Herein: ALL THE LINKS to The Milford Readers and Writers Festival, in Milford, PA, THIS SATURDAY.
I’ll be there with my co-panelists and authors: Karen Heuler, Alex Shvartsman, Randee Dawn, Nicholas Kaufmann, and Lillian Longendorfer–with books to sell and sign!
Here is the panel info for Saturday morning, 11-12:30. It’s called CHOOSE YOUR REALITY, taking place at the Foundation Room at the The Columns Museum.
“It is comprised of four panelists and a moderator whose writings have included varied and unique realities. The panel consists of the following authors: Karen Heuler, the moderator, who has created a sly, humorous tale with witchcraft, a formerly human cat and allegory in her book The Splendid City (June 2022); Alex Shvartsman whose realities combine humor with urban fantasy and horror; C.S.E. Cooney, whose books and poems contain worlds filled with fantastical and twisted characters; Nicholas Kaufmann, whose writings are a mixture of tightly plotted horror, urban fantasy and science fiction; and Randee Dawn, an entertainment journalist who has created a reality TV show run by mythical creatures in her debut novel Tune In Tomorrow (August 2022). This event Produced by Lillian Longendorfer.”
We’ll also be doing a signing and sell event at the Golden Fish Art Gallery on Saturday, September 17th from 2pm-4pm.
And then the evening ends with a “Books and Brews” reading at the Foundation Room of the Columns, beginning at 7:00 pm and ending whenever. Beverages will be available for purchase. This event is ticketed, I believe!
In person, a whole game of Negocios Infernales can usually be played within 4-5 hours–sometimes fewer!–depending on how many people are playing and if they’ve played before. Online, it’s a bit different. Role20 slows everything down (though we’re very grateful to have it), so it usually takes two sessions of about 4 hours each (breaks included) to get through a whole game.
We recently played with some folks from the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers, as a Kaleiodcast exclusive. Kaleidocast is an audio literary magazine run by the BSFW, “a group dedicated to getting writers producing content with a professional polish for publication!” (Follow their Patreon!)
Session 1 of a two-session game of Negocios Infernales usually includes: Part 0: Pregame Trust and Affirmation; Part 1: Invocation; Part 2: Character Creation; Part 3: Relationships; and Part 4: Worldbuilding. This is where all the players collaboratively create their characters, their country, and their world, using the “Baraja del Destino” (the Deck of Destiny). Usually, by the time all this is done, players have a pretty good idea which of the seven plots/genres they’ll want to play.
At the end of session one, from all the worldbuilding and character creating we’d done, we knew we wanted to play “The Royal Wedding” plot. (Spoiler: it was kind of like the Red Wedding, but with more mollusks.)
I really liked the character I came up with: Ven. Viana de Eularia de Alvar. (In Negocios Infernales, we use the gender-neutral honorific “Ven.” for “Venerable,” instead of “Don” or “Doña” or Sir or Lady, etc.)
Together, along with “Melliza Exposita, the Royal Mirror” (the queen’s proxy, played by Mimi Mondal), “Jose Díaz, the Cypher Strike” (a thief of books, played by Cam Robb), Rodriguez the Fair (trickster, worldbreaker, spymaster, played by Liam Burke), and our AI/Rulebook Carlos Hernandez, we were well-set up by the end of the first session not only to have a wild night of improv, but maybe also to write, like, 15 novels set in our very weird world.
The chat was small but FIERCELY AWESOME, and they came up with the most amazing perfumer NPC that we pledged would show up in the plot once we got to the improv!
For flavor, Carlos took prompts I texted him from my character sheet & entered them into Midjourney, so now my character has a profile pic!
PLAYDAY 2: SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2022
In session two of Negocios Infernales, we got through Part 5: Plot; Part 6: Roleplay; and Part 7: The Alien Epilogue. The fun thing about Zoom is that it has an Alien filter, so for a while, several of us were cyclopses with deelie boppers, and those that weren’t used masks and funny voices to inspire our alien selves.
We’d known we were going to do the “The Royal Wedding” plot, so after we refreshed ourselves with the details of our last game, we got right into the interpreting the Plot cards. Then came the really wild stuff: the Roleplay. Each of us had to act as a Protagonist at least once, to solve the orders la Reina gave us. Each of us had to play an NPC at least once and use our Magic at least once.
We called upon the chat–again, small but AMAZING–to help us interpret certain cards and make certain decisions as we played. And yes, we used the NPC, perfumer “Marinel Curie,” which the chat had invented for us in the last game.
In the end, it was almost five hours of harried wizards, demonic monkeys with red glass claws, shapeshifters who have to smell whoever they want to change into, cannibal pearls, alien mollusks, masquerades, cypher-strikers, truth-extractors, and so much more! It was unpredictable and precarious; we were on the verge of losing the game. Our Reina Resoluta token had slid all the way down the Sword. If she’d gotten buried to the hilt, it would have been all over. Thanks to our Doom mechanic (which three of us had to activate to forestall failure), we won by the skin of our teeth. We’d lost most of the rest of our skin.
Carlos and I are very grateful that Kaleidocast played with us. We should have footage from the two sessions available through Kaleidocast one of these days, so consider supporting their Patreron!
Also, we’re gearing up for next year’s Kickstarter for Negocios Infernales, forthcoming from Outland Entertainment, so sign up here to keep abreast of the latest and greatest news: negociosinfernales.com
Carlos, Becca and I spent a wonderful two evenings reading an old, award-winning Gene Wolfe poem about a computer iterating the greater trumps (of a tarot deck), and so we fed his verses one by one into Midjourney and had the AI iterate all the greater trumps. The full deck is here. Keep reading!
My friend Becca is visiting us here at Casa Hernandooney. As Carlos and I were putting the final touches on our savory apple pie (bacon, onion, thyme, smoked cheddar), she was wandering our apartment, surveying it as a patroness of a very goofy museum.
Hearing her laugh out loud, I trotted out of the kitchen to see what’d she gotten into.
She’d found my Gene Wolfe shelf.
Gene Wolfe is the reason that Becca and Carlos and I are friends. Gene was my writing mentor since I was 18. Becca is Gene’s granddaughter.
The three of us met as adults about a year after Gene passed away, right as Becca was moving away from New York with a freshly minted PhD. We all hit it off immediately as fast friends/adopted cousins/long-lost siblings.
And, well, here we are.
As I spied on her, Becca began a close inspection of all my…
This last week, Carlos and I applied for a Writers’ Retreat at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. I’ve never applied for that sort of thing before. It’s quite cost effective: you get both room and board (food by a chef), for less than a typical Air B&B and certainly less than a hotel room, for a range of days and nights of your choice.
You have to fill out an application, talk about your writing, send a sample, and an application fee–all these things! It kind of reminded me of the grant proposals I’ve seen. And I thought: it IS like writing a grant! A grant of time and space to create in.
Anyway, we were supposed to talk about what project we’d be working on. And I couldn’t decide! So I just wrote down all my projects. Who know what I might be working on by the time we get there next year!
But I thought it would be good for me to post here, since it is easy to look at a year (at least for me) and think how little one has done.
SAINT DEATH’S HERALD: the sequel to my high fantasy novel that just came out in 2022 with Rebellion Publishing, SAINT DEATH’S DAUGHTER. The novel follows the further adventures of necromancer Lanie Stones, as she tries to right the wrongs of a previous generation, battle the powerful ghost of her dread great-grandfather, and return the souls of three thousand wizards that had been ripped untimely from their bodies.
FIDDLE: a rompy rom-com fantasy novella set in the same world as DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP, my novella published by Tor.com, and DARK BREAKERS, my short story collection published by Mythic Delirium. FIDDLE has an 80’s aesthetic with a high fantasy flair! Goblins and space travel, fairies with surf boards, and a nerdy, introverted heroine who has to attend three weddings and a great infernal hatching event all in one day.
BALLADS FROM A DISTANT STAR: a concept album under my singer/songwriter name Brimstone Rhine, after my three previous albums. This album follows, in folk songs, the adventures of a group of miners and their families who were body-snatched by aliens and brought on their spaceship to work the mines of a distant planet.
THE DEVIL AND LADY MIDNIGHT: a theatrical 6-episode musical podcast. This is a collaboration with writer Tina Connolly and songwriter Dr. Mary Crowell. The Devil comes to New York, hungry for friends both new and old. While she’s there, she might as well put on a show.
LAMP: a poetry anthology called LAMP. This is a collaboration with writers Patty Templeton and Carlos Hernandez. A shared-world poetry collection following a troupe of actors as they flee a large city for a small town at the edge of a salt marsh: exploring the tensions between cityfolk and townsfolk, the resentment between outsiders and inner circles, the friendships made when boundaries are crossed, and the art that blossoms under new alliances.
And since I already made that “current projects” list, I was thinking of things I’ve actually finished this year. How January seems a million years ago already!
But for the sake of remembering:
GAME WRITING for FOOL’S GOLD: INTO THE BELLOWING WILDS, “a 5th edition campaign setting based on the hit Youtube series by Dingo Doodles and Felix Irnich,” forthcoming from Hitpoint Press.
This is a collaboration with my beloved Carlos, of course. It was my first time doing any such kind of writing. We were invited by editor (and our dear friend) Dominik Parisien, and are part of a whole team of writers and editors and game-designers working with GM Felix Irnich’s world to create the campaign setting.
NEGOCIOS INFERNALES: This is the year that Carlos and I finished our rulebook for Negocios Infernales, our gm-less, collaborative TTRPG about Inquisition and Aliens. We finished the first draft later than we wanted, and then added an afterward and a WHOLE APPENDIX for the second draft on our editors’ request.
Carlos also drafted (and I helped revise) an introductory COMIC that artist Rebecca Huston (who did our “Baraja del Destino,” or “Deck of Destiny” for the game) illustrated. It is going to be AVAILABLE THIS YEAR AT GENCON!!! (Oh, here’s our GenCon schedule, if you’re interested!)
“CATHARSIS”: This was the short story I wrote for this year’s Origins Game Fair Anthology Rogue Artists, published by Atthis Arts. I loved, loved, LOVED writing this story, because it was inspired by writing the RULEBOOK for Negocios Infernales.
As Carlos and I wrote the rulebook together, we played a single game Negocios Game the whole way through–over the course of months–to be able to provide examples in the rulebook. When we were doing the “Worldbuilding” section, I came up with the idea of a theatre troupe that utterly captivated me. I wanted to write about them so hard! And so, I did! Now this short story exists in the world, alongside its origins in our rulebook–and that tickles me!
“CAPTAIN COMEBACK SAVES THE DAY“: This is a short story, forthcoming from The Sunday Morning Transport. It’s another collaboration with Carlos, and it has a long history. The idea started as the idea for a radio play on a road trip to Ottawa we took maybe four or five years ago.
We loved the idea of a “superhero” and a “supervillain” being married and in the same house, 1940’s-1950’s-ish, and the supervillain wife basically keeps creating deadly scenarios around town for her husband to “fix,” so that he can be a superhero–which is all he ever wanted. He inevitably gets utterly destroyed in the process, but she has a resurrection machine that brings him back to life (and conveniently wipes the hero’s brain of all memories of his wife as a supervillain).
We still think this would be a great radio play, but we tried a single “episode” as a short story, and the structure took on such a surprising form! COLLABORATION IS SO WEIRD AND AWESOME!
The list of what I finished doesn’t seem like much, but then again, I’ve been working on all that other stuff too. Plus, I narrated seven audiobooks this year–including my own!
…And read a metric ton of 2021’s SFF work for the World Fantasy Awards.
I was not idle, but…
What my brain says: Yeah, not all that much. Should’ve finished three novels, put out two albums, and starred in a Broadway Musical.
What my blog (and Carlos) says: GOOFUS MCDOOFUS
I’ve been trying (and for the most part succeeding) to dive into writing with all joy. There were some years there where the joy was deep in a cavity and took some excavating. This year, it’s been better. It’s been good.
I’ve really enjoyed my Sitzfleisch Poetry Hour a whole lot! And my musical theatre collaboration with Mary and Tina. And my LAMP poetry collaboration with Patty and Carlos. None of these are urgent. They’re slow-blossoming, wondrous.
The next thing I am really eager to do is set aside a chunk of time devoted solely to finishing Act II of Ballads from a Distant Star, and starting to research the best crowdfunding platforms for that project.
Kickstarter is super high pressure; I dislike the “all or nothing.” With “something” at least, I could make SOMETHING. A promise. A placeholder. I used Indiegogo for the last albums, but since then I think they’ve become a different kind of platform, so… Sigh. Back to the drawing board! Maybe some grants! We’ll see what happens.
Okay, Cooney. Enough blogging for the day. This whole time you should’ve been working on your novel.
now, the book itself (trade paperback, Americana-colored, some bleached field or other on the cover) the book itself was nothing much to look at: creased a bit, battered a bit, yellowing and dog-eared, read maybe once but loved for all that– read thoroughly, pored over and furrowed through, a lived-in look– this book, then, acted on me like slow poison. I became porous, mottled: like my left mandibular cuspid (the one that never looks clean), this book stained me, made me more, the way a stain can make a floor more floor, less perfect yet idiosyncratic, the way a scorch mark makes a tea-towel perfectly your own, the way a scar can make a home. somewhere, on the map of myself, this book pinned a you-are-here-sign to my skin, ate its acid splash all the way in, and there I was, inside its pages: invisible, an onlooker, voyeur and passenger, passive–yet more present to its moment than to my earliest memories. slow and deep I sank in it, seeping dark fluids into that wrecked landscape until we stuck together, those pages and me: stuck with a gross moistness like old brown boots to an abattoir floor, like a house fly to a cobra lily. it was not beautiful, that butchery, it was not kind or generous; I never want to go again into that poisoned land, nor hold the book in my naked hands without gloves between me and its radiant stink. yet how can I regret the days I spent here, staked thigh-high in tides of pig shit, flayed ribbon-raw on a scarecrow pole, eyes pinned to the tops of my sockets, sick to my bones with the holy act of staring at the sun?
Yesterday, Tina Connolly and Mary Crowell and I did our FIRST READ-THROUGH of our FIRST DRAFT of our FIRST EPISODE of The Devil and Lady Midnight.
The first thing Tina said was that I should play Lucy (Lucy Lumen of Lucid Theater, Theatre of the Underground…), and even though I tried to protest, I mean…
Who are we kidding? Of COURSE I wanted to play Lucy. And OF COURSE Tina knew that.
“It’s not like I’ve been anticipating this for weeks, casting it all in my head.”
She, of course, wanted to be the vampire Didier, and DIDN’T SHE ROCK IT!
We cast Mary as Mavis Day, Mr. Og, Az AND the stage directions. Of course, she’s also done recordings of all of her songs so far in that episode, which we played at the appropriate times.
One of our great discoveries was that, since this is going to be a radio play/podcast series, reading the stage directions out loud worked REALLY well, and we’re going to lean into that, transforming them into a Narrator’s voice, and by the sixth and final episode, we learn who this mysterious Narrator ACTUALLY is.
The first episode ran 38 minutes with all the songs. Yes, there are songs. Did I mention this is a MUSICAL THEATRE radio play/podcast series?
It was so magical to see the first episode as a whole, with its cold open monologue, its opening credits song, three scenes (with two songs), and outro.
It needs tightening and editing and maybe one more short song, but Horned Lords! It was SO COOL! And it really showed us that we need to be doing read-throughs regularly as we put this thing together!
We don’t really want to start editing the first episode until we have all six roughed out. Originally, we’d planned to do one really polished episode and then a very strong outline, but we’re having so much fun, and by the time we’re done with this project, we’ll have a shiny thing to present… somewhere.
To our agents? To podcast platforms? TO KICKSTARTER? To some kind of GRANT?
Who knows? But for now, our 90 minute collaboration every Wednesday has born SUCH FRUIT!
We always emerge from this virtual sessions so JAZZED. We live across the country from each other: East Coast, south Midwest, and Pacific Coast–and yet to be able to see each other regularly and work with each other like this? It’s SCRUMPTIOUS.
I asked Carlos if he wanted to go the Electric Circus with me and a friend of ours: actor, audiobook narrator, and all-around goddess Carla Kissane. (She of “Shakespeare Cabaret” fame.)
Before uttering an ENTHUSIASTIC YES, he asked, very naturally, what was an Electric Circus? So I went to the Arts on Site webpage and I read him ALL ABOUT IT.
In a nutshell:
THE ELECTRIC CIRCUS is an NQT Queer and Trans festival weekend of dance, poetry, theatre & song, co-curated by the National Queer Theater and Arts On Site, all highlighting queer and/or trans artists. Every night of the festival Program A will run at 6:30 and Program B will run at 8:30.
Carlos said it sounded fantastic (“sounds like the Fringe!”), agreed to a theatre night out, then sat back on the couch and looked at me speculatively.
“Cooney,” said he. “Whaddya say we take a day off?”
“A… day off?” said I, bewildered.
“A day off,” he stated. “I could use one. We go early into the city. Have lunch. Have a little adventure.”
So we did. We got off the R on 14th street and wandered down Broadway. We passed The Strand. We passed a shop full of vintage T-shirts. We passed our favorite Halloween costume store, which is still full of awesome costumes and masks, but which shut down during the pandemic. It’s for sale.
“So… that’s our costume shop now, right?” I asked.
“We’ll just live there,” he agreed.
“THAT WOULD BE THE BEST HOUSE EVER! And everyone we invite in could wear any costume they wanted!”
Right next door was Gothic Renaissance, which I thought had closed. But it hadn’t. I went and drooled over all the fluffy and/or sparkly and/or gold lamé things that would not fit me, and a unicorn pegasus rhinestone necklace that I HAD NOT BUDGETED FOR and therefore DID NOT BUY, and then we moved on.
Carlos had an idea that he would like some bulgogi, but as we wandered on that hot, windy day, we decided it was perhaps too warm. But we found a great TORTAS AND TAQUITOS place, and sat outside and took a load off.
As we sat, Carlos started looking bright-eyed. “There’s a game shop around here, you know,” he said. “You can go in, rent games, get a coffee. It’s called The Uncommons.”
“LET’S DO IT”
So, after lunch, we strolled through Washington Square Park to The Uncommons, where Carlos taught me a very famous game I’d never heard of before called MUNCHKIN. Apparently, a MUNCHKIN, in D and D, is when a Level 1 player wants to have all, like, the Level 20 weapons and stuff. So game designer Steve Jackson made a card game that leaned into that.
After playing two rounds of MUNKCHIN, we had to pull ourselves away and walk to the incredible Arts on Site performance space. We’d last been there in the fall to see Carla perform as La Carlotta in her feminist Shakespeare Cabaret “Whores and Weeping Women” (links above, where I first mentioned her).
She wore a pink dress with a pink mask and was, as usual, AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT.
Carlos saw all those arcade games and got a bit glittery with excitement. So I gave him some quarters and dollar bills, and he bought Carla and me two chilled pinot grigios, and she and I chatted at hummingbird speed about audiobook narration whilst he played Streetfighter II Turbo for a few minutes.
After which, we headed over to the ELECTRIC CIRCUS. Being early birds, we saw the 6:30 performance, which featured the Program A artists:
THE BANG GROUP — in their own words, is “directed by choreographer David Parker and dancer Jeffrey Kazin, straddles percussive and contemporary dance forms and is known for its wit, innovation and devotion to craft. TBG was founded in 1995 and has performed and toured widely in both the US and Europe ever since.”
(Note from Claire and Carlos: if you EVER ever EVER get a chance to see these men dance, do it do it do it! It was the most incredible choreographed experience I’d seen since STOMP. Carlos compared it to a two-man Blue Man group. It was so FUNNY, so clean, so TENDER, so agitated, so comforting, so ANGRY, so PERCUSSIVE. Hot damn!)
AYLA XUÂN CHI SULLIVAN — Sullivan, in their own words is: “a Black and Vietnamese, queer, non binary, interdisciplinary arts practitioner. They are an actor, a playwright, a director, a poet, an educator, and a co founder of Shift 23 Media. They believe in making art the most accessible form of education and a world without cages, which means: I’m sure we should be working together!”
(Note from Claire and Carlos: They were incredibly powerful. Like, rip-your-guts-out stuff. They could go from adorable to chilling in a turn of a phrase. Carlos said, after, “I like angry theatre. I like an angry poet.”)
KE’RON WILSON — in her own words: “(they/she) is a movement artist, choreographer, and poet… They were awarded Dance Source Houston’s Spark Dance Grant in 2021, and have most recently presented work as an emerging choreographer with Mare Nostrum’s Emerging Choreographer’s Series in NYC. Their art, being heavily influenced by their activism, pulls from a wide range of disciplines and seeks to cultivate a shared sensitivity towards the human condition.”
(Note from Claire and Carlos: There was such beauty and vulnerability in this performance. The soundscape especially was amazing, working with the lighting design and choreography to move the dancer from a nightmare of doubt into a place of grace and surety, though the transition was riddled with terrors.)
ANTONIO AMOR — in his own words: “(he/they) is a Boylesque/Draglesque entertainer located in Jersey City and actively working in the New York City nightlife. Combining the elements of vogue, drag, and the art of strip, he seeks to create a production every time he hits the stage. Antonio brings beauty, grace, sex, sass, and a whole lot of ASS. He was born in the ballroom, has been forged in the flames of drag, and is Red HOT as Jersey City’s Premier Latino Boylesque Entertainer. He is the Boylesque Babe of Jersey City, Antonio Amor.”
(Note from Claire And Carlos: Antonio was the note the festival ended on–a glittering, energetic, graceful lip-sync and dance number, with a lot of ruffles and sequins and VERY HIGH STILETTO BOOTS. At the end, all that was left on stage was a pile of discarded splendor.
“Rainbow carnage,” Carlotta murmured as we clapped and stamped him through his curtsey and his sashay offstage.
Ah, “rainbow carnage.” A fine description of the whole Electric Circus indeed. It’s playing through tonight, so New Yorkers, don’t miss it.
Writer, artist, and game-designer Cassandra Khaw has been engaging with an AI in generating art for some things they love.
Some of the things they love are MY things.
Cass has taken some of my text from The Twice-Drowned Saint, Dark Breakers and Desdemona and the Deep, and Saint Death’s Daughter, as well as key words of their own choice, tweaked and re-tweaked to feed to the AI, to develop character studies.