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?

Ever On Word_debby-hudson-DR31squbFoA-unsplash
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash.com

<<<>>>

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.

<<<>>>

Ever On Word_john-jennings-IcT8l8DDek8-unsplash
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).

stt book club logo

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

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

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

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

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

“No? Why is that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Marrying another minstrel never occurred to you?”

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

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

U: Is there even a conventional standard in place?

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

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

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

U: How’d you swing that?

Lar: Kindness coupled with relatable insecurities, I suppose.

U: Well. Color me unlikable, then.

N: Pretty sure Luc already did that. Canonically.

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

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

Uri didn’t bat an eye. “Because?”

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

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

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

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

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

M: Surprising choice! Why her?

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

U: Her dream of running away with a demon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stt book club logo

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

Windows and Sol, cover finished

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M: All right, new quote and question!

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

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

U: You’re looking at one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luc: Another two-parter, then?

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

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

stt book club logo

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

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

StT Book Club - Luc to Marion

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

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

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

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

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

M: Overt friendliness helps.

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

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

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

M: Not for a long while, no.

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

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

StT Book Club - Nicky to Lar

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

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

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

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

N: You do? Annabelle wrote that?

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

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

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

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

StT Book Club - Marion to Uri

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

M: What do you think would be so different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stt book club logo

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

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

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

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

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

U: A… game.

N: Fun! I assume. What’s the game?

M: ‘Tis a game of ‘What If?’.

Luc: Always an excellent beginning.

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

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

U: And potentially disastrous.

N: Or awesome!

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

StT Book Club - Lar to Luc

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

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

N: So you glow!

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

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

Luc: Jean’s not actually my wife…

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

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

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

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

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

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

StT Book Club - Uri to Nicky

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

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

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

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

U: I’d rather kill things with fire.

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

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

N: YOU CAN’T DO THAT!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”!