All Our Projects, Past and Present

October is such a big month!

This last weekend was the first ever FIYAHcon, and it was stunning to behold. I wasn’t there all weekend, but I caught a few panels (my husband Carlos Hernandez moderated one on Middle Grade SFF, and I really wanted to catch the Usurping Lovecraft panel, which I heard was an incredible success), the big interview with GoH Rebecca Roanhorse, the Ignyte Awards (hosted by Jesse of Bowties and Books; they were COMPLETELY charming, plus dog!), and the closing ceremony. It was enough to make me wish I’d been screen-locked to it beginning to end.

Hopefully, when FIYAHcon meets in MeatSpace, I can attend and devote all my attention to it, for there will be no other distractions, nor the haze of ZoomFatigue. Such great, good work.

Ah, and if you have not yet subscribed to FIYAH Magazine, now is really the time! I have their JOY issue queued up and ready to be read on my Kindle. One can also donate to support their work!

One of my favorite things I did this month was host an EPIC Read-Along-A-Thon of Kathleen Jenning’s Travelogues: Vignettes of Trains in Motion. We had 21 people show up, from all across the U. S. and Australia, and 14 people took turns reading the text, which I’d divided into stanzas and color-coded the stanzas so as to assign the colors to “passengers.”

Since there are nine vignettes, we called each of the vignettes “journeys,” and Carlos and my roommate Mir (a New York City director) played the train conductors, ushering us in and out of the trains. It was pretty joyous.

At the end of September, Mir and I collaborated on making an audiobook together. She directed a collection of some of my shorter work–erotic fairytales and dark fantasy–called The Witch in the Almond Tree and Others Stories.

It was my first time working with a really hands-on director, and her first time directing an audiobook, so we both learned so much from each other and the experience. Every day it got more and more fun, especially since the material we were working with was pretty… phew. RAMBUNCTIOUS.

I plan to release the ebook collection on Amazon in about a week or so, and shortly thereafter, the audiobook on Audible. Though I have a little experience in self-publishing, I am still experiencing a bit of a learning curve here, but thankfully, I know many smart people with many skills. My brother Jeremy Cooney engineered and produced the audiobook, and my friend Brett Massé designed both the cover and layout. I am looking forward to sharing this with you.

Meanwhile, I am almost 2/3s of the way done with my novel edits for Saint Death’s Daughter. Well, initial novel edits, I’m sure. I have been writing this book for so, so long. I’ve done so many drafts: first, on my own, then after several rounds of beta-readers, then as it went through its Great Agent Rounds, and now with an Actual Editor Under Contract! It is easy to slump, to think, I have been writing this FOREVER. (10 years is a LONG TIME!) And will it EVER END? But at the same time, I am deeply aware that 1.) the work is STILL pleasurable (and it hasn’t always been), and 2.) It keeps–wildly–getting better.

I just… I also have other projects I want to work on. (Like the next in that series!)

One thing that’s been percolating lately (I think I mentioned it a blog or so ago) is taking an old idea for a stage play I was developing with Marissa McKown in Chicago and turning it into a, let’s see, maybe radio play series. Maybe 8 episodes. Like a mini-series. I’m going to listen to a few of the latest, greatest innovations, see what’s up, and see if I can explode out the old idea into a new form.

I even know the title:

THE DEVIL AND LADY MIDNIGHT.

Let me brainstorm episode titles off the top of my head, just for fun, right here and now:

Episode One: Coming Soon to an Underground Near You
Episode Two: Happy Birthday, Mr. Og
Episode Three: That Insolent Bastard of the Garden
Episode Four: Desire is a Broken Pomegranate
Episode Five: The Ruins Our Voices Leave Us
Episode Six: Az, What is That Singing?
Episode Seven: Lady Midnight, Clothed in Flame
Episode Eight: Lucy Lumen Takes a Train to Nowhere

Well, that was fun.

Anyway, then there’s my whole Distant Stars album project, and my whole Dark Breakers collection idea, not to mention those two novellas–Fiddle and I Shall Make a Ruin of Myself–that I drafted last year that I’d love to dive back into and get on the market. As well as… well, Carlos and I are very excited about some developments with our game Negocios Infernales, but more than that I cannot say for now.

As Ysabeau Wilce‘s redoubtable Flora Segunda would quote the Coyote Queen as saying, “There’s no way out but through.”

And so–back to my edits.

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Flyaway: A creeping sensation — Kathleen Jennings

There is a story in Flyaway called “The Sawmill”. The setting was inspired by a decaying set of sawmill buildings on a sliver of land that would have once belonged to the corner of our property (I did confirm I could go out there!). I drove back out that way when I was editing Flyaway […]

Flyaway: A creeping sensation — Kathleen Jennings

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The Devil and Lady Midnight

My friend Ellen Kushner often sends me playwriting/audioplay/narrating links out of the blue, since it is one of our mutual interests, and this is what I received yesterday:

https://www.audible.com/ep/audible-theater

“It’s basically Audible trying to get people to write specifically for Audio Theater, instead of just writing plays without actors on stages. They’re looking for writers who say that in their application.”

(I wrote it BIG, just in case any of you were interested and needed LARGE LETTERS and LINKS for encouragement.)

Anyway, of course I was interested, and immediately started thinking of things I might write or adapt as soon as I’m done with my novel edits and the half dozen other projects I’d meant to work on as soon as I’m done with my novel edits, but whether or not I end up with anything submittable is not the point of this blog.

The point of this blog, really, is to talk about joy. And possibility. And the thing you find yourself doing in those rare moments of fertile boredom, where you could be doing anything: playing phone Scrabble, or re-watching Lucifer, or reading the two-elbow-deep pile of books, or ANYTHING, but you chose to do THAT THING instead.

Last night, Carlos was playing Espergenesis, and Mir was watching some CultureLab thing on CultureHub, and I? Because of Ellen’s email, I was feverishly re-reading an old play of mine called “Theatre of the Underground” that I developed as far as a staged reading in Chicago with director Marissa McKown. (She bought me a pizza and a carnivorous flower and said she’d like to work with me. I was PUTTY IN HER HANDS.)

It owes much to Bulgokov’s Master and Margarita, except in this case, the devil doesn’t come to Moscow, she comes to Chicago. And not with the circus, either. This time, she’s starting a theatre troupe on the Harrison subway platform, and she’s out for blood. I mean, a leading lady.

The play was stronger than I remembered, and funnier, with some deeply problematical but also–in a way?–exciting issues. Exciting because in them I saw an opportunity to question, dig deeper, deconstruct, and rebuild from the ruin. Also, the play was shorter–a one-act, not a full-length, so there is room to expand. There were all these scenes in my head that didn’t actually exist in the page. I wonder if they were ghosts of former drafts. Well! If I rewrite it, those too may be resurrected.

The first thing I want to do is change up my protagonist from the woman who needs rescuing to the woman who does the rescuing. It’s unfairly skewed right now to the younger more ingenue-y character, and personally, at this stage in my life, I find the older, wiser, diner-owning, pyrotelekinetic (Carlos points out: “Isn’t it pyroSONARkinesis?” and he’s not wrong) blues singer to be the more interesting of the two.

IF I DECIDE TO REWRITE.

And if I did, I’d change the name from “Theatre of the Underground” to “The Devil and Lady Midnight,” which is catchier. And I’d study a metric ton more of Chicago blues and history, and I would really dig my teeth in.

I’d have so many things to play with if I dove back in: Didier the Vampire, the demon Az, Mavis Day (Lady Midnight), Mr. Og (a familiar character you will all know and love from a certain novel by Gaston Leroux, popularized by A. L. Webber, and immortalized by the devil, whom he’d met and made a bargain with in 19th century France, what can I say, I’m a NERD), and best and brazennest of all, Lucy Lumen, of Lucid Theatre, Theatre of the Underground, who is, quite possibly, my Id.

One of my many Ids. One has so many.

It’s not the next project, but it’s a pleasant thing to have bubbling on the back-burner cauldron. Well, after my next album, Ballads from a Distance Star. Or maybe concurrent with it. Hard to say.

Hard to say–for, in this time of Covid, when it is just me, my beloved, and my best friend in a quiet apartment in quiet Queens, days together broken by a lot of long walks–all I have now is time and a determined joy to use it well.

And that is richness indeed.

My first focus is my novel, and I will be loyal to that. But it is exciting EXCITING exciting to remember the possibilities are infinite, even if we never get to them.

But, you know. We will.

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Some Mythic Whooping

I saw Mike Allen over on Twitter giving a little love to his beautiful Mythic Delirium books in spite of a HORRIFIC week, so I decided to hop on here and HELP HIM.

Because I TOO love his books–AND NOT JUST THE ONES I’M IN!

I love Theodora Goss‘s book SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT, and Barbara Krasnoff‘s book HISTORY OF SOUL 2065!

Plus I also love ALL the stories I DIDN’T write in THE SINISTER QUARTET by Jessica P. Wick, and Amanda J. McGee, and Mike Allen!

Also, I KNOW I’m going to love AFTERMATH OF AN INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT, particularly because it holds a COLLABORATION POEM between Mike and yours truly, C. S. E. Cooney, all about GILLES DE RAIS and JOAN OF ARC!

Anyway, here’s a bunch MORE reasons WHY I love Mythic Delirium and its aforementioned books, as depicted in SCREEN-CAPS!

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Memoirs of a Necromancer

The other day, at our “Salón Infernal,” I found myself so full of my novel edits for SAINT DEATH’S DAUGHTER (Solaris 2022), that I could not write of anything but my protagonist.

I rarely write poetry about my own characters; I find it too difficult. But this pleased me.

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Break the Wheel that Would Break You

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.05.12 AM

Amal and I try to talk on Mondays, and for the last two weeks we’ve been drawing cards to see if they inspire fiction or poetry. We usually give ourselves 10 minutes or less to write. One week ago, we used this Negocios Infernales cards. Yesterday, we used Dixit cards.

But last week’s card inspired this quick fiction story-start.

I doubt I’ll go further with it; it’s a bit heavily Sarah Monette-influenced, which pleased me in one way, but not in another. Only Monette can do Monette well, and I shan’t be satisfied with a starry-eyed imitation.

For what it’s worth, I did come up with the character’s name last night as I was falling asleep. Her mother named her “Devils Apace,” but she goes by “Pace.” (See? A bit too Sarah Monette. But let’s celebrate that here and now! I love the inspiration that keeps giving.)

From the card…

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LADYBUG

Illustrated Card from “Dixit” board game, art by Marie Cardouat, designed by Jean-Louis Roubira

For a small part of our weekly Monday catch-up chats, Amal and I have been trying to devote 10 minutes (sometimes less) to a writing-to-prompt exercise.

Last week, we used Negocios Infernales cards. Yesterday, we tried cards from her Dixit set. Last week, we drew different cards. Yesterday, we decided to do prompts off the same card. I’d love to do this with our Mysterium game sometime…

The card above was the one we drew. This is my response:

LADYBUG

lady, you are invaded
a staircase grows in you like cancer
ants crawl in you, and hungry
vines pierce your exoskeleton
lady, you are a red husk, repurposed
a red barque in the wilderness
sailing a leaf-green sea
you are riddled with portholes, and I
sit, black-armored, at your starboard side
my brass telescope
protruding from your corpse

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What I Mourn

Living alone, keeping clean what I want to keep clean, having it stay that way, nagging no one, requesting nothing, cooking for myself without others feeling guilty that they don’t want my food, controlling my space, it being my own space, letting my fits of temper seize me, harm none but me, letting them pass when they pass–unobserved, or perhaps recorded in a letter, a journal–but not watched by anxious bystanders whose anxiety lasts far longer than my tempests do.

Living in a small town, with my mother–at last, after years of living half a country a part. Living within walking–or driving–distance of friends. Seeing friends. Eating at restaurants. Eating outside. Walking around without masks. Smiling at people and meaning it. Thinking of people as uninfected, as people not super-spreaders. Thinking of myself as uninfected, as generally friendly and non-lethal, as capable of eye-contact.

Going to libraries. Going to libraries for hours. Reading inside in public spaces for hours. Reading in parks for hours. Going to a cafe, drinking something hot without a mask. Wandering a cityscape, a public park, without a mask. Going hiking and not having to stop every five minutes because heavy breathing from exertion feels like a panic attack inside a mask.

Having a party. Hosting and throwing a party. Not often, just once a month or so. Cooking for a large group of people and letting them enjoy the party. Doing the dishes in the kitchen, sort of away from the party but enjoying the party. One-on-one conversations with random party friends in the kitchen, how they swap in and out, in and out, how everyone wants to help, until the party is in the kitchen, and I laugh and throw them out of the kitchen by agreeing to join the party for a little while.

Visiting family. Saving some money, buying a plane ticket, visiting family. Visiting family for holidays, for special events, because I’m worried about them, because I miss them, just because. Just to see them. Just to see them.

Going to work. Taking a long train ride to another state. Getting up before dawn and taking the subway to the Amtrak and the Amtrak to Connecticut, and walking that morning walk in sun or rain or snow, and going into the studio and recording books for strangers, and staying in a BNB, and visiting friends I hardly ever get to see, and recording, and narrating, and being an actor, and talking to myself alone for hours in a little black box, and being paid for it, and then coming home, feeling I’ve earned my keep. Earning my own way. As an actor.

Going to the theatre. Singing with people. Singing out loud, in public, without worrying. Going to concerts. Going to readings. Going to conventions. Going to writing groups. Going anywhere with people, people making art. An adventure outside the house, with people. Perhaps bringing them a pie, or flowers, or something, and eating what they cook for me, and playing games at their tables.

Going grocery shopping without that clock ticking in my head, without buckets of hand sanitizer, and soap and water, and constantly remembering to clean my masks, hanging them to dry on the back of the fan. Sending a roommate off to the beach with friends without worrying, without making her promise to distance, to wear her mask, to take care, take care, take care of all of us as she goes out to the beach with friends.

Going to the beach. Living in a town that’s biking distance from a beach. That’s walking distance from a bookstore, from a library, from a park. Living in a place I love without constantly trying to love it, without having to remind myself to breathe and enjoy and count blessings and appreciate and look at the trees, the trees, at least you have trees, and you’re here, it’s an island, didn’t you always want to live on an island, and you’re really happy, aren’t you, you’ll look back on these days one day and you’ll want them back, you’ll mourn the loss of this, this, right now, this thing you’re mourning now, and…

And anyway. It’s just sometimes I remember it’s not just little irritations, or small inconveniences. It’s a nation–a world–mourning large changes, and they manifest domestically in dozens of small, small ways, and individually they’re nothing; they’re fine; they’re bearable; life is good. But collectively, sometimes it’s like there’s this pillar of ash and fire where my lungs should be, and even having it pretty good, and feeling safe, is its own guilt, when so many are suffering.

And I guess the answer to that is action. It’s always action. Whether in the form of a larger activism or a smaller kind of outreach. Do something, instead of sinking and dwelling where I sink.

So. That’s all, really.

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ends up just a fancy diary entry, vaguely shaped

yesterday, the three-pine path
green width, all breath
sheer shining sweat
hedge shirk, shrub work
thistle hex, monarch bless
black squirrel silence, stop
just long enough

today, mirror worlds
contemplation of interior
wardrobe doors ajar: a glimpse
hamlet with her golden hair
eyes like thin ice
cheekbones that slice
yes, it thrums, her slender thread

tomorrow, muscle and velocity
perhaps power, perhaps patience
try for steadiness, a ready will
summon a ghost
sunlight through carnival glass
a white nectarine

outside my window
a child screams


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Salissay’s Laundries, and My Fingertips Are Stained

Realized yesterday that I never opened my John Bauer tarot cards. I mean—JOHN BAUER, one of my favorite artists ever! And I can’t remember if the cards were a gift to myself or from someone else, but I finally cracked them.

I decided to play the game Carlos Hernandez (my husband) and I have been practicing with our own Baraja Del Destino that we made/commissioned Rebecca Huston‘s art for our game Negocios Infernales.

I pulled a card to spur a story I’ve been meaning to start: “Salissay’s Laundries,” a Dark Breakers story featuring the journalist Salissay Dimaguiba, who has a bit part in Desdemona and the Deep.

Sal’s loosely based on Nellie Bly, whose expose on Blackwell’s Asylum I just finished.

Anyway, I’ve just scribbled part one of CHAPTER ONE: “In Which My Disguise as a Fallen Woman of Seafall Proves Unnervingly Efficacious.”

Yay!

And now I must dress for my #JULYCON panels and later for my Book No Further ZOOM READING at 3:30 EST with Jessica Wick and Amanda McGee and Mike Allen for our newly released THE SINISTER QUARTET!

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