(I’ve been largely wordless for a while, but just lately, whilst scribbling to myself, found a way to answer my lifelong least favorite question: ‘How are you?’ So this, among other things, is how I’ve been.)
Fog gets me.
One thought, while driving toward the city: How something insubstantial as fog can make something so there be not there. The Golden Gate. Aged. Iconic. Large. Unmistakable. And yet, sometimes, invisible. Disguised in sky stuff.
(Much like the moon. Kin, maybe, in their souls. Or both just made much of by those who love them.)
Another thought: This place is wonderful. But this place is of America the Terrible. But is this country rotten, or this nation? Or its leaders? How much blame upon the people, how much on the powers that shouldn’t be?
People are awful. Some of them.
People are wonderful. Some again.
Our best and worst are leagues apart and held in single hearts.
This people and place are built of everything.
I don’t know how to bring that back around to the fog.
The thing with this pandemic is it makes it hard to find new things to say.
After all these months (has it really only been a few?), it’s just the same old problems over again. Even the new issues are mere reboots of what’s been wrong all along.
This country does not look good naked, and all but the occasional face covering is coming off now.
Some folks are paid to talk about it. Plenty will do it for free. Or for change. But what does someone like me have to add? I’ve seen no more and know no better. All I can do is echo the obvious.
As for other topics… what? I’ve read a book? I’ve watched a show? The light and the water danced beautifully on the bay this morning? It’s nothing to mark the days with. Lack of routine turns to sameness. The new normal is nothing is normal.
Twenty, thirty minutes in a line spaced six-ish feet apart for fifty bucks’ worth of socks.
Remember when we’d browse the mall for fun? Killing time before the times killed us. Making mini memories before yesterday was March and today’s August and what can we point to in between that felt like living?
There’s a version of hell that looks just like this. Probably more than one.
How’s this for bringing it back to the fog: I’m feeling lost in the blur. My existence, my reality, there then not there. Invisible Golden Gate. I’m forgetting myself. I’m a blank-eyed stranger. I’m alone in my own skin, and my skin is a bus heading out into nowhere, empty save for me, yet still crowded with the thought of people who used to inhabit these seats and might want to later, so let’s not get comfortable, legs crossed tight against imagined space invasion.
I’m social distanced from my own heart.
A soul in quarantine.
The virus knows more than one way to steal your breath.
Once upon a FAQs page made 6 years ago (which is a surprisingly balanced combination of ‘totally outdated’ and ‘still relevant to this day’), the world inquired:
How’s your book going?
To which Past Me replied:
Which one? A few have crossed the divide into publishing territory, and I’ve always got something in [various stages of] the works. Everything seems to be going reasonably well, though – maybe even /unreasonably/ well, depending on who you ask and whether or not they believe I’m a cyborg. If you’re asking how book /sales/ are going, that depends. Have you bought them?
Back then, I basically was a cyborg. I was never not writing. I was cranking out books faster than even my steadiest fans could keep pace with. I was… very much setting myself up for the psycho-emotional meltdown that finally caught up with me around the end of The Wilderhark Tales.
(Like, is there a reason “The Story’s End” dwelt more on death and disillusionment than the fairy tales that preceded it? All signs point to yes.)
So fast-forward to nowadays, when anyone who knows I’m an author will still inevitably ask:
How’s the writing coming?
And, I just…
…never quite know how to answer that.
Because I haven’t really written anything new since – *checks “Record of Stories Read and Written” document* – February of 2018. Blog posts, sure. Tweets ‘n’ things. A fun song. I’m making words. And I’ve been editing old words into new published books.
I could recall that I need to wrap up the little chores standing between me and ordering my first proof copy of #CamelotWIP.
(Why am I dawdling so hard on that? Could it be a subconscious foot-dragging born of the knowledge that, once “Camelot” is out in the world, I’ll be retreating into an indefinite authorial hiatus? Am I hesitant to unbind myself from the shackles I’ve forged from social media and self-promotion and straining to make myself seen by an indifferent world? Do I fear freedom? … Or am I just really not looking forward to all the fiddly work it’ll take to make the cover print right? <_<)
The question nobody asks:
How’s your inner author life?
I’ve had no practice answering that one.
But were I to try, maybe I’d mention the evenings I spend in the company of my characters (and Tirzah’s), listening as they hash out their own lives, their feelings, their fears. It’s not writing – and it may never be writing, as far as these specific storylines are concerned. Not every character crisis can adapt itself into another Outlaws of Avalon novel or “Reality As We Know It”. But in its way, it’s contributing to my craft. It’s growing my empathy. It’s coaching me in character development. It’s generating the stuff of imagination from which all art is born. It is – I must remind myself – worthwhile.
Another answer, and one I could give with some relief: I’m having ideas again. Am brainstorming again. Am rediscovering that itch in my heart that can only be scratched with creation. Even believing in my plan to walk away from my public author persona, for a while, it means more than I can express to realize that my writer spirit is waking up from its coma.
Maybe calling it temporarily quits on trying to sell myself will make room for a creative renaissance.
Maybe I’ll remember how to cyborg and return to writing like the wind.
Or maybe that self is never one I’ll get back, but my new self and her art will have just as much value.
So, the other week, I was in a car accident. Not convenient, not fun (not the sort of thing that tends to happen to me on the road, thank God), and… alarmingly, not an isolated enough incident, because then I was in another car accident. Like, a week-and-a-half later.
Zero car wrecks for some 15 years of driving, then two of them in less than two weeks?? I. Was. (Am.) SHOOK. Physically fine … but SHOOK. As in, eating is hard, sleeping is harder, and getting on the road for work and errands requires an excessive amount of courage.
Plus, I’ve been stressed out to the max about how much $$$ all this nonsense is gonna cost – especially in light of the fact that I’ve got an upcoming picture book to pay for – “The Princess and the Moon”! – and for whatever combination of reasons, I haven’t yet been able to gain traction on the GoFundMe campaign to help produce it.
Psychologically, this has been one of the most painful bouts of anxiety I’ve been through in my adult history – second only, perhaps, to the nightmare that was The End of Germany. But hey, on a related note…
The Good News
Once upon a time, an author was temporarily stuck in a traumatizing situation. To help herself process and cope, she started writing a story – a fairytale version of what she was going through, in hope that she could thereby find her way to a happy ending.
And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.
And that happy ending was a long time coming – (there are ways in which I’m only just starting to recover from that Nocturne of the Soul) – and it was a while ere I was able to look at and finish that fairy tale begun before the darkest part of the night.
But that fairy tale is now not only finished, it’s going to be published alongside another short story in an e-book only (for now) little artwork I’ve titled:
Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea
Once upon a time, you knew tales of Wilderhark’s Great Land.
But what of the Isles to the Far East?
In “Beyond Her Infinity”, Wilderhark Tales author Danielle E. Shipley spins two short stories with leading roles from the fairytale world’s minority culture.
“The Queen’s Lady” – Three gallant royal guardsmen learn just how far one Islander will go for the sake of her friend: Into a strange land. Into a cruel exile. Even into the hands of a darkly dangerous power.
“To Walk the Storm” – With his country falling to ruin, a king sends his heirs in search of foreign aid. But the favor of the Isles’ supernatural patron is not so easily won.
Tales of loyalty. Tales of passion. Most of all, tales of true love.
Why so soon? Because there’s no time like the present!
Why the title “Beyond Her Infinity”? Two reasons.
For one, Her Infinity is (I discovered while writing “To Walk the Storm”) the Far Eastern Islanders’ name for the Great Sea. For the other, there’s just something about pairing that name with ‘beyond’ that sounds like some She is living past her limits – or, at the least, where she thought her limits lay – which is very much in the spirit of the fairytale I first spoke of, “The Queen’s Lady”.
That years-ago Germany incident and these recent car crashes have in common a particular effect on my core confidence. They forced into my face the fact that I am not invincible. I am not invulnerable. I am not, in fact, anything like infinite. And my poor brain’s reaction to being so harshly confronted with finitude is to fill with fear and self-doubt and self-blame and depression. It makes hope feel too heavy to carry, and stretches the world into a place too big and cruel for one small She to survive.
And yet, survive I do.
The silence surrounding my GoFundMe – and, frankly, just about anything I try to put out into the world, lately – is a similar drag on my confidence. But you know me, dearies. I don’t know how to give up.
So next week, I’m releasing “Beyond Her Infinity” – which, speaking of my picture book, features a special guest appearance from the Wilderhark Tales’ moon himself! And I’m making myself carry the hope, no matter how heavy, that it will in some way contribute to the promotion and funding of “The Princess and the Moon”.
You, too, are very much invited to contribute, with your shares and dollars and word of mouth. It’s not that I can’t do this on my own. I can do just about anything I’ve determined I must. But I and the Fairytale Me in “The Queen’s Lady” know that while going it alone is doable, getting through with friends to lean upon can make an infinite difference. ❤
Since well before the birth of “So Super Dead”, I’ve passed some quick but quality time with its narrating protagonist, Nicky – starting in the flash fic where I first heard himmer’s voice, “Superpower Outage”; again in a second flash fic, which I would eventually rework into the novel’s first chapter; and then there’s the story below. It’s from my Blue Period (late 2016 – hopefully not beyond 2019), characterized by artistic ennui, life fatigue, and general despair. Fortunately, although Nicky may not have been born of such times, s/he is very much made for them. Enjoy…
Dennis sat dejected on the bench at the edge of a grave – the latest in a small cemetery laid out beside a smaller funeral home, where a too-small funeral and subsequent burial had taken place in a long blink of an afternoon. Everyone involved had been gone for a while, excepting Dennis. He had nowhere else to be.
He didn’t cry, but managed to look quite woebegone nonetheless. Head hung low between hunched shoulders. Elbows sunk down onto lap, wrists dangling loose over knees. Dry eyes hooded and haunted and fixed on the freshly turned dirt. A body lay beneath it, and the moon just kept on spinning in the sky.
Senses dulled by melancholy, he was slow to notice that someone had lowered to a seat on the bench with him. Maybe in Dennis’s early twenties, maybe younger; on the short side, and softly slender. They wore skinny pants, a three-quarter sleeve jacket, and summer fedora, all in a dressy-casual black, rounded off with saddle shoes and a slim gray tie. Only warm copper skin and chocolate-brown eyes kept them from reading like a black-and-white photograph.
“Hey,” they greeted – and the voice did as little as their appearance to push Dennis’s impression from they into a more binary he or she. “How are you doing?”
Dennis didn’t bother to suppress a groan. “I can’t believe people are still asking me crap like that. Why waste the breath? It’s not like you care.”
The someone blinked. “Of course I care.”
“Well, too late,” Dennis snapped, and looked pointedly away, back to the grave.
The someone was quiet for a moment. Then, “Sorry I missed the funeral,” they said. “I didn’t hear about it ‘til an hour ahead of time, and by then I’d committed to a dentist appointment. And wouldn’t you know Dr. Jaybeck was running late? I got over here soon as I could, though.”
Dennis looked up again, belatedly curious. “How did you hear about the funeral? Are you one of my cousins’ friends, or…?” Not that most of his cousins had bothered to come.
“Oh. No,” they said. “Got a notification on my phone. If you don’t mind my asking, what was the cause of death?”
Dennis stared at them flatly. “Suicide.”
“Aw, man.” Their face scrunched up in what was probably sympathy. “Why?”
“Does it matter?”
“I figure it’s got to.”
“You figure wrong.” Dennis turned away – from the someone, from the grave, from everything. “Turns out nothing matters. Not a person’s life. Not a person’s death. I thought…” His voice choked off. Not tears. Just that ache he’d been dragging around inside him for what felt like a little longer than forever. The ache that even now, unfairly, weighed his spirit down. “You’d think that people too busy to care about anything else you had to say would listen to a statement as intense as a shock gun to the head. You’d think that would get their attention.”
They said softly, “So it was for attention.”
Dennis couldn’t hold back a snort that was almost a laugh. “Pretty pathetic, huh, when you say it that way.”
“Pathetic,” the someone echoed. “From Greek. Pathos. To experience. To suffer.” They sighed. “Words mean more when they’re used right.” Another pause, then: “Maybe they’d mean more if they were used on time, too.”
Dennis glanced over his shoulder. “What do you mean?”
“There’s this thing I do,” they said, one knee jiggling up and down. “I talk to people. Help them move past their problems. But the thing is, it’s always like this. Like now. When they’re already dead.”
Dennis watched their eyes trace his name on the grave marker.
“You’re wrong to call it too late. But I admit, it could be earlier. It’s just, my phone doesn’t tell me until after you’ve died. Until you call me, or your number shows up in my contacts.”
“Or you get a notification about the funeral,” said Dennis.
“Yeah,” they agreed.
They shrugged. “It’s part of my superpower. Talking’s the other part. And listening.” Their gaze searched Dennis’s face. “What is it that you wanted heard?”
“I dunno.” Reflexively, Dennis sniffled. “Anything.”
“Well,” said the someone, settling more comfortably on the bench, “I’m all clear on dental appointments for another six months. You’ve got me for as long as you need. Lay it all on me.”
“…Nicky,” Dennis said, and talked until the aching weight of unheard words was gone.
For more Nicky and himmer’s rapport with the deceased, check out my second-most-recent novel, “So Super Dead”!
“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”
The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.
“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”
Allyn says, “The blurb for the novel ‘So Super Dead’ – the release of which is, not coincidentally, today – describes her thus:
Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.
“Wait a minute,” says Will, looking around. “While you read the introduction is when the narration’s all, ‘As the guest enters from the other side of the stage’, right? So…” He gestures to the empty chair across from him. “…Where’s the guest?”
“Oh, sorry!” calls a voice from the back of the house – the voice of a different ‘So Super Dead’ protagonist altogether. “I forgot. Brenna is there. You just can’t see or hear her. Because she’s a ghost.” After a moment’s attention focused toward the guest chair, the speaker relates, “And she’s peeved about that.”
“Peeved about which part?” Will asks. “Being here, being undetectable, or being a ghost?”
“All of the above.”
“Hmm. Well, that complicates matters more than usual, but hang all, it’s ‘So Super Dead’s release day, so we’re making this episode work! Allyn, rustle up another armchair! You in the back, come on down! And everyone, give it up for Nicky, aka Xtra-Medium!”
As the impromptu second guest heads for the stage, Allyn quotes from memory while rearranging furniture:
Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.
“Welcome, Nicky!” Will greets the guest he can see. “And Brenna, if Nicky says you’re here. So glad you both could join me. First things first – if you knew no one would be able to properly interact with you, Brenna, why did you even bother to come here today?”
Nicky glances Brenna’s way, then back to Will. “She says, ‘Nicky’s not technically no one.’ Hey, thanks! …Sort of. And she’d assumed that you would be able to interact with her, since thatthree-part character Q&A we did, a while back, went without a hiccup. But I guess your talk show follows its own logic?”
“All my special blog features do,” Will says complacently. “And calling it ‘logic’s being generous. Now, Brenna, I know you canonically don’t like much of anything, but if you had to pick a favorite aspect of your newly released book, what would it be?”
“Quote, ‘I like when Thackeray Kyle suffers,’ ” says Nicky, grimacing. “ ‘And the villain, while hideous on the inside, has some irrefutably hot outsides. And I guess I’m Team Luminatrix; she’s mostly legit, compared to the screwball crowd she runs with.’ ”
“What about you, Nicky?” Will asks, his inclusive and encouraging grin getting a return smile out of the ghost interpreter. “Favorite book thing?”
“Well, not to be braggy, but I do like the narrative voice I bring to the story. Fun and informal, but it can go deep, y’know? And, I mean, I get Brenna’s beef with Thackeray Kyle. He did her dirty, no denying that. But, I dunno…” The mutant teen goes slightly squirmy and flushed. “I like it when he talks.
“…Brenna mutters, ‘You like it when anyone talks.’ She has a point. People talking to each other is good for a story, know what I mean? Lack of communication creates plot problems. And lack of dialogue… sure, there are books like that, but they’re not my kind. And on a not-story level – on a life level – you’ve gotta have somebody to talk to. To unburden yourself, or to help figure our what your self is and what it’s dealing with… That’s it, right there: Talking is dealing with stuff. And I’m so super here for that.”
“You’d be surprised how much talking I can do without dealing with jack-all,” Will says cheerfully. “But I like your zeal, kiddo. Now, for one last question before you two spirit yourselves away. Tell me, Brenna-through-Nicky, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” A so super big smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”
“Brenna’s all, ‘You can kiss him if you want,’ ” says Nicky, imitating the ghost’s disdainfully flat manner of speech. “But I’m, uh, not really comfortable with the idea of kissing anybody, so… Gee, which of Danielle’s secrets are left to tell?”
Nicky mulls over the matter, before starting slowly, “This book became a lot more her, the longer we went between its first-drafting and today’s publication. When she conceived and wrote it in 2012, she was several months away from her first big dip into the depression that can still knock her down pretty far, a lot of the time. But even before poor mental health hit her personally, there we were: Brenna with what can be easily read as a clinical case; Thackeray with his violent repression of emotion; and characters like me who had to get up every day, wondering if there was a point to our existence – having to seize onto something to fight for. There’s plenty of times, in recent years, when she’s felt so super dead, or wished to be.” Nicky cracks a small smile at Will. “It’s good she’s got close friends like you to help talk her through, Sherwood hero.”
“You’d better shut up before I cry!” Will bawls, already ugly-crying. “Allyn, do something! A word from our sponsor!”
“We’ve already been over most of it,” says Allyn, “but for those who could use the reminder: Today’s Kiss & Tell segment is brought to you by ‘So Super Dead’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available today via Amazon (e-book and paperback) and Barnes & Noble (e-book only)!
The ghost: Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.
The killer: The reality of TV star Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, is not the kind one lives to tell about. He’ll do whatever it takes – and take out whomever he must – to keep his secret safe. If only he could get his dead conscience to quit haunting him…
The talker: Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.
“Thank you, Allyn,” Will sniffles. “Thanks to you, too, Nicky and Brenna. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”
I wanted to drop the pre-apprenticeship program Day 4. My parents said it was too soon.
Skip ahead to the beginning of Week 4. I still wanted to drop the program. My parents still said it was too soon.
This did not feel anything like fair enough.
I muscled through to the end of Week 5, then said goodbye to this career experiment before it could morph into a 4-year commitment and – *shaky breath* – dropped out of carpentry school.
Me. Danielle E. Shipley. A quitterfailuredisappointment dropout. It barely computes.
But the fact is, I gave it my best while I was there. And I learned things, and managed to improve in skill and strength over those few weeks’ course. And it still just wasn’t for me.
What is for me? I have no idea. Maybe I’ll find out in California, once I’ve moved there after Thanksgiving.
Yes, that’s the new plan.
Transitions. That was the theme, about a month ago, at the Fall Paint Night held by my sister’s associates, Ascension Performing Arts. In honor of autumn, season of change, we turned our canvases into trees.
I chose at the start to take my piece in a golden direction – my muse whispering that change could be a golden opportunity. I wasn’t sure how far I believed him. I’m still not. But I painted as if I’d taken the words to heart.
Speaking of Ascension Performing Arts: They’re holding their Fall Benefit showcase this Friday. I attended the event a couple years back, and it was a grand night of good art – both visual and performative. This year’s theme is “Be the Light”. And this year’s roster of fine artists on display during their gallery hour includes – oh, hello – Danielle E. Shipley. Given my imminent move, it will likely be my last in-person authorial event in the Chicago area for some while. Let’s make it the best one yet. (Ticket info here)
Also on the horizon, November – better known to much of the writing community as National Novel Writing Month. Somewhere, in an alternate universe, Danielle will have made herself sign up, with or without any driving inspiration.
Maybe I’ll challenge myself to a reading month. I’ve got way too many ebooks sitting neglected on my Kindle app. But my writer self isn’t in a place to create for joy right now, which is what I’d want NaNo to be. So I’ll dedicate what energy I’ve got to other things.
My first European adventure is behind me. My tentative carpentry aspirations are finished. My life goal of publishing all three Outlaws of Avalon novels before my death has been met. (My depression brain suggests that I could go ahead and die now, but I’ll try to keep on living.)
Now it’s into a new unknown – my back to the home of my youth, my face to the west, where dwell two of my dearest non-imaginary friends. I am full certain that this will be weird and scary and full of angst, because that’s how life is everywhere. I’m (trying to be) hopeful that it’s where I’m supposed to be. …At least until the season of change cycles back around for me again.
My spirit’s been having a rough time, lately. Even though it’s been several months since The Trauma at the end of Germany, I still haven’t been able to write like I used to. Short stories, sure. Flash fiction and scraps of poetry. But nothing like a novel.
And it’s awful because so much of my identity – so much of my self-worth – is Danielle = writer. That was my thing. My gift. My magic. So my brain says to me, If you’re not churning out books, then who even are you? And what is the point of you?
I was speaking my sadness to them; sighing my wish that I were a cooler character in my life’s story. And thus spake they of me:
Tirzah: Hold on. Someone, write up all the things about her that she would find cool if she heard them about someone else.
Will Scarlet: Well, we’ve covered the hell-ton of written/published works and Europe. Also: Ren Faire.
She can hear dialogue and music cues from childhood movies and radio in her head. Surely that’s a low-grade superpower.
She has a lute. She owns a cool hat bought in Manchester, and epic boots reminiscent of Merry Men.
She makes friends of fountains. She’s in love with the moon.
She’s never too old to sing the songs she likes from kiddie stuff, and geeks out at krakens and balrogs.
She apologizes to books for dropping them, and takes care not to smother her stuffed animals.
She drove the back end of Maui – where even the locals dare not wend!
Me: Okay. You make me sound credible.
Will: Then I’m failing, cuz you’re INcredible.
Tirzah: She’s created great art. She’s adventured far and wide. She’s written, lived, and loved stories.
She’s had an eye for the beauty in every place she’s been, and faced many fears for the sake of beauty and adventure.
She’s come up against Giants and been wounded, but not defeated. She rises up again after every blow.
She’s kind in spite of all, and true of heart in spite of much. She’s always pushing onward, herself and others – sometimes in vain, sometimes too hard, but sometimes to glory. And sometimes to simple survival.
She’s noisily brave. She’s faced trials in and out. She has kingdoms hidden under her hats, of which she has many – figurative and otherwise. She’s always pressing forward and branching out and learning new things.
She’ll do what she must. And what she must is, in her mind, a far higher standard than most would dare raise their eyes to.
Me [through literal tears]: Thanks for liking me, guys.
Will: Pssht. Why wouldn’t I?
And I share all this not so readers can see me, but so that those among them who need to can maybe see what they’ve been overlooking in themselves.
Being cool, being somebody, being Enough – it’s not all about Big Things you can do or have done. It’s not all about achievements or talents.
It’s also about the little ordinary things, and the everyday weird things, and the quirks and the quiet strengths that all add up to the person you are.
I needed to hear that – and probably will need it again, before I’ve healed enough to return to my old word wizardry. Hearing likely won’t always mean believing, but as the West Wind once said, “what is true does not require your belief to be.” So believe it or not, Danielle, here is the truth:
I don’t recall when I started thinking so, but it occurred to me that the depression I’m going through right now feels a lot like grieving. It’s not a constant thing – not just all the time down and sad, 24/7. There will be moments – minutes – hours – in which I feel pretty much fine. Then I’ll Remember, and boom. Crash. Back down again.
And if this is grieving – if this blue lethargy and difficulty coping with the smallest disappointments and inability to harness the true might of my Get ‘Er Done superpower and authorial magic is all a form of mourning – it begs the question: Who died?
What was it inside of me that I lost during That Time at the end of Germany?
And can it be someday, somehow, returned to life?
A number of online friends have quietly reached out to me in concern over the past few weeks. Thanks, guys. You know who you are. And if you were thinking of or meaning to check in/offer support and just couldn’t make yourself get around to it, hey – I see you, too. I know exactly how that can go. Engaging with people – even just typing a few words in a private message box – can take more out of you than you’ve got to spare. That’s the case for me, anyway.
I’ve been spending a lot less time in my social media spaces than in days of yore. As an introvert, I didn’t have a ton of social energy to start with, and there’s even less to go around these days. But I’ve yet to drop out of sight completely – in part because I’d hate for everyone to be like, “Haven’t heard from Danielle in a while. And last I saw, she seemed really down. Aw heck, did she kill herself?!”
Because even if you’re not me, whose default assumption that anyone who disappears for an hour is dead, I can see how my disappearing just now could be construed as alarming.
Don’t worry. Wistfully morbid fantasies aside, and despite the fact that I don’t always feel like staying alive, I’m not about to deliberately take my own life. 1, I haven’t got the guts. 2, it would be wasteful, and I detest waste. 3, my loved ones would be too sad. As someone apparently in mourning, I can’t bear the thought of putting my family and friends through this kind of grief and then some.
The thing about grief, though: Life goes on. Drops of joy slip in amidst the rain, and sometimes he comes in the clouds. The whole may hurt, but parts are maybe worth it, if we make it through.
So I’m still here. And barring accidents, here I shall remain. If anybody wants to send over a nice sympathy casserole, though, I’m sure Will Scarlet would make me eat it.
Over my birthday weekend, I dyed my hair. The color doesn’t like to just stick there. I sleep with a towel over my pillows to protect them from stains. Scratching my head leaves my fingertips blue. It’s kind of a weird tradeoff for looking like a boss.
I’ve been asked whether I’ll go on to dye my hair other colors, in future. I really don’t know. I don’t even know how long I’ll hang onto the blue I’ve got before shaving it back down to black.
It’s a temporary color. It could be gone at any time.
My day job is technically a temp position.
The workload’s been a bit sporadic, lately. Some days, there’s plenty to keep everybody occupied for a full shift. Others, things slow down to a crawl. I’m the type that’s big on diligence and reliability, so unless I’m instructed otherwise by my higher-ups, I’m there either way, working with what I’m given with the best attitude I can muster. Makes the prize all the sweeter when I’m sent home with a surprise half-day.
If and when the day comes that there’s just not enough work to go around, I may be one of the folks that get let go. Part of me goes, “Oh, no! But… money!” (Since, y’know, the darling book babies only bring in so much, at this point.) The rest of me isn’t that bothered about it. It’s a fine job for now – close to perfect, in some ways – but I wouldn’t want to get stuck doing it for the rest of my life.
I used to think I wanted to make books for the rest of my life. (During my heavily depressed episodes, the thoughts went more like, “I want to make books until it kills me,” or, “I look forward to being done making books so I can die.”)
There’s still a list of stories I know for certain I need to publish before calling it quits. Beyond that… I don’t know for sure. I’ve still got words in me. I doubt I could or should ever fully turn my back on playing with them. I only wonder if playing so hard over the last few years has burned out my passion, or if I maybe need a season of pursuing something else. What else? I haven’t a clue.
“So, you’re back from Germany. Where are you going next?”
Again, no clue.
I knew when I went that Germany wasn’t to be my forever home. In part because a “forever home”, however sweetly it’s meant when used it reference to adopted pets and such, is not a thing. There is no forever, in this life. That comes with the next. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
That aside, I want my long-term, settle-down home to be in England. Or Ireland. Or San Francisco. Someplace that calls to my heart in a language I can fluently speak. (So, es tut mir leid, Germany, but that means you’re right out.) As for the exact “where” and “when”, I don’t have any answers.
My future is a big, blurry question mark. My present is just me, pushing through day to day.
It’s not a condition I much enjoy. But on the bright side, I know it’s not forever.
Word on the ‘Net is that May 16th – 22nd is Mental Health Awareness Week. I don’t generally get involved in capital Weeks, Months, or Days, but in this instance, I felt compelled to recognize the occasion.
It’s probably to do with the fact that I am gradually becoming more aware of my own mental state, which seems to regularly include episodes of anxiety and depressive tendencies, with some mild OCD-like symptoms thrown in for fun. (Note: None of it is fun.)
And I’m not the only one in my head affected by mental illness. Will Scarlet and Allyn-a-Dale, for instance, have varying issues to deal with, too. Which is why they joined in the whole #InShadowSelfie* thing on the Outlaws of Avalon Tumblr.
*(Details here for those wondering what in the world that hashtag’s about.)
Mind you, I wasn’t planning to blog about any of this, until I realized that it’s been a while since I shared any new book reviews with you guys, and – hey, whaddaya know! – a couple of books I’ve read/very much enjoyed recently featured main characters with mental illnesses.
Featured Illnesses/Disorders: OCD, anxiety, anorexia, alcoholism
Blurb: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
My Story: Majorly enjoyable. A number of lines had me laughing out loud. (Great narrative voice!) Some others drove me nearly to tears. (Relatable mental health struggles are relatable.) I loved the focus on – and the depth of – the main characters’ friendships, including between siblings and potential romantic interests. And the juxtaposition between the story in the spotlight and the plot offstage was a fun quirky touch. Part of me wishes I were rereading the book already.
Edit: Welp, that re-read just happened, and yep, would still recommend.
Featured Illnesses/Disorders: Bipolar disorder, depression (plus grief)
Blurb: We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…
Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.
Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.
Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.
In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.
My Story: Hearing about this book in the lead-up to its release, I had a hopeful feeling that I’d like it. I had yet to read any of Emery Lord’s novels (though I’d heard good things), but what I’d glimpsed of her on Twitter seemed cool, and the book’s premise grabbed me – in particular, the part about the bipolar protag. …which isn’t in the blurb, but y’know, rumor had it. (One of my [fictional] friends is bipolar; I figured he’d appreciate having this kind of story in our shared headspace.)
Just to play it safe, I read the first couple chapters before committing to the purchase. And joy of joys, it sucked me right in from page one – like to the point that the gratifyingly busy bookstore faded around, leaving Reader Me in her happy place. Vivi’s voice is vivacious, creative, and fun, while Jonah’s is likewise amusing, if far more grounded. Both co-stars garnered my sympathetic attachment. Aaaaand I basically chose finishing the book over going to bed before 3am. ‘Cause I do what I want.
Confirmed: Emery Lord can write. I may have to try getting ahold of her first two novels after all.
Blurb: THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT
• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)
Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real—and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.
With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.
Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination, for fans of Counting by 7s and Bridge to Terabithia.
My Story: I haven’t actually read this book yet, but it releases today (*throws Book Birthday confetti*), and I’ve been looking forward to it and totally pre-ordered it, so hopefully my copy will reach me soon, and if the stars align aright, I’ll tell you how I liked it. ^.^
So concludes my contribution to this capital Week’s awareness. Stay healthy, y’all.