Today: JulyCon Schedule and Book No Further SINISTER QUARTET Zoom Reading!

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 CHANNELI’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!

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Carlos, in a red shirt with the yellow and black “Waffle House” logo and plaid shorts, is typing. We are sitting at our kitchen table. It’s just cool enough today (warm, but not hot) to have the windows open and the fan on, after weeks of air conditioning.

I never had air conditioning in all the places I’ve lived as an adult. I got by, sometimes very stickily. So I’m grateful now. But ours is so loud, window units, difficult to regulate. It’s good to have a break.

We both have our computers open. He’s going over my edits to Draft Two of our screenplay: ReEntry.

Mir is in her room–her “womb,” as she calls it–which used to be my office. We have made a nook for her out of bookshelves. There is a bed and a desk. She has lit it with fairy lights, and the touch-glow realistic moon my father gave me. We went for a long walk first thing this morning to meet Xime in a park–my first (masked) (social distanced) visit with a not-Mir New York friend. She applied for a film director position today, and I am so proud of her.

I spent an hour reading Nellie Bly’s exposé about Blackwell’s Asylum on Roosevelt Island, and took a brief nap. Now, I’m caffeinated up, with Eclipse Polar Ice gum (for me) and Sour Cherry Drops (for Carlos) and an afternoon of collaboration.

I’ve borrowed the term “BIG SCREENPLAY ENERGY” from my friend, whose new “BIG BOOK ENERGY” philosophy this year has lifted her from many a doldrums and into remarkable drive and success. Also, I have always been marvelously attracted to ALL CAPS SENTIMENTS.

Both of our computers are opened. Carlos and I are sharing our screenplay documents between us on Dropbox. The ludic flow state is what I’m after; Carlos is a natural at it.

“Were you happy when you painted these, Miss Eyre?”

“I was not unhappy. I was wholly absorbed.”

(A probable misquote, and from one of the movie adaptations, not the book. But still. One of my favorite bits. And what I always think of when we speak of “flow state”)

And so, I wait for my turn. For the next scene. The next movement. I bless this moment.

If this waiting goes on much longer, I shall fetch my Nellie Bly. It’s research for my next Dark Breakers novella–or I hope it shall be–“Salissay’s Laundries.” Wouldn’t it be grand to be even more productive in the lacunae between active participation?

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On Nightmoods, and “Liking” Things

What a mood I was in last night, which resulted in me staring into the darkness of my bedroom for a good hour and a half, mulling over the events during which I did not show myself to best advantage.

(I can write a sentence like that presently because I’ve been listening to the same 5 Georgette Heyer books incessantly, in order to facilitate me in the performance of my household chores and the ability to fall quickly asleep, a thing I could not, alas, last night do, because I refused to put on an audiobook, thinking I’d was better off brooding, though I’m not sure I actually was. Ah! Long parenthetical gyrations! Not to mention … elliptical asides! Gifts from, you guessed it, an early life spent reading Robin McKinley.)

Sometimes I get into “nightmoods,” as I call them. And while living alone in my twenties, this was often the mood in which I wrote rambling, confessional letters to a close circle of friends, and also LiveJournal entries. I mean, I wrote letters and blogs while NOT in a nightmood as well, thank goodness, elsewise I’d likely have few friends left. But anyway, they’ve not gotten less nightmoody as I’ve gotten older, nor are likely to, nor, I think, necessarily should.

Some things I can do to stave off or divert a nightmood, such as not reading the news at night, or engaging in melancholy art forms. In the last few months, we started watching cartoons. I’d tried the new She-Ra some time ago, for childhood’s sake, but though the story was all right, found the voice pitched in such a way as to pierce the gray matter of my bone box STRAIGHT THROUGH. So I thought maybe I was off cartoons, or had outgrown them, like dolls, and would no longer ever be able to enjoy them, or partake in the She-Ra and Steven Universe discussions that often abound among my friends and colleagues. But then Carlos, who’d be waiting and waiting for the Harley Quinn cartoon to become widely available, embarked on that series, and since he so rarely wants to watch something I felt myself in honor bound to watch it with him. (Actually, I just like watching things with him.) And lo! I REALLY LIKED IT.

I like the animation style, I liked the vulgarity, I liked the vicious high-humored violence of it–that Grand Guignol cartoon violence that slaughters all but harms none–and I liked the relationship between best friends.

I wouldn’t say I loved it, mind, because while the central relationship between the two females was marvelous, they were still the only two females, more or less, and all the drama and personal growth and vendetta targets still centered around one man: the Joker. Which got boring. The rest of the crew, too, was male, and so were all the villains. So–in many respects, She-Ra still wins on many counts. (More about She-Ra presently.)

After that, we were still in a cartoon frame of mind. I was surprised about how cartoony had become the bend of my thoughts–with occasional animated dreams! which I hadn’t had since, I don’t know, at least high school–and how pleasurable it was to engage in quality writing, in the short-form, with clean, bright, surprising art.

Cartoons can do all kinds of things live-action can’t, do not require the same pact with their audience. I haven’t thought about the difference between suspension of disbelief in a cartoon vs. live action, but cartoons are perhaps closer to theatre, with much of the pretending done up for you in huge splash-page-like moments. I will dwell more deeply on this, perhaps.

So we began Avatar the Last Airbender, since between us we’d promised about six friends and family members that we would try. I’d heard such bad things about the live-action film (especially when compared to the cartoon) that it put me off the whole enterprise, and the amount of episodes to be watched seemed endless.

But it was not so. It was some of the most pleasurable, flexible, deeply philosophical, artistically gorgeous, astonishing, and goofy storytelling I’d encountered in a while. Middle Grade and Young Adult media isn’t really my jam–I get a little tired of kids/teens saving the world (which is not to say we shouldn’t train ’em young, because eventually they’ll be adults with a hellish world on their hands, as we all find, in our time, but still–I wouldn’t mind a few more Cordelia Vorkosigans in my literature, if you know what I mean)–but for genius, I always make an exception.

All of which to say–I loved this show. And I also mostly liked it. Some episodes, I thought, were more uneven than others. But that’s almost always TV for you: the vagaries of the writing room, I think, and deadlines, and showrunners, etc. Some episodes, I thought, did the TV thing of using the characters solely to advance plot, and conveniently put aside everything else we’d already learned about their characters, their needs, wants, desires, etc.

But mostly ATLA’s storytelling did that thing Carlos likes to say about his favorite pieces of literature, when: “character is plot.” When character arcs and arc of plot are aligned, entwined. When one only grows because of the other.

Also, because the episodes were short but the arc was long, the artists and writers were allowed that novel-like breathing room: a few episodes that were indulgences in character only, and hardly bowed to plot at all.

After Avatar, I immediately wanted Legend of Korra, or, barring that, Tucca and Bertie, since I’ve been promising my friend Jess I’d give it a try. But husband and also roommate were feeling a little more adventurous, and wanted to try Undone. Mir had already started it, and was excited about the writing and storytelling. Carlos was very excited about the rotoscoping, a technique that he loves.

I was… curiously resistant. Or not so curiously if you know me. I knew next to nothing about it, and while most people hate spoilers, I love them. (I call them “spicers.”) My curiosity/motivation to try new media is lower than I’d like (and lower than the average, probably). I don’t actually watch a lot of TV, and I read less and less–much less than I want to. Also, between being really into The Great, which Mir and I are watching long-distance with my mom, and hooked on that inimitable Avatar taste, I was reluctant for the artistic/aesthetic/psychological whiplash Undone would inevitably, I thought, give me.

So you see, I did not enter the new thing with the right attitude. Now, I can drum up the right attitude if I just think about it. But I didn’t think about it. I wanted to be community-minded, and watch the thing my household was most excited about, and I didn’t want them to agree with me and my desires just because I have the loudest voice. Which I do. Which is something I’m trying to work on.

All of which to say, Undone was absolutely beautiful. The writing was impeccable. The artistry was glorious. The pacing, the editing, all perfect.

And I didn’t like it.

This is not to say that I won’t love it, eventually, especially after I see the whole thing and can consider it as a whole.

But, for one, I think we started it too late. Nine o’clock, or later. Which is right in my night-mood window. Second, it’s cruel. Not vicious and hilarious like Harley Quinn. But just… jagged.

“Broken people break things” is the thesis of the first episode of Undone, and I know I’m a coward, but starting me off with a character in her downward spiral never really works with me as a hook. It starts and ends with a jolt of terrible adrenalin, and the sadness and manipulation and the self-destruction of the first episode left me feeling sick to my stomach two hours after. And I don’t… really… enjoy that.

I mean, it works. As art. It makes me FEEL something. As an artist, I feel that I OUGHT to be feeling something. And since I’ve been dieting on a steady tepid drizzle of the same 5 Georgette Heyer books–and not EVEN my favorites–maybe I’ve gone a little contemptibly soft.

I thought Fleabag was very fine too, but I couldn’t pursue it after two episodes. Maybe I will someday, when I want to watch a very clever woman ruin all her friendships and family relationships (such as they are) and bathe in an acid bath of bitterness and isolation. And maybe it gets better.

“It gives the character someplace to climb out of,” Carlos said last night, gently. “It’s your reverse-katabasis–which you like.”

I do. I do like a reverse-katabasis narrative. I like STARTING OUT at the bottom. But I don’t really revel in the fall. Star Trek: Discovery is a reverse-katabasis narrative. And I loved it, uneven as it was. Jane Austen’s Persuasion was another reverse-katabasis story. A character begins at her lowest: the rest is a bloody-nailed, barefooted scrabble to the top.

But in Undone, we watch the character plummet, first off. The first thing I thought was that she reminded me of a friend in college. Her sharp intellect, her great fear and sadness and anger, her predilection for ruining her own relationships, and hurting herself. The rotoscoping animation was uncanny; the emotions stark, with a fever glitter. But oh, all the harsh chemicals it brought into my body!

I wonder, for me, if there’s some magic spot of narrative information–the order in which I learn about the character, her fall from grace, her struggle for redemption, or whatever–that makes a story more palatable for me.


As if that’s what I want from art.

I mean, I DISAGREE WITH MY OWN TASTES. Another reason I found last night so upsetting. I wish I could endure more, and be changed the better for it.

I remember learning about what I “liked” in a movie when I left halfway through Requiem for a Dream. A beautiful movie, a necessary one, and one I couldn’t actually watch. I’d never just… up and left a room before. But I couldn’t take it. I’d had family members come very close to destroying themselves through meth; it wasn’t something I wanted to watch again. But for some, maybe it was revelatory, or acted as a spiritual purgative. I’m glad it exists. I felt weak for not finishing it. I still remember the scene with the vacuum.

I don’t go out of my way to read melancholy books either. If someone tells me a story is “oh, so beautiful and so sad,” I’m unlikely to touch it. I miss out on a great deal of literature this way. But if the mood of a book could be described as “overcast” or “silvery-blue” I feel like my chances of enjoying it are less than 60%.

Which is not to say I can’t be surprised. Sometimes I like an icy work. Henning Mankell’s DEPTHS, for example. I mean, look at the cover. Read the synopsis. No way did I think I’d like it. But I read it because a friend loved it, and I wanted to dwell in his brain a while. And I was blown away.

Now, there were books I thought were melancholy before reading them–making a solemn assumption on the basis of very little–that I ended up loving hopelessly and finding hilarious–like, for example, Crime and Punishment. It was brutal, yes, and dark, and awful, but so nuanced, and somehow so vigorous and joyous in that nuance, with such barbs of insight and humor, that I adored it. And it wasn’t EVEN as good as Brothers Karamazov–which I perforce had to read more slowly than my whole being desired, because every chapter deserved to be thought about for weeks, even though the writing and characters and mystery propelled me onward.

Last night, right after the Undone episode, Mir asked me if I liked it. I lost it.

“No, no, I didn’t like it! I’m upset right now. It worked, okay? I need to be alone!”

And other such flailing of that nature.

Hence, the nightmood.

It reminded me of this:

A friend asked me once, point-blank, in public, if I liked her story. Everyone at the table turned to hear my answer–or at least it felt like it.

(I… I never ask anyone that question of my own work, not even my closest friends. I suppose it’s my theatre training. The last thing you want to hear, when you’re hopped up from the energy of performing on a stage, is the truth of what the audience might have experienced, which is bound to be far different from the joyous and occasionally transcendental surge of performance, which can happen whether or not you were actually any good.)

(Unsolicited praise is great, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want to KNOW if you hated something I’ve done, that I’ve put time and practice and struggle and hope and my own confused and complex feelings into. I don’t like being tagged in bad, or even mediocre, reviews of my stories. If my story failed, I’m sure I’ll learn about it, if I didn’t already know, without asking someone directly–and implying, in the asking, that all I really want is praise. Which is another actor trick too, as well as a writerly one, but one I don’t generally employ.)

So I told my friend–my face very hot, and probably stammering a bit–“Your story was hard to read. It was terrifically sad. It was drenched in colors. The writing was beautiful. It moved me deeply. But I couldn’t say I liked it. It was painful, not pleasurable. I like”–I sort of waved my hands around–“silly things.”

Bad form on my part, right? That scene still haunts me.

I think I disappointed her. I know that we are not close anymore. And while I do not know if our friendship ended because of that conversation, I do think it didn’t help it any, and I wonder if I should have answered more diplomatically. There are all sorts of ways to tell the truth. And one of my truths is, I don’t have to like something to think it’s important, to appreciate it, to be glad it’s in the world. My likes are narrower than I’d like. My critical appreciation is more rigorously trained.

Carlos and I disagree about what “like” means, re: art.

To me, there’s a real difference between enjoyment and appreciation, between like and love, between attending to something because it’s a great and necessary thing, and attending to something because it really speaks to every nerve of my body and compels me to seek more. I think, to him, every new experience brings him joy–because he loves learning. He loves things that give him something to think about, because he loves thinking.

Maybe I just don’t love thinking as much as he does. A mortal failure on my part. I really am looking to challenge myself in literature and media more… Just maybe not at 9 at night.

Maybe 9 at night is my time to be reading The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry and thinking about how alike we are to the poets of the Tang Dynasty. Li Bai, I love you.

Remember that Joshua Bell experiment? Maybe to experience high art, to appreciate it based on its own real merits and not on one’s mood, one must set aside a time and place for it, treat it as holiday or ritual, create the headspace for a fair reception, prepare one’s attitude for clarity and impact and analysis.

Maybe, if I think a thing is going to be hard but important, I shouldn’t engage in it casually. For instance, when I’m relaxing at the end of a long day, and just want some cartoons.

Or maybe, as a dying Daniel Day Lewis says at the end of The Ballad of Jack and Rosea very strange movie that I love but maybe do not like, but which has stayed with me, and which I am glad of–“It’s a matter of taste.”

And there’s no accounting for taste.


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Hallo, beloved readers!

It has now been, let’s see, a fortnight–is it? HOLY MOLY–since A Sinister Quartet came out with Mythic Delirium.

For those of you who are only hearing about it for the first time, let me tell you a little about it. It’s a book of four long-form fiction stories (one short novel: mine; three novellas, by Jessica P. Wick, Amanda J. McGee, and Mike Allen respectively), all dark fantasy or horror, with a few common themes like sibling relationships, familial love, monstrous beings (both of the human and otherworldly varieties), and the old Mythic Delirium standby: “beauty and strangeness.”

The four of us authors have done a variety of things to boost our signal. And hey, all you other authors out there, whose books are coming out in the Time of Covid: we feel ya!

Also, we feel that there are so many more important things going on in the world right now–not only the pandemic, but the protests, especially about Black Lives Matter and police brutality–that making too much noise, joyful or otherwise, about our work just feels weird. Other signals to boost right now! BOOST ‘EM TO THE SKY!

Some of the fun stuff we’ve done can be found on Mythic Delirium’s website, along with the store where you can buy the book! Mike Allen writes:

Mythic Delirium Books is now an affiliate at Bookshop, a new bookselling website born in January 2020 that directs a portion of every sale toward assisting independent bookstores. (Hat tip to Jessica Wick for this development.)

Practically speaking, what this means is there is at last a one-stop shop where you can find all of our trade paperback editions, with quite a few offered at discounts. It’s probably the closest thing we’ve ever had to an actual storefront. Click here to check it out!”

(You can also buy the book most anywhere books can be bought!)

Other fun stuff includes:

A Big Idea post at John Scalzi’s website–in which we all interview each other
A Reddit Ask Me Anything–in which people… DID!
A Booze and Books Feature–in which we, the authors, were guest bloggers and invented cocktails and mocktails! (Or got our friends to do it for us.)
Spotify Soundtrack Playlists–in which we all created soundtracks for our stories, and Amanda made us images for each. (Click on each image; it’ll take you to the Spotify link!)
A Zoom reading, with all of us reading excerpts, plus Q and A at the end
An excerpt of “Twice-Drowned Saint” on the New Decameron Project (and if you’ve not heard of THAT, do you have a treat in store!)
An excerpt of “Viridian” on Amanda’s blog
A pajama party–in which my mom, my husband, and I all dressed up in my mother’s pajamas, and I read them an excerpt of Twice-Drowned Saint, but really the star, as ever, is the cat. Whose name is “Lil Guy Fawkes.” Not my cat. My brother’s cat. But I love him.

MOST LATELY, what I’ve done is put together all the recipes I’ve made–or rather, pilfered–over the last few months, based on our stories, and posted pictures of them here for you, and a few light links.

I hope you enjoy!


C. E. E. Cooney

And now for the RECIPES!

(CW: for possible trypophobia)

The Twice-Drowned Saint: Being a Tale of Fabulous Gelethel, the Invisible Wonders Who Rule There, and the Apostates Who Try to Escape Its Walls, by C. S. E. Cooney

“Chocolate Bug,” or “The Eleven-Eyed Brownie”
Ingredients: Extra Gooey Brownie Mix, Candied Eyeballs, Lemon Garish

(follow recipe on the box, plus your own mischievous ingenuity)

An Unkindness, by Jessica P. Wick

Heart of a Unicorn (or Lost Prince) Galette
Ingredients: Pichuberries, strawberries, phyllo dough, honey, butter

(Follow recipes for any “gooseberry/strawberry galette,” only sub in pichuberries)

Viridian, by Amanda J. McGee

Bluebeardy Pie”
Ingredients: Pie shell, blueberries, sugar, forbidden key, blue ribbon, red rose, ruby goblet

(follow the Epicurious recipe for the most part, but we bought our crust, like lazy writers)

The Comforter, by Mike Allen

Meat Pancake Thingie”

(follow Anita Allen’s recipe… below)


“As always, preheat oven 325 degrees
The first set of ingredients varies by desired density, etc.
Nothing is exact.

Toppings ingredients:
7 Oz ( about 1/2 a small jar) Ragu pizza sauce
1.5 cups pizza cheese blend
6-7 button mushroom stems
2 sweet mini peppers ( or hot if you prefer)
5-7 yellow cherry tomatoes

Pizza “Crust” Ingredients
1 lb ground beef
2 tbsp dried parsley
2tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp steak seasoning
1/2 tbsp Penzeys Spices: Ozark Seasoning
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce or steak sauce
1 egg

Cooking instructions:
Mix like meatloaf.
On a cutting board, press out flat like a patty, about 1/4 inch thick.
Flip over onto lightly greased or sprayed broiler pan.
Smooth lightly (if you press it into the pan you won’t get it out easy to serve it. You want to use a broiler pan so the fats drain out.)
Layer on pizza sauce (about 7 Oz Ragu)
1.5 cups pizza cheese blend: spread to the edges.
1.5 Oz mini pepperoni
6-7 button mushroom stems cut cross wise to make “BUTTONS
2 mini sweet peppers (Hungarian sweet peppers or hot peppers).
Cut crosswise to make rings.
5-7 yellow cherry tomatoes, cut crosswise and wedged into pepper rings, then spread on top.

Bake 325 for 30 min
Cut, serve, enjoy.”

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Book Release Day: The Sinister Quartet

Day 2 of being a full-time writer, and… I have a new novel out.

It doesn’t look like a novel, because it’s in a collection with three other novellas, but it’s 20,000 words longer than official novella-length–longer than DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP!–so there you have it.

I’d started a messy af draft more than five years ago, based on a whacko dream I had, and then tried again a few years later, thinking to attempt something more structurally interesting by world-building through cinema and technology, and then I gave up on it and did a bunch of other things, but then Mike Allen was like, let’s do this project; do you have something for me?

and I was like, well, uh. Sort of.

So I did another draft. A full one. It grew from 20000 words to 60000. It grew in form and complexity. It plunged to the depths; it got gross. It brightened, and then went nova, and after that…

Another draft. And another. Three drafts of a novel-length work in 3 months. That was the end of my 2019.

I don’t… think… it’s horror? Though it is horrific. (“Body-horror” is what DongWon called it, gleefully, after hearing a section.) It’s certainly fantasy, and it gets dark. But.

But I have such a WARM, FRIENDLY feeling for the characters–my wry saints, my imperfect Seventh Angel, for Nirwen the Forsaker, for the Bad Uncles, for Jen and Onabrozia, and the poor young idiot Alizar Luzarius. It’s hard to think of them as characters of horror, or products of a dark fantasy, because… because they make me laugh–because I want to sit with them at table, and sing songs together, and go to the latest midnight release in some movie theatre…

The fact that gatherings of friends and movie-watching is as much fantasy now as MY OWN CHARACTERS seems more like the TRUE horror.

And there’s something to be said about a story that seeks to depose monster tyrants and tear down walls.I went as far as I could with the powers I have.

I worked hard, and stretched myself so much I think I probably tore something. Several somethings. What can you do but your best, each time?
So this is my best thing–for now.

My novel is called The Twice-Drowned Saint: Being a Tale of Fabulous Gelethel, the Invisible Wonders Who Rule There, and the Apostates Who Try to Escape its Walls, and it is found in THE SINISTER QUARTET. Out today.

You can order the book from Mythic Delirium’s bookstore, or anywhere books are sold.


  • Each of the four authors in The Sinister Quartet made PLAYLISTS to go with our fiction. (Click on each graphic, which will bring you to Spotify)
  • The four authors got together and we did a ZOOM SALON, reading excerpts from The Sinister Quartet, and answering a Q&A from the audience after.
  • The four authors each created a SIGNATURE DRINK to go with our stories on the Books and Booze blog. (Mine is a shrub, no alcohol.)
  • Today (the day I’m writing this, release day) we the four authors interviewed each other for John Scalzi’s blog THE BIG IDEA.
  • Carlos, Mama, and I dressed up in Mama’s pajamas (pictured below) for a Pajama Party, and I read them an excerpt (not the SAME excerpt as above) of The Twice-Drowned Saint as a bedtime story. Cat included.
  • Chapter 2 of The Twice-Drowned Saint (which is really the big opening chapter, as Chapter 1 is a slim little thing) is available for free on the New Decameron Project’s Patreon: if you want to dip your toe in.


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Tonight: A Play; Tomorrow: A Ceremony; Next Month: A Nomination

This week is the busiest week of our quarantine-in-exile so far–and of course it is, the weekend before we leave to return to Queens.

There is the Nebula conference going on–with Carlos up for the Andre Norton Award for his Pura Belpré Award-winning Sal and Gabi Break the Universe.

Then I found out today that my novel/la Desdemona and the Deep is a finalist for the Locus Award. The virtual ceremony will be next month, on June 27th.

And then my friend Cavan Hallman, Artistic Director of Mirrorbox Theatre in Iowa, invited me to take a role in The Wooden Heart, the 11th play in their Out the Box series of staged readings of new work since the pandemic hit.

So that’s tonight–and it’s free!–you just have to register. Here’s a little bit about that.

The play is by Adam Szymkowicz, directed by Cavan Hallman. It’s a sort of fable/fairy tale, but set in modern day, with people who are familiar. It is absurd and sad and moving. It is about vocation, and grief, and loving, and… eating moss.

The synopsis:

Mitch wants to be a carpenter. Heather wants to be a woodcarver. The wolf wants to be an intellectual. Ruby wants to escape the wolf. The woodcutter wants to escape the narrator. A fable-inspired play about love and wood and finding your purpose.

It’s tonight–Friday, May 29th–at 8 PM Central!

Facebook event (updated Monday of the performance week):

Direct Zoom registration link:

Shortened registration link:

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Dealing Out Poetry: Writing Verse Based on the Negocios Infernales Cards

One of the missions of making the Negocios Infernales RPG that Claire and I are working on has nothing to do with the game. We also wanted to make a writing tool to inspire writers and help them break out of their traditional ways of thinking. That, in fact, was one of the stated missions of the sabbatical: using game mechanics and gamic thinking to stretch my writing.

Today was our first official try at using the cards not for the game, but for art. You can judge the results for yourself, but I have to tell you, folks: I am pretty pleased.

Now, Claire is such a poet that she hardly needs anything to write poetry, except perhaps a cup of blackest tea. But she stated that the cards gave her that little nudge that allowed her to unleash things that have been on her mind. It reminds me…

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A Tale of Two Cities: Revisited

The house is full of composing right now. That sparked my jealous thing, so I started looking at the ragged lyrics I wrote for my Tale of Two Cities musical.

I’d given it up when I learned there already was a musical. And then didn’t start again because I thought, why adapt Dickens? I’ve got my own stuff to do.

But. There are some lyrics I still really like.

“Let Me Be Steel” from Act II


Lucie, you mustn’t be weak
Yes, you must stop your shaking
Lucie, you must keep your calm
While the whole world is breaking

Lucie the gentle, they say
How her tenderness fills her
Lucie compassionate, mild
Though her mildness kills her

If this is what tenderness brings
Cut it now from my bone
From anguish and impotence
Let me be turned to stone

Let me be steel
Let me be ice and murder
Vengeance, wrath and storm
Let me be steel
A rusted jaw to trap the foes
Who mean us harm

Make me like her–
Madame Defarge, or better–
Madame Guillotine!
An iron blade
A cold machine

Who can obliterate this fear?
Are there no Furies left to hear me?
No bright sword that I might wield
No shield at hand now he’s not near me?
I call down the frost and fire
Come and smother my compassion
For this woman whose desire
Contrives my husband’s execution
Why grieve for her bereavement
When I cannot change the past?
It’s tomorrow I’m afraid of
And the dawn will come too fast!

Lucie, you witnessed her woe
It was seething and wild
Lucie, you looked in her eyes
Saw the eyes of a child

Lucie, you sampled her rage
It’s the poison that eats her
She’ll feed it the requisite flesh
Till at last it defeats her

If this is what bitterness brings
Do I want it for mine?
Delight in the agony
Drink it like dark red wine?

Charles, I blame you
Can one man’s life be worth
A wife and child and home?
I wouldn’t change you
But can his value really be
More precious than your own?

Charles, I understand
It’s not the same, you know,
As saying I don’t mind
Oh, Charles, I think you’ll die of being kind

Charles, forgive me
Your sacrifice is small
Against this vicious flood
How could you live with
Knowing all our years of grace
Were bought with human blood?

Charles, I understand
I will show gentleness
And never let you see
The steel inside that almost vanquished me

And if my life must be a war
Why, then–
There have been wars before!

I’m just one woman
I have one duty
Come here, my Lucie
Mama’s done shaking
She will be strong for you
And she won’t cry anymore

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Content Warning

by C. S. E. Cooney

if that is freedom, fuck it
i don’t want it
to walk bare as a genital wart in the mayo clinic
swollen with liberty, flying the colors of the flag
fuck it, fuck your freedoms
give me plexiglass prisons, given me wardens in hazmat
give me solitary confinement
give me an oubliette
so I can forget
you and your fanfaronade freedoms

to hold my dying elder’s hand in hospice
that is freedom
you, your ilk, you kick it to dust
you kick it to dust with your leather shoes
to meet at feast together, eat together
marry on the day we choose
let our doctors see their children again
such freedom
you crush with as much disgust as the snake
beneath your heel

my venom grows
every night, every morning
chokevine murderthoughts
thorn and strangle me:
the freedom to be kind, to forgive
to live and let live
all flayed away
I am a criminal in my own mind
I deserve my chains

I don’t know what you deserve
(to do time for war crimes is what you deserve)
I don’t know what you think you deserve
but you take it anyway
no matter what it takes away from
all the rest of us

my friend, swaddled like a sarcophagus in the morgue
for one last look at her sister’s face
my friend, in her lonely hotel room, decontaminating her scrubs
while she Skypes with her cat
my friend, who stares out the window as Washington Heights
bangs its pots and pans
so tired, too tired to join the humble éclat, tired
from doing nothing, from staying inside, keeping the city safe

you spit in the face of my friends
you spit in the face of my friends
you little shit
you little shit


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Playlist for The Twice-Drowned Saint!

The release of a short novel, nested inside an anthology along with three very fine novellas (by Jessica P. Wick, Amanda J. McGee, and Mike Allen respectively), is a thing to be CELEBRATED WITH MUSIC!

Before I go further, allow me to link you to THE SINISTER QUARTET anthology! Click and see ALL the places you may purchase The Sinister Quartet from!

The Sinister Quartet, a Mythic Delirium Anthology

Now, below, to celebrate:

The author (moi!) hath made a playlist for THE TWICE-DROWNED SAINT, full of silent movie soundtracks, refugee songs, angel songs, glaciers melting (spoilers, darling), and kitchen heroes.


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