Superpower Outage

Once upon a time, an author sat down and dashed off a quick little flash fic about some gender-indeterminate teenager and superpowers and shocking family secrets.

It took practically no time to write, and the author didn’t have any plans for the story beyond ‘The End’. She certainly couldn’t have predicted that the story would one day, and for some while, have a place in an online literary magazine (before said magazine vanished from the ‘net, as these things sometimes do). Or that the short story’s protagonist would make a reappearance as the narrator/one main character of three in a NaNoWriMo novel. Or that, having basically bid farewell to the idea of pursuing traditional publishing, the author would go on to someday produce a gorgeous paperback (and e-book, currently available for preorder via Amazon and Barnes & Noble) all by her independent lonesome.

And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.

And that novel is “So Super Dead”, to release on September 25th.

And that short story where it all began is, as of now, no longer missing from the internet, because never mind that defunct magazine – you can read the story right here, right now, in this blog post! Even though (full disclaimer) I would have you remember that this story and its world don’t entirely line up with the upgraded version you’ll get in the novel, because the flash fic was just typed up out of the blue with no rhyme or reason apart from from ‘start talking and see what happens.’

…Which, upon reflection, is truly the Nicky-est of story-making methods.

That having been said: Guys, gals, and assorted superheroes, I present to you…

Superpower Outage

So Super Dead 09 - Copy

(Also, since we’re throwing it back this far, here’s the cover idea I put together to go with “So Super Dead” back when it was just a NaNo project waiting to happen.)

<<<>>>

“Nicky, there’s something we have to tell you.”

I flicked my eyes from parent to parent. I’d known something was afoot for a couple of hours, now. They’d been jumpy from the moment I came home from practice, and all though dinner. They kept looking at each other and at me, whenever they thought I wasn’t paying attention. Like I’m not gonna pay attention when they act so fully suspicious, right? It was just as well they decided to sit me down on the couch and say whatever they planned to now, before my head exploded from the suspense.

“Okay…” I said. “So tell me.”

“Nicky, honey,” Mom began. “You know all those superpowers you’ve been noticing lately? The speed and the strength and invisibility and flight and teleportation and telekinesis and communing with dead plant matter, and all that?”

“Ye-eah…” I nodded, like “go on”.

“I suppose you’ve been wondering why you don’t have any powers like that.”

I had wondered.

“Well, Nicky, the fact is…” Dad hesitated a second before blurting, “You’re not like the rest of us.”

Well, no kidding. I mean, the whole personal power outage thing had made that glaringly obvious. All the other kids had at least one. “And if all the other kids jumped off a bridge,” I can just hear some parental voice saying, “would you want to jump, too?” Actually, yeah. Just last week, practically every friend I had had gone bridge-jumping, to see how close to a fatal ker-splat they could come before flying or teleporting or asking the ghost of a grapevine to whisk them out of harm’s way, and I totally hadn’t been allowed to go along. It stank to high heaven.

“So what’s the difference that’s screwing me over?” I asked.

Mom and Dad shared yet another look before Dad cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and laid down the big shocker: “You’re human.”

“I KNEW it! I— Wait, what?”

“You’re a human, sweetie,” said a teary-eyed Mom. “I’m so sorry, we should have told you years ago…”

“What the heck is a human??” I shouted.

“It’s basically like us,” said Dad, “except that you don’t get to do anything cool.”

“Oh, Dear, really,” Mom reproved. “Humans can do cool things, too. Sort of.”

“Like what?” I asked, totally shaken. I mean, what up?! Drop this kind of bomb on me while I’m in the midst of my volatile teenage years, why don’t you! There had better have been some good news on the way.

“Well, humans can, um… they can… create stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“Y’know. Art. Paintings and books and music; lovely stuff, all.”

“We – well, you – can make that stuff, too,” I pointed out. “Grandpa made that 4D rock opera experience for your anniversary last year, remember? With his mind.”

“Ah, but you wouldn’t simply be creating with your mind, Nicky.” Mom’s eyes were shining with optimism, now, in addition to tears of sympathy for bursting her freak child’s bubble. “You would actually have to go through a lengthy, frustrating, soul-wrenching creative process! You would have to physically paint the paintings, and write the books, and—”

“Alright, and that’s supposed to be better how?”

“I hear it’s more satisfying,” Mom said brightly.

“I hear it’s more work,” Dad muttered. “I hear it’s a lot of time and effort for a usually disappointing end product.”

“Dear, you’re not helping.”

“No, you know what?” I snapped. “It’s fine. I’m glad Dad’s telling it to me straight. It’s about dang time. How long have you guys known about this, anyway?”

Mom went back to sniffling, so Dad answered, “Ever since we found you abandoned in the mall parking lot as an infant. Whoever dumped you there left you this.”

He reached into his pocket and extracted what looked very much like a cell phone.

My voice trembled. “What is it?”

“What does it look like? It’s a cell phone.”

“Oh.”

“There’s a number programmed into the phone’s speed-dial,” Dad told me, placing the phone in my hand.

“Did you call it?”

“No.”

“Um, why not?”

“We thought we should leave the decision of whether or not to call that number up to you,” Mom wept. “After all, it’s your tale of mysterious origin, not ours.”

Fair enough, I supposed. I eyed the cell phone in my hand, my emotions a-swirl with doubts and desire. You see, I’d always wanted a cell phone, but I’d been hoping for something a little more trendy; this old thing from like a decade-and-a-half ago wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind.

Obsolete tech of lameness aside, though, the moment of truth had come. Time to figure out where I came from, and who my family was, and how in the world this thing called a human had ended up amongst real people, as I apparently had.

I pressed the speed dial button, and brought the phone up to my ear…

“Hello?

“Hey,” I said. “Who’s this?”

Why don’t you know? You dialed.”

“Well, look, no need to get touchy. I just got handed this phone a minute ago, alright? I don’t know who this number belongs to.”

May I ask who’s calling?

“Nicky Elbochen-Jones,” I answered. “…Your child?” I guessed.

Not muddy likely,” said whoever I was talking to. “I died a virgin.”

“You’re DEAD??”

Yeah, why? Who’d you say you are, again?

I threw my hands up in the air in glee, accidentally throwing the dinosaur of a phone across the room and not giving a rat’s tail about it. “I CAN TALK TO DEAD PEOPLE!” I crowed. “I’m not a human freak after all!”

“Oh, yay!” said Mom, giving me a huge hug. “Your father and I must have simply jumped to the wrong conclusion, before. You’re simply a late bloomer.”

“We should have had more faith in you, Nicky,” said Dad, clapping a hand to my shoulder.

I just grinned. Dead people whispering trumps dead plant whispering nine times out of ten. Wait ‘til the kids in my neighborhood got a load of this!

<<<>>>

The End! …Or rather, The Unforeseen Beginning.

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery

The ghost: Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.

The killer: The reality of TV star Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, is not the kind one lives to tell about. He’ll do whatever it takes – and take out whomever he must – to keep his secret safe. If only he could get his dead conscience to quit haunting him…

The talker: Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.

So Super Dead” – coming so super soon!

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The Hungering Hearts Café

What if the main characters of four separate stories convened in one peculiar place? Find out in this little something I whipped up as we wait for next week’s release of “Our Hungering Hearts”…

<<<>>>

The dark man in the diner booth watched the younger man’s approach. Voice smooth as glass, gaze sharp as the same, he said, “You are not my server.”

The younger man laughed cheerlessly. “Don’t I wish!” he said, his accent from either across the pond or a world away. “I came in to apply for a job, but of course they’re not hiring. I don’t suppose you are, for anything?”

Hungering Hearts Cafe pin, 02
From the “Reality As We Know It”-related Pinterest board

“No.”

“Just thought I’d ask,” the young one sighed, sinking to a seat on the booth’s opposite edge. “Your suit was so nice, it gave me the ghost of hope.”

“Hope can’t be a ghost ‘til it’s died,” came a female voice, clipped and cool. “I don’t believe that yours has, yet.”

The younger man turned (the dark man didn’t) toward the source of the sound – a fair woman of perhaps his own age, nursing a coffee at a nearby table. Her opulent gown suggested the proximity of a Steampunk convention.

“We can hope not,” he said soberly. “Goodness knows there’s death enough without that.”

“Yes and no.” The gowned woman’s pale brows drew down. More to herself than anyone, it seemed, she said grimly, “There’s at least one death to go before I can call things finished.”

Now the dark man’s head swiveled her way. “Oh, yes?” he said – too pleasant. Too interested. “Whose?”

She said only, “An enemy’s.”

The young man glanced between them, disturbed. The dark man half-smiled at him. “You should offer the lady your services, Row.”

“Entirely unnecessary,” said the woman, before the young man could reply or begin to wonder whether he’d told the dark man his name. “We’ve got it handled.”

“You hope you do,” said the dark man, quietly. “You fear you don’t. What’s the harm in accepting his help? He’s even less of a woman than your substitute sister.”

The woman sat still as an ice sculpture. The young man blinked, wholly confused.

Voice tight enough to strangle, she asked, “What do you know of anything?”

The dark man’s half-smile cut wider. “Everything you do.”

“Should I go?” the young man wondered aloud.

The dark man said, “Oh, stay, Rowan Charles.”

The woman’s gaze whipped toward the young man. “Is that your name?”

He frowned helplessly. “I never said it.”

Hand placed rather ominously over her place setting’s steak knife, she demanded, “Just who are you people?”

The young man spread his hands in a shrug. “I’m just a guy desperate to make a living wage.”

The dark man sipped leisurely at a glass of red wine. “And I, just a provocateur.”

Hungering Hearts Cafe pin, 01
From the “Reality As We Know It”-related Pinterest board

“Mmm,” came a savoring sound from yet another table – this one seating an older woman, a book in one hand, cup of tea in the other. “Oh, don’t mind me,” she said, when the three others minded her. “It’s just that word. Provocateur. Delicious. One doesn’t read it enough. But do please pretend I’m not here.”

“But you are,” the young woman said coldly.

An imperturbable smile from the older woman. “As a mere observer, I assure you.”

The young man and young woman traded a look. There was something decidedly off about the dining room’s elder demographic.

Downing the rest of her coffee in a concentrated gulp, the young woman rose from her table. “I think I’d best be on my way.”

“Should I… come with you?” the young man asked. If his name meant something to her, he imagined there must be an interesting reason.

She eyed him, expression closed. “Perhaps she’d want you to.”

He glanced at the older woman. “Her?”

“No,” dark man and older woman said together.

“Try to go with her,” the former suggested. “See if you can.”

“If any of us can,” said the latter, nodding, “it’s him.”

“You say that as if you don’t know for certain.”

“I don’t,” she said, irritated. “Of course I don’t, and you’ll know why. The more you drag me into this—”

“—The less of a mere observer you are.” The dark man’s half-smile had become a full, wicked grin. “Keep talking, reader, and lose yourself wholly to the story. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted most?”

“Definitely leaving,” said the young woman, striding for the door. The bell heralding her exit almost drowned out the dark man’s farewell: “Happy homicide, Your Highness.

A princess, who knew the name Rowan Charles. A dark man, who knew the thoughts in others’ heads. A reader, he’d called the older woman… what more did that mean?

The young man’s dizzying spin of questions scattered at the touch of a small hand, coming to rest on his knee. He looked down into the solemn stare of a little girl, a menu tucked under her arm. She asked, “Do you know what you want?”

Hungering Hearts Cafe pin, 03
From the “Date Due”-related Pinterest board

“I think…” he started. Stopped. Said slowly, “More than anything, now, I’m hungry for the whole story.”

Stories,” said the older woman. “And you’ll not find them here.”

“No,” the dark man agreed. “Not in the overlap. This is a Venn diagram best read one circle at a time.”

“My Library has a copy,” the older woman said. A sneer darted across her face. “For now. You’re welcome to read it while you can.”

A silky voice not the young man’s own warned in his head, I wouldn’t.

“I should… get home,” the young man decided.

The dark man nodded amiably. “While you have one.”

The older woman tsked. “Cruel.”

“Yes.”

“Here,” said the little girl. She handed the young man a name tag.

“Thank you,” he said, puzzled. The name was not his.

The dark man’s expression softened at the little girl’s logic. “People with name tags have jobs, you see.”

Tears pricked at the young man’s smile. “Thank you,” he said again, and departed.

The dark man’s thoughts snaked toward the woman. Nobody left but us monsters. Can you find your way out?

She silently sipped at her tea, reply unspoken. There is only ever one way out, Black Man.

The end.

<<<>>>

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

On the Menu:

“Two Spoons, the Devil’s Son” = A little girl’s soul meets its match in the family diner’s most mysterious patron…

“A Mind Prone to Wander” = An assassin princess and an incognito madman brave a monster’s mechanized fortress and the pasts that left them broken…

“Reality As We Know It” = Where otherworldly magic fails, is Row’s friendship enough to mend Singer’s grieving heart?

“Date Due” = A magic library’s guardian determines to protect her treasured books, whether their authors elect to do things the easy way … or the fatal one.

Two servings of paranormal, a taste of fantasy, and a side order of steampunk – first released in various anthologies, now served up all together in one delicious combo deal. Bon appétit!

Add the book on Goodreads! Pre-order the e-book! (Amazon, or Barnes & Noble) Both e-books and paperback editions release next week; see you on Launch Day!

Out of the Mouths of Book Babies

Seventh Spell: “My, my, would you look at the time.”

Legend of Allyn-a-Dale: “What sort of time? Time travel? Time suspended? Or a race against time, like you?”

Wilderhark Covers, half 1

Seventh Spell: “Um… closest to the last? I only meant, she’s got another pair of books coming out soon.”

Out of My Head: “Twins, like Inspired and me?”

Surrogate Sea: “Not a double release. Not even related. Just launching close together.”

Out of My Head: “Ooh, fun! Which ones?”

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover
Coming August 28th!

Sky-Child: “First up, a short story collection, like me.”

Truly Great Words Never Die: “And like me; plus the same artist helped out with cover illustration!”

Inspired: “Like me, too, since it’s something of a re-release.”

Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale: “Our Hungering Hearts. Oh, that is a unique cover.”

Song Caster: “That neon effect! Where were her fancy tricks like that when she was putting the words on our covers?”

Stone Kingdom: “Well, do remember, she was only getting started.”

Song Caster: “Oh, that’s right. We were just the practice children. It’s the Outlaws she handed all over to the professionals.”

Inspired: “That just means the rest of our faces bear her special touch. But let’s not forget to welcome her second book on the horizon.”

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery
Coming September 25th!

Story’s End: “So Super Dead. I love it. So dark.”

Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale: “I thought it was a comedy?!”

Surrogate Sea: “Oh, Ballad, you ought to know better than any of us: Even her most lighthearted adventures have their undertones.”

Story’s End: “And I mean, death is right there in the title.”

Ballad: “But… just temporary death, right?”

Truly Great Words: “I don’t see anything in the blurb about truly great legends. Still, if a significant portion of the main cast is dead to begin with, we can only assume it doesn’t much impede their ability to contribute to the plot.”

Seventh Spell: “How many books does this make, now?”

Inspired: “Including e-book only titles?”

Avalon Christmas Carol: “Please.”

Inspired: “In that case, this will make 17 exclusively-Deshipley fiction releases. Plus my journal.”

Wilderhark Covers, half 2

Out of My Head: “17, wow! How does she remember all of us? Wait, does she even? Hey, Number One! You haven’t been forgotten, have you?”

Swan Prince: “Certainly not. On the contrary, she’s always sure to carry plenty of me to any books events, since I’m the series starter.”

Story’s End: “Must be nice.”

Avalon Christmas Carol: “Oh, hush, you got a huge launch party on Facebook.”

Marriage: “I didn’t even get a giveaway. Though she was willing to beg crowdfund my cover…”

Stone Kingdom: “Give the woman a break. She’s poor and tired and depressed.”

Song Caster: “Indeed. Thanks to Swan Prince.”

Outlaws of Avalon covers, all 5

Swan Prince: “Excuse me?”

Song Caster: “Fact. Publishing you while working at the Renaissance Faire wore her out and triggered her first big drop into depression. And not to call the kettle black, but you’re not exactly a bestseller.”

Legend: “At least Swan Prince has reviews in the double digits.”

Inspired: “I used to have a few, before my relaunch…”

Sun’s Rival: “And lack of reviews doesn’t mean we’re not being read! Readers love us!”

Surrogate Sea: “Readers love you.”

Story’s End: “What readers? Who’s saying they read us? Nobody.”

Sun’s Rival: “Not nobody…”

Story’s End: “Fewer than the little crowd we had back in Swan Prince’s day. I think they’re all tired of us.”

Marriage: “Surely it’s not that. We’re just… a lot to keep up with.”

Legend: “Ha, yes. We are legion, and they… Well, they mostly haven’t heard of us.”

Song Caster: “Whose fault is that?”

Out of My Head: “Don’t say hers! She’s trying her best!”

Story’s End: “And what good will her best do the two on the way?”

Inspired: “What do you want from her? Song Caster, Story’s End, what is it you want?”

Story’s End: “I don’t want anything. I’m just gloomy.”

Song Caster: “And I… I just want… I’m afraid.”

Sky-Child: “Afraid? You? Of what?”

Song Caster: “Of not being everything she wants us to be. Of all of us being… disappointments.”

Stone Kingdom: “Oh, Song Caster… It is not we that disappoint her.”

Covers 1, 2, and Journal

Inspired: “She gives all she can to make us beautiful. And beautiful we are. She’s proud of us, her body of work. Sometimes, she’s even proud of herself. It’s only poor luck that she hasn’t yet found a way to give us the audience we deserve.”

Song Caster: “Maybe if we had a big publisher…?”

Inspired: “No guarantee. There are success stories and failures no matter which publishing road you take.”

Out of My Head: “But she’s NOT a failure! It’s too early to say ‘she never hit it big,’ because look – she’s still making books! Hungering Hearts could find its audience. So Super Dead could capture public imagination. Or maybe the next title, or the one after that… Or even any one of us, later in life! While we exist, it’s not too late!”

Story’s End: “Very ‘while there’s life, there’s hope’. I believe So Super Dead will have something to say about that.”

Seventh Spell: “Inspired 2’s right, though. We’ve still got time.”

Sun’s Rival: “And succeed or fail, she’ll always love us.”

Inspired: “Of course she will. She is our mother.”

Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logo

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “One of his authors describes him thus:

Stolen away as a toddler by a corrupt necromancer and raised as her near-nameless drudge, Kid had nobody to rely on but his own self, until even he and his body began to grow apart. Now this unaging soul roams the earth at will, seeking out the delights of the world of the living before his grown alter ego remakes it all in a more deathly image.

“Welcome, Kid!” Will greets the child bouncing in the air above the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Allyn-a-Dale? ‘Cause it’s uncanny!”

Soul of Kid
As seen on the “Dark Siren”-related Pinterest board, “Bones, Souls, and Hellgates

The adorable boy giggles. Everything about me is uncanny. I’m the bodiless soul of a necromancer! But of course I look like a little Allyn. And of course my body looks like him grown-up. That’s the inspiration behind our characters – from some silly hypothetical scenario Danielle and Tirzah spun out over the phone. Allyn was the Dark Siren, and his younger self was his soul, and I think the knights of Camelot were a team of superheroes, and you were a lovesick maniac.”

“Sounds about right. Getting back to your story proper, what was it like growing up as a forced-labor assistant to a practitioner of death magic?”

“No fun at all,” Kid pouts. “All Mistress Barbara ever did was boss me around. I never got to play outside. I never got to make any friends. I never got to experiment with her books of spells… although I did that anyway, whenever I could do it without her noticing. She wasn’t overly careful about keeping her things warded; or herself, for that matter. Killing her was easy.”

“Um.” Will glances at the camera. “Is this a confession to a murder? Because let me remind you that this is live blog-TV, and I don’t know if I—”

“Oh, it wasn’t me,” says Kid, wide-eyed. “It was my body. That was the night we split, you see – so he could become a more powerful necromancer.” He slumps into his chair – (literally, his ghostly form has sunk partway through the cushions) – muttering sadly, “Souls get in the way.”

“Aww.” Will frowns sympathetically. “So your body hasn’t been much of a friend to you either, huh?”

Voice dropped to an eerie, melodic pitch that sets Scarlet shivering, the soul intones, “The Dark Siren is a friend to no one but death. But,” he goes on more brightly, “I meet other nice people, from time to time. Like the living skeleton I found in Millennium Park! I like her.”

“That’s good. What about ice cream?” Will asks, in pursuit of cheery, death-free topics. “Do you like that?”

Kid pulls a face. “I’m a soul. I can’t eat.”

Will draws back, aghast. “Not even soul food?!”

“Not even corpses,” Kid sighs. “Though those are fun for other things.”

“Haaa, well,” says Will, disconcerted, “there’s time for one more fun thing before we say goodbye. Tell me, what is the biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret involving your co-authors, Tirzah Duncan and Danielle E. Shipley?” A spirited smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“I’ve already tattled on them once,” says Kid, jumping out of his chair. “Kiss me! I’m starved for physical affection!”

“I’ll bet,” says Will, placing a kiss on (and almost through) Kid’s cherubic cheek. In return, Kid’s lips pass through Will’s nose, while his little arms fling around Will’s neck.

“You’re nice, too,” Kid approves. “I hope the Dark Siren doesn’t kill you.”

“Same,” says Will, fondly ruffling the space Kid’s hair does and doesn’t occupy. “Hey, Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by The Dark Siren’ by Danielle E. Shipley and Tirzah Duncan – available now as part of the Arcane Arts Anthology!

arcane-arts-cover

Necromancy killed her body, and necromancy saved her soul. Now all this living skeleton wants is for necromancy to leave her the hell alone. But with a disembodied child-spirit hanging around like a too-catchy tune, and a dread dark-artist preparing to sing the world into its final unrest, our heroine’s left with only one real option: Face the music.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Kid! And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

A Cuppa Curiosity

Today, for your reading pleasure, a bit of flash fiction written by yours truly. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

He offered me a cuppa. Quite decent of him, too.

“I suppose I could. Just one, as you insist…”

“I do,” he said, and handed me the cup and saucer. “One lump or two?”

I confess I was a bit slow in answering – may have actually gawped a bit. “I, um… Sorry, but is this tea?”

“Why, no,” he said. “One letter removed, as it happens.”

I held a cup of the sea.

The living sea. A breathing, seething thing. Foamy waves crashed up against their porcelain boundary. I swore I could hear a gull cry.

I said, dubious, “I’m not sure a whole sugar bowl could counter the salt. Is it entirely safe to drink?”

“Well, what is?” he said cheerfully. “Entirely safe, I mean. A proper tea might scald your tongue, set you choking, cover the taste of poison… I knew a fellow, once, who killed himself on orange juice. But never you worry about the salt. The pot will have strained most of it out.”

“Two lumps, in that case. And a spoon of honey, if you’ve got it.”

“Of course, not at all. And I’ll just be back with the biscuits.”

Sea and biscuits. Yes, quite decent of him. I sipped at my bit of ocean, and thought he and I might make rather good friends after all.

A Cuppa Sea
The story’s inspiration.

<<<>>>

Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha – and/or holler at me if you’d like to read an early e-copy of the upcoming Outlaws of Avalon 2.5 for the low, low price of an honest review!

In Pace Requiescat

Once upon a time, there was a broken author.

Following a period of psychological trauma, she lost her voice – she feared, forever. But broken or not, she tried to put words to paper. And when she could not dream up the tale of another, she transcribed a fragment of her own. Weary and sad, she opened her scribble of a short story with the naked truth: “She felt so very tired…

And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.

And that short story went on to win a prize in a creative writing contest.

And you can totally watch the footage of me performing the piece – “In Pace Requiescat” – at the award ceremony. (Video, courtesy of my mother; upload courtesy of my father. Thanks, parents! <3)

WNPL Story Read-aloud

Isn’t that something, though? Even mired down at my lowest point – because of that, even – I created something worthwhile.

Don’t get me wrong: If I could go back and avoid that lowest of low points, I would. I’m still not healed enough to work on drafting a full-length novel – a frustration which leaves me feeling pretty blue, some days. And yet, my voice was not strangled wholly silent after all. I wrote this little story, and won a thing. I’ve subsequently written other short stories, which may or may not get accepted where I’ve submitted them. (Still waiting to hear back. *fingers crossed*) I am still making words.

Maybe I’m a little bit dead inside. But maybe I’m a little bit alive, too.

In Pace Requiescat

An Award-Winning Recap

The afternoon of Sunday, April 23rd, found me at Warren-Newport Public Library for the establishment’s 2017 Creative Writing Contest awards’ ceremony.

While the event’s presenter (shout-out to Debbie Hoffman) said at one point that the library’s been running this contest for decades, it’s the first year I’ve ever heard of it (and entered … and won 2nd place in the Adult Short Stories category … and, hence, attended the ceremony), so I had no idea what to expect.

…Apart from somebody forgetting the E. in Danielle E. Shipley. I’ve come to expect that. <_<

Exhibit A
Exhibit A: The Program

In “pleasant surprise” news, it turned out this event wasn’t just about the presentation of awards: All attending authors were invited to stand up and read their winning (or honorably mentioned) entries! So not only did I get to share my art aloud (i.e., one of my favorite things), I got to hear what the cream of the competitive crop sounded like.

The first hour featured the champs from the 3rd – to 5th grade and middle school brackets, short fiction and poetry both. For me, it was quite the throwback to the writer I was twenty years ago. It’s cheering to think that, with continual practice, some life experience, and maybe just a bit of encouragement from programs like this, these kids and their ilk can become the authors of tomorrow. I heartily applaud the pluck it took to enter this contest and perform in the ceremony. Write on, children!

Exhibit B
Exhibit B: Our Future

A brief intermission brought snacks (yay!) and the departure of most of the audience – because let’s face it, if your kiddo went up in the first act, why make the whole family sit through the second? So ‘twas a smaller crowd that heard the winning tales and poems of the high-schoolers and adults.

Exhibit C
Exhibit C: Act II

But a crowd that included my Mom and Dad!

Exhibit D
Exhibit D: Proud Parents

Which is good news for y’all, because otherwise there’d have been no one to record my reading with their phones. ^o^ Keep your eyes open for a future post with the footage!

In the meantime, Danielle Shipley got her winner’s certificate (better luck next time, author with an E.) and probably the most money any short story of hers has ever earned to date. ($30 is a good chunk of change, in unknown-author dollars.) We’ll see if I’m inspired to go another round next year.

Exhibit E
Exhibit [Danielle] E. [Shipley]: It’s official