2011-2021: A Reflection on the Last Ten Years

On December 12, 2011–my 30th birthday–my mother and I rolled over the Rhode Island state line in her burnt-orange Honda Element, our Uhaul trailer trundling behind us. Years later, after I met Carlos, that Honda Element became a vehicle of marvelous escape in one of his dreams, and he thereafter referred to it as “the car of my dreams.”

With the help of our friends the Kendzias, we soon found an apartment in Westerly, near Wilcox Park (which we always called “the Victorian Strolling Park,” because it was). Julia Rios came down from Boston to help us unpack. It was raining and freezing, and I had more than 50 boxes of books that we carried up to our garret apartment. Years later, when new roommates Jessica P. Wick and Betsie Withey moved in, we referred to that apartment as “the Belfry.”

Neither my mom or I had jobs. In 2011, we were still deep in a recession. People kept asking us why we moved to Rhode Island of all places. But to two women from Phoenix and Chicago, Rhode Island might as well be Avalon. It was as mythical and beautiful and strange as any story. I had visited once when I was 9 or 10 and I’d been wanted to return for 20 years. It was a whim, perhaps, but it was a whim I’d worked for the last three years to make happen. That my mom was making it happen with me (it was the first time we’d get to live in the same state, in the same town, in the same house for over ten years, and it was about time!!!) made it even more adventurous.

We were very poor. We had to apply to SNAP benefits. We got groceries from two of the local food banks. We went to the library a lot. When we did get jobs, they were part time and for minimum wage. My mom worked at Home Depot. I worked at Mystic Aquarium, in Admissions. Later, she joined me there in the Membership Department. We cooked a lot of food together with the groceries we had. We joined the community garden. We went on walks in the local nature preserves–Rhode Island is rich in those!–and on beaches. We made day trips to exciting new places. We made friends. Some of our first friends in the area were Ken Schneyer and Janice Ookomian in Rhode Island, and Faye Ringel in Connecticut.

Sometimes, when I could scrape a few dollars together, I went down to Perks and Corks for a chai tea and to watch whatever band was playing. Sometimes it seemed that Westerly was made of musicians. So I started making up music. I think I wanted friends, but I didn’t quite know how to make them. I was fairly solitary for about a year and a half–with the exception of my mother and a few friends I saw once every few months–and then people started saying enough was enough. I had to get out more.

Now, I’d been fairly social in Chicago. So much so that I was socializing more than creating, which felt unbalanced. By the time I left Chicago, I was really ready for some alone-Claire writing time. And I had it! I’d been writing.

Between 2012 and 2015, when my mom moved back to Phoenix to take care of her house there, and my two new roommates moved in, I’d published (some small press, some pro-rates–which really helped with groceries and bills, let me tell you!): “Canary of Candletown,” “Witch, Beast, Saint,” “How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One,” “Ten Cigars,” “Martyr’s Gem,” “Godmother Lizard,” and “Life on the Sun.”

I’d self-published The Breaker Queen, The Two Paupers, and The Witch in the Almond Tree.

In 2015 and 2016, Bone Swans and Jack o’ the Hills came out, as well as my poetry collection How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes.

I’d written a lot of poetry in that time too, much of it published in Goblin Fruit and Mythic Delirium. Some of the songs I was writing with Caitlyn Paxson for our “Distant Star Ballads” album project (ha! Still in the works) had done enough world-building for me that I was able to write a poem featuring some of the same characters “Voyage to a Distant Star.” I’d written two EPs worth of music in 2014, for which I crowdfunded via Indiegogo in 2015, resulting in Alecto! Alecto! and The Headless Bride, both which I had pressed into CDs and made digitally available on Bandcamp under my (LOL) rockstar (more like folkn00b) pseudonym “Brimstone Rhine.”

A few years later, we finished Corbeau Blanc, Corbeau Noir: the backers’ album, songs written for those who helped fund the first two EPs at a high level.

In 2012, Caitlyn Paxson brought me to Canada. I’d adapted my story “Braiding the Ghosts” into a two-woman show for the Ottawa Storytellers, and performed it with Ruthanne Edward at the National Arts Centre. After, I flew to Prince Edward Island to meet my two best friends since high school, Mir and Kiri. Kiri paid for the house. All I had to do was get there. My stipend from the NAC performance paid for my ticket. Meeting in PEI in our thirties was a pact we’d made as teenagers. An extraordinary time. And also a strange, bittersweet one. We were not who we used to be. I’d love to try it again, now that I’m older and know to expect that, even to celebrate it.

I met Carlos Hernandez in 2014 at Readercon, befriended him in a very casual Facebook-y way, and then in a deeper way in early 2015. We collaborated on an epistolary short story “The Book of May,” which ended up in Clockwork Phoenix 5, and decided we wanted to keep writing each other letters, but as ourselves this time. He lived in New York. I lived in Rhode Island. We had a romance of letters. And visits. And Skype. And phone calls. And trains. And long commutes. That was from 2015-2017, when we were married in October.

I was in theatre, too–which, to get back to an earlier point–is when I actually made local friends in my area. I had a great deal of training in the theatre, but very little opportunity until that point to put it to use. I’d always been working 2-3 jobs in Chicago, and my most recent job ended too late in the evening, and was a 90 minute commute from home, for me to ever make rehearsals. I could be involved in 24-hour theatre festivals, but that was about it. Most of my performing outlet was at writing conventions, where I got to perform my own work–prose, poetry, and music–for an audience. I craved theatre. But at that point, I wasn’t even sure if I could do it anymore.

Enter Flock Theatre. Faye Ringel was acting as dramaturge for Anne Flammang in Flock’s production of As You Like It. She had a few people already in mind already for her leads. The director worked with the company before and had a fairly good idea of its stable. I was an unknown quantity, but she thought I’d be good for the shepherdess. I went to the audition and the callback. I rocked it. What’s more, I knew I’d rocked it—with a certainty. (All I ever wanted to do was Shakespeare and Sondheim. This was like finally being able to breathe. Like being let off a 10-year leash.) I went home from that callback exhilarated but also resentful that I’d end up a shepherdess. But life surprised me.

Reader, I ended up with the leading role of Rosalind. Ellen Kushner sent me several articles about drag kings, so I could really think about my inner boy. I knew I could do the role. But it was a role I’d only seen more, well, thin bodies pull off. I had this image in my head of “trouser roles” like Rosalind belonging to a certain type, and I was not it. But those articles were really helpful, and it made me start thinking wider… about those who identify as men and boys in my life, and how they came in all sizes and types. And I figured my inner Ganymede was kind of cranky, kind of sarcastic, liked chewing gum, wore spectacles and a Kangol cap (at least, in rehearsal), and, when roused, had a great deal of ebullient, trickster energy. I loved him.

With Flock, I went on to appear as Mrs. Daldry in In the Next Room, or, The Vibrator Play. I was a witch and a murderer in Macbeth, the evil queen in Cymbeline, and both a courtesan and an old woman in Dangerous Liaisons. Later, after moving to New York, I did a brief stint as the maid in A Long Day’s Journey Into Night–in the Monte Cristo Cottage, Eugene O’Neill’s childhood summer home, where O’Neill had actually set the play!

I made many friends in Flock, but in particular Eric, Dorian, and Kelsey. We still group-text sometimes, and see each other whenever I’m back in the area. I miss having friends and theatre so close. It’s funny to have moved to New York City, but to feel further from the theatre than even when I lived in Chicago. It just seems less… accessible to me here.

Now that I was on the East Coast, it was easier to attend the Boston cons. I was also invited to be a part of two writing groups. One lasted just a few sessions. It consisted of Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Kat Howard, Lev Grossman, Theodora Goss, and Cat Valente. But most of us didn’t live in the same state, some of us had demanding jobs or children, and it fell apart quickly. But one of those early meetings was the inspiration for my novella “The Bone Swans of Amandale,” so I’ll always be grateful for that. At the time, I felt so low on that particular literary ladder as to be invisible. I knew I was workshopping with giants. It made me dizzy.

The next writing group–which also met in Ellen and Delia’s living room–is still more or less ongoing. We call ourselves RAMP, for reasons I will not get into, but trust me, nothing you imagine is the reason why. It’s Ellen, Delia, Carlos, Joel Derfner, and Liz Duffy Adams. They’re very precious to me. I still feel I’m workshopping with giants, but it also feels like family.

From 2012-2015, I’d done some narration work for Podcastle, Uncanny Magazine, and Tales to Terrify. Between that and my recent stage work with Flock, my resumé was brolic enough and my audition professional enough to land me a contracting gig with Tantor Media, where I became an audiobook narrator. I always wanted to be an actor for living. All my life I’d been told I could never make a living acting. So I’d bent my will and energy to writing books instead. But in 2015, finally, I was making a living wage–ACTING! And acting in the service of books. Which was where my particular expertise lay.

2015 was an enormous year of change for me. My mother returned to Phoenix. I got new roommates. I had a new job in my field–and it demanded resources from me and a sort of personal upkeep I’d never paid attention to. (8 hours of sleep had never been so absolutely necessary before.) I was in a romantic relationship for the first time since I was a teenager–and a long-distance one, no less. I was recording albums, to the best of my ability. I had what I can only describe as panic attacks, except they kept happening for good things, which was confusing. Things were changing fast, and I was hard-pressed to keep up. Some things fell by the wayside, and some people too. That was hard on all of us.

Between 2015-2017, I was recording maybe 2-3 audiobooks a month. I was commuting to New York to visit Carlos. I was getting my novel Saint Death’s Daughter (it was called Miscellaneous Stones: Necromancer back then) submission ready for agents, and submitting it, and then getting feedback, and revising it (again and again) and submitting it. In the fall of 2017, just before I got married, Markus Hoffmann of Regal Hoffmann and Associates became my agent. He called my manuscript a diamond, the kind of thing someone like him always hopes for. He gave me concise but intense feedback. I started drafting again.

In 2017, Carlos got his Disney Hyperion contract to write for Rick Riordan Presents. Rick Riordan had read Carlos’s collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria from Rosarium Press and passed it on to his editor, Stephanie Lurie. found Carlos on Twitter and asked him out to lunch. They bonded over a legendary Cobb salad.

It’s funny: Carlos and I sometimes reflect on the odd parallels of our careers. My collection Bone Swans and his collection Quantum Santeria came out within 6 months of each other. I won the World Fantasy Award for Bone Swans, and Carlos got a Disney contract, and our careers sort of went molten at the same time, though in different ways. Until then, we were both revising the fourth drafts of our respective novels, and dreaming of one day having a book contract.

In 2017 and early 2018, I was working on Desdemona and the Deep as well as revising Saint Death’s Daughter. In 2018 Ellen Datlow accepted Desdemona for publication from Tor.com. It came out in 2019. At the end of 2019, I wrote The Twice-Drowned Saint for Mike Allen and a little novella project with a few other authors we’d been talking about, A Sinister Quartet. Of course, what was meant to be a 40,000 word novella turned into a 65,000 word short novel, but that couldn’t be helped. That came out in the summer of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, when Carlos and I were sojourning in Phoenix: a blessed but accidental exile that started out as a week-long visit and ended up being three months. Also in that time, we got an offer for Saint Death’s Daughter.

At the end of 2019 and in the early months of 2020, Carlos and I were commissioned to collaborate on a screenplay for an indie filmmaker. It was a format in which neither of us had written. It was interesting work, and I’m deeply sorry it fell through. I learned a lot, struggled a lot, and still feel slightly sunburnt about it all. I don’t regret the experience, but I am not eager to try again soon. At least, not in a writer-for-hire capacity.

I knew Saint Death’s Daughter wouldn’t be coming out till 2022, and I didn’t want a whole year to go by with nothing to show for it. I’d always wanted to re-write those first two self-published novellas The Breaker Queen and The Two Paupers (which were set in the same world as Desdemona and the Deep), and to add a few other stories as well to make a collection called Dark Breakers. Either I would self-publish it or propose it to a small press. I did mean to get it all done sooner, for a 2021 publication date, but… You know. The best-laid plans and all.

So in the first half of 2021, I finished all that up. Rewrote those novellas, adding about 15,000 words each. Wrote a new novella “Salissay’s Laundries,” a novelette “Longergreen,” and a short story “Susurra to the Moon” and handed it off to Mike Allen at Mythic Delirium for Dark Breakers. I am so grateful for Mike and Anita Allen, for taking so many risks on me.

In 2021, I was also finishing the final sets of edits for Saint Death’s Daughter, collaborating on a few promised short stories with Carlos, and working with him on our storytelling RPG Negocios Infernales.

From July 2020 to October 2021, we had my best friend living with us, taking refuge and taking stock during the first year of the pandemic. Imagine us: a one-bedroom apartment in Queens, two professors teaching from home, and me in an office made of bookshelves in my bedroom, trying to write. Certainly my audiobook narration work had dried up in 2020, but this year, I got to do nine of them–and I could even walk to the studio. A nice change from my 3.5 hour commute from New York to Tantor’s studios. Though I’d do it again in a heartbeat, if it were safe.

On December 12, 2021, I turned 40. Those were my thirties. Those, and so much more. So much even I can’t remember. Friends made. Families bonding. Roads traveled. Countries visited. Mentors lost. Friends lost. Family lost. Careers careening. So many opportunities. So many pitfalls. Such love. Such love. Such love.

I could never have imagined my thirties in my twenties. All I knew was what I had been promised, that “your thirties will be your throne. You don’t know spit till you’re thirty,” as my friend Stephanie Shaw said.

I look to the next ten years. I hope I survive them. I hope I thrive–that we all thrive. I know I’m in for heartbreak. But I know I’m in for exquisite heart-flowering too: that vital rose aflame, that crown-knot of fire.

Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

T. S. Eliot

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Solstice Eve

Solstice eve:
Terry’s just finishing up her Tolstoy book
her corner of the Twitterverse sighs like a sleeping bear
and lays its hashtags to a well-earned winter’s rest

Solstice eve:
semester’s end, and my boy lolls in our gorilla nest
jacked into Twitch, all its blessed, relentless content
a comfort fugue, fuel for his frying-pan brain

Solstice eve:
I’ve counted up the minds I’ve mainlined into mine this year
all the romances, mysteries, fantasies, space operas, all that time
and all these worlds that others built which I have dwelt in

Solstice eve:
I think of the floorboards I will never clean, what I’ve let go
what failures I must set my shoulder against, the scale on the bathroom tile,
the chart on the wall, the list I am always rewriting, never finishing

Solstice eve:
Omicron is among us, and my mother’s coming soon
my best friend will arrive to rest here after her booster
I will make chicken soup with dumplings; I will feed her

Solstice eve:
it’s colder, darker, and I’m full of rosy slumber
barefoot, and my hair turned winter-umber
reading of rare December tornadoes–but where is the snow?

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Books I’ve read/listened to/narrated this year

I’ve seen people’s book lists going around, so I thought I’d make one! As the subject line intimates, these are books I’ve read and/or listened to as audiobooks this year (sometimes both! Multiple times!). I’ve bought a lot of books, yes, and I’ve gotten a lot from the library.

I’m so THANKFUL for the New York Public Library and the Queens Public Library! I’m thankful for The Savoy Bookshop in Westerly, and for my local Queens Bookshop, Kew and Willow.

Two of the books I read and listened to multiple times are: Love Hacked and Beard Science, both by Penny Reid. Two of the books I loved so much it took me months to read them are: The Once and Future Witches, and The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie.

Sometimes I need to process books in different ways, either by repetition or the slow immersion. Both seem to work. I have little control over either response. Sometimes I feel like my brain is betraying me. Either: WHY ARE WE LISTENING TO THIS THE FIFTH TIME IN A ROW, BRAIN? or WHY ARE YOU READING THIS RELATIVELY SLIM BOOK SO SLOWLY, BRAIN? but really, my brain seems to know what it’s doing without me, so. I should just let it do its thang.

A few of the books I’ve labeled below as “in progress” fall under the “so good it’s still taking me a while” category. Often non-fiction takes me 6 times as long to read. And really complex, gorgeous fiction.

I feel like I’ve been very indulgent this year in my reading. I’ve not watched a lot of TV, but I’ve read a lot of books that are VERY MUCH like TV. But also, I have written a lot this year, and I think I needed to read vast amounts to charge and re-charge that battery.

I’ve probably missed a few important books. I definitely bought more books than I read, but I did my best. And I have a whole TBR shelf that I’m still looking forward to!

Books that came out in 2021 that I’ve blurbed, with blurbs:

Katherine Addison
Witness for the Dead

Is there anything greater than discovering a genius in our midst? Granted, I’m last to the Katherine Addison party, but this band is so swinging, I’m just glad to be here. I adored The Goblin Emperor, and Witness for the Dead—also set amongst the elves, airmen, goblins, and ghouls of that world—packs another lightning-fisted  literary wallop. High fantasy, murder investigation, ghosts, gods, and the opera: it rocks all my hot spots. Addison lavishes her ardent readers with adventure, new friendships, invisible enemies, and rewards us with her uncommon depths, subtleties, and kindnesses.

Robert V. S. Redick
Sidewinders

Sidewinders. I love this book, goddamnit. Robert V. S. Redick gives a fantasy reader everything her fiendish heart craves: plagues, prophets, demonic possessions, a desperate dash through desert dunes, giant spiders, giant cats, creepy children, plenty of vulgarity and sex, and an all-too-brief glimpse at paradise. So sure, if you like that kind of thing, go for it. Read this book. It’s for you. But wait, there’s more. For your not-so-average fantasy reader, your not-so-run-of-the-mill genre-lover, I beg you, look to Sidewinders. For it will give you ambiguity and delicacy. It will not spare you of its irony—and, oh, such irony! Its pages will impart so profound and aching an empathy that it just might leap off the page and follow you into your daily life. There is such courage in Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders—such courage and fury and passion and hope. Truly, a breathtaking work.

Nicole Kornher-Stace
Firebreak

Nicole Kornher-Stace’s standalone Firebreak begins with the big guns. Literally. A badass gamer, Mal (Nycorix, in-game), slaughters her way through her “daily thousand” in a co-op first-person shooter. Gifts, both virtual and monetary, pour in from enthusiastic sponsors viewing her partner QueenOfTheRaids’ (Jessa, IRL) stream. But when Mal logs out of the game, rips off her blackout mask, and gets to work, that’s when her real problems begin—chronic dehydration, oppressive poverty, and an economy of artificial scarcity being the least of them. In a world where huge mechs duke it out with lab-baked supersoldiers in the streets, Mal finds herself in the middle of a resistance she can’t see the beginning or ending of, learning secrets that have disappeared countless others before her. Her advantages are few: her friends, the stream, her loyal viewers, and bald honesty in a world lit by deepfakes. Firebreak is a klaxon sounding at midnight. It is a howl and a wake-up call. It is a fire that does what literary fires do best: spits rage, radiates the warmth of compassion, and fans the flame of revolution.

Cassandra Khaw
Nothing But Blackened Teeth

Everything about Cassandra Khaw’s latest novella is purposefully wrong: wrong place, wrong time, wrong skin, wrong friends, wrong wedding. That wrongness is deliberately palpable: itchy but unscratchable, clammy but febrile as foxfire. What with poisonous relationships, parasite houses, and ghost brides, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a really bad idea for a wedding, and a really great idea for a nightmare-on-the-page. This book is so magnificently rotten it writhes with literary maggots, and deserves a place of honor among it peers in horror.

Kelly Robson
High Times in Low Parliament (blurb forthcoming; it’s written, but will be released later)

Poetry

B. Sharise Moore
Black Kaleidoscope: Short Verse Honoring Black History

Tom Hirons
Sometimes A Wild God

Brandon O’Brien
Can You Sign My Tentacle?

Fran Wilde
Clock, Star, Rose, Spine

Gwynne Garfinkle
People Change

Sally Rosen Kindred
Where the Wolf

Lisa Bradley
The Haunted Girl (in progress)

Osip Mandelstam
Black Earth (in progress)

Hart Crane
White Buildings (in progress)
The Complete Poetry of Hart Crane (in progress)

Mary Oliver
A Poetry Handbook (in progress)

Fred Chappell
Midquest (in progress)

Nonfiction

Helen Macdonald
Vesper Flights (in progress)

Robert Macfarlane
Underland (in progress)

Helmreich
The Queens Nobody Knows (in progress)

Joshua Hammer
The Falcon Thief (in progress)

SFF

Francesca Forrest
Lagoonfire

Joyce Chng
Dragon Sisters

Neil Gaiman
The Sandman, Act I
The Sandman, Act II (in progress)

C. M. Waggoner
The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry

Susanna Clarke
Piranesi

Martha Wells
Fugitive Telemetry

Rebecca Roanhorse
Black Sun

Alix E. Harrow
The Once and Future Witches

Mary Rickert
The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie

Lois McMaster Bujold
The Assassins of Thasalon

P. Djèli Clark
Ring Shout (in progress)

Gene Wolfe
Peace (in progress)

Charles DeLint
Juniper Wiles (in progress)

Sharon Shinn
(These are all re-reads, but this time in audiobook format)
Twelve Houses
1. Mystic and Rider (2005)
2. The Thirteenth House (2006)
3. Dark Moon Defender (2006)
4. Reader and Raelynx (2007)
5. Fortune and Fate (2008)

Samaria
Archangel
Uncommon Echoes
Echo in Onyx
Echo in Emerald
Echo in Amethyst

Mystery

Sherry Thomas
Miss Moriarty, I Presume?

Penny Reid
Handcrafted Mystery
1. Engagement and Espionage (2020)
2. Marriage and Murder (2021)

Phillipa Nefri Clark
Deadly Start (audiobook)

Elizabeth Peters
Devil-May-Care
Night Train to Memphis

Contemporary Romance

Penny Reid
Knitting in the City
1. Neanderthal Seeks Human (2013)
1.5. Neanderthal Marries Human (2014)

2. Friends Without Benefits (2013)
3. Love Hacked (2014)
4. Beauty and the Mustache (2014)
5. Happily Ever Ninja (2016)
6. Dating-ish (2017)
7. Marriage of Inconvenience (2018)

Elements of Chemistry
1. Attraction (2015)
2. Heat (2015)
3. Capture (2015)

Winston Brothers
1. Truth or Beard (2015)
2. Grin and Beard It (2016)
3. Beard Science (2016)
4. Beard in Mind (2017)
4.5. Beard in Hiding (2021)
5. Dr. Strange Beard (2018)
6. Beard with Me (2019)
7. Beard Necessities (2019)

Rugby (with L H Cosway)
1. The Hooker and the Hermit (2015)
2. The Player and the Pixie (2016)
3. The Cad and the Co-Ed (2017)
4. The Varlet and the Voyeur (2018)

Dear Professor
1. Kissing Tolstoy (2017)
2. Kissing Galileo (2019)

Law of Physics
1. Motion (2019)
2. Space (2019)
3. Time (2019)

Good Folks
0.5. Just Folking Around (2021)
1. Totally Folked (2021)
2. Folk Around and Find Out (2022)

Olivia Dade
Spoiler Alert (2020)
All the Feels (2021)

There’s Something About Marysburg
1. Teach Me (2019)
2. 40-Love (2020)
3. Sweetest in the Gale (2020)

Love Unscripted
1. Desire and the Deep Blue Sea (2019)
2. Tiny House, Big Love (2019)

Sara Whitney
Cinnamon Roll Alphas
0.5. Tempting Heat (2019)
1. Tempting Taste (2020)
2. Tempting Talk (2020)
3. Tempting Lies (2020)
4. Tempting Fate (2022)

Ghosted: A Hot Halloween Novella

Talia Hibbert
Brown Sisters
1. Get a Life, Chloe Brown (2019)
2. Take a Hint, Dani Brown (2020)
3. Act Your Age, Eve Brown (2021)

Wanna Bet? (2018)

Ravenswood
1. A Girl Like Her (2018)
2. Untouchable (2018)
3. That Kind of Guy (2019)

The Roommate Risk

Alisha Rai
Modern Love
1. The Right Swipe (2019)
2. Girl Gone Viral (2020)
3. First Comes Like (2021)

Regency/Victorian Romance

Sarah M. Eden
The Lady and the Highwayman

Loretta Chase (all re-reads but this year as audiobooks)
The Last Hellion
Knave’s Wager
Lion’s Daughter
Devil’s Delilah
Viscount Vagabond
Captives of the Night
Your Scandalous Ways

Courtney Milan
Devil Comes Courting

Anne Gracie
Marry in Haste

Julia Quinn
The Viscount Who Loved Me

SFF Romance

Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels so far
1. Magic Bites (2007)
2. Magic Burns (2008)
3. Magic Strikes (2009)
3.5. Magic Mourns (2011)
4. Magic Bleeds (2010)
4.5. Magic Dreams (2012)
5. Magic Slays (2011)
5.4. Magic Gifts (2015)
5.5. Gunmetal Magic (2012)
6. Magic Rises (2013)

Edge
1. On the Edge (2009)
2. Bayou Moon (2010)
3. Fate’s Edge (2011)
4. Steel’s Edge (2012)

Kinsmen
The Kinsmen Universe (2018)

Innkeeper Chronicles
1. Clean Sweep (2013)

Hidden Legacy
1. Burn for Me (2014)
2. White Hot (2017)
3. Wildfire (2017)
3.5. Diamond Fire (2018)
4. Sapphire Flames (2019)
5. Emerald Blaze (2020)

Jessie Mihalik
1. The Queen’s Gambit (2018)
2. The Queen’s Advantage (2019)
3. The Queen’s Triumph (2020)


Consortium Rebellion
1. Polaris Rising (2019)
2. Aurora Blazing (2019)
3. Chaos Reigning (2020)

Classic

L. M. Montgomery
The Blue Castle

Herbert George Jenkins
Patricia Brent, Spinster

Cervantes
Don Quixote (in progress)

Dodie Smith
The New Moon with the Old (in progress)

Books I’ve Narrated

Karen Rose Smith
Murder with Cherry Tarts
Murder with Clotted Cream
Murder with Oolong Tea
Murder with Orange Pekoe Tea

Carol J. Perry
See Something (Witch City, Book 11)
Be My Ghost

Jennifer Beckstrand
First Christmas on Huckleberry Hill (Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, Book 10)

Lynn Cahoon
A Killer Christmas Wish (A Cat Latimer Mystery)

Tamra Baumann
Bound to Be Dead (Cozy Mystery Bookshop, Book 3)

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Turquoise, for Amal

I started this poem in twenty eighteen.
Twenty eighteen, Amal! In December, for your birthday.
Writing out the numbers this way makes it feel ethereal,
or, I don’t know, at least old-fangled somehow,
like a ring made of copper, its shank rubbed thin
against worrying skin, cracked turquoise set in a pronged head.
Sure, the metal will green your finger with its verdigris sheen,
But there’s nothing like copper for that fine antique feeling
of cathedral and conduit and enchantment.

I wanted to write “Turquoise” because it is our birthstone.
The only one I knew I had, growing up in Arizona.
Later came lapis, came topaz, came tanzanite and zircon.
I used to think turquoise boring, because lumpen and opaque.
But few things are boring these days. Much of my childhood
I consider wasted in ignoring everything I thought unbeautiful.
Now, though, what isn’t freshly fascinating in its haecceity?
Now I love turquoise, not least because it makes me think of you.

Turquoise is nothing but itself.
Neither blue nor green. Neither sky nor sea nor vanishing lea,
but a piece of mineral Earth, whose metals and crystals are abundant
because Earth’s lifeforms are complex.
I never knew until this year–until twenty twenty-one, that is–
that other planets less rich in animal life than ours are also mineral-poor.
I didn’t know how rare, in all the universe, is turquoise.
As singular as we bewildered mammals spinning in the dark,
writing verse as scarce as we.

I’m glad for this uncommon chance, to sit at shuttered window,
lamp to my left, at this old thrift store desk I’ve covered
in new stickers. Grateful to dust off “Turquoise” (mere title and dedication)
three years dormant in my Drafts folder, and smash it open like a robin’s egg.

I researched turquoise just now. Just now.
A “hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum.”
Imagine my delight! I laughed inwardly, but kept typing.
Referencing copper in my first stanza, I did not know that fact.
No, I was thinking of Jane Austen’s ring.
I saw it in a magazine. The urge to impulse-shop was strong.
That slender thing, your finger, your birthday, December.
(We are all December babies, you and Jane and I.)
But hers was set in gold, not copper. And a replica’s a gimmick.
Gimcrack.
A gorgeous knickknack that won’t nearly knock your heart
to flights of white-breasted nuthatches like that line right there just did.

Started December 2018
Finished November 2021
For your birthday, December 13th 2021


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The Traveling Companion

for Hans Christian Andersen

One man in his grave, my John
Never let rest
One man walks away, John
Paying a debt

A drop of sweet ointment, my John
Shall mend what is sore
It’s little enough, John
Though precious as ore

Three ferns make a storm, my John
Let hailstones fall
Break the branch o’er her, John
Once and for all

One white swan is dying, my John
Dead as it flies
One black swan is lying, John
With mountain cave eyes

Cut the wings from her back, my John
Sing a sweet hymn
Tuck them here in my sack, John
Call it a whim

And there I will fly, my John
Fly while you sleep
Beating her bloody, John
On the flight to her keep

And how she does sigh, my John
How she does moan
She’d smile while you die, John
And ne’er make a groan

But take these three feathers, John
Take my sweet oil
Drown her in water, John
Thrice drown the girl

Then she will rise, my John
Broke of the spell
I’ll put up my sword, John
And wish you both well

Shed of all swords, my John
Shed of my wings
Shed of the ferns, John
And ointment and things

One man from his grave, my John
Paying his debt
You get what you gave, John
Now I to my rest



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What Happens When I Ask Carlos for His Sister and Brother-in-Law’s Email and He’s Been Grading Since 4 AM…

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Impromptu Salon for Amal’s Class, Virtual Ottawa, Fall 2021

you say the ocean is the world’s toilet
and you’re not wrong, but
toilet or cradle of life, it was a gift you gave me
that day in Florida, when you sat on the beach, fully clothed,
sand on your jeans, and watched me float for hours
on the tide, my ears full of watersound
my eyes alive with sky, flotsam at peace.
I was in danger, like any human in water, but not
in peril, and afterwards you bought a towel
to dry me, and said nothing as I walked barefoot
to our rental car–even though bare feet scare you,
even though any little bruise on my skin
is the world’s end to you, the death of a thousand cuts.

I’m always a little frightened of the woods
but that doesn’t stop me going there, or the great gift
of green silence, as I try to watch a million leaves
tremble individually in 360°, until my mind dissolves, briefly.
And if a tent near the railroad tracks spurs my heel
and if lostness overtakes my senses (even in this
urban park where no one really can be lost),
and if I fear every stranger I meet on the path
still, I go to the woods, wearing my best walking shoes.
I walk into the woods, so that I may emerge again,
with eyes a little wider, in wild wonder,
as I carry my wilderness away with me like sand in my sock.

My night moods grow darker, but I know to name them now.
Play games to propitiate my frantic grasp at all this slippage
(also which news not to read) (also which subjects to avoid).
Lately, we both notice how I calendar and organize, worry through tomorrow
to stave the night away, and you must say softly:
not right now, not right now.
I need, in night moods, the blood transfusion of fiction,
another brain injected right into my brain,
other worlds than this, other thoughts than mine.
Is it cowardice or medicine? Is it, simply, survival?
Better to face the dragon and slay it, or sneak away sideways,
soft-footed and hobbit-like, invisible, muttering riddles?
My night moods grow darker. But I grow slyer–
and am not yet devoured.

We drew four cards for Amal El-Mohtar’s Literature Class, but chose only three to write about. I chose all but the “Rayo” (Lightning) card.

More about these wonderful cards and the game they belong to:

Follow #NegociosInfernales on IG, the game forthcoming from Outland Entertainment. Also look for updates on Carlos’s and my shared blog hernandooney.com!

Follow our Kickstart Upcoming Projects page for Negocios Infernales!

A Little More about 7 Suits of Destino:

(Suits depicted above from top left, clockwise: Sangre, Rayo, Lágrimas, Carne.)

🧜🏾‍♀️ Lágrimas: The Tears of Life
Things break. The world is full of melancholy. But tears can be joyful. Pain can save us. Our insignificance is both woe and comfort. And one never knows what strange secrets the unfathomable seas may hold.


🐷 Carne: The Meat Of Life
Carnality, desire of the flesh, consumption, gluttony. The triumph of self-interest over community. The instinctual and the impulsive. Whatever else we are, we are always our bodies.


❤️ Sangre: The Blood of Life
Loyalty, affiliation, kith, kin, connection. Sacrifice and duty. Some ideas are worth dying for. The desire to be moral, even though you fall short so very, very often. 


💀Hueso: The Bones of Life
We all must perish. Time is relentless, aging and weakening inevitable. What shall be your legacy? Focus on the big picture. Stay strong: until you can’t. And then, when it’s time, die well.


🌬 Aire: The Breath of Life
Intellect, religion, philosophy, art. Dreams, plans, life’s vicissitudes. Fate, ever capricious, blows us to and fro. Rarefied beauty; unspeakable nightmares. And at the center of it all, your soul.


⚡️Rayo: The Spark of Life
Raw power, elemental forces, energy, electricity, fire. The engine of both miracles and cataclysms. The hidden reserves raging in every living thing. And sometimes, those reserves are unleashed: with wild, unpredictable results!


🛸 Espacio: The Spaces Between and Beyond

The immensity of the cosmos humbles us. But if we continue to build marvelous tools and ask hard questions, perhaps someday we will better understand both the universe and our own recondite hearts.

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C. S. E. Cooney and Robert V. S. Redick: Featured Readers at Fantastic Fiction at the KGB!

You’re invited!

Wednesday, November 17th, at the KGB Bar, Robert V. S. Redick and I will be Featured Readers at the Fantastic Fiction series!

Time & Place:

Every third Wednesday of the month at 7pm at the KGB Bar: 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave) New York, NY 10003

Order Robert’s book HERE!

Pre-order my book HERE! (That’s Saint Death’s Daughter). And HERE! (That’s Dark Breakers.)

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Wild Swans


For J-9, though words will never be enough. For now, I wish you Joy on your birthday.

A hundred years and more ago (a hundred eighty-three)
It was that year in ’38 this story came to be
A story rife with wild swans, and of their sister true
But for your sister, now a swan, you tell it new

There was a jealous queen (of course), so perilous and fell
Though in your case, an addict’s rage called down your living hell
The wickedness of each, in turn, turned sibling into swan
Elisa had eleven swans, but you have one

This wicked world would give us toads to uglify our minds
To vanquish energy and will, make tenderness unkind
But fairy tales turn toads to poppies, red as bloodsilk spun
Red poppies had Elisa three, but you have none

In solitude Elisa sat, upon her seat of glass
Exiled, heavy-hearted, driven out into the grass
But when she dreamed, they came to her, those siblings she adored
Twelve siblings strong in blood and bond, but you were four

And here’s where stories fail, my friend, the fishbone in my craw
Here’s the nettles’ scrape and sting that leaves me scalded raw:
Elisa and her wild swans, they triumphed on their quest
They traveled far but broke their spell–in one grand geste

Her brothers bore Elisa high all in a barque of bark
But who’s to carry you, my friend, across this ocean’s dark?
Morgana whispered to Elisa, how to lift her curse
But where’s the fairy’s gift to you, to lift far worse?

But like Elisa bent to toil in graveyard nettles deep
Like Elisa spinning flax, blistered, losing sleep
You’ll yet bend your grief to work and finish what you start:
This story spun for sister-swan, from nettled heart

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Rite for the Next Decade

what I think our next age craves is keyboard’s constant clack
ideas gel, structures misbehave, sideways plot attack

and what of dress-up velvets, outrageous rhinestone gleam?
embrace ourselves, the craven and the brave: hips, belly, rack

kindness, yes, due diligence–and reciprocity
learn our tells, our shifts of favor, that discernment’s not lack

it’s time to topple systems, cultivate our gardens, rest
old empires fell while autarchs raved (an encouraging fact)

not to mention what we can’t foresee and never could
hurdles melt, new skills to savor, exalt in changing tack

what we make, we’ll wage against our heartbreak yet to come
beyond all hells, beyond our graves–our mischievous impact

for Patty Templeton, on the occasion of her 39th birthday
C. S. E. Cooney and Patty Templeton, Chicago, IL, October 2009
Patty Templeton and C. S. E. Cooney, Los Alamos, NM, October 2021,

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