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Making Gelethel

Today in revising “The Twice-Drowned Saint,” I needed some help visualizing Gelethel: the Angelic City. (Hint: not your mama’s angels.) (Hint: You don’t want to go there.) (Well, most of you.)

Anyway, this is what I knew:

Gelethel, “the Diamond of Bellisaar” is 15 miles on each side, with an area of 225 square miles. It is surrounded by the Gelthic Serac, which is pure blue ice: 50 meters deep and 200 meters high.

I knew that before She “got ate,” the god of Gelethel gave each of Her 15 original angels (there are only 14 left in the city) an allotment, or district, to call their own.

But I didn’t know how to visualize the city, or how to divide it up into 15 equal areas (1 square mile, or 640 acres) without doing a bunch of boring rectangles (the only visual the internet could show me).

Thankfully, I know author (and musician! and math teacher!) Edward Peters Aubry, and I asked him to help me.

And he was SO KIND, and did NOT make fun of my mathematical ineptitude, and he told me to get out some graph paper, and then he told me JUST HOW TO DO IT.

I make the diamond: 15 by 15 by 15 by 15 squares. Every angel gets fifteen squares with the diamond. AND THAT’S ALL! The districts can be any shape I want!

I mean, OF COURSE! A CHILD would’ve known that! But I needed help, and I’m SO GRATEFUL! And now I have a map, and it is TOTES HELPFUL in this present draft I am writing.

My E for East looks like an S, and I think I misspelled some of my angels’ names, but whatever. I got to use CRAYONS!

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Miner’s Daughter VS Reynardine: First Draft

After the Richard Thompson concert, the deluge!

One of the songs he ended on (one of three–I think?–encores) was Fairport Convention’s “Reynardine,” (lyrics here), a version of the Reynardine ballad.

So then, I wrote this at midnight on the subway with the idea of adding it to the Distant Stars ballads. (More about Ballads from a Distant Star here!)

The aliens in the Distant Stars abduction narrative present as “face of fox and tail of scorpion,” so the Reynardine ballad fits in well. Or rather, we’ve stolen enough ballads to retell them that ONE MORE feels JUST RIGHT. Maybe WE are the Reynardines.

Of course, given my druthers, I never like to end with women vanishing and villains winning. There’s enough of that in the world.

And so:


“Come thou hither, miner’s daughter 
With thy braids as black as night 
With thy face so brown and shining 
And thine eyes so full of light 
Come and see my crystal castle
Turrets glitter, ramparts gleam
Come and wake me from my slumber
Come and kiss thy Reynardine!”

Come and kiss thy Reynardine
Deep within the forest green
Come and kiss thy Reynardine

What is she who grins so whitely?
What is she who calls so sweet? 
Phantom vixen, shade or shadow—
Are you after love, or meat?
Sure, I am a miner’s daughter 
Came my father long ago 
Press-ganged from the highest heaven 
To dig down in the mines below 

Come and kiss thy Reynardine
Deep within the forest green
Come and kiss thy Reynardine

Dug he deep, and dug he deeply 
Till he struck upon a stone 
Till he found a maid imprisoned 
Broke the rock and brought her home 
So you see, your snare can’t catch me 
O my clever Reynardine 
For I am a miner’s daughter 
And my mother is a queen 

Come and kiss thy Reynardine
Deep within the forest green
Come and kiss thy Reynardine

Yes, my mother has a castle
Crystal walls in crystal glade
Told me, “O beware, my daughter 
O, beware the vixen’s shade
She will find you in the forest 
Lure you to her casket stone 
She will bid you break her shackles  
Kiss her mouth and bring her home”

Come and kiss thy Reynardine
Deep within the forest green
Come and kiss thy Reynardine

“And that home will be our castle
And our bowels be her bowl 
She will drink your father’s heart-blood 
Sipped from out your mother’s skull 
Oh beware, beware my daughter 
Listen to your mother queen
And do not forsake your people 
For the love of Reynardine!”

Come and kiss thy Reynardine
Deep within the forest green
Come and kiss thy Reynardine

No, my love is strong and supple
Oh, my love is fierce and wild 
And she’ll meet me in this dark wood
Where we two will bide a while
Walk we two up to your casket
Kneel we there upon your stone
Pledge our love now and forever
Seal you fast to die alone

Come and kiss thy Reynardine
Deep within the forest green
Come and kiss thy Reynardine

Die, ye shade whose will would smite us
Die, ye poison in the breast
Seven times thy spite turn on thee
Seven times put thee to rest 
Then at journey’s end we’ll travel
For to see my mother queen
At her table, feast and revel
At the fall of Reynardine!

Now has fallen Reynardine
Deep within the forest green
Now has fallen Reynardine!


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Desdemona’s Tithe: Planned Parenthood (January ’20) and City Harvest (February ’20)

Somehow in the whirl of the New Year, I neglected my action in Desdemona’s Tithe. (To read more about this year-long commitment–and probably beyond–follow this link.)

This month, I played catch-up with a double tithe. I hope the goblins of my private underworlds will not castigate me too sharply.

We supported the following institutions today in the necessary work they do:

Planned Parenthood
Full Moon Tithe: January 10th

This link goes right to Planned Parenthood’s Mission Statement and Goals.

City Harvest
Full Moon Tithe: February 9th

City Harvest is an organization for food rescue and food security programs in NYC. To learn more, follow this link.

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Boskone Next Week: My Schedule

Guest Artist Eric Wilkerson’s cover for
by Kwame Mbalia

Next week is BOSKONE! Will you be there?

For those of you who don’t know, it’s a science fiction and fantasy convention running from February 14-16, 2020 in Boston, MA.

It is, and I quote, “A weekend to meet like-minded fans and professionals in the genre industry, hear readings, and attend panels about books, science, art, games, music, and more.”

And here is MY SCHEDULE!

1.) Voice Acting: Panel
14 Feb 2020, Friday 19:00 – 19:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

With the rise of audiobooks, voice actors have gained new prominence. However, voice acting goes beyond just reading the words on the page. Our experts come together to talk about the profession of voice acting, to share tips and tricks, and to discuss various channels for gaining training and jobs. We’ll also explore the kind of preparation needed for various genres, and how a voice performance differs from reading aloud or acting upon the stage.

2.) Adam Stemple and Brimstone Rhine Present: Distant Stars and and Irish Bars: Concert
14 Feb 2020, Friday 20:00 – 20:50, Lewis (Westin)

Start your Boskone weekend with a musical set with some of our multi-talented program participants.

Side note from ME: Carlos Hernandez, Faye Ringel, my brother Jeremy Cooney, and my friend Julia Rios, will all be singing songs to you from a concept album in-the-works called “BALLADS FROM A DISTANT STAR.” We are very excited to be singing together for you!!!

3. The Golden Compass: 25th Anniversary: Panel
15 Feb 2020, Saturday 15:00 – 15:50, Harbor I (Westin)

The first volume of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy, a 1995 novel called Northern Lights in the U.K. and The Golden Compass in the U.S., ensorcelled the imaginations of tens of millions of readers worldwide. The quests of curious, clever, courageous young Lyra bring encounters with Dust and destiny, daemons and angels, armored bears and parallel worlds. Is this YA or adult fare? Did Pullman set out to slay religion, or merely C. S. Lewis? What do the later movie and TV adaptations add, or subtract?

4. New Game Demo: Negocios Infernales: Demonstration
16 Feb 2020, Sunday 11:00 – 12:50, Harbor III – Gaming (Westin)

Negocios Infernales is a GM-less storytelling RPG of magic, courtly intrigue, and Faustian bargains. In an Inquisition-Spain-like setting, each player will take on the role of a wizard who has made a deal with the Devil (actually aliens; long story) in order to gain frightening magical powers to try to save their kingdom.

Powered by an innovative character- and narrative-creation system that uses a unique deck of 54 cards, the game is designed to be extremely rules-light, making it friendly to RPG newcomers and a breath of fresh air for experienced gamers.

5. The Unlikely Imaginarium: A Group Reading: Reading
16 Feb 2020, Sunday 13:00 – 13:50, Griffin (Westin)

Authors C. S. E. Cooney, Zig Zag Claybourne, Carlos Hernandez, Julia Rios, and Elaine Isaak gather around the dark bonfire of their collective imagination to tell stories of women, wolves, woods, bones, enraged ninjas, AI toilets, the end of the world, and basically, the whole entire multiverse. Or maybe something completely different. Attend our wild and rambunctious reading to find out for yourselves!

6. Musician’s Jam Session: Filk / Music
16 Feb 2020, Sunday 14:00 – 14:50, Lewis (Westin)

A favorite of our Featured Filkers! Bring your instruments, or just yourself to hang out, listen, and play if the mood takes you.


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we live in an invisible court, unseen spirits to each other
speak through mirrors, through the lightning calls
of small blue birds
we attend invisible masquerades
(we are wonderful! wonderful!)
gussied up, disguised as our best selfie snapshots
gilt over emptiness

the rushing of our busy wings
our marches, waltzes, blitzes, our patrols
we nod at each other:
good morning! good evening!
at dawn, at noon, at moonlit midnight
each at once, all at once, choreographing
these most amiable
nodding warmly, wary
in our separate shy-zones, mind-rift
either an awful politeness, or–
the urgent desire to connect

my back has no skin, flayed open
my back is a channel I keep open
you have turned your face from mine; you say it is gentle
it is not gentle
how have I hurt you? what did I do or not do, say
or not say–and to whom?
what secret crime did I commit–perhaps in ignorance,
perhaps malice–to earn
this grand and glacial silence?
the bird of communication is frozen
blue, the color of compact ice; blue–ice most pure
uncomplicated, airless ice

we sit in judgement of each other
armored in distance, mountains of glass between us
dusty leadlights, slippery and splintering
there are ways to mute these voices, cut cords
I should’ve known were severed stumps already

but I leave my back open
while I front face, face front, front
forward and

it is not so bad, or even unfamiliar
to be a ghost


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As You Mean To Go On

What I did today:

  1. Ate vegetables and rice at breakfast. VERY GOOD. More vegetables and fruits this year, eh? Less meat. More chickpeas. The NYT said so, but we’ve been leaning that way a while now.
  2. Read several chapters aloud between us (Hernandez and I) of Jasper Fforde’s EARLY RISER. IT KEEPS ON BEING GREAT. What impresses me is the deep, viral nature of his alternate-reality world building. His novum is a strong, beautifully ridiculous sci-fi idea, and everything in that world springs from it–technology, geography, pop culture references, physiology.

    And yet, it is still recognizably our world. He does all this and constantly makes us laugh out loud too.
  3. Did some writing. The Twice-Drowned Saint, which is in the 20,000 range now. Think (hope?) it’ll cap at 35,000.

    Really, not so much new stuff generated today as a thorough combing through last session’s writing. I know it all needs to be done, but . . . Hard-going today.

    I think I can move on to the next scene now. It’s not that I think what I’m writing is boring. It’s just . . . I want to get that scene right. I love those characters, and I want them to chillax and drink “benison wine” (read: angelic beer) together and have a tongue wag, but also move the plot along. And keep the voice consistent.

    Anyway. We’re springing into kind of an intense scene from here. Maybe I’m just afraid to write it? Regardless, I’m writing it. Tomorrow. Or at least starting it.
  4. Went to the GYM!!!

    Have to say, biking indoors is less boring when you’re watching Killing Eve. Did 30 minutes of Hills, went about 6 miles. Need to switch bikes–I don’t like the recumbent; it made my feet feel numb–and up my difficulty level. I was at level 5 of 20 and never really got my heartbeat where it needed to be.


    We Put Our Membership To Use–and have been, for most of December, at least once or twice a week. So, TRIUMPH.
  5. Baked bread. Sourdough, this recipe, a mix of wheat and white. Mir’s birthday dinner is tomorrow. We’re having Coq au Vino Bianco–this wonderful recipe, from my favorite, falling-apart NEW BASICS COOKBOOK–and wanted some beautiful bread.

    It’s really nice to have this sourdough starter from my buddy Pat. We have named the starter “Patrick the Third” in his honor (he named his own “Junior,” so you see?). Hernandez calls it “Paddy O’Thirdy.” We’ve already “friendship-breaded” some of the discard away, and our friends have named their starter “P4.” So the tradition HATH BEGUN.
  6. Broke down a LOT OF BOXES from the holidays. Bagged up trash. Bagged up plastic bags to recycle at the store, which is the nearest place that will recycle plastic bags. That was our one big chore, in an otherwise easy-peasy day. After being so scheduled for so long, a few days of no big plans are really, really, really welcome.
  7. Made a grocery list for tomorrow!!! I LOVE GROCESSEYS!
  8. Did dishes, sang along to the soundtrack of The Secret Garden musical as I did so.
  9. And speaking of singing . . .

    Did Exercises 1-7 in SINGING FOR THE STARS, by Seth Riggs. I set up my office so that my music stand is in here, and I realized that the little DVD-TV we recently bought has a CD player function. Hernandez bought me the Singing for the Stars program (CD and book) off my wishlist, so today is the first day of re-training my voice.

    I’d love to build a strong “mixed” voice over this year, and sustain it. New habits, new bridges of sound. I’ve always wanted to have one, but my chest and head voice have always had this wild disconnect. Like the difference between a lioness belting on Broadway and a boy soprano. This was the book/CD program Terry Donohoo had in our house back in Illinois, and much of Riggs’s “speech level training” talk sounds right to me. I think the exercises will strengthen my singing, teach me better habits, and also keep me flexible for narration, so I’m excited about it. Rather wonder why it hasn’t been digitized yet, for this modern age.
  10. And now, I am blogging. The only other thing I wanted to do today, in oracular activation of the coming year, was write a few letters. And perhaps that is what I shall do after signing off. I did stay up late–through midnight and into the wee hours–reading a romance novel for pleasure. It was Delicious, by Sherry Thomas.

    Sherry Thomas is a writer whom I’ve never met, but whose career and trajectory I admire like no other. And I admire a LOT of writers. It’s kind of my job. Anyway, I got on a Sherry Thomas kick over the holidays, and I’ve been binging all her old stuff. Really, it’s to hold me over till her next Lady Sherlock book came out. The last one was a heist book. The structure was IMPECCABLE. How can she TOP IT? But one thing I know about Sherry Thomas is that she will. And in no way I will expect.

Enough of my love-letters in open form blogging now. I have pretty new paper purchased by my beloved as one of my birthday presents, and I mean to write on it.

I owe many letters, and I long to write them all. And poetry too. And, oh, everything. Everything. It’s not just the new year. It’s an urgency I often feel. I like this, writing at night.

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My Poem: “For Mrs Q” Live at Fireside!

I wrote this poem years ago, and it’s published in the last issue of Fireside that my dear Julia Rios edited.

This was also the last issue I narrated, and so you have MOI reading it to VOUS, should you desire such things.

I wrote it for my good and darling friend Stephanie Shaw specifically, and for my dark-eyed women generally.

Please click through to enjoy For Mrs. Q. It’s best read aloud. Perhaps with a glass of red wine, or an interesting beet juice mocktail with Worcestershire in it.

…I was going to work and saw a cardinal, bold in the last browns of winter — a cardinal, I thought, how red, how right, I will write and tell her that I thought of her, that I saw something dashing in the deadness and it reminded me of her, how her mouth leaves a lasting impression, like Nabokov, like a bright scar on the brain, how I always think of her in a red coat, with a red mouth, wearing turquoise Italian heels, carrying a yellow ukulele…

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Doctors Without Borders and Heifer International

I missed blogging about Desdemona’s Tithe for November, and I’m two days late in December, but here were our tithes:

Doctors Without Borders
Full Moon Tithe: November 12th

Heifer International
Full Moon Tithe: December 12th

Click through to read more about Desdemona’s Tithe.

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For Amal, on her 35th Birthday

it started with honey

when suddenly–
everything was honey! dripped
golden, licked sweet
everywhere were
tongues, everywhere
bees buzzing, perpetual
your lips pollen-
kissed, your dimple gold-
dusted, and even your clothes
honeycombed, stitched
with stingers

but that was then, in the

next came the owls

owls: with faces of
flowers, owls:
speaking in the tongues of suns and
moons, owls:
in their strega forms, hurtling
with the silent impact of

all we spoke of were owls
spoke in whispers
whispered your name

there were diamond oceans, too
as you plumbed the depths of Neptune
gems of dream then, gems of
philosophers and cinnamon
sticks, tricks with
time, tricky women
wizard nations
whirling in thunderheads of birds

now (even now), the red shift and the
belong to you
cardinal and titmouse, poppy and iris
fire opal, Eagle nebula
all reorder themselves
according to your fountain’s

this is how you bend the light,
my beauty,
this is how you stride the sky

every year, a new virus of
every year, ascension
rocket propulsion
startled arms outflung in hurtling spirals
more and more of what you love
you, who only grow in tenderness
your dark eyes
ever steady in their ready beam
like they were back your cradle years
before I knew you


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Housekeeping Post: Awards Eligibility for Desdemona and the Deep

Helllooooo there! I keep seeing these things pop up, and so: voila! AWARDS POST!

The only thing of mine that has come out this year (I think) is Desdemona and the Deep.

With regards to the Nebula word count requirements, I believe it would be considered a leeetle novel.

I think if it were to be considered for any other award–Locus, Hugo, or World Fantasy–it would be considered a novella (as it was written to be one), though I did a slip or two of the fingers in the editing stage and WHOOPS went my word count.

If thou’rt of a mind to do’t, go ye forth and READ my Des, and then–should she please thee, Phossy Gals et al–go on and give her a GREAT GOBLIN GOB OF VOTAGE RIGHT WHERE THE GOBBIN GETS GOOD!


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