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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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:
(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.
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!
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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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:
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
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.
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
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 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.”
First! I’m on two panels for JulyCon, a wonderful event that will be raising money for the Octavia E Butler Memorial Scholarship, which enables writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start.
It’s TODAY: Saturday, July 18, starting at noon ET on Gregory Wilson’s TWITCH CHANNEL! I’ve bolded the panels I’m on!
Noon: Worldbuilding with Depth
E.D.E. Bell, Gregory A. Wilson, C.S.E. Cooney, Marie Bilodeau, Tracy Chowdhury, Iori Kusano, LaShawn M. Wanak
1:00: Working with a Small Press
Lucy A. Snyder, Chris A. Jackson, C.S.E. Cooney, Marie Bilodeau, Chris Bell, LaShawn M. Wanak
2:00: Narrative in Different MediumsToiya Kristen Finley, Jennifer Brozek, Daniel Myers, Gregory A. Wilson, Carlos Hernandez
3:00: Running Productive Critique GroupsSarah Hans, Lucy A. Snyder, Iori Kusano, Aaron Rosenberg, Brandon O’Brien
4:00: Game Tie-in WritingSarah Hans, Jennifer Brozek, Chris A. Jackson, Tracy Chowdhury, Gregory A. Wilson, Aaron Rosenberg, Brandon O’Brien
5:00: Intro to PublishingToiya Kristen Finley, E.D.E. Bell, Michael Underwood, Carlos Hernandez, Chris Bell
Then! From JulyCon I’ll be moving on to a LIVE ZOOM READING!
Book No Further, an Independent Bookstore in Roanoke, VA–where my Sinister Quartet* colleagues Mike Allen and Amanda McGee abide–will be hosting the Zoom reading for us, as we regale you with excerpts from our “weird dark fantasy and horror novellas.”
*This link leads to Book No Further’s shop! Support Indie Bookstores!!!
Jul 18, 2020 03:30 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Register for the Book No Further event HERE!
Last but not least, tonight my husband Carlos and his band of merry RICK RIORDAN PRESENTS authors–including “Uncle Rick” himself!!!–will be playing DND for the Octavia E Butler Scholarship!