Walking the Imaginary Walk, Part 2

Hello again, readers of the blog! It is I, Annabelle Iole Gray: Protagonist from the “Inspired” novels, author of various characters of my own, creator of The Totally In-Depth Author-to-Character Q&A! ® (“Oh, Yes – We Go There” TM), and of its newest subsection in which we explore how characters walk – and how we authors walk when letting aforesaid characters live through us. Last time, I assessed the walks of my jungle cat god and knight of the Order of the Dove. Let’s see if we have space to get through the rest of my fictional BFFs!

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Uri Shoot 04
Danielle as Annabelle as Uri

Character: Uriel, skater angel.

Punchiest Verb for Her Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): “All swagger, all day,” Uri drawls. “Unless the state of your fallen Earth is actively depressing me. Then my walk’s a slump.”

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): It actually kind of varies? Because she has this habit of letting her movements drag a little before spilling forward; like a musical rubato, made physical. So sometimes it’s head-first, sometimes shoulders or elbows, or even her backside if her delayed momentum spins her around. Wow, weirdly, I never consciously noticed before that this is a thing she does. Why do you, Uri?

A rolling shrug. “Cool apathy meets an authentic need to get somewhere eventually?”

Favored Tempo: Faster than she makes it look. That ‘cool apathy’ drag effect reads as slow, but you best believe she covers ground like she means it.

Other Signature Details: Hands in pockets (pants or hoodie vest) are very much her thing. Also, when walking as her, I will frequently find myself squeezing one arm against my side, as if I’m carrying her skateboard. And how she manages to exude slouching while actually walking fully upright is another heavenly mystery to me.

Uri crooks a smirk. “Heaven loves a paradox.”

*

Yves Shoot 02
Danielle as Annabelle as Yves

Character: Avelaine (aka Yves), French ballerina boy.

“Danseur,” he corrects me, because that’s what his father would do, and like muse, like son, apparently.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): “My verbs will depend,” says he, “on the effect I wish to create. Perhaps I glide, or drift, or softly step. My movement is my art, and can be no static thing. But if one must name a signature, imagine my walk is a whisper; full-body susurration.”

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): Most often, his toes will point ahead, daintily parting the air before him. I, not being any kind of dancer, probably look three kinds of ridiculous trying to imitate him, but whatever – it makes me feel all airy-graceful.

Favored Tempo: Slow as a wafting feather. If he needs to move quickly, he won’t get there by walking; he’ll leap or sprint or simply mind-travel himself across the distance. If he’s walking, it means he’s got time to make a moving sculpture of himself.

Other Signature Details: Avelaine’s really not one for straight lines. When walking as him, I’ll take more of a curving, meandering path, steps sweeping, hands stroking, painting the air with my passage. I’m also likelier to walk on tiptoe, as if one pace away from floating off into the sky.

Not that Avelaine can or wants to float. That’s much more the purview of the next guy on the list…

*

Luc Shoot 07
Danielle as Annabelle as Luc

Character: Lucianíel, elemental of light – also, my muse.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): Certainly ‘stride’. Sometimes even ‘sail’. Very ‘casual runway model’-esque, in any case.

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): I might say chin. Where Avelaine oft goes about with gaze cast down, watching his foot-sketches, Luc’s head is more up-tilted, pulling him onward.

Favored Tempo: “Utterly sluggish,” Luc says, “for one made of light. But at nearer my full speed, no one could keep pace. So for company’s sake, I slow.”

…To something like a normal person’s version of brisk. My body and its material limitations thank you.

Other Signature Details: As previously hinted, Luc floats – almost never coming within an inch of touching ground. But I’ve got a more standard relationship with gravity, so my version of Luc’s walk better  conveys the commanding weight of his personality. His walk is ownership, confidence, pride. The space he takes is his to manipulate. If all the world’s a stage, the muse is the director, and Lucianíel’s walk warmly claims it so. When I walk as Luc, I am insufferable. …but also sexy, if I do say so myself.

*

“Character!” a new voice bursts through me. “Mach Jenius! Brainstorm, bestest of best friends, brother from another plane of reality— Hey! How come there’s no picture of the Overauthor as you as me?!”

1, because Danielle called for the “Inspired” photoshoot a good while before dreaming up the sequel establishing you. 2, how in the world are we supposed to analyze your walk, Mach? You change physicality like I change shirts when I can’t decide which outfit best says ‘a trip to the bookstore, and maybe burgers after.

“Well, yeah, but surely you can work out some sort of pattern! Thinking cap time.” He plops a silk top hat upon what, for now, are close-clipped mahogany curls. “When you’re walking as me, what do you tend to do?”

I dunno. Sorta… throw myself around the room?

“Aha! As if hurled by a wind! Very brainstorm.”

More like hurled by your mad spastic energy.

“But ‘hurl’ is the verb, is the point. And which body part leads the way?”

I’m not sure. Expect plenty of exaggerated arm gestures, though. Entirely the wrong sort of china shop bull. You have broken things through me, Mach. Including, almost, my wrist.

“You had my profuse apologies for that incident, Anna-babe. What’s the next question, again?”

Favored temp—

“Oh, right! Fast!”

We know. Other signature details?

His top hat flaps its wings thoughtfully. (No, it did not have wings two seconds ago.) “Hard to say. Maybe my signature is that I have no signature. I just start moving, and see where I go.”

That you do. And what about your characters, Overauthor? How do they make you walk?

“Phew-boy,” says Danielle. “More like how don’t they? Will Scarlet’s is a heart- or hips-driven thrust – an expansive, pressing forward, in-love-with-the-world sort of walk. Allyn-a-Dale artfully creeps, slips like shadows, while Gant-o’-the-Lute… well, to quote ‘The Sky-Child’:

[He] never walked. He ran, he sprang, he cavorted, he danced; he was one place, then he was another, but he could not be bothered to /walk/ there.

“Sir Bedivere advances like a Winter Soldier. Edgwyn Wyle strolls like he’s shopping the world’s delights. I’ve got a sheriff that saunters seductively, and a dog-lover who bounces and romps, wobbles and wags. Nicky surges forward, then shrinks back, eager and unsure in equal measure. If ever I walked as Captain Johnny Crow – even in sneakers or slippers or sandals – I’d feel like I’m pacing a ship’s sea-salted deck in weathered but stylish boots.” She laughs incredulously. “It’s a wonder I’m ever caught walking as me!”

In that, by no coincidence, we are alike. And with that, this post comes to its end!

Writers in the house: Have you ever noticed – or put much creative thought into – how your characters move? Readers: Have you come across any characters whose manner of movement lives vividly on in your memory? Hop into the comments and tell all about it!

Walking the Imaginary Walk

Hey, guys! Annabelle Iole Gray, here – protagonist from the “Inspired” novels slash author of first, second, and what-feels-like-fifty-seventh drafts of my own books, thank you very much. And today I’m taking the mic on the Overauthor’s* blog to analyze a phenomenon I have not seen discussed nearly enough in writerly circles. …or, like, basically at all.

*(Overauthor. Noun. Definition 1, a cool title I just now coined to refer to an author of an author, e.g. a nonfictional person who has written/created a fictional character that is likewise a writer/creator of fictional characters. Definition 2, Danielle E. Shipley specifically. Definition 3, probably now what Danielle will want to call herself if she ever takes over as her reality’s Dark Lord.)

On the other hand, you’ve got theater circles. In that context, the following is only common: An actor takes on a role – I mean, really embodies it – and it’s not just about speaking the character’s scripted lines, it’s about becoming them head to toe and moving the way they do. …Or the actor just moves the way they always do and gives that signature physicality to the character because, I dunno, that’s what the director was looking for when they cast them, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about!

You see, as a certain stripe of author (do most authors not do this? Am I the weirdo, here? …as usual?), I too find myself moving differently when hosting various persons from the immaterial plane in my material body. Regular Annabelle walks one way while, say, Annabelle-as-Abishan walks another, and Annabelle-as-Lucianíel walks like something else entirely.

To help show you what I mean – since, y’know, I’m not on the same plane of reality as most of this blog’s readers, so you can’t just watch me demonstrate – I have created a little assessment sheet to communicate the character of walks. Consider it a subsection of The Totally In-Depth Author-to-Character Q&A! ® (“Oh, Yes – We Go There” TM). We’ll call this PART 3-AND-A-HALF: Walking the Walk.

(And for those of you who aren’t familiar with my close circle of fictional friends, I’ll include brief introductions for each as we go along.)

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Shan Shoot 01
Danielle as Annabelle as Abishan

Character: Abishan, jungle god of all cats.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): After a moment’s search through my head’s thesaurus, he decides upon, “Slink.”

An apt choice, Shan. Yours is a decidedly slinky manner of movement. It’s like every placement of your paw contains a purr. Except for when the verb is ‘stalk’; then the silent sound is a predator’s growl.

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): In any of his countless feline forms, Shan’s nose and whiskers blaze the trail. In his man form (and when moving via mine)… Huh. Interestingly, he likes to make my hands go first. Reaching out, touching things, claiming territory as he passes through it. Apart from that, he’s got a lot of languid hip action – the closest he can come, through me, to simulating the movement of his tail.

Favored Tempo: “Relaxed,” says Shan. “Bursts of speed are best reserved for a hunt’s final pounce or fleeing threats. Otherwise, why needlessly expend energy?”

So, a fairly standard cat-titude.

Shan wrinkles his face and calls out, “Luc! The puns have started!”

From a distance, Luc sighs. “It was only a matter of time.”

Other Signature Details: When walking as Abishan, my footfalls come softer than when I’m merely me. People (*cough* my sisters *cough*) have complained I’m sneaking up on them, when that was never my intent. I also spend the pauses peppered into his progress leaning and lounging on walls and furniture. …or practically rubbing against a bookcase.

“Because you love bookcases,” Shan points out. “They are your pleasure to own.”

Things that are not my pleasure = when you try to make me lick my hand.

His blink stands in for a shrug. “Agree to disagree on best hygienic practices.”

*

Wilbur Shoot 01
Danielle as Annabelle as Wilbur

Character: Sir Wilbur Lamb, Knight of the Order of the Dove.

Punchiest Verb for His Walk (Stride? Saunter? Sashay?…): Wilbur eyes the options uncertainly. “Do I do other than simply walk?”

Hmm… We could maybe use ‘amble’? That’s defined as ‘an easy gait’ – specifically in reference to a horse, and one could argue you’re the nearest thing to a friendly warhorse we’ve got, around here.

That’s got him laughing. “Wilbur the Friendly Warhorse. I aspire to nothing more.”

Which Body Part Leads the Way? (Chin, Chest, Stomach, Pelvis, Knees, Other…?): A bit shoulder-steered, I’d say. His posture is cousin to a hunch – like he’s prepared to duck under a low doorway or bow in deference at any moment, or quietly bearing the invisible burdens of the populace. And if that doesn’t just describe the kind of person he is and life he leads, what even does?

Favored Tempo: “Composedly swift,” he says. “I like to keep just busy enough that it doesn’t serve to dawdle. Slower than that, and I begin to feel like an aimlessly wandering sheep.”

Other Signature Details: When walking as Wilbur, I will tend to place myself more carefully than I do as myself. I-as-Annabelle bump into basically everything as a matter of course, whereas Wilbur is a bull acutely conscious of the fact that he’s in a china shop, and if caution is enough to prevent it, not a single knickknack shall break on his watch. Also, walking as Wilbur always leaves me further back in line or waiting at crossing points, because his chivalrous instincts dictate that all others ought to move ahead of him. Low-key, I don’t often have the patience to walk as Wilbur in a crowd.

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…Whazat? Oh. The Overauthor has informed me that this post is maxing out on word-count. But let no one despair! We’ll get a look at my other character friends’ walks another time; like, probably next week, if nothing more pressing to blog about comes up in the meantime.

Before we go, I’m curious to know: How do you suppose one would best describe your walk? (Feel free to use my assessment questions as a template!) Do you ever get so into a character that you adopt their mannerisms? Chatter away in the comments!

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: How to Hero[ine]

Welcome to the continuation of last week’s meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. A quick ‘hello, again!’ to our current membership: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, Lady Marion Hood from The Outlaws of Avalon (the first book of which is, now through the end of July, available for free on Smashwords.com, courtesy of the semiannual Smashwords Summer/Winter sale).

stt book club logo

Marion (First Lady of Sherwood’s Merry Men): Recall you, in honor of Balladry Sol from Danielle’s newest e-publication, “Window’s and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”, our discourse was centered on heroines / female characters / chicks in fic. To get us rolling again, here’s another quote from “Window’s and Sol”.

…There were any number of things boys could do that girls could not, just as there were things girls could do that boys could not (though fewer of those sprang to mind).

M: Discussion point! The freedoms vs. constraints of being (or writing) a girl character, in Deshipley canon and elsewhere. Who’s got thoughts?

Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure): As you mention writing, an excerpt from the second “Inspired” novel comes to mind…

“I don’t know. She’s just … no fun to write.” Her nose wrinkled again. “Girls never are.”

“No? Why is that?”

Annabelle’s shoulders hunched in a shrug. “Girl characters are … I mean, they don’t…”

“Do they not?” Luc lifted an eyebrow. “And if they do not, where does the fault lie: With the characters, or with their authors? A girl is not an alien, Annabelle. Or at least, no more alien than you.”

“Meh,” she said, her default argument when she had no argument at all. “It’d be easier if all fictional girls were warrior angels with attitude problems.”

“The market may be headed that way,” Luc observed.

Uri (skater girl and Fire of God): Sounds like our Danielle-insert author struggled to identify with her feminine side.

Luc: The larger trouble, I think, was that her feminine side was too busy swooning over male characters to pay the females much attention. And one sees all too often what becomes of fictional women who are treated solely as buttresses in the architecture of a man’s story.

Nicky (genderless super ghost-whisperer): You’d think, though, that problem would only come up when the writers are men. Don’t girls know what goes into being a girl?

Luc: What goes into being a non-fictional girl, perhaps. But fiction is informed by fiction as much as it is by ‘real life’. Artists draw from what they’ve seen in preexisting art. They learn what a story is and how it’s told from other stories. So if the majority of the stories a girl consumes contain only half-sketched, skimmed-over women, that’s what her imagination has to fight against in order to produce better.

M: Same story for minority groups, or anyone who doesn’t match the ol’ protagonist default – straight, white, Western-society man. If creators aren’t exposed to any real variety, they’re less likely to think to incorporate it, and so the default remains.

Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken): And high goodness knows even main female characters have their own default settings in place. Probably thin, probably light-haired, probably more appealing to the boys around her than she believes she is… Oh, I actually managed to tick that last box of the three!

U: I’m batting zero. Fortunately, I’ve got the ‘warrior angels with attitude problems’ shtick down. Watch out, market!

Lar: As far as freedoms, though, girl characters will often be allowed to express more than their male counterparts, who are more usually expected to be stoic overtop of unknowable hidden depths. We get to be whimsical and giggly and act irrationally – because, alas, men prefer to think themselves too logical for such liberties.

N: Way to trap yourselves in your own socially constructed box, dude-folks.

U: Say, Nicky – as neither a girl nor a dude-folk, do you feel like you’ve got any particular constraints or freedoms?

N: Oh, zero constraints. Second Earth society has thus far given its physiologically genderless demographic no rules and no roles. Sounds like unlimited freedom, but it’s more like… if you’re not one or the other, you’re sort of seen as nothing, and nobody knows what to do with you. Probably plenty of phys-gees embrace that chance to just be whatever they feel like, but for me, who on top of everything didn’t have a superpower until my late teens, there were a lot of self-worth issues to work through.

M: Is that the official shorthand, ‘phys-gees’?

N: Never came up in the novel, so… maybe?

M: Well, time may tell. Now, for one last “Windows and Sol” quote.

“Marrying another minstrel never occurred to you?”

Solwen gave a more ordinary shrug. “I guess I assumed none of them would like me. Silly me, for not expecting one who didn’t particularly like me to propose marriage anyway.”

M: ‘Likeable’ girls in Deshipley canon! Who might qualify by conventional standards, and standards aside, which of her girl characters do each of us personally like best?

U: Is there even a conventional standard in place?

Luc: People speak as though there must be, but the topic is so inherently subjective, I don’t see how one can create a universally liked character, no matter their gender.

M: Throw in the fact that people tend to be more critical of female characters as a matter of course, and perfection becomes that much harder to attain.

Lar: Most readers seemed to like me, from all I could gather. ^_^

U: How’d you swing that?

Lar: Kindness coupled with relatable insecurities, I suppose.

U: Well. Color me unlikable, then.

N: Pretty sure Luc already did that. Canonically.

“Hooray, the cat’s chewing something,” said Uri, devoid of enthusiasm. “Now that all has once again been made right with the world, what say we get back to the minor matter of choosing who gets first crack at Annabelle?”

Luc said bluntly, “It will not be you.”

Uri didn’t bat an eye. “Because?”

“Because the best chance for all of you depends on Annabelle having a positive first authoring experience. That includes a friendly relationship with her protagonist. And you are not personable.”

The barest twitch of an eyelash, which she prayed went unnoticed. “Meaning nobody likes me.”

“Meaning,” said Luc, “you are not overly easy to like.”

Luc: Ahem. Shall we look to the second part of the question?

N: Right! Our favorite Deshipley girls! Hard to remember each and every one of them off the top of my head, but one fave that comes to mind for me is Tidbit, from “Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son”.

M: Surprising choice! Why her?

N: Because even at a super young age, she knows exactly what she wants, and she uses her wits and persistence and any resource at her four-year-old disposal to make her dream happen.

U: Her dream of running away with a demon?

N: …That’s not the point. Anyway, who’s your favorite?

U: Probably your ghost, Brenna Walsh. Speaking as the Angel of Vengeance, hers is a motivation I can actually get behind. And yeah, her temperament wouldn’t win her any Likable Girl awards, but it works for me.

Lar: Seems relatability really does count for much. My favorite… oh, that’s hard. My heart’s shouting two things at once. There’s my mother, to start – Crown Princess/Queen Rosalba of Denebdeor – on the grounds that I admire and respect the multidimensional way she navigates both royalty and adventure. But I also very much love the quiet spunk of Molly Worth from “Deathsong of the Deep”. How is one to choose?

Luc: Nothing at all wrong with naming two favorites, child. As for myself, I might select Morganne le Fey. We’ll see more of her in #CamelotWIP, of course, but the glimpses caught of her throughout the Outlaws of Avalon series is enough to intrigue. In her altogether feminine way, she perfectly matches your earlier summary of the male character ideal: Stoic overtop of unknowable hidden depths and, from all one can tell, entirely ruled by Faerie logic.

M: An apt description, that. And since Laraspur’s set a precedent of two top picks, I too shall double up and say the McCaughley sisters. Almost feels like another level of cheating, since they’re from the same books as me, so I’ve spent time with them both on-page and off-screen. But what I like so much about Loren and Janey is how entirely normal they are – something of a rarity, in Danielle’s work! They’re not part-super-creature or royalty or anything at all fantastical; just a pair of contemporary young ladies who tease each other, support each other, go out together to enjoy music and movies and mediocre restaurants, and let their geek flags fly all Ren Faire season long. They’re sometimes at their best, sometimes not, simultaneously special and typical, and always, fully, expressly human. In short, they’re just girls. And the outrageous and magical Outlaws of Avalon plot makes space for them, the way any kind of story can, if the author is willing to consider ordinary girls as worthy of adventures as anyone.

Windows and Sol, cover finishedN: Think we’ll see Danielle play around with more characters of that type, in future?

M: With our author, one never knows what art she’ll do ‘til she’s done it! In the meantime, this session of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club has come to an end. Thank you, my fellow club members, for the dynamic dialogue. And thank you, readers of the blog, for following along. Who are some of your favorite fictional girls, and what is it you most appreciate about them? Tell us all about it in the comments! And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the doings of Danielle’s latest heroine in “Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”. Until next time, everyone. Farewell!

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: Radical Girls and Pre-Revision Boys

Hello, everyone! Lady Marion Hood, here, with another meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. Before we get started, a quick reintroduction to our current membership: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, from The Outlaws of Avalon.

stt book club logo

Marion: ‘Tis a special day on which we gather, friends! The launch day of Danielle’s newest publication, “Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”.

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Once upon a time, ‘wandering songster’ was no kind of career for a woman.

Now one minstrel-in-the-making is going to change Wilderhark’s tune.

From the author who introduced Wilderhark Tales’ Gant-o’-the-Lute and Outlaws of Avalon’s Allyn-a-Dale, a new voice rises into a brave ballad of its own: That of a girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.

“The Soul Shepherdess” – Young Solwen’s fateful encounter with a man o’ music and his sullen apprentice opens her eyes to the road she’s destined to take, along with the hardship that will be her traveling companion.

“In the Window” – Although Harper Rove-a-Day couldn’t feel less qualified to serve as minstrel master to his extraordinary trainee, he just may have what it takes to learn a lesson or two from her.

“The Names She Played” – To hear hidden music is not merely Solwen’s gift, but her only chance in a deadly game with one of the world’s oldest songs.

Tales of singing. Tales of striving. Most of all, tales of true love.

Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken): Congratulations, Danielle!

Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure): Seconded! A story’s flight from the nest is ever a proud occasion.

Uri (skater girl and Fire of God): So today we’re, what, sharing our individual thoughts on the new book? Like we did for “Deathsong of the Deep”?

Marion (First Lady of Sherwood’s Merry Men): Nay, dark angel. Rather, in honor of Solwen’s favored place in our author’s estimation, we will be discussing various aspects of a broader literary topic: Heroines / female characters / chicks in fic.

Nicky (genderless super ghost-whisperer): Nice and on-brand for you, given guest posts of yours that have shown up on the Luna Station Quarterly blog, a time or two.

M: One does try. So, here’s how the conversation will work: I share a quote from “Windows and Sol”, and we discuss a correlated question it raises. To open… well, how about these lines pulled from the book’s opening?

Solwen of Teastone Glass was not a radical girl. …There being little she found more distasteful than disharmony, Solwen was quite content to accept without complaint whatever path was laid before her. She considered herself fortunate, too, that this decision was thus far made easy on her, for neither her family nor the world required aught of her yet that she considered to be much of a trial. As the young daughter of passably well-off glass-sellers, her tasks consisted mainly of doing what she could to keep herself and the shop looking presentable, and staying out of unnecessary trouble – expectations both reasonable and pleasantly met.

M: Radical girls in Deshipley canon – go! Which of her female characters go looking for trouble, or go willfully across the grain?

Lar: For a start, what of you, lady outlaw? One doesn’t join up with Robin Hood’s band without planning to make a little trouble.

M: Lol, poor Allyn did. But as for the rest of us, you’re right – we were rebels, and we reveled in the role.

N: In my book, Brenna might count. An angry ghost whose motivation is to murder her murderer is pretty much the opposite of a well-behaved good girl.

Lar: And there’s my little sister, Lily, who ran from the reasonable idea of marriage to a normal human prince when there were dangerous forces of natures out there for the courting.

U: Yeah, that one went a bit cautionary-tale-shaped, by the end.

Luc: And why shouldn’t girls use their agency to bring about cautionary tales?

M: Agency is indeed the crux of the matter, master muse. A girl given the chance to choose can make a mess of things, or set a wrong aright, or twist any point of the plot in between. For someone like Lily, too reckless to count the cost ahead of time, or for the Brennas with no f*cks to give, acting radically is easy. And me, well, at least I had the Merry Men for a support system. Our Solwen, though, would have much preferred a ‘well-behaved good girl’ lifestyle, if only her bardic calling didn’t necessitate the contrary. While there’s no one right way to rebel, Solwen’s is certainly a way that her author, as an artist, can respect.

U: ‘Cause Almighty knows most artists won’t have society at large in their corner.

Luc: Not until society is willing to recognize the making of art as a ‘real job’, no.

M: All right, new quote and question!

“Merely a shame that you weren’t born a boy, that’s all. You’d have made a fine minstrel, otherwise.”

M: How many Deshipley girl characters can we think of who actually started out as boys in her early drafts?

U: You’re looking at one.

Luc: Ah, yes – a pre-publication reader noted that all of Jean and Annabelle’s characters in “Inspired” were male, so why not consider making at least one of them female? Danielle thought the point well made, and a quick bit of revision later, our gender-swapped angel was reborn.

Lar: Did the revision result in any big changes to your character, Uri?

U: Not a one. Putting an ‘s’ in front of my pronoun didn’t otherwise feminize me in any way – partly because I would’ve refused anyway, but also partly because Danielle thought it would have been all kinds of shady to imply that someone like me isn’t enough of a girl. Hell, go far enough down that slippery slope, and Danielle might not qualify as a girl either.

N: She did the same thing with Gravity Max in my book! Not because any pre-pub readers said anything, but just ‘cause she was looking at the twins – Max and Zero, y’know – and thought, why should the brother get the super strength power and first rank in team leadership, and the second-in-command flyer be the sister? And rather than switch ‘em around, she just made them both girls.

Lar: Wasn’t Demario in Thackeray Kyle’s crew also originally male?

N: Yeah, it was a boys club. So she tried making Demario a woman to mix it up, only to further realize that Demario identified as an AMAB transwoman. Goes to show, you never know what you’re going to get when you pass on the male default.

M: So it does. And, as usual, our discussion is running long!

Luc: Another two-parter, then?

M: Naturally. ^_^ We’ll continue next time exploring questions raised by the text of “Windows and Sol” – which, again, has released just today, so never let it be said that Danielle gave the world nothing to read while they await our club meeting’s second half. ;D Until then, readers of the blog, thanks for joining us! Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments! And farewell!

To Agree to Disagree? That is the Question

Once upon a scroll on Twitter, I came across the following question:

“What’s one thing you and your main character would vehemently disagree on?”

Now, obviously, I’ve got several dozen main characters to choose from. And contemplating overt self-insert characters like Annabelle Iole Gray from the “Inspired” novels and Moon’s Melody from “The Queen’s Lady” (part of “Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea” – newly released!) won’t get me very far, given our major overlap in nature. But surely, I thought, I could pick out a few Deshipley MCs with ideas quite contrary to mine.

And so I have. Let the conflict of opinions begin! (Featuring many an Avengers-related illustration, because ‘tis called for.)

<<<>>>

Edgwyn Wyle (MC in “The Stone Kingdom”, “The Seventh Spell”) = Edgwyn and I have actually had a longstanding disagreement demonstrating a fundamental and perhaps irreconcilable difference in worldview. His opinion: It is perfectly okay to slurp one’s soup.

Maybe it’s just as well I never got the chance to marry him.

Avengers Gif_I Don't Like It

Gant-o’-the-Lute (MC in “The Song Caster”, “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”, “The Story’s End”) = As a virtuoso wandering bard and admittedly something of a superman, Lute believes himself to be the ideal toward which we lesser beings ought in futility to strive – including the author with supposed power of the pen over him. This attitude has caused any number of bitter clashes between us.

Avengers meme_Civil War

Shots were fired. Tears were shed. It’s all in the past now, but only because I guess we’ve mutually decided it’s not a debate worth reopening. Ever.

Mach Jenius (MC in “Out of My Head”) = Quoth our boy Mach:

“I am a brainstorm. And the number one rule of brainstorming? There is no such thing as a bad idea.”

Replied his rival muse:

“That rule,” Luc said through clenched teeth, “is a lie.”

And I’ve gotta side with Luc on this one. This reality I’ve written words in the hundred-thousands to escape is run (quite badly) on bad ideas. Sometimes I’ve dreamt up and thrown out as many as six impossibly bad ideas before breakfast. I understand where Mach is coming from: We often need to shuffle through a few bad ideas before the good ones make an appearance; that’s just the creative process. But to claim that all ideas are equally meritorious in their own way… No, darling Jenius, no.

Avengers Gif_No, Try Again

Abishan (main supporting cast member in “Inspired”, “Out of My Head”) = Not surprisingly, the jungle cat god thinks cats are the best animal. And I mean, I’m practically a cat myself, but dogs, foxes, and krakens are where it’s at, dude.

Avengers Gif_Black Panther Side-eye
Abishan @ me

Liliavaine (MC in “The Surrogate Sea”) = To watch this princess carry on, one would get the impression that it’s better to recklessly go after what you want than to be well-behaved and responsible and maybe not get people killed. Honestly, it’s not even so much that I disagree with that. I’m just too much of a socially anxious, people-pleasing good girl to run away in the night and become the Sea. Bigger disappointment me, really.

Avengers Gif_Black Widow Shrug

Raeve (MC in “A Morrow More”) = This short story heroine (first published in the “One More Day” anthology, re-pubbed in the 2nd edition of “Inspired” when both the 1st edition and the antho went out of print) seems to hold fast the belief that life is inherently worth living, by virtue of it being life. And I’m over here frequently wondering whether death mightn’t actually be the more attractive option. But to each their own.

Arthur Pendragon (MC in “The Once and Future Camelot” … coming sometime this year, if all goes to plan!) = This reanimated king of legend seems to hold fast the belief that people are valuable and worthy of love, by virtue of being people. Oh, sweet Arthur. Too good for this world – too pure. I can only wish to share your heart.

Avengers Gif_I Can't

Johnny Crow (MC in “Deathsong of the Deep”) = This exchange had me shaking my head even as I wrote it:

Molly’s eyes tightened at the corners. “You meant the sort of ridding in which a life is ended before it’s half begun?”

Crow shrugged the shoulder which wasn’t bearing a portion of his weight. “It’s an option.”

“It’s a violation.”

“Violation? Of what?”

“Of a person’s right to life.”

“Right?” Crow’s head tipped to a quizzical angle. “Living isn’t a right. It’s a privilege. If we live, it’s because we’ve been minimally fortunate, not because we /deserve/ to. If living were about deserving, nobody would live long.”

Yeah-yeah-yeah, I know I’ve just been saying that both life and people are bad ideas. And that last line of Crow’s… grr, he’s not wrong. I’m just… very much opposed to the idea that it’s only okay to kill humans who haven’t yet been born to become the humans who’ve actually done things arguably worthy of a death penalty (as opposed to having literally done nothing but exist somewhere they weren’t wanted). That is targeting the entirely wrong demographic, to my view. But this post isn’t about me trying to untangle all my feelings re: life and death, so let’s find another note on which to end.

Avengers Gif_Hulk Punch

Will Scarlet (MC in the “Outlaws of Avalon” series) = Red is the best color, full stop. Enough of anything is never enough. If something scares you, flirt with it. Why plan ahead when you can fly through life by the seat of your hose?

Avengers Gif_Tony Eye-roll

No and no and no.

Also, no.

<<<>>>

How about you, fellow writers? Any big players in your body of work with whom you’ll never see eye to eye? And for you readers, an opposite question: Which characters have you encountered whose notions made you go, “YES. My thoughts EXACTLY”? Discuss in the comments!

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: The ‘What If?’ Game’s Still Afoot

stt book club logo

Hello, everyone! Lady Marion Hood, here, presiding over the second half of last week’s meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club. With me are Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; and Nicky from “So Super Dead”. And the little ‘What If?’ game we’re playing – in which we imagine what it would do to our author Danielle’s books if we swapped our roles around within them – continues now.

Marion: Starting with you, this time, Luc! What if you’d been given my role in The Outlaws of Avalon?

StT Book Club - Luc to Marion

Luc: Interesting. Though I’d far rather be Robin Hood’s muse than his wife… or would I be his husband?

Uri: Be a shame to lose the only woman in the original Merry Men.

Luc: A valid point. For the good of the story’s representation, then, let us assume I am female. And also of mixed African and Anglo-Norman descent?

Nicky: Be shame to lose the only half-black character in the series.

Luc: Very well. Now, both Marion and I are oriented toward the nurturing and protection of our families, so that root trait would not change. I don’t know that everyone would feel so warmly inclined toward me, however; she is, in canon, the more universally liked.

M: Overt friendliness helps.

Lar: Oh, dear, I’ve had an uneasy thought. Somewhat based as you are, Luc, upon Gant-o’-the-Lute, what would be your dynamic with Allyn?

U: The Dynamic of Allyn-a-Dale. There’s a readymade title for Book 4, if Danielle ever decides to reopen the series.

Luc: Given Allyn’s sensibilities where his late father is concerned, he might find my manner attractive and repellent in similar measure. At any rate, he would be far less comfortable in my presence – as would Will Scarlet, if ‘comfortable’ was ever the word for his relationship with you, Marion.

M: Not for a long while, no.

Luc: I don’t think the rest of the story would be much changed. Unless… Come to think of it, I wonder whether Merlin could get away with keeping his thoughts from me. He’s the one in charge of Avalon Faire – the one who conceived of it and saw the design carried out – putting him in something like an authorial role. And it’s deep in my nature to partner closely with the masterminds of worlds.

M: I daresay that partnership would have been something to see! Now, onto the next round. Nicky, suppose you’d been assigned the role of Laraspur?

StT Book Club - Nicky to Lar

N: A fairytale princess, huh? That’s so super different! My childhood would’ve been perfect – goofing around with my brother, Edgwyn Wyle for my father, a total absence of war among the Great Land kingdoms, and nobody expects me to have superpowers! Yeah, I might sometimes feel like my sisters are prettier than me – especially if I look like me, not Laraspur, because c’mon, girl, you’re actually gorgeous – but if that’s the only sense of inferiority I’ve got to wrestle with, that’s worlds better than what I’ve got in my for-real story.

Lar: Would the kings of Welken fall in love with you as they did me, do you think?

N: I… uh… hope so? And hope not? I don’t… that is, no one’s ever…

U: Kid, relax. Even if you were a physiologically genderless princess, there’s no reason you couldn’t have love. My world’s angels are all asexual and aromantic, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have committed partnerships.

N: You do? Annabelle wrote that?

U: Annabelle writes what Annabelle gets around to writing. We don’t always wait for her to know about something before we live it.

N: Oh! Well, that’s a comfort. Thank you. So, yeah, I guess the kings can still fall in love with me. I don’t know for sure whether I’d fall for either of them back, but I’d definitely want to talk to them!

Lar: That’s… not at all the same. …Nor is it necessarily any less compelling a story!

M: Bless your Wyle heart, Laraspur. And now, last of all: Suppose I were given Uri’s spot?

StT Book Club - Marion to Uri

U: Hoo-boy. Speaking of not at all the same…

M: What do you think would be so different?

U: That right there. You’re a moderator. You hang out just a little bit to the side, making sure everyone in the group gets their fair time on the floor. Y’know how they say everyone’s the hero of their own story?

N: Yeah, I used that saying somewhere in my book’s narration.

U: Well, it doesn’t apply to Marion. In her own story, she would volunteer to take on a supporting role, because she’s not the least bit centered on herself. She’s all about Robin and Will and Little John and Allyn. And if she were me, she’d be all about Luc and Abishan and Wilbur and Yves. You can put a skateboard under it, but it’s still not me.

M: Meaning I’d lose if this game were about who would make the Uri-est Uri. But since it’s not, I think your story and I would get along just fine. It’s not as if you’re never seen caring for your friends, or I’m never heard giving witty commentary. I can still be the Fire of God; I’d simply burn more like a hearth fire and less like a plague sent down on Sodom and Gomorrah.

N: Who would make the Uri-est Uri? Apart from herself, of course.

Luc: A combination of certain characters in #CamelotWIP comes swiftly to mind.

M: But that’s a book better discussed closer to its publication, which won’t be until later this year. For now, I’d like to thank you all for taking part in this literary exercise. And thank you, readers of the blog, for following along. Do you ever like to imagine a fictional character living a completely different life? Tell me about your favorite story swap ideas in the comments! Until next time, everyone. Farewell!

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: I Would or Wouldn’t Do That, If I Were You

Hello, everyone! Lady Marion Hood, here, with another meeting of the newly formed Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. Last time, that meant Danielle’s latest novel, “Deathsong of the Deep”. This time, who knows?!

Ha, well, fortunately, I happen to know. But first, let’s have a warm welcome for our membership, currently comprised of: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, from The Outlaws of Avalon.

stt book club logo

Nicky: So, what’s on the day’s agenda, Marion? Danielle doesn’t have a new book’s release date coming up, does she?

Marion: Nothing pinned down for sure on the calendar, just now, no. Although she did recently announce preliminary plans for her first picture book – based on the novella starring you, Laraspur, so three cheers for that!

Laraspur: Thank you! It’s going to be an absolutely adorable book, once finished. My father and I, in particular, can’t wait to enjoy it together. ^o^

Uri: But is that what we’re actually talking about today, or…?

M: Oh, not at all. Today we’re playing a game.

U: A… game.

N: Fun! I assume. What’s the game?

M: ‘Tis a game of ‘What If?’.

Luc: Always an excellent beginning.

M: Right? Specifically: What if each of us had been given the role of another club member in his, her, or himmer story?

Lar: Oh, my! That would be… inevitably different.

U: And potentially disastrous.

N: Or awesome!

M: Or all the above! Let’s find out. You first, Laraspur. Suppose yours was the role of Lucianíel. How would that play out?

StT Book Club - Lar to Luc

Lar: Hmm! Well, that’s bound to depend upon a number of factors. How much of myself do I get to keep?

M: Just your name and personality. The rest is all Luc: Elemental of light, professional muse, and father – well, mother – to a diverse assortment of fictional folk. And I suppose you may somewhat look like yourself, as far as parameters allow.

N: So you glow!

Lar: Come Wilderhark 6, I’m known to do that anyway. But if I’m in Luc’s role, that means it’s out with my true love and in with his – the late author Jean St. John.

U: And just like that, you’re Danielle’s first canonical lesbian couple. Makes it arguably problematic that one wife gets killed off in chapter one.

Luc: Jean’s not actually my wife…

U: Let me pretend you’re not living in sin, please ‘n’ thanks.

Lar: I don’t think I could handle the grief of losing her as well as Luc did! Though I do hope I’d retain his presence of mind in saving our children from the collapse of their imaginary worlds. As for dealing with a new author… Honestly, I expect I would get along with Annabelle better than you did at first, Luc. You started out a bit standoffish, you know.

Luc: I was amiability itself! She just spent too much time goofing off to appreciate it.

Lar: So why not goof off with her, the sooner to establish yourself as her friend?

Luc: Friends don’t let friends misuse their time.

M: I think we’re starting to get the picture as to the difference Laraspur’s presence in Luc’s role would make. Let’s move on to the next round. Uri, suppose you traded out your role for Nicky’s. What then?

StT Book Club - Uri to Nicky

U: Ok. Well, we’re both sixteen, so no change there. S/he has no sex characteristics or gender, but that’s fine, since I haven’t been using mine anyway. Went ‘til now thinking I’m the only one on the moon without superpowers, but surprise, it turns out me and my cell phone can talk to ghosts. And I want to join a youth group looking for bad guys to fight on Earth because… why?

Luc: You tell us. What would your motivation be?

U: I dunno. I guess I am kind of made to battle evil. Just… a cell phone is not a weapon.

N: It’s not about the phone, it’s about the talking.

U: I’d rather kill things with fire.

N: Brenna would not like to hear you say that.

U: Brenna would get over it when I burned Thackeray Kyle to ash.

N: YOU CAN’T DO THAT!!!

M: You really can’t, Uri. It would wreck the plot.

Luc: Can a character-driven plot be wrecked by its headstrong players, or only rerouted?

U: Things would definitely get rerouted if I were Xtra-Medium. Oh, that’s another change, right there. I would not choose ‘Xtra-Medium’ as my superhero name. I’d be Hell’s Angel.

Lar: Uri, much of the purpose of Nicky’s role is demonstrating that a healthful dialogue can be just as powerful as physical force. I know you were created for war, but I also know you’re capable of talking constructively with friends in need. We’ve seen it in-story. So maybe lean a little harder into that side of you, all right?

U: *sigh* Fine. Nicky, I’m sorry I said I’d burn your crush, okay? You can stop looking ready to cry.

N: *sniffle* I just really don’t think your personality is what the dead in my novel need. You are way too much like… like if Brenna and Thackeray had a baby.

U: There are so many reasons that would never happen, but I think you are otherwise weirdly right.

M: And once again, this discussion looks set to run far longer than any single Ever On Word blog post ought.

Lar: Meaning we take a break here, and resume things next week?

M: Right you are, Lar! Thank you – and you, Uri – for taking your turns today. Next time, we’ll see what could happen if Luc, Nicky, and I were given different positions in Danielle’s published works. I hope to see you then, blog readers! Stay tuned! Leave comments! And farewell!