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.


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.


Where I’ve been.

Hello! I’ve been working on a novel. And I’ve finished! Drafts are endless, but I’ve polished it enough that I’d like to share. Rules for sharing novels tend to argue toward an excerpt near the very beginning of the story, but this is my blog and I make the rules, so this is a passage from very near the climax.

Some background: Esther is blind, and sees through a magical connection to two spiders she calls left eye and right eye. Zinnia is her pirate obsessed girlfriend. They live in a socialist utopia that is slowly collapsing around them, because the spells that keep their empire safe are falling apart. Here’s this bit about a bicycle ride!

She ran down into the pitch black basement, rummaged for a moment, then came back up hefting a contraption of polished metal pipes and gears. I knew the idea of a bicycle, like Farmland people know that glass needs heat, but I’d never seen one up close. Hawkline Island was too small and rocky to make use of the thing and the ones I’d seen zipping up the hills on South Ballast were too fast for me to fully comprehend.

“You know how to ride, right?”

“Absolutely not.” But I was itching to play with the chain and gears. I might not know it in practice, but the bicycle’s function was palpable.

Zinnia’s teeth flashed in the low light as she patted the long flat cargo carrier bolted over its back tire. “Good thing it’s a courier bike.”

How fast are courier bicycles ridden by two people down a long narrow road to the wall that keeps our city safe from lace? I think, if I were to make a casual guess, I’d say fairly close to the speed of sound. My eyes were inside my sweater, clinging to the knit over my heart. My body was curled against Zinnia’s back, fingers laced around her belly, head buried in her shoulder blades and she was yelling something, “hole ahead!” but I didn’t catch the meaning until the wheels jarred underneath us and she nearly lost the bike.

“You gotta be loose, Esther!” The bike wobbled under us and she wriggled away from my fingers.

“Icantbeloose I’llfall” I shouted into her spine.

“The harder you fight physics the more likely we are to crash!” Her hand found mine at her stomach and she forced her fingers underneath to pry up my hands from where I was crushing her. “Keep them here. Can you feel the muscles keeping us balanced?” I shook my head, but I could feel her solid on the bike even as the wind whipped past us. “I need you to match me.”

The bike hiccupped underneath us and I cinched my fingers tight. She yelped, I had hurt her, and I drew my hands away. But I didn’t fall. I was still steady behind her, and my hands settled back in place.

“Better?” she asked. I could feel her shift under my fingers, the balance of the bike shifted and I flowed into it with her.

“This is really scary!” I shouted over the wind, ready to acknowledge my fear now that it wasn’t about to kill me.

“Scarier than discovering your whole life has been a lie?” she shouted back.

I tried to laugh at that, but the bike was slowing, and my eyes were finally ready to peek outside of my collar. We were at the foot of the wall. Fifty feet high, sheer glass, buttressed with pillars thick as houses. Deep inside the glass was a putrid ocean, a green black swirl of long dead sludge. I stepped unsteadily down from the wooden courier box and Zinnia held my hand to keep me upright. It was worse than I had expected; dead for all my lifetime but kept bright through mass hallucination. I couldn’t decide if I was queasier from the wall or from our bike ride.

Left eye stood up on my brow and I gave Zinnia a rakish grin to cover up my shaky confidence. “This isn’t scary. This is just one more thing to fix.”


Bicycle comes back after the climax. Esther lied: All of this is scary.


A Spindle of Spiders

It’s difficult to be a writer in the age of Google.* If you make something up, it is very easy for a reader to discover if it’s all a sham. It’s easy enough to convince someone that the story is true within the confines of the story… hell, that’s the job, innit? But when it comes to phrases or words or concepts that don’t exist outside that single moment when you, the writer, need it to exist, and have to improvise, there’s a distinct chance that the reader will question it.

Spiders have a collective noun: Clutter. A clutter of spiders. I am writing about a collection of spiders and the story has to do with Order, which is the opposite (sort of, like emerald is an almost opposite for pumpkin) of clutter. These were many spiders, but definitely not a clutter. The other option for collective noun was cluster, which just sounded terrible. Michelle Kilmer (author of When The Dead, which has so far been fantastic) suggested Spindle. Perfect! Spindle, I have decided, is the term for exactly one thousand spiders.

One thousand, like one hundred, is a magic number. In case you didn’t know. It is, though.

And speaking of magic, I had to then incorporate the word Spindle as a collective noun for exactly one thousand spiders in a way that was convincing within the story. I’m not sure if I’ve accomplished it, but I didn’t do anything foolish like define the term at the beginning of the story… it’s a short story, that would have been too presumptuous. If it were a novel I might have gotten away with a definition, but shorts have to stand wholly on their own. Instead, I hid behind a scary witch of a character and had her convinced of the term’s correct usage. Scary witches are good things to have in fiction.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling afraid of my convictions, I pretend I am a scary witch and the keyboard is my cauldron and then all the magic lies in knowing one is Very Right in all actions, even when wrong. First drafts are for being the witch. Everything after is alchemy.

There is only one way to conquer Google: Conviction. If the confidence behind a phrase outweighs its un-google-ability, it doesn’t matter if you are wrong. You have made yourself right. It’s the rule of Trunchbull: You’ll never get away with anything you do by halves.

Of course, Roald Dahl was talking about the outlandish tormenting of school children, and how she’d never be caught because the Truchbull’s methods went so far as to be unbelievable to anyone but eyewitnesses, but I’ve found her mantra has other, less violent applications.

Now all that’s left is to send out the manuscript, and see if I’ve fooled anyone long enough to make myself right!

*Previous blog post would lead one to believe it was also difficult to write pre-Google, when I’d have to ask around to discover the shape of Johnny Rotten’s hair. I’d imagine that regardless of the era in which one writes, it is difficult to write in general, and the only thing harder than writing, is not writing.

Spider Friend

My husband made friends with the spider who lives in the window of his garage door. The garage is detached from the house, which I suppose makes a difference, because I do not allow house spiders (they are scooped up and removed to the back yard, or, if they refused to be scooped, they are squashed and thrown in the garbage).

It has been in the same spot for nearly two weeks that I can remember. He was lifting the garage door to let in some more light today and I warned him that the spider was right over his head if he used the handle. He said that’s okay. “He, or She, probably… She always holds on and just crawls up to sit on the door when I move it.” And yes, she did. She skipped off the web for a moment then caught hold again and trundled her way up to the vinyl door. “Her… thorax?”

I agreed, thorax, but I’m not really sure if that’s the right word for spider-butt.

“…it’s gotten really big. She caught a moth, and a yellow-jacket, and I’d rather she stay there than have moths in the garage. She doesn’t move from that spot.”

My husband hates yellow-jackets. Most people do. But I think he hates moths even more (they’re always in the way, and they’re heavy for insects), and I think watching the spider wrap up a moth and devour it sold him on the spider.

He’s a very practical guy. And his spider friend is pretty cute.