Remaking the World in Some Image or Another

Quick word from our sponsor (…so, basically me):

Song Caster 99 Cents

For a limited time, the Kindle e-book for “The Song Caster” is on sale for $0.99!

That’s right, because I want to make it easier on everyone to get all caught up on their Wilderhark Tales before Book 6.5* launches on July 7th, Book Four can be on your e-reader for just 99 cents. Run, don’t walk! The deal only carries through Monday, June 22nd.

*The Goodreads giveaway for that is still running, btw…

And now onto our regularly scheduled blog post.


Y’know what’s stupid disconcerting? Watching your author write your life, then completely dismantle it so she can rewrite it into something more or less similar but totally different.

You’ve all been there, right?

I’m Bruno, by the way. Most of you don’t know me. Like I said, Danielle’s in the process of taking my life down to studs, so it’ll probably be years before the books hit the market. Some of you may sorta half-remember me from a guest post I wrote way back when, but let’s face it, most of you don’t. That’s cool. I’m not here to be memorable. I’m here because Danielle wants this process written about, but she’s not in the mood to do it herself, so hey, character, you do it for me, ‘kay?

I have got to join a union.

Anyway. The process.

It’s kind of like the last time she took a bunch of old writing and overhauled it to embarrass her less. (You haven’t seen that book yet, either.) Except that time, the plot didn’t really change; it was more a matter where she focused on the timeline, and through which characters’ point of view. This time, though, she’s got even more work cut out for her. She sort of wrote my first book on the fly, and the second one didn’t get much better, planning-wise, so Books 3 and 4 were basically trying to make sense of 1 and 2. She had some okay ideas, but overall? Kind of a hot mess.

Beyond that, her vision for the series has changed. She’s had the better part of a decade to mull this thing over, and to grow enamored with different characters and kinds of stories. The big game-changer, really, was “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”. (Y’know. “Outlaws of Avalon”. The trilogy that, like my story, doesn’t even quite exist yet, but you wouldn’t know it by how that one Merry Maniac has taken over at least two planes of reality.) Not to give the whole game away, but there’s a connection between the worlds of “Outlaws”, and Wilderhark, and mine. Danielle wants to play that up more. Like, a lot. She basically thinks she’s the Marvel universe.

Out with the old. Some characters from the story’s first version won’t make it into the second. Sucks for them, but we’re not running some sprawling epic fantasy with a dozen books, twenty protagonists a pop. Yeah, it’s still supposed to be kind of an epic, but Danielle has some vague idea as to her limits, and so prefers a slightly narrower scope.

…To make way for the new. The main reason people are getting cut is that Danielle’s got her eye on some other people to take their places. I should probably be grateful she still wants me in the starring role, but gratitude’s not really my way of life, so that’s not happening. Plus I’m privately terrified that I’m going to get completely upstaged by half the cast.

And by “privately”, I mean I totally just slapped that onto a public blog, so.

Will I even still get to wear chainmail? ‘Cause I’ll be too ticked if I can't keep my chainmail.
Will I even still get to wear chainmail? ‘Cause I’ll be too ticked if I can’t keep my chainmail.

The GPS is as lost as the rest of us. The journey from A to B is rerouting all over the place – in no small part because the destination is no longer quite the same. Hell, the whole landscape’s changed. We’re dealing with the plotting equivalent of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and a tsunami or two. A dream come true, for fans of plate tectonics. For the author and me, it’s more like sitting atop a rollercoaster’s highest peak, trying to figure out how to assemble the rest of the track before we plunge to our deaths.

Fortunately, the parking brake’s on, so we’ve got nothing but time.

To be determined. How much free rein will she give me, in this thing? Will I get to swear in-text, or will she prose-dance around it? Will she bother to learn conversational Italian so I can flaunt my heritage? These are the questions I’ve got.

Is this cool enough yet? That’s the main thing, really. We both want this remade series to be cool. She wants to hit every awesome note she can, and do it in such a way that these are books she’ll not only love to write, but love to read. I just want to avoid looking lame.

We’ll see what another several months of brainstorming gets us. Just know that I don’t get as loud a say in Danielle’s work as certain other characters I could name (but don’t need to, ‘cause chances are you all know exactly who I mean). So if the project tanks, that’s all on her. And if it rocks… Whatever, that’s on her, too. I’ll just be glad I made it out with my rep intact.

Or, like, a rep at all.

Back to the Drawing Boardroom (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every second Friday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘Back to the Drawing Boardroom’!”


[The curtain rises on a corporate setting. To one side, a window wall looking out onto a backdrop painted with skyscrapers. To the other side, a projector screen waiting blankly atop a stand. In the center, a massive boardroom table packed with chairs, in a random three of which sit Will Scarlet in a red business suit, Allyn-a-Dale in a blue business suit, and Danielle E. Shipley in a hooded pirate captain’s coat and fabulous boots.]

Will: All right, calling this meeting to order. First item of business. [raises mug ] A toast to the memory of “Jack and the Genre-nauts”.

Danielle: Did you bring enough celebratory beverages for the whole board?

Will: No, I did not.

Allyn: Speaking of “the whole board”… [looks around the table ] Given that we amount to three, is there any particular reason behind this many chairs?

Will: Shameless excess, Allyn. It’s a sign of the wealthy. To Jack Snow ‘n’ ‘em! [downs drink ] Ahhh, I’m going to miss that character. So many directions we could yet have taken his story. Could’ve set him up as Jack the Giant Slayer, or sent him tumbling down the hill with Jill—

Danielle: Who’s Jill?

Will: Why are you dressed like that?

Danielle: ‘Cause I can.

Will: Legit. [turns to Allyn ] Your recurring character will be dearly missed. But the sun cannot rise without setting first. It’s a new day for Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre! We’re starting fresh. Secretary Shipley, which two new prompts from the audience have we got on the agenda?

Danielle [glancing at her legal pad of notes ]: Looks like “Jack the Giant Slayer”, and “The sun cannot rise without setting first.”

Allyn: Meta.

Will: All right. Brilliant. We can work with this. Here’s my vision.

[Jumping up from his chair, he points some remote clicking device at the projector screen, on which the following image appears.]


Danielle: That’s not your vision. That’s Marvel’s Vision. He’s copyrighted.

Will: Hear me out. We have this race of massive, cranberry-skinned aliens living in spaceships cloaked to look like the clouds. Our hero, Captain Jack Harkness—

Allyn: Also copyrighted.

Will: —Top agent of a secret organization known only as B.E.A.N.S.T.A.L.K.—

Danielle: Which is an acronym for what, exactly?

Will: Um… Badass Everymen Actively Neutralizing Scariness To, uh, Avert Local Kerfuffles.

Allyn [genuinely impressed ]: You just came up with that?

Will: Like a boss. Seriously, like your boss. Keep in mind who runs this company before you shoot down my awesome ideas and hurt my feelings.

Allyn: I would never shoot down your awesome ideas. This idea, however, comes off as a bit… [diplomatically ] over-derivative. I believe we can do better.

Will: Eh. I guess you’re right. [clicks off the projector ] Anyone else got anything?

Danielle [raising a hand ]: We could always transcribe this meeting’s minutes into a script and use that.

Will [pointing at Danielle ]: I like it! Allyn? Objections?

Allyn: Beyond the egregious waste of our production budget on office chairs? No.

Will: Then we are agreed. Good meeting, everyone! [satisfied thump of his mug on the table ] Adjourned.


“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Chelsea de la Cruz and Kelton de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ and ‘The sun cannot rise without setting first.’”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

Character Casting Call (INSPIRED Days)

Inspired Days Button

It’s Week Three of “INSPIRED Days”! – an approximate month of awesomeness celebrating my J. Taylor Publishing novel, of which yesterday marked its 6-month semi-anniversary of publication! *huzzahs, hurrahs, sings a round or two of “For He’s It’s a Jolly Good Fellow Novel”*

In honor of the occasion, here’s a piece of flash fiction I whipped up a couple months back, all about one of the many ways a muse may assist his author in finding inspiration. Enjoy!


“Next,” the voice like bells rang out from the doorway. O was on his feet in an instant. This is it, he thought, smoothing a hand over his hair and down his shirtfront. Don’t screw it up.

O walked in with all the confidence he could scrape together, then uneasily wondered whether they were looking for confidence. What if they wanted someone shy? The posting, written in lights in the ether, hadn’t specified. Confidence seemed the safest bet for first impressions, though, so he kept committed to that.

Inspired Mock Cover
My early vision for an INSPIRED cover, as created by me.

The dark girl seated at the desk smiled, and the glowing-bright man seated in the air beside her beckoned O further in. The door closed behind him – from all appearances, on its own power. “Hi-hi!” the girl chirped. “I’m Annabelle. This is my co-executive, Lucianíel. And you are?”

“O,” said O, shaking the girl’s hand. “Or, something with an ‘O’. Possibly multiple ‘O’s. That’s all I’ve got for sure.”

“Fair enough,” she said. She turned to her floating, glowing co-exec. “How do we feel about Orlando?”

“Donovan, I think,” Lucianíel’s voice rang again.

“Orlando Donovan, then. We’ll hold onto it for later.” Scribbling the name on a notepad with one hand and gesturing for O to sit with the other, Annabelle said, “So, O. Let’s chat. What do you know about yourself?”

“Well, I’m a guy.”

“A good starting point,” said Annabelle, her curly cloud of hair bobbing with her encouraging nod.

“And I’m a killer.”

Her brows rose. “Oh?”

He nodded. “I have to be. I mean, I have to kill. It’s a psychological need. If I don’t, I’ll, I dunno. Get sick. Go crazy. It’s in my twisted nature. Also, I have really arresting eyes.”

“I noticed,” she said. “What are they, blue?”

“I think so, yeah. Kinda flickers between that and gray, but I’m leaning toward blue. Or… do you think I could have eyes like a raven?” he asked hopefully.

Lucianíel tipped his head. “Are you a raven? Descended of ravens or tied to them in any way?”

“Shape-shifting raven?” Annabelle inquired.

O shook his head. “I didn’t mean literal raven’s eyes. Just their color. Y’know how the feathers are just so black they shimmer, like, purple and green and blue? It would be incredible to have eyes like that!”

“Hmm.” Annabelle chewed on the cap of her pen. “Amazing eyes do not in themselves an amazing character make. The psychological need to kill is something, I suppose, but even that on its own is a little… so-so.”

Why do you need to kill?” Lucianíel probed, his own incredible eyes on O intent. “Whence came this vital need?”

O shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I’m really not sure. It’s something in my makeup. In my blood.”

“So this is not unique to you? There are more of your kind?”

“Sure. Or there were.” O shrugged. “I dunno. I might be the last, or separated from them. I feel separated,” he realized, of a sudden. “Isolated. I might not even know what I am, and that there are more like me. I feel like the only one.”

“Aww,” Annabelle said, absently sympathetic. A good half of her attention was on the fat little paperback in her hands, its pages well-worn and flipping with familiar ease beneath her fingers. “Dominic… Donahue… Here we are: Donovan. Celtic, Irish. Strong fighter, dark chieftain.” She turned wide, eager eyes on Lucianíel. “That could apply to a race of raven people quite well! A noble family name. Maybe he’s a long-lost prince!”

“Perhaps crows instead of ravens,” Lucianíel suggested. “Murder, and all.”

“A murder of crows – brilliant!” Annabelle cried. “Yes, yes, yes! You, young Donovan,” she said, stabbing a finger across the desk, “are a prince among crows! There was a conspiracy—”

That would be the ravens,” said Lucianíel.

“Say what?”

“A conspiracy of ravens.” He smiled. “Or an unkindness.”

“Ah, I see. Well, shoot, we’re rolling in awesome titling options, aren’t we?”

“Less awesome than obvious. But they’re as good a starting place as any.”

“In any case,” Annabelle continued, returning to O. “Conspiracy. Somebody wanted you gone, probably so they could cut ahead in line to the throne. That they didn’t just kill you shows it was one of the ravens.” She steepled her fingers, eyes gleaming in the glow of a plot unfolding. “A crow would have murdered you, but for one of the Unkindness, death would be too kind. They snatched you from your people and left you to grow up alone in a world not your own, desperate for the death of others without knowing why; a freak and a monster; friendless.”

O chewed down on his cheeks’ insides, trying to stem the flood of painful heat rising behind his eyes. As she said it, it was true. He wanted friends – of course he did – but how could he ask friendship, ask trust, of someone when he might kill them, or someone they cared about? It was bad enough that he cared. Each and every time. A crow prince raised with the morals of a gentler race. Every day was a battle of nature versus conscience, and he could not let conscience win. It would destroy him.

A tissue appeared before him. “It’s okay,” said Annabelle, gently. “Let it out.”

Taking the proffered tissue, he wept freely, embarrassed but unafraid. He sensed their compassion, the girl and the glowing man. Whatever happened today, however this ended, he had their understanding.

“I think we can work with you,” she said, when O’s sobs had softened to sniffles. “More than that: I would like to work with you, O. How would you feel about getting a story?”

“Please,” he said, a smile braving its way back onto his face. “I’ve been trying to apply for one for ages. You’re the first author who’s seemed to notice I exist.”

“And the last author you’ll ever need to petition,” said Annabelle, smiling wide in return. “You’re mine. Feel free to go hang out, for now. If you need anything, there’ll be other characters to show you around. Luc and I will be in touch when we’ve got more of a game plan for you. Sound good?”

“Excellent. Thanks,” said O, going in for the closing handshake. “I appreciate it.”

“The pleasure is ours,” Lucianíel said warmly. “Next,” he called, the first door swinging open in tandem with a second – the door through which O made his way out into the vastness of his new author’s mind.

“Hi,” he heard her greet the applicant behind him. “Sorry we kept you waiting. People were crying. So. A dragon master, huh? Tell me what that’s like.”


Thanks for reading! If you’d love to nab the novel chronicling the start of Luc and Annabelle’s partnership, remember there’s a giveaway on Goodreads with three paperbacks for the winning. Meanwhile, for the e-reading crowd, the novel’s e-version is on sale all month for a crazy-low 99 cents via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So for anyone who hasn’t gotten hold of a copy yet, the time is now!

Inspired Sale, Kindle and BN


**Coming up Thursday**: A guest post from INSPIRED’s Uri on reconciling her worldview with the surprise revelation that she’s fictional.

“Questions” or “Ask, and Ye Shall Hopefully Come Up With Some Answers”

As I start brainstorming new ideas for my next writing project, I’ve found myself wondering: Will anyone want to read this?

It’s a little odd, for me, since this is not a question I usually bother with. My more typical “interrogative sentences, phrases, or gestures” are:

– Who is this story about?

– What are they doing?

– Why are they doing that?

– Do I care about this, yet? Alright, then what’s next?

– How can I work XYZ in?

– Ooh, wait – what if…?!

– What goes horrifically wrong?

– How do they feel about that?

– How do they deal with it?

– Wait, does that make any sense? Okay, good, it’s explainable. So now what?

– How many miles between Vegas and Yellowstone, again?

– How in the world does this end?

Any thoughts about my future audience will run more along these lines:

– When and how do I plant this clue so they won’t see the surprise coming, but it won’t feel out of the blue?

– Are people going to be able to empathize with this character?

– Will they have any chance in heck of pronouncing this name correctly?

For the most part, though, I don’t think much about the readers while writing, other than to remind myself to keep the book readable. The first reader I’m aiming to please is me, since I’ll probably be spending more time with this book than anyone. The second is Tirzah, since she’s my writing buddy/beta tester/soul sister and practically has joint custody of some of my characters.

Beyond that, yeah, I’d love to have more satisfied readers than an audience of two. But I can’t predict what everyone will like. And even if I did, I don’t know that I’d let that dictate my writing.

If all I wanted was to sell books, it would be a different story. Then it would be mostly, or possibly all, about writing what a big chunk of the population would want to read. And there would be nothing wrong with that, if selling books were my first goal. But it isn’t.

My first goal is to write stories I love. My second goal is to have other people love them, too. Goal 2.2 involves making money off of that love, and Goal 3 involves Walt Disney Animation Studios and Broadway.

Goal 1 plus Goal 3 would look something like “Paperman”. Haven’t seen this short film yet? Totally have, but just feel like watching it again? Got 7 minutes? Click the pic and go for it.
Goal 1 plus Goal 3 would look something like “Paperman”. Haven’t seen this short film yet? Totally have, but just feel like watching it again? Got 7 minutes? Click the pic and go for it.

So maybe I’m asking myself the wrong question, at this brainstorming stage. Maybe what I need to be asking is:

– How can I thrill myself?

– Which characters will I want to hang out with forever?

– What book can I pull out of me that will make me so super proud that I wrote it?

Selfish-seeming questions, on the surface. But I believe that the best work comes forward when the artist’s heart is wholly behind it. In the end, my readers will be far better off for my thinking of them second.

Back to thinking of first things first, then: Who is this story about?