Start a poem with “one must have a mind of . . .” and choose a word to complete that first line and explore through sensory language. For example: One must have a mind of salad. One must have a mind of seahorses. One must have a mind of roller coasters.
The Window Woman
By C. S. E. Cooney
one must have a mind of quarantine of clean, sterile surfaces, a surfeit of paper supplies, sustainably made, bamboo or DIY
and have been altogether distant for so long so calm, so detached, watching the world through glass, listening to the far-off song
of a cactus wren, and the mangy cat in the Bermuda grass, filthy and desperate, eyeing the hummingbird with lust, one eye crusted over, one ear bent, tail broken
there is the sound of muted traffic, and the smell of not-as-much smog, mosquitos batting at the screen like small anxieties, homing, homing in on heated blood
and protected I sit, quiet, contemplative, not much different than before, yet trammeled, yearning for more resigned, a watchdog, slavering for signs of my time
morning! morning! calls the grackle-girl making big coin eyes at me right outside my windowpane making rappitty-tappitty, gothily-punkily japily-jestily, heckily-jeckily, doomily-gloomily, crack-crack CRACK- -ety noises right outside my windowpane
grackle-girl, she flexes up she up and pecks a glint-sharp drupe round from out my casement glass hops my sill, the brazen lass, and pops her sleeky head right through that round-sawn hole she’s made peeks razorly, says cheekily: howdee, lady! here’s your delivery—
then! hoiks she from out her prying beak, my grackle-girl hoiks she a gorgon’s knot: ribbons all a-ravel, streamers loose, limp like worms each as black as bunker fuel each as blue as flame each that same sky-wet, snake-slick, onyx-licks-a-larimar hue as her own jaunty neck, which she withdraws from the vitreous guillotine her boisterousness hath made
grackle gifts come wild to hand: wet ribbon, glass drupe, jet wing, bronze ring how they twist and twine, wend, wind divine themselves into some true new thing: some tiny monstrous hope (pale, night-blooming orchid– but tiger-striped, with teeth) that feeds only on the finest ink, on midnight confessions dark lace, strange tastes, unexpressed tensions broken shell, shattered blade, polished stone and the brightest brass button in a box carved all of bone
FALSE CLAIM: holding your breath for ten seconds successfully means you do not have the virus.
TRUE FACT: holding your breath successfully while dancing beneath Idol to Invoke Riot at the Rite of Spring (deer-headed girl, Lutetian limestone) while wearing Charm to Ward the Evil Eye (three sparrow skulls) means you can continue to do so for another ten seconds. (Eventually, this stops being true.) Also, wash your hands.
FALSE CLAIM: gargling with salt and/or vinegar and/or hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach will cure the virus.
TRUE FACT: burying Fetish for Calming a Fractious Child (amethyst, cockroach) beneath a tree, hanging Bead for Remembrance of Beloved Pet (dog or perhaps buffalo figure, could be horse) (clay, lapis glazing) above threshold, and gargling with Vodka (Fleischmann’s) will make homeschooling while working from home harder to remember the next day. Also, avoid touching your face.
FALSE CLAIM: drinking water (cold) or tea (hot) every fifteen minutes will cure the virus.
TRUE FACT: setting Figure of God or alternately Frog (clay, blue glazing) on windowsill, driving Iron Nail (to ward off invasion) into garden and/or potted plant, and hanging up on/not answering emails from hackers and/or televangelists may prevent hackers/televangelists from hacking/televangelizing you. Also, drink water and/or tea. Keeping hydrated is generally a good idea.
FALSE CLAIM: colloidal silver, “immunity boosting” gummy and/or Flintstone vitamins, and oil of oregano or other essential oils may ward off the virus.
TRUE FACT: an Amulet of Fortune (brass, verdigris), an Amulet of Fertility (bone, phallus), and a Charm to Effect a Transformation (glass, amber) may result in appearance of homegrown homunculus to run all your outdoor errands while you remain safely at home, social-distancing. If spell fails, order prepackaged homunculus online along with the rest of your household needs, available for Prime Shipping sometime next month.
Today, it’s a writing morning. I’m working on “Fiddle”–the second draft.
“Fiddle” takes place approximately 75 years after the events of Desdemona and the Deep, and though I wouldn’t call it a sequel, there are a few recurring characters. Because the gentry and the koboldkin are rather long-lived.
The first draft is currently over 40,000 words, so I’m betting by the time I’m finished drafting it, it’ll either be just under that, or, more likely, closer to 60,000, which means… ANOTHER ACCIDENTAL NOVEL! We’ll see if I can finish Draft 2 by the end of April.
That’s the plan. But, like all my plans lately, it’ll probably take a wee bit longer. (Sorry, Mike Allen. Re: The Twice-Drowned Saint!)
Only this time, I’m going into revisions, PREPARED. It’s a very loose, breezy first person; the POV character is a goblin girl named Loxósseliss, or Lox for short, sometimes called “Fiddle” by her friends–and not because she can play an instrument.
Here’s the opening section, for the interested:
DIDA + ISTAT = L0V3
Three weddings, three worlds, one city, one day. And I was involved in all of them—more or less.
For a shy girl who doesn’t get out much, this should’ve been a form of torture—but thankfully, I’d lately fallen into totally unrequited love with a gangly, bemused, prophetic school teacher, and I had it on good authority he’d be attending at least two of the same weddings. Hence, what would otherwise have been an arduous social outing became an arduous social outing with devastating consequences for failing to appear.
Okay, well, I had to go to the first one. My sister appointed me her witness, and you do not let down a goblin girl on her day of days, get me? Not if her name’s Dida, and she brought food to your door when you were in grad school and suddenly found you couldn’t bear to leave your apartment, not even in the dead of night, and anyway you adore her and would have gone for her sake even if she hadn’t invited Schoolmaster Hottiepants to her wedding just as a favor to you.
And the second wedding? The whole world was invited to that one. All three worlds, in fact. Or, at least, representatives therefrom. Me, I was just the unlucky draw that time. Either that, or mama rigged the family lotto for her own reasons, which, yeah, I wouldn’t put past her, and no, I wasn’t going to confront her about it. Goblin mama says go to the Gentry Tripartite’s 75th Renewal of Vows, you do what goblin mama says.
The third wedding was a surprise, the morning of. We’ll get to that one. Suffice to say that I couldn’t have refused the invitation if I tried.
I know what I want to do, but the days seem to fly by without me somehow doing it. I’m in major need of sitzfleisch.
A week or two ago, my friend Caitlyn said she didn’t know how I could write, because she had “the concentration of a gnat.” But I was under a deadline; I had to write. And also, since I’d been under two deadlines for several months, I had momentum behind me.
Now, I’m in a new place. We flew out of New York the day Broadway went dark. We’d meant to just come out for a visit while Carlos had his Tuscon Festival of Books, but that got canceled three days before, and I already had my ticket out. So he bought a new one for himself, and we thought we’d make a bit of a vacation about it.
And now it looks like we’re here until May! We’re so lucky to be here. What a wonderful thing, to be in the house I grew up, with my mother, and my brother and sister-in-law, and their housemate. We’d initially camped out in the front room, but when we saw we’d be extending our stay, we took over the “yoga/meditation” room, which happens to have been my bedroom as a teenager. So that’s strange and kind of wonderful.
My mom bought us foam mats for the floor, so between those and the sleeping bags, we’re snug. We packed for a week, so we’re doing laundry a lot, but again, all of this is something to be grateful for.
I miss our apartment in Queens, and I’m worried about our friends, and–O Vanity–I’m starting to dream about dresses. Ball dresses. Froofy dresses. Fancy dresses.
(This happened also when I was living for a year with friends in the Chicago area as I was saving up to move out east. Most of my stuff was in storage, so I was living out of a suitcase. After a few weeks of this, I started dreaming “plague dreams” on the regular: wherein 99.9% of the global population died, and I could go into department stores and just take any dress I wanted off the rack.)
(This told me something about myself that didn’t necessarily surprise me but that I didn’t exactly want to know either. The dreams did eventually stop when I finally moved to Rhode Island and had access to my full wardrobe again.)
Thankfully, I’m not dreaming plague dreams these days. (Who needs that when we have the news?) Just, apparently, my subconscious wants to go to the prom or something. Who knows?
Anyway, what I really want to do is revise Fiddle.
I have my outline with me–which is a big win, since I don’t always carry that notebook with me, and it was a handwritten outline. I have my computer. I have time. All of this warm, sequestered, quiet, stay-at-home time. I even have a door that closes. I just have to use it.
Fiddle takes place in the same world as Desdemona and the Deep does, but it’s a good 75 years or so later, in the equivalent of that world’s 1980’s. You can imagine the hair. And the music. And the computer games. Space travel. And sentient demon ships. And an orca mafia. And a drowned city. And a protagonist who’s both just kind of a girl and brown recluse spider at the same time. Because that’s how goblins roll.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I have the revise the danged thing. And after that–who knows what it’ll be?
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see, For all the day they view things unrespected; But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee, And darkly bright are bright in dark directed. Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright, How would thy shadow’s form form happy show To the clear day with thy much clearer light, When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so! How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made By looking on thee in the living day, When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay! All days are nights to see till I see thee, And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
Since I don’t want to bury the lede, as they say (is that how you spell “lede”?), I will start with the biggest news.
And that is that my novel, once called Miscellaneous Stones: Necromancer and now called Saint Death’s Daughter–which started off as a thought experiment when Marie O’Mahony took me shooting guns in the desert and I was all sweaty and nervous and like “Where’s my silencer?”, and which thought experiment then morphed into a short story (with ROBOTS) in a Science Fiction class at Columbia College Chicago under Phyllis Eisenstein, and which short story then grew into a very light 50,000 NaNoWriMo comedic fantasy romp, and over the following 9 years metastasized was crafted into a massive, monstrous, very-dear-to-my-heart, beautiful and beloved novel–has been picked up by Rebellion Publishing, to be released in 2022.
You can see by the Dickensian length of that last sentence/paragraph what you might be getting into with this book.
Thankfully, I have an EDITOR for that. And her name is KATE COE. And I already love her. But, as Rogers and Hammerstein famously wrote in their musical about undead mice, Cindermancer:
Do I love you because you’re wonderful? Or are you wonderful, because you like my footnotes? Are you the sweet invention of a writer’s dream? Or are you really as wonderful as you seem?
Reader, she’s just great. AND SHE LIKES MY FOOTNOTES!
You know who else is great? Gem Sheldrake, Rebellion’s in-house illustrator, who came up with the aforementioned mouse skeleton in two seconds, and who will be working on EVEN MORE mice skeletons (my protagonist Lanie would be GOOing herself), as well as UNDEAD WOLF PUPPIES! OMG!
Kate also just introduced me to Hanna, Rebellion’s marketing person, and I am so PSYCHED by this team, I can’t even TELL YOU!
My agent Markus Hoffmann at Regal Hoffmann and Associates LLC has been the most supportive, enthusiastic, determined fellow, and also, I adore him. But I’ve liked him ever since he responded to my first fifty pages query with a “I quite like these, please send more.” I MEAN, WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE, RIGHT???
Seriously, my husband Carlos thinks his agent DongWon Song is the best, and FER SURE he’s pretty great, but I’ll fight him on “best.”
So that’s 1.
2.) THE SINISTER QUARTET
Mike Allen at Mythic Delirium, who published my collection Bone Swans: Stories (which won the World Fantasy Award in 2016, which, whoa, feels like such a long time ago), approached me a few years ago about a potential project. We’d both submit novellas to this publishing company, who’d then put the together in a back-to-back collection, kind of like those vintage Sci Fi paperbacks that had two covers, one on the front, one on the back?
Well, that fell through. And while I’d had a novella in mind for it, it was in early raw cake-batter stages, and I got busy, and never went back to it.
But then, last October 2019, Mike approached me again and asked what I’d think about contributing that novella to an anthology of four works of long fiction, called The Sinister Quartet.
Reader, I was INTRIGUED. I’d just finished two rough drafts of new novellas–tentatively titled Fiddle and I Will Make a Ruin of Myself–and wanted to step back from them and let them rise in the warming oven for awhile, or whatever it is first drafts do.
(By the way, I initially wrote “whatever” as “whateffer” and was almost charmed into keeping it, but I didn’t, so you get a parenthetical aside instead–CONGRATULATIONS!)
So I started work on revising that old, old first draft of The Twice-Drowned Saint, which was in NO SUBMITTABLE STATE WHATSOEVER. Basically, it needed a full-body re-haul, or whatever the mechanical term is for it. But a revision from the ground up.
And lo, over the next five months, what had been a 20,000 word first draft became–not a novella, no, nothing so tidy–but a 60,000 word ACCIDENTAL NOVEL! YAY ME! Can you sense a pattern? No? I direct you to my origin story for Saint Death’s Daughter and also to what happened with my “novella” or rather more precisely “very very very short novel” Desdemona and the Deep.
But now the whole anthology is AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER! Both in Paperback and in E-Book. It drops in June!
I am so excited, not only because I love Mike, and I love my story–it has weird angels, rebellious saints, a city made of salt surrounded by a diamond of ice, desert giants, viperbikes, and OLD MOVIES!–but because I also share the Table of Contents with new colleague, fantasy author Amanda J. McGee, whose work I cannot WAIT to read, and my very dear and beloved friend and former roommate, Jessica Paige Wick.
You might remember Jess as one of the founding editors of Goblin Fruit Magazine, along with Amal El-Mohtar and later Caitlyn Paxson. Well, remember how good that magazine was? Jess’s OWN PROSE IS JUST RESPLENDENT!!!
Brendan Choisnet of Plywood Pictures approached Carlos and me last December about an independent film idea he’s been mulling over for years. He’d worked with Carlos before through Disney Hyperion–particularly, the Symphony Space event for Rick Riordan Presents in January 2019–and he’d read Sal and Gabi Break the Universe. Listened to it, actually, on audiobook! (Anthony Ray Perez is SUCH a good narrator, everyone.)
To my very great surprise, he’d also listened to Desdemona and the Deep, written (and narrated!) by your very own C. S. E. Cooney. He wanted a husband/wife team to work on his “kitchen sink sci-fi drama,” and TAG! We were IT!
To that end, we had several day-long meetings and hashed out a workable outline we were all happy with. Then Brendan went off to work on our contracts with our agents, and we went off to have a fabulous (and very intense) (okay, sometimes I cried) (but on the whole fabulous) writing retreat in which we WROTE OUR FIRST SCREENPLAY.
We recently turned in both our contracts AND the first draft of Re-Entry to Brendan, and eagerly await his edits.
So that’s huge.
AAAAAANNND, I think that’s about it for now. Did you even READ this far??? YOU’RE ADORABLE! THANK YOU!
So, I saw a picture-post on Facebook about a phone number to call for emergency rent assistance. But when I followed the link to United Way, I discovered that that phone number is for residents of Indianapolis only. But the link is for everyone!
So here is a link to United Way! This goes directly to the Covid-19 Community Relief and Response Fund.
“To support this rapidly escalating need, United Way Worldwide has created the COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. Our Fund supports communities struggling in the wake of the new virus, by supporting local United Ways and 211, the go-to information resource in times of crisis. Every year, 211 specialists answer 12 million requests by phone, text, chat and email to connect people with disaster, food, housing, utility, health care resources and more. There is no other network in the country with a similar pulse on America’s needs. So far, some 20 statewide 211 operations have been activated, and 211 is working closely with health officials all over the country to provide accurate updates to the public.
NOTE: You can dial 211 to speak to someone about local assistance at any time. The 1-866-211-9966 number you may have seen on social media is only available for residents of Indianapolis. Please be aware that financial assistance related to COVID-19 is not available for individuals everywhere.“
Here also is a link to the Seattle Foundation’s Covid-19 response. They are “a coalition of philanthropy, government, and business partners has joined together to create a COVID-19 Response Fund that will rapidly deploy resources to community-based organizations at the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak in the Puget Sound region.”
And here is a link to Modest Needs. They provide grants that go to “the persons in the United States who’ve been most directly impacted by this pandemic are hourly employees – people who generally aren’t paid if a business can’t open.”
Another suggestion that was made to me was supporting local community organizations that provide childcare for kids out of school. The one pointed out to me was The Boys and Girls Club of America.
Other things to keep in mind are your favorite Arts Organizations that cannot go through with planned plays, concerts, dance recitals, and galleries. If you have the time and energy and resources, check in with your favorite–local or national–see how they’re doing, what they might need.
Also, there are your local small businesses–coffee houses, restaurants. One suggestion that was made to me was to buy gift certificates to these places: keep revenue coming in–and give yourself a fabulous night out at some future date.
My mom’s favorite local coffee shop, Grinders, has curbside pickup for coffee orders. What’s your favorite coffee shop?
My favorite bookshop in Westerly Rhode Island–the Savoy–is doing house deliveries, curbside pickup, and they also ship books–for free–anywhere! If you don’t have a favorite Indie bookstore, consider supporting them!
In New York City, also hard-hit, there are several Indie bookstores we ADORE. The children’s bookstore Books of Wonder hosted Carlos’s SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE debut, as well as several events and panels last year. They’re so great.
And Astoria Bookshop, which hosted my DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP book launch, though closed to browsing, is open “11am-7pm each day for online, phone and pick up orders.’
I hope this helps! Please feel free to post your favorite links to relief funds or local businesses in the comments–and if you have a little story about them, so much the better!
The art is complete for our new game NEGOCIOS INFERNALES. We have made a prototype for playtesting!
(The size has not yet been adjusted from playing card to tarot card, but that’s a little thing.)
For now, this “La Baraja del Destino” of ours is ready to test at Boskone and it is BEE-YOOOUU–TEEE–FUL!
All art by the glorious, the genius, the darling Rebecca Huston of Heathen Ink!
Keep reading for MORE ABOUT THE GAME!
The game of NEGOCIOS INFERNALES is Men in Black by way of the Spanish Inquisition!
A world very much like our Earth is experiencing something a lot like our Spanish Inquisition. Aliens show up to this planet with an invitation for the humans there to join their Cosmic Consciousness, but the humans there aren’t quite able to understand what the aliens are or what they want.
“Are you devils?” ask the humans. “Um, sure,” shrug…