A Tale of Two Galleries

We walk into the gallery. Outside, a horsehead sculpture, smile charmingly smug. Inside, acrylic whimsy stretched in magnificent detail across every wall.

She greets us upon entry, compliments our outfits, follows our progress from frame to frame. She talks, she talks, she talks.

“Where did you get your coats?”

We forget.

“Well, coats are great. Now put your coat money toward a thousand-dollar painting.”

Probably a thrift store coat, in at least one case. Hardly a comparable expense.

“Yeah, my daughter’s a thrift shopper. Wears her finds to galleries in Europe. You can buy that painting in hundred-dollar installments, you know.”

We really can’t afford—

“You’d just spend it on food or something, otherwise.”

We really don’t have the space—

“I live in a studio. I had no money, once. Anyone can come up with excuses not to invest in a painting.”

Uh-huh… Ooh, we would live in that painting, if we could…

“You can. If you buy it and put it on your wall.”

(What part of ‘we have neither the money nor the wall area’ is she not hearing? Where does one hang an artwork they skipped on rent to obtain?)

We’re tuning her out, now. Finish our browsing. Purchase a small something to gift a loved one, no thanks to her. Wonder if she really believed that she had ever been like us; and if she was, which path do we avoid so as never to become her?

*

We walk into the gallery. Statuary looms. A four-foot frog, a large-as-life lion, a dark metal horse rampant, all in a cunning and costly clutter.

He points out that the tiny figurines we’re eying in the back-corner cases are such-and-such a price. (Inexpensive enough that we could buy them, exorbitant enough that we couldn’t justify it.) We give him fair warning that we’re too broke for this place, just dream shopping while on a sightseeing jaunt.

“Oh, where are you from?”

Not far, as of recently. In fact, one of us is employed just a few minutes away.

“Nice place to work.”

It is, at that. One of us keeps up the chatter (it isn’t me), while the other (it is) crouches over a bronze – a girl stretched on the ground with a book ‘neath her nose.

He watches from behind the counter, nonchalantly digs into his lunch, asks with mild interest, “What’s she reading?”

To our delight, a half-legible page reveals its heart with an ‘Open sesame’ –the tale of Ali Baba! – and just as magic, one half of our two hearts (mine) falls in love with the girl and her reading. No point looking at the price tag, though. Still no money, no space.

Our other heart half (hers) leaps at a statue of two golden otters, large and sinuous, the usual cutesy take on the creatures eschewed in favor of predatory power.

He – (somehow also like a predator, stately and sensual, but lately fed and therefore less a threat) – marvels at my other half’s impassioned otter rant. “Are you an interior designer?”

No, she’s just got a lot of feelings.

Nearly out the door, we pass a dish fashioned of translucent waves and the undines who dance among them. My eyes, on it, full of longing. Her eyes, on me, all affection. His eyes, on her; his words, to me: “She’ll get it for you.”

She would if she could. She will when she can. Someday, when we’re wealthy, it’s here we’ll return, for readers, otters, undines.

As for paintings… well. We’ll see who’s doing the selling.

Gallery of Us_PhotoFunia-1583632441
A gallery of us, living rich lives on the cheap.

Of Truth and Transformation

Today, for your reading pleasure, a pair of flash fiction pieces lately written by yours truly. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

Sometimes 15, sometimes 16. As early as 12 years old, as late as 20. Every body develops in its own time. But whenever the time comes, the process is the same.

They build their cocoons – of wood or of words, of cotton or of clay, of music, of color, of big, bright ideas – and they slumber.

When they awake, when they emerge, they are transformed, no two just alike.

Some are grown bigger, some grown smaller. Some are a rainbow, others clear as a bubble. Some grow scales or other armor, some soften and warm.

The lucky ones grow wings.

<<<>>>

“Hold still, Daddy! I’m making you pretty!”

“Making me pretty?” A puff of indignation. “Am I not pretty to begin with?”

An apologetic shake of the head. “No. Maybe a little handsome, but not very pretty at all.”

“Hmmph. That’s hardly fair, when you’re entirely pretty even without getting all painted up.”

A little hand pats a large one before returning to its work. “It’s okay, Daddy. You’re important things other than pretty.”

A pout. “That so?”

“Oh, yes. You’re strong, and a hard worker, and you always give me half of your molasses pies at lunch.”

A thoughtful nod. “That’s true.”

“There, then. Pretty isn’t everything – though you will be, once I’m done with you!”

A quiet smile. “I can hardly wait.”

artists__workshop_by_juliedillon-davg99l

(Image credit: “Artists’ Workshop” by juliedillon)

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Also, I’m still looking for folks interested in an early read ‘n’ review of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”! Hit me up if you want in. ^_^ )

Of the H[e]art and Home

Today, for your reading pleasure, a piece of flash fiction inspired by a piece discovered via deviartART. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

“But why aren’t you happy?” they asked him. “Who could ask for a more beautiful beach?”

That, Deer thought, was just the trouble. He wasn’t asking for a beach at all.

He supposed it was a pretty place, objectively. White-golden sand with sun-sparkled water. Very… bright. Open. Terrifying.

How could he feel safe with nowhere to hide? Where it seemed like the whole of the sea and the sky could watch him, not to mention all the eyes of the others. He wished for sheltering shadows. He longed for a piece of aloneness.

He asked – without knowing how to ask – for home.

And then, one day, he smelled it, brought over the sea on the wind. Earthier than sand and driftwood. A cleaner wet than the ocean. Green… a greener scent than he had ever known.

Deer followed his nose to the shoreline, looked up through the clouds laid low on the horizon, and there it was: A dream of trees. A fancy of a forest. The wish of his soul, but how could he reach it, this woodland in the air?

“Help me,” he whispered – to the woods, to anyone.

The sound was lost in the sudden rush of a storm, blasting through the smooth, pale sky in a swell of sickly purple and black. Thunder boomed, and to Deer’s horror, a lash of lightning struck one of the far-off forest’s trees. With a gut-turning crack, the tree began its groaning fall, and Deer fell to his knees in the sand, heartsick with fright.

If even his dream was no safe haven, what hope was left to him?

WHUMP.

Deer jumped up to his hooves with a cry. Not two leaps away, the top of the stricken tree lay in the sand. How tall it must have stood, for its fall to have stretched so far – from the beach, all the long way back to…

The forest.

High above, the storm was gone as fast as it had come. No more lightning-lit thunderclaps. No wind but the breeze caught in the fallen tangle of branches. The fluttering green of the leaves beckoned. What are you waiting for?

Deer looked up with amazement into the overhead blue. To think the sky from which he’d itched to hide would grant him such a kindness.

“Thank you,” he said. “For understanding.”

Joy in his bones, home in his eyes, he leapt onto the tree-bridge and ran.

“Calm wind in dusk” by Ebineyland - http://www.deviantart.com/art/Calm-wind-in-dusk-630791969
“Calm wind in dusk” by Ebineyland – http://www.deviantart.com/art/Calm-wind-in-dusk-630791969

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Or if you wish, leave a tip on my GoFundMe page; I’m covered for Outlaws of Avalon 2, praise God, but there’s always Book 3 and beyond… ;D )

Of Freedom and Far Horizons

First, if you haven’t yet, check out my #AuThorsday interview on the blog of Sunshine Somerville. Good Outlaws of Avalon talk!

Second, for your reading pleasure: A pair of drabbles (stories exactly 100 words in length) inspired by pieces discovered via deviartART. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

I thought, She’s small enough to fit inside my suitcase.

So in she went.

The airport never questioned it and, despite the flight attendants’ judgment, I kept the case in my lap in the air.

We traveled the skies, and then overland by bus, and underground by train – everything blurring past like some long-ago memory.

The broad, winding rivers carried us through enchanted country, beneath the same moon that rises over everywhere.

We posed before windmills, cathedrals, the ruins of castles.

She saw much of the world. Or, well, it saw her.

The dear little thing napped the whole time.

“Enchanted Traveler” by RachelRose - http://rachaelrose.deviantart.com/art/Enchanted-Traveler-277152930
“Enchanted Traveler” by RachelRose – http://rachaelrose.deviantart.com/art/Enchanted-Traveler-277152930

<<<>>>

He’d started with vessels tied up at the docks, then scaled it down from there.

Ships in bottles. Ships in paintings. The ship on his great-auntie’s brooch.

He’d heard it said – no, read it on a poster – that a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. And he first of all agreed, and second of all freed the glossy ship from its motivational prison.

Things with sails were meant for sailing, and his fingers were meant for magic. If his liberations made him a pirate, he didn’t much care. The sea’s far horizon was calling.

“Set them free” by alltelleringet - http://alltelleringet.deviantart.com/art/Set-them-free-328051603
“Set them free” by alltelleringet – http://alltelleringet.deviantart.com/art/Set-them-free-328051603

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Or if you wish, leave a tip on my GoFundMe page; I’m covered for Outlaws of Avalon 2, praise God, but there’s always Book 3 and beyond… ;D )

The Pro Con

“Professional”. I have… feelings about this word.

So often when I see it bandied about – particularly as it pertains to the publishing industry – it seems to have most or all to do with appearances. Writers are told to look professional, as if professionalism were an aesthetic. That rubs me wrong, because it sounds so superficial and snotty. Look like what the infamous They have decided counts as professional, or you’re assumed to be lesser than.

This is professional art.
This is professional art.

I’ve always understood professionalism to be more a matter of competence, and of attitude. My “professional” means punctuality and promises kept. My “like a pro” evokes skill and confidence. In my world, the pros are the ones who know what they’re doing. …Or the ones who fake it like whoa.

You want professionalism in publishing? Treat it like a profession. Sure, that can in part mean showing up in your power suit – your fancy book cover, your elite-approved font, your slick BigShotDomain.com with the killer coding. I’m not knocking those things. No shame in putting your prettiest face forward. That is, after all, exactly why I ran that GoFundMe campaign: To pay the photography and design professionals to make my next Outlaws of Avalon novel looks its beautiful best. But that stuff’s hardly number one on the list of “must do”s, if it belongs on the list at all.

Writing’s never struck me as a power-suited position. Dressing for the job I want involves an assortment of hoodies. And possibly a wizard’s robe. …or a Dark Lord’s.

You want to come off as a professional writer? To me, that’s like math homework: Show me your work.

I’d rather not see a slapdash cover, an illegible font, and a messy web presence not because it says “automatic amateur”, but because it makes me question how much time and care you put into it. I want you to demonstrate that you take your work seriously, whether or not you’ve yet come to the realization that neither you nor any of the rest of us have a clear clue what we’re doing. More than the visual itself, that means a sure command of language. That means engaging with your peers and your public with basic levels of courtesy. That means giving your writing career the best you’ve got.

Also professional art.
Also professional art.

And personal bests will vary – from person to person, and from Past You to Present You to Future You. Some people will like some bests more than others. That’s individual opinion, which everyone’s got a right to. That’s subjectivity, which for better or worse is the name of the game, in the arts. That’s why I don’t want you telling me or anyone else what their work has to look like to count as professional. Go for what you’re going for, and give it your 120 percent.

#LikeAPro

Of Artist and Muse

Today, for your reading pleasure: A pair of short stories inspired by pieces discovered via deviartART. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

Well? said the art. How’s it coming?

“Getting there. Just a little more detail.”

And I’ll be beautiful, right?

“You’re beautiful now. You’re just not finished.”

I don’t see why not, the art sighed. You’ve been working on me forever.

“Well, you have forever. You’re a timeless creation, and sure to outlive me. That’s part of the point of you.”

Only part? What’s the rest?

“Oh, mostly just the joy of watching you come alive.”

You dearly love me, don’t you?

“Yes, I dearly do.”

Tell me why.

“Because you don’t know, or because you like to be told? Don’t tell me I’ve passed on my fragile ego.”

Like artist, like art! Now tell me.

“Because you’re you. And because you’re me. Because you keep me breathing.”

Like your lungs?

“More like my heart.”

And when you’re done with me?

“Oh, my little masterwork. That will never happen.”

“Art” by kowelvain - http://kowelvain.deviantart.com/art/Art-288792411
“Art” by kowelvain – http://kowelvain.deviantart.com/art/Art-288792411

<<<>>>

You never gave up.

Never stopped searching.

Never stopped chasing your muse.

You fought on without me. Strained through the dark for glimmers of genius long after you’d forgotten how to hope.

I’m sorry. I should have slowed to let you catch me. Should have stayed to help you find your way.

I was wrong to let you suffer so, but don’t you see? I couldn’t bear to end it.

It filled me, somehow, watching you empty. It thrilled me to feel your dreams fall and fade with every failure.

I was a dreadful muse, but you…

You inspired me.

“Old Piano” by Alicechan - http://alicechan.deviantart.com/art/Old-Piano-378814958
“Old Piano” by Alicechan – http://alicechan.deviantart.com/art/Old-Piano-378814958

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Or if you wish, leave a tip on my GoFundMe page; I’m covered for Outlaws of Avalon 2, praise God, but there’s always Book 3 and beyond… ;D )

Of Drabbles and Dreams

Today, for your reading pleasure: A pair of drabbles (stories exactly 100 words in length) inspired by pieces discovered via deviartART. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

In his dream, he faced the Darkness. But this time, the fire was his to wield.

Cold blue flame shivered down the length of the blade in his hand, a match for the ice burning in his gaze. In waking, he’d borne no such weapon. In truth, Darkness had overcome.

But what were dreams if not a hope for something more?

He stood as the prince he once was – as the king he might have been, had the world spun differently. Memories of fear and loss, he cut adrift to vanish on the wind.

Tonight, he fought for the light.

“Colin” by Elda-QD - http://www.deviantart.com/art/Colin-625964715
“Colin” by Elda-QD – http://www.deviantart.com/art/Colin-625964715

<<<>>>

The Prince of Below murmured, one night, “I wonder… Have you ever seen rain, Friend Moon?”

“Alas, I have not,” the sad moon sighed. “For it falls from the clouds. And when clouds fill the sky, my eyes see nothing of Below.”

“That is a great shame, for rain’s a pretty sight. Perhaps…” A pause. A thought. A smile. “Here. I can show you.”

Up, a wish of the heart.

Up, an umbrella of dreams.

Up, a voice of magic for which Below has no words, though those Above remember.

Thus did the Prince sing down a shower of stars.

“Starry Umbrella” by Ebineyland- http://ebineyland.deviantart.com/art/Starry-Umbrella-520441085
“Starry Umbrella” by Ebineyland- http://ebineyland.deviantart.com/art/Starry-Umbrella-520441085

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Or if you wish, leave a tip on my GoFundMe page; I’m covered for Outlaws of Avalon 2, praise God, but there’s always Book 3 and beyond… ;D)