Spider Season: A Poem

Spider_small_backSpider Season

What do you do in

spider season?

Enjoy the webs,

never mind the reason(s).

No, not any spider of Frost’s.

Not dimpled, not white.

But fat, and fresh

and stuffed with rendered fright.


I couldn’t get a good angle on this spider, which I think a Neoscona crucifera female (normally nocturnal, but diurnal sometimes in the fall). Anyone with arachnid expertise, please feel free to correct me.

The one that nests there,

outside the screen:

She’s hardly nice

and fuzzily serene.

Tending to her spin,

ignoring huge voyeur eyes,

minding time’s business.

Just wound(ing) infinity, I surmise.

Can anyone tell I’ve been reading (and eyeballing) Edward Gorey’s work lately, not to mention a nifty little book from Tim Burton picked up at the thrift shop recently? Perhaps I’ll share the latter sometime soon.

Magical, Mystical Monday: A Photography Challenge

Hey-lo, friends. Hope you are doing well and you’re ready for this fine Fall week (if you’re in the Northern hemisphere).Cards_wide

I’ve got a challenge and a mystery I’d like your help with, if you please.

This one’s a photo challenge. I picked these cards up at a yard sale at the beginning of the summer, falling in love with their aesthetics more than anything.

The seller said they’re Japanese, World War II era. I think the writing, though I’m obviously no expert, is Chinese.

Any of you like to share with me what these are (they’re all black on the back) and, in the main, what they’re used for? I’m not selling them, by the way.

I picked out several I thought looked very autumnal and that I adore besides.


The box they came in; probably a better clue to those of you who can read the script. Although I believe I’ve placed the white part upside down. Sorry about that!

Your reward? Propagating knowledge! That is to say, many thanks in advance for your guesses or facts.Cards_close-up


The horror, the horror!

Thorny issue

Those thorny writer types!

Yes, my (writing) roots are showing AND I’m as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs (I know, I tote that one out a lot).

That is to say, I’ve been crafting a lot of horror or otherwise dark short stories lately (read on to learn about a writing competition now in the judging phase). I’m working on a science fiction one now with a lesbian couple and involving ants, as well as a fan fiction horror short inspired by Halloween. That’s all my internal editor will permit me to speak of just yet.

On another riff, I love this time of year. I’m not going to mention pumpkin lattes, because I’m not even hip enough to be a hipster at this point (and I’ve certainly no desire to be one). I will, however, mention Dairy Queen’s pumpkin blizzards. Or ginger snaps in something pumpkin-y. I will mention the glorious sea change, a seasonal shimmy of leaves, chemically induced, especially along the lovely mountainsides here in the Northern hemisphere. Cuddling with your special someone, even if it’s bound tightly within a cover and consists of sharp-edged pages.

Indeed, it was in the 40s here overnight and is slated to be in the 60s today. Autumn has sprung!

Finally, I will direct you to a horror writing contest that is going on now. I might or might not have a story or two entered. It will be held the ENTIRE month of October, if I understand the rules correctly, with 2 groups of stories (first round) released every other day, so Oct. 1, Oct. 3, Oct. 5, and so on. I dedicated my long morning to reading both groups, and geez, Louise. I can promise you one thing: you will enjoy, if not adore, at least one of these stories and discover an author (right now, an anonymous one) to follow. The stories are classified as horror, though some fit that only marginally, and so are friendly to those fond of speculative fiction as a widespread, wickedly pointing, fleshy bits hanging off the end umbrella (I’m thinking Sylvester McGory, fellow DW fans).

So, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thriller, true crime, horror, applelutely fabulousand, hell, even romance readers . . . come one, come all: The PseudoPod flash fiction writing contest is live, now (I believe you’ll want to navigate, with your new log-in, to the forum called The Arcade; the contest is called Flash Fiction Contest IV – Pseudopod). You’ll have to set up a free account if you wish to vote, however; voting for each set of two groups (18 groups total) will last only 7 days each time and you can vote for up to 3 stories per group.

Anyway, enjoy your week—wherever you are in the world right now, whomever with—and make it applelutely fabulous (couldn’t resist a terrible parting pun, sorry)!

Bad poetry = better prose?

I’ve been doing a lot of writing since the kidlets started school. Of course, not all of it is good (or even passable) writing.

If you’re a writer, you have probably heard the oft-repeated idea of getting your “shitty first draft” committed to paper (or tablet or phone or whatever means you use to write). There’s a lot of merit to that, as writing well, for most of us, requires quite a bit of mucking through the mental swamp-fog and pasting up more than a few cruddy turns of phrase, mixed metaphors, or inane plots.

So, in addition to being involved in the GreatWashington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851 SinusInfluColdergy of September 2015—a personal battle, to be sure—I have been producing some bad poetry and reading some much more interesting stuff. There again, I am hoping that mucky, funky poetry is the gateway to better (badder?) prose.

Although I am way behind in reading blogs, and I miss them “somethin tur’ble” as some of my relatives are ‘like’ to say, I also have had the great pleasure to beta-read a friend’s fantasy novel. I will be excited to unveil that, I’m hoping, in the next few months.

What about you? Would you like to share what you’ve been reading (or writing, for that matter)?

Lastly, in my readings whilst slumped in bed with a ton of tissues, I’ve also been dipping into literary short stories, in a collection called Contemporary West Coast [of the United States] Stories. I have to say, several are “razors pain you” good; in my estimation, those are at the forefront of the book, by Richard Ford, Joyce Carol Oates, Tobias Wolff, and Amy Tan. (You know, the usual suspects!) I’ve not read all the stories in this collection, but several of the others left me underwhelmed with their tepid endings.

Speaking of the opposite of winning, let’s round this out with some amateur poetry (#amwriting). After all, it’s a Tuesday. (And it’s five o’clock somewhere!)

Living in borrowed bones

Begrudge the birds

their unmarrowed bones,

unmoored, not holding onto

words—that way you insert ‘n’ in smattering

or songs—“Reveries of a Girl”—

all that “in”-ness.

Lost to light, loft.

Moments grounded

then gone.

Perhaps we are not

so different.

Each in borrowed


Mortality ribbed

with tines:

Here is the church

Here is the steeple

Open up the doors

Here’re all the people.

Each heart, a hand:

a wing


Push through the bars

sealed by goodbyes,

slough off lacings

of regret and love.

Buoyed by light threads


The Garden Avenger Versus The Scourge: A Not-So-Fictional Story

Trigger Warning: Contains descriptions of insecticide, gore, and, of course, insects.

Day 1

Not only are the butternut squash anemic-looking, but now they are writhing. The novice gardener had noticed that the vines had been in decline for a couple days. She’d wondered whether the wilting meant they needed to be watered more. She had surveyed her raised beds at a remove, not getting20150821_090237 her fingers or eyes down into the dirt.

For which she paid dearly.

On Day 1, The Scourge made their presence known. Legions besieged the squash that had once thrived.20150821_090251

The war had begun in earnest.

The Garden Avenger was born.

Day 2 (early)

As fortuity would have it, the Avenger had a bag—and then some—of diatomaceous earth, a natural solution she used for dusting her duck coop.

Bellows in a steely vise, she wanted to feel as light-hearted and buoyant as Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins.” She wasn’t. So, she went a’poofing (no, not that kind, definition 2).

After 30 minutes spent squash patch–squatting, she had made that section of the garden look like Narnia during the Long Winter.

Insectoid forms skittered and scattered far and wide. Victory had been seized from the pincers of defeat!

Day 2 (later)

The fecking foe had returned after a few hours. Presumably some had scuttled away and succumbed to the pale pixie dust.

The Garden Avenger suited up, bellows again in pink-gloved adamantine hands.

The land was again white.

Day 3

The rains came. And came. And came.

And the persevering pests returned, trying to make inroads in the melon patch.

The Garden Avenger shrieked within: “Oh, hell no! You do NOT take my watermelons!” (Again, novice gardener that she is, she had never gotten a melon to reach full maturity and loved—nay, worshipped—the sweet red ambrosia as much as Ralphie’s old man in “A Christmas Story” loved turkey. Yes, indeed, squash bugs were the Garden Avenger’s version of the Bumpus hounds!)

The Avenger promptly went into full-on “Après moi, le deluge” mode, spraying far and wide, chasing each little blighter as it tried to flee under a leaf, along the garden board, under the garden board, or into the snake’s den in the splitting railroad tie flanking the upper garden.

In the Garden Avenger’s mind, the work was either done or, as per her trusty Farmer’s Almanac, the level of infestation was so great, it was time for more drastic measures.

Day 4

This day, Mister Green-Eyed Hornet Lantern Arrow Man made an appearance, because the Garden Avenger was busy slaying the Green Blades (of Grass) gaily swaying. (Okay, they were mocking.)

Seeing his work and the quick return of the brown beasts, the Garden Avenger was sore wroth. She dusted. And dusted. And dusted.

And then, she could take no more as the wary wrigglers returned.

Pity had fled. She vowed to slaughter them all.

She chased, and she crushed. She felt revolted and merciless when one body exploded in a pus-green confetti-sludge, then the next. Then the next.

Tiny ones. Slow ones. Fast ones. Old ones. Gray ones. Brown ones. In the back. In the face. Some separated into segments, head and body asunder. Some merely . . . smeared.

She wanted them gone. Yesterday.

Mister Green-Eyed Hornet Lantern Arrow Man had suggested a blow-torch, but lacked some of the parts needed after searching the shed.

She rationalized that she had saved them from fiery deaths. After all, they are called squash bugs, she punned. They’re meant to be . . . well, squashed. Right?

That night, her brain lay awake, wriggling, worrying, troubled by her malice. She knew what would need to come next.

Day 5

It needed a burning.

. . . saga to be continued

Microfiction Monday


monster in mirror image

 Image credit: Talented artist ??**

Never mind what Twain said about standing between the mirror of imagination and a text. Petralina had a houseful of looking-glasses, and, far from a Babel, they hissed aspersions with one shimmering tongue, half-lolling reality on a carpet of choked illusion. Olive complexion, ha! More like a festering, Frankensteinian*, puke-green cucumber. Rotted-through.


*The monster, not Dr. Frankenstein. Meaning, created by Frankenstein.

**If this is your image, I’d love to give you, the artist, credit for it, rather than the online political rag where I found it and, I presume, where it was used without your permission. Or, alternatively, I can remove it. Please let me know.

As to my extracurricular reading, I’m continuing on the Twain trail these days. And I’ve re-discovered the “Science of Us” Web site—specifically this story about people who experience body dysmorphic disorder, which strikes home for this self-deprecating introvert—and it ignited a thought that then formed a microfiction story around the challenge.

This belated microfiction piece was written for the Grammar Ghoul Shapeshifting 13 #8 challenge, which is now in the voting phase. Definitely drift on over there and have a look-see and then a vote-see for those talented folks. Perhaps you can then catch the next go-’round of the GG challenges.

On the Road with the Wordsmiths

We are on holiday. Nonetheless, for your viewing and reading entertainment, here are a few phone snaps as we travel the states. I hope you all are enjoying whatever season you find yourselves in.

On that #travel note, you might also like to check out Cee’s “Which Way?” photography challenge, which asks for your best photographs of paths, signs, ways, roads, walking trails, tunnels, railways, and so on. Totally unplanned, but I managed to get several pictures that fit the challenge (some not shown here). In addition to seeking your photos, Cee has some intriguing photos of her own this week, particularly a “shadow tree-person” that could easily be used to fuel a fiction-writing prompt.

And remember: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” (Mark Twain, from Innocents Abroad)

Spending My Words: Sixteen Quotes on the Craft of Writing


So many stacks, so little time. (And this is a small one to select from, in the “library”!)

For no particular reason other than word-love, here are some quotes on writing, perseverance, and the writing life. Some are also beautiful examples of writing. I hope at least a few are ones you’ve never read and they encourage you to seek out more from that author, if s/he is unfamiliar to you.

  • The incurable itch of writing possesses many. (Tenet insanabile multos scribendi cacoëthes.)–Juvenal, Satire, VII
  • True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,/As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.–Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism, II
  • I have words to spend and sometimes spend them foolishly, of course, squandering verbs and nouns, sending metaphors askew, and using similes like fireworks whose sparks often fail to flame.–Robert Cormier, I Have Words to Spend: Reflections of a Small-Town Editor
  • Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.–Jorge Luis Borges, Dr. Brodie’s Report, preface
  • Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.–Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar
  •   . . . it seems to me that subject matter doesn’t determine genre. Genres only start existing when there’s enough of them to form a sort of critical mass in a bookshop, and even that can go away.–Neil Gaiman, ” ‘Let’s talk about genre’: Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation,” The New Statesman
  • If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.–Toni Morrison, attributed by New York Times
  • A good novel tells us the truth about its hero, but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.–G.K. Chesterton, Heretics
  • If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.–William Faulkner, quoted in The Paris Review Interviews, 1959
  • You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
  • This [being put in the “naughty box” by a teacher] was just the first of the many humiliations of my youth that I’ve tried to revenge through my writing. I have never fully exorcised shames that struck me to the heart as a child except through written violence, shadowy caricature, and dark jokes.–Louise Erdrich, The Paris Review, Art of Fiction No. 208
  • [As a mother who writes] Either you end up writing about terrible things happening to children—as if you could ward them off simply by writing about them—or you tie things up in easily opened packages, or you pull your punches as a writer. All deadfalls to watch for.–Erdrich, ibid
  • Get out of your own way and become willing to learn from people who are clearly qualified to offer you sound advice.–Christina Katz, Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids
  •  . . . everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.–Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
  • . . . The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone. so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. . . . –Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Write your heart out. Never be ashamed of your subject, and of your passion for your subject. Your “forbidden” passions are likely to be the fuel for your writing. . . . Without these ill-understood drives you might be a superficially happier person, and a more involved citizen of your community, but it isn’t likely that you will create anything of substance.–Joyce Carol Oates, “To a Young Writer,” in The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art
  • Words. Words that allow us to communicate, to reach out, to touch each other if only verbally. And the other side of words where we find silence. And how silence, too, is precious. Knowing when not to use the words and holding them back, which isn’t always easy.–Robert Cormier, ibid

QUOTES from (in no particular order)

I Have Words to Spend: Reflections of a Small-Town Editor, Robert Cormier, ed. by Constance Senay Cormier, Delacorte Press, 1991.

” ‘Let’s talk about genre’: Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation,” The New Statesman

Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1990.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott, Pantheon Books, 1994.

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carol Oates, HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2003.

The Pocket Book of Quotations, ed. by Henry Davidoff, Pocket Books Inc, 1942.

The New International Dictionary of Quotations, selected by Hugh Rawson and Margaret Miner, Signet, 1988.


The Paris Review, Interviews: Louise Erdrich, The Art of Fiction No. 208