Open Journal: Nocturne of the Soul

It used to be so easy, surfing that rush of creation.

Just write another novel. It would take her, what, a month?

 

That was before.

Before what?

Before.

 

She doesn’t even know what’s most to blame, anymore.

The burnout, that trauma, the crunch of adult life… what does it matter?

 

The result’s the same.

Her identity, sleeping.

She’s barely a writer, now.

 

But those magnets.

Two sets of two-hundred-plus.

Words at the ready, just waiting for something to say.

 

A spirit inside moves her outsides.

Allyn-a-Dale reaches with her hand.

 

They were bought for him, the magnets. Sets inspired

by music and Edgar another-Allan Poe.

Words to which the minstrel cannot but viscerally respond –

 

dark… dead… allegro…

lyrical… symphony… nevermore…

 

He plucks a sentence from the store, drawing it together, swift and sure,

as if he were Michelangelo and the phrase

a sculpture waiting in the stone.

 

Lovely, she thinks,

perhaps content to leave it.

But Allyn’s far from done.

 

Another sentence,

built more slowly, hunting

for the elements desired, feeling out

phonetic rhythm.

 

Words call as only song and the macabre can:

hole and soulstrange and shrouddawn and sky pull at his blood.

But there’s a story forming now in which these have no rightful place.

Another time. Another tale. Today, the song is his,

but played for her.

 

This is how you do it, he tells her

in his fingers’ silent dance.

This is how we breathe.

 

One word swapped, at a thought, for another.

One sentence shifted down, later lines taking its place.

The sculpture in full emerges from marble.

The artist steps back and shoves author forward

in time to ride the crest of the wave.

 

There! The rush. The writer’s high.

Only a breath of the air, but sweet as remembered.

 

Thank you, they tell each other,

and float together.

<<<>>>

Magnet Poetry_Nocturne of the Soul

string every unknown mystery

into some sweet opus

 

face your nocturne of the soul

by singing melancholy moonlight

 

howl down a haunting sonata

 

love softly

& live loud

 

maestro death

conducts his orchestra

 

but I know my power

Broken Chords, Broken People, Broken Hearts

Greeting, patrons of the blog. Allyn-a-Dale, here. Recently, you had … let’s call it the “pleasure” … of watching Will Scarlet and me perform a skit summarizing our author’s latest life changes, because Danielle doesn’t like to talk about herself. Today, I will be discussing a book she read, because Danielle doesn’t like to write book reviews.

Why when Danielle doesn’t like a task, that task half the time ends up falling to her characters, I’m sure I couldn’t tell you.

In any case, it’s fitting enough that I be the one to review this particular book – because while Danielle found it engaging, ‘twas I the book thoroughly wrecked. First, the summary from Goodreads:

An emotionally charged story of music, abuse and, ultimately, hope.

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

“A Thousand Perfect Notes” by C.G. Drews

A Thousand Perfect Notes 1

This book resonated with me deeply. Although my own father / minstrel master was not prone to the brutal rages demonstrated time and again by Beck’s mother (better known, the Maestro), I could empathize all too well with Beck’s near crippling fear. Fear of the Maestro’s painful disappointment. Fear of his failure to personify the prodigy he’s told he must be. Fear that he and his beloved little sister Joey could starve to death or be otherwise damaged beyond repair and the world will never care enough to help them.

Not that he wants to be rescued – far from it. What he wants is to find the strength to stand up for them himself. To keep them safe from all the Maestro’s harms. To bring his inner music to life in peace. But when your abuser and your family are one and the same, fighting back is doubly difficult to do.

His slowly grown friendship with schoolmate August was a spot of sunshine, to be sure. Her unflagging patience with the walls he put up between them and kindness toward boisterous Joey provide a much-needed contrast to the harsh treatment received at home. And small wonder, given August’s passion for looking after forsaken animals. Never fear, however, that this is a tale of a romance conquering all woes. Both Beck and author C.G. Drews know better than to believe in so simple a solution.

To be blunt, Beck’s plight broke my heart. I cringed and mourned from the very first page, and was driven ere long to weeping aloud at the cruelties he suffered. The intersection of music and parental terror cut far too close to home. My compassion goes out to any child – real or fictional – forced to live out ugliness made in the name of beauty. As for the grief-maddened Maestro, I felt for her heartaches, truly I did, but in no wise does the breaking of one’s own dream excuse the breaking of another’s spirit. Sympathetic evil is still evil, and I hope that none who come across it in their own lives will extend it tolerance.

However, for all its agonies, one of the thousand notes the book struck was one of humor. For readers who enjoy a narrative with its share of banter and snark, be gladdened, for you’ll find it here. For those looking for an all-too-realistic Cinderella retelling set in Australia, you’ll find that, too. And for those hoping to pick up a few insults in German, I can direct you to the Maestro.

A Thousand Perfect Notes 2

Well played, C.G. Drews. Both my author and I congratulate you on your debut novel, wish you well in your pursuits to come, and shall continue following the entertaining rambles on your blog, paperfury.com.

Have you read / do you plan to read “A Thousand Perfect Notes”? What’s your favorite Cinderella story? Why the paucity of Australian books? (Is it because the kangaroos eat them?) Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below. Until next time, good folk – *minstrel bow* – I bid thee fare well.

Troll the Ancient Dickens Carol

We’ve still got several sleeps to go ‘til Christmas, but the holiday cheer is here with the release of “An Avalon Christmas Carol (An Outlaws of Avalon Novella)”! The e-book’s on Amazon for only 99 cents, so you haven’t already pre-ordered your copy, stuff it into your stocking e-reader today!

christmas-carol-promo-type-2

To celebrate, here are 12 Days of Christmas fun facts about the book, its making and inspirations, etc.:

1 = Some of my stories take days, weeks, months, or even years to plan. But I had my little “Christmas Carol” spoof mapped out start to finish in just one day!

2 = …With the second day spent re-reading the Charles Dickens original, to thoroughly familiarize myself with the sandbox I’d be playing in.

3 = Perhaps my favorite characters to cast were the three Spirits. I don’t want to give away who’s who (let the readers be surprised, Danielle!), so let’s just say that some parallels presented themselves very nicely.

4 = The Outlaws of Avalon trilogy focuses more on the Sherwood side of things, leaving the Camelot crowd to take a backseat. But mourn ye not, Arthuriana fans! I’ve got a novel planned just for the Once and Future King ‘n’ ‘em, too. And in the meantime, we’ve got the holiday novella, which gives us our first glimpse into the mind of my Merlin.

5 = Here’s a blast from Christmas Past: Perhaps my earliest “Christmas Carol”-related memory is watching a stage production of the story and feeling bewildered as to why the show would end with Scrooge on the floor, traumatized by his visit from Marley’s ghost. Turns out it was only intermission. Little Danielle was much relieved.

6 = My all-time favorite “Christmas Carol” character? The ever-merry Nephew Fred. No wonder Will Scarlet was so quick to snatch up the role in the parody. ;D

7 = Do you know, I’m not even sure why I love “A Christmas Carol” so much. Apart from Fred, it’s not the characters. It’s not that the plot grips me, or the message that speaks to me. It’s just… always been there, in one telling or another. Its familiarity makes it feel cozy and comfortable and, well, like Christmas. Guess I’m kind of a sucker for nostalgia. X)

8 = Gracious, 12 facts is a lot…

9 = Brainstorming cover ideas before artist Hannah Vale offered her services, I’d considered trying to get a photo of my lute Rosie in the snow. Allyn looked askance at that notion, and was glad I went the commissioned illustration route. Rosie probably is, too.

10 = Talking of lutes, it’s possible (unlikely, but possible) I could’ve gotten though “Avalon Christmas Carol” without a minstrel song number from little Allyn/Tiny Tim, if Dickens hadn’t straight-up written:

…And by and by they had a song, about a lost child travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim, who had a plaintive little voice, and sang it very well indeed.

Welp. That did it. Destiny spake. Hence Allyn’s “Little Lost Winter Traveler” song.

11 = …Which I recently figured out how to play on Rosie.

12 = You can watch us perform the song here!

xmas-carol-still-frame

And that is that. Off you go, now. Buy. Read. Tell your friends. (Review!) And God bless us, every one. ❤

A Few Bars of BALLAD: Stanza Three

To my readership in the U.S., Happy Independence Day, one day late! And Happy Release Day, one week early, to “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”!

Today marks the end of the pre-order campaign, though you can still pre-order the e-book (AmazonSmashwords… Barnes & Noble…) right up until next week, at which time the gorgeous paperback will launch into official availability as well. In the meanwhile…

1) “Ballad” and I had the pleasure of being featured on the Clockwork Bibliophile blog of Shannon Haggerty. Enjoy the interview at your leisure; it’s a good’un.

2) As a last hurrah before the BIG hurrah, it’s time for one more [abridged] sneak peek into the book!

Having worked with a professional man-o’-music once or twice before (hi-i-i, Gant-o’-the-Lute), I knew going into the writing of “Ballad” that a novel centering around Robin Hood’s legendary minstrel would by necessity feature its share of music. That means the lyrical prose which, to hear the remarks of reviewers, has become something of a Danielle E. Shipley signature – not to mention literal lyrics, every time Allyn informed his author it was time to insert a song.

Novel, The Musical

The following excerpt showcases the non-literal, narrative kind of lyricism as our protagonist finds himself out of the world he knew and inside the magical world of Avalon Faire. Our first sneak peek gave of us a glimpse of the isle’s Renaissance Faire disguise. Below, if you keep quiet in the trees, you’ll get an eyeful – and an earful – of the true, Fey heart of the place…

It was quiet here. Or he’d thought it so, at first. But Allyn felt, even before his ears quite heard, the faintest strains of music. It did not sound as if the music’s source could be too far off. And even if it were, what had Allyn to lose by turning to follow it? So follow he did, over the weighty, flat land, through the sharp, colorless wood, until the trees thinned almost to ending, and Allyn could make out the lawn beyond, and the people gathered upon it.

Such people! And yet at first, Allyn was hardly aware of them, so enthralled was he by the sound of their music. High and sweet as the love songs of courting birds, the melody of pipes and flutes lilted through the air. Beneath, an aural tapestry of lusty color and texture, woven by the strings. The light percussive beat of drums and bells kept the frolicsome time to which the men and women danced around a leaping fire, and it was their dancing that made Allyn-a-Dale take note of them at last.

[…] No humans he had ever seen could dance as these people could — so full of spirited, easy grace, in spite of this ground which pulled so hard. And yet, if they were not human, then Allyn could not begin to guess what they were. Not winds, from his limited experience; the evening air held calm around them. Nor was there any golden glow of the Sun in them, though Allyn might have conceded a touch of starlight about their night-dark skin. And what, Allyn wondered, as his gaze focused in closer to their ethereal faces, was he supposed to make of their ears? One and all, their ears tapered up into a dainty, leaf-like point.

…No, not all. There was one among them whose ears were wholly unremarkable — or, in the context of the others with her, quite the opposite. Her lithe figure danced along the inner circle of the lawn, her gown swirling just out of reach of the fire. Her long curls fell around her in a dark cascade, nearly black but for the subtle sheen of gold the firelight revealed. Her eyes, too, were of darkest gold, and all but caused Allyn to gasp aloud when he realized they were staring right at him.

Her look was difficult to understand. She appeared neither surprised to see the youth watching from the wood, nor in any way offended. She did not even appear curious. The look she gave him seemed to say, “I see you” — nothing more. And Allyn hadn’t the least idea how he was meant to react.

“Go over there and introduce yourself, of course,” he could hear Father say. “Give her the ol’ minstrel hello!”

The minstrel hello, Allyn repeated, lips twitching their way into something betwixt a smile and a grimace of exasperation. Is there anything that minstrels do not have in a category all to themselves?

“Nothing at all,” Father’s voice laughed. “We’re special that way.”

Allyn shook his head. I’ll not force myself upon festivities to which I’ve not been expressly invited, he thought. However, we might see what may be done in the way of a minstrel hello.

After first pulling a little further back into the trees, his bashful spirit still unsure whether he truly wanted his presence known, Allyn withdrew his lute from its place at his back. Then, his heart’s rhythm aligned to the drums of the sharp-eared folk, their harmonies washing over and through him like a gentle rain, softly — reverentially — he began to join in their song.

Could they hear it, he wondered? Or sense it, this new line of lutesong threading its way through the established tapestry of the strings? If yes, would they welcome it? If no, would he care? If all he did tonight was become a part of the music — if not a part of the company of music-makers — and no one anywhere but he himself was aware of it, would that not, if only for these few minutes, be enough?

Here I am, new world, his fingers played his shy minstrel hello. Wherever I am, I’m here.

As available here = https://society6.com/product/here-i-am-new-world_mug#s6-4369596p30a27v199
As available here = https://society6.com/everonword

And we, too, can say “hello” to the new, magical world of Avalon Faire in just one! More! Week!

<<<>>>

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

Coming July 12!

P.S. — You wanna hear/watch me read this excerpt aloud? ‘Cause you can!

A Little Night Magic

The following drabble (a flash fiction piece of exactly 100 words) was inspired by the picture at story’s end. Happy reading!

<<<>>>

“I’m magic,” he told her. “I’ll show you.” And pulled out a violin.

“Violins aren’t magic,” she said.

“Not even from the air?”

“Seen it.”

“How jaded you are. But have you seen this?”

He touched bow to strings, and where they met, drew out a spark, the line of light like cracking dawn.

Starry smoke curled from the flame-like glow, spreading toward the sky. Colors tinged the haze – green, red, and violet. An aurora borealis born of a stardust song.

“New?” he asked.

“Different,” she allowed.

“Say it.”

She smiled. “Magic.”

“And all yours.” His eyes stars, too. “Always.”

"illuminate my heart," by megatruh on deviantART
“illuminate my heart,” by megatruh on deviantART

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha.)

A Pair’s Portrait, and Part of the Sky

Only 3 weeks (WHAT? GAH! HOW IS SEPTEMBER ALMOST GONE?!) until the launch of “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)”. To mark* the occasion (*you’ll see in half-a-sec what I did, there), have a look at this gorgeous piece of work from my treasured Wilderhark Artist, Yana Naumova!

Allyn, color final, gallery size

That’s right, it’s one of three new bookmark designs made just for “Story’s End” – which you can bet will feature in a giveaway during the online Launch Party, coming soon to Facebook. If that young man by the fire looks familiar to frequenters of this blog, there’s a solid reason for that. ;D And of course we all know Gant-o’-the-Lute – up in a tree again, just like in his personal bookmark for Book Four.

What’s he thinking about, up there? The same wish he’s held in his heart from the start of things, as glimpsed in “The Song Caster” and laid bare in “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”. Attune your ear and listen. Hear the music? It’s not “Part of Your World” – a fair guess, given the identical melody and lyric structure, but no. This is not the song of a Disney mermaid longing for land, but that of a Wilderhark minstrel who craves higher still…

<<<>>>

Look at this trick. Isn’t it neat?

Wouldn’t you think that my talent’s complete?

You’d think of me, wouldn’t you, that I can do anything?

*

Look at me now. Don’t I astound?

Watch me be a wonder while you wonder how.

One hour around me, and now you’re sure I can do anything.

*

I can top all your top virtuosos –

Any instrument, and any score;

Best you at your best game with my eyes closed.

But so what? Not enough. I want more.

Sky Child, cropped

I want to leave where the people are.

I want to see where no man’s yet ventured.

Land’s been done into the ground.

Try the sea, you say? …Ha. Cute.

*

But even a ship only sails so far.

Higher’s required for my adventure!

Impossible? Ah, you’re forgetting:

I’m Gant-o’-the-Lute.

Rays of Songlight - Copy

You’re free to walk. You’re free to run.

I mean to make my way to the sun,

And hang gravity! I long to be

Part of the sky.

*

What would I give if I could live up where the winds race?

What would I pay to spend a day there ere I die?

What won’t I try? Won’t be denied. Though I spend all my life in the chase,

I’m not quitting. Sick of sitting. Ready to fly!

On Music's Wings

I’m ready to know where the sunset goes!

Follow it westward, and rise come morning!

Dance over stars that your eyes only spy from below!

*

When can I go? Wouldn’t I love,

Love to explore and soar up above?

The sky’s part of me. And someday I’ll be

Part of the sky.

<<<>>>

Story's End Cover, gallery size

For Gant-o’-the-Lute, “ever after” has been less than happy. With the last of Carillon’s charm over him gone, the minstrel-king puts royalty behind him in pursuit of the music he once knew and the lifelong dream he let slip through his fingers. But dark whispers on the wind warn that time is running out – not only for Lute and the apprentice in his shadow, but the whole of earth and Sky.

The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales”, coming October 13, 2015; now available to add to your Goodreads “To Read” shelf.

Behind the Talette: Soul Shepherdess Part 2

It’s the last Monday of the month, meaning my Channillo series has grown by one Wilderhark Talette. ^o^

Although – head’s up, gang – there’s a change of schedule coming up. Next month (hiiii, September – aka the start of Ever On Word’s 5th year, whaaaat?) will feature not one, but two new Talettes, on the 14th and the 28th. And October’s Talette will be coming atcha on the 12th (the day before the official launch of “The Story’s End”!). And after that… hiatus time.

“Wha-a-at??” say the masses.

Yes, the end of my current serially released short story will mark the beginning of a indefinite break for the Wilderhark Talettes.

It seemed a good time, coinciding as it does with the conclusion of the Wilderhark Tales proper, as well as my temporary abandonment of the U.S. for Europe. The winds of change, they are a’blowing (less threateningly than most of the winds of Welken, one can only hope), and I’m good ‘n’ ready to close the book on the Wilderhark world for a while.

But fret ye not! Though I won’t be adding any new Talettes past October, all the old ones will still be available for Channillo subscribers to access. And if Future Me ever gets inspired to throw some more Talettes your way, you can be sure I’ll let you in the know. ^_^

Now, then, on to today’s special treat, tied into the second chapter of “The Soul Shepherdess”.

When we last saw young Solwen – she who will go on to become the first woman minstrel in the Great Land, despite not a little discouragement along the way – she was searching out words and a melody to share the music of the world with her sister. She’s at it again today, and if anything, her new song is even prettier than the first.

Rather than attempt to pick out the accompaniment on my lute, I turned to my trusty music-makin’ computer program (a somewhat old-school version of this) – mostly because I’ll seize any excuse to throw in some cellos. Click the pic below for my humble rendition of Solwen’s ode to a winter morning, “Snowfall” (as shared on my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page).

Snowfall Still

For the story surrounding this song, make sure you’re subscribed to the Wilderhark Talettes! And do feel free to look around Channillo for other series that may catch your fancy; you’ll want something to keep you busy when the Talettes go on break, aye? ;D