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TweetSpeak Poetry Prompt 4: Ah ha! Perspective Flash

From TweetSpeak’s Poetry Prompt Free Mini-Series. Sign up at their website to get prompts in mail.

Based on Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum‘s PoemConstellations
McFadyen-Ketchum “catches the light” of these fireflies from a variety of angles, describing them in different settings, times, and imaginations. Each stanza presents its own flash of insight about these creatures. Choose an object to explore from a few different perspectives in a poem.


by C. S. E. Cooney

handheld device, second brain, window to the world
record of my index print, trained to my voice, trained to call
the ones I love, by the names I’ve assigned them

palm-sized secretary, ball-and-chain, tethered attention
bearer of bad news, scavenger of headlines, object that tamed
me, that brought me to heel at a flash, a banner, a buzz, a ping

o love letter, o music box, o theatre, o photo album
o family, o amanuensis, o secret keeper, o library
o campfire, o atlas, o diet, o meter of my steps

and when you break down, as you are breaking now
how I mourn you, how I feel my future on the fritz
how I plug you in, avoid you, am repulsed, ashamed, a failure

ah, but when you work, how only I forget to thank you
thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

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TweetSpeak Poetry Prompt 3: Line: Suspense Breaks

From TweetSpeak’s Poetry Prompt Free Mini-Series. Sign up at their website to get prompts in mail.

Based on Chris Forhan’s PoemWhat My Father Left Behind
In Forhan’s poem, not only do the line breaks, but the stanza breaks (breaks between groups of lines), carry a lot of “weight”: half-finished—, he might be, and it arcs, for instance. Write a poem in which the breaks at stanzas suggest emotions, multiple meanings, themes, or suspense. Challenge yourself further by making each stanza the same number of lines.


By C. S. E. Cooney

he says, shy-scratching his quarantine curls, “there are people
in the kitchen, talking, so I’m waiting, like a gremlin, waiting
for my turn to go in and cook, some waffles and eggs, perhaps
a second cup of coffee”

I say (or want to say), “let me make your breakfast! thaw
your Eggos, stir in my colibrí’s sweet ratio of sugar to
caffeine, not break your yolk this time, serve it up pristine
in one of mama’s cobalt bowls!”

he checks his twitter, stands and paces, sneaks out
the door in his pajamas, alligator t-shirt, ducks back in
grinning, mutters, “not yet!” like a gremlin, prances to
his laptop, dainty, rinse-repeat

I, like a folksong, bend head to breast, lean over laptop, tap-
tapping it all out, real-time, here’s a poem, it hardly rhymes but
it’s us, right now, 9:56, a rill of wind chimes just outside our
wide-open window

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Francesca Forrest’s Gown of Harmonies

Gown of Harmonies, by Francesca Forrest

A few days ago, I read Gown of Harmonies by Francesca Forrest and it was JUST WHAT I NEEDED!

Francesca’s work, for some reason, always is. Last year, I read her novella The Inconvenient God, which made me laugh–so utterly surprising and delightful as it was. And her earlier, still so gorgeous, epistolary novel, Pen Pal, abides in me still.

Francesca’s newest novelette, Gown of Harmonies, delivers just that same “fabulous Francesca feeling,” though it’s never the same feeling, because she’s always trying something new!

This story is full fairy magic, human music, fairy trickery, human heart. Labor and stubbornness. And kindness. So much kindness. I’d recommend this story for anyone who loves the works of Robin McKinley and Patricia A McKillip.

Speaking of kindness, Francesca announced when she put out this novelette that all proceeds from it would go to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, which local to the author! That’s JUST THE SORT OF THING I love in this world, and every time I see evidence of it, I get happier.

By day, a recording studio. By night, our BEDS! #quarantine

A few hours of reading Gown of Harmonies, I started to get this… itch. (No, not that kind of itch!) The last audiobook I recorded was back in December, for Tantor, and since then I’ve been exercising my talents (maybe kind of an obsession) by reading Jasper Fforde books to my husband Carlos. (OMGoodness, Early Riser was one of our FAVORITE THINGS WE READ last year!!!)

But now that we’re “Sheltering in Place” at my mom’s house in Arizona (we came for a little vacation and then… stayed) (we don’t know when we’ll be able to go home to NYC) (we’re very lucky to be here) (also, I only packed for a week), we’re reading the ARC of Martha Well‘s forthcoming Murderbot novel, Network Effect. My mom jumped in, so I get a larger audience, which suits my inner Norma Desmond like whoa.

(FUN FACT, Network Effect coming out on May 5th, the same day Carlos’s book Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe comes out with Disney Hyperion! PRE-ORDER!)

All of which to say, I thought that it might be time to do a little reading-aloud project that might go a little further than Carlos’s ears. To that end, I asked Francesca Forrest (who is my friend!) if I might volunteer my voice for her audiobook.


What a posh mic. Where does my brother get this stuff?

So I found a little team willing to proof and produce me. These are Jessica P. Wick: a poet, author, and an AMAZING proofer and editor of books and audiobooks–so, if you’re looking for someone to do that, I recommend her heartily–and Jeremy Cooney: one of my five beautiful brothers, (like all my brothers, great at everything), musician, game master and podcaster, video editor, etc. He’s also the one who collaborates with me on my Brimstone Rhine projects.

All proceeds from the audiobook for Gown of Harmonies will ALSO go to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, to help create support for those who have been laid off in this crisis, & otherwise!


Since necessity breeds innovation, I have taken two of the foam mats (see above) that we are sleeping on in mama’s guest room (well, it was a “yoga/meditation room,” hence no bed and the need for Home Depot’s foam mats), and a little folding desk we got from Staples, and I borrowed a mic from Jeremy. Therewith, I have set up what will pass for a small studio!

I figure, if I get up at 5 AM before everyone else, including cats and birds and traffic are awake, I can record The Gown of Harmonies tomorrow and possibly the next day. And then send it on to Jess to proof me, and Remi to produce me, ET VOILA! We will have made a thing. TOGETHAH!


C. S. E. Cooney, excited

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TweetSpeak Poetry Prompt 2: Sound: Irresistible Vocabulary

From TweetSpeak’s Poetry Prompt Free Mini-Series. Sign up at their website to get prompts in mail.

Based on Sara Barkat’s Poem “Gerda in the Garden”
Barkat creates irresistible sounds by employing “expert vocabulary,” or specific words from a field, such as gardening. Write a poem that catalogs a variety of words you may not commonly use—it could be language from ice hockey, chemistry, or raising guinea pigs. Doing a bit of research first is okay. Play with the words and enjoy the sounds of them bumping and crashing together.

A Day In the Recording Booth

by C. S. E. Cooney

plosives are plush explosions, plummy and plumy, breathy and balloony
blowsy as tulips, effervescent on the lips, bubblebounce of sound
need a popscreen, angled jaw, distance from the mic (or put a sock on it!)
the “r’s,” however, more approximant, are rounded, restful consonants
though by weary wend of day, they rasp and fray and deliquesce to “w’s”
sibilance is easy-peasy, susquehanna-Sasquatch-squeezy, yes but even so
it sometimes slides to lisping fricatives, voiced or voiceless dental fricatives
“Thuffering thuccotash!” crieth Thylvethter. “Thith tongue ith tired!”
the lateral is lulling, liquid and compelling, but come nightfall, all there is, is


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Forum Network: Fantastic Reimaginings: Readings And Discussion

Well, this is really cool!

The Forum Network posted the entire Speculative Boston reading and panel that I got to do with Sonya Taaffe and Nina MacLaughlin, introduced by Gillian Daniels.

I read bits from The Twice-Drowned Saint–my new (short) novel, forthcoming from Mythic Delirium in The Sinister Quartet anthology (available for pre-order, both paperback and ebook!), along with great, dark novellas by Mike Allen, Jessica Wick, and Amanda J. McGee.

Sonya read from her collection Forget the Sleepless Shores, and Nina read from her collection of re-told myths Wake, Siren.

Then we have a panel discussion with some VERY interesting questions! (And, as far as I can remember them, SOME AWESOME ANSWERS TOO.)

So, for all you DARLING NERDS (like me) out there, check it out, here:
Fantastic Reimaginings: Readings And Discussion

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Tweetspeak Poetry Prompt 1: One Must Have a Mind Of

From TweetSpeak’s Poetry Prompt Free Mini-Series. Sign up at their website to get prompts in mail.

Based on Wallace Stevens’s PoemThe Snow Man

Start a poem with “one must have a mind of . . .” and choose a word
to complete that first line and explore through sensory language.
For example: One must have a mind of salad. One must have a mind
of seahorses. One must have a mind of roller coasters.

The Window Woman

By C. S. E. Cooney

one must have a mind of quarantine
of clean, sterile surfaces, a surfeit of paper
supplies, sustainably made, bamboo or DIY

and have been altogether distant for so long
so calm, so detached, watching the world through
glass, listening to the far-off song

of a cactus wren, and the mangy cat in the Bermuda
grass, filthy and desperate, eyeing the hummingbird with
lust, one eye crusted over, one ear bent, tail broken

there is the sound of muted traffic, and the smell of
not-as-much smog, mosquitos batting at the screen
like small anxieties, homing, homing in on heated blood

and protected I sit, quiet, contemplative, not much
different than before, yet trammeled, yearning for more
resigned, a watchdog, slavering for signs of my time


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Video: Grand Finale of Mr. Fox

Ali Trotta invited me to her #SongSaturday, so I chose to do “The Grand Finale of Mr Fox.”

As I say in the video, the melody isn’t mine, but based on “Mr Fox” by John Pole (lyrics) and Terry Yarnell (melody).

The story behind the song and the lyrics are here.

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Grackle Gifts Come Wild to Hand

for Cassandra Khaw

morning! morning! calls the grackle-girl
making big coin eyes at me
right outside my windowpane
making rappitty-tappitty, gothily-punkily
japily-jestily, heckily-jeckily, doomily-gloomily, crack-crack
-ety noises right outside my windowpane

grackle-girl, she flexes up
she up and pecks a glint-sharp drupe
round from out my casement glass
hops my sill, the brazen lass, and pops
her sleeky head right through
that round-sawn hole she’s made
peeks razorly, says cheekily:
howdee, lady!
here’s your delivery

then! hoiks she
from out her prying beak, my grackle-girl
hoiks she a gorgon’s knot:
ribbons all a-ravel, streamers loose, limp like worms
each as black as bunker fuel
each as blue as flame
each that same sky-wet, snake-slick, onyx-licks-a-larimar hue
as her own jaunty neck, which she
from the vitreous guillotine
her boisterousness hath made

grackle gifts come wild to hand:
wet ribbon, glass drupe, jet wing, bronze ring
how they twist and twine, wend, wind
divine themselves into some true new thing:
some tiny monstrous hope
(pale, night-blooming orchid–
but tiger-striped, with teeth)
that feeds only on the finest ink, on midnight confessions
dark lace, strange tastes, unexpressed tensions
broken shell, shattered blade, polished stone
and the brightest brass button
in a box carved all
of bone

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A Sorceress-Come-Lately’s Arsenal of Spells and Charms To Ward Against False Preventions, Cures, Misinformation, and Hoaxes in the Age of the Pandemic

By C. S. E. Cooney

FALSE CLAIM: holding your breath for ten seconds successfully means you do not have the virus.

TRUE FACT: holding your breath successfully while dancing beneath Idol to Invoke Riot at the Rite of Spring (deer-headed girl, Lutetian limestone) while wearing Charm to Ward the Evil Eye (three sparrow skulls) means you can continue to do so for another ten seconds. (Eventually, this stops being true.) Also, wash your hands.

FALSE CLAIM: gargling with salt and/or vinegar and/or hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach will cure the virus.

TRUE FACT: burying Fetish for Calming a Fractious Child (amethyst, cockroach) beneath a tree, hanging Bead for Remembrance of Beloved Pet (dog or perhaps buffalo figure, could be horse) (clay, lapis glazing) above threshold, and gargling with Vodka (Fleischmann’s) will make homeschooling while working from home harder to remember the next day. Also, avoid touching your face.

FALSE CLAIM: drinking water (cold) or tea (hot) every fifteen minutes will cure the virus.

TRUE FACT:  setting Figure of God or alternately Frog (clay, blue glazing) on windowsill, driving Iron Nail (to ward off invasion) into garden and/or potted plant, and hanging up on/not answering emails from hackers and/or televangelists may prevent hackers/televangelists from hacking/televangelizing you. Also, drink water and/or tea. Keeping hydrated is generally a good idea.

FALSE CLAIM: colloidal silver, “immunity boosting” gummy and/or Flintstone vitamins, and oil of oregano or other essential oils may ward off the virus.

TRUE FACT: an Amulet of Fortune (brass, verdigris), an Amulet of Fertility (bone, phallus), and a Charm to Effect a Transformation (glass, amber) may result in appearance of homegrown homunculus to run all your outdoor errands while you remain safely at home, social-distancing. If spell fails, order prepackaged homunculus online along with the rest of your household needs, available for Prime Shipping sometime next month.

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Fiddle: Opening Act

Today, it’s a writing morning. I’m working on “Fiddle”–the second draft.

“Fiddle” takes place approximately 75 years after the events of Desdemona and the Deep, and though I wouldn’t call it a sequel, there are a few recurring characters. Because the gentry and the koboldkin are rather long-lived.

The first draft is currently over 40,000 words, so I’m betting by the time I’m finished drafting it, it’ll either be just under that, or, more likely, closer to 60,000, which means… ANOTHER ACCIDENTAL NOVEL! We’ll see if I can finish Draft 2 by the end of April.

That’s the plan. But, like all my plans lately, it’ll probably take a wee bit longer. (Sorry, Mike Allen. Re: The Twice-Drowned Saint!)

Only this time, I’m going into revisions, PREPARED. It’s a very loose, breezy first person; the POV character is a goblin girl named Loxósseliss, or Lox for short, sometimes called “Fiddle” by her friends–and not because she can play an instrument.

Here’s the opening section, for the interested:



Three weddings, three worlds, one city, one day. And I was involved in all of them—more or less.

For a shy girl who doesn’t get out much, this should’ve been a form of torture—but thankfully, I’d lately fallen into totally unrequited love with a gangly, bemused, prophetic school teacher, and I had it on good authority he’d be attending at least two of the same weddings. Hence, what would otherwise have been an arduous social outing became an arduous social outing with devastating consequences for failing to appear.

Okay, well, I had to go to the first one. My sister appointed me her witness, and you do not let down a goblin girl on her day of days, get me? Not if her name’s Dida, and she brought food to your door when you were in grad school and suddenly found you couldn’t bear to leave your apartment, not even in the dead of night, and anyway you adore her and would have gone for her sake even if she hadn’t invited Schoolmaster Hottiepants to her wedding just as a favor to you.

And the second wedding? The whole world was invited to that one. All three worlds, in fact. Or, at least, representatives therefrom. Me, I was just the unlucky draw that time. Either that, or mama rigged the family lotto for her own reasons, which, yeah, I wouldn’t put past her, and no, I wasn’t going to confront her about it. Goblin mama says go to the Gentry Tripartite’s 75th Renewal of Vows, you do what goblin mama says.

The third wedding was a surprise, the morning of. We’ll get to that one. Suffice to say that I couldn’t have refused the invitation if I tried.

And, damn it. I tried.

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