“Roundup 2” or “The Flame Writer, The Ink Caster, and Batman”

With the dust and confetti finally settling after the wild lauch week of “The Swan Prince (Book One of The Wilderhark Tales)”, here’s comin’ atcha with three more generous promotional features for the book, brought to you by some of the best chicks a gal could befriend on the internet.

Kendra Conine
Thank you, Kendra!

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First, Kendra Conine of the Flame Writer blog, whose advance review of my novella would have had me blushing, if my face actually did that. As it was, I just smiled a great deal.

Thank you, Tirzah!
Thank you, Tirzah!

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Next up, Tirzah Duncan, the mysterious character behind The Ink Caster blog / my oft-mentioned writing bestie. Not that she let our eternal bond of sisterhood color her advance review of “The Swan Prince, nay, never. She’s far too scrupulous a word-lover for that.

Thank you, Sam!
Thank you, Sam!

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And third, Samantha Chaffin of the blog Her Inklings, whose in-depth interview with me covers all the important topics – from self-publishing to theme songs, from inspiration to pants. Sam probed where few who aren’t secretly Batman would dare to go, and I withheld nothing.

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I’ve said it already, and I’ll say it again: Thank you, Kendra, Tirzah, and Sam, for your time and attention! I thank you, my characters thank you… And speaking of characters and rounding up, I managed to wrangle the main cast of “The Swan Prince” into sharing why they think you ought to read their book. Here’s Sigmund what Sigmund had to say!

Sigmund as drawn by Yana Naumova.
Sigmund as drawn by Yana Naumova.

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Why Sigmund thinks you should read “The Swan Prince:

He gives an elegant shrug. “Looking at it from the outside, I suppose it’s very well written. Not that I paid much attention to such things while I was living the story; I had quite enough to deal with, then – magical transformations, a harrowing quest, Sula… but I suppose I can’t go into all that without telling you the whole story. And if you wish to know the whole story, you ought to read the book. That’s most easily done if you buy it, which you can do in a few simple clicks by following this link, or several others peppered throughout the blog. Danielle’s made purchasing the story a far less difficult task than starring in it. She’s arbitrarily considerate, that way.”

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Thank you, my swan prince. (:

On a final note … who wants to see some “One More Day” anthology-related images, all gorgeous and ready to download and share?!

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Behold, the banner!

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There’ll be a blog tour coming! When I know more, you’ll hear about it!

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Kinda makes you want a copy of the anthology for your digital reading device, doesn’t it?

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Or if your prefer paper books, like I do, good news!

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‘Cause it will totally come in paperback form!

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And the cover comes in wallpaper form, ooh-ah!

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Makes for a good header or Facebook cover pic, dontcha think?

“Roundup” or “The Spotlight Bounces Back”

Previously on Ever On Word, the release of “The Swan Prince (Book One of The Wilderhark Tales)” ushered in a week-long giveaway extravaganza that took up all my blogging attention (not to mention much of my Facebook and Twitter attention. Thank you, everyone who didn’t yell at me to shut-up about the stupid giveaway, already! Believe me, I came close to wanting to yell at myself).

With all that finally over with, I can take the time to properly express my gratitude to some treasured souls who have graciously joined me in promoting “The Swan Prince” on their own web spaces in the past weeks. Rather than overwhelm anybody with an onslaught of articles all at once, we’ll start with a reasonable three features for our first “summary of information” and continue on to the rest at a later date.

Emerald Barnes 2
Thank you, Emerald!

First up, Emerald Barnes (author of “Piercing Through the Darkness” and “Read Me Dead”), who was kind enough to not only interview me on her blog (read it here!), but also to provide an early-reader review of my novella so I could include it in my book like a glorious stamp of pre-approval.

Kimberly Kay
Thank you, Kimberly!

Ginormous thanks also to Kimberly Kay, whose short story “Sleepless Beauty” will appear along with my “A Morrow More” in the One More Day anthology coming out in December! Kimberly featured me on her blog twice: One happy-author-making book review, and one way-too-fun interview. (Throw two fairytale-lovers together on the internet, and let the shenanigans ensue!)

I’ve said it already, and I’ll say it again: Thank you, Emerald and Kimberly, for your time and attention! I thank you, my characters thank you…

Sula as drawn by Yana Naumova.
Sula as drawn by Yana Naumova.

And speaking of characters and rounding up, I managed to wrangle the main cast of “The Swan Prince” into sharing why they think you ought to read their book. So for today’s ending note, here’s Sula!

Why Sula thinks you should read “The Swan Prince:

She looks askance at the internet, arms folded, eyes narrowed in skepticism. “Well, speaking as a person, I’m not wholly sure I like the idea of anyone and everyone sticking their noses into this particular period of my life. It’s hardly their business. Speaking as a character, though,” she says, reconsidering the matter, “why go through everything I have if no one’s going to read about it? I certainly feel entitled to some manner of compensation! And if it won’t come in the form of Danielle rewriting the end of the book so I get to strangle a certain antagonistic force (naming no names; spoilers, and all that), then I’ll take fame for me, fortune for my author, and a few hours of reading pleasure at my expense for you. See? Something in it for everyone. So go on: Buy the thing.”

“Emeraude” or “The Life and Times of My Elizabethan Alter-Ego”

It’s a big year for the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin. For one thing, this summer marks the 25th anniversary of the show. (Can I get a “huzzah”?!) For another, lesser-in-the-big-scheme, massive-in-my-own-personal-scheme thing, this is the first summer they’ll have me in the cast. 😀

I shared with you a while back about my audition experience, including my original monologue. Time to fill you in on what’s been happening since then.

In between a) finding out that the director of the Street Cast (Adam McAleavey; he’s nutty and awesome) had given me the role of Town Crier and b) the beginning of training, I had to come up with a name for my character. After giving the matter its due amount of care (you know with what gleeful solemnity I tackle names), I settled on… well, here, I can let her handle the introduction herself.

One portrait of many of the young miss to be seen on the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page.

“God ye good den, good readers of the blog! I’m Emeraude a’Right, here to cry your way to a better day! (Liked you that bit o’ rhyme at the last? ‘Tis mine own introductory motto, ‘an it please you thus to call it.) Named, was I, for the color of mine eyne – that’s ‘eyes’, to those among yourselves who hail not from Elizabethan England; nigh unto the green of emeralds, they are, or thus did my father fancy. As for the ‘a’right’, well, I try to make everything just so! – in particular for any and all who shall this summer grace the wonderful world of Bristol. ‘Twould be my pleasure to see you there – and your pleasure, also, if I’ve any say!”

Yep; that’s Emmers. Mind you, she couldn’t always talk like that, with that antiquated syntax and lower class accent (which, alas, I very much doubt you can hear through your screen). Or, well, I suppose she could, but I had to learn it. Fortunately, that’s what the Bristol Academy of Performing Arts is for (hereafter to be known as BAPA).

Since the start of June, I’ve spent my weekends on the fairgrounds, getting run merrily ragged. Saturdays are BAPA days, filled with lessons on how to speak, how to move, how to act and react, and how not to die. (Seriously, there’s a class called “How Not to Die”. This biz will burn you out, if you don’t take care of yourself!) Sundays are rehearsal days, where the separate guilds and troupes split up to get their acts together.

I love being in Street Cast. Everybody else looks like they’re having a jolly time, too, and goodness knows I’ve got terrific new friends scattered throughout the company. But Street’s my immediate Bristol family, and it’s good to be a Town Crier. I’m beginning to build a dynamic with my fellow Criers; much as I usually prefer being a solo act, I’m glad of the support I’ll have within our little sub-group. And in case you hadn’t heard, my costume is boss. (For the cream of my character’s photo shoot pics, check out the “Ballad” page’s “Meet Emeraude!” album).

So that’s the news for now. If you’d like to meet Emeraude in person half as much as she’d like to meet you, as well as have all of the other crazy fun the Faire has to offer, Bristol’s 25th season opens July 7th and runs every weekend through Labor Day, September 3rd. (Details at the website.) God save the Queen!

“Flaw” or “The Shortcomings of Perfection”

Once more Danielle chooses to briefly cede control of her blog’s content in the name of vocal variation.

Her character Bruno had his time in the sun near two months past, and in the process suggested – or, stated outright, rather – that he thought me under-qualified to produce an Ever On Word-caliber post. “Allyn’s not really blogger material,” said he; “deer-in-the-archer’s-sights minstrel”, he called me. And while I shall now state outright that this is utter nonsense, how he came by this impression is wholly understandable; is, in fact, directly related to the topic of this piece: The all-important character flaw. (“Hyperteller,” I’ve been instructed to say, “this one’s for you.”)

Allyn-a-Dale, the famed Merry Minstrel of Avalon Faire.

Why is it considered so vital that fictional characters be given

“an imperfection, oft concealed,

impairing soundness; or revealed

for any and all to detect,

their vague shortcomings and defects”?

(In a minstrel-run world, all dictionaries would by definition include rhythm and rhyme, didn’t you know?)

From all I’ve heard, the reason most frequently cited is that perfection is an odious bore, but I feel that explanation may go slightly astray of the mark. Rather would I say that perfection is inhuman. And while characters may be anything from regular humans, to magically reanimated humans, to Fey folk or Sky folk or some imaginative combination thereof or, I don’t know, talking rabbits, they are all of them by humans written and read. And humans do not relate well to those in which they can see nothing of themselves.

What sorts of flaws ought an author to choose, and how?

Firstly, consider the story. What are the characters needed to do? Which flaws would drive them toward that action, and which flaws would impede them? Does it take an inquisitive person to open the box that transports them to the alternate dimension they’re destined to save? Might that same curiosity compel them to spend valuable time investigating a hidden room when they should have been running for their lives five minutes ago? You want the plot to flow, but never too smoothly – not for the ones who must live it.

Second, consider the backstory. What have your characters’ lives been, up to this point? What people and circumstances have influenced them, over the years? We are none of us made in a moment, but a culmination of all of our moments thus far. Our pasts will inform our present flaws. Goodness knows that’s where the majority of my issues stem from; a repressive apprenticeship under the late greatest minstrel of all time can make deer-in-the-archer’s-sights mental cases of us all.

Thirdly, consider beyond the cosmetic. For every author who’s followed tips one and two and views this third as rightfully redundant, there’s likely another who needs this said loud and clear. One might not think to look at me that I am so terribly flawed. Certainly, you would not think it to hear me. In accordance with retellings of the legend that inspired me, I was given a voice of unparalleled beauty; and, whether Danielle really intended it or not, a face to match. I happen to have little in the way of physical flaws, which I daresay some writers might frown upon. (I’ve not always been terribly pleased about it myself, actually. I’d just as soon not be fussed over and admired.) And certainly a cast full of men and women who all happen to look like the children of Adonis and Aphrodite will severely lessen that relatable humanity we hoped to attain. But to rely too heavily on imperfect appearances to do a proper flaw’s job helps nothing. Superman with an unsightly wart on his nose is still the Man of Steel; unless the wart is full of Kryptonite, you haven’t really accomplished anything.

Lastly, consider the flipside. As in the hypothetical example of the inquisitive fellow mentioned three paragraphs ago, a flaw can be more than a flaw; it can double as a virtue, as seen o’er and again in my world of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”. Little John’s disinclination to communicate much can make him difficult to talk to (and even more so to drag anything out of), but it adds to his air of Bodyguard Supreme and leaves space for the rest of us to get a word in around Will Scarlet. Talking of Will (who always is), one of his chief flaws is a refusal to stop and think a thing through before charging right in. On the other hand, his manic mind moves so fast that he’s actually the only one able to keep up with himself (…mostly), and so can more or less successfully plan on his feet. As for me, a deep-seated sense of insecurity had me feeling rather weak and useless, betimes; and yet there came a point where that very weakness was my only weapon to wield against the dark forces endangering Avalon.

I shudder to think where my world would be if I had been the strongest, the bravest, confident and capable of anything. It would have lessened the story. Paradoxically, it would have lessened me (…or made me my father; but he has his own failings, never you fear).

When it takes a weakness to make a character stronger, the one flaw you don’t want to write is perfection.

“Voice” or “Can You Hear Who I Am Now? Good.”

Okay, so here’s what’s up. Danielle got this idea for a “fun” blog post where, instead of talking about “the distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or of a character in a book”, she’d have one of her characters talk about it. Y’know, kinda like a guest post. Except she still has do all the work. April fool’s on her, I guess.

            Originally, she was going to have Allyn-a-Dale do it, mostly because – hello – he’s Allyn-a-Dale. You want a voice in the “musical sound produced by [scientific yadda-yadda]” sense? Allyn’s got a voice. Thing is, though, Allyn’s not really blogger material. His style or manner of expression is far more suited to songs and poetry and little sound bites that sound like they ought to be songs or poetry. Tell him to throw together a five- to eight-hundred-word editorial, and he’ll look at you like a deer staring down the shaft of a Robin Hood arrow. Plus, part of the point of this gimmick is that you ought to be able to distinguish between the voice you’re getting now vs. the voice you usually get when Danielle’s skulking around WordPress as Deshipley, and since she expends so much time and energy in trying to talk like her minstrels, the line can get a little blurred.

Yeah, that's me. Sorry.

           So I guess Plan “B” is for Bruno. What up, world; “World of the Dream” saga protagonist, comin’ atcha. I’ve been mentioned around here a few times before (way few, compared to, say Gant-o’-the-Lute or Edgwyn the author’s pet, but hey, who’s bitter?), most notably in “Sequel”, “Q and A”, and “Modify”, if you really care enough to check the archives. And apparently, I’m here to rep for voice. Zero pressure.

            So. Voice in books. It’s kind of a big deal.

            Go to a literary agency’s website and read the agents’ preferences; it’s almost like a cliché. “What’s your number one wish, Beauty Queen?” “World peace!” “What do you want in a book, Agent?” “No vampires!!!” “Besides that.” “A fresh and engaging voice!”

            What was the difference between Danielle enjoying that “All Good Children” dystopia she was talking about, way back whenever, and her suffering through 300 pages of heck-on-a-stick with the most martyr-like pout you ever saw? Mostly, the voice of main character Max, that’s what (which, she’s decided, reminded her of me. I can’t tell who’s supposed to be flattered or insulted or on first with that one, so we’ll just leave it alone).

            The story you have to tell is only half the battle; the other half is how you tell it. This goes for both third-person and first-person narration, and possibly even more so with the latter. I mean, if you’re gonna have a character doing all the talking, you want them to come across as interesting, right? Otherwise, why is this person getting a book?

            Even if it’s only Nameless Omniscient Guy telling the tale from behind a curtain, Oz style, you can’t let character voices slide. Or you could. But your book might tank. The thing about characters is, they’re people. (And I’m not just saying that because I am one; I’m saying it because that’s the kind of thing I’m getting paid the big bucks [read: diddily-squat] to say.) And people don’t all talk the same. (Thank goodness. Have you heard some people talk?) So if you’re reading a book and can’t tell the difference between a) the deer-in-the-archer’s-sights minstrel and b) the modern teen with attitude issues who dreams of solving his differences with a sword without throwing in an “Allyn/Bruno said” every time, there’s a problem somewhere.

            How to make sure that your voice is distinctive, fresh, engaging, and conducive to world peace? How the heck should I know? I don’t write. Whatever, I can still throw opinions around. How ‘bout you don’t try to force it? Don’t throw in big, pretentious words that you never actually use just to try to impress anyone, because nobody worth impressing will be. That said, I wouldn’t advise that you write exactly how you talk conversationally, because let’s face it: Real life conversations need major editing. So try to find something comfortable, but not sloppy. Make your voice something you feel able to keep up consistently for however long the book lasts. If it matches the tone of the story, that’s probably a plus. Unless you’re trying to be ironic; that can work, too. And lastly? Try to make it sound like you wrote it. Maybe/maybe not like you, but like you, writing. Because if you, writing, tell good stories, well, people will keep coming back for another listen to your voice. And I’m assuming that’s what you authorial types want.

            There you have it. My two cents. And with my promised salary of diddily-squat for this post, that leaves me two cents in the red. Big thanks, Danielle.

“Immaterial”

This is no longer your world, Jones. The immaterial has become… immaterial.

            Ah, Lord Cutler Beckett… how I love to hate you. For those who don’t have the pleasure of knowing, that’s a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, spoken to another incredible villain of the franchise, living myth Davy Jones. Hats off to the script writers, because that’s actually a rather clever line, incorporating both definitions of the word at once:

1. Having no material body or form.

2. Of no importance or relevance; inconsequential or irrelevant.

(Dictionary order reversed for the sake of neatly matching the order presented in the quote, FYI.)

            Now, it’s time I confessed to something, readers: On occasions where I mention my “friends” in this blog, chances are I’m including comrades that most sane people would consider strictly imaginary. Fortunately (or not, according to my sisters), I don’t consider myself particularly sane; many writers of fiction don’t, you know.

            Mind you, I don’t refer to these friends as “imaginary”. Jacquelina, the invisible girl I danced with in my first (and only) ballet recital and who later was a horse – she was an imaginary friend, as were her fellow horses, Jacquo and Jacqueliese. (This spelling is total guesswork, by the way. At four years old, I never bothered to work out what to write on their nametags.) Blobbermouth, the man in the top hat who later became a genie and lived in a little gold-painted plastic bottle on my dresser – he was an imaginary friend. My minstrels, my tailor, my Dream World Deliverer… – these friends are not imaginary. They are merely immaterial.

            “Imaginary”, see, means “having existence only in the imagination; unreal”. Who wants to think of their dear friends that way? That would be depressing, and suggestive of mental problems (as opposed to mental peculiarities, which sounds much less worrisome, don’t you think?). But to say that the friends are immaterial does not impugn their reality in the least. They’re real enough – they’re just invisible, and incapable of physically manipulating our material world, except through possession of a willing vessel. …Okay, that did sound worrisome. As well it might. Any other authors out there who’ve had emails hijacked by characters who felt they had more important things to say to your material friend than you did? Any of your voices slip unconsciously into the accent of your primary antagonist during a phone conversation? Any of your tailors make you overdose on peanut butter? (Not to make mine feel bad by harping on that. But I digress…)

            I like to think that there are several planes of reality, all no more than an elusive cross-dimensional rift away. And one of those planes is a place where immaterial versions of ourselves can go to meet with characters out of the stories we write. And the whole gang can get into shenanigans like Fantasy Tug-o’-War, and battles against the equivalent of a pride of mutant lionesses, and the rougher-than-rugby brawl we call Super Soccer.

            Not exactly the kind of thing non-authors would necessarily expect of a twenty-something, I know. And I’m sorry if people like my sisters are occasionally annoyed by it. But I’m not about to ditch my friends any time soon. The immaterial are more than immaterial to me.

“Name”

You did a blog piece on naming things three days ago!” some mouth in the back complains.

            I signal Security to keep an eye on that one, then patiently explain, “No, the post to which you refer was about titling. This post is about naming.”

            “What’s the difference?!

            Precious little, actually. After all, a title (I recap) is an identifying name. And a name, of course, is “a word or words by which an entity is designated and distinguished from others”. That’s probably not news to anybody. We’re all of us decently familiar with the concept of names, right? I’ll even go so far as to assume that most of us have them; even the chatterbox in the back, though I’ve yet to learn it.

            “Milt!

            Charmed.

            To inform the curious, it took me close to a full minute to decide on the name “Milt”. Even my outspoken extras are named with some measure of care. Names matter to me, like that.

            When I was a kid, virtually everything got named. Figures in doodles that I’d never draw again. The animatronic farmer who rode his tractor around the ceiling at the mall. My fashion dolls and action figures, my stuffed animals, my ninety-nine identical green marbles (much to my mother’s amusement). Some of these names were sadly predictable – Fluffy the bunny, Blacky the black bear… nothing you’d never see coming, like my sister’s stuffed rabbit, Uncle Ruddyduck. Some were trying a little too obviously to be clever – Huckleberry Fin the fish, Claire-Annette the clarinet… nothing awesomely off-the-wall, like my sister’s goldfish, Dog.

            I used to spend a lot of time wondering what to name my future children. For years, I assumed there’d be a son named Jeremy. Then I fell for a boy named let’s-call-him-“Dean”, and wondered if we ought to keep up a family tradition of “D” names for all our offspring. (It became a moot point, by the way; that adolescent love story ended up being painfully one-sided.) I could never settle long on names for my hypothetical girls. Felicity? Ida? Delicatessen? (That would have worked in the Dean scenario!) I still don’t having anything written in stone – and I’m not currently too enthused about the idea of bearing children, anyway – though I’m lately leaning toward Tailor for a boy and Kevyn for a girl. (When in doubt, name your babies in honor of some of your strongest crushes, right? Let’s shoot for three kids and have a Dean, why don’t we.)

            People who hate naming things should probably not become authors of fiction. And authors of fiction who love naming things, rejoice! A novel is a naming playground, full of people and places and pets and peculiar miscellany in need of identification. But for all that I enjoy naming characters, I do not take it lightly. These are names that I’ll have to see and say and type over and over. These names might well be the first my readers will know of the character in question: Before appearance, before voice, before any of the incalculable things that make him or her themselves… we’re told the name.

            I want the name to suit the character absolutely. If I’m in the creation process and the name doesn’t feel right, it’s back to the drawing board (or the book or website dedicated to inspiring people like me who have babies to name). Some of the names that have made the cut are fairly standard – Sam, Jason, Bruno. Some of the names I strung together out of whimsical bits and pieces – Austeryn, Kel-Korrel, Christopher Washington Geoffrey Alexander Riverwood II. Whatever seems like a perfect fit in sight, sound, meaning, or some combination thereof. Whichever name I’ll always know as theirs, no matter how many other “Jason”s or “Austeryn”s I’ll encounter down the road.

            “So how’d you come to settle on ‘Milt’?!” inquiring minds in the back want to know.

            I don’t know. Flipping through an arbitrary list of options, it just seemed you-est.

            “I like ‘Kent’!

            Kent Milton, then. (We nod in mutual satisfaction.)