Mythic Delirium news: “An Unkindness” by Jessica P. Wick from A SINISTER QUARTET a Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy selection

/ June 5th, 2022 / No Comments »

We live in an era of time distortion.

Mostly it’s a bloody distressing state, but occasionally there’s a boon — such as this wonderful and unexpected opportunity to congratulate A Sinister Quartet contributor Jessica P. Wick, whose debut novella “An Unkindness” has been selected for inclusion in the latest volume of editor Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy series, slated for publication later this year.

How is that a time distortion? Well, not that anyone can keep track of when things happened in our endless Groundhog Day reliving of 2020, but A Sinister Quartet actually was published in 2020 (in fact the second anniversary of the book’s release just slipped by) and the latest edition of Horton’s “Best of” series is in fact the 2021 Edition, delayed by pandemic and economic shenanigans.

All the same, we’re delighted for Jess, and thrilled that this honor befalls our strange and beautiful anthology. A Sinister Quartet is a curious hybrid even by our standards, half fantasy with degrees of dark shading, half horror with a fairy tale tint. “An Unkindness” explicitly ventures in to the realm of princesses and fae queens, but contains scenes as twisted and intense as any horror tale worth its salt.

Just as arresting as the marvels and terrors of the fairy realms as Jess imagines it is the droll voice of our haunted narrator, Princess Ravenna:

The only person who has never pointed out how ridiculous my dread of ravens—and by that reckoning, how ha ha amusing—is my older brother, Aliver. Even friends are ghoulishly eager to explain that not only is it impossible for a ‘mere bird’ to do me injury, but that one lives in my name. This is the last thing I wish to be told, excepting perhaps ‘here is a raven to keep as a pet, look he likes you.’ The words ‘mere bird’ are spoken by those who have never gone hawking or seen crows mob a larger predator or spent any time observing nature at all, and I have received far more raven-themed gifts than anyone, whether their name is Ravenna or not, should be forced to put up with.

If pushed to give a cause for my fear beyond ‘ravens are scary,’ I might mention a terrifying unkindness—was ever a collective noun so apt?—of raven puppets I was given when I was still a child. Each raven was meant to represent a different kind of person I might become in the future, outfitted according to their prophetic narrative. Those puppets lurked in a dark clot above my wardrobe until the nightmares grew so sharp my nurse removed them.

We’re proud to see “An Unkindness” join the ranks of the many stories and poems we’ve published over the years that have become award finalists or winners and selected for Year’s Best showcases — that even though Mythic Delirium is teeny tiny, we remain mighty.

Fortuitously, if you haven’t read “An Unkindness” yet, the e-book edition of A Sinister Quartet happens to be on sale for 99 cents as a part of our promotion of C. S. E. Cooney’s new short fiction collection Dark Breakers. That promotion will last at least through the end of this week, so don’t let it pass you by.

See the deal on A Sinister Quartet e-books

Ebook: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR | Amazon DE | Amazon AU | Kobo | iBooks | Nook | Google Play
 

Paperback: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Bookshop

Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium Books

Forthcoming from Mythic Delirium: THE COLLECTED ENCHANTMENTS by Theodora Goss (w/ cover reveal!)

/ May 23rd, 2022 / No Comments »

Day job demands have slowed us down here at Mythic Delirium Books — more specifically, they’ve slowed me down — but that doesn’t mean the machinery is idling.

Here’s a bit of proof: we’re delight to announce the acquisition of The Collected Enchantments, a major new tome from Theodora Goss that features selections from her previous collections (In the Forest of Forgetting, Songs for Ophelia, Snow White Learns Witchcraft, all available from Mythic Delirium) as well as previously uncollected works and original stories and poems. It’s about 170,000 words of wonder from the author of The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter!

Check out the stunning cover art from Catrin Welz-Stein:

Cover art by Catrin Welz-Stein

Here’s a few more details about what The Collected Enchantments holds within its pages:

A wicked stepsister frets over all the ways in which she failed to receive her mother’s love. A lost woman travels through an enchanted forest looking for someone who can remind her of her name. A girl must wear down seven pairs of shoes to gain help from a witch. A fox makes a life with a human, but neither can deny their true natures. A young woman returns to her childhood home and the fantastic stories she left there. A man lets himself be taken prisoner by the Snow Queen to prove that the woman who loves him would walk barefoot through the ice to save him. Medusa cuts her hair for love.

The Collected Enchantments gathers retellings of folk and fairy tales in prose and verse from World Fantasy and Locus award-winning author Theodora Goss, creator of The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series. Drawing from her Mythopoeic Award-nominated collections In the Forest of Forgetting and Songs for Ophelia and her Mythopoeic Award-winning tome Snow White Learns Witchcraft, and adding new and uncollected stories and poems, The Collected Enchantments provides a resounding demonstration of how, as Jo Walton writes, Goss provides “a vivid, authentic and important voice” that, in the words of Jane Yolen, “transposes, transforms, and transcends times, eras, and old tales with ease.”

We began the year with a notion to publish this volume in June, but those ambitions have proven over-ambitious, alas. This book is definitely coming! But too much is not yet ready. Once all the ingredients are assembled, we’ll announce the new schedule.

We are, however, accepting pre-orders for the e-book editions here on the site; that much as least we are ready to do. Stay tuned for more news about this exciting project.
 

Click here to pre-order the e-book.

 

Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium Books

Four new stories so far in 2022, plus some nice poem news

/ March 27th, 2022 / No Comments »

In 2021, with the exception of a handful of poems (and more on that below) I was pretty dormant as a writer of published fiction (all the action was on the journalism side of my life, subject matter that I don’t discuss here — that’s a whole separate, compartmentalized thing, like church and state, or Matt Murdoch and Daredevil, or Hannibal Lecter pre-Silence of the Lambs.)

So it’s pretty wild to arrive in 2022 and have four new short stories published within three months.

Three of them I’ve made previous mention of. The very first week of January brought the publication of “Falling Is What It Loves” in issue #69 of Not One of Us. I wrote about that in more detail in this post. It’s a story that’s more personal to me than they normally are, but also features an alien that juggles its own multi-dimensional eyeballs.

Next up came the Plutonian Press anthology Pluto in Furs 2, which contains two new stories from me, “Abhors” and “This Rider of Fugitive Dawns.” (And also a story from my mentee Hysop Mulero, “This Is You On Lust.”) I’ve written about these tales before, too, but I did not yet have the book in hand. Now I do, and it is quite the beauty — you should get one, too! [Photos by Anita Allen]

And now, something completely new. I’m thrilled to share that Cosmic Horror Monthly is about to bring out another fresh-from-the-oven story from me, “Matres Lachrymarum.” I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with zinemasters Charles Tyra and Carson Winter to aim this Lovecraftian nightmare your way. Thanks, too, to beta readers C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Amanda McGee and Cathy Reniere, to Sonya Taaffe who helped me with the title, and to the members of the Virtual Gumbo Cafe who kept me company as I worked on the first draft.

“Matres Lachrymarum” is set in the same grim future as my story “Drift from the Windrows” that appeared in Tommorrow’s Cthulhu, Tales to Terrify and Aftermath of an Industrial Accident — circumstances have just, um, advanced a bit further down the road to hell, heh, heh. To anyone who might wonder whether the title is a Dario Argento reference, the answer is — kind of?

The April issue of Cosmic Horror Monthly is on its way to mailboxes right now. Look how beautiful! Here’s how you get one. [Images courtesy Cosmic Horror Monthly]

My creative output last year, at least the published creative output, amounted to three poems — and now two of them are nominated for the Rhysling Award! My thanks to the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association who found my poems “Astynome, After” and “Dispelling the Arcana” worthy of nomination, and my gratitude to editors Sonya Taaffe of The Deadlands and Henri Gendreau of The Roanoke Rambler for giving this works their original homes.

Their second home is pretty spiffy too. Take a look!

It occurred to me to investigate whether I now have enough uncollected stories to assemble a fourth collection and shockingly, the answer is, yes, barely. But I have no such plans just yet. Let’s see what the rest of 2022 brings.

A flock of rave reviews for DARK BREAKERS

/ March 27th, 2022 / No Comments »

Dark Breakers by C. S. E. Cooney has been racking up rave reviews faster than we can keep track of them. (Admittedly, a new-ish day job has distracted me!) Here is a belated attempt to play catch up.

It’s been nice to see Mythic Delirium’s dark horse entry in the “hopepunk” genre catch on so beautifully. The responses have been not just laudatory, but stunningly eloquent.

By the way, in the interval, Cooney’s first major international publisher-released novel, Saint Death’s Daughter, appeared in bookstores physical and virtual. You need to check Dark Breakers out for sure, but you ought to check this other book too, really you should.

Now then, to the reviews!

☆ ★ ☾ ☼ ☽ ★ ☆

In Locus

There have now been two reviews in Locus Magazine, the industry journal for speculative fiction.

In his last review as a short fiction columnist for Locus, published in February, Rich Horton gave Dark Breakers a look, and focused especially on the original novella “Salissay’s Laundries,” which he dubbed “lovely, extravagant, colorful, passionate – like all of Cooney’s work.” He also included “Salissay’s Laundries” on his monthly Recommended Reading list.

You can read that review here.

☆ ★ ☾ ☼ ☽ ★ ☆

And then in the March issue, columnist Ian Mond reviewed Dark Breakers in its entirety, and in the course of a review full of superlatives also tossed in some retroactive additional love for “The Twice-Drowned Saint,” Cooney’s short novel included in our anthology A Sinister Quartet.

As I found with ‘‘The Twice Drowned Saint’’, it didn’t take long for me to be hooked by Cooney’s world-building: her Gilded Age secondary world and the mythology of three nested realities – human, fairy and goblin – cleaved apart by a centuries-old war … there’s Cooney’s magical ability at imbuing her worlds and characters with a life that goes beyond the page – a reminder that fiction is also a potent drug to us mortals.

Buy the whole issue to read the review — it doesn’t cost that much, there’s plenty more great stuff inside and Locus is absolutely worth supporting.

☆ ★ ☾ ☼ ☽ ★ ☆

Among the Book Bloggers

Out in book blogger land, this amazing review: Siavahda of Every Book a Doorway felt the need to invent words to explain how much she loved Dark Breakers, because ordinary language just didn’t cut it.

This book is jewel-tones and gilt and bells of bone. This book is secrets and yearning, terror and triumph, wonder and wildness. This book is a whisper and a song and a howl. … Dark Breakers is beautiful beyond the power of words to describe, but even more incredible is what it does to you. Lighting you up inside, snatching your breath away, holding you hypnotised because it’s a reminder, a promise, a proof you can hold in your hands that the world is so, so far from grey. That it’s worth getting up in the mornings, darlings; it’s worth it to keep carrying on, because we have art and magic and wonder and books like this!

Read the full review here.

☆ ★ ☾ ☼ ☽ ★ ☆

At Ancillary Review of Books, Jeremy Brett aka “SFF Librarian” shared a lovely review of his own that suggested a potential political appointment for the author:

There are few authors that merrily dance so close to the borders of Fairyland as C.S.E. Cooney. Should the mortal world ever establish diplomatic relations with the fae, Cooney, whose warm writing beautifully merges the otherworldliness and sheer strangeness of fairykind with the rich and familiar emotions of humanity, would make an excellent ambassador… for either side of the line.

Read the whole review here.

☆ ★ ☾ ☼ ☽ ★ ☆

Reviewer Anthony Cardno gave Dark Breakers a 5 out of 5 rating in his own review that examines the books characters and craft:

These stories beautifully illustrate the overlapping layers of creativity, love, ambition, and self-identity that propel us as individuals and thus as a society. … You do not have to have read Cooney’s novella Desdemona and the Deep to enjoy these stories, but if you have (or when you do), you’ll pick out the connections easily enough. They all stand alone very well, and all feature Cooney’s trademark love of language. If you’re like me, you’ll be so invested in the stories that you won’t notice the amazing craftwork, but it will hit you afterward how amazing is Cooney’s knack for the right descriptive word in each moment.

Read the rest of his review here.

☆ ★ ☾ ☼ ☽ ★ ☆

And neither last nor least, but the one we’ll happen to conclude with, from Kathryn Adams at Pixellated Geek:

Tasty as ice cream and as dizzying as an entire bottle of wine. … Cooney absolutely revels in her descriptions of a roomful of dancers in full costume, of gentry life, of high society, of the darkness in the cellar of a workhouse, of a quiet forest glade beside a cabin in the mountains. The gentry become drunk on human writing, human art, human mortality. Humans are dragged into the complicated politics of the gentry where rivals fight for the throne using sculptures and captive poets and venom. Cooney describes the paintings and mythology of this world in a way that you can almost touch and smell as well as see.

Read the full review here.

☆ ★ ☾ ☼ ☽ ★ ☆

If you want to touch and see a signed copy of Dark Breakers, well, there’s a deal for that….
 

Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium Books

Presenting DARK BREAKERS: video and interview with C. S. E. Cooney + launch sale

/ February 15th, 2022 / No Comments »

Today the special pre-order sale that we have been holding on e-book editions of C.S.E. Cooney’s new collection Dark Breakers officially switches to being the launch sale for the book, as as of today Dark Breakers is officially out in the world and available. The discounting of the e-book price from $6.99 to $2.99 will continue through the end of the month.
 

We’re pleased also to have added our longtime partners in business, independent e-bookseller Weightless Books, to the list of platforms carrying Dark Breakers. Weightless, too, is participating in the discount launch sale.

Here are links where you can get those discounted e-books:

Ebook: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR | Amazon DE
Amazon AU | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Weightless

And for the trade paperback and hardcover editions, all the links you could possibly need are here.

To celebrate the dawn of Dark Breakers, we have a couple of fun things to share with you. First, here is the “unboxing video” that author C. S. E. (Claire) Cooney recorded earlier this year when she finally got to open her boxes of contributor copies:


 
Second, we have a deep-diving interview with Cooney about how Dark Breakers came to be and what makes its three worlds tick, or click, conducted by our new-ish assistant editor, Sydney Macias, who has been working with us behind the scenes since Spring 2021 and at last makes her “debut” on our site with this delightful feature. Read on!

SYDNEY: How would you characterize Dark Breakers — is it a collection, a mosaic novel, both, something else? Other works of yours have sometimes blurred the distinction between short fiction and novel, how would you categorize your previous books?

CLAIRE: I think Dark Breakers falls under “collection” in a shared world. I discovered Charles de Lint’s books as a teenager, and I loved to read his short stories, novels, and novellas that all seemed to connect to each other. Characters in one story would have a friend, barely mentioned in passing, who’d end up being the protagonist of a whole other book! It was a way to build a world (or even just a single city) over time. I connected to an entire community that never existed outside the bounds of his pages.

This was different from a series of novels with a set protagonist, whom you get to know deeply over time, and watch how one person, or even a group of people, change over an arc of years. I loved series like this too, but wanted to play with a more weblike network of shared-world stories written over a span of years, changing as a city changes, as a community changes (and as I, the writer, change).

Categories of fiction—short stories, novelette, novel—are mostly only useful for magazine guidelines and award requirements. Sometimes I’ve set out to write a novella that ended up being a short novel—indeed, almost too short for a proper novel! It was a novella in everything but length! It was a novella in intention.

This has happened, I think, twice by accident. Many times a short story has ended up needing a lot longer than the word limit I was trying to hit with it. The novum, perhaps, was too ambitious for the length, or perhaps there were too many characters to handle in too few pages. It’s hard to say.

I could say “the story wants this” or “the story demands that,” but that sort of thinking is next to useless when it comes to selling a story to a given magazine or anthology. Writing a story is one thing. Writing a story for other people to read (hopefully, potentially) is another. That requires a little more discipline as far as word limits, genres, and even sometimes themes go. If a writer is going the route of publishing in magazines and anthologies, and submitting their materials afterwards for awards, they will definitely be highly motivated to stay within certain word limits and genre lines for the sake of eligibility.

 

SYDNEY: What genre tags might you apply to this collection?

CLAIRE: Well, let’s see here.

For the collection as a whole, probably: #fairyfiction, #gildedagefantasy, #fantasy, #darkfantasy, #portalworldfantasy (to an extent), #secondaryworldfantasy, #urbanfantasy (not our world, not present time, but definitely set in a city, mostly), in some cases #fantasyofmanners, and since I really love the sound of it: #hopepunk

I was looking at popular romance and fantasy tropes that some writers use for hashtags on Instagram and in the FanFic community, and tried my hand at breaking down Dark Breakers a bit that way.

I’m actually not sure how useful this is, but categorization is always fun, or at least kind of hypnotic. Well, for me anyway. I find it relaxing to alphabetize books and organize my jewelry boxes, so…

For “The Breaker Queen”: #forbiddenlove, #alienhero (for “alien” read “gentry”), #fishoutofwater (this is on a world-to-world scale rather than small town to big city, but I still think it stays), #hiddenidentity, #shapeshifters, #richestorags, #royalty, and in a stretch #secretbillionaire (if you want to count a Gentry Queen disguised as a human maid a secret billionaire).

For “Two Paupers”: #enemiestolovers, #sharedpast, #quest, #cursed, and to go with that (a bit cringingly) #beautyandthebeast (Gideon’s a real beast—of the “jackass” variety—and I love him and all, but he’s a big problem. But sometimes people change for the better).

For “Salissay’s Laundries”: maybe #ghost (for a given definition of “ghost,” even by gentry standards), #partnersinfightingcrime, #grimdarkfantasy, and #socialjusticefantasy—in the style of its soul-sister novella Desdemona and the Deep.

For “Longergreen”: #lovetriangle, #grievinglover, #secondchanceatlove, or maybe #soulmates. Plus, there’s a definite #maytodecember vibe going on, except it’s complicated because immortals vs mortals. You can have an older mortal and a younger immortal, but someday that’s going to change, and the mortal becomes dust, right, and the immortal keeps going on.

For “Susurra to the Moon”: #comicfantasy, maybe, (sort of?) #sciencefantasy—since the story mainly has to do with two gentry queens wanting to go the mortal moon, but also having to deal with little things like human space agencies. It’s really just a #lark, if you know what I mean.
 

SYDNEY: Why did you choose the Gilded Age as a backdrop for this collection?

CLAIRE: There was a reason I initially chose that era when I first began “The Breaker Queen” and “The Two Paupers”, but then there was a reason I stuck with it. This was a project that spanned several years. I wrote the first two novellas before I wrote the last three stories, and between, I wrote Desdemona and the Deep: a standalone novella in this world, not found in Dark Breakers. Therefore, in “Salissay’s Laundries”, the first story in this world I wrote after Desdemona, I found myself leaning in and going a bit darker and more political, matching Desdemona’s tone and intent.

When I moved to Rhode Island in 2011, I spent some time going on a few day trips, visiting forests and beaches and the towns surrounding my little town. It was Sharon Shinn who advised me to visit The Breakers in Newport. The mansion was everything a lady with a life-long love of glittery, golden things could want: appallingly lavish, extravagant, and deliberate. The thought and care and pride that were poured into the architecture and art, not to mention the grounds themselves, were mind-bending. Every block of marble and platinum panel and renaissance-style painting had its reason and its place. The whole thing was almost oppressively impressive—as it was built to be. That the Breakers was considered a “summer cottage” by the Vanderbilts who lived there almost made me guffaw. For the rest of us peasants, it was a palace.

My first thought when thinking about setting a story there was that the main character might be some serving maid who worked there by day for the humans, but by night, walked through the walls into another Breakers entirely, where she ruled as queen. Every serving maid’s fantasy, right?

For a while, I tried to set my story in the actual Breakers, but historical fiction requires so much research if you want to get it right. I was also uncomfortable knowing there might still be living relatives of the historical figures I would be writing about. It felt… confining. So I branched out into what I liked best: secondary world fantasy. I love world-building! Such liberties I could take! But I wanted to use so much of what I was learning about the Gilded Age, all these delicious details, all this sumptuous stuff. I wanted the vocabulary.

And then, of course, the older I got, and the more research I did into that fin-de-siècle era, the more I started seeing parallels between that age and ours, the great disparity of rich and poor, the swift innovations in industry, the high cost in lives and resources, the growing agitation for women’s rights, workers’ rights, civil rights. That’s when it became less of a pretty setting for a fantasy story and an opportunity to use this secondary world as a canvas upon which I could re-imagine my own.

 

SYDNEY: What were your sources of inspiration for the Valwode?

CLAIRE: So, have you ever seen the movie Legend? There’s this wood, and it just kind of… twinkles. The light is just so. There are little things that seem to skitter and watch from the corner of the screen. There are monsters in the bogs (Meg Mucklebones forever), and trickster pixies, and—of course—the Gump. You randomly run into unicorns at the stream beds. And this reminds me of the forest in the The Last Unicorn, that the title character keeps sweet as spring by her very presence.

There are so many forests in fantasy and science fantasy, but my first visceral, visual influence were probably 80’s fantasy films: from Willow where the death dogs hunt you, to Labyrinth where the Fireys leap out at Sarah and dance for her, taking off their heads off and throwing them at each other—then insisting she do the same. There’s a wood in the one (or several) of the Ewok adventures, with, I think a Witch Queen who turns into a raven, and Krull, with a teleporting Black Forest full of outlaws who are occasionally infiltrated by changelings. Plus, all those fairy tales full of forests, where the protagonist often ends up.

I named the Valwode to marry the words “veil/vale” and “wood.” There’s some wordplay with “veil/vale,” as in “piercing the veil” to see into another world, and “vale” as in “the Valley of the Shadow of Death,” and “vale” as in the Latin for farewell. I can’t remember if it was Neil Gaiman or Terri Windling writing that Faerieland and the Land of Death share marchlands, but I always liked that idea. There are different version of fairytales that have fairies stealing people away, or Death stealing people away, or sometimes the Devil stealing people away: the stories are similar, as are the bargains those left behind make to get their lost love ones back. So that’s something I think about when I play with the gentry of the Valwode, and the Valwode itself: beautiful, deadly creatures in a beautiful, deadly place, where “immortality” and “death” might as well be synonyms.
 

SYDNEY: There’s a lot of art making in the book: painting, sculpting, writing. Why did you choose art as such a strong tie into this world of magic?

CLAIRE: Probably there’s some compensatory writing happening there. When I started The Breaker Queen, I was living below the poverty line, working a $10/hour job part time, and getting food regularly from the food bank. I was living in an attic apartment with my mother in Rhode Island. We didn’t have much, and every single bill was stressful. And yet, I was deliriously happy. I finally had time to write. I was living in a new town, in a new state—one I’d always wanted to live in—and while I didn’t have any money, what I had oodles of was time. Time to write! At last!

So often the lot of artists is to be very poor, to do one’s art in one’s spare time, while trying to scrape together a living the rest of the time. Historically, some artists had (or even have, present tense, with such virtual platforms as Patreon) patrons to help them make ends meet while they make art. One story artists sometimes tell themselves is that artists are special, somehow more wise and insightful than your average (choose a color)-collared workaholic, that they can see further, feel more, recognize patterns and therefore transcend them, offer something invaluable and necessary to society’s survival with their work, etc.

It’s a good story, especially when you’re debating whether to pay your electricity bill or your college debt installment that month. It helps one go on.

I don’t think that artists are actually any better than anyone else on any given day. Generalizing by group is rarely a good idea. But it was fun, and a relief in those early days, to give my artists the gift of the Valwode: just for being themselves, utterly themselves. Though impoverished, each character’s connection to their art (both innate and learned) gave them the ability to not only transcend class, but whole worlds, and also granted them protection where otherwise they might vulnerable.

Later, in “Salissay’s Laundries”, after a certain four-year presidential term was over, I guess I wanted to give journalists that same protection. And after several friends, and friends of friends, and family of friends died in late 2019 and throughout 2020, I wanted to give a gift of possible immortality and infinite love to the elderly.

And then, in “Susurra to the Moon”, goddamnit, I just wanted to have some fun.

 

SYDNEY: There are some really compelling couples in the book. What were you most excited to explore for these different relationship dynamics?

CLAIRE: Again, I wrote the first two novellas quite a while ago, and was strongly influenced already by my incessant love of the romance genre, both romcom and romantic fantasies. I wasn’t as aware of romantics tropes as I am now, and maybe would have done some things different (i.e., Gideon and Analise in “Two Paupers”).

Gideon and Analise are some of my favorite characters, and long before any of the Dark Breakers stuff had even been conceived, I’d written them a one-act play that, years later, became the basis for their backstory. They’ve always fascinated me, and the more I grew up, the more I wanted to do right by them.

It’s so seductive to slip into certain tropes, and “the male jackass with the heart of gold and the female who redeems him” was so much under my skin that I never questioned it. In my most recent revision and expansion of “Two Paupers” for this collection, I was go glad to dive in with my eyes a little more open, a little more aware of tropes and habit, and question them, pry them open a bit.

Since writing “Two Paupers,” I also, you know, fell in love and got married, which helped. It helped even more that my husband is an award-winning SFF writer himself and an English professor, and when he sees a character behaving in a way that makes him squick (especially a male character, who’s supposed to be lovable by the end and not a toxic, radioactive mess you want to bury in a cave beneath the desert), he’ll tell me so. In no uncertain terms.

I really like the relationship in “The Breaker Queen”, because it takes the hot immortal thing (like every male vampire and female human lover ever) and flips it. I also like riches-to-rags story, where the end goal isn’t more money and power, but a life well lived, and even an awareness of death that makes life sweeter, dearer, more intentional. It also allowed me to recreate the “blonde, buxom, dairy-maid type” in a male image—and not only that, but in Elliot’s image: someone wise, insightful, slow to judge, and loyal.

I loved revisited the character of Salissay in “Salissay’s Laundries.” She has a cameo in Desdemona and the Deep, and I always wanted to know more about her. I like to think of her as a queer, uncanny Nellie Bly. While this story is not a romance, I liked to pair up a sort atheist journalist who doesn’t believe in gentry with the gentriest of gentry, and see what happens.

In “Susurra to the Moon”, I loved to take two characters who, all the way back in “The Breaker Queen”, had nothing to do with each other, and over time and several stories (including Desdemona and the Deep), have ended up completely transformed and in love with each other. I had so much fun showing them off in a domestic situation, long after (by human standards) their love story originated. What is 60 years of married to a gentry, after all? What do immortal gentry hanker after? Mortal things, of courses. Like the moon.
 

SYDNEY: What are you working on next?

CLAIRE: I am working on a book called Fiddle, which actually takes place—again!—in this same world of Dark Breakers and Desdemona and the Deep. It is a wild, rompy, rom-com-y goblinpalooza, and it makes me laugh out loud even to write it. There are goblins, demons, gentry-babes, Fathom Folk, all sorts, and they all get into such a mess. There’s also a spaceship, and prophecies, and a that-world-equivalent of our own 1980’s, so it’s hysterically fun to research. Right now it’s kind of wild, and I’m reluctant to tame it, but eventually the plot will heel at my command, even if, at present, it’s a bit of a wolf pup.

Sydney Macias (Assistant Editor, Mythic Delirium Books) is a practicing novel writer whose interests take form in metaphysical settings. She is working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an Emphasis in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Follow her on Instagram at @_syd.mac_.


 

Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium Books

One week till DARK BREAKERS: an ARC giveaway, a pre-order discount sale & a few sweet reviews

/ February 8th, 2022 / No Comments »

There’s only a week left until Dark Breakers, the new collection of short fiction from World Fantasy Award winner C. S. E. Cooney, manifests physically in the world.

This is Mythic Delirium’s first new title since the release of the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated Aftermath of an Industrial Accident in 2020. To whet appetites for pre-orders and purchases, we’ve reduced the price of e-book editions of Claire Cooney’s new collection by more than half-price, from $6.99 to $2.99, and we’ll hold that line at least through the book’s official launch events — which, more about that below.

Meanwhile, some great reviews have appeared ahead of publication day, and one has a giveaway attached to it.

ARC giveaway

Over at Black Gate, author Z.Z. Claybourne wrote a glowing evaluation of Dark Breakers, declaring the the book “an art deco mural under the guidance of Galadriel, Zora Neale Hurston and the Brothers Grimm. It reads the way a bite into gold that has been warmed like chocolate would feel,” that contains “that sense of being consumed by things we can’t understand; the hell of being where you feel you don’t belong; the ache of wanting dangerous things, places or people to be beautiful.”

Claybourne generously allowed us to use the publication of his review as an occassion to also launch a giveaway of hardcover and trade paperback ARCs of the book. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment under Claybourne’s post at Black Gate sharing the name of your favorite story collection. If you’re reading this post on the Mythic Delirium blog, then I imagine you should already have some candidates in mind!

Click here to read the review and enter the giveaway.

More rave reviews

Author Amanda J. McGee also posted a lengthy, thoughtful review over at her blog, saying among other things, “If you love rich worlds, fairies, goblins, and shorter tales which each have their own astonishing conclusions, this collection will delight you.” You can read the full review by clicking here.

In the newest issue of Locus Magazine, in the final review written for that publication by short fiction critic and editor Rich Horton, he singles out Cooney’s original novella “Salissay’s Laundries,” including it on his monthly recommended reading list. He writes that “it’s lovely, extravagant, colorful, passionate – like all of Cooney’s work.”

Our favorite of the Netgalley/Goodreads reviews that have appeared so far has to be this 5-star gem that calls Dark Breakers one of the best books of the year: “The characters were delightfully eccentric and lovable, the prose was gorgeous and the over-all atmosphere just felt so lush! As an artist, this book was a total feast for my imagination.”

Boskone launch + pre-launch price special

Toward the end of next week I will be traveling to join Cooney and her marvelous author husband Carlos Hernandez at Boskone, my first in-person appearance at a convention since 2019; we’ll be doing what we can to launch Dark Breakers in the flesh, and I’ll also be appearing on a few panels. Watch this space for more information next week.

Having shared all of that, just to remind you again, all three editions of Dark Breakers (hardcover, trade paperback, e-book) are available for pre-order, and the e-books are more than half off as a promotion for the launch — so if you’re at all intrigued, buy today and make sure you don’t miss out. See links below.

Pre-order now!

Ebook: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR | Amazon DE
Amazon AU | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

Trade Paperback: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR | Amazon DE | Amazon AU | Bookshop

Hardcover: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR | Amazon DE | Amazon AU | Bookshop

 


 

Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium Books

And six months went by like nothing

/ January 12th, 2022 / No Comments »

Who reads blogs anymore anyway?

The purpose of this post, basically, is to play a sheepish game of catch-up. My work-life balance got completely tipped over in 2021 — though for an arguably GOOD reason, a promotion — and because of that I let posts about the speculative fiction side of my career slide, even stuff that would have been handy to get out in timely fashion.

Though I still really, really don’t have time to write this blog post, I am shoe-horning it in under the theory that these things all deserve to be noted, and now is definitely better than never, especially as I have a situation where almost everything scheduled to appear this year is popping out all at once.

On the first Monday of January, long-running DIY Weird fiction zine Not One of Us published a new short story from me, “Falling Is What It Loves,” the title derived from Richard Wilbur’s poem “The Juggler.”

This story, though as strange as anything I’ve ever written, has deeply personal roots — even though it features juggling and a troubling form of time travel — so I am grateful it found a place to be showcased.

Here’s the full table of contents of the issue:

  • Opal, Everywhere, by Jennifer Hudak
  • Your Starving Days (poem), by Sonya Taaffe
  • Frosted Fruit, by Anne Karppinen
  • Revelations of the Artificial Dryads (poem), by Marissa Lingen
  • Falling Is What It Loves, by Mike Allen
  • Song for a Coyote (poem), by Jennifer Crow
  • Three Wishes and Your Fortune Told, by Alexandra Seidel
  • Suburban Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia suburbiana (poem), by Jay Sturner
  • Would That We Were Brownies (poem), by Avra Margariti
  • Art: John Stanton

But that’s just the beginning, and maybe the end

Within days of issue 69 of Not One of Us arriving in my mailbox, Plutonian Press editor and publisher Scott Dwyer shared the cover art for his forthcoming anthology Pluto in Furs 2.

I have !!TWO!! stories in this one, both horror, one (“This Rider of Fugitive Dawns”) surreal and nightmarish, one (“Abhors”) extreme body horror. Something that makes me super-proud is that my mentee, Hysop Mulero, also has a surreal nightmare in these pages, “This Is You on Lust.” Furthermore, it’s scheduled for a Feb. 1 release — that’s my birthday! Wild.

Here is the table of contents for what will be an amazing feast of adult horror:

  • Clopen – Livia Llewellyn
  • Gyr – Brian Evenson
  • The Living Column – Brendan Vidito
  • The Melody of Frostbite – Perry Ruhland
  • A Tryst at Candle Point – Max Stanton
  • Bunny in a Hole – Victoria Dalpe
  • Explicit – Sara Century
  • Border Lines – K. H. Vaughan
  • Cult of the Rabbit – K. A. Opperman
  • The Countess – Ashley Dioses
  • This is You on Lust – Hysop Mulero
  • One of the Whores – Liliana Carstea
  • Abhors – Mike Allen
  • This Rider of Fugitive Dawns – Mike Allen
  • Wedding – Anne-Sylvie Salsman
  • Whip Spiral – Rhys Hughes

Time is a delusion, fill it with words

Now to get to some stuff that I missed: two different interviews with me appeared last year in the wake of my Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Aftermath of an Industrial Accident:

Both were a lot of fun to do and required me to get a bit outside of my box. Some hat action was also required.

Melanie got very enterprising in her write-up, resulting in this description that I treasure:

For our interview, he wore a black baseball cap with the white insignia of Mongolian folk-rock band, The Hu, on its face. The shape made by the entwined snow leopards called to my mind an elephant skull. That elephantine white symbol surrounded by the black canvas dome of his hat inadvertently mirrored the hoary white center of a groomed dark beard, all of this cut by a wide smile.

Not eating crow this time

My short story “The Cruelest Team Will Win” get reprinted yet again, this time in CORVID-19 (heh), a charity anthology to benefit RavenCon in Richmond. The book was edited by convention co-founder Michael Pedersen. “Cruelest” is headed toward being one of my most reprinted stories, on par with “The Button Bin” and “The Blessed Days.”

Working with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, I recorded a video for that crowdfunding campaign, reading from “Cruelest Team.”

Verse reversal

I also had a third original poem appear in 2021, a 200% increase over 2020, ha, ha! — this is one that for better or for worse has gestated for years, inspired by some of the imagery that awed me as a young one when I read Charles Williams’ novel The Greater Trumps. (Of the three best known Inklings, the most legendary group of beta readers in all of 20th century speculative fiction history, Williams is the most obscure; the other two being C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.)

I’m grateful to Henri Gendreau, founder of The Roanoke Rambler, for giving “Dispelling the Arcana” a cool and unusual home. That poem lies here.

Ends and odds

Finally, here’s a real deep cut, related to my day job, an audio interview I did way way back in the summer. This podcast is pretty stunning and frightening. I turn up in Episode 7.

It’s been long enough, and so much has happened, I could easily have forgotten something. I’m honestly not sure if that gets me completely caught up — but this has to go up sometime, doesn’t it? So here we go.

I’ll conclude with this neat little recommended reading list that my colleague Laird Barron included me in just a few days ago. How flattered I am!

Announcing DARK BREAKERS by World Fantasy Award winner C. S. E. Cooney, forthcoming February 2022

/ September 20th, 2021 / No Comments »

No less an authority than Merriam-Webster describes the new-minted sf/f subgenre term “hopepunk” as stories that find “narrative motivation in the idea of optimism — embodied in acts of love, kindness, and respect for one another — as resistance.”

We here at Mythic Delirium Books contend that readers who are looking for hopepunk will find it in Dark Breakers, the newest collection of short fiction from World Fantasy Award-winning author C. S. E. Cooney, which we will release into the Universe on Feb. 15, 2022 in hardcover, trade paperback and e-book editions.

Cover art and design by Brett Massé.

As highlighted in a Publishers Weekly article spotlighting hopepunk, the fantasy tales in Dark Breakers — two previously uncollected novellas, “The Breaker Queen” and “The Two Paupers,” and three new stories, “Salissay’s Laundries,” “Longergreen” and “Susurra to the Moon” — take place in three parallel worlds, one inhabited by humans, one ruled by the Gentry (not unlike the Fae of Earthly legend) and one the realm of goblins. The heroines and heroes of these adventures confront corruption and the threat of tyranny armed with their own wits and the life-changing power of art.

Evocative black and white illustrations by Brett Massé appear through out the book. Massé also provided the hauntingly retro cover art and design.

Electronic advance review copies are available for request on Edelweiss.

Pre-orders are activating now, with e-book pre-orders widely available and Barnes & Noble allowing advance purchases of all three editions.

Though Dark Breakers stands alone, the diverse cast of characters from Cooney’s World Fantasy Award-nominated novella Desdemona and the Deep (Tor.com, 2019) returns for encores in these tales, and as with Desdemona, the fashion and the repartee evoke the Gilded Age prior to World War I. Not to mention, fans of Cooney’s World Fantasy Award-winning debut Bone Swans (Mythic Delirium Books, 2015) will be delighted by the Easter eggs hidden throughout.

design

Here’s even more about Dark Breakers, along with some kind words shared about the book by some of our favorite authors:

A young human painter and an ageless gentry queen fall in love over spilled wine—at the risk of his life and her immortality. Pulled into the Veil Between Worlds, two feuding neighbors (and a living statue) get swept up in a brutal war of succession. An investigative reporter infiltrates the Seafall City Laundries to write the exposé of a lifetime, and uncovers secrets she never believed possible. Returning to an oak grove to scatter her husband’s ashes, an elderly widow meets an otherworldly friend, who offers her a momentous choice. Two gentry queens of the Valwode plot to hijack a human rocketship and steal the moon out of the sky.

Dark Breakers gathers three new and two previously uncollected tales from World Fantasy Award-winning writer C. S. E. Cooney that expand on the thrice-enfolded worlds first introduced in her Locus and World Fantasy award-nominated novella Desdemona and the Deep. In her introduction to Dark Breakers, Crawford Award-winning author Sharon Shinn advises those who pick up this book to “settle in for a fantastical read” full of “vivid world-building, with layer upon layer of detail; prose so dense and gorgeous you can scoop up the words like handfuls of jewels; a mischievous sense of humor; and a warm and hopeful heart.”

“C. S. E. Cooney’s prose is like a cake baked by the fairies—beautifully layered, rich and precise, so delicious that it should be devoured with a silver fork. Since you can’t eat Dark Breakers, I suggest you read it slowly, savoring every slice. And if it gives you strange dreams—well, what did you expect of fairy cake?”
—Theodora Goss, World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award-winning author of The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series

Dark Breakers is a magnificent parure of novellas and matched stories, a suite of jewelled and velvet tales, delicately linked and ferociously glittering. A baroquely intense confection with a core of typewriters and coal fortunes, Dark Breakers is compounded of voluptuous invention and ferocious structural loves—for new romances and old friends, for the works of hands, for mortality and its gifts, and all the possibilities of worlds bleeding, weeping, wandering into each other’s arms.”
—Kathleen Jennings, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Flyaway

“Few people create worlds as lavish and sensual as those to spring from Cooney’s effervescent imagination. Her writing isn’t so much inspirational, but inspiration itself: gentry-magic spun into pages and paragraphs of glittering, fizzing, jaw-dropping beauty.”
—Cassandra Khaw, British Fantasy Award-nominated author of The All-Consuming World

“Welcome to a Gilded Era like you’ve never before known and will never be able to forget. C. S. E. Cooney’s Dark Breakers will transfix and transform you, and, should you chance upon its characters in a glittering hallway, you had best be wearing your fanciest moonlight, and be ready to dance. If Titania herself were to commission a book, it would be this one.”
—Fran Wilde, two-time Nebula Award-winning author of Updraft and Riverland

Pre-order now!

Hardcover: Barnes & Noble

Trade Paperback: Barnes & Noble

Ebook: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR | Amazon DE
Amazon AU | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

Review copies available for request on Edelweiss

 

Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium Books

Novel sale, story sales, new poems and my true self

/ August 26th, 2021 / No Comments »

Howdy again, folks! I’ve had a fair number of cool things happen here in 2021 that I have yet to record here. Rather than continue to wait for a block of time to open up, I decided I’d better go ahead and launch these bottle rockets.

In olden days, I would have tried to space all these items out over several blog posts. But Lord knows I don’t have the time to do that, haven’t had the time all year, and blogs are passe, anyway. Nonetheless, I want there to be some sort of record that people can easily find that these things are happening. And this is still the simplest way for me to do it.

Before I get to the meaty morsels, I have got to serve this fun confection: this amazing new Chibi version of myself that I received in exchange for assisting with a fundraiser for Kaleidocast Season Three. Artist Mantamasters has concocted what’s essentially the Platonic version of me, the person I aspire to be when I write. If confronting my true self doesn’t inspire me to finish some of these dangling novel drafts, I have no idea what will, ha ha!


By the way, folks, if you haven’t checked out Kaleidocast you really need to get on that now: three whole seasons for your enjoyment! Find them here.

A novel development

TC-coverSome pretty big news that, amazingly, I have not yet breathed a word of on this blog (mind-boggling!) is that: I HAVE SOLD ANOTHER NOVEL!

Broken Eye Books will be bringing out my dark fantasy novel Trail of Shadows in 2022. Trail of Shadows has been gestating for a long, long, long time. I want to thank my buddy Jamie Lee Moyer and her editing skills for spurring this book into what appears to be its final form, barring whatever additional adjustments Broken Eye Books publisher and editor Scott Gable might require. I’m so grateful to Scott for giving this wayward monster a home.

Trail of Shadows ties into a number of short stories that I have had published over the years. The few and the proud who have followed my tales in all their scattershot appearances might not have been aware of it, but the narrative of Trail of Shadows has been an unseen source of gravity, in the manner that anomalies in a planet’s orbit ultimately reveal that there’s another unseen planet exerting force from further out in the void.

 The novel grew from my short story “The Hiker’s Tale” (included in Unseaming) and its novelette sequel “Follow the Wounded One” (included in Aftermath of an Industrial Accident). “The Cruelest Team Will Win” (also included in Aftermath) follows the events of Trail of Shadows. “The Feather Stitch,” published last year in Lackington’s, connects the Trail of Shadows universe to my “Button Bin” stories, sewing it all together into one big scary “Allenverse,” so to speak.

Worth a note: this isn’t my first rodeo with Broken Eye. My story “Drift from the Windows” appeared in Tomorrow’s Cthulhu and another story, “Nolens Volens” (that has a distant connection to Trail of Shadows) appeared in Nowhereville.

It is wonderful and kind of mind-blowing that this huge, hidden piece of art I’ve been sculpting for a decade will at last be available for readers. I’ll keep folks posted on its progress.

Double double-barrelled horrors

Selling this novel ain’t the only news! I have also sold two short stories to a forthcoming Plutonian Press anthology of Horror and the Weird, working title Pluto in Furs 2.

One of the stories, “Abhors,” is possibly the grossest piece of fiction I have ever written. I am not ashamed of this at all, I am proud!

The other story, “This Rider of Fugitive Dawns,” is a bit more of a surreal nightmare. Both tales prominently feature invertebrates and various strange and uncomfortable ways that a human can end up interacting with them.

I super-grateful to editor and publisher Scott Dwyer for choosing both stories for his book — a landmark achievement in the course of my odd little career.

And: I have two new poems that have not just sold; they have been published! The first, “Astynome, After,” appeared online in The Deadlands. I wrote it after Deadlands poetry editor Sonya Taaffe reached out and pried me at least temporarily out of the tarpit of the poetry doldrums that I’ve long been stuck in, I am delighted to be able to share this epic bit of ekphrastic weirdness with the world.

The second poem, “Edifice,” appears in the latest issue of Star*Line. A straightforward song of horror, here it is for your enjoyment.

Everybody must get stoned

In case anybody was wondering, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident did not win the Shirley Jackson Award. This is not a shock to me — I am thrilled to see Kathe Koja take home the trophy (or, to be precise, receive it in the mail). Meanwhile, I get to add to my rock collection. Aren’t they pretty?

The demands of my day job and a whole series of household crises have occupied my time in very inconvenient ways through the first two thirds of 2021. However, I have did manage to squeeze out enough time to start some very interesting projects under the Mythic Delirium Books imprint that I know you are going to love. Watch this space for more information!

Bonus Round: the birthday party for A Sinister Quartet was a blast! In what must be the most unusual thing I’ve ever done to promote a book, all four Sinister authors dressed up as creatures from each other’s worlds. This might give you an idea of how that looked in virtual space:

I dressed as a character from C. S. E. Cooney’s The Twice-Drowned Saint, with massive makeup help from Anita. What can I say? I’m your angel.

Aftermath of a Shirley Jackson Award nomination

/ July 20th, 2021 / No Comments »

Boy, did this take an embarrassingly long time to write.

I’ll be frank: I had resigned myself to the notion that, as a single drop tossed out into the world-changing tsunami of 2020, my book Aftermath of an Industrial Accident had already made all the ripples it was destined to make.

In June, Anita and I took a vacation trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, celebrating our 29th anniversary, and on a day that was plagued by car malfunctions and eased by the kindness of multiple strangers, we ended up at a delightful seafood restaurant in Pigeon Forge called Harpoon Harry’s that was well worth the hour wait. There at our table, waiting for dinner to arrive, my phone chimed an alert: an email from Shirley Jackson Award administrator JoAnn Cox, letting me know the jurors had picked Aftermath as a finalist for best single author collection.

In the days between that notification and the public announcement I kept checking my Gmail account to make sure I really had received that letter — the electronic equivalent of pinching myself. I am uncertain how obvious this would be to any reader who came to the books cold, but I have always pictured Aftermath as a spiritual sequel to my debut horror collection Unseaming; it’s no casual coincidence that the books use the same cover artist and cover model. (And of course I want to thank artist Danielle Tunstall and model Alexandra Johnson for coming back on board!)

Given that I am hardly a name to conjure with, Unseaming did freakishly well — the 10,000th copy sold last month — but having Aftermath follow in Unseaming’s footsteps in any way seemed too much to hope for. Except now, in an extremely significant way, it has.

It means a lot personally as, of all my books, Aftermath is the one that most fully represents the range of my writing modes.

There are so many people who deserve credit and thanks for assisting me in the making of this book: Paul StJohn Mackintosh, who over multiple conversations at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki convinced me that Mythic Delirium would be the best publisher for this collection; Elizabeth Campbell, who helped with edits and who encourages me in all things, and without whom Mythic Delirium Books would not exist; Jeffrey Thomas, who not only wrote a wonderful introduction but went above and beyond to give me editorial feedback; Artist and designer Brett Massé, who turned my scribbly sketches for interior illustrations into something genuinely creepy to behold; to C. S. E. Cooney and Christina Sng, for allowing me to include our collaborations, and to early readers, blurbers and supporters Rod Belcher, Nathan Ballingrud, Craig L. Gidney and A.C. Wise; to Anya Martin and Scott Nicolay and all the Outer Dark crew for their support; to all the beta readers, editors and staff who helped these individual pieces along their way to their first publication; and of course, most importantly of all, to Anita, who worked her magic in ordering the stories and poems in this volume, and who is the reason I keep on keepin’ on.

Finally, I want to thank the 2020 Shirley Jackson Award jurors for giving my book the nod, and placing it among such excellent company, when there were so many other candidates that were at least as equally deserving. And I want to thank the Shirley Jackson Award administrators for persistently calling attention to the rich legacy of the award’s namesake in this really cool way.

Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium Books

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