Open Journal: October Thoughts

Somewhere, in an alternate universe, Danielle is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged, unionized carpenter apprentice.

But here in our world, that does not hold true.

I wanted to drop the pre-apprenticeship program Day 4. My parents said it was too soon.

Fair enough.

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 quitter failure disappointment 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.

APA Fall Paint Night

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.

APA Fall Paint Night, Golden Opportunity

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.

Not here.

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.

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Open Journal: Who Am I?

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?

Because my brain is not my friend.

Fortunately, Will and Tirzah are.

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:

Danielle = writer is inaccurate math.

Danielle > that.

Kingdoms Hidden Under Her Hats 06

Open Journal: Who Died?

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.

sometimes-he-comes-in-the-clouds

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.

Open Journal: Nothing is Forever

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.

red-leaf

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.

keep-calm-and-find-a-new-dream

*

“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.

In Which I Go Mental

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.

Kismet or nah?

<<<>>>

Book the First: The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness

Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy/Paranormal

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.

Mental Health Reads

Book the Second: When We Collided” by Emery Lord

Genre: Contemporary YA

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.

<<<>>>

Some Kind of Happiness

Book the Third: Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Featured Illnesses/Disorders: Depression

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.

Shadow Selfie 05

The Old and the New

My New Year’s Eve with Tirzah

Walking through her German village – (our German village, I can say for now) – our latest heated argument punctuated by the battle sounds of fireworks.

Staring at the bursts of color in the foggy sky, my expression sobbing while the tears refuse to fall. It’s been a wretched day.

Is this how the old year ends? I mourn. Is this how the new begins? In painful misery? I don’t want that kind of year. Not again.

Maybe a bottle rocket will shoot me.

* * *

Meandering back down a side path. Stopping to stare at a tree – bare except for water droplets glittering in the smoky glow of a streetlamp. Silent music, melancholy beauty.

“That tree is Allyn-a-Dale,” Tirzah says, then looks to the flamboyant sky. “The fireworks are Will Scarlet.”

Will’s laugh through my throat. “Yeah they are.”

* * *

We – the hosts and the host inside of them – take a seat on pathside boulders. Embracing the mists like we’re born of them. Craning to watch the comets erupt.

“It’s hard,” Will says for me, eyes on the showers of light, “when someone who might otherwise be a happy person just… can’t, a lot. It’s like a flu of sadness. You try to drink plenty of fluids, try to get your rest, but all you can really do is let it run its course.”

Through Tirzah, Sy nods. “In her way, your author gets sick as often as mine does.”

“It’s pathetic.”

“It really is.”

Will arches a brow. “Take bets on which of ‘em dies first?”

Sy puts his money on my death; Will goes the other way. Winner’s author gets custody of the dead one’s characters.

Like that hadn’t already been agreed upon.

* * *

Back to the house for a New Year’s toast – she, me, her husband makes three, classy glasses of wood-flavored whiskey for all.

I snap pics of her in her hat and sharp jacket, Gandalf’s pipe balanced at the corner of her mouth. She raises the glass. “Happy New Year, old sport.”

“Mm, yes, I say, rather, *bluster-bluff*.”

She laughs at the toothpick I swirl in my drink and contently chew. “Who needs wood whisky when you can have whisky wood?”

A masterpiece of a movie, thanks to my sister’s Netflix. (“The Illusionsist” – you seen it? You may wish to.)

Always cold, but – with three top layers, a beanie, and T’s ski pants over my jeans – almost warm enough.

Always at risk to feel sad and angry and scared that life will swallow me and my inner fog whole, but for now – through the wee hours – happy enough.

* * *

I expect the year will be much like this.

Happy ‘til I’m not, sad ‘til I’m better, my people and me weathering it all like we do.

It will be hard.

Bits will be glorious – pockets of silent music in the mist.

Open Journal: #WilderharkParty Recap

The Vent

Transparency. People supposedly like that in an author/artist/celebrity, right? ‘Cause it makes them come off as relatable or human or some such thing.

I don’t know. I can’t think why anyone would really want me to be transparent. What good would it do them to know how I really feel the majority of the time? The truth would sound an awful lot like whining/grousing/b*tching, and there’s already more than enough of that in the world. I don’t want to hear it from anyone else, so why would I foist it upon my public?

But this is an Open Journal post, meaning I’ll come closer to telling the whole truth, instead of just the bits I can deliver with a pleasant smile.

Behind the smile.

Behind the smile.

So. My launch/farewell party for The Wilderhark Tales.

I put a lot of time into planning it. Came up with a variety of content to try to keep guests engaged – games, read-aloud videos, topics of discussion. Worked hard on making the prizes – from fighting a charm onto a chain for a necklace, to formatting and printing pages for a wall calendar. I personally invited all my Facebook friends, and threw the link up in a couple of Facebook groups, and talked the party up on Twitter live, during those five straight days of all-day, upbeat, smile-with-exclamation-points socializing.

I wore. Myself. Out.

Me for five days.

Me for five days.

And I had about five regular guests.

Out of the thirty-ish who said they’d come. Out of the hundreds I invited.

A handful more poked their heads in, on rare occasion. But it was mostly just those stalwart five. And I appreciated their presence.

But transparently? It was nothing like what I wanted.

Other authors – not realer, not better, just not me – get parties and signings and readings in bookstores. That is what I wanted. That is what I tried for months (years?) in advance to get. Y’know what happens when I contact bookstores? I show up in person, and the person to talk to isn’t there. I send them an e-mail, and the e-mail goes forever unanswered. Basically, it’s the same thing that happens just about any time I have to rely on other people for a thing to get done: It doesn’t.

So, yeah. Behind the scenes of the only party I could make happen for myself, I was privately miserable. In between moments of painful excitement when it looked like people might actually be interested in what I was trying to give them. My heart jerked up and down, up and downer, up and downest, all day for five days. I sighed a lot. I cried surprisingly little. By the last day, I kind of got numb. I just wanted it to be over. To not have to care anymore. Since all but five-ish people didn’t.

No I won’t.

No I won’t.

I could start getting really angry now, but it’s not worth it. Instead, let’s cut to a song that pretty much encapsulates how I felt throughout most of the party. (Credit to my sisters, one of whom stopped by a couple times to troll the party. Thanks, Di.)

We ain’t got no money
We ain’t got no friends
Roll up in a Caravan cuz we ain’t got no Benz
We just lost the lotto
We behind on all the trends
But we gon’ keep on rappin’ even though we got no fans (leggo!)

Yo. We out on the floor
We in this heezy all alone
All we wanna do is be successful in our craft
So it’d be nice if we had some support

Don’t worry. I gon’ keep on rappin’ regardless.

For better or worse, I can’t seem to help myself.

The [E]vent

In an effort to go against my personal grain and focus on the positive, here are some of my favorite moments from the party.

– The shameless ogling of Welken lookalikes

– Ionquin Wyle utilizing the phrase “Netflix and chill”

Tirzah’s flawless “Sun’s Rival” selfie

Tirzah's ''Sun's Rival'' Selfie

– The utter adoration from every quarter for Lumónd #TheySeeHim ❤

– The straight-up prettiness of the graphics for the “Words of Welken Translation Game” *pats self on back*

Welken Words, sample

– The fact that I was given cause to look at a side-by-side pic of Edgwyn Wyle and “Once Upon a Time”s Rumplestiltskin

– Me: “Discuss! The Anarchwitch has appeared in a lot of guises, over the course of the series. How do /you/ tend to envision her? What do you suppose she /really/ looks like?”

My sister: “Never heard of her, but I would guess she wears a jacket like this” *posts pic of an anorak jacket*

– When ‘twas agreed that Ruban was the side character MVP (not counting Jeromey Gant, ‘cause hello)

– When Tirzah jumped in with a brand new piece of Gant-o’-the-Lute fan art

Sunrise Lute 2

– Clem

Clem

– Maritime legumes

Maritime Legumes

– Tirzah puns

Tirzah Puns

– All the incredibly nice, sometimes profound things my dedicated guests said about The Wilderhark Tales and the people therein … like my little books have deeply impacted their lives or something

The work I do may be for too little. But it is not for nothing.

Godspeed, Wilderhark. And I’ll see ya when I see ya, Ever On Word blog, but for now, I’m Europe-bound. Let the sorta-kinda-hiatus begin!