Or worse, telling the unedited truth?

Danielle E. Shipley is too sad and tired for any of this.

Too Done

Okay. Deep breaths, wordsmith. You can do this. What’s a winning combo of author facts, fiction, and form?…

Author Photo, Danielle E. Shipley

Danielle E. Shipley – author of fairy tales retold, legends reimagined, and other expressions of wishful thinking. In the past, she’s worked as a librarian in a kindergarten, a Towne Crier in a Renaissance Faire, and a butler in Germany. In another universe, she’s a tenor on Broadway, a wandering minstrel, or at the very least a Dark Lord singing about world domination. Born, raised, and homeschooled in the Chicago area, she now resides primarily in realms of her own making, along with her crazy crew of character children. She hopes to ultimately retire to a private immortal forest. But first, there are stories to make.

Hmm. A little lacking in science stats and Pluto love, but it may do.

So much for my musings on bio-writing. Anyone else got any tips, quips, or anecdotes on the subject? Drop ‘em in the comments!