Ghost(ing)

we live in an invisible court, unseen spirits to each other
speak through mirrors, through the lightning calls
of small blue birds
we attend invisible masquerades
(we are wonderful! wonderful!)
gussied up, disguised as our best selfie snapshots
gilt over emptiness

the rushing of our busy wings
our marches, waltzes, blitzes, our patrols
we nod at each other:
good morning! good evening!
at dawn, at noon, at moonlit midnight
each at once, all at once, choreographing
these most amiable
courtesies
nodding warmly, wary
in our separate shy-zones, mind-rift
either an awful politeness, or–
the urgent desire to connect

my back has no skin, flayed open
my back is a channel I keep open
you have turned your face from mine; you say it is gentle
it is not gentle
how have I hurt you? what did I do or not do, say
or not say–and to whom?
what secret crime did I commit–perhaps in ignorance,
perhaps malice–to earn
this grand and glacial silence?
the bird of communication is frozen
blue, the color of compact ice; blue–ice most pure
uncomplicated, airless ice

well,
we sit in judgement of each other
armored in distance, mountains of glass between us
dusty leadlights, slippery and splintering
there are ways to mute these voices, cut cords
I should’ve known were severed stumps already

but I leave my back open
while I front face, face front, front
forward and
gleaming

it is not so bad, or even unfamiliar
to be a ghost

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As You Mean To Go On

What I did today:

  1. Ate vegetables and rice at breakfast. VERY GOOD. More vegetables and fruits this year, eh? Less meat. More chickpeas. The NYT said so, but we’ve been leaning that way a while now.
  2. Read several chapters aloud between us (Hernandez and I) of Jasper Fforde’s EARLY RISER. IT KEEPS ON BEING GREAT. What impresses me is the deep, viral nature of his alternate-reality world building. His novum is a strong, beautifully ridiculous sci-fi idea, and everything in that world springs from it–technology, geography, pop culture references, physiology.

    And yet, it is still recognizably our world. He does all this and constantly makes us laugh out loud too.
  3. Did some writing. The Twice-Drowned Saint, which is in the 20,000 range now. Think (hope?) it’ll cap at 35,000.

    Really, not so much new stuff generated today as a thorough combing through last session’s writing. I know it all needs to be done, but . . . Hard-going today.

    I think I can move on to the next scene now. It’s not that I think what I’m writing is boring. It’s just . . . I want to get that scene right. I love those characters, and I want them to chillax and drink “benison wine” (read: angelic beer) together and have a tongue wag, but also move the plot along. And keep the voice consistent.

    Anyway. We’re springing into kind of an intense scene from here. Maybe I’m just afraid to write it? Regardless, I’m writing it. Tomorrow. Or at least starting it.
  4. Went to the GYM!!!

    Have to say, biking indoors is less boring when you’re watching Killing Eve. Did 30 minutes of Hills, went about 6 miles. Need to switch bikes–I don’t like the recumbent; it made my feet feel numb–and up my difficulty level. I was at level 5 of 20 and never really got my heartbeat where it needed to be.

    NEVERTHELESS, WE WENT TO THE GYM!

    We Put Our Membership To Use–and have been, for most of December, at least once or twice a week. So, TRIUMPH.
  5. Baked bread. Sourdough, this recipe, a mix of wheat and white. Mir’s birthday dinner is tomorrow. We’re having Coq au Vino Bianco–this wonderful recipe, from my favorite, falling-apart NEW BASICS COOKBOOK–and wanted some beautiful bread.

    It’s really nice to have this sourdough starter from my buddy Pat. We have named the starter “Patrick the Third” in his honor (he named his own “Junior,” so you see?). Hernandez calls it “Paddy O’Thirdy.” We’ve already “friendship-breaded” some of the discard away, and our friends have named their starter “P4.” So the tradition HATH BEGUN.
  6. Broke down a LOT OF BOXES from the holidays. Bagged up trash. Bagged up plastic bags to recycle at the store, which is the nearest place that will recycle plastic bags. That was our one big chore, in an otherwise easy-peasy day. After being so scheduled for so long, a few days of no big plans are really, really, really welcome.
  7. Made a grocery list for tomorrow!!! I LOVE GROCESSEYS!
  8. Did dishes, sang along to the soundtrack of The Secret Garden musical as I did so.
  9. And speaking of singing . . .

    Did Exercises 1-7 in SINGING FOR THE STARS, by Seth Riggs. I set up my office so that my music stand is in here, and I realized that the little DVD-TV we recently bought has a CD player function. Hernandez bought me the Singing for the Stars program (CD and book) off my wishlist, so today is the first day of re-training my voice.

    I’d love to build a strong “mixed” voice over this year, and sustain it. New habits, new bridges of sound. I’ve always wanted to have one, but my chest and head voice have always had this wild disconnect. Like the difference between a lioness belting on Broadway and a boy soprano. This was the book/CD program Terry Donohoo had in our house back in Illinois, and much of Riggs’s “speech level training” talk sounds right to me. I think the exercises will strengthen my singing, teach me better habits, and also keep me flexible for narration, so I’m excited about it. Rather wonder why it hasn’t been digitized yet, for this modern age.
  10. And now, I am blogging. The only other thing I wanted to do today, in oracular activation of the coming year, was write a few letters. And perhaps that is what I shall do after signing off. I did stay up late–through midnight and into the wee hours–reading a romance novel for pleasure. It was Delicious, by Sherry Thomas.

    Sherry Thomas is a writer whom I’ve never met, but whose career and trajectory I admire like no other. And I admire a LOT of writers. It’s kind of my job. Anyway, I got on a Sherry Thomas kick over the holidays, and I’ve been binging all her old stuff. Really, it’s to hold me over till her next Lady Sherlock book came out. The last one was a heist book. The structure was IMPECCABLE. How can she TOP IT? But one thing I know about Sherry Thomas is that she will. And in no way I will expect.

Enough of my love-letters in open form blogging now. I have pretty new paper purchased by my beloved as one of my birthday presents, and I mean to write on it.

I owe many letters, and I long to write them all. And poetry too. And, oh, everything. Everything. It’s not just the new year. It’s an urgency I often feel. I like this, writing at night.

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My Poem: "For Mrs Q" Live at Fireside!

I wrote this poem years ago, and it’s published in the last issue of Fireside that my dear Julia Rios edited.

This was also the last issue I narrated, and so you have MOI reading it to VOUS, should you desire such things.

I wrote it for my good and darling friend Stephanie Shaw specifically, and for my dark-eyed women generally.

Please click through to enjoy For Mrs. Q. It’s best read aloud. Perhaps with a glass of red wine, or an interesting beet juice mocktail with Worcestershire in it.

…I was going to work and saw a cardinal, bold in the last browns of winter — a cardinal, I thought, how red, how right, I will write and tell her that I thought of her, that I saw something dashing in the deadness and it reminded me of her, how her mouth leaves a lasting impression, like Nabokov, like a bright scar on the brain, how I always think of her in a red coat, with a red mouth, wearing turquoise Italian heels, carrying a yellow ukulele…

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Doctors Without Borders and Heifer International

I missed blogging about Desdemona’s Tithe for November, and I’m two days late in December, but here were our tithes:

Doctors Without Borders
Full Moon Tithe: November 12th
https://donate.doctorswithoutborders.org/onetime.cfm

Heifer International
Full Moon Tithe: December 12th
https://www.heifer.org/what-you-can-do/give/index.html

Click through to read more about Desdemona’s Tithe.

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For Amal, on her 35th Birthday

it started with honey

when suddenly–
everything was honey! dripped
golden, licked sweet
everywhere were
tongues, everywhere
bees buzzing, perpetual
summertime
hovering
your lips pollen-
kissed, your dimple gold-
dusted, and even your clothes
honeycombed, stitched
with stingers

but that was then, in the
beginning

next came the owls

owls: with faces of
flowers, owls:
speaking in the tongues of suns and
moons, owls:
in their strega forms, hurtling
with the silent impact of
grief

all we spoke of were owls
spoke in whispers
whispered your name

there were diamond oceans, too
as you plumbed the depths of Neptune
gems of dream then, gems of
memory
philosophers and cinnamon
sticks, tricks with
time, tricky women
wizard nations
whirling in thunderheads of birds

now (even now), the red shift and the
blue
belong to you
cardinal and titmouse, poppy and iris
fire opal, Eagle nebula
all reorder themselves
according to your fountain’s
stroke

this is how you bend the light,
my beauty,
this is how you stride the sky

every year, a new virus of
loveliness
every year, ascension
rocket propulsion
startled arms outflung in hurtling spirals
encompassing
more and more of what you love
you, who only grow in tenderness
your dark eyes
ever steady in their ready beam
like they were back your cradle years
before I knew you


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Housekeeping Post: Awards Eligibility for Desdemona and the Deep

Helllooooo there! I keep seeing these things pop up, and so: voila! AWARDS POST!

The only thing of mine that has come out this year (I think) is Desdemona and the Deep.

With regards to the Nebula word count requirements, I believe it would be considered a leeetle novel.

I think if it were to be considered for any other award–Locus, Hugo, or World Fantasy–it would be considered a novella (as it was written to be one), though I did a slip or two of the fingers in the editing stage and WHOOPS went my word count.

If thou’rt of a mind to do’t, go ye forth and READ my Des, and then–should she please thee, Phossy Gals et al–go on and give her a GREAT GOBLIN GOB OF VOTAGE RIGHT WHERE THE GOBBIN GETS GOOD!

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My Completely Idiosyncratic Reaction Upon Finishing Gideon the Ninth

i.e., I’m a big weirdo, and I keep getting weirder. Thankfully, Carlos Hernandez was there to bear witness, and so all is not lost but preserved for the archives.

Yours Truly,

C. S. E. Cooney

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Gaskell’s North and South

I am having TOO MUCH FUN reading Mrs. Gaskell’s NORTH AND SOUTH. I must go on reading despite a (medically contained) headache. I do keep jumping up to tell Carlos things I am noticing or reading bits aloud to him.

I first discovered Elizabeth Gaskell in my mid-late 20s, in my Chicago aerie, having been given (by my doughty Mima) a VHS copy of WIVES AND DAUGHTERS, which I finally watched one day whilst dying of the flu and supping myself silly on Mrs. Shaw’s Italian sausage soup—which is full of garlic.

Later, in Rhode Island, in my early 30’s, my mama Sita and I came across the Cranford DVDs at our beloved Westerly library.

Upon learning that both of these class-spanning, intellectually curious, women-complex series were based on books by the same person—a woman!—Charlotte Brontë’s friend AND BIOGRAPHER!—I sought out the books and read them.

I know, I know. I came to this knowledge late. I am ashamed of what I never learned in school. Surely this novel must’ve come as second nature to EVERYONE ELSE I KNOW.

Reading these books, I comprehended what the TV adaptions had hinted at: that Gaskell was what I’d been wanting for years without knowing it. Someone I loved more than Austen or the Brontës! Someone who was taking a complex look at societies in her time—all levels of society—how they mingled, how technology and industry were changing everything, the sleepy habits of centuries. Her characters embody the shifting landscapes; the landscapes are characters too.

I’ve always meant to make a thorough study of Gaskell, so if any of you know any good biographies…?

Recently, I watched the NORTH AND SOUTH series, which I’d been meaning to for a long time. I knew suddenly that the hour was upon me, for it involved a factory—I surmised from the previews—and a factory plays such a large part in my current wip, I WILL MAKE A RUIN OF MYSELF. I wanted some architectural visuals, with moving parts, so I sat down to it.

It was wonderful, wonderful—or so I thought! But about halfway through the series, I read a comedic article about all the ways in which the series failed the book—which really spurred me to get the book. (Yes, from the Savoy Bookshop!)

I still loved the series though, and will revisit it.

And, really, the book is extraordinary. What a place to start from in the character of Margaret Hale: this sleepy, shallow, luminous creature—likable but SHAKEABLE!—whom pain and travel and curiosity and good sense must awaken. Childlike, and constrained to feelings of guilt and shame to find that not only is she growing up, but she’s more grown up than her parents! What an iron core she has, and doesn’t even know it yet. How I want to throttle her.

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Nerdy Nerdy Hot Sauce Post!

HOT SAUCE UPDATE: please put your own suggestions in the comments!

PHOTO 1: Carlos and I loved ALL these depicted, need to order more. ETA: ORDERED MORE.

Queen Majesty: (ALL their Hot Sauces ROCK!) Jalapeño Tequila & Lime Hot Sauce; Scotch Bonnet & Ginger Hot Sauce; Red Habanero & Black Coffee Hot Sauce
Pirate’s Lantern (I am on BOTTLE #4 of Pirate’s Lantern, hot mustardy, not sweet, amazing with lox)
Small Axe Peppers: The Bronx Greenmarket

PHOTOS 2-5: Our current “stable” of hot sauces: will order several again. Particularly the Apple Cilantro by Pepplish Provisions and the Charcoal Ghost (another Queen Majesty Hot Sauce: the best ghost pepper of all of the ones we’ve tasted.

Funken Hot” by Karma Sauce is Great! We really like Howler Monkey too! And we TOTES ADORE “Alex’s Ugly Sauce

PHOTO 6: BLECH! DID NOT LIKE, COULD NOT FINISH. Burnt or sour or weird-tasting. But the bottles are funny, so we are keeping them to make something later!

Tee hee. “Rectum Ripper.” Tee hee.

PHOTO 7: Next up to try! The HEATONIST’s latest Trio Pack!

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Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market: A Dramatic Reading

When my book Desdemona and the Deep came out in July from Tor.com, Carlos and I conceived of the idea of doing an “Influences” video. Namely, a dramatic reading of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market.”

I got in contact with Omar Rayyan, the renowned artist, whose art I’ve loved for years (it’s all over our walls), and who recently illustrated a gorgeous edition of Goblin Market: also found here (Indiebound) and here (Amazon).

With the artist’s permission, I’ve used his illustrations in my narration.

It took a LOT LONGER to edit (being a total n00b in these matters) than I’d anticipated–even with Carlos’s help. Carlos has so much on his plate–the darling–but he found time to help me even with his second novel for Disney Hyperion due. HE COMPOSED THE SCORE FOR ME TOO!

I want to thank Kiri (AKA photographer Marie O’Mahony), who first read Christina Rossetti to me, possibly on the floor of my mother’s bathroom, when we were kids; somehow we often ended up in there, reading Shakespeare or long-form poetry. I think because both doors locked and we could escape my brothers?

I also want to thank writers, poets, friends, and goddesses Amal El-MohtarJessica Wick, and Caitlyn Paxson for running Goblin Fruit Magazine for so many years; I mention the magazine in the intro and outro both, for love.

Much love,

C. S. E. Cooney

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