And here is some of Caitlyn Paxson’s Desdemona fan art at the bottom. Her gifts are bountiful: one of my dearest friends and favorite collaborators. I CANNOT WAIT to share her novels with you! Her talents are pretty much infinite!
I read through a few more short stories and made notes of the big segment-moods through which the stories moved. I was trying to think of these shapes separate from those stories, but I do wish I’d made a note of what stories they were! One of them was an M.R. James.
If this approach to thinking about stories (written or drawn!) resonates with you, I encourage you to make your own list based on short stories you like. But for completeness, here are all the short story shapes from this page and the previous one:
I just wanted to say that today, while writing, I REALLY wanted the word “Mellification” to exist, but I didn’t know that it did, so I went on a deep-dive etymological search!
I started with “mel,” which I knew meant honey (because of the French “miel” and also because of “mellifluous”) and trying to find the roots of “saponify,” which means to turn something into soap (it turns out I didn’t need the “sapon”/soap part, just the “ify” part, which comes from the Latin facere, “to make.”)
AND ALL OF THAT SCURRYING THROUGH ARTICLES ABOUT HONEY-MAKING FINALLY LED ME HERE…
“Mellification is a mostly obsolete term for the production of honey, or the process of honeying something, from the Latin mellificāre (“to make honey”), or mel (“honey”). The Ancient Greek word mélissa (μέλισσα) means “bee; honeybee; (poetic) honey”.
I needed this word for SALISSAY’S LAUNDRIES, because of what happens to human blood when it is afflicted with gentry enchantment. It turns to honey, you see. Or at least grows sweeter, and sometimes sparkles in the dark, and, well, does other strange things when, for example, injected into mice. BUT YOU’LL SEE!
I’m having so much fun writing Salissay’s Laundries–or maybe, I should say, researching it–that I must simply share all my currently opened tabs on the subject. FOR POSTERITY.
I’m currently almost 5000 words in, and probably just about halfway done. It will be one of the three new stories in my Dark Breakers collection, along with “Longergreen” and “Susurra to the Moon,” as well as the revisions and expansions of “The Breaker Queen” and “The Two Paupers.”
I haven’t done any huge, specific announcements about Dark Breakers yet, or a cover reveal, but that should be coming soon.
But while I’m here, DO let me share! This isn’t the extent of it by ANY MEANS, since I also close tabs when I’m done with them, but here’s today’s sampling:
After a lifelong career as an investigative journalist, I am—if you will excuse the seeming boast—a woman considered above reproach, ruthless in the pursuit of Truth, firmly on the side of the People. But I do not believe that there is such a thing as “above reproach,” the other side of that old, tarnished “fallen women” coin. Beware this stuffed coin! It is a counterfeit! A fake! False scrip! I, like you, dear reader, am human. Ignorance and imperfection are part of this mortal coil. When I make a mistake in my reporting, I print a correction. Sometimes it is not enough. Sometimes the damage is already done. When I harm someone, I apologize and try to make amends. This does not mean my apology will be accepted, or that the amends will, in fact, compensate for the hurt I caused.
Finally, I will leave you with a snippet from today’s draft. Now, don’t get too excited or critical. It’s a first draft. Things change. Like my false money metaphor that I loved and lost. (See above.)
Yet there was a rhythm in that washing room, a song within that thunderous noise. It was a song of celebration, a proud song; it lauded human invention and human industry. I found it overwhelming and also beautiful. If I did believe in the gentry, I could also believe that this song could cure whatever spell they set upon me. It took over me bodily, worked me harder than I was perhaps willing to work, and left me, by my luncheon, wrung-out and elated.
But I did not mean to waste the rest of my afternoon breathing steam and elbow-deep in suds. I meant to go exploring. And so, on an exploratory journey to the toilets, I found my way into the Infirmary, the Kitchen, and lastly, to the Confinement Room, where a pregnant young woman was bound to the iron rails of her bed by manacles of iron.
She looked at me, and I thought for a moment I could see her eyes glow green in the dark, like a wolf’s, before she turned her face away. But I approached her nevertheless.
“Can I help you?” I asked softly. The closer I came to her, the less I smelled the overpowering odor of the room—old blood and sour milk and the fug that settles in an inner chamber with no windows or ducts to conduct air into or through it—and the more I smelled a scent like cream and violets, like lavender and wine, like antique silk and new-cut grass and heavy velvet and crushed autumn leaves.
“You?” she asked, turning once again those strange (sea-glass) eyes upon me. “What can you do, mortal?”
“I—” I began, but that is when I was caught.
“Miss Dee, is it?” asked a kindly voice behind me. I say “kindly” but it was a kindness that chilled all the nerves running through my spine, till I felt my vertebrae crackle like icicles.
“Her Holiness the Abbess Caelestis the Fifth will see you now.”
Highlights from Ig Nobel Prize–winning studies and patents are presented in dramatic mini-readings by luminaries and experts (in some field).
Saturday, August 14th, 8 PM
Duration: 1 HOUR
OLD WOMAN’S WAR
In an 2019 essay in Nature Sylvia Spruck Wrigley wrote about the dearth of older female characters in science fiction, the treatment of the few who do exist, and how those trends reflect the ageism, sexism, and other biases of the here and now. How can we change this dynamic? What can science fiction learn from fantasy, which often includes wise and powerful older women—and why hasn’t science fiction borrowed those ideas and characters already?
Sunday, August 15th, 3 PM
Duration: 1 HOUR
SAINT DEATH’S DAUGHTER
I will be reading from my forthcoming novel SAINT DEATH’S DAUGHTER!
One of the MOST FUN THINGS about writing in the same world for a thousand years–stories that take place in different countries, in different parts of the timeline, some of it history and some of it myth and all of it in translation, but same damn world nonetheless–is that you get to reference yourself all the time and it’s all these little jokes EVERYWHERE.
And don’t get me started on all the Dark Breakers references.
I SHOULD MAKE A WHACHOOMACALLIT! A CONCORDANCE!
This bit (below) was always in THE TWO PAUPERS, but now I’ve made it even CHEEKIER, and only those who’ve read BONE SWANS (and who remember it) will get it.
Also, THIS TIME, I added in an artist that I’ve named after my friend Lea Grover (author of Becoming SuperMommy). I used to model for Lea, back in Chicago. She’s got my butt up in her living room.
Lea, I think, would fit right into the Dark Breakers world. She’d certainly ROCK the Voluptuist movement of the New Century. She’d be one of the premier artists of Seafall, and give Elliot Howell a run for his money. And HE’D be HER biggest fan. So there.
“Desdemona had opted to dress as the iconic Swan Princess from legend, Dora Rose. Everyone knew the story; it was the sort of thing Voluptuist artists scarfed up like cheap wine and day-old bread. There were several famous paintings on the subject. (Gideon favored Leha Borgrove’s watercolor-and-inks over Elliot’s oils; Elliot tended to idealize the female and animal form, but Leha wasn’t afraid to make her swan girls ugly, mighty, and mean.) There was also a ballet (which Gideon had never seen), an opera (which he loathed), and a play that Ana had written for the Seafall Fringe Festival (which he had gone to watch every night, although Ana didn’t know that).”
– “The Two Paupers”: Revised and Expanded for Dark Breakers
I, with my friend, New York director Miriam Grill, who’s been living with us throughout the pandemic, decided to make a little experimental audiobook in our downtime last year. (It was all downtime last year.) (I mean, I exaggerate. We managed to keep very busy. But as for making my living as a voice actor? That… didn’t happen. At all.)
Mir wanted experience directing audiobooks–she mostly directs for stage (well, and also sometimes for VR, and now for Zoom, and now for film; she’s very intrepid!)–and I wanted to put something new into the world. Also I wanted to work again with my awesome brother, Jeremy Cooney, and also with designer Brett Massé, and… well, you see where I’m going?
So we recorded this in Carlos’s and my bedroom at Queens, in a sort of tent fort/cubicle made of blankets and bookshelves, and Mir directed it, and my brother edited and produced it, and Brett did the cover, and Carlos was VERY GENEROUS as patron and supporter of THE ARTS, and here you have it!
Also, the amount of toilet flushing, raucous blue jays, roaring of the (Wyrm of) LIRR, planes taking off and descending from BOTH JFK AND LA GUARDIA, and the spontaneous construction (drilling, hammering, grinding, etc) that just APPEARS OUT OF NO WHERE the MOMENT you start recording, you wouldn’t even believe!
But 2020 was… well, was 2020.
And we all did what we could with what we had.
And now Amy Goldschlager has listened to our little erotic fairy tale collection audiobook, and she has written about it in Locus, and it is all SUCH an honor, and a DELIGHT, and I am SO HAPPY.
writes dexterously, swears joyously, wears sweatshirts, checks his iPhone, showers daily, bemoans the need for spectacles, promenades amongst a virtual professoriate, holds office hours on Zoom, drinks more coffee than is good for him, eats only cereal (except when he comes flirting for a sweet thing, that he, in his wisdom, requests I hide from him, in some dark corner of my wardrobe, or high up on a shelf that is mine alone, that he pretends he cannot see or reach).
you know. normal things.
but then, there are other signs, some, extremely subtle:
a rectangular dent (only present in a certain mood of mischief) appearing in the flesh beneath his left eyeball; a tendency to prance or cannonball or piggyback– with no provocation or otherwise word of warning– and demand, in altered voice, “an ostrich with a diamond collar! a ruby monkey! a zombie chicken with rockstar eyes, wheezing with the agony of the damned!” to bare his throat and bay for meat: rare, bloody; for lujo rum in a dark and dusty bottle; for a rainy day in Canada with a fine cigar; or, spinning on his heel–pouncing!–he stares at me with all the earnestness of a capricious spirit, and offers anything–everything!–name a gift, he says– “name it–and I’ll put a girdle round the Earth in forty minutes!” as his eyes begin to glow, not so subtly, in the dark.
this is when I begin to suspect, slowly and with circumspection (with a growing sense of having thought this all before– thought, yes, and been made to forget):
that it was not a man I married. not an ordinary man.