“Illustration” or “A Couple Thousand Words are Worth Some Pictures”

Long before Danielle E. Shipley was a fantasy novelist and short story scribe, she was a picture-book author. Her (or rather, “my”, since narration in the third-person ends now) first literary projects, painstakingly crafted via children’s PC writing software, were only minimally about words, and might even never include any beyond the title. An actual story was all very well, but I was really just in it for the pictures.

            Obviously, things have changed. Nowadays, I’ll typically put out a few ten-thousand words before I create so much as a piece of fan art. My primary concern is to take what’s in my head and reproduce in yours via description and dialogue and something else that begins with a “D”, because I like alliterative lists of three. As the poet said, “I should be painting this masterpiece with words / Creating colors from adjectives and verbs / Every brushstroke should be a keystroke / Make you feel that you’re seeing what you’ve heard.” (The poet being me, the complete poem to be found here.) I am a writer, first and foremost.

           But I’m a visual artist, too.

            I’ve entertained brief fantasies of being an author/creator of “visual matter used to clarify or decorate a text” – a phenomenon most often seen in children’s books, but by no means always.

“The Plucker”, written and illustrated by Brom, is about the last thing you’d want to read to your little ones at bedtime. I read it in my young-adulthood, and the scars have yet to fade.

Quite honestly, though, I’m not sure how well Author Me and Illustrator Me would get along together. Author Me sees her work a certain way – a way that would take superior skill to render to her satisfaction. And Illustrator Me, though talented within her own style, is no Brom, Brett Helquist, or some other illustrator whose name begins with “Br”.

            So I’d more or less given up on ever illustrating a published book. And apparently, I’d given up a wee bit early.

            “A Cuppa and an Armchair” – which, you may recall, totally rocked my world by including a short story of mine in their December 2011 publication – has another set of stories scheduled to go up for sale any day now. One of these stories will have been written by me. Another will have been illustrated by me. I guess the sample of work in my Deviant Art gallery was less than entirely off-putting, because I was tapped to put together some images for one of my fellow “Cuppa/Armchair” writers, and I got the impression that she was pleased with my offering.

            I’ll be sure to let you all know when my words and pictures launch – which will just go to illustrate that even largely abandoned dreams may yet come true.

“Wings” or “What We’ll Take in Lieu of Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust”

Why this thing we have for wings?

What’s up with humans, art, and wings?

Because we don’t have them

Because we wish we had them

Because we wish that we had to wings to fly, fly, fly

We want what we don’t have, and that’s the sky.

            If we could just wish hard enough—

But wishing hard is not enough

The sky is ever out of reach

To those of earth, without our wings

Like children born with wind enough

To wish for more, but not enough

To float and soar and dance in air and sky, sky, sky

To fly away and kiss the ground goodbye.

            So this will ever be our dream,

We human/semi-human beings

We dream of ever rising higher

High is never high enough

No mountaintop is sky enough

We reach the peak and leap and drop and why, why, why?

Because we don’t have this

Because we wish we had this

We want what we don’t have: Freedom of flight.

            A taste of D.E. Shipley poetry of the non-psalm variety, everyone. I’d been browsing some fantasy art on Facebook, just prior to the poem’s penning, and could not help but notice how very many pieces depicted otherwise-human-looking people with “a pair of moveable organs for flying”. Feathered wings, bat-like wings, wings like butterflies, everywhere. Clearly, people like drawing wings.

Soooo many more where this came from.

            A trip to someplace like a Renaissance Faire or Faerie Festival will demonstrate that people also like wearing wings. (Actually, a glance at someone’s earrings or graphic hoodie might show you that much.) Reading about people with wings can be pretty awesome, too. (Loved those first two books of James Patterson’s “Maximum Ride” series! After that… I’ll hold my tongue, for the time being.)

            Wings are a huge part of collective human fantasy. We’ve given them to pixies, to pegasi, to dragons, to angels (can’t recall the Bible actually having said that Gabriel and his crowd had wings; cherubim and seraphim, sure; the usual messengers, not so much. But it didn’t say they don’t!). When we’re feeling extra ambitious, we give them to ourselves (sometimes with tragic consequences, eh, Daedalus and son?) Go-getters like da Vinci and the Wright brothers took it a few steps further, and now we’re living in what an Ink Caster blog post dubbed an “Age of Flight”. But an airplane’s wings aren’t quite the same, are they?

            Was a time you could give me a penny and a fountain to toss it in, and my innermost thought was always the same: I wish to fly! Not on a dragon’s back (although that, too, would have been awesome), not in a plane or a hot-air balloon, but on my own power, with my own wings… or flapping my arms, as I’ve done in my dreams… or not even having to flap, just doing it, like Peter Pan.

They can fly, they can fly, they can fly, the lucky sons o' guns!

            I still wish this, if unofficially (pennies in fountains and such now being dedicated to more important causes, like cross-dimensional gateways). I always will, as most of us will. …Until some future Daedalus or Tinkerbell hooks us up.

“Noel”

This word has two meanings, each equally apt. It means “Christmas” – which, of course, is today. And it means “a Christmas carol” – which, of course, is a song; but it’s also a novella by the well-known English author, Charles Dickens.

            For all that I tend to avoid Dickens’ big, gloomy books, I love his noel. It is neither big nor gloomy, but quick and delightfully stuffed with Christmas spirit (or rather, Christmas spirits – three of them, not to mention the ghost of Jacob Marley).

            Heavily influenced by this 19th-century tale, and featuring the main cast from my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, I give to you “A Merry Christmas Carol”!

* * *

I – Merlin’s Dream

Merlin was asleep, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. He knew it? Not right away. How could one expect him to? Certainly, he was, at one point, aware of getting into bed with the intention of falling asleep soon after. But there is often a period in slumber – sometimes spanning its entire duration, from fuzzy beginning to bleary end – when the one doing the slumbering is quite ignorant of the fact that he is not truly living the events his mind would have him believe he is. Let it be restated here, however, that Merlin was very much asleep. This must be distinctly understood, for, if we were not perfectly convinced that what immediately follows this expository paragraph was the beginning of an extended dream sequence, we would likely find ourselves every bit as confused as was, initially, the man doing the dreaming.

            “A merry Christmas, uncle!”

            Merlin looked up from his paperwork, brows the same silvery gray as the beard hanging low from his chin drawn down in irritated surprise. “Excuse me?”

            “A merry Christmas, I say!” cried the young man again, his handsome, ruddy face aglow with smiles for the ancient wizard behind the desk on the low dais at the office’s rear. “And God save you!”

            “That he save me from your foolishness, Mr. Scarlet, is my daily prayer,” said Merlin, glowering over his spectacles. “What’s all this ‘uncle’ business? And what in the world are you supposed to be dressed like?”

            “Oh, this?” said Will Scarlet, tipping his top hat to a subtly more rakish angle over his red-gold hair. The accessory added an air of style to the outfit which included a vaguely shabby dress coat (burgundy red) and heavy woolen scarf (faded vermillion) informally tossed over one shoulder. “Isn’t it a riot?” he grinned. “Just screams ‘nineteenth-century man aboutLondon’. I thought it the very thing to wear Out caroling this evening!”

            “Out caroling?” Merlin repeated, disbelieving.

            “Yes, you know – going house to house, cheery candles raised high, singing jolly tunes and being offered warming treats like cider and chocolate and cookies and figgy pudding, one can only hope,” he laughed, “since goodness knows we won’t go until we get some!…”

            “Nonsense!” Merlin cut him off curtly.

            Will’s brilliant blue eyes blinked in astonishment. “Christmas caroling nonsense, uncle! You don’t mean that, I’m sure?”

            “I do.”

            “But it’s Christmas Eve!”

            “Yes, I am in possession of a calendar,” said Merlin. “But I don’t see what the day has to do with your going Outside to torture people with your attempts to carry a tune, let alone your insistence on naming me your uncle. You know perfectly well that you’ll not be leaving the Faire – not for caroling, nor for any reason short of a dire emergency of the sort we faced this past summer.”

            Will’s lips puckered into the beginnings of a pout. “Why not?”

            The wizard’s pale blue gaze was hard and sharp as flint. “Really, Mr. Scarlet?”

            “All right, all right, I know your so-called reasons why. Maintenance of secrecy, avoidance of death, so forth and etc. You don’t have to be so cross about it.”

            “Don’t have to be so cross about it…” Merlin muttered, halfway to himself. “What else can I be, when I live in a world with such a fool as this? If you don’t have anything more important to speak of than empty plans and ‘merry Christmas’, then good afternoon.”

            “It would be a great deal of fun, you know,” Will Scarlet wheedled.

            “Good afternoon,” Merlin said again.

            “I don’t see the harm in our going, just this one night. It needn’t be far, it wouldn’t be long… and you know you’d be invited to come along, right? You’re what, a baritone? I’m sure we could work out some killer harmonies…”

            “Good afternoon.”

            Will sighed. “I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute and so much the definition of a spoilsport. But I’ll keep my Christmas humor to the last (with little thanks to you). So a Merry Christmas, uncle!”

            “Good afternoon.”

            “And a Happy New Year!”

            “GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!” Merlin bellowed.

            “Getting out of your office,” Will said cheerfully, already tripping backward to the door. “Good afternoon, by the way.” Pitching his voice a little louder and past Merlin, he called, “Season’s Greetings, Gawain!”

            “And to you, Mr. Scarlet,” came the courteous reply.

            Merlin turned, startled. He hadn’t known anyone else to be in the room. And strictly speaking, no one was. In the wall to the right of the dais, a doorway opened into a dim little cell of a room which, to Merlin’s knowledge, had not been there as recently as five minutes ago. Inside the room, hunched over a guttering candle on a desk of his own – and, it seemed, striving valiantly not to shiver with cold – was the aforementioned knight of Camelot, arrayed rather as if he meant to evoke a nineteenth-century drudge about town.

            “Sir Gawain,” Merlin barked. “What do you think you’re doing, back there?”

            Gawain glanced over, his broad face professionally placid, as was his habit. “Copying letters, sir.”

            Since when was letter-copying in a nonexistent closet a part of a knight’s job description? Merlin had just drawn breath to demand an explanation when another man burst into the office, an eruption of woodland brown and green from head to hood to shirt to hose. Finally, Merlin thought; someone dressed like a normal person.

* * *

(For the continuation of the tale we’ve only just begun, please follow the merry link to the full note on my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page. If I haven’t the chance to tell you again before you and my words part ways, Merry Christmas! ~Deshipley )

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 18

Psalm 18. Isaiah 65:17-25; Romans 8:20-22

            What do you desire for your people? –

Those who love and seek and serve?

Glad lives under new skies

On your recreated earth.

All you’ve made longs for the day

What was becomes what is again;

And in good time, you’ll bring to be

The fruition of your dream

            There will come a day –

A day that never ends in night –

When those you love rejoice in you,

And, in them, you will find delight.

And weeping will be so long ended

That we’ll all forget the sound;

No place for tears upon your holy mountain.

            What do you desire for your people? –

Those who place their trust in you?

No need you will not meet,

Even before they’ve asked you to.

All you’ve made longs for the day

What was becomes what is again;

And by and by, you’ll bring to be

The fruition of your dream.

            There will come a day –

And maybe sooner than we know –

When we’ll be long-lived as the trees,

With all their years to be and grow.

And words like “death” will lose all meaning,

For there will be no death around;

No room for such upon your holy mountain.

            What do you desire for your people? –

Those who say, “Your will is mine”?

Pure joy everlasting,

Untarnished by the pass of time.

All you’ve made longs for the day

What was becomes what is again;

And in the end, you’ll bring to be

The fruition of your dream.

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 8

Psalm 8. 1 Timothy 2:5; John 3:16

            Join me on the in-between

Where author and creation meet

Together on the bridge you’ve stretched

As far as east is from the west.

            In the book is clearly seen

Creator’s love for what he’s made;

Of course he’d wish, and bring to be,

Rapport with us beyond the page.

            Earth and heaven far apart

As writing and reality;

No way this mortal one could start

To reach you, so you reached to me.

            Join me on the in-between

Where author and creation meet

Together on the bridge you’ve stretched

As far as east is from the west.

            You so loved the world you birthed,

You put yourself through agony,

That we who dwell upon your earth

Might share in your eternity.

            Now the honor mine to know

The one who dreamed me into being.

How many with dreams of their own

Would pay so dear for such a thing?

            Join me on the in-between

Where author and creation meet

Together on the bridge you’ve stretched

As far as east is from the west.