The Book of Good Practice

I have a stamped leather notebook with pages of handmade paper and I named it The Book of Good Practice.  I numbered all its pages, one to one hundred, at the bottom center.  I wasn’t very careful with my script, because I don’t have a steady hand to begin with, and when I think too hard about how I hold my hand, I forget the way numbers and letters are supposed to work.  The numbers on the page are a little messy, which is great for me because if I were to leave that notebook perfect I’d have never used it.  Nothing worse than a thing too perfect to serve its function.

Each page begins a new story.  So far there have been no ends to any of them.  Beginning a story is easy, finding a trajectory to a satisfactory end requires a lot more from me.  If it were a book of great practice, it would be filled with finished stories.  But the computer is for greats.  It ends things… or it abandons them while I flounder with all the things I could be doing.

(I stayed up until three last night dying yarn for the first time ever because I couldn’t find the exact yellow I wanted.  Insomnia is a curse.)

Greatness is often beyond me.  I’m a little afraid of it.  I’m unable to wrestle something down in manageable chunks and make it small enough to fit an ending.

And that wears on me.  I’m a writer, right?  I make stories happen.  I find ways to make the big things fun, to share dreams, to touch brains.  Sometimes.  Most times I’m spinning my wheels, starting a hundred things and praying something will find enough purchase to set me toward and end.

But at least it is good practice.

 

A Write Proper Review

Hello it is awards season in the publishing world!  Or at least in the corner of it I frequent.  Or maybe it’s just the Nebulas that are open.  I don’t get out much.  But I’m getting better!  I remembered to make one of these!!

I have works that are eligible for rewards this year!

Where You Get Your Ideas was published in Cast of Wonders in March, 2018.  It involves a fantasy prop shop apprentice, and a mild disdain for joining a wider narrative.

The Late Mr. Folsom’s Luminosity Shop  was published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine show in November, 2018, and it features mermaids, magi-scientific biology, and paper work.

 

At it again with the full on weirdness

Some stories don’t fit well in print.  Or maybe, some stories look so different in my head from anything I can fit into letters, that I don’t want to see them in print.

Some stories I want to see made out of paper, or rushed breathlessly from an attic space, with a hundred jump cuts and a little erraticism.  I wrote one recently that needed that kind of space, and I recorded it from behind a mask.

That’s why I have Trash Magic Stories.

I don’t have many things on there.  And I don’t think that’s the point.  Trash Magic is a place where I can put something that requires top-shelf weirdness.  The kind that is so earnest, that I can’t look at the camera straight on.

spidersancestor

But it’s easier with a few extra eyes.

Latest story involves a contest between Athena and a very clever spider.  Watch it Here, and read the text in the blog post just below this one.

Albino Spider’s Ancestor

(this is the text accompanying this video)

I was much smaller when I was young. And I had eight legs, and clever claws, and teeth. I gave up all those things, for the chance to be big, but I did not lose the fear that comes from being very small.

I was born in a library. Libraries are safe and quiet and beautiful but even in the safest places an albino spider is easy lunch. I hid often in the valleys of books, and I learned from my hiding places that I had an ancestor who was as large as people.

People are never eaten. Their homes aren’t torn apart by enormous oblivious faces who have the NERVE to thrash and cry.

(I promise that I have never wanted to frighten you.)

I read that I had an ancestor who was as big as people, but I did not read her history carefully.

Arachne had made a bet with a god, or had shamed a god, or lost a contest or won… either way I knew a contest was involved, and I knew the god’s name.

It is easy to find contact information in libraries.  🙂

I reached out to Athena and explained that I wanted a chance to regain what my ancestor had lost.

…she laughed at me.

“Why would I enter a contest with you? You have nothing I want.”

But I had fury. I was small, and because I was small I was constantly afraid. I had been nearly swatted just for using the computer to find her. I had escaped the jaws of a cat only days before our meeting. I could not count the number of times my home was displaced! And after, my name cursed as though I wanted my work broken against your skin!

(it does upset me, by the way, when my work is broken against your face. Not for the work I must put in rebuilding, but for the assumption that I was deliberately cruel.)

Athena tried to speak over me. She had fury, too. The fury of a god no longer worshiped but I would not relent because I had something more.

“I have forgiveness.  It’s locked deep inside my heart, but if you will contest with me, you might just win my forgiveness.”

She had never known forgiveness, and so she agreed to my terms.

I was born in a library, and cleverness is born there, too. I knew that this egotistical god would not accept defeat from a spider. If I created something more beautiful than this goddess of crafting beauty, she would find some way to make it my defeat.  So I bet Athena that even a god could not be a worse weaver than a scared albino spider tucked into the corner of a library.

She accepted, and we began to craft.

I am distracted. I am fidgety. I lose focus as quick as a cell phone ping and I pick up all my stitches on the wrong side of the fabric. I never test swatches, I never set colors, and by the time I was finished, the fabric that wouldn’t be fit to ride underneath a donkey’s saddle.

And Athena, in all her glory, she dropped her stitches so precisely that it made a lace.  And her colors mixed so casually, that she finished with a lace shawl that sang like an autumn day.

I won.

(hooray for me)

I won the form stolen from my ancestor and how deeply sorry I am that I did not read more carefully.

My limbs were stolen! And my venom gone, my teeth blunted…

She cracked my armor open to give me the shape of persons and this flesh is so easily bruised.

I miss the smallness I had.  And I kept all of the fear.  It’s no good thing to be clever.  The gods live for such a long time and they know so much more than you ever will think to ask.

And even the cleverest spiders, when they win against the gods, they lose.

~end~

Art Against Fear

It takes a lot of courage to write. I’m not big-upping myself, I know that if you are reading this, you probably write.

(All my friends are artists, even the ones who don’t acknowledge that part of themselves. You are courageous, and I love you.)

It takes even more courage to present that work to scrutiny, to ask someone who owes you nothing, if they would please like to buy your work and promote it with their name attached. My courage usually fails here. Query letters are a social game, with indiscernible rules, where a win grants you a few more seconds to pitch your work, and a fail is mark on your name. “This one does not belong with us.”

Or, that’s how it seems, when you are all alone, reading every book in your writing-instruction library and wondering how anyone has ever liked their own work enough to write “Dear Editor…”

I am becoming more courageous. That has not come from the years writing alone. (That had its own uses, which may be a post for another day.) It’s because I’ve met people in the industry. I’ve seen so much kindness from fellow authors, and editors, and agents. And I know that every one of those people are in the industry because they love stories and they want to make stories happen.

I sent out a couple really big stories recently, and I am not worried about them. If they sell, I will be thrilled. If they don’t, I will send them on to someone else. I won’t have offended anyone for sending a story they don’t want. I won’t have made some great social blunder that will keep me out of print forever.

Nobody seeks failure in their inbox. And if you’ve found an editor who does, you didn’t want to work with that person, anyway.

 

Also, if you know some magic, use it! Fear tells stories. Its favorite story is the one about all the possible disastrous futures that could result from your actions. But stories are my magic, and I’m really good at upsetting the narrative. I once put on skull face paint to set up a poetry reading over the phone. Fear didn’t know what to do with the shear absurdity of my actions, and the phone call went exceptionally well. Not every magic needs skullface, but allow yourself the tools you need to overcome fear. Sometimes just a favorite pair of sunglasses will alter your perspective enough to send that query letter.

 

In other news, I’ve been reading some brilliant stories while not updating this blog. Here’s a few recent favorites:

Robo-Liopleurodon! by Darcie Little Badger is about the futility of being a scientist when the world has stopped listening to scientists, and the piratic ways to fight back!  (And just keep reading through the rest of Robot Dinosaur Fiction after you are done because it’s seriously great.)

After Midnight at the ZapStop by Matthew Claxton is absolutely delightful, and I love how dang mundane this incredible science fiction world is to the poor guy working the counter at the only 24 hour 3D bio-printer shop in town.  The way all the pieces come together in the end is super satisfying, too.

The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly is a total magic trick.  A despot slowly savors another delicious meal while the protagonist relives the years in which he rose to power, and the ways she failed to resist.  Also, there are magic pastries that allow you to relive specific memories, and I want to eat (almost) every single one of them.