Love, Letters, and a List

Has anyone else taken notice of a trend, lately, in which books are pitched as “a love letter to [this, that, or the other]”? Like, it’s not just a novel set in a city or country, it’s a love letter to that place. No mere story featuring a certain food or cuisine, but a love letter to that gastronomic experience. That character’s journey of self-discovery via an ‘80s pop musician’s body of work / a genre of film / online gaming / illegal goat racing? A love letter to some past or present obsession that made the author the particular brand of weirdo they are today.

As someone who has neither received nor can recall writing any actual love letters (that one epistolary novel from my authorial youth, may it rest in pieces, doesn’t count), I’m not best qualified to decide whether these vogueish descriptions are accurate, misleading, or running all up and down the spectrum in between. What I do know is, they’ve got me thinking:

If the works of Deshipley were letters, what – or who – would be their loves?

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash.com

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The Wilderhark Tales = A Love Letter to … True Love

Sure, I could try to break it down book by book – like, “The Song Caster”, love letter to adventure; “The Sun’s Rival”, love letter to the moon; “The Seventh Spell”, love letter to having met Edgwyn Wyle in “The Stone Kingdom” and needing another novella with him in it, pronto. But as a series, the fairytale magic of True Love™ is the heartsong of it all. The love of a princess for her spell-breaking prince; of minstrels for music; of lonely souls for their place in the sky. It’s as cheesy as it is frikkin’ deep, y’all.

The Outlaws of Avalon Novels = A Love Letter to … the Merry Men

By which I mean not only Robin Hood and his legendary band, but also:

– Friendship and

– Bromance and

– Found/chosen families and

– Sherwood Forest and

– Benevolent crimes and

– Renaissance Faire players (especially the ones trained to wave swords about for show).

“An Avalon Christmas Carol” = A Love Letter to … Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

Or a fan letter, at the very least.

“Truly Great Words Never Die” = A Love Letter to … Having Fun with Unusual Words

Likewise, to the founders of Save-a-Word Saturday, who are as much to blame thank for the very existence of this little ebook as I am.

The “Inspired” Novels = A Love Letter to … Imagination

…Or so I wrote in the blurb for their companion journal, before I knew it was cool. ‘Tis only true, though. Imaginary friends. Imaginary worlds. The real-life power that ‘just pretend’ can wield. There wouldn’t be an artwork out there worth calling a letter o’ love without it!

“Date Due” = A Love Letter to … Books and Murder

(Make sure to pronounce the latter with a few extra U’s and R’s, for best effect.)

“So Super Dead” = A Love Letter to … ???

I just… I don’t even know. Sometimes the muse frolics down a path of pure absurdity and all you can do is follow, stopping to pluck the dark, decaying flowers along the way. A labor of love? Absolutely. A letter of love? That may be taking it a bit far.

“Deathsong of the Deep” = A Love Letter to … the Kraken, Of Course!

Which isn’t to say that my tentacled lad was given nearly enough page time, because he was NOT. Something about an entire novel of nothing but Kraken killing people and singing to himself being slightly less compelling than the tale of Molly Worth, Captain Crow, and the crew of the Painted Lady. Like that’s an excuse.

“The Once and Future Camelot” = A Love Letter to … Arthuriana

Most specifically, to the ‘Camelot crowd’ I sorta-kinda met in my Outlaws series, but whom I didn’t truly come to know and grow to love until I began unearthing their full story. Heck, some of them even got letters addressed to them by name on this blog (search ‘Letters to Camelot’ in the sidebar), and I’d assuredly compose even more, if Writer Me weren’t lying unconscious somewhere inside my skull. The legend of Camelot’s fall is, as I’ve often labeled it, the absolute saddest tale ever told, and my emotional wreck of a self is Here For It, body and soul.

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Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Have you encountered any memorable ‘love letter’ descriptions in your media, recently? If your favorite books were love letters, they would be to what/to whom? If you’ve read any of the Deshipley love letters listed above, which most deeply touched your heart and why? Share all in the comments!

Yours with love,

~ Danielle

The Deshipley Holiday E-xtravaganza…and You

“An Ever On Word blog post?” you cry. “After all this time!” you thrill. “Are we at last to pick up where we left off in the chronicle of Danielle’s Bay Area Adventure?!”

Ahhhhhhh, no, not today. My brain, heart, and time are still a bit too full with living the adventure to get it all organized for internet consumption, just yet. However, with The Holidays™ upon us, I realized of a sudden that I wish to celebrate this past year’s tests and triumphs! – to toast the new year and its miracles to come! – and, y’know, if possible, to generate some extra dollars as a buffer between me and continual brokenness. To that end, may I present:

The Deshipley Holiday E-xtravaganza Sale!

For one solid month – from now through January 20thalmost the entirety of the Danielle E. Shipley catalog will be available for 99 cents per ebook!

Via Amazon?” you clarify.

And Barnes & Noble, as well!

All eight volumes of The Wilderhark Tales? 99 cents apiece.

Wilderhark Covers Lineup 5

Inspired” novels 1 and 2? Same.

Covers 1 and 2, side by side

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”? An outlier: Actually free on Smashwords, December 25th – January 1st. (Cuz third annual Smashwords End of Year sale, yo.) And the follow-up Outlaws of Avalon novels? Again, just 99 cents each from Amazon and B&N.

Ballad and Marriage and Legend

Short story collection “Our Hungering Hearts”? Madcap paranormal “So Super Dead”? High seas fantasy “Deathsong of the Deep”? Fresh-off-the-presses “The Once and Future Camelot”? All! 99! Cents!

And then you’ve got titles like “An Avalon Christmas Carol”, “Truly Great Words Never Die”, “Beyond Her Infinity”, and “Windows and Sol”, which have been priced at 99 cents all along. (Available on Amazon only.)

Add it all up, and you could fill your e-reader with close to everything I’ve ever published for, like, twenty bucks.

Plus, just think: If even only – *does some hasty math* – thirty-ish people did that, I might be in the clear to order the last two pages of illustrations for picture book project “The Princess and the Moon!

Sidebar GoFundMe

“And wouldn’t that just be a Christmas miracle!” you sigh, enraptured.

You are waaay too invested in my life, Voice of Hypothetical You.

And I dig that.

Spend your pennies! Tell your friends! Gift those folks on your list who have everything except a heck-ton of Deshipley fiction! And in case I’m not back on the blog before the dawn of 2020, Happy New Year to you all. ;D

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).

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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.

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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!

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

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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?

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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.

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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!

The Weight of Words

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallerySince well before the birth of “So Super Dead”, I’ve passed some quick but quality time with its narrating protagonist, Nicky – starting in the flash fic where I first heard himmer’s voice, “Superpower Outage”; again in a second flash fic, which I would eventually rework into the novel’s first chapter; and then there’s the story below. It’s from my Blue Period (late 2016 – hopefully not beyond 2019), characterized by artistic ennui, life fatigue, and general despair. Fortunately, although Nicky may not have been born of such times, s/he is very much made for them. Enjoy…

<<<>>>

Dennis sat dejected on the bench at the edge of a grave – the latest in a small cemetery laid out beside a smaller funeral home, where a too-small funeral and subsequent burial had taken place in a long blink of an afternoon. Everyone involved had been gone for a while, excepting Dennis. He had nowhere else to be.

He didn’t cry, but managed to look quite woebegone nonetheless. Head hung low between hunched shoulders. Elbows sunk down onto lap, wrists dangling loose over knees. Dry eyes hooded and haunted and fixed on the freshly turned dirt. A body lay beneath it, and the moon just kept on spinning in the sky.

Senses dulled by melancholy, he was slow to notice that someone had lowered to a seat on the bench with him. Maybe in Dennis’s early twenties, maybe younger; on the short side, and softly slender. They wore skinny pants, a three-quarter sleeve jacket, and summer fedora, all in a dressy-casual black, rounded off with saddle shoes and a slim gray tie. Only warm copper skin and chocolate-brown eyes kept them from reading like a black-and-white photograph.

“Hey,” they greeted – and the voice did as little as their appearance to push Dennis’s impression from they into a more binary he or she. “How are you doing?”

Dennis didn’t bother to suppress a groan. “I can’t believe people are still asking me crap like that. Why waste the breath? It’s not like you care.”

The someone blinked. “Of course I care.”

“Well, too late,” Dennis snapped, and looked pointedly away, back to the grave.

The someone was quiet for a moment. Then, “Sorry I missed the funeral,” they said. “I didn’t hear about it ‘til an hour ahead of time, and by then I’d committed to a dentist appointment. And wouldn’t you know Dr. Jaybeck was running late? I got over here soon as I could, though.”

Dennis looked up again, belatedly curious. “How did you hear about the funeral? Are you one of my cousins’ friends, or…?” Not that most of his cousins had bothered to come.

“Oh. No,” they said. “Got a notification on my phone. If you don’t mind my asking, what was the cause of death?”

Dennis stared at them flatly. “Suicide.”

“Aw, man.” Their face scrunched up in what was probably sympathy. “Why?”

“Does it matter?”

“I figure it’s got to.”

“You figure wrong.” Dennis turned away – from the someone, from the grave, from everything. “Turns out nothing matters. Not a person’s life. Not a person’s death. I thought…” His voice choked off. Not tears. Just that ache he’d been dragging around inside him for what felt like a little longer than forever. The ache that even now, unfairly, weighed his spirit down. “You’d think that people too busy to care about anything else you had to say would listen to a statement as intense as a shock gun to the head. You’d think that would get their attention.”

They said softly, “So it was for attention.”

Dennis couldn’t hold back a snort that was almost a laugh. “Pretty pathetic, huh, when you say it that way.”

“Pathetic,” the someone echoed. “From Greek. Pathos. To experience. To suffer.” They sighed. “Words mean more when they’re used right.” Another pause, then: “Maybe they’d mean more if they were used on time, too.”

Dennis glanced over his shoulder. “What do you mean?”

“There’s this thing I do,” they said, one knee jiggling up and down. “I talk to people. Help them move past their problems. But the thing is, it’s always like this. Like now. When they’re already dead.”

Dennis watched their eyes trace his name on the grave marker.

“You’re wrong to call it too late. But I admit, it could be earlier. It’s just, my phone doesn’t tell me until after you’ve died. Until you call me, or your number shows up in my contacts.”

“Or you get a notification about the funeral,” said Dennis.

“Yeah,” they agreed.

“That’s… weird.”

They shrugged. “It’s part of my superpower. Talking’s the other part. And listening.” Their gaze searched Dennis’s face. “What is it that you wanted heard?”

“I dunno.” Reflexively, Dennis sniffled. “Anything.”

“Well,” said the someone, settling more comfortably on the bench, “I’m all clear on dental appointments for another six months. You’ve got me for as long as you need. Lay it all on me.”

“Thanks…”

“Nicky.”

“…Nicky,” Dennis said, and talked until the aching weight of unheard words was gone.

<<<>>>

For more Nicky and himmer’s rapport with the deceased, check out my second-most-recent novel, “So Super Dead”!

The Umbrella Academy Book Tag (Deshipley Edition, Of Course)

Recent Past Me: “What to blog about, what to blog about, what to blog about…?”

Recent Past Me: *comes across this “Umbrella Academy Book Tag” post on paperfury.com*

R.P.M.: “Perfect.”

Thanks to my housemate living half with me, half on Tumblr, I actually heard about the new Netflix original series in time to hop on the bandwagon (normally I’m five to twenty years behind everything, so this is wild), and just finished watching the first (and, so far, only) season a few weeks ago.

Umbrella Academy Tag

To briefly express my opinions in “WHAMO!” fashion:

– Holy cow, this setup is nuts!

– WAIT, WHAT, SOMEBODY ELABORATE ON THE TENTACLES.

– Reginald Hargreeves is trash.

– Klaus is a Will Scarlet archetype.

– How is this time-traveling hit man so relateable??

– Diego is low-key a mama’s boy and a mom.

– Y’all need to sit down and Talk! To! Each! Other!

– This show is a thin veneer of “cool and funny” over an abyss of PAIN AND STRESS.

– Allyn-a-Dale will definitely be doing Vanya’s look in the last episode for Halloween, this year.

– Well, that had me hooked! Will not be needing Season 2 in my life, thank you, I’ve got enough anxiety as-is.

<<<>>>

Now then! Onto the tag, created by It’s My Birth Write on YouTube. As is my usual, I will be answering these book-themed questions ONLY with titles/characters from the Danielle E. Shipley oeuvre, because 1) these posts get written faster when I can focus in on a narrow category and 2) call it my reward for having self-published more books in the last six years than my burnt-out brain can keep an accurate count of.

1 = HELLO: Name the Best First Book in a Series

Cover w Text 06.3, frontSince two books totally counts as a series, let’s give this one to “Inspired”! It’s got a crazy high-concept premise (fictional folks wandering the line between real and imaginary as they search for a new author to house them / tell their stories). It’s got a distinctive cast of characters (each and every one very much themselves, despite having been deliberately fashioned out of other characters of mine). It’s got heart and angst and eloquent waxing on the majesty of art and its creation! Searches for self and belonging! Elements of mystery! The forging of friendships! Not to mention the Totally In-Depth Author-to-Character Q&A. “Inspired” didn’t demand its sequel – (Deshipley don’t do cliffhangers, yo) – but it hinted very politely that it would appreciate one, and “Out of My Head” and I were entirely happy to oblige. Wouldn’t cry boo to a third book, either, if I ever get around to writing one…

2 = THE HARGREEVES CHILDREN: Name a Big Book Family (dysfunction is optional)

Wilderhark Calendar, October

You want a dysfunctional family? Look no further than the Sky. The Welkens of the Wilderhark Tales are a hot mess – literally, in the case of the sun king, Raeóryn; anti-literally, in the case of Aquinore, Wind of the North. There’s not one healthy sibling relationship in the bunch.

– Raeóryn puts down moon king Lumónd for being the “lesser” light

– Lumónd (and… basically everyone) disdains Raeóryn for being an arrogant dictator

– The brother winds bully their little sister Versparya (West Wind) for the comparative weakness of her breeze and the immutable strength of being their master’s favorite

– Pretty sure Euroval (East Wind) would be slightly less murderous if he didn’t idolize eldest brother Aquinore so

– Pretty sure Austeryn (South Wind) would sell any member of his family to the devil for a slice of cheesecake; and the winds don’t even eat

3 = THE WORLD ENDS IN 8 DAYS: If You Only Had Eight Days Left, Which Book Would You Choose to Be Your Last Read?

Story's End Cover, gallery size

Fortunately, eight days should be time enough to reread all of my books, since High Goodness knows I wouldn’t choose to spend my last week before the apocalypse toiling at my day job. But for my grand finale read, what could be more appropriate than Wilderhark Tales number seven, “The Story’s End”? In addition to worrying over the whispers of fate that warn the end is nigh, I could follow along one last time on the travels of minstrel marvel Gant-o’-the-Lute and his precious little apprentice, the future Allyn-a-Dale. The story would fill me with melancholy, but maybe also a spark of hope. After all, the end of the Wilderhark Tales was only the beginning of the Outlaws of Avalon. Could be that both Allyn and I are on the brink of an all-new adventure…

4 = SPACE BOY: Name a Character Who Plays the Leader, But May Not Be Cut Out For It

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

That’s probably how Arthur Pendragon would describe himself, the poor dear. The Once and Future King of my “Once and Future Camelot” hasn’t had much opportunity to flex his greatness during his afterlife in Avalon Faire, and it’s not doing healthy things for his confidence. But what’s left of his broken kingdom believes in him! As do I! Pendragon for President, 2020!

5 = THROWING KNIVES: What Literary Weapon Would You Want in Your Arsenal?

Song Caster Cover, full spread updateOoh, make mine the Flute Stone from Wilderhark four, “The Song Caster”! I mean, I’ll need to learn to actually play the flute before I’ll be able to wield its unlimited power. But my sister took lessons for years; I’m sure she could give me some pointers … provided I didn’t tell her she was paving the way toward my long-anticipated rise to Dark Lordliness.

6 = I HEARD A RUMOUR: Name a Book That Has a Misleading Plotline

Swan Prince Cover, full spread updateA misleading plotline? Hmm, that’s a toughie. I fancy myself a pretty straightforward taleteller, all told. Although…! I did try my hand at a novella-long misdirection in book one of the Wilderhark Tales, “The Swan Prince”. Obviously, I’m not going to spell it out here, since it’d be Spoiler City for any readers of this post who have yet to experience my little fairytale debut. (Y’all should read it, though. Might not be as polished, storytelling-wise, as my progressively-more-excellent later works, but a nice little audience rightfully fell in love with it anyway.)

7 = KLAUS: Name a Book That Involves the Dead / Ghosts / Etc.

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, galleryThe dead, ghosts, etc.? Sound like a bite-sized description of my second-most-recent novel, “So Super Dead”! I mean, the whole plot basically boils down to: Ghost girl, wanting revenge on the undead guy who killed her, enlists the help of kid who can talk to dead people; numerous casualties occur. (Also, I want an AU in which Nicky sits down to give Klaus, if not the entire Hargreeves family, some much-needed, talk-it-out therapy.)

8 = THE BOY: Recommend a Book That Plays with Time (whether it be in dual timelines, involving time travel, etc.)

Legend cover 02, frontLookin’ right at you, “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”. To quote a reviewer:

Just an aside, if you’ve ever wondered how time travel can reasonably happen, read this. It somehow makes perfect sense. Especially coming from Merlin.

…Which just blew my mind and exploded my heart to read, because y’all don’t even know how much I struggle with time-twisting plotlines, and here’s some stranger saying I nailed it! *high fives, Merlin, medieval Sherwood, Excalibur, and any other magical entity that made this moment possible*

9 = VANYA: Name a Character Who Has Buried Potential

Sir Bedivere the One-Handed. That’s all I’ll say on the matter ‘til we’re closer to launch for “The Once and Future Camelot”. *zips lips*

10 = LUTHER AND ALLISON: Name a Questionable Book Couple, and Why You Do or Don’t Like Them

They may not be my most controversial couple – (that honor probably goes to Austeryn and his wife in “The Surrogate Sea”) – but let’s talk about Gant-o’-the-Lute and Viralei of Carillon (Wilderhark Tales, three through seven). Obviously, what they had is True Love, else the spellwork of a certain Anarchwitch wouldn’t have broken with a kiss. Even so, this minstrel/princess pair seems to argue that a love can be true, yet still be unhealthy. She loved him like a hero. He loved her like music. But I have to doubt that they ever really saw each other, “The Sun’s Rival”-style. Viralei never would have tried to keep Lute in a castle, otherwise. And Lute’s heart, bless and/or shake your fist at it, never really understood the first thing about caring for people in the way that’s best for them. So do I like these two as individuals? Sure. Am I grateful their union gave us Allyn? Absolutely. Do I think their marriage was wise? No, I do not.

11 = HAZEL AND CHA CHA: Pick a Deadly Book Duo

Deathsong cover, remix 01.3Let’s just say if Molly Worth and the Kraken from “Deathsong of the Deep” ever decided to tackle a hit list together, it would be some DEATH TO BEHOLD.

12 = GOODBYE: What’s the Best Finale?

“The Once and Future Camelot” will be. Watch this space.

<<<>>>

Ta-da! Wanna be tagged? You’re it! Have you watched “The Umbrella Academy”? Share your thoughts in the comments! Based on my reactions to this show, is there anything else you think I should be watching on Netflix?

I Memed a Meme, This Tag Gone By

December was my hiatus month as far as writing blog posts was concerned, but it didn’t stop me reading the blog posts of others. For example, this “Les Mis Character Tag” post by The Story Sponge, in which song titles from the “Les Miserables” musical demanded matching to character types found throughout literature.

Me being a lover of both books and musicals – (which would go some way toward explaining why so many of my books end up sprinkled with original song numbers) – of course I want to play! And so I shall, featuring characters from all over Danielle E. Shipley canon. (Because that sort of self-indulgent fun is my reward for having put like 15+ books out into the world.)

les mis gif, revolution
This tag’s semi-related, bro. Be chill.

First, the tag rules:

– Acknowledge the human/dragon/sponge that tagged you (tagged my own self, so check!)

– Acknowledge the sponge that created the tag (check, and kudos to you, Story Sponge!)

– Tag as many people as you so desire (check, because if you’re reading this and want to play, consider yourself tagged!)

Now, let the games being!

1) “Valjean’s soliloquy” (a character who’s whole view of the world undergoes a dramatic shift)

Sun's Rival Cover, frontFor this, I’m going with Ionquin Wyle, Crown Prince of Denebdeor. Yes, I could have just as easily chosen Princess Laraspur, the sister with whom he adventures in their life-changing story, “The Sun’s Rival” (Wilderhark Tales, Book 5). But for all that Laraspur’s worldview is rocked just as hard, it’s Ionquin who has the harder time coping with all they’ve discovered and trying to reconcile it to his future as a king. His struggle extends well into Book 6, and I’m not honestly sure he’s 100% recovered by Book 7. Sometimes your head just stays blown your whole life long.

2) “I Dreamed a Dream” (a character who never seems to have any good luck whatsoever)

I’d like to think I’m pretty nice about letting my characters catch the occasional lucky break in their otherwise harrowing lives. But wouldn’t you know, I get called out in text (in “Deathsong of the Deep”, coming February 14th!) about how Narles Semsen, jack of all trades aboard the Painted Lady, ends up with a pretty short end of the stick.

Deathsong cover, remix 01.3

“Crow’s said he’s fought with fireworks before,” [said Molly].

“And got half a score of pirates killed,” said Anafrid.

“At least most of those dead pirates were his enemies.”

“And seared the color vision out of Semsen’s eyes.”

“That part was unfortunate,” Molly conceded.

Anafrid’s eyes rolled up into the downpour. “If any of the rest of us survive Crow’s madness along with him, it will be because we’ve breathed enough of his air to catch his luck. I don’t hold high hope for the temporary hands.”

/And I can only hope a few weeks aboard the Lady have been enough for me,/ Molly thought. If she had suspected it meant the difference between her life and death, she would have made plans to join the crew sooner. Well, perhaps sharing a boat with the captain during the battle to come would tip the balance in her favor. Or cost her part of her vision. Or her face.

Sticking close to Crow hadn’t proven particularly lucky for Semsen.

So, there you have it. I am a good author more than I am a nice one. Apologies, Mr. Semsen.

3) “Fantine’s Arrest” (a character who just makes your skin crawl)

Legend cover 02, front

Thaaat would be Sir Guy of Gisborne from “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale” (Outlaws of Avalon, Book 3). Scary. Evil. Dangerous. Also, creepy. Let’s not talk about him. Unless you’ve already read the book. In which case, let us whimper in harmony.

4) “The Bargain/The Waltz of Treachery” (a character who is a master of manipulation)

Surrogate Sea cover, front

No contest: This one goes to Austeryn, the South Wind of The Wilderhark Tales. “The Surrogate Sea” (Book 6) testifies to how far – and how sneakily – he’ll go to achieve his plans, to say nothing of his part in that one short story in “The Sky-Child” (Book 6.5). You don’t need a sorting hat (or *cough* to have ever read “Harry Potter” *cough*) to know he’s 300% Slytherin. Watch your back in the fog, my friends.

5) “Stars” (a villain with a convincing motivation)

In the ‘antihero’ category? Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter. We all know why we does what he does. It’s very much “cool story, still murder”, but how many of us would honestly do any better, were we living his “So Super Dead” life?

In the ‘not villainous but dangerous’ category? Mach Jenius, Brainstorm. Our boy’s not out to hurt anybody in “Out of My Head” (Inspired 2), but darned if he couldn’t end up destroying a few lives anyway in his entirely relatable quest for belonging.

In the ‘actual villain category’, Lord Swanton, Sheriff of Nottinghamshire. I completely get where he’s coming from. I, too, would lose patience with peasants who’d rather cheer for Robin Hood than just quietly pay their taxes. But that’s because I have a villainous streak that cares more about the world following my rules than about people. Sooooo, nobody elect me your sheriff, okay? Okay.

6) “Do you Hear the People Sing?” (a character who inspires other people)

The obvious answer? Lucianíel from “Inspired”. The light elemental’s a muse, after all.

But I can’t not mention King Arthur Pendragon. “The Once and Future Camelot” (everyone remember that magical cover?!?! would not exist without him, because like 9 out of 10 major players in the book can point back to Arthur as his or her motivation. Noble deeds, nefarious doings… Arthur inspires a lot.

7) “Little People” (a little character with a whole lot of spunk)

arcane-arts-coverIf we’re talking “no small parts, only stories with small word counts”, how ‘bout the soul of Kid from “The Dark Siren”? He’s quite the child, considering he’s basically a ghost. Inquisitive, audacious, and none too shy about expressing his feelings. Also sort of a necromancer, but it’s complicated.

8) “Bring Him Home” (a character who is sacrificially protective)

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

Um, Rowan “Row” Charles in “Our Hungering Hearts” only gave up his entire plane of reality to look after his best friend. He went from living in a magical dream world to battling a lousy job market in the name of love. Your fave could never.

9) “Javert’s Suicide” (an extremely conflicted character)

Once we’re really into the deep end of “Deathsong”, Molly Worth’s got a massive dilemma on her hands. Which song of her heart should she follow? Do the ends she feels owed justify the means divinely set before her?? Ought she fight her way back to Hot Guy #1, or is Hot Guy #2 her inescapable destiny??? (I’m joking! JOKING! The moral quandary far outweighs any romantic subplottery, I swear!)

10) “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” (an impossibly lonely character)

My kneejerk answer would be Allyn-a-Dale – not least because he totally wrote a grieving parody of this very song, once, which I may or may not someday make public. But truth be told, ‘lonely’ is not the word for Allyn. It is the word, during one time or another, for the people he’s closest to. His father, for one, lived a low-key very lonely life. His best friend, for another, felt unspeakably isolated. And then there’s [name redacted], which of the three examples given here is actually Allyn’s fault, but that’s a story for a book as yet unpublished, so nothing more to see here!

And that is that! Les Mis Character Tag: Accomplished.

les mis gif, valjean approves

If any of you decide to play along in a post of your own, feel free to share the link with me so I can check it out! And whether you think all my character match-ups were spot on or would have better gone to somebody else I wrote, you can tell me all about it in the comments.

~ ‘Til next time, mes amis ^_^

The Stranger-Than-True Book Club: Deeper into the Deathsong

Welcome back to the first-ever coming together of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – an assortment of Deshipley characters joined in discussion about, in this instance, Danielle’s upcoming high-seas fantasy “Deathsong of the Deep”. I’m your merry moderator, Lady Marion Hood, of Outlaws of Avalon fame. To read Part One of the club meeting, click here. Now, on to Part Two. Laraspur, I believe you wanted in particular to gush about the relationships?

stt book club logo

Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken, from The Wilderhark Tales): I did, and I do! I could go on about them for ages, but I’ll try to stay succinct. My first favorite pair, of course, is Molly and Crow. I love watching their estimations of each other develop over the course of time and conversation and adventure.

Uri (skater girl and Fire of God, from the “Inspired” novels): Time, conversation, and adventure – the holy trinity behind half your Wilderhark romances.

Nicky (genderless super ghost-whisperer, from “So Super Dead”): Well, any relationship that doesn’t have conversation behind it can’t hope to go far. The “Deathsong” characters seem pretty good about talking to each other, though. …Excepting maybe Blue Gracie, who’s more the type to only speak when it won’t communicate too much. Y’know how magical, mystical characters be like.

Lar: Speaking of Blue Gracie, I also very much enjoyed her relationship with Crow. Something about the way they wanted to be present together, even if neither one was in a real position to do much for the other. A sweet and a sad sort of caring.

Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure, from the “Inspired” novels): There was quite a variety of caring to be found aboard the Painted Lady. Crow’s, often cavalier and inexpert. Anafrid’s, austere but dependable…

Lar: Oh, it was nice watching Anafrid care for Blue Gracie! Unlike Crow, Anafrid didn’t even seem to get anything out of it. She was just being kind.

U: Being kind, or flirting?

N: Anafrid didn’t come off the least bit flirty to me.

U: We don’t know how they flirt in Sjorda.

Luc: There’s nothing definitive in text about whether Anafrid is attracted to women, to men, or to no one at all. Subtextually, though, one could make inferences.

Marion: Speaking of Sjorda, what think we of the countries and cultures created specially for “Deathsong”?

Luc: Well, Danielle didn’t spend a great deal of page space delving into any of them. Even so, what little time she devoted to painting pictures of Sjorda’s cold (environmentally and culturally), Chesney’s shallow beauty, and the coarse, homely character of Hornwhal’s Lower Lee did much toward hinting at a convincingly diverse world.

N: Don’t forget the seafaring culture that fascinated Molly so hard. You could peg her for a water girl long before she ever ditched the land.

Lar: Just like Jessica! – Molly and Jessica being another favorite pairing of mine, by the way.

M: I do love me a womance in fiction.

U: A what now?

M: Womance. Female equivalent of bromance. Gal pals to the next level – like, I don’t know, you and Gabriel, or… are there any Wilderhark examples, Lar?

Lar: I’d say Father and Millyanna, but one’s a man.

M: Ah, well. In any case, yes, Molly and Jessica were proper mates. Really, it’s a bit remarkable the number of relationships Molly considered equally important to the one between her and Crow. First her and Jessica, then her and little Johnny…

Deathsong cover, remix 01.3

Lar: SO precious!

U: It’s like girl protagonists have space to have friends and be mothering and obsess over sea monsters and fall for the male lead. Who knew?

N: My book’s girl protagonist didn’t have space for any of that. I guess afterlife vengeance quests take up a lot of bandwidth.

M: So I’d imagine. Any more favorite relationships, Laraspur, before we move on for good?

Lar: Murdoch and Crow gave me feelings, and, I don’t know, I’m glad Semsen has Anafrid, since she seems to be the only one who halfway sees him.

Luc: I expect that’s because Crow’s shame has stopped him looking.

M: Quick question for each of you: If you had to pick one, would you rather be a seiren, a mershade, or one of the seal folk?

U: If Dis were my goddess? Definitely a seiren. The power of flight and a voice made for vengeance. I’m practically qualified already.

Lar: I’d far rather be a mershade and rescue sailors in need. …Even though it means I’d have to die first.

N: Hey wait, does that mean I’d be like the only regular person who could talk to mershades whenever we want to, not just if I’m about to drown?

U: You’re never regular, but maybe.

N: Cool! In any case, I’d pick being a mershade, too. Superhero ghost mermaids for the win!

Luc: I’ve not been shown enough about the lifestyle of seal men to know how well it would suit me. As for the lifestyle of a death creature like a seiren, it’s all a bit too centered around destruction, for my taste. I suppose that leaves the afterlife of a mershade for me, as well.

M: I expect I would love being part of a seal folk community. And fair warning to the men of land: You try to touch my skin without permission, you get knifed.

Lar: Even in an AU where the land man is Robin Hood and his motives are nobler than his methods?

M: Depending on how well he could explain himself, I might apologize afterward for the stabbing. One more item, now, if we can squeeze it in: The plot. What elements of “Deathsong”s storyline grabbed you?

N: I’m hyped on the way Molly makes things happen. Like, her goals are always perfectly personal – nothing ‘world-saving huge’ about them – but when she wants a thing and a chance of getting it comes within reach, she jumps for it, no matter how crazy that chance looks on paper.

Luc: I appreciate the sharp turn it all takes, halfway through. The drastic change Molly undergoes. The sudden costs Crow has to face. Suddenly, it all goes deeper – again, ‘environmentally and’.

N: And just like that, it’s Kraken time for real!

U: I think it’s interesting how long it takes to figure out what’s up with the Aglatha arc. We hear this thing from one source, that thing from another, a contradiction further up the road, and then by the end it’s like… dang, that’s messed up. As is Crow, the more comes to light. It’s actually terrible, the stuff Danielle just puts her imaginary people through.

Luc: One could argue that it’s no intention of Danielle’s. Some authors… well, they are to their stories as her best minstrels are to their songs: The art isn’t fashioned, only found. And Crow’s backstory, alas, is one easily enough found outside of fiction.

Lar: I just love how everything comes together in the end. I don’t know whether one could call it a fairytale ending, but the deathsong’s closing notes hit me like a proper finale.

M: And on that closing note, thank you, you four, for making this book club discussion a fictional reality. And thank you, readers of the blog, for stowing away for the ride. 😉 Feel free to bring your own addition to the discourse in the comments, and forget ye not: “Deathsong of the Deep” is sailing your way, just one short month from now!