In Which the Hamilfangirls Set Sail

As you may recall, I’m back in Germany. And as you may recall from further back (e.g. here and here), that means walks through field and forest with my BFF and fellow author, Tirzah Duncan. Our first walk of May was particularly delightful.

So much so, that we decided to go back with more guns. And ships.

…That is to say, with little paper boats and a boatload of shameless “Hamilton: An American Musical” references.

(Yes, I’ve totally infected Tirzah with my Hamilton obsession. No, I’m not sorry. Yes again, if you see a phrase in this post in bold, it’s because I’m singing/rapping it in my head.)

We folded and taped up two boats apiece – mine, named for Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette; Tirzah’s, for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Mind you, neither of us were experienced shipwrights, so watching our little vessels face the fearsome glory of a trickling stream proved exciting as watching the afterbirth of a nation. …more or less.

“What’s your name, boat?” “The USS Hamilton. I am United States Ship Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait. Just you wait…”
“What’s your name, boat?” “The USS Hamilton. I am United States Ship Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait. Just you wait…”

Tirzah: [watching the USS Hamilton struggle downstream] You wanna pull yourself together?

Me: [laughs, untangles boat from underwater grasses] There you go, little guy. Non-stop.

*

Me: Lafayette, you’re backwards already! Turn around, bro! Forward! Chaaarge!

Tirzah: [when the boat inexplicably waffles between going with the current and against it] Everyone attack! Retreat! Attack! Retreat!

Me: What are you doing?! Okay, there you go. …No, what are you doing? Are these the men with which I am to defend America? Wow. Maybe something about that keel messed it up after all. So much for the Lancelot of the revolutionary set.

Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting frigate!
Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting frigate!

Me: Last ride. Redeem yourself! Freedom for America, freedom for France! You’re doin’ better this time. …And that’s as far as she goes. Thanks, Lafayette. We’ll be with you when you do.

Waiting ashore, the Burr offer[s the Hamilton] some free advice.
Waiting ashore, the Burr offer[s the Hamilton] some free advice.
As for any among you wondering which of Tirzah’s creations was the more seaworthy – Jefferson or Burr? – well… [Jefferson] won in a landslide. I guess the poor Burr boat will be barred from the [harbor] where it happens a while longer yet. ;D

Diary of an Author in Demand

Believe it or not (go ahead and believe it), I seem to be slowly creeping my way up in the world.

Megan Ann Jacobs: Club leader, Shipley booker, and INSPIRED hyper, student, actor, and playwright…egads, what /doesn’t/ she do?!
Megan Ann Jacobs: Club leader, Shipley booker, and INSPIRED hyper, student, actor, and playwright…egads, what /doesn’t/ she do?!

The “firsts” are rolling in! First self-pubbed novella (yay!), first indie press-pubbed anthology inclusion (oh, wow!), first novel (double wow!), first in-home interview with a pair of schoolgirls (awww!)… and now I can say I’ve had (and made good on) my first invitation* to leave the house and talk to a room of people** about writing!

* Bless you for demanding me, Megan Jacobs!

** The Creative Writing Club of Wisconsin Lutheran College, no less! Bless them, as well!

Also believe it or not, I didn’t actually take the time throughout the day to chronicle the hour-by-hour happenings in a notebook, like one might think a writer would naturally do. So the following journal entries are totally forged after the fact – though I’d like to think I managed to hold onto a ring of authenticity, even so.

* * *

Monday, Apr. 28, 2014, 10-ish a.m.

Camped out on the front steps so I can keep an eye on the street. I haven’t seen Megan since we were Town Criers together at the Bristol Renaissance Faire last summer, and I’ve never seen her car, but once I spot the former, I’ll assume that the latter she drove up in is hers. Or that she’s a car thief. That could prove interesting.

Whoop, I think that’s her! Farewell, Mother! Later, comforts of home! For today, I throw comfort to the wind and talk to strangers!

* * *

After the drive (and little thanks to the GPS that tried to lose us inside a forest preserve, of all things)

Chillin’ at WLC, home of the CWC with which I’ll Q&A. (Acronyms… acronyms everywhere…) While Megan’s taking care of last-minute business for the meeting – ordering refreshments, messaging club members to remind them where we will and will not meet – I’ve been tearing through this script she wrote. “aMUSEd”, it’s called, and just guess what inspired it? INSPIRED, that’s what! Or its cover, anyway! She took one look at the portrayal of Luc and Annabelle, and a little lightbulb full of ideas winked on over her own head.

She only finished the script the night before, so I was the first to read the whole thing! Such privilege!
She only finished the script the night before, so I was the first to read the whole thing! Such privilege!

The best part of all? This play rocks! It had me whimpering in sympathy on, like, page 2, and laughing for pretty much the rest of it. I love emotion couched in comedy. Boy, I hope Megan brings “aMUSEd” to the stage, sometime in the not-too-faraway future. I want in it! Or at least in the audience of it. I’ll take either one.

Aaand now we’re going back into the rain to grab some beverages from the grocery story. Back in a bit, hypothetical diary.

* * *

Later in the Afternoon

Just finished sitting in on Megan’s theatre class. Now we’re in the meeting room with a few earlycomers (sure, we’ll say that’s a word), and I’ll do a more participatory sort of sit-in with them doing their club thing, with my official Q&A portion of our assembly to follow after that. I’ve got no idea how any of this will go down, yet, so I’ll just dive face-first into social interaction and hope it comes off as more endearing than obnoxious. (I can never tell.)

* * *

Looks like we’re all mad here. Cue my Cheshire Cat grin.
Looks like we’re all mad here. Cue my Cheshire Cat grin.

Halfway Through the Meeting

Oh my word, these people are hilarious! They were supposed to all read some prompt-based writing exercise they were assigned, but nobody actually brought in the assignment (ah, college… it’s all coming back to me, now), so President Megan* decided to wing it.

* Nobody’s called her President Megan, but she’s running this show, so whatever, she’s totally President Megan.

She divided the room of sixteen into teams of four, each team writing four stories on the fly, one sentence at a time. I mean, obviously every story is written one sentence at a time, but in this case, Teammate A only gets to put down one sentence before passing the story on to Teammate B, who does the same before giving it to Teammate C, and on it goes to D and back around to A – blather, wince, and repeat, all the while doing the same for the stories begun by Teammates B, C, and D.

If that explanation didn’t make sense, consider it a metaphor for most of the stories we read once we’d finished the game. President Megan was kept busy at the white board, stating on record that much of the stories’ subject matter was in no way a reflection of the values of the Creative Writing Club or its affiliates.

The first disclaimer.
The first disclaimer.
…But far from the last.
…But far from the last.

* * *

Stories Read and Pizza Consumed…

…Up I went to the front of the room to act all professionally authorial and stuff.

After giving the crowd my backstory, I fielded questions about my creative/publishing process, how self-pub works vs. working with a small press, how to sniff out writing opportunities… all that jazz.

The many faces of Danielle E. Shipley attempting to verbally communicate.
The many faces of Danielle E. Shipley attempting to verbally communicate.
The one face of Danielle E. Shipley reading her bio aloud, providing an example of how to speak about oneself in the third person.
The one face of Danielle E. Shipley reading her bio aloud, providing an example of how to speak about oneself in the third person.

Not gonna lie, though: My favorite part had to be toward the end when one of the club members, not nicknamed The Voice for nothing, came up to read the back cover blurb of INSPIRED in the most epic announcer way possible. I mean, having the deeply gratifying pleasure of selling and autographing a few copies of the novel to the room before Megan drove me home was super great, too. But an epic announcer voice reading your words like they’re gonna be a movie next summer* is its own level of cool.

*It is not, to my knowledge, actually going to be a movie next summer. There’s still that script for a play inspired by it, though! Like I said: Creeping my way up in the world. (:

* * *

And that, readers o’ mine, is how it all went down. Totally fills you with a desire to book me for a talk and/or signing and/or live reading, doesn’t it? ;D Call me, beep me, if you wanna reach me.

(More photos of the event available in the “Q&A with the CWC” album on my Facebook author page, for those who wish to see!)

“San Francisco 2” or “Because You Can’t See the Half of San Fran in One Go”

My last post on exploring bits of magnificent San Francisco featured only one day. This post will cover parts of two, and still barely scratch the city’s surface. It’s a big place with lots to offer, and traveling companion Tirzah and I had limited time and cash to throw to the wind. Even so, we made our visit worth remembering.

‘Twas the day before the Night of Writing Dangerously – (y’know, that oft-mentioned NaNoWriMo event that brought me to San Fran in the first place, to be more properly chronicled in a post to come) – and Tirzah and I had time to kill, along with our friends from the hostel, Kat and Jory. (Jory would be joining us at the NoWD, too. United writers, for the win!) We decided to bus over to the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park, but we hadn’t even come within sight of the garden before the fun surprises began.

First there was the huge group of swing dancers. I know, it sounds like I’m kidding you or exaggerating, but seriously, there were dozens of them just outside the park, all jiving together on the walkway.

As my friends and I stood by watching for a few minutes, I couldn’t resist following along with the moves somebody with a microphone was calling out to the participating crowd. It felt almost familiar to me, after a brief swing lesson at Bristol, one weekend. (Our number of multi-talented, fun-loving Rennies included a stage manager who liked to moonlight as a dance instructor. I’m only sorry my feet tended to be too sore after pounding the streets as a Crier all day for me to join the after-hours swing sessions more than just the once.)

My more-or-less competent moves attracted the attention of an older fellow who offered the hand of partnership. So what the hey? I accepted. Because, far more than a few basic dance steps, Bristol’s taught me the number one motto of improvisation: “Yes, And!” Take what you’re given, and roll with it. …Or, in this specific case, swing with it.

Impromptu dance with Anonymous Grandpa? Yes, And!
Impromptu dance with Anonymous Grandpa? Yes, And!

After we left the dance floor, my pals and I came to a pathway spouting mist into the air. Dressed as we were for a noir-themed writing event, Tirzah and I knew there was only one thing to be done: Get photographed standing looking suspiciously cool. (Because fog is like alleyways, like that.) And here’s the amazing part: Mere moments after we decided that we’d taken enough pics and started to walk away, the path’s mist-makers just stopped. Boom. No more fog. Not even when some other people walked down the path, meaning that it wasn’t just a motion-sensitive thing. Nay, my friends – it was San Francisco magic, just for us.

This utter awesomeness was clearly – or, well, foggily – meant to be.
This utter awesomeness was clearly – or, well, foggily – meant to be.
This guy was a natural model.
This guy was a natural model.

Now inside the park proper, we paused for some pics with a stately sphinx before continuing on into the Japanese Tea Garden.

There was much prettiness to be seen, there – serene waterscapes, a singular bridge, a pagoda, and a zen garden, just to put names to a few.

 

 

 

It would probably take more talent than I’ve got to shoot a really terrible picture of this place.
It would probably take more talent than I’ve got to shoot a really terrible picture of this place.
Behold, the Arch Bridge – also known as the Drum Bridge and the Moon Bridge. You literally (and I don’t use the word “literally” lightly) had to wait in line to get photographed on this thing; everyone with a camera wanted their turn to snap a few shots, and even people without cameras just wanted a climb.
Behold, the Arch Bridge – also known as the Drum Bridge and the Moon Bridge. You literally (and I don’t use the word “literally” lightly) had to wait in line to get photographed on this thing; everyone with a camera wanted their turn to snap a few shots, and even people without cameras just wanted a climb.
Noir Detective Tirzah suspects that this koi may know more than it’s letting on.
Noir Detective Tirzah suspects that this koi may know more than it’s letting on.
Model Tirzah wasn’t so much posing as just sitting there, but with a backdrop like this, I couldn’t leave the pic untaken.
Model Tirzah wasn’t so much posing as just sitting there, but with a backdrop like this, I couldn’t leave the pic untaken.
By the time we worked our way around to the gift shop, Sleepy Tirzah wanted little more than a nap. ...and shelter from the paparazzi.
By the time we worked our way around to the gift shop, Sleepy Tirzah wanted little more than a nap. …and shelter from the paparazzi.

We called it a day early, wanting to be reasonably rested for the night ahead. And so that might have been the end of our sightseeing, had not Tirzah’s father phoned the next day (our last in the city) to insist that we visit one more landmark before we left town: The Coit Tower. He’d been there before, and declared that the view was not to be missed. So before making our way toward public transit and home, T and I detoured to the top of Telegraph Hill. …A very high hill. Steep, too. Lots of steps. And we were carrying all our baggage. Spoiler alert: We some how managed to survive. And we got more pictures!

The tower, a statue, and us, posed to impress.
The tower, a statue, and us, posed to impress.
Here’s that view we were told of. Hello again, Golden Gate Bridge!
Here’s that view we were told of. Hello again, Golden Gate Bridge!
See that change in altitude? We climbed that. San Francisco hills = no joke.
See that change in altitude? We climbed that. San Francisco hills = no joke.

That was our tour of San Francisco. In the grand scheme of things, we hardly saw anything at all. But we also saw a lot. And did a lot. And loved a lot. And left a lot for us to see and do and love the next time!

“San Francisco” or “The Home Where Part of My Heart Is”

I’ve been to San Francisco!!!!!!!!!! Yes, that statement was absolutely worth that many exclamation points. I’ve wanted to visit San Fran for years, for the very best of reasons:

1, Uncle Jesse lived there.

2, my character Bruno lives there, and loves his home city more than he does his own soul.

3, this Vanessa Carlton song makes me happy. …Although that’s bound to be in large part simply because the title is “San Francisco”, which appeals with irrational strength to my Bruno side.

Legitimate, right? So when I had a fourth reason to go to San Francisco – namely, NaNoWriMo’s Night of Writing Dangerously write-a-thon taking place there – I determined that it was time to turn the thought of visiting from the realm of “maybe, someday, would be nice” into “it’s happening”.

“Pics, or it didn’t happen,” say you? Well, keep scrolling down, reader: It happened.

First we did China Town – “we” being me, Tirzah, and our new friends made at the hostel, Kat and Jory. This made another of my characters very happy, as he adores all things Chinese. Rather than do much in the way of appreciating the culture, however, Tirzah and I decided to mostly skulk in the numerous alleyways, suspicious creeper style. (As we were both wearing fedoras, it kinda had to happen.)

A shady rendezvous.
A shady rendezvous.
This pigeon had alley-creeping down to an art form.
This pigeon had alley-creeping down to an art form.
Inspired, Tirzah and I took our game up a level by adding in the thug factor.
Inspired, Tirzah and I took our game up a level by adding in the thug factor.

Our continued walk through the city took us past the iconic Transamerica Pyramid and various unexpected delights – the best-of-the-best part being the corner down from the City Lights Bookstore. The pavement was covered with words, with books suspended in flight overhead. (Books that, we later learned, are actually lamps that light up the night with biblio-type magic.) We also passed a road with perhaps the best name ever: Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard. …also known as Green Street, but come on, why would I call it that?

A prominent piece of the city skyline, and me.
A prominent piece of the city skyline, and me.
It’s the little things – like managing to get a shot of your reflection through a grille in the sidewalk – that make days like these extra magical.
It’s the little things – like managing to get a shot of your reflection through a grille in the sidewalk – that make days like these extra magical.
Just walking down the street, and what treasure do we find?
Just walking down the street, and what treasure do we find?

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 420

I feel like this should be the cover of my autobiography or something.
I feel like this should be the cover of my autobiography or something.
And if this word doesn’t just sum up our San Fran day, what does?
And if this word doesn’t just sum up our San Fran day, what does?
A photo of Tirzah taking a photo of me with a cable car, and the photo she took. Awesome x2.
A photo of Tirzah taking a photo of me with a cable car, and the photo she took. Awesome x2.

Next stop, Fisherman’s Wharf, where we lunched among the seagulls (brazen birds waiting for handouts, they), admired the view of/from the harbor (including the one and only Golden Gate Bridge!), and set our sights on the last stop of the day, Ghiradelli Square. Posing in front of a famed fountain and getting free samples of peppermint bark chocolate made a good end to a great tour; and catching the bus back to the hostel made it even better. (“Y’know what’s awesome?” I drawl in my Bruno voice. “Sitting down.”)

“Fisherman’s Wharf, The Musical!” Not really. That would have been cool, though.
“Fisherman’s Wharf, The Musical!” Not really.
That would have been cool, though.
God bless Kat’s camera’s panorama feature. Couldn’t have nabbed this image without it.
God bless Kat’s camera’s panorama feature.
Couldn’t have nabbed this image without it.
As could be said of much of the rest of the day, looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge made my Bruno side feel uncharacteristically contented.
As could be said of much of the rest of the day, looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge made my Bruno side feel uncharacteristically contented.
A sign from above: We should get chocolate.
A sign from above: We should get chocolate.
If I look like I belong here, it’s probably due to my being part-mermaid. ...or some sort of water elemental, anyway.
If I look like I belong here, it’s probably due to my being part-mermaid.
…or some sort of water elemental, anyway.

Yeah, this day, this place, seemed pretty much made for Bruno. I’m so glad I got to take him home – to where his heart lies, and where I left a piece of mine.

“Emeraude” or “The Life and Times of My Elizabethan Alter-Ego”

It’s a big year for the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin. For one thing, this summer marks the 25th anniversary of the show. (Can I get a “huzzah”?!) For another, lesser-in-the-big-scheme, massive-in-my-own-personal-scheme thing, this is the first summer they’ll have me in the cast. 😀

I shared with you a while back about my audition experience, including my original monologue. Time to fill you in on what’s been happening since then.

In between a) finding out that the director of the Street Cast (Adam McAleavey; he’s nutty and awesome) had given me the role of Town Crier and b) the beginning of training, I had to come up with a name for my character. After giving the matter its due amount of care (you know with what gleeful solemnity I tackle names), I settled on… well, here, I can let her handle the introduction herself.

One portrait of many of the young miss to be seen on the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page.

“God ye good den, good readers of the blog! I’m Emeraude a’Right, here to cry your way to a better day! (Liked you that bit o’ rhyme at the last? ‘Tis mine own introductory motto, ‘an it please you thus to call it.) Named, was I, for the color of mine eyne – that’s ‘eyes’, to those among yourselves who hail not from Elizabethan England; nigh unto the green of emeralds, they are, or thus did my father fancy. As for the ‘a’right’, well, I try to make everything just so! – in particular for any and all who shall this summer grace the wonderful world of Bristol. ‘Twould be my pleasure to see you there – and your pleasure, also, if I’ve any say!”

Yep; that’s Emmers. Mind you, she couldn’t always talk like that, with that antiquated syntax and lower class accent (which, alas, I very much doubt you can hear through your screen). Or, well, I suppose she could, but I had to learn it. Fortunately, that’s what the Bristol Academy of Performing Arts is for (hereafter to be known as BAPA).

Since the start of June, I’ve spent my weekends on the fairgrounds, getting run merrily ragged. Saturdays are BAPA days, filled with lessons on how to speak, how to move, how to act and react, and how not to die. (Seriously, there’s a class called “How Not to Die”. This biz will burn you out, if you don’t take care of yourself!) Sundays are rehearsal days, where the separate guilds and troupes split up to get their acts together.

I love being in Street Cast. Everybody else looks like they’re having a jolly time, too, and goodness knows I’ve got terrific new friends scattered throughout the company. But Street’s my immediate Bristol family, and it’s good to be a Town Crier. I’m beginning to build a dynamic with my fellow Criers; much as I usually prefer being a solo act, I’m glad of the support I’ll have within our little sub-group. And in case you hadn’t heard, my costume is boss. (For the cream of my character’s photo shoot pics, check out the “Ballad” page’s “Meet Emeraude!” album).

So that’s the news for now. If you’d like to meet Emeraude in person half as much as she’d like to meet you, as well as have all of the other crazy fun the Faire has to offer, Bristol’s 25th season opens July 7th and runs every weekend through Labor Day, September 3rd. (Details at the website.) God save the Queen!