Life Hands You Blog Tags? Get Scarlet Aid!

What up, beautiful people! Will Scarlet, here. And— you know how sometimes Danielle will be like, “Hey, there’s this fun-looking blog tag going around, and didn’t nobody officially tag me, but I’m strapped for blogging inspiration, so what-to-the-ever, I’mma play along regardless”? Well, plot twist alert, because this time, called upon by name she was to join in The Imaginary Assistant Tag!

The standard rule rundown:

1 = Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their blog (assistants won’t work for ungrateful bosses). Thanks and smooches to The Story Sponge for invoking D’s participation! She may or may not have jumped in anyway, but it feels pretty dandy to receive a virtually engraved invitation.

2 = Link back to the creator of the tag.The ones to thank here are Mariposa Aristeo and her own imaginary assistant, Aberdeen the Authorosaurus, over at Dino’s Digest. So grammercy, you two!

3 = Tag 5-10 bloggers who need assistants (and if they don’t need them, tag them anyway). As usual, we’re blanket tagging. So if you’re a blanket who wants to play—! Lol, I kid. If you’re anyone who wants to play – bedcovering or otherwise – then blog away.

Now comes the main course of the tag – the part that’s all, “Please answer the following questions so the author assistant agency can find the right assistant for you.” Buuut… I’m not gonna let Danielle do that. Because, my author, I love you, but if left to your own devices, you’d probably overthink this thing, when the obvious answer is standing right in front of you and looking very handsome in the process.

So please, allow me to demonstrate what an absolutely PERFECT imaginary assistant I would be!

What type of creature/species would you like your assistant to be (human, animal, dragon, dinosaur, figment of your imagination, etc.) and why?

I am, as it happens, 100% human, if somewhat Fey-affected. (A few decades on the Isle of Avalon will do that to a person … particularly if they brought you back to life there, immediately following your first of several deaths.) But to be at my most effective for you, I shouldn’t stay in your imagination. Free reign to run amok on your plane of reality, that’s what I need! …Wipe that look off your face; I wouldn’t get into that much trouble. Not instantly, anyway.

What do you want your assistant to look like?

Exactly what I do look like, thank you very much! If it ain’t broke, and all that. Medium tall and god-like physique, gleaming red-gold hair and dazzling blue eyes, a smile made for breaking and repairing hearts, and lots and lots of expensive clothes. We should actually probably hit up the mall, first thing upon my arrival. All very “If Will Scarlet Took Me Out”, ya dig?

What qualities are you looking for in an assistant (responsible, lovable, exasperating, etc.)?

Easy: I can do what you can’t. I’m an extravert unafraid of barging in on others’ conversations and laying on the charm. You could focus on just creating stuff, and I’d take care of the rest!

What job(s) would your assistant be in charge of?

Social media presence, promotion, interaction… also meal preparation, so you have no excuse to accidentally starve. Plus I’ll happily take the lead on all your research-related needs. Look-it-up Guy, at your service! Learning’s ten times more fun when you’re doing it through me.

What would you like your assistant to be named?

You’re fine calling me Will, right? And/or Scarlet? It’s what we’ve done for almost a decade, now, so.

What would you feed your assistant (candy, books, pickles, etc)?

You will not feed me anything. I will feed myself everything. That said, I will occasionally drag you out of the house to enjoy ice cream or boba tea with me, and you will like it.

How would you pay your assistant and what benefits would you offer as compensation for their work?

Oh, babe, do not even worry, I would make you so much money, you’d suspect me of thievery. (And, I mean, fair enough.) I’ll take just a big enough slice of the pie to, well, ensure I can keep buying pie. As for benefits, seeing you happy and successful is all my heart desires! Plus vacations to cool places. You’d have to take me along on those.

What special abilities would you like your assistant to have (i.e. ice powers to freeze writer’s block, super strength to break writer’s block, or super stupidity to stare at you while you’re having writer’s block)?

Special abilities? Girl, I’ll have you know I’m endowed with the super-est superpower of all: The power of FRIENDSHIP! Banishing loneliness with a single bound! Stimulating your wit and whimsy with my ‘Yes, And’ way of life! You can bounce your ideas off me like a trampoline, funniest feedback guaranteed! And if/when I catch you pushing yourself too hard, be assured I will force you to take a break before you pull a Hamilton.

Where would you like your assistant to be from (Jurassic Park, Narnia, your head)?

Oh, you know, here and there. Medieval England. A magical Midwestern U.S. Renaissance Faire. Your head, so arguably Fresno. Home is where you set your sword down, I always say, starting now.

Will you solemnly swear you will not fire your assistant in either sickness or in health, for richer for poorer, smarter or stupider, writing or not writing, for as long as you both shall live?

Darling, you could never fire me, because you’ll never have hired me. I don’t work for you; I just work, and it’s for you. Total difference. And even if you someday decide you’re done with being an author – for a while or forever – you’ll still be my author. My Dani-babe. Good luck ever shaking me off.

Scarlet and Me, Together Forever

So, any other authors/artists out there think they could use my matchless Scarlet brand of assistance? While I don’t expect I’d be available to every single one of you full-time, I’m never farther away than a quick message sent to Danielle via blog, website, Twitter, or whatever. Hit me up whenever you need to. Or, if you’ve got different ideas re: the imaginary assistant that would be right for you, tell all about it in the comments!

Until next time, beautiful people! Scarlet out.

Of Music and Dragons and Other Such Magic

Hello. Allyn-a-Dale, here, because Danielle’s too tired to feel like talking but still wanted a blog post written, and we all know to whom this task in such cases fall.

That’s right: To her characters.

In fairness, though, I’m much of the reason behind this post in the first place. You see, she somewhat recently came across another blogger’s post centered around The Imagine Dragons Book Tag (to be explained shortly), and I happen to feel something of a soul connection to multiple Imagine Dragons songs, these days (to be explained or elsewise made evident following the eventual publication of #CamelotWIP). And so it is with less shady side-eye than usual that I take on today’s wordsmithery.

So, The Imagine Dragons Book Tag. The rules are fairly straightforward:

Link back to the tag’s creator (R’s Loft)

Thank the person who tagged you (We encountered the tag on the blog of The Story Sponge, and quoth she, “If you are reading this and you think it looks like fun, consider yourself tagged!” So tagged we are. Our thanks, Sponge!)

Answer the questions (a more-or-less simple matter of matching books to the titles and themes of songs by music group Imagine Dragons)

Tag as many or few people as you like!

As is tradition, all books or short stories used in this post will hail from the ever-expanding works of author Danielle E. Shipley. And because I am bound as a bard to bring music to the masses, be assured that I shall link to all the referenced songs for your listening pleasure. With that, onward we go!

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Gold A Book Where the Main Character Has a Curse (or gift that seems like one)

For stories built upon literal curses, what first comes to mind is the first of the Wilderhark Tales, “The Swan Prince”. The eponymous main character, Sigmund, is bespelled to spend his days as a human boy and his nights as a great gray swan – and by no means is he the only key player in the plot with a life complicated by a witch’s curse, for such is the everyday risk you run in the world around Wilderhark Forest.

Book Banner, Swan Prince

Windows and Sol, cover finished

Less literally, there’s Solwen, also known Balladry Sol, from Danielle’s latest Wilderhark world release, “Windows and Sol”, whose extraordinary affinity for music comes with the curse-like burden of social deviation – for girls, ‘tis said, are not meant to be minstrels. (I doubt that would have stopped Father deciding to raise me as one, had I been born a girl. But then, what use has Father ever had for people telling him things can’t be done?)

FrictionA Book You Resisted Reading Writing

Speaking of Father (which I do not do absolutely all the time, I’ll thank Will Scarlet to remember before he complains to the contrary), there was a certain resistance to the writing of Gant-o’-the-Lute’s origin story, “The Sky-Child”. Not that Danielle wasn’t interested in writing it; she was just more interested in writing other things first. (Mostly things centered around her character obsession of the time, Edgwyn Wyle.) Father was, shall we say, not pleased with the dawdling delay. (Never let it be supposed that the Luc vs. Annabelle standoff  in “Inspired” came from nowhere.)

Book Banner, Sky-Child 2

Cover w Text 06.3, front

And on the subject of “Inspired”, I might mention Annabelle’s notable reluctance to complete her novel’s “Phantom of the Opera”-esque short story, “The Manta and the Mask”. Though I myself cannot but be drawn to the story’s chilling artistry, to dance such darkness upon her laptop’s keys was the most emotionally challenging task Annabelle had yet faced as a writer. One might perhaps not have blamed her for abandoning the project; but bless her courage, she could not abandon its tragic hero.

Monster – A Book with a Negative Character Arc

Manifest Reality cover

Perhaps this calls for a reference to one of Danielle’s less-often-spoken-of published stories, “Sundown” from the “Manifest Reality” horror anthology. Though protagonist Claudia’s hellish descent down the road of vengeance isn’t one to be emulated, Danielle certainly found it satisfying to write. (As satisfying as it would have been to pull a Claudia on the world and its irritations? Possibly not. But life is compromise.)

Camelot Cover, final w blur, text, tagline 01

And you’ll not have read it yet, for it has not yet been released (stay tuned), but the arc of a certain character in “The Once and Future Camelot” may or may not take a turn for the negative, when all’s said and sung. One never knows, with wizards.

Demons – A Book Where the Character Has a Secret

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery

Well, there’s a broad question, for you. Characters with secrets make the fictional world go ‘round. See again: “The Swan Prince”, built upon the secrets of Sigmund and Sula. Or “The Once and Future Camelot”, where a certain knight has been sitting on a bomb of deceit that’s not far from detonation. Or, a chilling favorite, the bloody secret of Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, in “So Super Dead”. That one gave Danielle nightmares, when first she wrote it. ^_^

Hear Me A Book You Love That People Don’t Seem to Know About

Based on the sluggish activity on its GoFundMe page, not nearly enough people seem to know of picture-book-in-progress “The Princess and the Moon”. And that is a true pity, for it’s a darling story with endearing illustrations by artist Hannah Vale. If you loved reading of Laraspur and Lumónd in the “The Sun’s Rival”, or if you simply have a soft spot for sweet children’s stories brought to gorgeous life in watercolor, then this is a project to get behind.

Promo Sketch, w text 02

America A Book Set in Your State/Country

Again, “Inspired” would fit the bill. Most of it takes place in the area of St. Louis, Missouri – or in Annabelle’s head, which physically amounts to the same thing. Then there are my Outlaws of Avalon stories, largely taking place in and around the Faerie isle of Avalon – which, many would be surprised to learn, has been hiding out for some while in the American Midwest. And forget not “So Super Dead”, which, when not set on the moon, sees most of the action in Las Vegas, at the Hoover Dam, and in assorted nameless little towns in Wyoming.

Outlaws of Avalon covers, all 5

Whatever It Takes A Book Where the Main Character Won’t Give Up, Despite the Odds

Perhaps the most impossible odds were those in “The Seventh Spell”. You think magic gone wrong is trouble enough? Stir a tangle of time travel into the mix. Honestly, were it not for Father having been his usual miracle self in the midst of the mayhem, I don’t expect a happy ending would have had a prayer.

Book Banner, Seventh Spell 2

But for a more everyday sort of bravery, there’s none better than Balladry Sol. She is very much as the blurb describes her: ‘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.’

Song of the Soul Shepherdess, Verse 1
Hear a snippet of Balladry’s minstrel manifesto in this video

Walking the Wire A Book with a Hard-Won Romance

I could answer that. Or I could highlight a theme every bit as meaningful, yet severely underrated: Hard-Won Friendships. …Or, mayhap more accurately, Hard-Won Queerplatonic Relationships. (Feel free to look it up. One basic definition can be found here.)

Beyond Her Infinity

In “The Queen’s Lady” (from “Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea”), we had Moon Melody, determined to act as Morning Joy’s champion at any cost. I defy any fairytale prince to do better by his princess.

And “Reality As We Know It” (from “Our Hungering Hearts”), gave us Row, a lad too good for any world that housed him, and caregiving companion to the deeply troubled Heartsinger. If anyone can out-friend Moon Melody (not that it’s a competition, of course, but if it were…), it’s young Rowan Charles.

Thunder A Book That Rattled You

We’ve no idea, yet, if or when Danielle will get around to publishing it, but writing that one mega-manuscript’s Santa Claus murder scene strongly affected her.

Boomerang A Book You Keep Coming Back To

Well, it’s not every book that inspires her to revisit it as a picture book, so we’ll name “The Sun’s Rival” again.

Bad Liar A Book with an Unreliable Narrator

Our Hungering Hearts, front cover

If we interpret that to mean narrators who purposely withhold information, the two that come to my mind are the librarian from “Date Due” (“Our Hungering Hearts”) and Morganne le Fey from “The Once and Future Camelot”. Each one thinks themselves so much the wiser than the rest of us, why trouble our heads with vital details too early in the game?

If, however, ‘unreliable’ is used to mean ‘narrators who aren’t trying to lie, they just don’t know the truth’, that’s more reminiscent of Rowena from “A Mind Prone to Wander” (“Our Hungering Hearts”). That poor soul could hardly tell the sky from the Clouded Sea, and she knew it.

Digital A Book with Lots of Tech/Computers/Video Games

I don’t know about ‘lots’, but “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” – (which, I’ve been told to remind you, is available for free here, through the end of the month) – introduced me to a minivan and a radio, all of it in a technological league well ahead of the fairytale world I’d lately left.

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And with that, we’ll call this round of The Imagine Dragons Book Tag complete. If you wish to play in your own webspace, consider yourself tagged, and feel free to share the link in the comments below, that Danielle might discover where your imagination (and/or dragons) took you.

Now for a minstrel bow – *hat sweeps low* – and a merry farewell.

~ Allyn-a-Dale

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 ^_^

Time for Tag! (Or So We’ll Pretend)

Once upon many moons ago, The Story Sponge tagged me in a thing – and I’ve finally got the time to play along!

Saruman Time Tweet

I’m carving out the time, okay?

Writers's Book Tag

So: The Writer’s Book Tag. In which writer-life turns of phrase are used to relate to reader-life questions. Lez go!

First Draft: a book or series you have never read before

Ohhhh, plenty. Most notoriously, I have neither read the Harry Potter nor the Game of Thrones books – the one phenomenon because I missed it when it was new, and now it’s too culturally pervasive for me to feel like I have to; the other behemoth because it really sounds a lot more ~adult~ fantasy than I tend to prefer.

Second Draft: a book or series you didn’t like as much the second time you read it

Bonemender Trilogy

The Bonemender Trilogy. Although, I did still really like it the second time around. But when I picked up the first book again last year, I realized it wasn’t actually written as well as I’d remembered it from my teens. (Lord only knows what I’d think if I reread “Twilight” now…)

Final Draft: a book or series you have liked for a really long time

Montmorency Series

Montmorency! My favorite thief living a double life in Victorian England! (I have a lot of favorite thieves, y’all. Gotta be specific.) I totally owe my knowledge of a question’s answer on “Who Wants to Be a Millionnaire?” to this historical fic. And I love how it’s considered YA, even though most of the main characters are adults. Like, see? It’s not the age of the protag, but the voice of the narrative that counts! I call that empowering.

Killing off your Characters: a book or series that made you cry

DANG IT, MISTBORN. Can’t even remember if I shed real tears, but I was BAWLING ON THE INSIDE, several times over the course of the trilogy.

Plot Holes: a book or series that disappointed you

Maximum Ride movie poster

Maximum Ride. I adored Books 1 and 2, but 3 didn’t do it for me, and 4 just turned me away from even bothering with the rest of the series. SO SAD. I did recently find the disappointing movie on Netflix, though, so… that happened, too.

Writer’s Block: a book or series you never finished

Skullduggery Pleasant box set

Soooo many. Haven’t finished the Skullduggery Pleasant series, but not because I don’t want to! It’s just taking forever to find all the later books – and, y’know, the time to read them. Also the Sword of Truth series, because too much horrific gore, not enough focus on the sexy-cinnamon-roll-who-will-cut-you protagonist, Richard Rahl.

Feedback: a book or series you would recommend to anyone and everyone

“I Am Nottingham” by Tirzah Duncan. It’s not anywhere close to finished yet, but even in its WIP state, it is THE BEST Robin Hood retelling I’ve ever known. Like, don’t even make me choose between it and my own Outlaws of Avalon; I will split apart inside.

Aaaand I am probably supposed to tag other bloggers now, but I’m out of time as it is, so if there’s anyone reading this who wants to play? Consider yourself personally invited. And if play along you do, feel free to link up to your posts in comments below; I’m sure to eventually have the time to read them.

P.S. – bonus photos of Yosemite! Shared at the request of The Pixie Chronicles. (See what magic you wield when you leave comments? ;D)

Yosemite_IMG_20180112_100550955_HDR - CopyYosemite_IMG_20180112_104001298_HDR - Copy