Kelly McCullough writes fantasy, science fiction, and books for kids of varying ages. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the WebMage and Fallen Blade series — Penguin/ACE, and the forthcoming School for Sidekicks — Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star — part of an NSF-funded science curriculum — and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited — funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Kelly on Twitter, Facebook, G+, ello

Scotland/Iceland 2012: Trip Pics

June 20, 2012 in About Kelly, Travel

I spent nearly three weeks in Iceland and Scotland over the end of May. It was fab. For anyone who’s interested, here are links to the pics. They’re on facebook, but in completely public galleries:

Iceland 2012 #1
Iceland 2012 #2
Iceland 2012 #3

Orkney 2012 #1
Orkney 2012 #2
Orkney 2012 #3
Orkney 2012 #4

Skye 2012

Glasgow 2012

Edinburgh 2012 #1
Edinburgh 2012 #2

For Meglet: A Little Cat Poem

June 18, 2012 in Silly

I have a fuzzy little cat
Who always wonders where I’m at
Up and down the stairs she goes
Following me with eyes and nose
Content only when she sees
Herself lying on my knees



Michael Matheny, A Hole in the World

June 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Some things you don’t want to write because you know you won’t do them justice. Some things you don’t want to write because writing about it will make it true. Some things you don’t to want write because they will cut to the bone. Sometimes you write anyway, because you have to try, because the truth is owed and the blood and bone. This is one of those times.

I haven’t seen as much of Mike in the past few years as I would have liked. Our paths diverged some time ago, but he was one of my oldest friends and knowing he was in the world was always a comfort, and seeing him a pleasure. That comfort is gone now and the pleasure will live on only in memory and all of us who loved him are diminished by his loss.

For many the first thing Mike will bring to mind is his music. He was a great musician and I always loved to hear him play. For others it will be his sense of humor, or his gentleness, or a thousand other things. I can’t fix my own memories to any one thing, though his sense of mischief runs deep in my own memories of Mike, perhaps because I knew him first when we were young.

We met the summer I turned fifteen, at Renaissance Festival school, though we didn’t grow close until the year after when I started driving with Mike and Sean as my most frequent passengers. We spent a lot of time together over the next seven or eight years.

The memories are so many and varied it’s hard to know where to start. Driving aimlessly around Minneapolis in the middle of the night, drinking endless gallons of Mountain Dew at Davanni’s and Pizza Hut or sitting in Mike’s room or Sean’s. Warhammer, listening to him first playing around with a guitar, wandering around Festival together. Arriving at the Colorado Festival after a sixteen hour drive and leaping straight into the back of another car to drive to Boulder. Sitting across a coffin shaped coffee table at my first apartment tossing black cat firecrackers at each other and giggling. Co-writing the opening of a fantasy novel by plugging two keyboards into one Mac and trying to outdo each other. Him talking me into my first ear piercing…and on and on. A thousand memories and all of them precious. But if finding a starting place is hard, coming to the end is infinitely harder.

The thought that I will have no more new memories of Michael hurts me. Knowing that I’ll never see the wicked smile he so often shared, or hear the soft chuckle, or simply know that he is out there somewhere smiling and laughing and making music–that is a truth I do not want to face. It costs in blood and bone and soul, and though I have written thousands of pages I find myself all but bereft of words at this loss, knowing I can never to do justice to the memory of an old and dear friend.

Michael Matheny was my friend, we helped each other grow up. I loved him, and he is gone, and the world will be a darker place with his light gone out of it.

Dragon Diaries

May 24, 2012 in Dragon Diaries

Biggest problem of being fictional? Getting left in limbo for months at a time. Stupid writer. I’d toast him but it might go badly.

“A one L lama, he’s a priest. A two L llama, he’s a beast.” Both are delicious when breaded and fried, what a feast! (With apologies to Ogden Nash)


April 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

Finally put up the wonderful maps that Matt Kuchta did for me for the Fallen Blade series. Click on the links or the thumbnails to see full size.


The Eleven Kingdoms

Tradition and Red Currant Jelly…not a writing post

April 14, 2012 in Silly, Surreal

Every year in April my wife and I throw a party for a jar of jelly.*

It all started when a young man (me) went walkabout to the Arizona Renaissance Festival and needed someone to see that his apartment didn’t explode and that his cats stayed well-fed. The year was 1989. Many adventures were had by the lad on his walkabout, but that is not what this story is about. This is about his or, should I say, my, refrigerator.

Since I lived a hundred yards from both my parents and my grandmother, I’d never seen much point in using the kitchen of my apartment for anything other than storage. The oven was a convenient place to put the cat food bag, as the cats couldn’t open it, and it kept it out of my way. The cabinets were largely filled with strange artifacts (later identified as dishes by my wife-to-be) supplied by my parents and grandmother when I moved out. Actually, when they moved out and to two separate houses, but again, that’s another story. The refrigerator was a mystical place into which I would occasionally stuff a twelve pack of Mountain Dew, or a candle that had been melting in the sun.

None of this was really front-brain knowledge however, and when I went on my way to live in a tent in the middle of the desert I didn’t give so much as a passing thought to the functioning of my kitchen. For the friend, “CD,” who moved into my place as caretaker for the two months that I was gone however, the kitchen was a vitally important place, necessary to his survival.

So, one of the first things CD did after I left for parts south, was to go to a grocery store and stock up on food, which he then brought home and proceeded to put away. This turned out to be an adventure in itself, beginning when he opened the crisper. At some point in the distant past, I had been given a dragon candle. Slightly after that, it ended up in direct sunlight, softened, and folded in half. That was when I stuffed it into the crisper. Of course, it was already too late at that point, and all that I managed to do was create a multi-colored blob of wax, heavy on the purples and greens, and with a very odd topology.

Needless to say, CD, still foolishly possessed of the idea that if it was in the fridge, it had probably at one time been food, was deeply disturbed by this discovery. (I was unavailable for comment at the time, being somewhere in transit.) But after a while, he worked up his nerve, prodded the alien life form with a fork, and discovered that it was harmless. However, this experience made him very cautious when he approached the rest of the contents of the fridge, which turned out to consist of one never-opened jar of Red Currant Jelly that had expired some two years before his arrival.

When I finally returned from my wanderjar, CD naturally enough wanted to share the tale of his adventures in my apartment, and to question me about the candle (tucked away in a box in a cabinet-but still unidentified by him) and the jelly. After some careful inspection of the items in question and dusting off of old memories, I was able to identify the candle. But the jelly defied my powers of memory.

Or, at least, that is one explanation. However, since I have never in my entire life eaten red currant jelly, nor to my knowledge has it ever been a staple in my family’s household, I have darker suspicions. I tend to believe that it condensed out of the mysterious cosmic stuff of missing hangers and lost socks, and that it happened some time between when I left the house on my trip and when CD arrived a day later — and that it is possessed of inhuman and sinister motivations.

And so I have never opened it or discarded it (for fear that someone else might open it) and once a year (near the expiration date listed on the jar) we bring it out and throw a festival to appease it. Today will be the 23rd annual red currant jelly party, marking the 25thd anniversary of its expiration.

The Jelly Wakes!

*reposted with edits from SFNovelists

Just For the Record

April 9, 2012 in Speaking Up

The kind of gendered hate speech that Cat Valente talks about here, the kind that gets heaped on the heads of women who express strong opinions on the internet, is never acceptable, and she is absolutely right to call it out. I strongly agree with what Jim Hines and John Scalzi have had to say about the topic as well. I’m a man, which means I don’t generally get subjected to this shit, but I can call it out when I see it and I can absolutely let the world know that I don’t and won’t give the people who are making this kind of attack a pass. If you’re wondering what makes me put this post up now, it’s that Abi Sutherland over at Making Light just reminded me that it’s important that those of us of the male persuasion also need to speak up.

Five Writing Things Make A Post

March 19, 2012 in Books, Writing

I’m pretty sure these are all official enough to announce at this point. There’s more writing news hovering on the edge of announceable, since I have lots of writing balls in the air at the moment, but this is what looks solid and not seekrit enough to go out into the world as of this morning.

1) Broken Blade came in as first runner up for the Locus paperback best seller list for March, which is the closest I’ve ever gotten and very exciting. It’s mentioned down in the 2nd paragraph below the actual lists  If only it went to eleven…

2) There will be at least one more book in the Fallen Blade series, bringing it to four. It’s currently titled Blade Reforged, and should be out summer 2013, around six months after Crossed Blades hits shelves in Nov/Dec 2012. Woohoo!

3) I just made my first foreign rights sale. The first three books in the Fallen Blade series will be coming out in German. I am VERY excited about this.

4) Bared Blade galleys arrived this week. It’s starting to look like a book.

5) Finally, a while back I got the cover art for the second book in the Fallen Blade series, and I LOVE it. John Jude Palencar again, and amazing work. I’m putting it down here at the bottom so you can see it large, because it is gorgeous.

Bared Blade Cover Art

Dragon Diaries now here on the webpage

March 17, 2012 in Silly, Surreal, Writing

The Dragon Diaries are a series of micro fiction post that I started writing in March of 2010. At the time, I was really sick with the stomach virus of doom and awake in the middle of the night, plus borderline hallucinating. My brain, wired as it is for narrative, started scripting out little bits of a dragon’s diary. They had been living over in notes on my facebook page, but I felt they really belonged over here.

Dragon Diaries Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven. Also, Unicorn Diaries and Dragon’s Cat

Beauty and Joy in Sadness—The Memorial of Lee Perish

March 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

Lee’s memorial was amazing, with laughter and tears and technical difficulties that led to pure beauty. There was a real magic to it that I’ve never seen at any other service, and for that Laura and I are both deeply thankful.

The service was held at the Bread of Life Church for the Deaf, a classic little fifties Midwestern neighborhood church. We got there early and sat outside in the car for a few minutes. I wore a formal black kilt rig for mourning because I was going to be giving a part of the eulogy and because Lee loved the kilt. Laura wore pants and was a bit less dressy, and I think that the reversal of traditional gender roles there is something that Lee would have loved. She loved shaking things up.

Laura and I took up station at the church entrance to greet Lee’s friends and the members of her communities as they came in. We wanted something to do—we’re both much happier when we have something to do, and there was the guest book to point out and the sticky door to manage for the many wheelchairs and walkers. The funeral home folks handled a lot of that, but the turnout was huge and they were happy to have us helping, especially once the crowd really started rolling in.

Right from the start this funeral felt more joyous than any memorial I’ve ever attended, mourning and sadness, of course, but also a celebration of a woman who really LIVED. Not quite an Irish wake, but so much more than merely a memorial. The mourners came in every size and shape, and more than one species. There must have been a dozen service dogs, and they really helped lend an air of love and community to the crowd. And it was a crowd, a standing room only crowd. Lee was loved by so very many people, and an astonishing number of them turned out. She loved the color purple, everyone knew it, and many honored her memory by wearing her signature color. Even the church honored her there, it being Lent.

The service opened with the assistant pastor signing, and the pastor interpreting in spoken word from the pews. It felt exactly right. Then it moved into a more typical format with a few bible verses read by family and another piece by the pastor, all interpreted in ASL.

Then the pastor, Susan, went into her homily and that’s where the magic really started. The pastor started with a story about how Lee had her name legally changed from Leone to Lee, because if Lee didn’t like something she changed it. There were a lot of nods at that and some laughs, and few muttered “yeahs.” Then Susan said that this was the point at which she would normally have talked about the deceased resting peacefully with god, but that though Susan believed Lee was with god she didn’t think there was anything peaceful about it. She was quite sure that Lee was demanding to see heaven’s accessibility policies. The whole room roared with laughter, and something changed then.

What had been a sort of coalition of mourners, with many smaller groups joining together to say goodbye, suddenly became a community celebrating a life. And it went on like that with many tears and a continued laughing rumble that was impossible not to love.

When Susan finished, I was up first. I read the appreciation that I wrote in Lee’s honor, and it was perhaps the hardest reading of a life that has included a lot of time on stage. I couldn’t even introduce the piece, because I knew that if I took one step beyond the words written on the page I was going to cry my head off and not be able to speak a word. As it was, I managed all right, and didn’t really break up until the last line, at which point a little crack in the voice was okay, as was crying my way off the stage.

I wrote my appreciation for me and for Laura, and most of all for Lee, because I loved her and I needed to say goodbye. It was an emotional snapshot of a decades long relationship. I expected a few others to read it because most things I write are read by at least a few, but hadn’t really expected anything more to come of it. But it apparently struck a chord in Lee’s communities and with the family. Dozens of people have expressed how much it meant to them over this past week, and it has been humbling and edifying and a bit scary to see my work reflected back at me in a way that I rarely encounter.

Lee’s boss, Alan Peters, followed me, giving a more traditional sort of eulogy and doing it up proud. I was both impressed and moved by his ability to speak clearly and strongly with tears rolling steadily down his cheeks, something that is simply beyond me. He talked about Lee and their friendship, and her work in improving accessibility for everyone. He also talked about her absolutely glorious laugh, and the whole room laughed and cried with him.

Last up was Lee’s brother-in-law Michael, who read out a resolution passed by the Minnesota state legislature in honor of Lee. He was clearly as nervous as it is possible to be about being up there, but again, he did her up proud. Neither Laura or I had heard anything about that beforehand and it was a moment of great pride and a punch in the gut at the same time. Lee would have loved it, but she wasn’t there to know. There have been a lot of those punches this week. Lee was an incredibly joyous person and a bit of a ham and she would absolutely have loved all the attention she’s been getting. But she’s not there. Instead, there is a hole in the world that can never be filled.

After the eulogies, the pastor did pastor things and then put in a CD of Amazing Grace. It went about ten words in and then started skipping. Nothing ever went smooth in Lee’s life, and a technical glitch at her funeral seemed somehow exactly right. I know that she would have loved watching Susan signing the skip over and over and over. The room roared once again. Susan tried to fix the problem, but it just wasn’t happening, and she eventually gave up. There was a long moment of silence then, while Susan contemplated what to do next.

And then, just before Susan could break that silence, an absolutely glorious soprano voice started singing Amazing Grace from somewhere in middle of the church. Within a few words the whole crowd was singing and it was pure magic, a truly touching tribute to a grand lady. I couldn’t sing because I was crying too hard, and honestly, given my singing voice, that’s no great loss. After the song finished we followed the casket out to the waiting hearse—given Lee’s life it really ought to have been a Metro Mobility van, and it really ought to have been late—but the hearse works too. We all gave our final goodbyes, many people making the ASL sign for love and touching the coffin.

Then we went back inside and watched slides from Lee’s life and told stories of her. One young woman who had made a point earlier of coming over to tell me how much my appreciation meant to her, somehow convinced her smart phone to cough up a video of Lee that she hadn’t been able to get to run before that day. It was of Lee getting a birthday gift, and it had that Lee cackle that we all loved so well. Another person imagined that the pearly gates had better have a wheelchair button installed if they didn’t want a world of trouble from Lee. And so it went.

Somewhere in there we introduced the people who are taking over from her as staff to her cat Marygold, to the person who had preceded Lee in that role and they all talked about Lee and her cats and exchanged pictures and email. Another of Lee’s friends, the poet Morgan Willow brought us a limerick she wrote for the occasion—Lee loved them. About a million people told Laura and I how much they had heard about us from Lee and how much she adored us. There was chocolate everywhere, another of Lee’s loves—I think we must have found fifty pounds of it squirreled away in various places in her apartment. Dogs were admired, hugs exchanged, and in general it was a perfect mixture of the bitter and the sweet.

Goodbye Lee, you came, you saw, you conquered, and we will miss you forever.