Things I Used to Hold in Contempt for No Reason and Now Don’t

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hated it as a teenager. Loved it in my late twenties. Now have very fond memories of my late twenties. And very confused memories of myself puffed up on feelings of superiority and loathing at the age of 15. Where did that even come from?
  2. Black tea with honey and milk. I don’t even remember a time when I didn’t like it. But my friend and former boss Katie assured me that when I started working at her bookstore in my early twenties, I scoffed at the idea of hot black tea with things in it. (I always drank iced tea straight.) Um. I now drink hot black tea with honey and milk or almond milk every day. WHAT WAS I THINKING?
  3. The second half of Stephen King’s IT. I realized upon a later re-read that it’s not so much the second half. I just like all the parts with the kids in it better. But those parts sort of flow through the adult parts.
  4. Cussing. Oh, how infinitely superior I felt, flinging pure purple lightning streaks of Shakespearean-level insults at my friends instead of using the more common vulgarities of the four-letter word variety. Now I just like it all. Deadwood maybe does it best.
  5. Jim Carey. I mean, dude was everywhere, and everyone was talking like him, and everything you heard was “Allrightythen” and “Do NOT go in there!” and I maybe sort of projected my weariness with imitation and repetition onto the actor. But then I read an amazing article by Steve Martin on the physical comedy genius of Jim Carey, and I realized I was being a jerk IN MY OWN HEAD.
  6. Jeans. I still only own one pair. But I think they’re COOL. I put them on when I want to feel incognito, but with a hint of adventure and do-anything-ness.

I’m sure there were more things. So much more. But it’s nice to know I’ve grown up some by age 37.

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New Month, New Resolutions

It is March 1st, and I am 420 pages into my new revisions. Out of 670. 250 left. I’d like to get through them in 20 days.

That’s 12 and a half pages a day, which doesn’t seem like much considering it’s revisions. Not, like, an entire rewrite. Right? Except for some chapters. A lot of them. And most sentences. You know.

I also have copyedits due for DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP . . . soon. Three days? Must look. Oh, and acknowledgements! Well! Today’s the day I print that MS out, just watch me. March crept on fast. I’ve been busy making lasagna, I guess.

We also have a launch party to plan. That’s next week. For Carlos Hernandez‘s SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE. The launch is on Thursday, March 7th. His book comes out on Tuesday.

Rick Riordan had the most FANTASTIC idea for the Sal and Gabi Book Birthday. He said everyone who has a copy should dress up as their ALTERNATE SELVES and take SELFIES! I’ve been thinking–who’s my alternate self (or one of them) and what would they wear and what would they even THINK of Sal and Gabi???

The whole thing’s got me thinking about my own book launch for DESDEMONA. Carlos and I had the idea of throwing a Gentry Moon Masquerade somewhere, and everyone can come dressed up as their Gentry/Goblin/or fabulous human haute-couture selves. When? We don’t know. Sometime in July, most likely. Book is out July 23rd. Where would we even hold such a thing?

!!! Hey, hey, hey–I JUST saw in the Twitterverse that Amal El-Mohtar got her advance copies of her and Max Gladstone‘s book, THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR. That’s also out in July. CANNOT FRIKKIN WAIT! Have I pre-ordered yet?

Snowing outside today. Really pretty.

Somewhere in the other room, Carlos is playing with his new rubber chickens! Now he’s brought them in here and is jumping and dancing. Hold up–pics happening!

Carlos Hernandez and his new best friends.

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On Narrating Jo Walton’s STARLINGS


The email came the week before winter holidays last year. The subject line:

New Book (Co-Narration.)

Tantor’s casting director started out by writing:

Hi Claire,

I’ve got this Sci-Fi- short stories book I thought you might be interested in . . .

As soon as I saw the author, I flipped out.


Hadn’t I just read Tooth and Claw last year on Jessica Wick’s recommendation?! Yes! AND LOVED IT!

The book was Starlings, a collection of short stories and poetry originally put out by Tachyon Publications.

The more I read the email, the more excited I grew. It included this NPR review first thing in the synopsis:

“Starlings isn’t really a short-story collection. It’s something better: a written showreel, illustrating yet again that [Walton’s] imagination stretches to the stars (or the starlings), and that she’s endlessly inventive in finding new methods to express it.”―NPR Books.

Believe you me, I lost no time in telling Tantor YES!

In fact I might have said, very solemnly, that it would be my honor, and that Jo Walton is one of the scions of our genre.

Yes, I said “scion” to the casting director. I don’t know what came over me. JO WALTON!

So, come the end of December 2018–the 26th to be exact–I commuted my usual three hours to the studio in Old Saybrook, and spent three intensely delicious days mouth-deep in Walton’s prose.

I stayed over in a local bed and breakfast. I looked forward to waking up every morning and getting right to work. It was like being handed a slice of Krampus cake! It was like discovering the Yule log was made of CHOCOLATE. So delicious.

One of my favorite things about Starlings is that it is less like your typical single-author short story collection and more like a writer’s workshop–tool box, wood shavings, concept art and all–spread out in front of you for your pleasure and perusal. Structure experiments, POV experiments, form poetry, a play, short stories that were more like extended jokes, short stories that might have been the seeds of novels, and some stories that cut so deep they are with me still.

I felt like the collection was an act of generosity on the author’s part, as if Walton were telling us: “Here are some things I made. Here’s a bit about how I made them. Hey, isn’t this poem fun? And yes, Cooney, I’m afraid you DO have to narrate a 90 minute play with GREAT DOZENS of mythic characters ALL by yourself, just as if you were Mel Blanc in a Looney Toons cartoon–have FUN!”

Okay, maybe she didn’t say that last bit. Maybe that was more what my brain said to me. Maybe a little TOO gleefully, truth be told.

Also–BONUS!–I got to co-narrate Starlings with Rudy Sanda. We’ve been two voices on the same book before–a multi-POV piece of Canadian fiction called Republic of Dirt.

Just because we narrators happen to co-narrate a book doesn’t mean we ever get to see each other; a narrator’s life is solitary. We (happily) spend our days in a little black box, talking to ourselves. (BEST JOB!)

But we DO bump into each other in the halls. Rudy always seems to be the first narrator at the studio and the last one to leave. I find it very comforting to pass by his recording booth, and hear the wild, wide array of voices he has mastery over, and his relentless pursuit of perfection. Apparently, Rudy has some of the fewest pickups of all narrators, like, ever. In the whole history of ever. I am so excited to share voices on this book with him!

Today is Starlings‘ audiobook birthday. And I am just so proud to have been part of its realization in this world. I want to thank Jo Walton and thank Tantor and thank SCIENCE FICTION ITSELF for the opportunity.

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Boskone 2019 Overview

I was at the tail-end of my illness at Boskone, and spent a lot of time napping and blowing my nose. However. By Saturday I felt so much better than I had in a fortnight, and by Sunday (today) really well!

I loved singing songs from my three Brimstone Rhine recordings with Faye Ringel and Carlos Hernandez. I perforce made Carlos a bit tardy for his Danes are Delicious playtest on the Gaming Track, having failed to inform ops initially that he’d be playing with me. I hope people forgive him his 15 minute tardiness and place all blame squarely on my head!

Anyone who came to the Brimstone Rhine concert who is interested in listening to MORE music and reading along with the lyrics can find everything I did here: BRIMSTONE RHINE ON BANDCAMP!

I adored reading with E. C. Ambrose, Ken Schneyer, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Clarence Young, and Carlos Hernandez in our Unlikely Imaginarium group reading. Here are some places you can find our work:

Zig Zag Claybourne, AKA Clarence Young, read from the sequel to his The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan.

Cerece Renee Murphy read from her book The Wolf Queen.

E. C. Ambrose read from an unpublished piece, but check out her Dark Apostle series!

Carlos read from Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, out from Disney Hyperion on March 5th. Preorder now!

And I read from my novella Desdemona and the Deep, forthcoming from Preorder now!

… Pardon my imperatives. I just get excited

I was on a panel about music in fantasy, and one on the future of audiobooks. The panelists and moderators on both pretty much blew my mind with the range and depth and force of their knowledge.

Carlos’s last panel today on Exploring Interactive Fiction 101 likewise. High point of my con! My brain was like SCUSE ME CANNOT KEEP SPLODING HOLP PLEEZ! And, honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to five smarter panelists talk about ANYTHING than Carlos Hernandez, Max Gladstone, Erin Roberts, M. C. DeMarco–Moderator–and Andrea Corbin talking about coding, games, narrative, awareness, audience, text, visual arts, and the interactive fiction market. It was ELECTRIFYING!

Perhaps most special (and close to my heart) was the workshop that Carlos and I co-taught (I sort of wrangled him into teaching with me last minute, and I am so so so so GRATEFUL for his graciousness and generosity in doing so!) this morning. I’ve taught it with Caitlyn Paxson twice (and Amal El-Mohtar once), and once by myself at different Readercons, and this summer I’ll teach a variation of it with Martin Cahill at Readercon. I call it “From Page to Stage: Reading Aloud for Writers.”

I see such a need for so many writers who did not have the benefit of any theatre training or even drama class growing up, but who find themselves having to read in public without any tools. If I–and other performance-minded writers–can convey even a few tips and tricks to make this very difficult thing a LEEETLE easier for our fellow artists, I COUNT MY HOUR WELL-SPENT. Five people came, and I think we all benefited from a small, informal, friendly workshop size. So happy. Teaching is not me at my most comfortable–but that just makes me more empathetic towards my students!

Anyway, a concert, a reading, a workshop, two panels! Any time I do more “other stuff” than “panels,” I’m a pretty happy camper. Especially if “other stuff” means reading aloud and singing. Which, in this case, it did.

Thank you, Erin Underwood, Brenda Noiseux, and all the Boskone ops people for all the hard, intricate work you do.

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Best of Uncanny: PREORDER IS LIVE!

It is my honor to appear in the BEST OF UNCANNY, along with many other fabulous fabulists. Go to Subterranean Press to preorder your copy today!

Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas have co-edited and co-published Uncanny Magazine since its launch in 2014. They brought readers stunning cover art, passionate science fiction and fantasy fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, and provocative nonfiction by writers from every conceivable background, including some of science fiction and fantasy’s most fabulous award-winning and bestselling authors. In its first four years, Uncanny Magazine won the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award three times (2016, 2017, 2018), Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas won the 2018 Best Editor—Short Form Hugo Award for their work on the magazine, and numerous stories from Uncanny Magazine have been finalists or winners of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards– including the novelette “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Liu) which won the 2016 Best Novelette Hugo Award and the novelette “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by  Alyssa Wong which won the 2017 Best Novelette Locus Award.


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When I was a teenager, forever devouring and re-devouring such books as, for example, Winter Rose, and The Riddle-Master Trilogy, I never, not even once–not even when I thought I’d grow up to be a famous author by age 30 (didn’t happen) and have a book out a year (ha!) or two in a good year (double ha!)–ever CONCEIVED of Patricia “A is for AAAAAUUGGGHHH!!!” McKillip blurbing any book of mine.

And since I never got that far, envisioning this gorgeous cover art was so utterly beyond me that teenage-me might have exploded like a confetti bazooka if she tried.

Kinda like I’m doing now.



With the ANTLER CROWN, my goblins! And the VINES! And the TINES! And the TYPEFACE!

Did not Alyssa Winans (artist) and Christine Foltzer (designer) rock this like a METEOR SHOWER???!!!


I am so excited, I am CENTER JUSTIFIED!

Er. So . . . Yeah.

Please see for more information!


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Ballads from a Distant Star: Concept Album . . . in the works

I was just chatting with Carlos Hernandez about our upcoming Brimstone Rhine/The Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours concept album/spoken word project, Ballads from a Distant Star.

I am EXTREMELY excited about collaborating with my brother Jeremy Cooney and Stefan Dollak again, and Amal says she will SING with me (have I such SOLOS for HER!!!), and it is all very exciting.

My new idea is that the five or so Distant Star Ballads will be woven in with this 4-part spoken word poem I wrote for Mike Allen’s Mythic Delirium.

When I mentioned that, to my surprise and delight, CARLOS SAID HE HAD NEVER READ IT BEFORE!!! How did that happen? But . . . YAY!

So I read it aloud to him.

Go on–you can too, if you like. Just click that link, pals!

And then he told me, “You know, I remember, back in graduate school, first hearing about science fiction poetry and thinking, ‘What is that? How does that even work?’ This,” he waves in my general direction. “This is how it works. I can feel this looping back even now, feeding that lacuna in my education.”


So that got me all keen to put together that package I’ve been meaning to do for my collaborators. Patty Templeton might be able to do the artwork–she did such a beautiful job on the lithograph for Corbeau Blanc, Corbeau Noir, and her partner Brett Massé is a graphic designer of no small talent.

But before all that happens, I need to actually, you know, do the work.

After that, the Indiegogo.

Possibly in September. Later than I’d intended, but the year’s already boding to be busier than I thought, what with Carlos’s book Sal and Gabi Break the Universe coming out March 5th from Disney Hyperion, and my novella Desdemona and the Deep coming out July 23rd from

Fingers crossed things’ll slow down in fall–and who knows, maybe by winter . . . per aspera ad astra.

Or maybe I’ll get it all together before then!


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Boskone 2019 Schedule

Dear Everyone who is going to Boskone, and SUNDRY!

I am excited about this year’s Boskone. I really had to train myself to like panels, because they make me feel VERY VERY NERVOUS, but I LOVE and ADORE giving readings and singing in public–both of which I get to do!

Not only that, but Carlos and Faye are both playing with me for the Brimstone Rhine Concert; we even rented a car to haul synthesizer and CAJON! Can we do Lysistrata chant-style, with a drum box? WE’LL SEE, WON’T WE?

I am particularly bouncy re: that first reading there, because look at that LINE-UP! Zig-Zag, Hernandez, Queen Cerece, E. C. Frikkin Ambrose, and my darling Ken–whose Hobbit party I once attended, colorful vest and all.

The workshop I’m teaching I’ve gotten to teach with both Caitlyn Paxson and Amal El-Mohtar before at Readercon–twice, I think? And maybe once on my own. It’s always been very fun and useful, I’ve felt, and I hope it will prove so to a few budding writers who are nervous speaking in public. It will meld really nicely with my audiobook panel.

. . . You know, I find being on panels about audiobooks so much EASIER than ones about writing, because my actor brain loves EVERYTHING and my writer brain is just SCARED. Why is that, Hivemind?!!!

So, here’s my schedule below. See you at the con.


Brimstone Rhine at the Arts Cafe Mystic, 2015

The Unlikely Imaginarium: A Reading

Format: Reading
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, Griffin (Westin)

Authors E. C. Ambrose, C. S. E. Cooney, Zig Zag Claybourne, Carlos Hernandez, Cerece Rennie Murphy, and Kenneth Schneyer gather around the dark bonfire of their collective imagination to tell stories of women, wolves, woods, bones, enraged ninjas, AI toilets, the end of the world, and basically, the whole entire multiverse. Or maybe something completely different. Attend our wild and rambunctious reading to find out for yourselves!


Me, reading at World Fantasy 2018. By Kathleen Jennings. Live!

Music in Science Fiction

Format: Panel
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 12:00 – 12:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

What part does music play in science fiction? We hear it in films, videos, and even games. What about fiction — how does music enhance the reading experience? Is there a special connection between music and SF that other genres lack, and that goes above and beyond mere sound effects? Let’s talk music and its special interplay with the SF genre.


Newest Brimstone Rhine album, released 2018. Find us on Bandcamp!

Concert: Brimstone Rhine (C.S.E. Cooney)

Format: Concert
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 16:00 – 16:25, Lewis (Westin)


Yup. That’s me and cutiepants Carlos Hernandez, giving a concert at the Thunderbird Arts Center. Phoenix, AZ 2017.

Reading Your Fiction Aloud: From Page to Stage

Format: Workshop
17 Feb 2019, Sunday 10:00 – 10:50, Lewis (Westin)

Award-winning author and performer C.S.E. Cooney leads a workshop for writers with little to no public performance training in reading their own work aloud. To people! In public! You’ll learn tips and tricks to captivate your audiences. (Aimed at writers who have had little or no public performance training.)


I first taught this workshop at Readercon with writers/performers Caitlyn Paxson and Amal El-Mohtar. Together (with a few others) we were known as “The Banjo Apocalypse Troubadours.”

The Future of Audiobooks

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2019, Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

Audiobooks are a hot-and-getting-hotter way of enjoying stories. Join our panelists to discuss audiobook ups and downs, tips for listening, how to choose the ones that are right for you — and what the future holds for the new (and very old) experience of reading by ear.


Serious Audiobook Narrator Face. Truth is, this is probably as still as my face ever gets in the recording booth. Otherwise, it’s cartoonclownface ALL THE TIME.

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Interview with a Little Red Vampire Reviewer

Dear Readers,

I am excited to present to you my very first EVER interview on my BLOG! I would like to do LOTS MORE! I have IDEAS! But what a great start!

Today I have Andrea Johnson, an avid reader and reviewer of Science Fiction and Fantasy. She keeps a blog at The Little Red Reviewer, and we all wait SLAVERINGLY to hear what she says about our stories.

(Now, you may be THINKING we’re using our Royal Plural HERE, but you can’t be sure, can you? WE MIGHT BE SPEAKING FOR THE HIVEMIND!)

Now Andrea has collected the best of eight years of reviews into a book for our shelfish pleasure (not SHELLFISH, autocorrect!), and she’s running a Kickstarter in the month of January to fund it!

She’s fascinating and lovely and she has books in her TBR pile that haven’t even been INVENTED yet! But I’m getting ahead of myself! Read this interview, and get to know her a bit for yourself.

And then, if you have a few bucks to spare, send them her way at her The Best of the Little Red Reviewer Kickstarter!

little red reviewer

C. S. E. COONEY: Have you always written about the books you’ve read? Do you read differently when you are reading to review a book than when you are reading for pleasure? Are they one and the same? How are the experiences alike or different?

ANDREA JOHNSON: I’ve always enjoyed talking about the books I’m reading. Why am I reading it, am I enjoying it, that sort of thing. Writing about books I’m reading didn’t start until the internet and “blogging” was becoming a thing. Would you believe some of my first pseudo-reviews were on MySpace?


AJ: Through a bulletin board, I’d gotten connected with someone who was started a review journal on MySpace, he mailed me a few novellas, I read them and posted my thoughts. It was way fun! I posted reviews on a few now defunct bulletin boards and e-zines, and many years later, Little Red Reviewer is a happy eight year old book blog.

I do read differently when I’m reading for review, I’m much more focused when I know I’m going to review the book. I like using a blank piece of paper as a bookmark, so I can take notes as I’m reading, even if it’s just a page number where something funny or interesting happened. If I have any guesses about what’s going to happen at the end of the book, I write that down too.

CSEC: (Gosh, that piece of paper thing’s a good idea. I have historically scribbled in the book itself. A big no-no for collectors, but . . . )

AJ: I recently pulled a book off my bookshelf to reread it, and found my old notes still tucked inside! (The whole writing notes on a bookmark thing doesn’t work so well with e-books, I’ve found)

If I’m reading a book with no plans for reviewing it, I might skim portions of it, I don’t mind if I fall asleep while reading and lose my place. If I’m not going to review it, I just enjoy the ride and treat the book like a perfect lazy summer afternoon. If I have no plans to review the book . . . I may not even finish it. When I want something breezy and satisfying with no pressure to review, I’ll pick up an anthology and read just one or two stories. It’s very relaxing!

CSEC: Why do you think reviewing, critiquing, just talking about books is so important—now, and throughout history? What are some reviews you are the proudest of? What would be your ideal reviewing job—if one exists?

AJ: It will always be important to talk about books. It can be any kind of discussion–chatting at bookclub, reviewing, or critiquing. Readers take it for granted because we are used it–books we read change our worldview, they inspire us, they help us understand the world, and different people will experience the same book in a completely different way.   We talk about politics non-stop, right? Why should talking about books be any different?

I’m part of a local sci-fi book club, and my favorite part of our discussions is that everyone gets something different out of the books that we read and discuss. Think about ice cream.

CSEC: Mmmnnn. Ice cream.

AJ: If it’s chocolate ice cream, just about everyone who tastes it will say, “Yep, tastes like chocolate!” With books, one person says it tastes like chocolate, two people say it tastes like cherry, another person says it tastes like mango. They all read the same book, but came away from it with completely different feelings and experiences. Talking about our different experiences reading the same book, it’s a window into how we all experience life in a different way. And I just love that!

My Kickstarter, The Best of Little Red Reviewer, will feature the reviews I’m most proud of. The reviews I’m most proud of seem to be when I didn’t just read a book, I experienced it.  These are books that shocked me, floored me, scared me, bewildered me, amused me. Instead of just reading them, I somehow got the IMAX experience. My review ended up being a reflection of my experience of reading the book. I’ve found that the more I enjoy a book, the less I talk about the plot in the book review. Because when the book is that good, the plot is the often the least interesting part.

CSEC: I love that.

AJ: The writing of those reviews can be an enjoyable intense experience unto itself, and the writing of the review often helps me remember the book even more vividly.

My dream reviewing job? I used to think being a professional reviewer was a dream job. Other than getting some free books, I do not make a penny on writing book reviews. No one pays me for my time or effort, my blog is not monetized, this is not a business, I don’t do this for money. If I did do it for money, I worry it would stop being fun and would just feel like a job. And jobs are a drag! You do them because you need to pay your bills, not because they are fun. I think right now, I have my dream reviewing job. It’s a hobby, I review fun books that I choose, and I don’t have to worry about meeting any style guidelines or deadlines.

CSEC: What are some books either in your To Be Read pile, or that you wish WERE in your To Be Read pile, that you are very much looking forward to—and why?

AJ: My To Be Read pile is completely unorganized with no rhyme or reason with books randomly floating in and out of it on a whim, so I’m going to make this a list of books I wish were in my TBR pile. Books that don’t exist yet, and some that will never exist.

I’d love to read a ton of Culture short stores by Iain M Banks. A sort of “State of the Art” type volume, but all the stories take place in the Culture.

Once upon a time, Catherynne Valente talked about self publishing the third book in her Prester John series (publisher went under after book 2, much disaster all around), or maybe Kickstarting it. She got sidetracked with her Fairyland series and other more marketable and profitable novels, so who knows when or if the Prester John book will happen. In the meantime, I’ll just read the first book over and over and over again.

I hope Steven Brust and Skyler White write a million more Incrementalists books, because I want to read all of them. Every time another side character gets the spotlight, I realize how little I know about that person and their past and that I want to know way more than could ever fit in one book.


Now, dear Readers. Go Ye Forth and Help Kickstart THE BEST OF THE LITTLE RED REVIEWER!

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Some S. Pevensie song I’m working on

I found this in my notes, and I think it’s worth working on. But I may have to re-read the books.

Verse 1

Lucy, I would give my arm to comb your hair again

Peter, what I’d pay to play our checker game

Edmund, I’d move mountains just to hear you strum guitar

And I’d never let you near another train


I’ll be just like Nellie Bly

Or Ehrhart in the sky

Lion-hearted, valiant, and bold

And I won’t forget our wars

Neither one, forever more

But I think I’ll always fear the cold

V2 something

V3 something even better

Bridge (sometime later)

And Lucy, my Lucy, my Lucy

my Lucy my Lucy!

Every door that I open

Every song I sing true

Every portrait I hang

Is a gateway to you

My sister, my phantom, my empress,

My dream

my emptiness, temperance, trickster, my queen

I long for you!


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