Notes from Stay At Home Weirdo

First things first, look at my new baby.

newb b
[image of a Samsung Chromebook]
SO after much trial and error, I was able to get this little beauty with the help of friends for my birthday (it was 03/16) and I love her. This is last years model and she was under 150$. At 11″ and just over 3lbs, this is the perfect machine for me. The full size laptop I bought last year is a fine machine but just not for me. It was too big and I couldn’t figure out how to work on it comfortably for a long time.

She doesn’t have a name yet.

So well. I’ll assume we’re all in a state. And I don’t want to talk about it right now.

Instead let’s talk about some of the stuff I’m working on and reading rn.

Later this week I’ll be reviewing Gabino again because god damn.

Also some AMAZING NEWS. I will be making my Weird Fiction debut this year. I wrote a tiny thing and it will be in a future edition of Weird Whispers from Nightscape Press. I am so excited to work with them and be on their roster. The publishers are good people. The other writers they work with are fucking stellar. Please go check out their store.They publish a lot of good shit.

What else?

I am not working at home for a variety of reasons. I am going to work on the daily. It isn’t awful.

AH so coming up more book reviews. More craft nonsense. I’ve had my lil chromebook *still no name..weird* for a bit and that lil bb is just perfect for me to work on comfortably so, MORE WORDS.

Oh also if you are lacking stuff to read. Head to this new area of my website and you can download pdfs to read. If you are so moved, feel free to tip me out. I’ll be adding more soon.

I’m struggling but trying. I’m working on some things. Including some dorky ass craft notes. I’ve got some Daiyuverse news.…which will probs be part of the craft shit I’m working on.

I think that’s all for right now. Later taters.

Book Review- On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff

Nikki+–+On+Being+Human
[image description: a photo of the book On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking up, Living Real, And Listening Hard
Okay buckle up babes.

If you’ve been here a while you’ll remember Beloved Jen from this post.  AND after months let’s get it going with my review.

At first blush, On Being Human*   and really Jen’s stuff probably doesn’t seem like my shit. Like I hate doing yoga and on the surface at first glance, nah. But, and if you remember from my last post I don’t recall how I got aquainted with Jen but, I’m so glad I did.

The thing I love about Jen and her book is that, it isn’t a blow sunshine up your ass type of book. In terms of memoir, I don’t really like the sunshiney redemption arcs. This book gives us an intimate look at and ride with her through a lot.

We go through death, pain, shame that ride, whew chile.

I love this book because it reflects a lot of the tone and emotion of things I’ve wanted to do in my own work. Less than 20 pages in, is where I got hooked.

“I have spent my whole life trying to hide who I was,”

Full disclosure, when I first got the book I very literally stopped on that paragraph on page 14 and put the book down for two weeks. That was me for so long. For years, I spent most of my energy beating myself with my shame(s). For me when I read memoir, there is frequently a moment like this, I have to put it down and exhale because for a second, I know the writer. I am them.

OKAY on to some nerdy shit.

In terms of memoir I have read them fairly widely. I prefer my memoir to be a little messy, not overly fancy. Jen uses a clarity of language that is plain enough to be very, I hate the word but it is very relatable. Unlike a lot of folks in the self helpy area of the world, Jen is not afraid to say fuck and mean it.

If you follow Jen on social media and you read the book, you know this is real. To steal half of one of her favorite phrases, it is no bullshit. I appreciate that both as a reader and as a writer. Often when folks reach a particular area of fame within their chosen area of the lit world, suddenly they aren’t the person who ever said fuck or shit or how they actually feel about anything.

There is a grace to Jen’s work that is honest and grounded. There is a LOT of woo in the world of self helpy, yoga stuff and this book is not that. There is a depth of exposed humanity that is why I like her so much both as a writer and as a human being. This is work you can hold on to.

This work is meaty and has flesh. It has tears and will probably give you some cries and some giggles. I think there are a lot of us who might see reflections of our own paths in life without the, aspirational aspect of a lot of this type of work that turns me off. Jen isn’t posturing as the person you want to be. In this work she’s showing us her heart and that is what I like.

So TL:DR this is a great fucking book. I will reread it again. I will continue to enjoy her work and humanity and sometimes, this is the best part sometimes, I think of that line from page 14 and I let out a breathe.

Neither of us has to be that person anymore and that is a beautiful thing. This book is about more than a glow up.

Read it. Get to know one of my favorite humans.

Next review we’ll be talking about another fave human of mine, Gabino Iglesias. Stay tuned babes!

Thuglit, White dudes and Hella Gay Crime Fiction

Today is brought to you by the homie Todd Robinson on a podcast. Listen to that here.

So Todd was the editor of Thuglit. I read it a lot. I linked to the issue I was in cause I am V. Proud of that story. But I don’t want to talk craft right now.

Instead I want to talk about being welcomed with big open arms into a genre where, I did not see my ideas reflected and decided to actually dive in. Technically I think my first noir/crime story was actually published in the Flash Fiction Offensive (BIG CW for racialized violence).

I think (SHIT I can’t remember) but I was a lurker in the noir/crime area of short lit for a long time. Y’all know, I do love me some grimy fiction and the FFO piece was a very early example of where I’d want to go with it.

Of all of the areas of the lit world I have been in, this part has been the most open and welcoming. A genre of mainly white men, who have given me space to be Black and queer as fuck. Even when the stories weren’t queer necessarily. And when the stories were queer as fuck, not one concern was expressed.

What’s interesting to me is that, of all of my work over the last 20 years, these stories (more will be linked below) generated the least blowback from other people writing in the genre as well as fans.

When I did this flash piece that was accepted at Shotgun Honey I did prepare myself to hear the usual kinds of shit. I was ready to deal with people “just asking” why the character is Black AND gay. WHY is there a Beyonce reference? I expected to be grilled about it being unrealistic and zero of that happened.

Y’all…it was ZERO. Matter of fact, I remember very well getting a note on twitter from a rando white dude and he told me he was excited to find a Black author in crime stuff. Mind blown.

The reason I was so blown away by that reception is that, in other areas of my work this is not usually what happens. Outside of my ride or die readers, often the responses are a mixed bag of shit. People mad about something and honestly, it can be really exhausting.

Another great experience was when I was asked to contribute to a special issue of The Big click. Country noir. Honestly, this is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever done. It was edited by the lovely Court Merrigan and like working with Big Daddy Thug Todd, it was a really good experience.

Being given the freedom to be Black and Queer and write a story like the Queen of Orla was really precious to me. There were a couple of references Court had to ask me about, but the important thing is he asked me and accepted what I had to say. In none of these instances have I been asked to tone it down.

Folks that read the Orla piece recognized that it was a tribute to the movie Bound. I say it in the story and some of the responses were so good.

There have been times in my literary career where, my Blackness and Queerness has been a problem. Not always in the context of the actual work I’ve done but in being who I am. There was the job I rage quit because the editor had googled me and was uncertain I could write not Black and not Queer in spite of him the day before having told me my sample was amazing.

There have been thousands of hate messages.

These men, really gave me an opportunity to do the shit I love to do and play. I’ve been treated with respect, I’ve been treated with care and my work has been respected and enjoyed. I can’t say that for a lot of the literary world.

ALSO I’ve been able to read and talk to some other fantastic folks. Two of my faves below.

Joe Cliffordof whom I VERY fond of.  He’s a stand up person and his work is fuckin solid man.

And Gabino Iglesias. Read this review, I have a review of his book Coyote Songs forthcoming. TL:DR while reading both times, I spent a lot of time going goddamn this mother fucker and wanting to either hug him or punch him. So, like it is really fucking good.

The moral of the story is this. Sometimes, we get to work with and meet people who defy all of our expectations about how we’ll be treated. The dudes I’m talking about here, (along with some others we’ll talk about later because reasons) really have a special place in my heart. Go read their work.

Death Threats, censorship and musings.

BIG OLE CW on this post babes. There’s gonna be talk about racial harassment, death threats, rape threats etc through my career. I am not going to direct quote but it is going to be a ride.

Ahem. First I need you to read/look at two things. First this piece by Roxane Gay. And this, BIG CW on this one good buddy.

In terms of internet writing I am ancient. I have been doing this shit for a long ass time. I’ve been involved in various kinds of bullshit over the years. For the I don’t know how many troll and rage and hate comments, messages and emails I’ve gotten over the years, death and rape threats have been a constant.

I remember the first death threat I took seriously and what I said to earn it. I was still figuring out my non-fiction work and was writing kind of airy arty farty proto essays mostly about sex. I had written about having been approached by a “Dom” who wanted to do some Gor based race fantasy shit I was not there for.

I was in the middle of my joyous slutdom and wrote about how bummed it made me to get constantly rejected in public by dudes like this but how uncomfortable it made me to have them want me to be their Black Pussy experience.

I got this email from an Angry Dom, from an email with a local to me IP address (remember when you could tell SO MUCH from just that) and from context clues I was 90% sure he knew who I was. It was one of those moments when I didn’t know what to do or how to feel. I’ve had people threaten and use violence against me in meatspace, I knew what to do in that instance.

I wound up ignoring him.

Over the years, I’ve made a lot of people angry with my words. When I had the audacity to suggest that fat people are human and shouldn’t be abused, I recall an angry pastor who prayed for my slow death. I’ve been threatened with death and rape for having opinions about poetry, for being Black and alive, for having a vagina and saying things.

Whenever I see people who seem to think that these things don’t actually happen, Or that the discomfort of white women especially is tantamount to the dangers marginalized people face when we say anything. Often, these things are not the same things.

In my experience, when publishing houses start to back up their authors who have in fact fucked up, often the “violence” comes off to me as so low key.

dragged
[image description: a white man holding a sign that says in all caps, they finna drag you]
This might be a character flaw but look. If you’re getting absolutely fucking dragged. DRAGGED. It is uncomfortable. Sometimes it can feel scary, personal and like your life is in fact in danger.

It is not the same thing as having published something and opening your email to a hundred emails all saying, die nigger.

Not the same.

An example from my life.

A famous conceptual poet who’s name I’m not fucking mentioning because his stans are shitbirds, did some things and I wrote about them. Yes I fucked dragged him, dragged some other conpo folks, I went the fuck in. I did.

What that was, was yes a little violent in the context of yeah hard words.

It was not, hey u X poet you piece of shit I’m gonna murder you.

Not the same thing y’all.

This whole situation is one I feel like I will get embroiled in again. Not this one in particular because it is not my lane but, it is literally the same bullshit I have heard for so long.

The deliberate mangling of what censorship is, the wailing of a White woman who fucked up and is facing consequences and the ways in which the publishing industry will work to protect her and not the people she caused harm. I been here. I hate it.

If you have not experienced this, I don’t wish it on you. That said, I really want to encourage especially white people to really read all the links you can find in the Guardian there. I want you to go into it with the knowledge that you’re gonna feel some type of way and I want you to sit with it and not retreat into the kind of fragility that results in this shit happening.

Now some other links.

Myriam on Latino Rebels.

Me on the effects of racial harassment on me. 

Me on racism in the lit world.

I am quoted in this piece by beloved Dena Rash Guzman in the Rumpus on Death threats.

I think that’s all.

Talk Nerdy to me- The Origin of the Ghost story Gina Goes Home

Okay buckle up it is fixin to get nerdy af up in this piece today.

Today we’re gonna go all the way the fuck in about a story I wrote last year. Okay you can go read it first or just follow along in another tab, find the chonky baby here.

The Inspiration

I love a good ghost story. I love ghost stories inside of religious mythos, campire yarns. Music, movies, stories I love ghosties. I also love watching paranormal investigation shows. Ghost Hunters, I frickin LOVE Zak Bagins. I watch amateurs on youtube. Love it. That was the initial inspiration.

The other inspo was this. There are theories (no I’m not gonna argue with you if you believe in it or not so don’t) that if you are being haunted, ask the dead what they want. I’ve seen it in movies, referenced in American Gods when Shadow’s dead wife visits and Wednesday asks him if he asked her what she wanted.

The Story

The first thing that this story said to me was, the dead want something. They want someone. They want Gina. I felt like I wanted to tell a story of a modern haunt. Not a historic type thing like a Gray Lady, or even a haunting that would be on an Overlook hotel level.

I really wanted to start small. I call it quaint in the story. I was imagining the kind of hotel you drive by on a roadtrip through the country, not fancy, probably a little shabby but charming. I also wanted to give the reader a clear idea that shit was about to get fucked up.

We get there by the second paragraph, I wasn’t going for subtle. That said, it isn’t the scariest thing, it is if you’re a skeptic you could say that meh, not that bad. See below:

The quaintness of the resident ghosts lasted until 2015. The first report, in the form of a middle-aged shrieking man in basketball shorts and little else came hauling his half naked self-down four flights of stairs. “There, help, please-” Mariah at the front desk had experienced a jumpy guest or two, she had a spare robe behind the desk for such occasions and offered to the gentleman while assuring him she’d check out his room.

This sort of thing happens a lot in hotels. Folks will act up in all sorts of ways and I didn’t want to come right out the gate with the BOO GHOST!

In the next paragraph we have the first instance of what the dead want. If you’ve read me a lot, you know I like to play with repetition for varying effects and in this case, I want the reader to not only hear what the dead want but, at some point it does get unsettling. Who is Gina? Where is Gina? How do we get Gina? What do they want with Gina?

One of the other things I did in this story was get into the body. Horror gives us such a great opportunity to really do things that are not unsettling because they are traditionally creepy but, I think a lot of us have bodily responses to things and sometimes our bodies will duplicate what we’re reading or seeing in sympathy. Looky here:

The sexless whisper was clear as day and came from the still air. She felt no chill, no movement, no sense of another person in the room. Fear gripped her sacrum in cold, hard fingers. Her anus contracted, her whole body tingled, and turned to stone. It took all of her will to take a breath and turn her head to the right. She forced her eyes wide open and saw nothing. She scooted out of the room and stood in the hallway, “oh shit.”

This paragraph is where I get creepy. I didn’t necessarily want to use common ghost tropes to begin with, cold spots, woowoo chain rattling etc. But the body. Those are always my favorite responses when I watch my paranormal shows and I am fascinated with how our bodies do stuff. When your butthole clenches up because oh fuck what the fuck was that. I really LOVE getting into the body. Real talk, I feel like the best way to learn this technique is to write some real nasty erotica. I’m talking super explicit in order to expand your thinking as to how bodies work and can work.

We’ll talk more about that at another time.

Through the next bits I hit on some common ghost/haunting stuff I hear in my shows. Construction riles up ghosts. I was really thinking of something a friend told me about the hotel he’d been working in. They were refurbishing it and the ghosts went buck fuckin wild and caused at least three of housekeeping to straight up fled mid shift.

As we get into some more of the action, I leave little breadcrumbs that these are not white people. That is important to me and interestingly enough, I did have one white reader be not really here for it because the framing of how these non white folks deal with it, is not what we’re presented with in the paranormal stuff I like.

It starts with this:

“Well ma’am, there are unhappy spirits asking for Gina. We’ve done everything, the ofrenda is fresh, the sills and doorways have been protected. Evelyn even brought her Grandfather around to say a blessing.”

This is not for white readers to be honest. This is a headnod to other POC from me. We have an ofrenda, if that’s too much Spanish google it. Also FYI I do not EVER italicize other languages. Fight me don’t @ me.

SHIT I am long winded as fuck. Anyway moving along.

To speed things along, I added some bro type ghost hunters who wanted to provoke and then, I decided to get into the entities. I wanted to explore the maybe was once human but is not totally not type ghosty, along with some lesser ghosties and create a community so they could have a goal. To get Gina.

As they say, a broken clock is right twice a day and the leader of the ghost hunting group was right about one thing. There was something bad. Someone bad, the other dead called him Boss. While the crew gathered themselves, the dead congregated in the basement. While the camera in the corner rolled, the air roiled with orbs and zigzagging streaks of energy.

“Boss? Boss make them get Gina. Bring Gina home.” Some of the hobgoblins grouped together to whisper, “Gina. Where is Gina?” The chorus of Gina and where is Gina and bring her home wavered through the air. “Boss tell them. Tell them.” Something that resided in the crawl space let their high, thin wail out and spoke for them all, “we want Gina. Gina must come home.”

Now, to me it is a bit more frightening to have the ghosties decide to gang up. Then I went into some classic haunting stuff, the cold air, the more traditional type haunt we get to see on the shows.

In order not to totally spoil the rest cause I want you to read it. I really went in on the idea of after the investigators came, how the situation gets solved and as usual, I wrote a not entirely satisfying ending. it ends but I don’t tell you everything that happened because I’m an asshole. I don’t explain who Gina really is, why they want her or anything.

So the overall lesson is this. Try some shit out. I’ve never written a ghost story like this before and I quite enjoyed doing it. Below find some relevant links.

Zak Bagans Demon House lost footage.

Ofrenda altars, also to give an in the know reader a sense of the time of year.

DASSIT. Happy Women in Horror Month!

Tiny Fictions- Microprose From my Phone

I have been writing microprose on the memo function of my phone. Below find some plucked from my archive.

#1 We never left that golden moment. We knew then, how to be immortal. If only: for a minute.

#2 You’ll know them by the shadows behind their eyes and the blood in their breath. They are the quiet ones.  You’ll know. We all know.

#3 Through the heavy morning. The sun still wants what she wants. She wants I feel her own heat taken in and returned with glory. She wants to kiss my skin like the lover she will never know. She wants to know the sweetness of brown skin and hair that reaches for her too. I tilt my face up. Watch her burn the clouds and smile.

I’m hers. I am always hers.

#4 We see her, all of them. We know them, we Innocents who will not see, we Innocents who must not believe know how her. She walks with q switch in her hips and death in her eyes.

We know. We refuse. It is our right and our demise.

#5 He died.

He’s still dead and I’m still mad. He never saw me confidently reading poetry or heard me drunk and singing dirty blues. His hand still sits on mine sometimes, when I write things that hurt. He’s gone but not.

Occasionally when I write something a little lyrical I hear his shy voice, singing low the way he liked to sing to me on the phone.

But, he died.

~

Short writing lesson babes.

Don’t be afraid to play with microprose. Try a new voice, try a POV you don’t usually use. Try out vocabulary you don’t usually use. Try out, abandoning the traditional Western idea of a story and do something else. Make it like a poem.

Micro/super short flash is a really great way to do this. I also recommend doing it to limber up like stretching before you work out. Sometimes I also use these when I want to write a new story. So remember my loves, don’t throw that shit away.

Your turn, give it a shot.

Oh Uncle Steve..

Before I get going, let me give y’all some background.

I have loved Stephen King since I was 8 years old. The first adult novel I read was ‘Firestarter’. I thought it was verboten so I hid a borrowed copy and read it feverishly whenever I could until I finished it. I have been a lover of horror since.

As an adult I have struggled with my love of King. I wanted to excuse his Magical Negros and constant fallback to racist tropes. I tried.

My love of his oeuvre and the impact on the artist I am not withstanding, I gotta once again realize that Uncle Steve ain’t here for folks like me.

ohnobb
[image description: a tweet by Stephen King that reads: …I wound never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me to do otherwise would be wrong. Dated 4:20 AM Jan 14, 2020
Unky Steve tried to walk it back but look.

This issue is something I’ve spoken about for ages. I’m not gonna rehash. But let’s get a few things 100.

  1. This position assumes all things are equal. They are not.
  2. This position assumes that, things like institutional racism, sexism etc has no bearing in the arts. They do.
  3. It is just a goddamn bad take.

The main problem with people in Kings position making these type proclamations is that, he is in SUCH a position of influence. Like when I wrote about Phil Anselmo from one of my fave bands Pantera doing Nazi-esque shit as “jokes” I have the same issue here. Yeah, he might not have meant it that way but, there is an impact.

Like Phil, I fucking still love the dude. If I knew either of them, I’d probably just be like BRO WHAT THE FUCK IS U DOING….because I care about them. I enjoy their art.

Here’s the thing.

When people in positions of influene, like Mssrs. Anselmo and King, say and do dumb shit like this, there is a large part of their fans/followers and people they influence in their respective arenas who absolutely use things like this to back their own bias and put it into action.

The problem is that, it is #20-dingdang-20 and we HAVE to stop allowing White liberals to say shit like this and pretend like it is fine. It is not fine.

Had Uncle Steve been paying attention to his own industry for I dunno the last 15 years, he’d probably be well aware that in his most famous genre in particular, women, POC, etc have not been exactly welcomed with open arms.

We who are not cis white hetero men, don’t have the luxury of sitting back and resting on the quality of our work. We never have. Here in the year of fuckery of 2020 we still don’t.

As it is, right this minute. There are many white people in influential positions in horror publishing who are publicly neonazis. This is happening now.

How about a storytime? This is post Racefail ’09 and happened to me a few years ago when I decided to maybe start easing my way back into the horror area of lit life, I went to an event where there were HWA people.

It was some bucketlist shit for me. Many moons and out of prints ago, I was super close to making enough pro horror sales to qualify to be a member. That is all I wanted in life. Now, you may or may not know that in meatspace, I can be kinda shy and skittish. I’m a feral cat in a dress and easily startled. BUT when I wanna meet folks, I sweat and get it done.

I met some folks from the org and they were nice white folks. Generally welcoming, I don’t know if they were local to me. BUT, when we started talking authors, neither of them (and they were both older than me) had heard of not one SINGLE Black writer I mentioned. Most of the writers I tried to talk to them about were members in good standing, several of them were quite prolific and included Tananarive Due.

Tananarive Due.

……………

Y’all. It was enlightening to me.

The fact that they had NO IDEA of contempary horror writers who were producing work for big houses at that point, and weirdly they were all not White….

For a bit further sauce, around the same time I had been contacted by a small (no longer around) horror start up mag. They knew of my work from my porny horror I’d had published years earlier, they were nice White folks who said diversity a lot.

They liked a lot of the horror stuff I like. They solicited work from me. I may have the bones of the story somewhere but basically, it was a hood ass haunted house story. Very classic haunting and yes in the hood without the smirk. Hood kids, one of them with a root working Nana,

Their style of editing was quite eh, handsy. They wanted to work in a very collaborative, edit as you go type of way that they framed as “shaping” and “development”. I wasn’t a fan but I really wanted to be in their debut issue with a fat ass Blackity Black Black horror story.

As we worked, most of their inquiries were thinly veiled white folks being amazed that Black things exist. A lot of the story was hooked to 90s r&b and they questioned if their audience would recognize it. See also questions about if their audience would “feel” things like:

  • Mentioning braids or beaded hairstyles
  • Very light AAVE
  • Endless questions about things folks in the story did/knew about. Black biker gangs, passing mention of thins like Rodney King (remember this was very much placed in the 90s),

Etc etc. It became very clear to me that their discomfort was not the story itself but the absolutely unapologetic Blackness. That this story was not centered in the White gaze and thus was not “relatable”. They never questioned the quality of the work. They loved the idea but not the execution in that it was not, centered in the traditionally super whiteness of Horror.

I pulled out. I couldn’t take it. I felt so beat down and defeated. After that, I bounced off of horror for a long time. I didn’t read a lot of it, I didn’t follow the industry. I stuck to tried and true faves until the Anti-Blackness in those (UNCLE STEVE) was too much for me.

So look.

We can’t keep pretending that all things are equal in any sense of the word. Uncle Steve, please stop. This shit is exhausting. Read the link below and follow the links in it. Y’all can we fuckin not.

#StokersSoWhite: 2016-2018, the fall of tokenism at the HWA by Sumiko Saulson.