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

Once upon a FAQs page made 6 years ago (which is a surprisingly balanced combination of ‘totally outdated’ and ‘still relevant to this day’), the world inquired:

How’s your book going?

To which Past Me replied:

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

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

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

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

How’s the writing coming?

And, I just…

How's Your Book Doing_via Twitter

…never quite know how to answer that.

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

But is any of that writing?

Not as I once knew it.

Better if anyone were to ask me:

What are you working on, these days?

That, I could answer.

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

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

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

The question nobody asks:

How’s your inner author life?

I’ve had no practice answering that one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s not so sure anymore.

But she’s curious to find out.

Out of the Mouths of Book Babies

Seventh Spell: “My, my, would you look at the time.”

Legend of Allyn-a-Dale: “What sort of time? Time travel? Time suspended? Or a race against time, like you?”

Wilderhark Covers, half 1

Seventh Spell: “Um… closest to the last? I only meant, she’s got another pair of books coming out soon.”

Out of My Head: “Twins, like Inspired and me?”

Surrogate Sea: “Not a double release. Not even related. Just launching close together.”

Out of My Head: “Ooh, fun! Which ones?”

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover
Coming August 28th!

Sky-Child: “First up, a short story collection, like me.”

Truly Great Words Never Die: “And like me; plus the same artist helped out with cover illustration!”

Inspired: “Like me, too, since it’s something of a re-release.”

Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale: “Our Hungering Hearts. Oh, that is a unique cover.”

Song Caster: “That neon effect! Where were her fancy tricks like that when she was putting the words on our covers?”

Stone Kingdom: “Well, do remember, she was only getting started.”

Song Caster: “Oh, that’s right. We were just the practice children. It’s the Outlaws she handed all over to the professionals.”

Inspired: “That just means the rest of our faces bear her special touch. But let’s not forget to welcome her second book on the horizon.”

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery
Coming September 25th!

Story’s End: “So Super Dead. I love it. So dark.”

Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale: “I thought it was a comedy?!”

Surrogate Sea: “Oh, Ballad, you ought to know better than any of us: Even her most lighthearted adventures have their undertones.”

Story’s End: “And I mean, death is right there in the title.”

Ballad: “But… just temporary death, right?”

Truly Great Words: “I don’t see anything in the blurb about truly great legends. Still, if a significant portion of the main cast is dead to begin with, we can only assume it doesn’t much impede their ability to contribute to the plot.”

Seventh Spell: “How many books does this make, now?”

Inspired: “Including e-book only titles?”

Avalon Christmas Carol: “Please.”

Inspired: “In that case, this will make 17 exclusively-Deshipley fiction releases. Plus my journal.”

Wilderhark Covers, half 2

Out of My Head: “17, wow! How does she remember all of us? Wait, does she even? Hey, Number One! You haven’t been forgotten, have you?”

Swan Prince: “Certainly not. On the contrary, she’s always sure to carry plenty of me to any books events, since I’m the series starter.”

Story’s End: “Must be nice.”

Avalon Christmas Carol: “Oh, hush, you got a huge launch party on Facebook.”

Marriage: “I didn’t even get a giveaway. Though she was willing to beg crowdfund my cover…”

Stone Kingdom: “Give the woman a break. She’s poor and tired and depressed.”

Song Caster: “Indeed. Thanks to Swan Prince.”

Outlaws of Avalon covers, all 5

Swan Prince: “Excuse me?”

Song Caster: “Fact. Publishing you while working at the Renaissance Faire wore her out and triggered her first big drop into depression. And not to call the kettle black, but you’re not exactly a bestseller.”

Legend: “At least Swan Prince has reviews in the double digits.”

Inspired: “I used to have a few, before my relaunch…”

Sun’s Rival: “And lack of reviews doesn’t mean we’re not being read! Readers love us!”

Surrogate Sea: “Readers love you.”

Story’s End: “What readers? Who’s saying they read us? Nobody.”

Sun’s Rival: “Not nobody…”

Story’s End: “Fewer than the little crowd we had back in Swan Prince’s day. I think they’re all tired of us.”

Marriage: “Surely it’s not that. We’re just… a lot to keep up with.”

Legend: “Ha, yes. We are legion, and they… Well, they mostly haven’t heard of us.”

Song Caster: “Whose fault is that?”

Out of My Head: “Don’t say hers! She’s trying her best!”

Story’s End: “And what good will her best do the two on the way?”

Inspired: “What do you want from her? Song Caster, Story’s End, what is it you want?”

Story’s End: “I don’t want anything. I’m just gloomy.”

Song Caster: “And I… I just want… I’m afraid.”

Sky-Child: “Afraid? You? Of what?”

Song Caster: “Of not being everything she wants us to be. Of all of us being… disappointments.”

Stone Kingdom: “Oh, Song Caster… It is not we that disappoint her.”

Covers 1, 2, and Journal

Inspired: “She gives all she can to make us beautiful. And beautiful we are. She’s proud of us, her body of work. Sometimes, she’s even proud of herself. It’s only poor luck that she hasn’t yet found a way to give us the audience we deserve.”

Song Caster: “Maybe if we had a big publisher…?”

Inspired: “No guarantee. There are success stories and failures no matter which publishing road you take.”

Out of My Head: “But she’s NOT a failure! It’s too early to say ‘she never hit it big,’ because look – she’s still making books! Hungering Hearts could find its audience. So Super Dead could capture public imagination. Or maybe the next title, or the one after that… Or even any one of us, later in life! While we exist, it’s not too late!”

Story’s End: “Very ‘while there’s life, there’s hope’. I believe So Super Dead will have something to say about that.”

Seventh Spell: “Inspired 2’s right, though. We’ve still got time.”

Sun’s Rival: “And succeed or fail, she’ll always love us.”

Inspired: “Of course she will. She is our mother.”

Recap: It Was Lit

The Struggle™ with feelings of inadequacy aside, Danielle of a Decade Ago would be astonished at Present Me’s “to-done” list. On cast at a Renaissance Faire? Done it. Traveled Europe? Done it. Published books? Done it. Several times. And as of Sunday, I’ve even sold those books at Printers Row Lit Fest!

Here’s how that last item went down:

Printers Row 01

Months Before = I’d originally planned to buy table space on my own. But during a different book-selling gig – a library’s local author open house, back in January – my mom got a tip from another author that signing up as part of a group could be the more economical choice. So I joined the Chicago Writers Association and snagged a time slot with their tent. (There are, of course, other membership perks as well, but the Printers Row tent was my main draw.)

Printers Row 04Days/Weeks Before = This phase included designing and printing out signage, constructing table displays, and ordering a heck-ton of books. You can never how well the merchandise will sell, so I went with higher numbers of Books 1s (“The Swan Prince” for The Wilderhark Tales, “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” for The Outlaws of Avalon), second highest with immediate follow-ups (“The Stone Kingdom” / “The Seventh Spell”, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”), and less stock with books further along in the Wilderhark series.

Because I wished to be able to accept credit cards (cash only during the last hours of a book event? Not ideal), I reached out to family friend / professional fashionista / all-around phenomenal human being Peach Carr for advice in this area. Because she rocks, she let me borrow her own portable card reader. Aaaaand because Square refused to cooperate with me directly (more on this in a future review post, methinks <_<), Peach and fam (*waves to Molly and Wayne*) hooked me up with a workaround that involved the lending of iPads, protracted battles with the Technology Fiend, and the juggling of funds. In short, they were my patron angels, and will be richly rewarded when I ascend to my dark throne.

Denebdeor Crest
Noble stag horns and swan wings. It’s like the artisans were in my head.

Day Before = Foreknowledge is a chronic worrier’s best friend, so on Saturday, Mom and I hopped the train downtown to scope out the CWA tent, the better to get an idea of how we’d want to set up the next day. Seeing the space helped firm up the list of things we’d want for Sunday (e.g. anything we could think of to keep an enthusiastic Vesparya wind from blowing all my stuff away), while seeing the Poetic Earth tent full of handcrafted leather goods made me want to spend money I shouldn’t. (I restrained myself, but come on, one of the journals looked like the everlovin’ crest of Denebdeor!)

The Day Of = Never to be outsmarted by horrific city traffic, my parents and I left the house plenty early, and reached our destination with time to spare. Setup was a little hectic, due to wind mischief and authorial nerves, but we got it sorted by the time my 2-6pm selling window opened. Although I started out a little shy, Mom’s energy compensated until I’d warmed up a bit. And before long, the sales were trickling in!

The Carr family stopped by about midway through the day to say hi and buy a copy of every book on the table. (Have I mentioned I love them?) And a little later on, my brother-from-another-mother Cean Gamalinda came to provide a bit of walk-around advertising while I manned the table and Mom ‘n’ Dad got sandwiches.

Printers Row 06
Peach and Me
Printers Row 07
Me and Cean

By the last quarter-hour before 6, the rest of my tent mates had called it a day, and the crowds were close to nonexistent, so we packed it up and went home, weary but satisfied with the day’s blessings. Despite my darkest “what if?” fears, I made back what I spent on the table! (…if not the cost of all the books I brought to sell. But hey, that just means I’ll have the remainder already on hand for whenever the next event comes around.) And outcome aside, I decided I wanted to do this thing, and Danielle and Co. made it happen. So much for inadequacy. ^_^

Best Moments =

For Will: When a young woman named Scarlett bought a copy of “Ballad”.

For the Sun: When a little boy was offered (as an example of all the free designs available) a Lumónd bookmark, but pointed to Raeóryn instead.

For Me: Oh, how to choose?

– When my first book sold, so it was too late to go home with zero sales.

– The first time someone paid with credit card, and after all the trouble beforehand, the sale went off without a hitch.

– The pair of customers with whom I shared high fives over the Bristol Renaissance Faire.

– When one of them came back later like, “Oh, duh, I should have had you sign my book!” Sign it I did; to Emily.

– The little girls who came for bookmarks. Then came again for a Wilderhark Tale. Then came again for another Wilderhark Tale. Then yet again because – oh, yeah! – you buy two Tales, and you get a third free! All of ‘em signed; to Mia and to Averi.

– Averi [looking at “Ballad”]: “Who’s Robin Hood?”

Mia: “What do you mean, who’s—?!?!” *smacks Averi with “The Seventh Spell”*

– Averi [counting her remaining cash for a 10-dollar “Ballad” purchase]: “I only have eight dollars.”

Me: “Y’know what? Take it.”

Because eight dollars is better than zero, and young people who get excited about books deserve good things.

Things Worth Trying at Gigs Like These =

– Freebies, y’all. There are plenty of folks who won’t spend book money, but will take a complementary Wilderhark bookmark and/or sign up to receive an e-ARC of Outlaws 2.5, “Truly Great Words Never Die”. And yeah, there are also people who insist on walking by emptyhanded, but there’s nothing to be done about that. X)

– Don’t feel comfortable shouting, “Hey, you! Buy my books!” at passersby? Try calling out, “Nice dress!” “Those boots rock!” “I love that color on you!” Maybe they’ll stick around your table a little longer, maybe they’ll just keep walking. Either way, compliments cost nothing (see: Freebies), and you may have made them feel good.

– Price to sell. Offering your $7.99 novella for $5 (buy 2, get 1 free!) may offend your sensibilities – (because for goodness’ sake, your art’s got value!) – but think like a customer. Nice, round, low numbers make for more easily justified impulse buys.

– Hydration. Always a good idea, but particularly when it’s 94 degrees and you’re an introvert expending social energy.

– Bring scissors and extra tape. Even if you don’t end up needing them, your fellow authors or a little girl with a balloon’s ribbon trapped on her wrist just might. (True stories both. And heck yes, we were prepared!)

That One Totally Minor Thing I Woke Up Having an Anxiety Attack About the Next Morning Because I Wish I’d Done It Differently = Nope. Not gonna talk about it. Because it wasn’t a big deal. And everything else was. So there.

Printers Row 02