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!

To Bring the Storm (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

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

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

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

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “His first entrance in ‘To Walk the Storm’ came with this description:

The Stormbringer appeared. Taller than the most overgrown Great Lander. Stronger than the sturdiest of spine trees. Smooth skin brighter than copper, long hair blacker than core-fire rock, eyes that flashed like his blazing veins of lightning.

“Although, of course,” Allyn continues, “my first introduction to him, in ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’, went more like this:

“Euroval,” said the last of the male winds, the utterance of his name punctuated by an assault of lightning and thunder before he stepped up to present his hand. “Wind of the East.” And at the end of it all, Allyn’s fingers felt warm and dry again, though his whole arm was left tingling and his ears ringing for minutes afterward.

Allyn had never been so politely terrorized in his life.

“Wait…” Will Scarlet’s face has paled from ruddy-golden-fair to seen-a-ghost white. “The Stormbringer is Euroval?!”

“One and the same,” the wind rasps melodically, gusting down into the chair across from Will’s own. His smile glints wickedly. “Nice to see you again, Scarlet.”

“Um, ha! Yes! Totally!” Will falters, his answering smile too wide by half. “Welcome, Euroval! So glad you could join me. First things first – why did no one warn, ah, notify me you’d be coming today?”

Euroval crosses his legs, hair wafting around complacently. “You scheduled an interview with the Stormbringer of the Far Eastern Isles. That is the name my people address me by.”

Will startles. “You have a people?”

“Of course I do. I am the Wind of the East. Thus, the people of the east – the Islanders – belong to me.”

“Why under Welken would the Sun give you a whole region of people to kill with impunity??”

“Kill?” Euroval flashes in disdain. “With an entire world of worthless humans to kill, why would I attack those who belong to me? Who worship me? Who actually care that I exist,” he hisses, “when no one else on earth or in Sky really does?”

Walk the Storm 02

The high-key anxiety radiating from Will takes a sudden dive into something like sympathy. “What makes you think no one else cares?”

Euroval stares Will down from beneath half-lowered lids. “Do you know what my name means?”

“What, Stormbringer?”

“No, fool. Euroval. ‘Realm of nothingness.’ So did the Sun call the Far East’s desert isles, and so did he name me. He thinks me the least of his winds, and my territory the least of his lands. On that last count, the self-important humans of the Great Land agree with him. They live in careless ignorance of my people’s ways, thinking themselves superior simply because they and their land are the larger. You, Allyn,” the wind addresses his great-nephew. “Do you think the traveling Islanders that were your father’s family wouldn’t have sought to move higher in western society, were they allowed? Do you think the famed Gant-o’-the-Lute would have had quite as effortless a minstrel career if he had happened to take after his mother’s dark, foreign looks?”

Euroval returns his full-force glare to Will Scarlet, the crackling air’s movement around him not quite a tornado. “To the world at large, the Islanders and I are all Euroval. Thus do I consider it us against the larger world.”

“Damn,” says Will. “So much for fairy tales. I can’t believe Wilderhark’s racist.”

“Everyone’s racist,” says Euroval, bored. “Every group has a ‘them’ they can blow off as ‘less than us’. For me, as a Welken, that lesser ‘them’ is you humans – excepting the ones from my islands.”

“Huh. So, are the other winds like that about the people in their territories? Aquinore with those in the Farthest North, Austeryn with those in the Farthest South, Vesparya…?”

Euroval laughs a crack of thunder. “Of course not. Aquinore has love for no one and shows no mercy. To be Austeryn’s human favorite would likely mean he extends your life to torture you the longer.”

“(Sounds like an author,)” Will mutters to Allyn.

“And Vesparya…” Euroval flicks a hand. “She’s not worth talking about.”

“(Lesser ‘them,’)” Allyn mutters to Will.

Will inquires of the East Wind, “Do you think having a prominent role in this new short story of Danielle’s will bring you something closer to the recognition you deserve?”

Euroval shrugs. “It’s better than nothing. But the count so far is seven Wilderhark Tales and a short story collection focusing on a silly lot of Great Landers, and the two short stories of ‘Beyond Her Infinity’ that still have a silly lot of Great Landers in them, despite the subtitle ‘Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea’. To date, Danielle knows more words in the language of the Sky than she does in my Islanders’ tongue – several versus zero. So I’m pleased at my story’s publication, but far from impressed at any effort toward… what’s the word humans like fuss about? Equality.”

“Harsh,” says Will. “But not unfair. My final question, however, has ever been asked of all, regardless of race or culture. Tell me, Euroval, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Will’s smile regains its nervous edge. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“Oh, do let’s kiss, Scarlet,” the wind purrs, rising from his chair, dragging his host to him with invisible, inescapable force. “For old times’ sake.”

Will accidentally looses a whimper, but rules are rules, and so their lips meet amidst a wild swirl of stage detritus and a dazzling lightning show. The building’s electricity burns out. Will’s hair is a corona of static. Allyn thinks it best to hurry ahead to the word from their sponsor before the whole of the talk show set comes apart.

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” Allyn pitches his voice over the weather, “is brought to you by ‘To Walk the Storm’ from ‘Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now (e-book only) for just 99 cents!

Beyond Her Infinity

Once upon a time, you knew tales of Wilderhark’s Great Land.

But what of the Isles to the Far East?

In “Beyond Her Infinity”, Wilderhark Tales author Danielle E. Shipley spins two short stories with leading roles from the fairytale world’s minority culture.

“The Queen’s Lady” – Three gallant royal guardsmen learn just how far one Islander will go for the sake of her friend: Into a strange land. Into a cruel exile. Even into the hands of a darkly dangerous power.

“To Walk the Storm” – With his country falling to ruin, a king sends his heirs in search of foreign aid. But the favor of the Isles’ supernatural patron is not so easily won.

Tales of loyalty. Tales of passion. Most of all, tales of true love.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says numbly, dropped half-breathless back into his chair as the air falls still with the wind’s departure. “Thanks to you, too, Euroval! And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

To Agree to Disagree? That is the Question

Once upon a scroll on Twitter, I came across the following question:

“What’s one thing you and your main character would vehemently disagree on?”

Now, obviously, I’ve got several dozen main characters to choose from. And contemplating overt self-insert characters like Annabelle Iole Gray from the “Inspired” novels and Moon’s Melody from “The Queen’s Lady” (part of “Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea” – newly released!) won’t get me very far, given our major overlap in nature. But surely, I thought, I could pick out a few Deshipley MCs with ideas quite contrary to mine.

And so I have. Let the conflict of opinions begin! (Featuring many an Avengers-related illustration, because ‘tis called for.)

<<<>>>

Edgwyn Wyle (MC in “The Stone Kingdom”, “The Seventh Spell”) = Edgwyn and I have actually had a longstanding disagreement demonstrating a fundamental and perhaps irreconcilable difference in worldview. His opinion: It is perfectly okay to slurp one’s soup.

Maybe it’s just as well I never got the chance to marry him.

Avengers Gif_I Don't Like It

Gant-o’-the-Lute (MC in “The Song Caster”, “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”, “The Story’s End”) = As a virtuoso wandering bard and admittedly something of a superman, Lute believes himself to be the ideal toward which we lesser beings ought in futility to strive – including the author with supposed power of the pen over him. This attitude has caused any number of bitter clashes between us.

Avengers meme_Civil War

Shots were fired. Tears were shed. It’s all in the past now, but only because I guess we’ve mutually decided it’s not a debate worth reopening. Ever.

Mach Jenius (MC in “Out of My Head”) = Quoth our boy Mach:

“I am a brainstorm. And the number one rule of brainstorming? There is no such thing as a bad idea.”

Replied his rival muse:

“That rule,” Luc said through clenched teeth, “is a lie.”

And I’ve gotta side with Luc on this one. This reality I’ve written words in the hundred-thousands to escape is run (quite badly) on bad ideas. Sometimes I’ve dreamt up and thrown out as many as six impossibly bad ideas before breakfast. I understand where Mach is coming from: We often need to shuffle through a few bad ideas before the good ones make an appearance; that’s just the creative process. But to claim that all ideas are equally meritorious in their own way… No, darling Jenius, no.

Avengers Gif_No, Try Again

Abishan (main supporting cast member in “Inspired”, “Out of My Head”) = Not surprisingly, the jungle cat god thinks cats are the best animal. And I mean, I’m practically a cat myself, but dogs, foxes, and krakens are where it’s at, dude.

Avengers Gif_Black Panther Side-eye
Abishan @ me

Liliavaine (MC in “The Surrogate Sea”) = To watch this princess carry on, one would get the impression that it’s better to recklessly go after what you want than to be well-behaved and responsible and maybe not get people killed. Honestly, it’s not even so much that I disagree with that. I’m just too much of a socially anxious, people-pleasing good girl to run away in the night and become the Sea. Bigger disappointment me, really.

Avengers Gif_Black Widow Shrug

Raeve (MC in “A Morrow More”) = This short story heroine (first published in the “One More Day” anthology, re-pubbed in the 2nd edition of “Inspired” when both the 1st edition and the antho went out of print) seems to hold fast the belief that life is inherently worth living, by virtue of it being life. And I’m over here frequently wondering whether death mightn’t actually be the more attractive option. But to each their own.

Arthur Pendragon (MC in “The Once and Future Camelot” … coming sometime this year, if all goes to plan!) = This reanimated king of legend seems to hold fast the belief that people are valuable and worthy of love, by virtue of being people. Oh, sweet Arthur. Too good for this world – too pure. I can only wish to share your heart.

Avengers Gif_I Can't

Johnny Crow (MC in “Deathsong of the Deep”) = This exchange had me shaking my head even as I wrote it:

Molly’s eyes tightened at the corners. “You meant the sort of ridding in which a life is ended before it’s half begun?”

Crow shrugged the shoulder which wasn’t bearing a portion of his weight. “It’s an option.”

“It’s a violation.”

“Violation? Of what?”

“Of a person’s right to life.”

“Right?” Crow’s head tipped to a quizzical angle. “Living isn’t a right. It’s a privilege. If we live, it’s because we’ve been minimally fortunate, not because we /deserve/ to. If living were about deserving, nobody would live long.”

Yeah-yeah-yeah, I know I’ve just been saying that both life and people are bad ideas. And that last line of Crow’s… grr, he’s not wrong. I’m just… very much opposed to the idea that it’s only okay to kill humans who haven’t yet been born to become the humans who’ve actually done things arguably worthy of a death penalty (as opposed to having literally done nothing but exist somewhere they weren’t wanted). That is targeting the entirely wrong demographic, to my view. But this post isn’t about me trying to untangle all my feelings re: life and death, so let’s find another note on which to end.

Avengers Gif_Hulk Punch

Will Scarlet (MC in the “Outlaws of Avalon” series) = Red is the best color, full stop. Enough of anything is never enough. If something scares you, flirt with it. Why plan ahead when you can fly through life by the seat of your hose?

Avengers Gif_Tony Eye-roll

No and no and no.

Also, no.

<<<>>>

How about you, fellow writers? Any big players in your body of work with whom you’ll never see eye to eye? And for you readers, an opposite question: Which characters have you encountered whose notions made you go, “YES. My thoughts EXACTLY”? Discuss in the comments!

A Melody o’ the Moon (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

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

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

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

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Her introductory paragraph in ‘The Queen’s Lady’ describes her thus:

Quite commonly dark, with eyes like shadows and smiles like a wicked secret. Her hair moved about her head like a rain-laden cloud, vast and black, and some thought it a match for her disposition, which was prone to be as erratic and louring as a flash-and-thunder storm. Still, her heart, for all its grimmer points, was true. In the tongue of her people, her name meant Moon’s Melody.

“Welcome, Moon’s Melody!” Will greets the girl now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – would you say you or Annabelle Gray bear the more flagrant resemblance to Danielle?”

Melody glowers. “Who is Danielle?”

“Who—” Will startles. “You don’t know our author?? Sorry, I just assumed— That is, most everyone else of hers who stops by her blog has been in some sort of communication with her, so… wait, how did you even get on this show, then??”

“I was invited,” Melody snaps – defensiveness in her tone, anxiety in her fingers’ tight grip on her chair’s armrests. “The Azurite Grenadier said someone wished to speak with me about my ongoing ordeal, so I let him lead me hence. Am I unwanted here, as well?”

Queen's Lady 02

“No, no,” Will hastens to assure her. “You’re right where you’re supposed to be.”

Wrong. I’m supposed to be far, far from here – on my island, with my Joy.”

“Your joy?”

“Morning Joy,” says Melody, voice softened by warmth and woe. “My dearest friend in all the world – which I can all the better say now that I’ve seen a bit more of it than just the Isles. Such a very big world,” she sighs. “And so much wrong with it.”

“So I’ve many a time heard Robin Hood lament. Now, word is you’ve been banished from Berulduir’s royal city. Berulduir…” Will cranes around to look at Allyn. “Why does that name sound familiar?”

“Flashback,” Allyn calls out. The stage lights dim, a screen pulls down, and up plays a projection of a scene snipped from “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”:

“Here, Will, I’ll do it,” Allyn volunteered. “My name is Benedeck, and—”

“That’s not a name,” Will said tightly.

“Certainly it is. My parents had a double-wedding with a king named Benedeck. Anyway, I’m Benedeck, my wife’s name is Berta, we live in Berulduir—”

“You live /where/??”

“Berulduir. The kingdom on the northern shore of the Peasecod Sea.”

“Never heard of the place.”

“And I’ve never heard of Aberdeen!” said an exasperated Allyn. “Are you going to let me play, or aren’t you?”

“Ha, yes,” Will chuckles as the stage returns to normal. “Official Outsider road trip game. Classic.” Addressing Melody, he asks, “Do you and your three grenadier friends play any games like that while on the road of exile?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Garnet Grenadier wished to,” Melody says dubiously. “He’s a bit of an over-energetic sort; always trying to brighten up the mood. Carries himself rather like you, actually. Looks and sounds a lot like you, too.” She glances past Will toward Allyn. “And the Azurite Grenadier looks and sounds something like you.”

“No surprise there,” says Will, grinning. “Your tale’s autobiographical for our author, Melody. You’re basically her, Garnet and Azurite are repping for me and Allyn, and… hmm, the readers still haven’t properly met the man behind the Iolite Grenadier, for all his importance to Danielle’s head.”

Melody frowns. “So this Danielle suffered what I do? And you two were royal guards?”

“Nothing to do with royalty, no,” says Will. “Not in my case, anyway. We were just the friends there to help prop up her courage when–”

“Some despicable foreign king turned her out?” Melody finishes darkly.

“Pfft. Not a king,” Allyn sniffs. “Just some nobody man who happened to be in a position of power.”

“And what of her Joy?” Melody demands, eyes brimming with tears. “What of mine?”

“Her Joy’s doing just fine,” Will promises gently. “She made it out of her own bad spot all right. As for you and yours, it’s  a fairy tale, love. Happy ever after isn’t guaranteed, but is highly probable. Now onto the ending question anyone could predict: Tell me, Melody, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He beams brightly. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Melody wrinkles her nose. “I don’t kiss men.”

“Women?”

“No.”

“Drat. That doesn’t leave much room for kissing at all.”

“True,” says Melody. “Also true: If, as you say, the whole of my story is essentially a retelling of Danielle’s own experience, it’s bound to contain her secrets. Secret pain, secret fear, secret ways of surviving her nightmare so her friend won’t be without her.”

“Excellent point, well made,” Will concedes. “Say, Allyn, what’s the word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by ‘The Queen’s Lady’ from ‘Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now (e-book only) for just 99 cents!Beyond Her Infinity

Once upon a time, you knew tales of Wilderhark’s Great Land.

But what of the Isles to the Far East?

In “Beyond Her Infinity”, Wilderhark Tales author Danielle E. Shipley spins two short stories with leading roles from the fairytale world’s minority culture.

“The Queen’s Lady” – Three gallant royal guardsmen learn just how far one Islander will go for the sake of her friend: Into a strange land. Into a cruel exile. Even into the hands of a darkly dangerous power.

“To Walk the Storm” – With his country falling to ruin, a king sends his heirs in search of foreign aid. But the favor of the Isles’ supernatural patron is not so easily won.

Tales of loyalty. Tales of passion. Most of all, tales of true love.

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

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.

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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!