The Hungering Hearts Café

What if the main characters of four separate stories convened in one peculiar place? Find out in this little something I whipped up as we wait for next week’s release of “Our Hungering Hearts”…

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The dark man in the diner booth watched the younger man’s approach. Voice smooth as glass, gaze sharp as the same, he said, “You are not my server.”

The younger man laughed cheerlessly. “Don’t I wish!” he said, his accent from either across the pond or a world away. “I came in to apply for a job, but of course they’re not hiring. I don’t suppose you are, for anything?”

Hungering Hearts Cafe pin, 02
From the “Reality As We Know It”-related Pinterest board

“No.”

“Just thought I’d ask,” the young one sighed, sinking to a seat on the booth’s opposite edge. “Your suit was so nice, it gave me the ghost of hope.”

“Hope can’t be a ghost ‘til it’s died,” came a female voice, clipped and cool. “I don’t believe that yours has, yet.”

The younger man turned (the dark man didn’t) toward the source of the sound – a fair woman of perhaps his own age, nursing a coffee at a nearby table. Her opulent gown suggested the proximity of a Steampunk convention.

“We can hope not,” he said soberly. “Goodness knows there’s death enough without that.”

“Yes and no.” The gowned woman’s pale brows drew down. More to herself than anyone, it seemed, she said grimly, “There’s at least one death to go before I can call things finished.”

Now the dark man’s head swiveled her way. “Oh, yes?” he said – too pleasant. Too interested. “Whose?”

She said only, “An enemy’s.”

The young man glanced between them, disturbed. The dark man half-smiled at him. “You should offer the lady your services, Row.”

“Entirely unnecessary,” said the woman, before the young man could reply or begin to wonder whether he’d told the dark man his name. “We’ve got it handled.”

“You hope you do,” said the dark man, quietly. “You fear you don’t. What’s the harm in accepting his help? He’s even less of a woman than your substitute sister.”

The woman sat still as an ice sculpture. The young man blinked, wholly confused.

Voice tight enough to strangle, she asked, “What do you know of anything?”

The dark man’s half-smile cut wider. “Everything you do.”

“Should I go?” the young man wondered aloud.

The dark man said, “Oh, stay, Rowan Charles.”

The woman’s gaze whipped toward the young man. “Is that your name?”

He frowned helplessly. “I never said it.”

Hand placed rather ominously over her place setting’s steak knife, she demanded, “Just who are you people?”

The young man spread his hands in a shrug. “I’m just a guy desperate to make a living wage.”

The dark man sipped leisurely at a glass of red wine. “And I, just a provocateur.”

Hungering Hearts Cafe pin, 01
From the “Reality As We Know It”-related Pinterest board

“Mmm,” came a savoring sound from yet another table – this one seating an older woman, a book in one hand, cup of tea in the other. “Oh, don’t mind me,” she said, when the three others minded her. “It’s just that word. Provocateur. Delicious. One doesn’t read it enough. But do please pretend I’m not here.”

“But you are,” the young woman said coldly.

An imperturbable smile from the older woman. “As a mere observer, I assure you.”

The young man and young woman traded a look. There was something decidedly off about the dining room’s elder demographic.

Downing the rest of her coffee in a concentrated gulp, the young woman rose from her table. “I think I’d best be on my way.”

“Should I… come with you?” the young man asked. If his name meant something to her, he imagined there must be an interesting reason.

She eyed him, expression closed. “Perhaps she’d want you to.”

He glanced at the older woman. “Her?”

“No,” dark man and older woman said together.

“Try to go with her,” the former suggested. “See if you can.”

“If any of us can,” said the latter, nodding, “it’s him.”

“You say that as if you don’t know for certain.”

“I don’t,” she said, irritated. “Of course I don’t, and you’ll know why. The more you drag me into this—”

“—The less of a mere observer you are.” The dark man’s half-smile had become a full, wicked grin. “Keep talking, reader, and lose yourself wholly to the story. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted most?”

“Definitely leaving,” said the young woman, striding for the door. The bell heralding her exit almost drowned out the dark man’s farewell: “Happy homicide, Your Highness.

A princess, who knew the name Rowan Charles. A dark man, who knew the thoughts in others’ heads. A reader, he’d called the older woman… what more did that mean?

The young man’s dizzying spin of questions scattered at the touch of a small hand, coming to rest on his knee. He looked down into the solemn stare of a little girl, a menu tucked under her arm. She asked, “Do you know what you want?”

Hungering Hearts Cafe pin, 03
From the “Date Due”-related Pinterest board

“I think…” he started. Stopped. Said slowly, “More than anything, now, I’m hungry for the whole story.”

Stories,” said the older woman. “And you’ll not find them here.”

“No,” the dark man agreed. “Not in the overlap. This is a Venn diagram best read one circle at a time.”

“My Library has a copy,” the older woman said. A sneer darted across her face. “For now. You’re welcome to read it while you can.”

A silky voice not the young man’s own warned in his head, I wouldn’t.

“I should… get home,” the young man decided.

The dark man nodded amiably. “While you have one.”

The older woman tsked. “Cruel.”

“Yes.”

“Here,” said the little girl. She handed the young man a name tag.

“Thank you,” he said, puzzled. The name was not his.

The dark man’s expression softened at the little girl’s logic. “People with name tags have jobs, you see.”

Tears pricked at the young man’s smile. “Thank you,” he said again, and departed.

The dark man’s thoughts snaked toward the woman. Nobody left but us monsters. Can you find your way out?

She silently sipped at her tea, reply unspoken. There is only ever one way out, Black Man.

The end.

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Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

On the Menu:

“Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son” = A little girl’s soul meets its match in the family diner’s most mysterious patron…

“A Mind Prone to Wander” = An assassin princess and an incognito madman brave a monster’s mechanized fortress and the pasts that left them broken…

“Reality As We Know It” = Where otherworldly magic fails, is Row’s friendship enough to mend Singer’s grieving heart?

“Date Due” = A magic library’s guardian determines to protect her treasured books, whether their authors elect to do things the easy way … or the fatal one.

Two servings of paranormal, a taste of fantasy, and a side order of steampunk – first released in various anthologies, now served up all together in one delicious combo deal. Bon appétit!

Add the book on Goodreads! Pre-order the e-book! (Amazon, or Barnes & Noble) Both e-books and paperback editions release next week; see you on Launch Day!

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Did You Kn-#OHH?

So, heeey! As I’ve been mildly remiss in shouting about, these last months, “Our Hungering Hearts: A Four-Course Short Story Collection” (#OurHungeringHearts #aka #OHH) is scheduled to launch in two (2!) weeks.

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

(Have you added it to your Goodreads “want-to-read” list? Because you ca-a-an! You can also pre-order the e-book, via Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble)

Most of my relative silence on the subject has been due to busyness with a hundred other things. Working at Yosemite. Leaving Yosemite. Searching for work in Fresno. Buying a car (which, just… wow. What a process. I’m starting to better understand why “Ballad”-era Will Scarlet elected to acquire transportation the easy way). Not to mention prepping “So Super Dead” – y’know, that other book that’s coming out one month behind “Hungering Hearts”.

But the rigors of adulting is no excuse! Neither is the fact that I’ve already hyped all of these stories before, when they first released in their respective anthologies. There’s always something new to say, if you’re chatty enough. (Which I very much can be. Will Scarlet came by the trait honestly. Unlike his car.)

In honor, then, of keeping our mouths busy, here’s a tasty array of tidbits I don’t think I’ve shared before (interspersed with stuff I totally shared before, because #NeverForget). DID YOU KNOW…?

– The collection’s first story is just chockablock with aliases. Tidbit, the Black Man, Two Spoons … both the character, and the title. Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son is the title I originally used. Though presented in Xchyler Publishing’s “Legends and Lore” as Two Spoons only, “Our Hungering Hearts” restores the story name to its full, head-turning glory.

– By fun coincidence, all four of the stories in the collection are narrated in 1st-person (which, as one could deduce from all of my published novels and novellas to date, is not my automatic go-to; I’m often more of a 3rd-person gal). And in two of the tales, we’re never given the narrator’s name. It would probably wear me out having to work like that in a full-length work (I wonder how Daphne du Maurier felt about doing so in “Rebecca”), but for short stories, it can be an interesting exercise to see what you gain and/or lose by featuring nameless characters.

– Throwback! Read (or reread!) a character interview with Reality As We Know It’s Heartsinger, on the blog of fellow Xchyler alum Ginger Mann.

My Love, My Heart, My Singer: A Walk Through the Abréal

– In keeping with my Wilderhark side, A Mind Prone to Wander draws inspiration from multiple fairytales – Jack and the Beanstalk, Bluebeard, a touch of Beauty and the Beast, and an aesthetic or two from the Arabian Nights.

Date Due is the ONLY story in the book that isn’t based on other characters of mine. Although – (Easter egg!) – one of the books in the story’s magical Library shares a title with another short story in “Beyond the Wail”, the anthology in which Date Due debuted.

– Throwback! Enjoy this sampling of images from the A Mind Prone to Wander Pinterest board, “Skycastle, Arcan-Nest, and Beyond”. …and/or click here to visit the whole board!

Mind Prone to Wander, Pinterest

– The twin princesses in A Mind Prone to Wander are mirror images of each other – as are, in a way, their names. Broken into pieces, Bellamy = Belle (beauty, in French) + Amie (friend, in French); and, same but reverse, Caralinda = Cara (dear, in Italian) + linda (beautiful, in Spanish). Yes, we authors do live for this sort of thing.

– If I had to pick a “Hungering Hearts” character with which I most closely identify… Yeah, it’s gotta be the draconic Librarian. Though I must give a secondary shout-out to Row from Reality As We Know It (because, whoof, his dispiriting job hunt has recently become too darn relatable), the parallels between me and the Librarian are blatant. Books. Tea. Questionable sanity. That’s all me. (Also, I half-lied, if setting counts as character: I totally based her house off of mine.)

– Throwback! Read (or reread!) a character interview with Date Due’s word wizard, on the blog of fellow Xchyler alum A. F. Stewart.

Beyond the Wail: Fireside Chat with Elizabeth Young

– If I had to pick a favorite “Hungering Hearts” character… that would be cruel, so I’ll be weak and pick one fave per story.

Two Spoons = the devil’s son himself (because I *heart* me a villain)

A Mind Prone to Wander = Arinward, Steward of Arcan-Nest (because his letters are champion)

Reality As We Know It = can I say the murdering Irishman? Is that allowed?

Date Due = the books (I told you: I’m the Librarian)

– If I had to pick the “Hungering Hearts” story that was most enjoyable to write… I think it was Two Spoons. I ~relished~ that one. The others were more painful, because character suffering. Whereas, for any suffering in Two Spoons, I was in Black Man mode, meaning yes, good, the pain of others; that and a scoop of ice cream, please. That guy would make a great author.

Well, would you look at that: We’ve arrived at a full-length blog post! I guess I had a handful of things left to say, after all. ;D And if YOU’VE got things to say, I hope you’ll put them in the comment section down below.

Coming Soon: A Second Helping of Shorts

Once upon a time, a certain author received notice that – because publishing is a weird, uncertain animal – all of her short stories released through various Xchyler Publishing anthologies were on the verge of going out of print, and all the rights reverted to her.

As it happened, only half of the prophecy came true. A few days of negotiations among the anthology contributors prevented the removal of the endangered titles from Amazon. Even so (because, like I said: Weird, uncertain animal), her stories’ rights were our author heroine’s, to do with as she wished.

Xchyler Antho Lineup 3

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

And what I wish is to reprint all four of my short stories first published with Xcyhler – urban legend-esque “Two Spoons” (“Legends and Lore”), fantastically bromantic “Reality As We Know It”  (“The Toll of Another Bell”), eccentric fairy tale “A Mind Prone to Wander” (“Steel & Bone”), and deadly “Date Due” (“Beyond the Wail”) – in a brand new, exclusively Danielle E. Shipley-authored collection.

So that’s what’s gonna happen!

As I type, I have an artist working on the cover I’ve envisioned – no other than the talent behind the faces of “Outlaws of Avalon” 1.5 and 2.5, the charming Hannah Vale. I dug my stories’ files out of the crowded archive that is my authorial past, and have begun organizing them for their new format. And wow, actually looking back at the stuff I wrote up to 4 years ago is weird.

Specifically, it’s weird when the old work’s a short story. With novels and novellas, I have clear memories of writing them. I’ll come to a passage and recall, oh yeah, I was sitting in that spot when I typed it … or I’d been working that job when I scribbled down that plot idea … or that character put up a fuss when I almost said [blah-blah-blah] instead of [yadda-yadda]… The fact that those works were longer made them, by necessity, more of a journey; a struggle; an author-and-muses collaboration. Whereas my Xchyler short stories all pretty much happened like this:

Xchyler anthology contest: “Here, have a general writing prompt.”

Me: “I don’t know if I—”

Me a few minutes/hours/days later: “Never mind, I know. From first line to end, I know.”

Me, over the course of 3 to 10 days: *copies down the fully formed tale onto the laptop*

It’s all over so surreally quick, I barely feel like I’m part of the process. So maybe putting these stories out a second time, all by myself, will be a good bonding experience. Maybe by the end of the project, my heart will better know these four fun-size word babies as my own.

If nothing else, it’ll be something to help tide us all over while we wait for the debut of “So Super Dead” in the fall!

So, stay tuned for the reveal of the collection’s title, cover, and blurb. In the meantime, if YOUR brains have managed better than my defective model to hold onto any interesting memories of short stories, written and/or read by you, feel free to chat about ‘em in the comments!

A Delightfully Grave Announcement

Ladies, gentlemen, and assorted rogues! It is with great pleasure and no small amount of authorial pride that I present to you the first look at my latest anthology project with Xchyler Publishing.

Aaaand cue the vid!


 

Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Tales of Love and Loss”, featuring me – not to mention my best friend, Tirzah Duncan. First soul sisters, now anthology sisters, too. It’s a Christmas miracle! …Or, given the book’s release date of October 10th, nearer to a Halloween miracle.

In celebration of the book’s cover reveal, I’m likewise revealing the related Pinterest board that I’ve been assembling since before I even knew for sure that my own uncanny short story had made the cut. So here – have a little library magic, courtesy of “Date Due”.

Also! It’s only a matter of time until we start sending out advance reader e-copies of the book. If you – yes, YOU, sir/madam/your rogue-ship – would like an early read of “Beyond the Wail” for the low, low price of an honest review, give me a spine-chilling shriek of woe! I’ll die of fright. Or hook you up. One of those. ;D

BEYOND-THE-WAIL-front-web