Murderbot, Murderbot, I LOOOOVE YOU!!! YES, I DOOOO!

JUST FINISHED ALL SYSTEMS RED (The Murderbot Diaries), by Martha Wells.

My Amazon review:


I think I knew I’d love Murderbot from the moment I read the word “Murderbot.” And then I read the first paragraph and was ineradicably hooked.

I’m already a huge fan of Martha Wells, and she’s one of those authors who just keeps getting better and better. (Who’d have thought I’d like another book as well as the Raksura books? BUT I AM SO GLAD!)

This is a refreshingly frank, only partly human, first-person protagonist, up to its armored joints in a violent, complex, deeply stressful situation. It manages–by dint of wry humor, confessional asides, and old familiar habits (like watching a lot of entertainment media when it should be doing its SecSystem work–to keep us enormously entertained and concerned for the outcome of all characters throughout the story.

I loved it so much! MAY THERE BE MANY MORE!


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5 Faces of the Lord of May: Anniversary Poems for Carlos Hernandez

1. sungod

red to the touch
slathered in
no lake can
quench you
nor bog
cool you
see, the denim of your jeans is
burnt away
all your clothes are merely
scorch marks

2. jongleur

sing me songs of
i will shower you in
all my copper kisses
largesse to this populace
of one

tie up my ribbons
in the back
i will fasten on your mask
let us make our carnival
every day
a parade

3. ravenboy

caw-caw cartwheel
tumbleweed tumble me
caper caper play steal
frocktail feathercoat
wing sing tickle giggle
black-beak black-velvet
peck peck sand stride
glossy buss busy kiss
grin shiver fly

4. canaryprince

i meet the canary prince at a fairy hop, where he points up and says plaintively, “i always trust a dance hall with a disco ball, don’t you?” i happen to agree, and make him a curtsey as curtesy demands of me, declaring, “dare you dance?”

a canary prince, they say, dares the devil, fine as any fellow in yellow silk, and he confides, “i can moonwalk to michael jackson all the way out the door,” which indeed he proceeds to do as smooth as the silver pour of milk with which our queen cools her tea.

no one has danced so backwards since ginger rogers joined our fête–it’s splendid!–and i tell him so, taking up his hands and twirling him about, all his hollow bones light and precise like piccolo trills.

he is the smell of limoncello and green brocade; a topaz grows on his forehead where i kissed him last we danced.

“so you remember me?” i ask, and he murmurs that memory into spanish moss hung round with spiders, curtaining our private tenderness from their prying gaze.

5. magnolia

i think of you in the first blossoms
forsythia, dogwood, magnolia
the circus-hearted tulip, the bashful violet

you are the ever-flowering tree
the year-round blossom

those heart’s blood petals you scattered on my pillow
I remember them still
unbruised and fragrant
warm as skin

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WisCon Schedule


Stop, Collaborate and Listen
Fri, 4:00–5:15 pm Conference 2
Moderator: K. Tempest Bradford, Amal El-Mohtar.
Participants: Julia Starkey, K. Tempest Bradford, Amal El-Mohtar, C. S. E. Cooney , Max Gladstone

Amal El-Mohtar has a history of collaborating with likeminded souls, from editing a poetry zine to performing with a troupe of writer/musicians to co-writing fiction and beyond. How is it possible to discover fellow travelers and co conspirators across space and time(zones)? What are the benefits of such long distance collaborations, and how do different kinds of collaborative projects come together?

Music & Miscellania
Fri, 9:00–10:15 pm Michelangelos

Participants: C. S. E. Cooney , Amal El-Mohtar

Come and enjoy a musical extravaganza concocted by bewitching sensations Amal El-Mohtar and C.S.E. Cooney. Their repertoire includes singing, musical instruments of undisclosed types, moderate mayhem and poetry.

The Four Musketeers (Reading)
Sat, 10:00–11:15 am Conference 4

Participants: C. S. E. Cooney , Randee Dawn, S. Brackett Robertson, Jeanine Marie Vaughn

The Four Musketeers come together to tell tales of trolls, pirates, fae warfare, haunted dolls, and shadowspirits.

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For Every Word You Speak, A Flower


for Julia Rios


sister, when you


it is spring


lilacs sunning at the



bumblebee, tender

trellising of



listen! there are


in your voice, my darling

mossy nooks and

depths of grape



a grin of maneless


gathers yellow

at your throat

you declaim in garlands



say on, O


of this kindly



convoke dew-

struck meadows of




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Ghosts in the Groove: A Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Other Weekend Adventures

All last week I worked on a SECRET PROJECT that I’m sure I’ll be allowed to mention soon (when? WHEN? I dunno. But SOON!). Monday-Thursday. At home, right there in my study. SELF-MOTIVATIONS GALORE!

I really wanted to be done by Thursday evening, when Hernandez would be trundling in from New York, and we got really down to the RAPTUROUS ADVENTURES OF THE WEEKEND.

Which included:

FRIDAY: “It crunched most satisfyingly.” 

An 11:35 AM showing of Beauty and the Beast at the Mystic Luxury Cinema! Julia Rios, joining us. She had already seen it, but she is a nuanced re-watcher, and it was Carlos’s and my first time.

An in-depth discussion ensued–what was impressive, what was missing, how it compared to both the animation and the Broadway musical iteration (both of which I am thoroughly conversant in).

How the moment Belle decides not to leave the Beast to the wolves is also the moment when she is no longer a prisoner, not truly. The shared love of books. The scene with the horse which I believe was lifted straight out of Robin McKinley’s book BEAUTY. The interestingly unhinged Gaston who manages to be just a leeetle too disturbing for a caricature. That moment with the wardrobe, when the youth, now dressed in a gown and cosmetics, instead of screaming and running like the others, smiles beatifically, and she urges him, “Be free!” Oh, and just . . . AUDRA MCDONALD!!! IN GENERAL! Yes, yes, and I’m probably not saying anything everybody else isn’t; I’m just late to the game, as usual.

The Mystic Luxury Cinemas, meanwhile, was beautiful. Small, with an old-fashioned feeling, and yet the seats were STATE OF THE ART.

I got good news in my email–some positive movement on my novel manuscript, nothing Earth-shattering or definitive, but movement AT LAST–while leaving the theatre.

In the general mayhem and dancing that ensued, Julia’s iPhone went FLYING, and then her heel went CRUNCHING, so we ended up piling into the car and driving into New London to drop it off for repair. Then we ate at the Olive Garden to celebrate.


Then we scooted back to Westerly for our First Friday open mic. It was, if I may say, just as fulfilling as the LAST ONE! Which had been the best thus far! We had barely five minutes left after all the wonderful readers/reciters to scoot over to the ACGOW and see the newest show, featuring Arlene Piacquadio and Kristie Foss. I LOVE ENCAUSTICS! AND POLYMER AND PORCELAIN!!!

SATURDAY: “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future, too.”

On Saturday, Hernandez and I went back to New London. Doctor Doctorpants was in need of PANTS, and Crystal Mall (we’d heard) was the place to GET THEM. We arrived early, just as the mall was opening, and had such good luck at the first store that we were out by 10 and a bit bewildered over how to wile the next five hours till our show started at three.

Oh, but I will tell you more of the show presently.

First, we went to Muddy Waters Cafe, right in the heart of New London. I knew the coffee would be really good there (for Carlos), and I knew they had sandwiches (for me). We had a delicious time eating and drinking. I read him another chapter of Bujold’s Memory. He’d mistaken his copy of Keramet Reiter’s 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement, which he is reading for short story research, for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which is he reading to ME. So I said, “Read me a bit of 23/7!” I’ve already read it, because it was my honor to narrate it for Tantor Media last year. So he did, and it was just beautiful. Heartbreaking, but beautiful. That bit about the Soledad Brothers.

Then we stopped in at the Hygienic Art Gallery, just to see what was going on. And then we went to Ocean Beach Park, where we played video games at the Arcade and walked along the boardwalk and nature path. Then we went into the car, and I read him another chapter of Memory. (Yes, we like going on long walks and reading books. We’re like an ad. For something. Low blood-pressure, probably. Except–probably not, for we’re both highly excitable, and me, I have a temper. So it’s probably good I like relaxing things because otherwise my head would pop off.)

We had about 45 minutes left before 3–and our SHOW!!!–which was just five minutes away–so we hopped back over to Dev’s Bean and Bistro for a cuppa. Well, I had a cuppa. Hernandez had a diet coca cola.



Flock Theatre, presented in cooperation with the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, is putting on Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night–AT MONTE CRISTO COTTAGE, where Eugene O’Neill’s family spent their summers throughout his childhood and early adulthood. It’s the HOUSE where the PLAY actually TAKES PLACE.

Both the original and the extended run SOLD OUT before opening weekend! LUCKILY, I was on top of things, and bought tickets a month ago! Both for Hernandez and me, and later, for Sita and me on the 23rd, so I get to see it TWICE!

Boy, though. After this first time . . .

It was very good, very fine. But as my friend Anne Flammang (who plays Mary Tyrone) said in an email, “The play is too too, if you know what I mean.” (Italics my own.)

But talk about a HAUNTING. I tell you, I am very sad that “haunting” has become such a blurb-y short-cut of a soundbite to describe things, because it’s the perfect word now, and I don’t know how often it is.

Imagine it: the most autobiographical of O’Neill’s plays. Taking place in the actual room where the whole play takes place. In the house where he spent summers. Talk about actors endowing objects with intent? The entire HOUSE is an endowed object! That’s the first “haunting.”

The second “haunting” is the text itself. It’s a play where we see a single day of a family’s life, and we hear, in excruciating detail, and in looped repeat, all the old grievances played and replayed, the cycles of explosive temper, periodic affection, connection, repellent rappelling off one another, careening into darkness. From time to time a revelation. It reminded me of that old Melville Davisson Post quote from Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries:

“…It is the dead who govern. Look you, man, how they work their will upon us! Who have made the laws? The dead! Who have made the customs that we obey and that form and shape our lives? The dead! And the titles to our lands-have not the dead devised them?…If a surveyor runs a line he begins at some corner that the dead set up; and if one goes to law upon a question the judge looks backward through his books until he finds out how the dead have settled it-and he follows that. And all the writers, when they would give weight and authority to their opinions, quote the dead; and the orators and all those who preach and lecture-are not their mouths filled with words that the dead have spoken? Why, man, our lives follow grooves that the dead have run out with their thumbnails!”

I think I read that quote in a Neil Gaiman book somewhere, but I don’t remember where. American Gods? Anyway. It’s like that–we’re watching ghosts, following their painstaking, painful grooves. And we’re right there in the room with them. They look through us, past us, but they cannot see us. Maybe we’re the ghosts.

The third “haunting” is memory. O’Neill is writing his memories, but the characters themselves are all feeding on and bleeding out memory. You feel the characters, in their present, are so stuck in their pasts that they, in fact, have no future. Mary Tyrone says, at one point, “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future too.” And THAT, as Hernandez noted, “is ghost talk.”

Oh, I am sure DISSERTATIONS UPON DISSERTATIONS have been written about this play, and I’ve not read a one of them. I read it on the page once, and studied it a little, back in high school. I remember coming away with the thought that O’Neill has no subtext. Everything is spoken. At length.

It works better on stage, out loud. I should have known!

It’s more of a symphony than a dramatic structure. The movements. The themes. The leitmotifs. Those moments of furious crescendo, fading to the specter of pianissimo. It was like watching music adapted to a different medium. Music without music.

I liked the fourth act best. It burst out shining and visceral. The wounds were, not old scar and memory, but fresh and raw. I do not think it could exist separate of the bulk and weariness of the first three acts, though. I must gird my loins to see it again.

I think my mother will love it.

Sunday: “Some things just get better and better and better than they’ve already been.”

Yesterday, Sunday, we began our writing retreat in this house by the sea. I can see the waters of Watch Hill from my window.

Yesterday, I gutted the first draft of Desdemona and the Deep. I wrote an outline, and fitted all the newly shattered jigsaw pieces into the order they shall be reappearing. And then I’ll rewrite the whole thing.

Hernandez is busy working on a short story, and line edits for the first third of his novel-in-progress. Last night we went to the Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingston, where there was swordfish and jambalaya and scallops ceviche.

We are very happy.


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Sing the Street of Queens

A fog-swallowed day. He’s carapaced to resist it, whatever’s coming. Full on weather warrior, that one. Don’t ask where he got his old armament, the battered brown kind that deflects acid like raindrops. Bullets or hail, makes no never mind. Might’ve slaughtered for it, might’ve bartered for it. A fistful of blueberries or viscera; he ain’t telling.

Can hear him before you see him. It’s the humming gives him away. Most folks think the Street of Queens can only be survived by slinking by. Head low, shoulders hunched–and for Frig’s, Freyja’s, and Fraggle Rock’s sake don’t make eye contact or your ass is last winter’s dog scat after the first thaw.

But the humming. That’s his secret. How you know it’s him. Another day, another sunny smile. Ready for anything, wary as a broken bottle.  He hums and thrums his way across the street. Makes it to the other side, safe. I watch from the window tucked in his right hand. From a hundred miles away, safe in my tower, nose pressed to my mirror, watching.

Trucks swerve to avoid him. Even the cyclists slow their kamikaze velocities–out of respect, see. That music? That’s old jubjub. La canción. El encantamiento. That’s the secret, he told me once. “You gotta sing your way through this city. Remember that.”

Wasn’t a lesson so much as a reminder. I too lived among cliffdwellers once, in the City of Drowned Glass. Got soft in this tree-lined place, where the rain is just rain, and the trucks don’t have teeth. I admit, I’d rather an ocean than the cicada roar of construction–and when I say cicada, think just popped outta the shell, size of a football field, and yeah, the city’s no place for entomophobes. Like I said. Soft.

But my breath fogs the mirror. The cityscape rolls away into gray as he makes his daily commute via katabasis. Green eyes, a slick stairwell, gone.

I’ll be joining him soon. Some things you just know. The tune in your throat tells you so. Time to polish my old breastplate to bronzelight. Time to open my mouth and sing.

for Carlos Hernandez 


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then the winds changed

the hillwalk, the riverway

pale gull and daymoon

crack of crocus in a shady grove

yellow, purple, yellow

and the current–

a swift and lapis mercury



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My New Friend . . . And YOURS.

To start:

Liz Duffy Adams is the WORLD FAMOUS PLAYWRIGHT of Or, and Dog Act . . .

Although the first play I saw by her was A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World, which takes place about ten years after the events of the Salem Witch Trails, and which, by the way, is EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED FROM A PLAY.

She is also in my WRITING GROUP–along with Ellen Kushner (The World of Swordspoint BooksThomas the Rhymer), Delia Sherman (The Freedom Maze, The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Whitehallalso with Liz), Joel Derfner (Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Happened Instead, Tremontaine), and Carlos Hernandez (The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria

More to the POINT, Liz Duffy Adams–playwright and GODDESS–also heard me saying how much I wanted a FURRY HOT WATER BOTTLE, just like they have–or used to have, no longer available now–at RESTORATION HARDWARE–and she made me THIS!


She found a FAUX FUR VEST at a thrift store, and had a friend SEW IT UP!




*pant* *pant*

I am very lucky!!!

And and now YOU ARE LUCKY TOO, because I have told you about Whitehall (for which Liz and Delia were head writers) which is all about WOMEN OF THE RESTORATION HOT DAMN, and it is SWASHBUCKLY and WITTY and SEXY and CHARLIE TWO I LOVE YOU!!!

You’re even DOUBLY lucky, for I also mentioned Tremontaine, which, if you liked Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword, which of course you did, YOU MUST READ IMMEDIATELY, and now the whole season one is conveniently packaged for your pleasure in a PAPERBACK BOOK published by Saga Press, available in May 2017, thank you NAVAH et al!

And even though I wrote this blog on April 1st, it is NO JOKE! So . . .




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Sold a Story! Narrating a Story! Reading a Story! Am Being Read a Story!


Well, okay. So this is my latest Facebook status. It was carefully crafted, each ALLCAPS in its very particular place, and really, it oughtn’t to be wasted as ephemera, when it could be in a BLOG:

I am here to end your sweet, sweet torment!

Just in case you were wondering, re: my last, something last, latest, vaguebookery (just the handful of you who care, WHO WITHER AWAY WITH EVERY HOUR I HAVE KEPT YOU IN SUSPENSE), O YE BRAVE SOULIES, YE:

Faint and sigh and pine NO LONGER! FOR THIS IS THE 6:43 PM EST OF TRUTH!

PEOPLE OF ETERNIA! I, EVEN I, SHE-ROID, HAVE SIGNED A CONTRACT WITH UNCANNY MAGAZINE, who have so, so (wisely?) (weirdly?) (well?) SO JUST BOUGHT the BIZARREST story I have ever WRITTEN, bar NONE (even the BIG BAH-HA, and that’s saying something, tho’ I don’t know WHAT!), and their acceptance letter went something like this:

“This might be the weirdest story we’ve ever received, and we f***ing love it.”

Which made me superhappy, so, yeah, thanks, Michael and Lynne, I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE THE WEIRDEST OF SOMETHING!

(Besides my eighth grade class at St. Jerome’s parochial school in Phoenix, Arizona.)

Anyhoo. Watch for the silver sky, pets. And thanks for your ENDURING PATIENCE.

The story’s called “Though She Be But Little,” and, you know. It’ll be out sometime. At a genre magazine near you.


I’m on Book 2 of Shreffler’s CAT’S EYE CHRONICLES, this one VIPER’S CREED. I just did pickups for the first one on Monday. Book 2 introduces the DRACIANS. Well, Book 1 introduced them, really, only we didn’t know what we were being introduced to, back then.

Oh, sorry. Was that a spoiler? I SHALL SAY NOTHING MORE.


I am reading Fran Wilde’s UPDRAFT, and OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!

(You know, I refused to write “OMG” in texts or updates for the LONGEST TIME, because I was a snob. Much in the same way I still refuse to write “SQUEE.” But OMG what I was MISSING that WHOLE TIME! Now I am suspicious I’m cutting out my own eyeballs by refusing to *SQUEE*, as it were, but what can you do? WE MUST REMAIN COMPLEX. And surely I am a more faceted and mysterious personality if I refuse to write *SQUEE* every time something SQUEEWORTHY comes up, right? RIGHT??? Anyone??? It’s just me then.)


This is all very exciting. I love reading. Well, I love reading UPDRAFT, anyway!  What, am I the last one? WELL, I DON’T MIND!

You know what I’m going to read next??? CODE NAME VERITY! That’s right! In PARTICULAR because Amal and Caitlyn loved it SO MUCH and were AFRAID to tell me too much about it, so instead they just told me it had women friends and it was sad, and then I didn’t want to read it. But Jessica Wick, in her wisdom, sat me down and told me it does not end with the taste of sadness, but rather, of TRIUMPH. And then she explained WHY, and now I MUST READ IT. I won’t tell you, though. You probably don’t like spoilers. Not like me, who LOVES them. THE SPICE OF LIFE, SPOILERS.

But I am also going to read it because I am watching FOYLE’S WAR. I might also reread THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY while I’m at it. And also watch ENIGMA and CHARLOTTE GRAY again. Because. Everyone’s making WWII parallels anyway. I may as well immerse myself in the ART of it.


And speaking of WWII-era art, and also the best books in the whole wide world, Carlos Hernandez (yes, he, the WORLD FAMOUS AUTHOR of the MOST MAGNIFICENT short story collection EVER) is reading me one of HIS favorites, THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY.

And it slays me.
Slaughters, garrotes, guts, re-strings and PLAYS me.


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A Day in the Life of . . .

I came home and started cooking. Not because I was hungry. Because I wanted to stand for a while. Cooking and doing dishes, listening to audiobooks.

(This is probably the third time I’ve listen to Bujold’s Memory this year. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to it in my life now. Or how many times, in addition to that, I’ve read it.

That trilogy–Memory, Komarr, and A Civil Campaign–is some of my favorite stuff of the Vorkosigan Saga. I usually start with the two novels inside Cordelia’s Honor: Shards of Honor, Barrayar; then the stuff of Young Miles: Warrior’s Apprentice, Mountains of Mourning, The Vor Game; then skip all the way up to the trilogy. Once in a while, if I feel like it, I’ll read or listen to stories before, between, and/or after. But it’s mostly those five.)

Oh, but . . . To stand and be silent, after sitting all day, sitting just so, and talking. Talking, talking, talking. Starting at 9:20, going till 5:05, with a twenty minute lunch break.

All the rest was Voices, and all of them mine. Voices till my face was numb.

It was wholly absorbing. I really like doing secondary world fantasy; it’s my happy place.

First loves, you know.

And all the while, that slight anxiety over the choices I’m making, wanting to serve the writer, the readers, wanting to please EVERYBODY.

Knowing it’s not possible.

But how happy it made me to come home, do some dishes–scrub the burnt black crust in my crockpot from yesterday’s Near Disaster (curried yellow split peas in a tomato base–mmn, diced, with green chilis, and garlic, onion, and lemon)–and settle in to make a coq au vin.

Why? Why, because recipes are soothing! Chopping things up is soothing, and to the sound of this story I know so well, which is so impeccable that I suck the sentences of it, the world-building, the structure, the beloved characters who are, at this moment in their timelines, experiencing profound change in their status quo. Their lives. It’s delicious. Like coq au vin.

Not to mention that, now, I’ll have dinner tomorrow night upon coming home, and no need to go about COOKING it.


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