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Patrick Swenson

Devon Monk isn’t normal.

She wants you to think she is, but she’s not. I mean look at the title of this collection. A Cup of Normal? Ha, who does she think she’s kidding? Robots, hamsters, dragons, ogres, snakes, pixies, and ducks. Ducks? Oh yeah, nice try, Devon. Attempting to use ordinary, normal ducks in a story to distract us from the threads of real magic in this collection.

Devon Monk weaves a fine yarn. I mean, she uses yarn to knit a great story. I mean she knits great Transformers hats, Locoroco toys, and book bags. (She’s an avid knitter, and if you haven’t yet checked out her projects on her website gallery, you must.) The thing is, Devon Monk just knows how to put things together. In the case of this collection, I’m talking about fabulous, wonderful, inventive stories. She lets them slide into the dark where despair dwells, and after they’ve settled there for a while, she allows them to emerge into the light so she can show us all where hope lives.

As her publisher and editor for this project, I asked who she might want to write an introduction, but instead of giving me names, she veered from normalcy and pointed at me. Well, I’m honored to write it, and I have good reasons to do so. I bought one of her earliest stories for Talebones, the magazine I edited for fourteen years. That story was “Oldblade,” and it was the first of four of Devon’s stories to appear in the magazine. Three of those stories are in this collection. The story from Talebones that isn’t in here (one of my favorites of hers, period, by the way) isn’t in here for a very, very good reason, and you may all be lucky enough to understand why some day.

She might correct me later, but I believe I first met Devon at Orycon in Portland, Oregon. I used to throw room parties there, in the early years of Talebones, and I’m sure she must have dropped by. If not at the party, then we ran into each other somewhere around the con. Regardless, I was introduced to her, and was immediately struck by her warmth and sincerity, her friendliness, and, of course, her amazing ability to strike up conversations with her friends and fans.

This might be why her stories work so well. She knows how to talk to readers. Like a mother reading to a child, she knows how to tell bedtime stories to calm us and prepare us for sleep, yet with equal skill she can whisper scary ghost stories so menacing that the sanctuary of our campfire seems far from safe. That’s because she makes great use of her own world, threading her own interests into her tales. Many of the stories have something to do with knitting or weaving or mending, yet none of them are even remotely the same. Those stories (and all these stories) are as unique as Devon’s own knitted toys and clothes and pouches and bags and Cthulhu chapstick holders. Yeah, that’s what I said. Unique, and far from normal.

You’re going to read some amazing work in this collection, including stories never before published. Just wait until you take in some of Devon’s ideas about Christmas. Definitely not normal. I have too many favorite stories to mention here, but if you really want to see what Devon can do with words, skip to the last story and give “When the Train Calls Lonely” a read and tell me you aren’t changed by it. Or the delightful “Dusi,” that begins the collection: this isn’t the Medusa I remember from when I was a kid. “Falling with Wings” is a story Devon wrote as a part of a challenge with fellow writers, yet it turned out to be a positively stunning love story. It takes place on a garbage world. Go figure. That’s not normal, is it?

It’s not normal what Devon can do, spinning these complex tales, so you might as well give in and drink from the cup. Just see what happens.

Oh, and remember my comment about Devon distracting us with ducks in this book?

They’re not normal either.

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