Once and Future Fan Art

The longer I live, the harder it is to find leisure-time activities that hit that sweet spot overlapping ‘productive’, ‘relaxing’, and ‘fun’.

Also hard to find: Fan art for a novel I’m still a couple months or so away from publishing.

Or so it was, until I followed my muse to AzaleasDolls.com and started playing around with virtual dolls designed to resemble my characters from “The Once and Future Camelot” (#CamelotWIP). And just like that, I had both a low-key pastime to appease my creative urges AND a growing collection of Arthurian portraiture!

So, who’s ready to meet some of the faces from Avalon Faire … and/or from the kingdom before?

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Camelot Dolls_Lance x 3

Name, Title: Sir Lancelot du Lac, King’s Champion of Camelot, Knight of the Round Table

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

Strikingly tall and broad of shoulder; face hard as stone beneath his sweep of moonlight hair, silvery gold; advances and blows flowing one to another with the inexorable might of a waterfall. Gawain’s skill, though formidable, looked almost a beginner’s effort next to the ruthless grace of Sir Lancelot.

A Word on the Art: The image on the far left (made in ‘Warrior Maker’) probably has the clearest knightly vibe going for it, notwithstanding its being a bit reminiscent of a Roman centurion. The facial expression is spot on; 10/10 would absolutely see it on Lance’s face at one time or another. In the center is an early sketch effort of mine, produced circa the first-drafting of “Ballad” in late 2010. Not a bad likeness, considering I’d barely even known him or what he looked like. And on the far right, courtesy of ‘Sci-Fi Warrior 2’, we get Lance as a Jedi! Canonically, there is no reason for him to wield an actual lightsaber, but I think we can agree he’d look amazing doing it.

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Camelot Dolls_Gawain x 3

Name: Sir Gawain of Orkney, Knight of the Round Table

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Self-Described in #CamelotWIP:

Gawain didn’t want a seat that rolled around, and too much comfort verged on uncomfortable. His was a square, wooden seat, plain and sturdy, the arms wideset – more or less, Gawain expected, what he himself would be, were he a chair.

A Word on the Art: As with Lance, the far left image was made in somewhat limited ‘Warrior Maker’. The belt he wears holds special story significance; the shield’s just because. Center is a sketch I did at the same time – and on the same piece of paper – as Lancelot’s. In a world where art skews toward slimmer characters, I made it a point to attempt portrayal of Gawain’s huskier build. The far right image, meanwhile, was a gift from my BFF+, fellow writer Tirzah Duncan, during her ‘model a heck-ton of Guild Wars II avatars on Deshipley characters’ phase. Maybe it’s just because it came from her, but number 3 is my favorite. ^_^

Fun Bonus: Side-by-side (…-by-side-by-side) portraits of Gawain and his three younger brothers introduced in #CamelotWIP – Agravaine, Gaheris, and Gareth!

Simulated Orkneys 4

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Camelot Dolls_Bedivere x 3

Name, Title: Sir Bedivere the One-Handed, Captain of the Round Table

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Self-Described in #CamelotWIP:

“Ah.” The knight cut a canny look the king’s way. “So you like your current events like you like your history.”

“Yes, you could—”

“…Strong, dark, and hellishly hot,” Bedivere finished. “Or is that your coffee? No, it’s your captains.”

A Word on the Art: When it comes to depictions of Bedivere, inclusion of a sword is a must – whether it be a basic ‘Warrior Maker’ blade (far left), a mere hilt with the rest of the weapon implied (center sketch), or some sort of rune-engraved monstrosity of steel larger than its wielder (Guild Wars gift from Tirzah, far right). And as regards that third image, the answer is yes: Bedivere does look every bit that deadly hot on the battlefield.

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Camelot Dolls_Galahad x 2

Name: Galahad of Joyous Gard

First Introduced In: A #CamelotWIP debut!

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

“You’re like a hawk,” a low voice spoke. “The way your eyes move … The way they pierce. What do they search for?”

A Word on the Art: On the left (via Tirzah and Guild Wars), we see Galahad circa Camelot’s fall, at just about 18 years old. Piercing gaze? Check! On the right (via ‘Sci-Fi Warrior 2’), I’d say he’s more 14-ish – just a couple years into his training as a squire. Again, lightsaber technology would not be a thing. That sort of saintly-iconic light burst going on behind him, though… that, I would call, if not canonical, then certainly in keeping with his character.

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Camelot Dolls_Mordred x 2

Name: Mordred

First Introduced In: A #CamelotWIP debut!

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

Though more than a year behind in age, he’d grown every inch as tall as Galahad, his form just as powerful, with the sinuous grace of a cat’s tail; his face caught between the softness of a child, the strength of a man, and the splendor of an angel.

A Word on the Art: Okay, show of hands: Am I only one who just wants to squish the boy’s softly-strong-and-splendid angel face?? Tirzhah’s Guild Wars version on the left did a passable job (the eyes, apart from being blue instead of gray, are basically flawless), though the ‘Sci-Fi Warrior 2’ adaptation on the right may have, surprisingly, hit even closer to the mark. And I mean, whatever – if Lance and Galahad have lightsabers now, Mordred may as well be a master of the Force. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Camelot Dolls_Guinevere x 3

Name, Title: Guinevere, Queen of Camelot

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Seen by Gawain in #CamelotWIP:

He thought of Guinevere in some half a dozen ways at any given moment. Her Majesty. His uncle’s wife. Something like a second sister, in the absence of his first. The legend-reputed adulteress. The lady of whom he was determined to believe no such thing. The girl plucked first from her father’s home, then from the wilds of the Fey realm, then from Camelot and into an alien place that shared its name but not the half of its soul. He saw them all, layer upon layer upon layer, as she walked the Faire’s streets, or lounged in the castle, or rolled a thunderous strike for the team when she and the knights ventured Outside for the new-formed tradition of Bowling Night.

A Word on the Art: After browsing the site’s options, I found a favorite for Guinevere in ‘Casual Style’. Even then, no single clothing combination could encompass her subtle layers of personality. Hence, a triptych of Outside!Guinevere fashion possibilities.

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Camelot Dolls_Vivienne x 2

Name, Title: Vivienne, Lady of the Lake

First Introduced In: She was made mention of in “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, but we didn’t actually see her until the holiday dream sequence that was “An Avalon Christmas Carol” (Outlaws of Avalon #1.5).

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

A womanly vision of silver-limned gold, bright as the veiled glow of the moon. Amber skin beaded with water like stars. Ears tapering up like the tip of a dagger. … Eyes an ever-changing shade of silver-blue-green…

A Word on the Art: On the left, an indulgence in a ‘Casual Style’ interpretation of Vivienne. On the right, a far more canonically accurate version via, aptly enough, ‘Elven Portrait’. One thing I appreciated about that one = how I was able to do her ears. Rather than the dainty, pretty little ears traditionally attributed to Elven beauties, the ones seen here read as inarguably inhuman, and even suggest something mer-like, to my eye.

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Camelot Dolls_Morganne x 2

Name, Title: Morganne le Fey, Faerie Queen

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

Living darkness, drawn in light.

(More detailed descriptions have been given elsewhere, but none could more succinctly capture her essence.)

A Word on the Art: Will Scarlet is of the opinion that ‘Casual Style’ Morganne looks ready to drop it like it’s hot in a music video. He is not wrong. ‘Elven Portrait’ Morganne, meawhile… given the limitations of the medium, that is practical perfection. Nothing but love and respect for my shadowy Faerie Queen.

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And last for now, but far from the least…

Camelot Dolls_Arthur , Merlin

Names, Titles: Arthur Pendragon, The Once and Future King of Camelot, with Merlinus “Merlin” Ambrosius, King’s Wizard of Camelot

First Introduced In: “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon #1)

As Described in #CamelotWIP:

In some ways, it was like looking at Gawain a few years hence, for the King bore a strong resemblance to his eldest nephew. Just as truly, it was like looking at no other. The King’s smile creased gently around eyes the rich brown of good earth, and warmed Galahad all up and down. Never before had he received a smile like that.

…and…

Though his gray beard hung low and he leaned against the gnarled staff in his hand, the man did not appear at all frail. What could be discerned of his shape seemed strong beneath a strange robe, too elegantly styled for a holy man’s. And perhaps Camelot’s court made a collection of hawks, for the old man’s blue eyes pierced as sharply as any of Joyous Gard.

A Word on the Art: Central as they are to each other’s lives, it’s only fitting that I fashion a piece showing Arthur and Merlin together. Thanks, ‘Tudors Scene’, for enabling the endeavor! We’re off the Arthurian time period by a good 500 years, so definite liberties were taken with the wardrobe; but hey, no lightsabers, this time! Arthur looks too thin, and Merlin doesn’t look grumpy enough by half. Their relational dynamic, however, is coming across just about right.

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What think you, readers? Any favorites among the artworks presented here today? Any recommendations for free online character creators I might wanna play around with? Any super cool Arthuriana art out there that I should see so we can ooh and ahh together? Tell me about it in the comments!

Tag, You’re First! (Or Something Like That)

Once upon sometime in June I suppose, I discovered (here) a set of questions calling themselves “The First Tag”. The theme? Writerly firsts. The appeal for me? Obvious.

So what are we waiting for? First things first…

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Who was the first character you ever wrote?

My first actually named, wholly original, given-a-full-story character I can recall was Jesse Cassidy – a middle-school-aged tomboy who liked to bake and hated her classmates but ended up spending most of her time with them anyway. Over a number of years, I wrote her a whole series of chapter books, starting with…

What was the first story you ever finished?

… “How the Nutcracker Suite Went Sour”. In short summary: Jesse finds herself enrolled in a summer ballet class against her will, and is subjected to the disaster that is her (and her hated classmates’) amateur performance of “The Nutcracker”. In retrospect, it was not a great work of literature. But the fun of writing it ensured I would keep making words until I learned how to do it better.

Old School Oscar, Michael, and Jason
Super old sketch of the three boys Jesse would deign to call her friends.

What was the first piece of writing advice you ever heard? Or what was the first bit of advice you used and it actually worked?

Advice? I don’t know. I’ve spent so much time ignoring the voices around me in favor of the voices in my head, that I can’t recall an answer for this one.

Who was your first villain?

Santa Claus’s murderer.

(Would love to go into greater detail about him, but I’m actually planning to make a draft of his story presentable for publication someday, so we’ll all just have to be varying levels of patient!)

Dark Elf Waits
My first (badly shopped, lol) portrait of my OG villain.

What was the first storyworld you ever built?

My first deliberately fantastical world (not, y’know, what was supposed to be a regular world, but that turned out to have a murdered Santa Claus) was called Ohlhallaveil – or, translated from the High Language to English, the Dream World / World of the Dream. I’m not sure yet how to move forward with the first version of the Dream World I wrote, but different forms of it can be found elsewhere in Deshipley canon. ‘Tis a flexible world, like that. And a persistent one.

World of the Dream 2
Poster concept for Book 1 of my first crack at a fantasy series.

What did your first attempt at worldbuilding or mapmaking look like?

Pretty sure my first cartographic attempts were treasure maps that had nothing to do with writing. I was just a kid who liked using up paper on art projects of questionable worth – maps to nowhere, faux subpoenas, a ventriloquist dummy…

When was your first crush-on-your-own-character? I know it happened, don’t lie to me.

I can sometimes find it hard to discern the line between an actual crush and a non-crush fixation, but there was no denying how hard I fell for Edgwyn Wyle when I met him in “The Stone Kingdom”. Earlier than that, though, may have been a brilliant teacher by the name of Frank Llewellyn. Perhaps not coincidentally, he and Edgwyn had a number of traits in common – big build, warm and friendly nature, green eyes ever twinkling in amusement… I definitely had a type.

What was the first character death you ever had to write and how did you handle it?

Pretty sure that was Santa. My first crack at it lacked the emotional intensity of later drafts, but then, Teen Author Me tended to turn up her nose at killing off characters in the first place.

Don’t worry. She grew into a proper psychopath.

When did you first decide that your book needed a full-blown series?

For Jesse Cassidy’s books, I just didn’t want to stop writing them; I liked throwing her and the other kids into new situations, simply to see how they’d [mis]behave. It was different with, say, The Wilderhark Tales, where I didn’t need there to be more books until I’d happened to write two … and fell for Edgwyn. And with The Outlaws of Avalon, it was going to be just “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (currently available for free, via the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale!) as a standalone, but then the darn characters kept growing in my head, to the point where they needed more on-paper stories to contain them. So you never know from whence the motivation will hail.

When was the first time you stepped out of your comfort zone to write a new genre?

Phenomenon 2
Cover/poster/whatever concept for my ACTUAL first fantasy novel.

I was going to cite Ohlhallaveil again, but I JUST REMEMBERED that it wasn’t my first foray into high fantasy. Before that, there was the world of “Phenomenon” – in which people were born semi-asexually out of a special pool of water, and if nobody claimed you as part of their family that was Bad News, and suddenly – Worse News! – monsters were coming out of the pool and making a menace of themselves, so our heroine – named Heroine – and her friends went off on a quest to figure out the problem’s source, the better to save the day… The book wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but with a bit of revision, I daresay it would be perfectly at home with much of the YA fantasy on shelves today.

Phenomenon, Journey Begins
Illustration of Heroine and friends setting out on their first adventure.

What was it like using a prompt for the first time?

I don’t recall, but I expect it was no more nor less challenging than writing without a prompt. It’s all just putting one word in front of the other.

Opening line: share your first, your favorite, and your most recent.

First, for all intents and purposes:

You know, on the whole, I really love my mom. Seriously. But sometimes, I really wish she were someone else’s mom. Like someone on Mercury, maybe. One particular instance comes to mind.

– “How the Nutcracker Suite Went Sour”, circa 2000

Villem Deere 10
My first completed portrait of Doctor Villem Deere.

Favorite – if I absolutely have to choose – by virtue of its simplicity and the pattern it set:

Doctor Villem Deere was not easily surprised.

– “The Swan Prince”, published 2013

Most recent:

The most tiresome thing about war, thought Calia, /born of Knossos, first king of Yassar/, was how it made a hostage of her in the name of preventing her capture.

– A short story (February 2018) I was gonna submit somewhere, but missed the deadline, so it’s chilling out in the drawer for now

What was your first ending like?

“How the Nutcracker Suite Went Sour” went out like it came in: With Jesse complaining.

What was the first ship you ever wrote and, be honest, did you make them a ship name?

Hmm… I think Jesse maybe had a crush called Blue Jay, at one point? If ship names were even a thing, way back then, I didn’t know about it. What would they have been, anyway? Blue Jesse? In any case, she went on to get together with her best friend instead, naturally. I guess that pair could have been McCassidy…

What year was your first NaNo[WriMo]?

The year of our Lord, 2010.

Allyn Ballad Cover.png
My first artwork in honor of the NaNo ‘10 novel that first took me to Avalon Faire

Which novel is memorable for being the first one you ever gave up on?

Oh mercy, I’ve given up on any number of novels – not to mention the novels I haven’t given up on per se, I just don’t know if/when I’ll ever pick up work on them again. But the most memorable surrender has to be the second of my two NaNo 2012 projects, “Singer of Skycastle”. I recycled some of it into “A Mind Prone to Wander” (as seen in “Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures” and soon to be re-released in “Our Hungering Hearts”), but the full-length work I had in mind never made it off the ground. Which only goes to show that you can be a word boss like me and still have a tale get the better of you.

When did you first share your work with someone else and how did they react?

My sisters showed little appreciation for having my dozens of early-author-effort stories forced upon them. X)

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And that is that! Any author types reading this who want to play along? Tag! You’re next! Share your firsts in your own blog post, or down in the comments. ^o^