Progress Report: The Devil and Lady Midnight

Yesterday, Tina Connolly and Mary Crowell and I did our FIRST READ-THROUGH of our FIRST DRAFT of our FIRST EPISODE of The Devil and Lady Midnight.

The first thing Tina said was that I should play Lucy (Lucy Lumen of Lucid Theater, Theatre of the Underground…), and even though I tried to protest, I mean…

Who are we kidding? Of COURSE I wanted to play Lucy. And OF COURSE Tina knew that.

“It’s not like I’ve been anticipating this for weeks, casting it all in my head.”

She, of course, wanted to be the vampire Didier, and DIDN’T SHE ROCK IT!

We cast Mary as Mavis Day, Mr. Og, Az AND the stage directions. Of course, she’s also done recordings of all of her songs so far in that episode, which we played at the appropriate times.

One of our great discoveries was that, since this is going to be a radio play/podcast series, reading the stage directions out loud worked REALLY well, and we’re going to lean into that, transforming them into a Narrator’s voice, and by the sixth and final episode, we learn who this mysterious Narrator ACTUALLY is.

The first episode ran 38 minutes with all the songs. Yes, there are songs. Did I mention this is a MUSICAL THEATRE radio play/podcast series?

It was so magical to see the first episode as a whole, with its cold open monologue, its opening credits song, three scenes (with two songs), and outro.

It needs tightening and editing and maybe one more short song, but Horned Lords! It was SO COOL! And it really showed us that we need to be doing read-throughs regularly as we put this thing together!

We don’t really want to start editing the first episode until we have all six roughed out. Originally, we’d planned to do one really polished episode and then a very strong outline, but we’re having so much fun, and by the time we’re done with this project, we’ll have a shiny thing to present… somewhere.

To our agents? To podcast platforms? TO KICKSTARTER? To some kind of GRANT?

Who knows? But for now, our 90 minute collaboration every Wednesday has born SUCH FRUIT!

We always emerge from this virtual sessions so JAZZED. We live across the country from each other: East Coast, south Midwest, and Pacific Coast–and yet to be able to see each other regularly and work with each other like this? It’s SCRUMPTIOUS.

Our “little side project.”

So, if you don’t know Tina Connolly’s work, here are a few awesome things:
Her Seriously YA tetralogy
Her amazing adult fantasy trilogy Ironskin
Her collection On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories

And if you don’t know Dr. Mary Crowell’s work, she just released her pandemic album I Have Missed You at My Table (click through to stream it on Bandcamp) (mostly RPG-inspired songs!!!). Plus, her album Scattering Seeds on the Pomegranate Tour is just MARVELOUS!

Also, she’s just written MY BOOK Saint Death’s Daughter a song on Patreon called “In the Bones of Her Cloak,” that I am in love with.

So that’s what we’re up to!


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A Day in the City, Ending in an Electric Circus

I asked Carlos if he wanted to go the Electric Circus with me and a friend of ours: actor, audiobook narrator, and all-around goddess Carla Kissane. (She of “Shakespeare Cabaret” fame.)

Before uttering an ENTHUSIASTIC YES, he asked, very naturally, what was an Electric Circus? So I went to the Arts on Site webpage and I read him ALL ABOUT IT.

In a nutshell:

THE ELECTRIC CIRCUS is an NQT Queer and Trans festival weekend of dance, poetry, theatre & song, co-curated by the National Queer Theater and Arts On Site, all highlighting queer and/or trans artists. Every night of the festival Program A will run at 6:30 and Program B will run at 8:30.

Carlos said it sounded fantastic (“sounds like the Fringe!”), agreed to a theatre night out, then sat back on the couch and looked at me speculatively.

“Cooney,” said he. “Whaddya say we take a day off?”

“A… day off?” said I, bewildered.

“A day off,” he stated. “I could use one. We go early into the city. Have lunch. Have a little adventure.”


So we did. We got off the R on 14th street and wandered down Broadway. We passed The Strand. We passed a shop full of vintage T-shirts. We passed our favorite Halloween costume store, which is still full of awesome costumes and masks, but which shut down during the pandemic. It’s for sale.

“So… that’s our costume shop now, right?” I asked.

“We’ll just live there,” he agreed.

“THAT WOULD BE THE BEST HOUSE EVER! And everyone we invite in could wear any costume they wanted!”

Right next door was Gothic Renaissance, which I thought had closed. But it hadn’t. I went and drooled over all the fluffy and/or sparkly and/or gold lamé things that would not fit me, and a unicorn pegasus rhinestone necklace that I HAD NOT BUDGETED FOR and therefore DID NOT BUY, and then we moved on.

Carlos had an idea that he would like some bulgogi, but as we wandered on that hot, windy day, we decided it was perhaps too warm. But we found a great TORTAS AND TAQUITOS place, and sat outside and took a load off.

As we sat, Carlos started looking bright-eyed. “There’s a game shop around here, you know,” he said. “You can go in, rent games, get a coffee. It’s called The Uncommons.”


So, after lunch, we strolled through Washington Square Park to The Uncommons, where Carlos taught me a very famous game I’d never heard of before called MUNCHKIN. Apparently, a MUNCHKIN, in D and D, is when a Level 1 player wants to have all, like, the Level 20 weapons and stuff. So game designer Steve Jackson made a card game that leaned into that.

After playing two rounds of MUNKCHIN, we had to pull ourselves away and walk to the incredible Arts on Site performance space. We’d last been there in the fall to see Carla perform as La Carlotta in her feminist Shakespeare Cabaret “Whores and Weeping Women” (links above, where I first mentioned her).

She wore a pink dress with a pink mask and was, as usual, AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT.

But we still had time before the show. And just a few doors down was a Barcade that used to be the historic New Saint Mark’s Baths.

Carlos saw all those arcade games and got a bit glittery with excitement. So I gave him some quarters and dollar bills, and he bought Carla and me two chilled pinot grigios, and she and I chatted at hummingbird speed about audiobook narration whilst he played Streetfighter II Turbo for a few minutes.

After which, we headed over to the ELECTRIC CIRCUS. Being early birds, we saw the 6:30 performance, which featured the Program A artists:

THE BANG GROUP — in their own words, is “directed by choreographer David Parker and dancer Jeffrey Kazin, straddles percussive and contemporary dance forms and is known for its wit, innovation and devotion to craft. TBG was founded in 1995 and has performed and toured widely in both the US and Europe ever since.”

(Note from Claire and Carlos: if you EVER ever EVER get a chance to see these men dance, do it do it do it! It was the most incredible choreographed experience I’d seen since STOMP. Carlos compared it to a two-man Blue Man group. It was so FUNNY, so clean, so TENDER, so agitated, so comforting, so ANGRY, so PERCUSSIVE. Hot damn!)

AYLA XUÂN CHI SULLIVAN — Sullivan, in their own words is: “a Black and Vietnamese, queer, non binary, interdisciplinary arts practitioner. They are an actor, a playwright, a director, a poet, an educator, and a co founder of Shift 23 Media. They believe in making art the most accessible form of education and a world without cages, which means: I’m sure we should be working together!”

(Note from Claire and Carlos: They were incredibly powerful. Like, rip-your-guts-out stuff. They could go from adorable to chilling in a turn of a phrase. Carlos said, after, “I like angry theatre. I like an angry poet.”)

KE’RON WILSON — in her own words: “(they/she) is a movement artist, choreographer, and poet… They were awarded Dance Source Houston’s Spark Dance Grant in 2021, and have most recently presented work as an emerging choreographer with Mare Nostrum’s Emerging Choreographer’s Series in NYC. Their art, being heavily influenced by their activism, pulls from a wide range of disciplines and seeks to cultivate a shared sensitivity towards the human condition.”

(Note from Claire and Carlos: There was such beauty and vulnerability in this performance. The soundscape especially was amazing, working with the lighting design and choreography to move the dancer from a nightmare of doubt into a place of grace and surety, though the transition was riddled with terrors.)

ANTONIO AMOR — in his own words: “(he/they) is a Boylesque/Draglesque entertainer located in Jersey City and actively working in the New York City nightlife. Combining the elements of vogue, drag, and the art of strip, he seeks to create a production every time he hits the stage. Antonio brings beauty, grace, sex, sass, and a whole lot of ASS. He was born in the ballroom, has been forged in the flames of drag, and is Red HOT as Jersey City’s Premier Latino Boylesque Entertainer. He is the Boylesque Babe of Jersey City, Antonio Amor.”

(Note from Claire And Carlos: Antonio was the note the festival ended on–a glittering, energetic, graceful lip-sync and dance number, with a lot of ruffles and sequins and VERY HIGH STILETTO BOOTS. At the end, all that was left on stage was a pile of discarded splendor.

“Rainbow carnage,” Carlotta murmured as we clapped and stamped him through his curtsey and his sashay offstage.

Ah, “rainbow carnage.” A fine description of the whole Electric Circus indeed. It’s playing through tonight, so New Yorkers, don’t miss it.

But if you DO miss it, the National Queer Theatre is having their fourth annual Criminal Queerness Festival next week at Lincoln Center: new plays from three East African LGBTQIA+ writers fighting criminalization through their art.


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Beautiful Book Art by Cassandra Khaw & AI!

Writer, artist, and game-designer Cassandra Khaw has been engaging with an AI in generating art for some things they love.

Some of the things they love are MY things.

Cass has taken some of my text from The Twice-Drowned Saint, Dark Breakers and Desdemona and the Deep, and Saint Death’s Daughter, as well as key words of their own choice, tweaked and re-tweaked to feed to the AI, to develop character studies.

Here are a few below! To see more, visit their amazing Instagram feed!

I particular recommend their poetry at Uncanny Magazine.

Also, if you don’t know their books… you’re in for the greatest treat!


From Saint Death’s Daughter


From The Twice-Drowned Saint (in A Sinister Quartet)


From Dark Breakers and Desdemona and the Deep


From Dark Breakers and Desdemona and the Deep

Gentry Sovereign Alban Idris

Gentry Queen Chaz the Incarnadined

Gentry Queen Susurra the Night Hag

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A video message from THE HERNANDOONEYS! (Yours truly C. S. E. Cooney & Carlos Hernandez, in other words.)

TL;DW WE SKINNED OUR GAME “Negocios Infernales,” forthcoming from Outland Entertainment to do a one-shot RPG set in Gregory Wilson’s GRAYSHADE world.)

Tune in tonight, 6-10 PM ET, on, for FANTASY ASSASSIN SHENANIGANS! Carlos and Greg and I are playing and it will be SO EXCITING! FATALLY SO, I IMAGINE!

In the meantime, since all that SNEAKY ASSASSIN RPG STUFF sounds SO AMAZING, DO PLEASE go and back Greg’s/ Atthis Arts’/ Alligator Alley Entertainment’s collaborative Kickstarter for Greg’s dark fantasy trilogy PLUS a 5E-powered RPG based on The Gray Assassin world!


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Harpies: An Evening Reading! THIS SATURDAY!

First of all, you’ll want to come. It’s virtual, so it’s easy. And since you’ll want to come, here is where you sign up for (FREE) tickets on the Eventbrite page:

Second of all, here is why you’ll want to come:

What it is: a night of readings by speculative fiction writers and poets (and long-time friends): Nicole Kornher-Stace, Caitlyn Paxson, Patty Templeton, T. L Trent / Tiffany Trent, Amal El-Mohtar, Ysabeau Wilce, C. S. E. Cooney, and Jessica P. Wick.

We will be hosted by Mike Allen and Sydney Macias of Mythic Delirium.

After the readings, we will do a Q&A with the audience!

Re: the Q&A! Our expert guests—writers, poets, editors, reviewers, publishers, professors, archivists all (sometimes several at once)—might be able to answer some of your questions on the following subjects, or other SFF/literature-related ones you might think of:

  • starting/editing/funding SFF fiction & poetry ‘zines/anthologies
  • SFF cons, community, public performance
  • from poems to short stories to novels: publishing!
  • self-publishing, small presses, bigger ones
  • reading & reviewing SFF

Speaking of our expert guests, let me introduce you!

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the enemies-to-besties journey-into-the-underworld Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey, as well as the anticorporate SF thriller Firebreak and the middle grade SF/horror space adventure Jillian vs. Parasite Planet.She lives in New Paltz, NY with her family. She can be found online at or on Twitter @wirewalking, where she is probably semicoherently yelling about aspec representation and platonic relationships in fiction.

Want to know more about Nicole?
Nicole’s books!
Nicole’s Patreon!
The story Nicole’s reading from!

Caitlyn Paxson is a writer, reviewer, performer, and storyteller. She lives on Prince Edward Island, where she keeps a witch’s garden, manages a haunted museum, and moonlights as a fake spirit medium.

Want to know more about Caitlyn?
Caitlyn’s AMAZING newsletter “Book and Bramble”  
Caitlyn’s MAGICAL P.E.I.-based Instagram: @caitlynpaxson

Patty Templeton is a writer, Certified Archivist, and itinerant kitchen dancer. Find her on Twitter via @PattyTempleton.

Want to know more about Patty?
Her latest story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies!
Her glorious HAUNTED SARAH WINCHESTER NOVEL There Is No Lovely End!

T.L.Trent is the author of the new series from Moonhare Press, RISE OF THE IRON LOTUS. The first book, BLOODSWORD, will be available in August. As Tiffany Trent, she is the author of the young adult dark fantasy series Hallowmere and The Unnaturalists duology. 

Want to know more about T. L. Trent?
 Go to her WEBPAGE!

Amal El-Mohtar is an award-winning writer of fiction, poetry, and criticism and the co-author, with Max Gladstone, of This Is How You Lose the Time War. She teaches creative writing at the University of Ottawa. You can subscribe to her newsletter at

Want to know more about Amal?
Visit her webpage (especially this page with links to her work!)
Read her latest New York Times Book Review of Science Fiction and Fantasy!

Ysabeau S. Wilce  is a graduate of Clarion West,  and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and won the Andre Norton Award for the second volume in her Flora Segunda series, FLORA’S DARE.  Her short stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, F&SF magazine, and various collections, including the Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her most recent work, PROPHECIES, LIBELS & DREAMS, is available from Small Beer Press. 

Want to know more about Ysabeau?
Find her latest collection: PROPHECIES, LIBELS & DREAMS
Visit her Amazon Author’s Page!

C. S. E. Cooney is a writer & audiobook narrator. She won the World Fantasy Award for her collection Bone Swans in 2016. Her new collection, Dark Breakers, featuring stories and novellas set in the same world as Desdemona and the Deep, and came out from Mythic Delirium in February. Her new novel Saint Death’s Daughter debuted with Solaris in April. Currently, she and her husband, author Carlos Hernandez, are co-developing a TTRPG about “Inquisition and Aliens” called Negocios Infernales, forthcoming next year from Outland Entertainment.

Want to know more about YOURS TRULY, C. S. E. Cooney?
Well, you’re HERE, aren’t you?
But also, here’s my LINKTREE with ALL THE THINGS! (Where to find my books, where to find my songs, where to look out for the game that Carlos & I collaborated on, etc…)

Jessica P. Wick is a writer, poet, and editor. She co-founded Goblin Fruit with Amal El-Mohtar, a quarterly e-zine of fantastical poetry, and is a passionate advocate for the reading aloud of poetry and fiction. Her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling Award and received honorable mentions in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies. Her short fiction can be found scattered across the internet.

Want to know more about Jess?
Links to her Poetry and Fiction found here!

AND OF COURSE, MEET THE HOSTS! Editor/Publisher/Poet/Writer Mike Allen of Mythic Delirium, and his Assistant Editor, writer Sydney Macias!

Mike Allen edits and publishes Mythic Delirium Books in Roanoke, Virginia. His short stories have been gathered in three collections: UnseamingThe Spider Tapestries; and Aftermath of an Industrial Accident. His first dark fantasy novel, The Black Fire Concerto, appeared in 2013, and publisher Broken Eye Books plans to release his second novel, Trail of Shadows, in 2023. A two-time finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, Mike has also been a Nebula Award nominee and a three-time Rhysling Award winner for poetry. By day (and most nights!) he works as the Editorial Page Editor for The Roanoke Times. 

You can follow Mike’s exploits as a writer at, as an editor at, and all at once on Twitter at @mythicdelirium.

Sydney Macias is a practicing novel writer whose interests take form in metaphysical settings. Her work explores large casts of ambiguous characters dealing with themes of grief, identity and power. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an Emphasis in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her experience includes being a Senior Editor and contributor to Mouth Magazine, judging the Writer’s Games for Writer’s Workout, and being an Assistant Editor for the speculative fiction publisher Mythic Delirium.

Follow Sydney on Instagram at @_syd.mac_!

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Reviews and Podcasts I Have Loved (Spoiler: They Were Talking ABOUT MAH BOOKS!)

I know I’ve already done one of these review round-ups for Dark Breakers, and a lot of these and others are linked to in my LinkTree, but…


Ian Mond reviews Dark Breakers over at Locus Magazine

Safia H. Senhaji reviews Saint Death’s Daughter at Strange Horizons

Marty Cahill reviewed Saint Death’s Daughter on

Rich Horton reviewed Saint Death’s Daughter on Black Gate Magazine

FanFiAddict reviews Saint Death’s Daughter on her blog

BookForager reviews Saint Death’s Daughter on her blog

Every Book a Doorway reviews Saint Death’s Daughter on her blog

Julia Rios interviews me about Saint Death’s Daughter and the whole darn writing process in their TWO PART PODCAST: Part One and Part Two

Fiction Fans Podcast has a rollicking great discussion about Saint Death’s Daughter on their podcast


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A Late-Blooming Dungeon Flower

My 1st D&D game was about 5 years ago in the mountains. It was a one-off. I was anxious & confused. Everyone knew what they were doing. I didn’t know how to play. I don’t learn well that way. So I came out of it no more inclined to want to play D&D or understand those who do.

I’ve always been a person willing to play games but I always ask if I could watch one first. Many people are disinclined to allow this. That whole “throw them in and let em learn on the job” mentality. People say you should learn D&D like that. It didn’t work for me.

But, see, Carlos has been playing D&D for decades. A lot of my friends play. My brother & his wife DM 3 games a week. People kept saying I would love D&D, being a professional actor & writer myself. I said, right, well it sounds more like work than play to me.

Enter Critical Role last fall. Watching terrifically smart voice actors (they do a lot of video games & cartoons; I do almost exclusively audiobooks, but we’re all actors!) gave me a sense of the mechanics, fun, love & potential of this mind-blowing collaborative medium.

Anyway, I’m so damn grateful. It took me almost six months of watching before I shyly asked Carlos to DM a solo campaign for me.

Now, after 3 months of that, I am playing it with another person FOR THE 1st TIME TODAY (a memoirist/musical theatre composer/professor).

Later this month, I play with a group of at least 5–all family members.

And in August, at GenCon, I’ll play in front of a live audience with people who’ve loved D&D for as many decades as Carlos has.

That’s the difference a year makes. And that’s a story about how everyone learns things differently. And how a fantasy writer and voice actor came, at last, to play D&D at age 40.

I’m sorry it took me so long.

But also, it’s the perfect time.


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The Day I Superglued the Moon

So, one day, my father gave me the Moon.

It cracked and broke.

It fell from a bookshelf with too many books,

Or perhaps I was careless with it, or clumsy like I get when I’m about to have my period,

Or a wind knocked it down,

Or it was tired of being stuck in orbit without any friends closer than Brooklyn.

Anyway, it broke into two terrible pieces,

And I cried

Because it was the Moon, and my father gave it to me, and I broke it.

And one feels great guilt in the destruction of celestial bodies—

Even if you are only one small body stuck in a relentless system of waste, still it is all your fault, all the time, and life isn’t long enough to first learn this and then make all the necessary reparations.

Well, to continue my story, I broke the Moon and cried, and my husband Carlos cannot stand to see me cry.

Filled with the carnival glee of desperation, he turned cartwheels, wore a red nose and rainbow wig, did handstands, conjured silk handkerchiefs from his sleeve, showered me in flowers and confetti, threatened to eat his own nads, whatever he had to do to keep me from weeping.

But I was inconsolable; I had broken the Moon.

Nothing would ever be right, and, you see, my father, my father had given it to me.

So Carlos, who is clever and loving, went online—

And with the frictionless ease of technology, with a pulse of electricity, with kindness and fossil fuels, and corporate machinery, with all the history of knackerhouses and patents and plastic packaging, and workers strikes and rare materials mined from the earth, and strange planetary systems behind him,

He bought me some gorilla glue

So I could fix my Moon.

So I could plug it into my computer, and charge it up

And watch it glow, and think of my father

On all those nights in this brick-lined city

When I cannot see the Moon.


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Shaped of Rain and Candlelight: A Mind Cathedral for Patricia A. McKillip

The McKillip section of our library.

Here’s the Mc section of our home library. When I was 13, 14–early high school–it was the first section of the public library I’d always go to, just in case there was something new by McCaffrey, McKinley, or McKillip. I barely registered the names of any authors back then, but those three I knew by name, by flavor, by savor. I read and re-read them relentlessly, but the older I grew, it was mostly McKillip I returned to.

Oh, I want to write this, you know? I’ve been yearning to write this, ever since I heard that McKillip passed from us. Tina Connolly told me over Zoom, and I think I said, “No!” in that voice we always use when there’s no other word to say, no other voice to use. “No.” The most useless word in the world, under those circumstances. But I was glad I heard it from a friend, and not just read it on the internet. I don’t know why. “Glad” seems the wrong word anyway.

I’ve been meaning to write something all day today. I’ve been waiting all week till today, when I knew I had some time. I had a certain tone in mind. It was going to be so beautiful. I was going to tell you things about what McKillip meant to me, but with such subtlety, with such grace and wit and wisdom that you wouldn’t even read words on a screen anymore, but instead find yourself at the Cloisters gazing at one of the unicorn tapestries, only each thread was suddenly become a living luminous thing, and then the unicorn would turn her head and stare back at you, and you’d fall headfirst into the dark pool she was drinking from.

That’s what I meant to do, not just tell you about it. I meant to give you what McKillip means to me. So that’s why I hate writing this right now. Because it’s hard. Because I’m crying. Because I can’t do my more than a quarter-of-a-century’s worth of feeling the justice it deserves. Nor honor her, who shaped so much of my mind into what it is today, as I wish.

I didn’t know McKillip, but her mind utterly occupied mine.

And I’m not the only one, not by orders of magnitude. I don’t know how many blogs and articles and reflections and memorials are being written right now, in private or for the public. I don’t know how many of you have candles lit, like I do now. I don’t know how many of you are rereading your precious hoard of McKillip’s works. I know my engineer Judy is. I know several friends on Instagram are. It’s what I’d be doing right now too if I didn’t have stacks and towers and piles and heaps of books to read for the award I’m helping to judge. But right now, all I really want to do is read all my McKillip books again, and get the ones I don’t have from the library.

And even though I’m crying now, I want more time to cry. I don’t want another week, another month, to pass me by again, full of busyness and trivialities and cookies and tweets and just, you know, going on. I don’t want to go on right now. I want to go in. I want to go back into McKillip’s arcade of cathedrals. She built them for me. She built them for us. Luminous palaces. Living tapestries. There are dragons there that are never the dragons we think they are. There are cygnets. And firebirds. And Corbet Lynn. And Morgon of Hed. And Raederle of An. And the pig witch. And the harpist named Deth. And a woman named Saro.

I didn’t know McKillip. Not like the people who knew her knew her. I think we passed by each other at one or two conventions. I might have said hello once? But I think she was very shy. At least, that is my distant impression. And I know I was very awed and also shy. And I’m not sure if we did ever meet, or if I imagined we did, or if we did once smile at each other and make actual eye contact. I don’t know. I can’t remember. I hate that.

I have a Zoom appointment with a dear friend in just 45 minutes, and I don’t regret or resent it, but, you know… I also just want to go away for a month and be with these books and no one else. I want to do McKillip that honor. I want to give myself that gift. But perhaps time like that–time to read, time to dwell, time, even, to drown–perhaps that kind of timeless time only exists in childhood or Faerieland. All we’re left with, in adulthood, is yearning. And maybe that’s the cathedral I have to enter instead. It, too, seems appropriate for this moment of McKillip’s passing.

I can’t even tell you… When Ellen Datlow accepted my novella Desdemona and the Deep for, and I told her I would maim or kill or possibly die to have Patricia A. McKillip blurb me (only it was all in a very professional email, I’m sure, with only a few ALL CAPS and maybe only intimations of violence instead of just putting it all out in writing like that), and then she did, I don’t even know the sound I made.

No. I do. The day I got the email with that blurb, I’m sure I made a sound that sounded like one of those Great Shouts that sometimes get wizards in trouble at the College of Riddle-Masters at Caithnard. I’m sure it shattered windows and scared the hiccups out of our local black hole. And then, to see her name on the cover of my book, HER NAME, paired with mine, how I was filled with an abiding joy (that lives in me yet), a feeling of forever, of immortality, of impossibility… Well, I can’t tell you. I mean, I just tried, but you weren’t there. Just imagine me dancing.

The cover of Desdemona and the Deep, with a blurb by Patricia A. McKillip

The whole quote was:

Desdemona and the Deep is a wild romp through the lives of the rich, the perils of the poor, and a stupefying, complex underworld through which the champagne-swilling, shoe-loving heroine must find her way to right a wrong in her world.  The writing is dense with poetry, festooned to the eyelids–occasionally to the gills and other body-parts–with fantastic imagery that comes together in the end in unexpected and entirely satisfying ways.”

Patricia A. McKillip

It was the phrase “occasionally to the gills and other body parts” that got me. Because it was funny. It wasn’t just a blurb about poetry, it was poetry and gills. I felt understood. I felt, I don’t know, hugged or something. And she… SHE… wrote that for ME.

As I’ve been thinking of McKillip these last few days, I think mostly of the word “shaped.” I don’t know when it was, or on which re-read of which of her books, that I noticed McKillip’s use of the verb “shaped.” It was in every book. Sometimes it occured several times a page. Things were shaped out of air, out of light, of water. Things came into being, or were called, deliberately, by forces we could not understand. And that act of calling was always understood as “shaping.”

McKillip shaped me too, and continues to do so. I picked up one of the Riddle-Master books last year and experienced an intense pleasure, both familiar and alien, as I read a story I knew but with a different understanding. She was like a potter, but instead of clay, she sat at a wheel of creation, her hands full of electricity, whirling lightning into worlds that she teleported directly into my brain. Yes, she shaped me. She shaped my very haecceity.

The Changeling Sea was so slim a book. So slender. I read all the character parts aloud. I cried and cried. I inhabited the main character. I fell in love with both the sea-dragon-prince and the wild sea-eyed prince and the tousled wizard who seemed sometimes more like a jester. I loved and wanted them all. I wanted to fling my heart off every sea cliff, after every trail of moonlight. I will never forget her queen, bowed down by pearl. Or perhaps I will, in time, as I deteriorate, but when I do, I will be losing an integral part of myself.

Winter Rose? Winter Rose. Those sisters. That journey into the snow and ice and darkness. That journey into depression and personal history and the desperate love of family going far from you, and you would step into any mushroom circle, any fall of light, to save the ones you love. Winter Rose. One of my absolute favorites. It lives in me. I feel it on the bottoms of my bare feet. It muddies me. It makes me want to never comb my hair again.

I feel like a wild-eyed sea prince writing that down. I fear all of this sounds dramatic and… I don’t know “so much too much,” as Dickens writes. But it’s what’s sitting in my chest right now. “His heart is a bird on a spit in his chest,” as Persephone sings to Hades–and that is the feeling in my chest–and while Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown may have nothing to do with Patricia A. McKillip, I can only say, at least I have a song by the goddess of death I can sing for one of my holy muses of fantasy, who is gone from us.

She is gone from us.

I wish I had a hundred more such songs to sing.


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8:17 AM

when they tell you “all men,” remember
how he rushed in, having seen your wet footprint
on the bath mat, rushed just to embrace you,
so full of tenderness his feet were dancing.
remember him, in red Ball State hoodie,
washing dishes and singing, “Wait for me!”
in his best Orpheus tenor, weeping for tenderness,
or pulling you from your sleepy nest
with a garland of kisses at your hair line,
whispering, “You get umbels.”
he is not all men, or most men, but one man
who cares for a cloudy sky so much he renames it
“the inside of a pearl,” who cares for his students so much
he wakes before dawn, eager for the teaching day to start.
easy, to read the headlines and think “all men.”
easy to forget the gummy vitamins he leaves out every morning,
how he responds to every distressed grunt with heroic chivalry,
easy to take for granted the tea he brings you
joyous as a wagging tail.

oh, yes.
I see you
on this ordinary
Friday morning.

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