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Jan. 21st, 2016

Writer Gal

WHOLLY IRREVERENT HOLY BEAUTY: A Review of THE ASSIMILATED CUBAN'S GUIDE TO QUANTUM SANTERIA

10255907_10208110816958859_5714001170563328498_oI wish I'd written this review last March.

Carlos Hernandez and I were barely friends then. We'd met briefly at Readercon in 2014, became the most casual of Facebook acquaintances, collaborated on a story in January 2015 on a whim, saw it was good, declared ourselves unwilling to stop writing to each other, struck up a correspondence, and became true friends (and then some) pretty quickly after that.

In those early months of our new friendship, I read Hernandez my collection Bone Swans: Stories, which was about to come out in July 2015. He, in turn, read me his collection The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria, slated to debut in early 2016.

After experiencing his book for the first time, back in March, I could have said, with very little bias--or no more than I have for any other writer in our small, genre-loving, literary community--and with all honesty:

"I don't know the man very well, but his writing! Oh, boy. Let me tell you ALL about his writing."

But now I know the man very well, and love him still more, and there is no hope of any lack of prejudice to rein in my hand from lavish praise or sculpt this review down to the pithiest of paragraphs. But I can start with the first thing I said back then in summary, which I kept all these months to use as the subject line for my eventual review:

"This book is wholly irreverent holy beauty."

ACGTQS is a collection of twelve science fiction and fantasy stories. Most, but not all, take place on our world, right here and now--or maybe just a half a breath into the future. The technologies are plausible, the science keenly researched, and through his large cast of mainly Latin@ characters, Hernandez explores what it is to be human and broken. His characters are "people who have assimilated but are actively trying to reclaim their lives."

And his characters. His characters. He doesn't make 'em easy. "No es facil."

12620866_10156499509145204_2081413353_oNah, Hernandez does 'em "the Cuban way: mix a few shit-jokes and pranks in with the heartbreak"--and as we follow them through their stories, we end up, like them, diced up, bleeding out, trembling on the summit of revelation, or at the chasm-bottom of despair, caught in that breathless gulf between sob and guffaw, and for all this--or perhaps because of it--somehow more whole.

Murderers and murdered (though with a technology called the "eneural" dead sure doesn't mean what it used to mean), reporters, physicists, border police, martyrs, musicians, TV producers, teachers, faithless husbands, feral children (and aren't all children feral, after all?), each character is fully realized, each as faceted as a fly's eye, difficult, exquisitely complex, and so gorgeously, shatteringly human.

I have my favorites. "More than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give," for one--a story about the consequences of sucking ghosts from a bullet hole-riddled wall left over from the Cuban Revolution. For another, the three Gabby Réal stories: "The International Studbook of the Giant Panda"; "The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory"; and "Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66."

12562676_10156499509080204_723777974_oWhen I first met Gabby Réal on the page (back in December 2014, just kind of out in the wild in a magazine called Crossed Genres), I instantly knew her for a friend.

Not all fictional characters are folks you'd want to go out for coffee with (well, Gabby would probably drink coffee; I'd drink tea), nor should they be. But Gabby is one of those rare fictions--a woman I want to be when I grow up. She stands alongside the mastercrafted science fiction heroines of Kage Baker and Lois McMaster Bujold. She's quick-tongued, brutally honest, flirty, feisty, and she's lived in the world and encountered its weirdnesses--piano's possessed by their late players, unicorns from another dimension, and what it happens to be like inside an Ailuropoda melanoleuca.

What's more, she's reported on it. Gabby always has a story to tell, and something to take from it.

Plus, I want to go out dancing with her. She's worth knowing. And it's also worth knowing that there are more Gabby tales to come, outside of the three you'll be finding herein.

I've heard Hernandez describe some of his stories fairly flippantly: "The Aphotic Ghost," for example, summarized tongue in cheek as "My Were-Jelly story." Or, cackling to himself, "The International Studbook of the Giant Panda," simplified into, "Oh, that's the one all about Giant Robot Panda Sex."

Neither of which is...untrue.

But while such goofball elevator pitches might get readers to the page, what they'll stay for is the zinging wit his characters often exhibit. The pacing and urgency and breastbone-puncturing adrenalin punch right to the heart of stakes that matter. So much, too, deals unflinchingly with the ferocious melancholy of loss, with gasping moments of drenchingly sensual beauty that surround you like the musk of a fully functioning animatronic animal suit and demand your total surrender.

12620703_10156499509075204_1089676914_oThis book flayed me, man. Pierced me right through--like a pigeon slaughtered by a child priest and offered up to some god in exchange for a desperate favor. (See what I did there? No? You will. Once you read the book.)

I do not regret becoming that sacrifice.


A FEW LINKS FOR YOUR EASE, COMFORT, AND REVELATION:

rosarium-musecc-the-peolpe-profiles-carlos hernandezThe author's website

The Awesomeness that is Rosarium Press

And...

¡¡¡THE QUANTUM SANTERIA LAUNCH PARTY FACEBOOK PAGE!!!

When: Sunday, February 7, 2016
What Time: 6 PM - 8 PM
Where: Nuyorican Poets Café
236 E 3rd Street, New York, NY 10009

Jan. 20th, 2016

Writer Gal

Tooting My Own Trumpet Swan: THE BONE SWANS OF AMANDALE (novella) available to read online!!!

Bone_Swans_Bone_SwansGosh. I sort of blew it all on the Subject Line, didn't I?

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MAY I PRESENT, FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE (if indeed it is your pleasure to view it), my novella THE BONE SWANS OF AMANDALE!

My nice publisher Mike Allen made it available over at Mythic Delirium so you can read it if you like.

OR YOU CAN BUY THE WHOLE COLLECTION, but this post isn't really about that. It's about HOUSEKEEPING. And DUE DILIGENCE. And. You know. THE SIDE EYE.

>.>
<.<

THE PROVERBIAL ELIGIBILITY POST SIDE EYE!

I GAVE IT THEE ALREADY! AND YET I WOULD IT WERE TO GIVE AGAIN!

>.>
<.<

Ahem.

So. Yup. Read that, pals o' mine. IF YOU DARE.

Jan. 3rd, 2016

Writer Gal

HEADLESS BRIDE available on BANDCAMP!

Wahh!!!
Superexcited!!!

Okay, okay, okay, so today, after BEGGING the INIMITABLE Dr. Carlos Hernandez for computer help, and his most GRACIOUS ACQUIESCENCE, we managed to learn how to do the whole DOWNLOAD CODE thing on Bandcamp, and then hook up with something called MailChimp, and then we sent out special codes to our Backers ($20 and up) to download their copies of our Headless Bride EP!

What does this mean?

It means it's now available for downloading and streaming!

LISTEN TO HEADLESS BRIDE ON BANDCAMP!

If you are a backer, and did NOT receive your code in the email, and you know you should have, please let me know and I'll send you yours individually! There were a few that gave me some trouble in the past, but only a handful. I have plenty of codes left!

headlessbride art

Dec. 10th, 2015

Writer Gal

THE BALLAD OF RACK AND RHYE: An Homage to Bo Bolander

Just read Bo Bolander's "And You Shall Know Her By the Trail of Dead," published in Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 57.

So then I wrote this. It's, um, a fan poem. Song. Thing.
Warning: STRONG LANGUAGE.

Er. Yes. I don't know that I ever cussed so much in a single poem or song before. WELP! FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING!

And... Also. Probably there'll be a ukulele accompaniment sometime in the near future.


THE BALLAD OF RACK AND RHYE
For Bo Bolander
By C. S. E. Cooney

Based on Brooke Bolander's And You Shall Know Her By the Trail of Dead
Published by Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 57


She is young, she is old, she is gutter-girl bold
With her teeth sharp as moonlight and crystal
She's a skinjob and bum, and the cops have gone numb
In the wake of her knuckles and pistol

She has guns on her hips, she has horns in her fists
And the eye that remain's not for crying
And she spits through the split in her bleeding cracked lips
When he finds her, he thinks she is dying

She is wracked, he is wry, he is wearing a tie
And his two hands are clean as they lift her
She is Rhye, he is Rack, and she's slung on his back
Ah, for fuck's sake--he shoulda just left her

So he sews up her cuts, swabs her wounds spic and span
Then she carries on drinking and brawling
Brings her in from the rain, gives her something for pain
Doesn't say much, but sure as shit's watching

"All right, tell me, my man, why do you give a damn?
What's so beautiful, brave, or alluring?
I'm a dirtbag and hag, and you might say my dad's
Every Tom, Dick, and Alan M. Turing."

He's so cool and composed, looking neat in his clothes
She's a bourbon and cigarette mess
But he smiles and he shrugs, and he toes at the rug
"Hey, we all need a hobby, I guess."

Now her eyes are dead gray, and her hair has gone gray
And her vision's sprayed red with his blood
Bastards blew out his brains, but his essence remains
Buried deep, fast asleep, locked in code

Now the grass it is gray, and the trees they are gray
She is jacked in and fucked up and frayed
She is circuit and wire and electrical fire
And the ferryman has to be paid

Down that dirty canal leading straight into hell
Down that river of dead, choked and swollen
Full of fish-nibbled eyes and those blue-marbled thighs
All the piss, trash, and flesh of the fallen

Dead soldiers, dead agents, punks, pirates, police
And the worm that she killed at age nine
Bounty hunters, mob bosses, no-fucking-great-losses
And that one goddamned kid that one time

Keep moving, keep searching, you street rat, you urchin
Through the Styrofoam, rust, dust, and plaster
Further up, further in, through the murk and the grim
As the air itself tastes of disaster

In the windshield cracks, in the pricks up her back
She is sensing some dark shadow walker
Not a cat, not a rat, not a buzzard or bat
Yeah, she's not a big talker, her stalker

Rhye-That-Was, not That-Is, sprints and grins, feints and twists
She's a shark in the murk sensing slaughter
Fatal furious cat in an alleyway spat
Barracuda in gunsmoke and water

There's that purposeful walk, there's that feral wolf trot
All that bone-sickle burnt-out derision
She is bitter and young, and she'll crush both your lungs
As she pistolwhips you to submission

But Rhye-That-Is-Rhye doesn't curl up and die
Though her foe packs a punch like blackjack
Rhye is chewing on glass, but that cocky dumbass
Get a thumb in her eye on the tarmac

Rack is hog-tied and sore, but he's just as before
Calm and quick-witted, cool and deadpanning
"Here's the kill switch, my girl, won't you give it a whirl
Load 'em up, bright as brass in your cannon."

So she primes up her guns, and she hands him off one
"Rack, I'm trusting you, don't fuck me over."
Now her enemy's back with a pop and a smack
Then a splash, and they're seven feet under

It's a pond of pirhannas, it's Lucifer's sauna
And that bitch is a right bugaboo
And they're losing their vigor till they each pull a trigger
In tandem, like good partners do

Rack's body is dead, so he rides in Rhye's head
It's not first class, but hey--they're still flying
If his code's in her melon, well, hell--it's a fuckton
Lots better than quitting and dying

Do they come back alive, do they sink or survive
Plunged in cyberpunk's bleak purgatory?
Think I'll tell you? You're wrong; this ain't that kind of song
Go and read the original story

Dec. 5th, 2015

Writer Gal

It's a Ludic Kind of Love: On Games, Dates, Playtimes, and Poems


I'll tell you something about my beloved, if you like.

First of all, he wrote this book. But that's not what this blog is about; he wrote that book WELL before we ever met, so I had nothing to do with it. (Although he did read it aloud to me, story by story, and that was very fine. I shall blog more on THAT, later. My short review is: "Wholly Irreverent Holy Beauty." Which requires some unpacking, I think. Story by story.)

9781495607394

This blog is about games.

Because if there's one thing Carlos Hernandez (AKA "Doctor Doctorpants, Professional Professor") is about, it's games. (Except he's about other things too, like all of us, "containing multitudes." Even his Twitter handle speaks to his tripartite vocation: @writeteachplay!) And since he writes and designs games, among all the other AMAZING STUFF he does, he likes to play them too.

Now, I... I am not a gamer. I have gamer friends. I have occasionally sat down (twice, actually) with buddies at a table (once at a coffee table, the other time, we all just sprawled on big fat embroidered cushions on the floor) to play an RPG. I used to play, like, "Clue" and "Yahtzee" as a kid. As an adult, I don't know. Do I still even remember the rules to "Go Fish"?

That said, the gentleman, he likes games.

And during his semester, he gets very busy. He wakes up between 1 AM and 4 AM to grade and plan class. He's editing pedagogical periodicals, he's fine-combing the ARCS of his forthcoming collection, he is sending me FABULOUS TEXTS. So. He does not get to play them very often.


PREVIEW_SCREENSHOT4_463278_1437744645

So then I thought, "Why don't we have a little Sunday afternoon DATE, with some PIZZA, and I could learn a bit about GAMES, and he could play something FUN, and it'll sort of being like a kid again, when my brothers all played 'Frogger' on ATARI and'Donkey Kong' on some way-early-version of NINTENDO, and it was all super interesting??!!"

We'd intended that he play Fallout 4, because that's what EVERYONE and their MAMA is talkin' about on the Facebooks. But in the end, on GAME DATE DAY, we ended up playing two other games entirely.

We played "N++" and a thing called "Journey." The first deals with ninjas solving puzzles and getting blown up a lot. And the second is, just... Almost indescribable.

Indescribably beautiful. The strange serenity of isolation, unexpected friendships communicated solely through sound not words, the ebullience and joy of an infinite horizon, ruinous depths and impossible heights, and gods who bend down to show you your life as written on the wall.

I say "we" played because, even though I didn't actually PICK UP the controller, I was actively involved in WATCHING.


journey_by_kuro_mai-d5d32aq

Watching is a TOTALLY plugged-in experience when one's beloved ninja-thief keeps getting BLOWN TO SMITHEREENS in puzzle mazes (N++), or is a gorgeous, genderless, childlike desert-spirit skidding along sand dunes and riding updrafts of air with a scarf billowing behind it in the wind, all illuminated in runes, and there are pretty colors and interesting music, and, and, and...

It utterly excites my brain. It makes me want to play. I was not ready that day; I'm shy of new things. But I've been thinking about playing ever since.

All of which to say, I had the most moving, sometimes terrifying, sometimes oddly peaceful, certainly captivating afternoon, all the while engaged in a medium I don't usually bother to give the time of day to.

I started thinking about things I've never had to think about! What makes a game different than a story? Different than film? What is happening in the brain when your own personal agency meets an alien atmosphere created by unknown collaborators; when you must abide by rules in a win/lose situation and you must learn those rules as you play; when you suspend disbelief and engage in pretend like you're a child again, but you problem-solve like an adult; when death is so ubiquitous and entertaining it loses all meaning; or when death becomes, through repetition, a luminous and transcendent mystery once again?

Gosh, it was cool.

Hernandez and I write poems and songs to each other when we have time. We try to make time as best we can in these busy days.

That week, I asked for poems about his game experience on our date day, and he sent me these.

I treasure them. He gave me permission to share them with you.


Actually, Vicariously
by Carlos Hernandez

I kept dying. I'd land
On a mine and explode and
My head would bounce off the black pixel walls
In entertaining ways: even in death, physics is fascinating. Or
I'd miss a jump and the height of the fall
Would cause the sticks of my body
To fly in six different directions,
Artistic blood blooming to emphasize the failure.
Ha ha ha, I said: dead again.
Once more, then; that goal isn't going
To reach itself. A running start,
X to jump, finesse the landing with
The joystick. Or not. Or dead again
And try again and so on.

I've learned not to take my death so hard. It's just feedback
From a world that is, by design,
Forgiving of fatality. Try again
And die again until I don't and learn
And move on to level two. But you:
Barefoot, dressed in morning light
And a diaphanous scarf that from the side of my eye
Were indistinguishable from one another,
Curled on the couch and watching with a cat's intensity
My leaps and launches and experimental
Forays into unanticipatable reactions with
Robot enemies and springboards and homing missiles and
That tracking laser that was
Particularly frustrating, particularly good
At killing me--Love, you love me,
And even in this life of two dimensions,
When failure simply means reset and
Take another try, you bit your Venus's mound
And clenched your whole body like a flexing bicep
And yelled when I died and died and
Only after remembered it was a game, so even
In this hypothetical space of play
Your love arrived and took too hard--thank you for taking too hard--
the hyperbolic suffering that's only there in games
to make winning that much sweeter.



Journey
By Carlos Hernandez

1.
My voice is a flute.
I want to tell my friend
That our insectival pointed legs
Can surf the dunes, and
It is such joy to soar over the dunes,
But the breathy tones that I generate,
Though pentatonically incapable of dissonance,
Could mean anything.
I long to be understood; it is
So joyful to surf the dunes.

2.
The gods wear robes of gold and white,
Mostly white. The masks they wear
Have beaks that never open.
They are so large. They radiate a casual terribleness
That is wholly belied by the way
The circles of their eyes blink to serene lines.
I summon a god--the same god as before?--and the god
Reveals a fresco of my past and of my future.
We stand for a moment in wordless audience
With one another before the vision
Vanishes and I move on to other altars
From which I may summon more gods.

3.
I am alone mostly.
The landscape is mostly dunes
Convinced of their own featurelessness.
There are markers that may be graves.
My life began as a falling star;
Was is wise to leave the sky and come to this place
Where loneliness is a kind of reverence?

4.
I have traveled through aqueous air,
Flown on the backs of carpet kites as playful
As fairies or hounds, been attacked by the terrible
Mechanical dragon with the red cyclopic eye that shines
A light that hunts me, seen the scarf that is my life,
That holds the words of power, shrink to almost
Nothing. Now, as I seek the mountain, snow. Deep, slow,
Enervating. The globe of life contracts around me.
My robe and I ice together.
I freeze to death like a cricket in winter.

4.
Again a star!

Dec. 3rd, 2015

Writer Gal

Narrating Audiobooks: My Year at Tantor 2015/16

I have not yet been a full year at Tantor. Not till next April!

But I recently had cause (like, just now) to complete my Discography (for an interview), which includes some books that aren't even recorded yet (complete with hyperlinks), so I thought I'd better make it a full year.

ljx090401tantorlogo1


I have been meaning to post about Tantor since I started working there! Only the thing about suddenly having an awesome job as an audiobook narrator is that... suddenly I had very little time to do anything else except narrate audiobooks. I AM NOT COMPLAINING!

So. Here's what I've been doing since April 2015 (when I've not been writing, traveling, composing, or performing). And will hopefully keep doing for the foreseeable future, long past April 2016!

afa4c6900c58004bb7c79ec7c851d39e

SCI-FI AND FANTASY

J. C. Nelson’s Grimm Agency Series
Free Agent
Armageddon Rules
Wishbound

Tony Peak: Inherit the Stars

MYSTERY
Ellery Adams’s Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries (available for pre-order)
Pies and Prejudice
Peach Pies and Alibis
Pecan Pies and Homicides
Lemon Pies and Little White Lies
Breach of Crust

G0210_DeathDapper-240x317

Angela Pepper’s Stormy Day Mystery Series (available for pre-order)
Death of a Dapper Snowman
Death of a Crafty Knitter
Death of a Batty Genius
Death of a Modern King

Carol J. Perry’s Witch City Mysteries
Caught Dead Handed
Tails You Lose
Look Both Ways

ROMANCE
Christie Ridgeway’s Cabin Fever Series
Take My Breath Away
Make Me Lose Control
Can’t Fight This Feeling

F1290_LookBoth-238x238

AMISH ROMANCE
Jennifer Beckstrand’s The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill Series
Huckleberry Hill
Huckleberry Summer
Huckleberry Christmas
Huckleberry Spring
Huckleberry Harvest
Huckleberry Hearts

Amy Clipston’s An Amish Heirloom Novel Series
The Forgotten Recipe

EROTICA
Elle Kennedy: Claimed

YA
S. A. Bodeen: The Detour

F1544_CoalRiver-238x238

FICTION

Amy E. Reichert: The Coincidence of the Coconut Cake
Ellen Marie Wiseman: Coal River

NON-FICTION
Amy Odell: Tales from the Back Row
Anastacia Marx de Salcedo: Combat Ready Kitchen
Florence Scovel Shinn, Chris Gentry: The Complete Game of Life and How to Play It

Oct. 27th, 2015

Writer Gal

BRIMSTONE RHINE UPDATE: Headless Bride EP, Plus Narration Perks

As I am writing this, I am hearing the rough mixes of "Lavender's Darling" and the "Headless Bride" from the new EP. I am particularly fond of the mechanical music-box intro to the latter; I think my brother Remi did such a beautiful job!
I've just finished writing to the contributors at the $75 level of the Brimstone Rhine Campaign perks. My goal is to have all those narrations done by the end of November! I am very excited about this.headlessbride art

When I ended the campaign, I'd had some experience narrating podcasts like Podcastle and Uncanny, and some of my own poems on Goblin Fruit. Shortly after the campaign, Tantor Media hired me as an audiobook narrator! Since then, I've narrated 24 full-length books! Phew.

I am excited to bring my broader experience and deeper understanding of narration to benefit my generous contributors!
ljx090401tantorlogo1

Meanwhile, my brother is busy mixing the last 6 songs of The Headless Bride. Soon, I'll be looking into printing the Brimstone Rhine cover art and sending it out to backers, and also finding a good company to press the CDs for me.

After a hectic summer and early fall, things have finally slowed down enough for me to give this project my full concentration. It certainly has taken me longer than I'd hoped (ha! I had estimated having rough recordings of all the $100 level songs by June! Ha-ha!), but I do believe this project is coming along.

I hope you all are having a fabulous October!

Sep. 13th, 2015

Writer Gal

Recording THE HEADLESS BRIDE

Let's see, let's see. Today is Sunday. We did, in fact, record an EP over the weekend.

Jeremy arrived on Friday morning at LaGuardia Airport (United). He was supposed to have arrived on Thursday night, but storms over New York had many planes cancelled and rerouted, so he spent the night at his Denver layover, playing his travel guitar with the stethoscope plugged in, so no one could hear him but himself.

It's the most CUNNING INSTRUMENT. I love it. He let me carry it when we went to fetch him, and I felt like REAL (and not imaginary) ROCKSTAR. It almost makes me want to learn how to play guitar JUST SO I CAN OWN ONE!

Imaginary Rockstar Carrying a REAL travel guitar. (Not my own.)

Then what happened? Oh, yes. We came home and started recording. We did four on Friday and four on Saturday, and let me see if I can remember the order... (NOT the "ordure" although I was recently reminded of that word.)

12010587_10153147943386662_3893141283835034246_o


My word, as I type this, it has just started raining in Queens, New York. Just outside my window.

Now! I have written my list (below), and will ruminate on some of the difficulties/joys of each (below that). If you are interested in reading the lyrics of these songs so you kind of know what I'm talking about, you can find them published at Mythic Delirium! BECAUSE MIKE ALLEN IS AWESOME!

FRIDAY
"O Loathly Ones"
"Mockingbird and Kestrel Girl"
"Black Widow's Waltz"
"The Headless Bride"

SATURDAY
"Chevalier"
"Can of Worms"
"Lavender's Darling"
"Barrow Brine"

12001068_10153142418696662_2470973575337592542_o


O LOATHLY ONES: This was HARD. It's sort of a relentless poem-song in 3/4 time, and many of the musical phrases are SIMILAR but not THE SAME, and I know that's how I wrote it, and Jeremy was very good, when setting instruments to the melody and fine-tuning it (har, har) about not changing it. But as I was TRYING to sing it CONSISTENTLY I realized that perhaps it was the WORST I IDEA I EVER HAD, because it's not very INTUITIVE to sing without SHEET MUSIC. Ah, but Jeremy has a great music program called... (looking it up in text messages) LOGIC 9 and managed to print out the sheet music derived from the midi-keyboard file. So THAT was awesome. Things got a little easier. Barely.

MOCKINGBIRD AND KESTREL GIRL: This one, methought, would be SO EASY--because Remi (Jeremy) and I sang it one million times last year when we went on our BACT mini-tour with the Goblin Girls. It, uh, wasn't as easy as I thought. NONE OF THIS WAS!

But!  The GREAT thing about "recording to a click" (the metronome) is that even if Remi goes in later and replaces all the rough guitar and music-y bits with a final, polished version, he can fit our voices in easy-peasy. His original rough melody was slightly fast (because he was going off me singing a cappella into my phone to give him an idea of it), but all he had to do was adjust the click and VOILA, THE MUSICAL ALL SHIFTED! Suddenly, the melody was slow enough to sing without tripping over our tongues. MAGIC.


See how we rigged Remi&quot;s posh mic? We affixed it to a wrought iron HANGING LAMP! That&quot;s how we swing in Brimstone Rhine, yo.

BLACK WIDOW'S WALTZ: I am so excited about this one! Unlike ALECTO! ALECTO!, where it was mostly me singing by myself (with the exception of "Scylla on the Rocks" when Glenn sang with me), much of THE HEADLESS BRIDE SONGS are duets between Remi and myself. Certain "Mockingbird" is one of them, as it's a bit of a dialogue song, and "Black Widow's Waltz" is another. We switch off verses until the third, where we switch off lines. He puts on his Sweeney Todd baritone for this one, and it's a rich scary sound next to my brighter lioness Broadway belt. "Mockingbird" was light fair, and "Loathly" was creepy, chilly, upper register EVIL STUFF, but this is a big, bombastic, ballroom song--very 80's fantasy movie, like "Legend" meets "Krull."

THE HEADLESS BRIDE: Don't you love an EPONYMOUS SONG??? Oh, and I SO LOVED RECORDING THIS ONE, because it's a call and response sort of thing. Again, Remi and I switched off the call and response verse by verse, until we mixed things up in the 3rd verse, and then just got REALLY WEIRD in the fourth verse. But it makes a HECKUVA GHOST STORY! Very excited about this one!

We ended our Friday session with pizza at Nick's Pizza on Ascan Avenue. It was past 8 by that time, but we still had a 15 minute wait. It's the sort of established joint that's so genuinely good it has the MOST unobtrusive storefront EVER and YET IT OVERFLOWS. Worth the wait though. I had a glass of wine. Much pizza was consumed. It was very calming.

One of Carlos's favorite things to say to me this weekend was, "¡Tranquila! ¡Tranquilízate!" And then he would hug me.

Well. I won't say I didn't need it.


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We started our Saturday off with CHEVALIER. This and the following CAN OF WORMS are the most ROCKIN of The Headless Bride songs. Indeed, of ALL THE BRIMSTONE RHINE SONGS EVER! Hard electric guitar, driving bass, maybe drums (a kit if we can get it, back in Phoenix where Remi is based; if not... MIDI DRUMS!), and those MONSTER METAL VOICES coming on the chorus, you know those really big GROWLY bass dudes that sound like MUPPETS singing OPERA in the PARIS SEWERS? Yeah. Like that. "Chevalier" is about Gilles de Rais being visited on the eve of his execution by the ghost of Joan of Arc, and "Can of Worms" is what happens when you piss off an already pissed of djinn by rubbing its lamp the WRONG WAY. These were super fun to sing, but I did feel (folksy, Broadway-ish, light Italian aria-trained as I am) that I was BOXING WAY OUTSIDE OF MY WEIGHT RANGE.


But that's what this whole project was about, wasn't it? Doing something I've never done before. Which was only possible because of my collaborators. And patrons. Otherwise, I'm just sitting in a corner singing my weird songs a cappella for an audience of about... oh, 12-20 or so. This includes my mother, some friends on LJ, and any roommates who happen to be trapped in the same room with me...

LAVENDER'S DARLING starts with a MUSIC BOX tinkle and then movies into another CREEPY WALTZY THING. It's very similar in theme and vein to LOATHLY ONES, but maybe SEXIER, with DISEMBODIED WHISPER ECHOES like will o' the wisps luring you INTO THE HINTERLAND! Remi and I had a lot of fun recording this one. PLUS IT WAS SHORT. Which made a nice change.


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We all went out to eat then at a place called BARE BURGER, where there was this papier-mâché bear's head mounted on wood (see right) that Carlos wants for his birthday (any birthday, really) (and he doesn't mind if you, you know, just go in and take it) (just kidding, he's very honorable) (but he REALLY WANTS THAT BEAR'S HEAD), and ate burgers. Well, I ate one anyone. The boys both had DUCK BURGERS. Because, apparently, THAT'S A THING. Huh.


When we returned, we recorded BARROW BRINE. I'm super fond of this song because I wrote it one morning, just before work, after my awesome friend Samu Rahn (of Cairn) and I had a whole text-message conversation on the nature of "kennings." We kept making up new ones for the ocean (or recycling old ones). The Salt Meadows. The Phantom Shipyards. The Water Ranges.

I came up with "The Barrow Brine" and was so INORDINATELY proud of myself that I wrote a song. It's very dirge-y and nautical, and both Remi and Carlos did the choral response part. We're going to see if my brother Declan might want to chime in back in Phoenix, and layer the voices so we have something that sounds like ONE MILLION VIKINGS singing, or perhaps the Knights of the Round Table, as they send King Arthur off to Avalon in his death barge.

After the songs were done, Remi and Carlos worked on the AUXILIARY PERCUSSION while I faffed around on Facebook. This is a lot more work than I make it seem. I would occasionally glance up and give my opinion. Which I found HIGHLY RELAXING. But it's just possibly THEY didn't!

Then, suddenly...

WE WERE FINISHED! All 8 SONGS WERE RECORDED!

Maybe not PERFECTLY but at least INTERESTINGLY, and...

And I just keep telling myself (and being told by my beloveds) that it's GOOD to make music, even if we don't know what the HECK we're doing (me), or even if we know WHAT we're doing but are forced to do it SUPERFAST (Remi), and that it is what it is, and it's okay. It's totally okay.

And I look forward to sharing it with you.

***


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We celebrated by going to a Dr. Who-themed bar called The Way Station in Brooklyn. Remi wore a Batman shirt, I wore a Superman shirt, and Carlos wore a Dr. Who shirt, even though he's not the RABID DR. WHO FAN in the family (that'd be Remi. And I'm not innocent of Doctor drool myself.) The bathroom was the Tardis. We called it the Turdis. Because sometimes we are all thirteen years old.


I drank a "River's Red" something something. And Jeremy had a 10th and a Captain Jack. Ahem. Carlos drank a Diet Coke. Designated Driver.

Writer Gal

On Death and a Certain Kind of Bravery

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I have several friends who have their best story ideas in the shower. I'm not of these. Usually in the showers, I sing. Or recite poetry. Shorter poems are perfect for timing how long to leave conditioner in my hair.


Arp. That's weird, isn't it? IT DIDN'T SEEM WEIRD TILL I WROTE IT DOWN! Yes! YES, I RECITE "LITTLE SALLY AND THE BULL FIDDLE GOD" whilst PERFORMING ABLUTIONS! I CONFESS! MEA CULPA!

The shower gods hear all and forgive. They know that if I don't remember to recite every now and again, I forget ALL MY BEST RHYMES. Tragic.

Walks, on the other hand?

GREAT for story-generating, or for fixing story problems. (Walks are just great in general.)

...Except I don't usually take my phone or a notebook and pen with me on walks, so sometimes things are lost unless I repeat them over and over to myself for safekeeping.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about. What I MEANT to write is that I had this thought in the shower just now. Or, right after actually, as I combed out my recalcitrant hair. (Tangles, thy name is Legion.)

It was all about when people die and what is said about them after. How bizarre it sometimes gets, in a Facebook culture, wherein a bunch of people who may or may not have a glancing acquaintance with you feel they must weigh in on your death, have an opinion, spare a few seconds to acknowledge it--at least give it equal importance to a Sesame Street Meme. Sort of the way near-strangers suddenly remember you on your birthday? An obligatory ritual chiming in. I'm not saying it's BAD. Just... bizarre.

I mean, the Victorians were bizarre too. And then there was that whole thing with the Russ, and cutting up dogs and horses and throwing them in the tent with the deceased, so maybe death rites were always dire...

I wondered, idly, as I combed my wet hair, what might be said about me. How it would be the people who knew me least who would feel the most compelled to say something. How these would all be surface observations, or obvious inferences about my personality derived from my own compulsive daily Facebook updates--which are, as anyone who knows me can tell you, only a very specific slice of my personality. Not insincere, but benign and accessible. How, if you created my obituary solely out of what might be inferred from my updates, this would read as benign and sincere and accessible, and perhaps vapid. You know? Who can say?

Who would step up, I wonder, and tell people that they loved me, that they were mad I was dead, but that in life, goddamn it, I was sometimes a monster?

That I had a monster's sense of humor. That I was too detached and too dreamy and too privileged to fight for radical change. That I was particular and finicky about things like styrofoam and slimy spinach. That I clenched my hands when I made my way through crowds, and grew petulant at the thought of going to parties (even if I LOVED the people throwing them), and that sometimes I drank milk that was a little off, and laughed about it and called myself "PUNK ROCK" which is funny because it is SO NOT TRUE.

How my clothes were mostly safety pins and yards of glittery fabric for most of my teens. How in my thirties they were mostly gifts or procured cheaply from thrift stores. How writing sometimes felt like carving cement with my teeth, and how sad and angry and small NOT WRITING FAST ENOUGH constantly made me feel, and how I comforted myself with delusions of grandeur and spoke in invented accents until my friends looked at my with a hard mix of irritation and alarm and how I was vain and confused and not as smart as I wanted to be, how greedy I always was for more, how I tried to prepare for my death by thinking about it all the time, like that Gaston Leroux line, "Talking of Death, I must sing his requiem..."

I bet Patty Templeton would step up. Or Stephanie Shaw. They would step up, tell the truth about me, and say:

"For all she was a monster, she was my monster, and it sucks that she's dead."

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And some of my other wholly dear and deep friends would feel my death just as keenly, but be beyond all words about it.


But mostly, it'd be hundreds of one-liner consolations straight out of a Hallmark bereavement card.

And that's as it should be. This weird, wonderful world.

OH!

But off the topic of honest obituaries (sort of), there is a GREAT issue of Lapham's Quarterly I've been reading on DEATH, and it is FALL 2013, Volume VI, Number 4, and totally worth your time.

And that's about as far as I got. My hair was combed and braided and I had managed to put on some clothes. Then it was time to write.

I think I want to write my brother a song about hydroponic poison gardens. And update the Indiegogo stuff. I recorded an EP this weekend, did I tell you? No? Well. Next entry then.

Sep. 8th, 2015

Writer Gal

Forthcoming Appearances

Flock Theatre: Thursday, September 17th, 6:30-10PM

Fusilier invite

Dev's on Bank Street
357 Bank St, New London, Connecticut 06320

The Mustache Fusilier Ball is a fundraising dinner for the 3rd Annual Burning of Benedict Arnold Festival!

I will be part of the show, performing a song based on the life of Benedict Arnold, with original lyrics to an old American tune.

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BONE SWANS APPEARANCES

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Bone Swans: Stories a collection Publisher's Weekly called in a starred review, "brilliantly executed...a delicious stew of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, marked by unforgettable characters who plumb the depths of pathos and triumph," and endorsed in an another starred review from Library Journal as, "five beautifully crafted stories...imaginary worlds full of flying carpets, fairy-tale characters, and children confronted with a postapocalyptic Earth..."

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Author Reading at Bill Memorial Library: Thursday, October 8 at 7:00pm

"Bone Swans: STORIES AROUND THE FIRE"

Gather around the fire for fantastical tales. The Bill Memorial Library invites you to join us for Stories Around the Fire on Thursday, October 8, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Enjoy a dramatic reading by local author, actress, and musician C.S.E. Cooney. She will read from her recently published story collection, Bone Swans.

Call to reserve your spot around the fire! The content of the stories will be suitable for a PG-13 audience. There is no charge for the event. Registration is appreciated. Please call the library at 860-445-0392.

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Reading and Launch at Maize N Manna: Friday, October 9, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
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Bone Swans in Westerly! Local Book Launch!

Local poet and artist Amber Langanke opens the night with readings from her collections ATLAS, AT LAST and IF MY EYES HAD EYES.

This will be followed by a reading from C. S. E. Cooney's BONE SWANS. There will be SNACKS! And CHAT! And possibly... A CAKE! There will be BOOKS FOR SALE! And authors to SIGN THEM! Isn't that EXCITING???

We think so. Come on out and join us!

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