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

Questions for Camelot

The facts are these: Ya gurl Deshipley is super tired and low on creative energy, right now. But I still wanted to find some way to sorta-kinda make good on Rule #4 of last week’s Sunshine Blogger Award tag.

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So rather than use up all my juice on coming up with interesting things to ask people, I took advantage of this little thing called ‘the internet’ (Will Scarlet told me about it; sounds pretty lit) and scared up this resource full of various getting-to-know-you questions. Now I just needed to find 11 people to do the answering.

Naturally, I turned to “The Once and Future Camelot” – which, lucky for us all, has enough point-of-view characters on cast to pair each one with a question at semi-random. Let’s see what our knights/squires, wizard, half-Fey, etc. had to say for themselves!

<<<>>>

1 = @ Galahad – What do you hope never changes?

The youth sniffs in grumpy disdain. “Most things under Heaven need to change, if you ask me. Which… you have. But,” he allows, glaring thoughtfully at the sky, “if I could see one thing unchanged forever – and if I may permit myself a single self-serving desire – I would hope that, even when we are both grown up and come fully into knighthood, I could yet retain Mordred at my side.” His lips do not quite smile, but they soften. “Sometimes he feels like the only thing that makes this too-unchanging world bearable.”

*

2 = @ Sir Lancelot – What is the luckiest thing that has happened to you?

The answer comes sharp and hard, without hesitation. “Arthur deciding he wants me. Not everything that came of it was lucky. But that part was.”

*

3 = @ Queen Guinevere – What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?

She hums in thought for a moment, then decides, “While the lack of preparation might render the material a bit disorganized, I could easily spend forty minutes lecturing on Fey culture. Though, a question-and-answer session would probably be better,” she adds, “so as to ensure I hit upon any points the audience most wants to learn. There’s no covering all I know in so short a time, after all; and even what I know may not cover the half of the Faerie world’s complexities.”

*

4 = @ Sir Bedivere – What kind of art do you enjoy most?

“That would be the art of— how does the book put it? Ah, yes.” His grin glints, dagger-like. “Making men squirm. Not to call myself a master of it, but yeah, I basically am.”

*

5 = @ Mordred – How do you relax after a hard day of work?

“A cool bath can wash away any number of hours of labor,” the boy replies, his low voice no less relaxing. “All the better if the bathing takes place in a lively brook, or a fountain, or a lake. I would sleep a whole night long on a lakebed, if I could,” he says, tone wistful. “How in the world did straw-filled pallets become the castle norm?”

*

6 = @ Morganne le Fey – Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?

Her blink falls slow and rises slower over a midnight gaze. “I don’t know that one could say any of us have truly accomplished anything. In the smaller scheme of things, however, I would list those with the name Pendragon. My mother, who learned exclusive magic and rose to Queenship of all Faeriekind. My father, a nobody who rode a random stroke of luck all the way to a throne of his own. And my half-brother, who has held onto his heart even as he’s given it freely away, and thereby gained the hearts of legions in return.”

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

*

7 = @ Merlin – When people come to you for help, what do they usually want help with?

“When people come to me, it’s usually for answers,” the magician says shortly. “When people leave me, it’s usually without answers. Maybe someday they’ll figure that out and stop wasting their time and mine.”

*

8 = @ Allyn-a-Dale – What is the most annoying question that people ask you?

“‘How are you?’” The minstrel strums a bitter chord upon his lute. “Rather,” he continues, plucked notes trickling behind him, “it’s annoying when strangers or acquaintances ask, because they’re not truly interested in knowing; won’t really hear any answer but ‘fine’. Yet it’s worse when those close to you ask, because they won’t take ‘fine’ for an answer. They know what you’ve suffered; they’ve read it or lived it with you in the third Outlaws of Avalon novel. But still they ask, as if words can contain what you feel.” He mutes his lute strings with a sigh. “It’s all of it pointless.”

*

9 = @ Sir Gawain – If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

“I expect,” he says pleasantly, “I would spend at least part of the extra time missing the need to sleep. It’s been my sole opportunity, thus far, to allow my mind any respite from active thought. A meditative state comes close, but even meditation is a mental act over which I maintain conscious control. Only unconscious can I experience life beyond the bounds of reason. This question supposes I would no longer require such. Still, a man may wish for that which he can live without.”

*

10 = @ King Arthur – What’s something you are self-conscious about?

“Truly? I don’t know if I will ever not feel self-conscious when someone kneels to me. Even when it’s just Avalon Faire patrons bowing for fun, pretending to believe I’m the king my surviving subjects really do think I am and/or will be.” His Majesty’s grimace is apologetic. “Everyone means well, but I find it, shall we say, emotionally challenging. …Excepting when Robin Hood does it,” he amends, chuckling. “He never takes a knee without a private wink to say he doesn’t believe I’m anything special. It’s a lie, but I need it, and he knows it, and that’s why we’re bros.”

*

And you haven’t yet been properly introduced, but our final question goes to…

11 = @ Clarissant of Listeneise – When do you feel truly “alive”?

“Never am I more acutely aware of how alive I am,” she says grimly, “than when someone I care for has died.”

(From a partial blog post away, Allyn murmurs, “Ah! A fitting answer to ‘How are you?’”)

<<<>>>

What think ye, readers, of Camelot’s answers? What would yours be? And who/what/where do you turn to when your creative energy runs dry? Tell all in the comments!

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: How to Hero[ine]

Welcome to the continuation of last week’s meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. A quick ‘hello, again!’ to our current membership: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, Lady Marion Hood from The Outlaws of Avalon (the first book of which is, now through the end of July, available for free on Smashwords.com, courtesy of the semiannual Smashwords Summer/Winter sale).

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Marion (First Lady of Sherwood’s Merry Men): Recall you, in honor of Balladry Sol from Danielle’s newest e-publication, “Window’s and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”, our discourse was centered on heroines / female characters / chicks in fic. To get us rolling again, here’s another quote from “Window’s and Sol”.

…There were any number of things boys could do that girls could not, just as there were things girls could do that boys could not (though fewer of those sprang to mind).

M: Discussion point! The freedoms vs. constraints of being (or writing) a girl character, in Deshipley canon and elsewhere. Who’s got thoughts?

Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure): As you mention writing, an excerpt from the second “Inspired” novel comes to mind…

“I don’t know. She’s just … no fun to write.” Her nose wrinkled again. “Girls never are.”

“No? Why is that?”

Annabelle’s shoulders hunched in a shrug. “Girl characters are … I mean, they don’t…”

“Do they not?” Luc lifted an eyebrow. “And if they do not, where does the fault lie: With the characters, or with their authors? A girl is not an alien, Annabelle. Or at least, no more alien than you.”

“Meh,” she said, her default argument when she had no argument at all. “It’d be easier if all fictional girls were warrior angels with attitude problems.”

“The market may be headed that way,” Luc observed.

Uri (skater girl and Fire of God): Sounds like our Danielle-insert author struggled to identify with her feminine side.

Luc: The larger trouble, I think, was that her feminine side was too busy swooning over male characters to pay the females much attention. And one sees all too often what becomes of fictional women who are treated solely as buttresses in the architecture of a man’s story.

Nicky (genderless super ghost-whisperer): You’d think, though, that problem would only come up when the writers are men. Don’t girls know what goes into being a girl?

Luc: What goes into being a non-fictional girl, perhaps. But fiction is informed by fiction as much as it is by ‘real life’. Artists draw from what they’ve seen in preexisting art. They learn what a story is and how it’s told from other stories. So if the majority of the stories a girl consumes contain only half-sketched, skimmed-over women, that’s what her imagination has to fight against in order to produce better.

M: Same story for minority groups, or anyone who doesn’t match the ol’ protagonist default – straight, white, Western-society man. If creators aren’t exposed to any real variety, they’re less likely to think to incorporate it, and so the default remains.

Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken): And high goodness knows even main female characters have their own default settings in place. Probably thin, probably light-haired, probably more appealing to the boys around her than she believes she is… Oh, I actually managed to tick that last box of the three!

U: I’m batting zero. Fortunately, I’ve got the ‘warrior angels with attitude problems’ shtick down. Watch out, market!

Lar: As far as freedoms, though, girl characters will often be allowed to express more than their male counterparts, who are more usually expected to be stoic overtop of unknowable hidden depths. We get to be whimsical and giggly and act irrationally – because, alas, men prefer to think themselves too logical for such liberties.

N: Way to trap yourselves in your own socially constructed box, dude-folks.

U: Say, Nicky – as neither a girl nor a dude-folk, do you feel like you’ve got any particular constraints or freedoms?

N: Oh, zero constraints. Second Earth society has thus far given its physiologically genderless demographic no rules and no roles. Sounds like unlimited freedom, but it’s more like… if you’re not one or the other, you’re sort of seen as nothing, and nobody knows what to do with you. Probably plenty of phys-gees embrace that chance to just be whatever they feel like, but for me, who on top of everything didn’t have a superpower until my late teens, there were a lot of self-worth issues to work through.

M: Is that the official shorthand, ‘phys-gees’?

N: Never came up in the novel, so… maybe?

M: Well, time may tell. Now, for one last “Windows and Sol” quote.

“Marrying another minstrel never occurred to you?”

Solwen gave a more ordinary shrug. “I guess I assumed none of them would like me. Silly me, for not expecting one who didn’t particularly like me to propose marriage anyway.”

M: ‘Likeable’ girls in Deshipley canon! Who might qualify by conventional standards, and standards aside, which of her girl characters do each of us personally like best?

U: Is there even a conventional standard in place?

Luc: People speak as though there must be, but the topic is so inherently subjective, I don’t see how one can create a universally liked character, no matter their gender.

M: Throw in the fact that people tend to be more critical of female characters as a matter of course, and perfection becomes that much harder to attain.

Lar: Most readers seemed to like me, from all I could gather. ^_^

U: How’d you swing that?

Lar: Kindness coupled with relatable insecurities, I suppose.

U: Well. Color me unlikable, then.

N: Pretty sure Luc already did that. Canonically.

“Hooray, the cat’s chewing something,” said Uri, devoid of enthusiasm. “Now that all has once again been made right with the world, what say we get back to the minor matter of choosing who gets first crack at Annabelle?”

Luc said bluntly, “It will not be you.”

Uri didn’t bat an eye. “Because?”

“Because the best chance for all of you depends on Annabelle having a positive first authoring experience. That includes a friendly relationship with her protagonist. And you are not personable.”

The barest twitch of an eyelash, which she prayed went unnoticed. “Meaning nobody likes me.”

“Meaning,” said Luc, “you are not overly easy to like.”

Luc: Ahem. Shall we look to the second part of the question?

N: Right! Our favorite Deshipley girls! Hard to remember each and every one of them off the top of my head, but one fave that comes to mind for me is Tidbit, from “Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son”.

M: Surprising choice! Why her?

N: Because even at a super young age, she knows exactly what she wants, and she uses her wits and persistence and any resource at her four-year-old disposal to make her dream happen.

U: Her dream of running away with a demon?

N: …That’s not the point. Anyway, who’s your favorite?

U: Probably your ghost, Brenna Walsh. Speaking as the Angel of Vengeance, hers is a motivation I can actually get behind. And yeah, her temperament wouldn’t win her any Likable Girl awards, but it works for me.

Lar: Seems relatability really does count for much. My favorite… oh, that’s hard. My heart’s shouting two things at once. There’s my mother, to start – Crown Princess/Queen Rosalba of Denebdeor – on the grounds that I admire and respect the multidimensional way she navigates both royalty and adventure. But I also very much love the quiet spunk of Molly Worth from “Deathsong of the Deep”. How is one to choose?

Luc: Nothing at all wrong with naming two favorites, child. As for myself, I might select Morganne le Fey. We’ll see more of her in #CamelotWIP, of course, but the glimpses caught of her throughout the Outlaws of Avalon series is enough to intrigue. In her altogether feminine way, she perfectly matches your earlier summary of the male character ideal: Stoic overtop of unknowable hidden depths and, from all one can tell, entirely ruled by Faerie logic.

M: An apt description, that. And since Laraspur’s set a precedent of two top picks, I too shall double up and say the McCaughley sisters. Almost feels like another level of cheating, since they’re from the same books as me, so I’ve spent time with them both on-page and off-screen. But what I like so much about Loren and Janey is how entirely normal they are – something of a rarity, in Danielle’s work! They’re not part-super-creature or royalty or anything at all fantastical; just a pair of contemporary young ladies who tease each other, support each other, go out together to enjoy music and movies and mediocre restaurants, and let their geek flags fly all Ren Faire season long. They’re sometimes at their best, sometimes not, simultaneously special and typical, and always, fully, expressly human. In short, they’re just girls. And the outrageous and magical Outlaws of Avalon plot makes space for them, the way any kind of story can, if the author is willing to consider ordinary girls as worthy of adventures as anyone.

Windows and Sol, cover finishedN: Think we’ll see Danielle play around with more characters of that type, in future?

M: With our author, one never knows what art she’ll do ‘til she’s done it! In the meantime, this session of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club has come to an end. Thank you, my fellow club members, for the dynamic dialogue. And thank you, readers of the blog, for following along. Who are some of your favorite fictional girls, and what is it you most appreciate about them? Tell us all about it in the comments! And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the doings of Danielle’s latest heroine in “Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”. Until next time, everyone. Farewell!

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: Radical Girls and Pre-Revision Boys

Hello, everyone! Lady Marion Hood, here, with another meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. Before we get started, a quick reintroduction to our current membership: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, from The Outlaws of Avalon.

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Marion: ‘Tis a special day on which we gather, friends! The launch day of Danielle’s newest publication, “Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”.

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Once upon a time, ‘wandering songster’ was no kind of career for a woman.

Now one minstrel-in-the-making is going to change Wilderhark’s tune.

From the author who introduced Wilderhark Tales’ Gant-o’-the-Lute and Outlaws of Avalon’s Allyn-a-Dale, a new voice rises into a brave ballad of its own: That of a girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.

“The Soul Shepherdess” – Young Solwen’s fateful encounter with a man o’ music and his sullen apprentice opens her eyes to the road she’s destined to take, along with the hardship that will be her traveling companion.

“In the Window” – Although Harper Rove-a-Day couldn’t feel less qualified to serve as minstrel master to his extraordinary trainee, he just may have what it takes to learn a lesson or two from her.

“The Names She Played” – To hear hidden music is not merely Solwen’s gift, but her only chance in a deadly game with one of the world’s oldest songs.

Tales of singing. Tales of striving. Most of all, tales of true love.

Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken): Congratulations, Danielle!

Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure): Seconded! A story’s flight from the nest is ever a proud occasion.

Uri (skater girl and Fire of God): So today we’re, what, sharing our individual thoughts on the new book? Like we did for “Deathsong of the Deep”?

Marion (First Lady of Sherwood’s Merry Men): Nay, dark angel. Rather, in honor of Solwen’s favored place in our author’s estimation, we will be discussing various aspects of a broader literary topic: Heroines / female characters / chicks in fic.

Nicky (genderless super ghost-whisperer): Nice and on-brand for you, given guest posts of yours that have shown up on the Luna Station Quarterly blog, a time or two.

M: One does try. So, here’s how the conversation will work: I share a quote from “Windows and Sol”, and we discuss a correlated question it raises. To open… well, how about these lines pulled from the book’s opening?

Solwen of Teastone Glass was not a radical girl. …There being little she found more distasteful than disharmony, Solwen was quite content to accept without complaint whatever path was laid before her. She considered herself fortunate, too, that this decision was thus far made easy on her, for neither her family nor the world required aught of her yet that she considered to be much of a trial. As the young daughter of passably well-off glass-sellers, her tasks consisted mainly of doing what she could to keep herself and the shop looking presentable, and staying out of unnecessary trouble – expectations both reasonable and pleasantly met.

M: Radical girls in Deshipley canon – go! Which of her female characters go looking for trouble, or go willfully across the grain?

Lar: For a start, what of you, lady outlaw? One doesn’t join up with Robin Hood’s band without planning to make a little trouble.

M: Lol, poor Allyn did. But as for the rest of us, you’re right – we were rebels, and we reveled in the role.

N: In my book, Brenna might count. An angry ghost whose motivation is to murder her murderer is pretty much the opposite of a well-behaved good girl.

Lar: And there’s my little sister, Lily, who ran from the reasonable idea of marriage to a normal human prince when there were dangerous forces of natures out there for the courting.

U: Yeah, that one went a bit cautionary-tale-shaped, by the end.

Luc: And why shouldn’t girls use their agency to bring about cautionary tales?

M: Agency is indeed the crux of the matter, master muse. A girl given the chance to choose can make a mess of things, or set a wrong aright, or twist any point of the plot in between. For someone like Lily, too reckless to count the cost ahead of time, or for the Brennas with no f*cks to give, acting radically is easy. And me, well, at least I had the Merry Men for a support system. Our Solwen, though, would have much preferred a ‘well-behaved good girl’ lifestyle, if only her bardic calling didn’t necessitate the contrary. While there’s no one right way to rebel, Solwen’s is certainly a way that her author, as an artist, can respect.

U: ‘Cause Almighty knows most artists won’t have society at large in their corner.

Luc: Not until society is willing to recognize the making of art as a ‘real job’, no.

M: All right, new quote and question!

“Merely a shame that you weren’t born a boy, that’s all. You’d have made a fine minstrel, otherwise.”

M: How many Deshipley girl characters can we think of who actually started out as boys in her early drafts?

U: You’re looking at one.

Luc: Ah, yes – a pre-publication reader noted that all of Jean and Annabelle’s characters in “Inspired” were male, so why not consider making at least one of them female? Danielle thought the point well made, and a quick bit of revision later, our gender-swapped angel was reborn.

Lar: Did the revision result in any big changes to your character, Uri?

U: Not a one. Putting an ‘s’ in front of my pronoun didn’t otherwise feminize me in any way – partly because I would’ve refused anyway, but also partly because Danielle thought it would have been all kinds of shady to imply that someone like me isn’t enough of a girl. Hell, go far enough down that slippery slope, and Danielle might not qualify as a girl either.

N: She did the same thing with Gravity Max in my book! Not because any pre-pub readers said anything, but just ‘cause she was looking at the twins – Max and Zero, y’know – and thought, why should the brother get the super strength power and first rank in team leadership, and the second-in-command flyer be the sister? And rather than switch ‘em around, she just made them both girls.

Lar: Wasn’t Demario in Thackeray Kyle’s crew also originally male?

N: Yeah, it was a boys club. So she tried making Demario a woman to mix it up, only to further realize that Demario identified as an AMAB transwoman. Goes to show, you never know what you’re going to get when you pass on the male default.

M: So it does. And, as usual, our discussion is running long!

Luc: Another two-parter, then?

M: Naturally. ^_^ We’ll continue next time exploring questions raised by the text of “Windows and Sol” – which, again, has released just today, so never let it be said that Danielle gave the world nothing to read while they await our club meeting’s second half. ;D Until then, readers of the blog, thanks for joining us! Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments! And farewell!

In Which I Battle Like a Bard

Once upon a time, I—

Will Scarlet: “Wait. What do you mean, ‘I’?”

Y’know. I. As in, ‘me, myself, and’.

Will: “But you opened this post with ‘once upon a time’. When you do that, you’re usually like, ‘an author did this or that, and stuff happened, and kingdoms rose and fell, yadda-yadda,’ before finally delivering the big reveal: ‘And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.’”

Allyn-a-Dale: “Wow, Will. Spoilers, much?”

Will Scarlet: “She does it EVERY TIME!”

Not this time! Because I am an unpredictable, plot-twisty wordsmaster, is why.

Now, again from the top: Once upon a time, I came across a Kickstarter / author call for an anthology titled “Sword and Sonnet”. The theme? Battle bards.

Sword and Sonnet

Allyn: “A promising premise indeed!”

Right? So I had me a little brainstorming session, and whipped up a short story featuring a noteworthy minstrel—

Will: “Ha! Noteworthy – like musical notes, right?”

Um, not intentionally. I just meant exceptional—

Allyn: “Like Father?”

No! Like Ballady Sol!

Will: “Cool! So, when does the antho come out?”

A while ago.

Will: “But… you didn’t hype the release at all…?”

Allyn: “Psst. Will. I don’t think her story was included in the book.”

To my disappointment, it was not. Not every excellent story will make every cut. I guess mine wasn’t what they were looking for.

Will: “Well, what the deuce were they looking for?!”

Search me. I haven’t yet read the “Sword and Sonnet” e-copy I received for backing the Kickstarter. Not because I’m bitter! – (*cough* at least, not entirely *cough*) – but because I am really bad about settling down to read non-paper books.

Allyn: “Alas for the world, deprived of your short fiction brilliance. However shall we carry on?”

Pretty sure you’re being at least 80% sarcastic, right now, but there is yet good news. Because you know how I roll, boys: When life hands me a ‘no’…

Will: “You make your own ‘yes’!”

When one publisher closes a door…

Allyn: “You open a window.”

10 segue points to House Gant. Behold the blurb and cover art for…

Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”!

Once upon a time, ‘wandering songster’ was no kind of career for a woman.

Now one minstrel-in-the-making is going to change Wilderhark’s tune.

From the author who introduced Wilderhark Tales’ Gant-o’-the-Lute and Outlaws of Avalon’s Allyn-a-Dale, a new voice rises into a brave ballad of its own: That of a girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.

“The Soul Shepherdess” – Young Solwen’s fateful encounter with a man o’ music and his sullen apprentice opens her eyes to the road she’s destined to take, along with the hardship that will be her traveling companion.

“In the Window” – Although Harper Rove-a-Day couldn’t feel less qualified to serve as minstrel master to his extraordinary trainee, he just may have what it takes to learn a lesson or two from /her/.

“The Names She Played” – To hear hidden music is not merely Solwen’s gift, but her only chance in a deadly game with one of the world’s oldest songs.

Tales of singing. Tales of striving. Most of all, tales of true love.

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Coming next week – and available for pre-order now!

Will: “Nice! So you’re re-releasing Balladry’s origin story from the Wilderhark Talettes and debuting the ‘battle bard’ short, all in one tidy package.”

Allyn: “E-book only, same as ‘Beyond Her Infinity’?”

Correct. ‘Tis more cost effective for me, that way. And since I’ve still got a picture book to fund…

Will: Hint, hint, blog readers! Any and all help would be most appreciated!”

…Wow, if I only had a dollar for every interruption in this blog post. Anyway, keeping costs down on my end means better bargains for the readers. Only 99 cents a copy, folks!

Allyn: “Best of luck wished to you and Balladry Sol on finding your rightful audience. They can be hard to reach, but they’re out there.”

And it is with that belief our author battles on.

(And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.)

(Will: “I KNEW IT!”)

Open Journal: In Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss

“Should I be doing this?”

Will Scarlet glanced over to the bed from whatever imaginary thing had his attention. “Doing what?”

Danielle sighed. “Reading this book. Listening to this music station. Wearing these particular layers of hooded garments. ‘Doing this.’”

“Why not?” Allyn-a-Dale wondered, half-concealed behind the sunny window seat’s framing curtain, wholly invisible to anyone who didn’t happen to hold him in their imagination. “What else would you be doing otherwise?”

“I don’t know. A million things. Fixing lunch. Taking a walk. Practicing my lute repertoire. Going through my latest draft of #CamelotWIP. Working on a blog post.”

Will’s vision went momentarily meta. “Well, that last one’s actually happening now. But it never really matters what you’re doing, does it, Dani-babe? You always feel you should be doing something else.”

“Two to five something elses,” Danielle corrected. “Too much to do, not enough time or energy or selves to see it done. What I need is a squad of Deshipley clones.”

Allyn’s lips twitched faintly upward. “So they could all moan over each hour as somehow wasted?”

Danielle snorted a laugh. “On rotation, yes.”

“No time is wasted in the pursuit of your bliss,” Will declared.

Dubious, Allyn asked, “Does she have a bliss?”

“Nobody has a bliss, Allyn,” Will said patiently. “Which is why it must be pursued. Now, Danielle, let’s approach this rationally, since I hear that’s a thing people do. Reading a YA novel from the library whilst smooth jazz plays: Does this spark joy?”

Does It Spark Joy

Danielle arched a brow at him. “Not sure the Marie Kondo tidying method translates to the organization of leisure time.”

“Sure it does! Or it should,” Will maintained. “Chores and day jobs aside, if you’re not having fun with a thing, why keep it up? This is your weekend. Your de-stress time.”

“But trying to de-stress is stressful,” Danielle fretted.

Will sighed voluminously. “Darling, I love you, but ugh.”

“One moment at a time, then,” said Allyn. “Danielle, what do you want to do? Not ‘today’, not ‘this afternoon’, not ‘with your life’; just right this moment.”

“This moment? I want… to review my German.”

“Really?” said Will, in honest surprise. “But you haven’t touched your German lessons on Duolingo since… well, since you switched to Italian, which you haven’t touched in ages, either. Why German? Why now?”

“I don’t know.” Danielle shrugged. “I miss it. Not just living in Germany, but reaching to internalize the language. …Not that I ever succeeded,” she brooded.

“There’s success, and there’s SUCCESS,” said Will.

Allyn asked, “Which is which?”

“Easy. The all-caps one is the version that comes with money and legacy and whatnot. Whereas little successes include taking baby steps to challenge or improve yourself or whatever. Example: When everything stresses you out, but you keep looking for different ways to cope and semi-enjoy your existence anyway.” His smile for Danielle was vividly fond. “That’s a little success you achieve on the regular. So go ahead and brush up on your German. And when that stops sparking your joy, go back to your book, or get lunch, or change into a super stylin’ outfit that no one outside will probably get to see. You’re in the driver’s seat. Pick a direction and punch it!” Will took a break from his non-stop pep talk to breathe and look hopeful. “Feeling inspired, yet?”

“…As opposed to merely caught up in a fictional conversation that could have come straight out of ‘Inspired’?” said Allyn.

“Yes and no,” said Danielle. “The struggle goes on, but I need these reminders. Like, frequently. So thank you for delivering this one in a way that met my nagging need to come up with a blog post.”

Will Scarlet winked. “It’s what we do, babe.”

Allyn smiled in agreement. “Call it our little success.”