On Rejection and Returning to the Lit World

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve been doing a little slow step back into the lit world. By that I mean doing a little submitting here and there.

So pardon me being in a really navel gazing mood here, but I’m in need of reflection.

If I look back 20 years, what was I submitting?

I had about ten “done” stories (done as in I could only ruin them) I printed them out for five cents a page on paper I was ashamed of at the library. I bought expensive envelopes and hand addressed them to various magazines. I probably had about a 20% answer ration. Zero actual publications. I recall hiding my few rejection slips because I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it. I wish I’d have kept them to be honest.

My stories back then were sort of erotic horror mainly, a little slasher, gore and a few that I thought of as literary. Not one character was Black or queer. They were all nice White folks who were attractive and I was very careful not to reveal or infuse any Blackness because, the places I was submitting didn’t really publish a lot of Black stories aside from the occasional racial pain porn or paean to Maya Angelou penned by White women.

I was also deeply reticent about the literary because I bought into the idea that in order for me to be a writer on that level, I had to be in a writing program.

My earliest publications on the internet were all porn or horror. My favorite early publication was Gay smut and that story is still one of my favorites. If I can find it, I’ll reprint it.

After a couple of years I went for it in the lit community but, I kept my stories either pretty White or unspecified so White by default. I was a very nervous submitter. I probably ruined more stories editing and trying to hone them for specific publications than I did submissions sent. Looking back, I have to laugh a little bit. I wanted so badly to get published, I pushed my instincts and real desires down and tried so hard.

Fast forward another few years and I read this piece on the Rumpus. It low key changed my entire writing life. I mean as far as writing advice goes this:

So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.

Now um, y’all.

That set me on a whole new trajectory.

I hit literary fuck it.

For the next four or so years I wrote and submitted like a mother fucker. Sometime in HA I found it 2011 I stumbled on a thing by Brett Elizabeth Jenkins (who is a badass poet) and it took me a while but I got there. Proudly. I wrote Blackness into my work purposefully and with zero fucks given.

It was liberating and telling.

All these years and submissions and rejections have served to teach me some invaluable lessons in how I submit.

Lesson one: If I find guidelines too confusing or too twee, fuck that publication.

Lesson two: Write whatever the fuck you want to write. Regardless of whether or not you think it will be published. Really, write that shit.

Lesson three: Every now and then, it is okay to pushback against a rejection. For instance: once upon a time yours truly got a sweet job writing custom porn. I passed the initial writing test magnificently, the editor was all about it. And then he looked me up and read my personal online diary (anyone remember Diary-x?) and decided to question me. He wanted to know if- because I am Black and Queer and Out in my personal life) I was capable of writing not those things. I was fucking livid and though I desperately needed the money I read him the riot act and flounced from the job. Sometimes, you just gotta tell somebody they done fucked up. That said, do not be the asshole who emails editors back wanting all their damn time or telling them how stupid they are for not publishing your brilliant treatise on whatever bullshit.

Lesson four: Do please read, the places you are submitting to. That said, if you want to blaze a trail for representation, don’t stop get it get it. On the other side of that coin, you are under no obligation to blaze the trail. Remember, care for your heart y’all.

Lesson five: If you can’t be a certain type of writer, accept it and do what you can do. Don’t be like me and punish yourself for years because you suck at quick turnaround work. Don’t be me. Do you boo.

Lesson six: If you write some bullshit, be ready for blow ack. Also, understand that if you write something offensive or deadass wrong and people call you on it, question the editor this is not censorship. This is what’s called consequences for maybe showing your ass. Don’t be a douchebag about it.

Lesson seven: Trust your Weird Voice. Read all about what I have to say about that in the archives of my newsletter here.

Last, cherish the great rejections. I got one earlier today for one of my weird essays and it was wonderful.And when they say we like your voice or something, submit again.

Now that’s all for now. I’m off to get rejected some more.

You go do you boo.

Do. You.

 

The Soundtrack of the DaiyuVerse

If you’ve been here for a minute y’all know that I have a Patreon where I’m posting an in progress urban fantasy novella that I refer to as the Daiyuverse. How about a lil bite? No context.

“That sounds perfect. Assure her it is in no way permanent. We just want to see how her body responds to less rigorous magical training. Other than that, she is a perfectly healthy young woman.”

Later that night, both doctors, Daiyu, Josh and Papa sat around a table at Papa’s house with chicken and sides from Ezell’s spread across the table, music played in the background and they all laughed and talked long into the night. At one point while they were each on their third serving Josh sat back to look at them, he felt his vision widen out until he was both looking at them from his eyes and looking down from above from his sight.

He watched Daiyu, her dimples flashing as she snatched food off of Papa’s plate. It made him feel better, maybe his visions were off. Just as he felt himself ready to settle back into his body, the scene slowed down. Stretched into a long moment that felt like it was happening somewhere between this world and the one his sight resided in.

Daiyu looked up, he could tell it was not her physical eyes. The face that wasn’t her face smiled at him, her mouth spread across her face until it nearly split her head. It was the sort of thing she’d done when she first learned to throw a glamour. Josh smiled.

“Stop showing off Little Bird.”

The eyes, he could no longer think of them as her eyes, changed. It wasn’t overt, it was something about the glimmer of them that made him stop smiling. The voice that came out of her mouth was not her own. It was a voice he’d heard distantly before, a slow speech with an accent he couldn’t quite place.

“Do be careful looking my boy. I will see you ever so soon. Tirrah, Black Wing.”

The scene cleared and he blinked, Daiyu was waving a drumstick in his face.

“Earth to Josh, you going to eat this?”

He shook off the dread and snatched the chicken out of her hand.

“You know I don’t hit girls but I will fight you if you eat more of my chicken.”

Daiyu jumped up, menacing him. He narrowed his eyes, showed his teeth.

“I’m going to drink your soda.”

He put down his chicken and jumped up, flexing and growling. With a howl they took off running, Daiyu flying tackled Josh and the two of them went tumbling out of the room. Papa shook his head slowly.

“See, that’s why you can’t take them anywhere. They’re like puppies. I’m surprised they don’t piss on the floor.”

Both doctors smiled like a proud auntie and uncle. Dr. Linda stole the drumstick off of Josh’s plate.

“I have eight older brothers. Abandoned plates are fair game “

The three adults split up the leftover food on the kids plates laughing.

One of the things that is central to how this story is shaping up is my soundtrack. I have a very deep connection to my soundtracks at any given moment. I need specific sounds to either elevate/deal with my moods, help me stay awake, write, poop do life.

The writing of the Daiyuverse reaches deep into my literarily and stylistic influences. I’ve been heavily influenced by Dune for this work. I have been working on creating these magical traditions while not erasing the identities of the folks in the story. I’m drawing on the huge amount of magical shit I’ve read from fantasy books/dictionaries to various cultural traditions.

So let’s talk some tracks.

Let me show you some of the inside of my brainmeats.

Billy Paul- Me and Mrs Jones. Y’all, I mean.. like. Just listen to it.

Stevie Wonder- Superstitious OBVIOUSLy.

Funkadelic- Maggot Brain

William Elliott Whitmore- Mutiny

Concrete Blonde- God is A Bullet

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads

I also use this big ass Spotify playlist.

I’ve always had to have a soundtrack to stuff I’m doing. Occasionally they are very specific to the work. I will probably make some more Daiyuverse specific playlists. Things that go with my loose time periods, themes.

I was thinking about this in a convo with another writer about the spaces we work in. I don’t have anywhere private to work. I don’t have an office. I have to work in public, on the bus, at the dayjob. Get it in where I can fit it in. I think for me, getting my writing playlists going is that brain cue that it is time to work.

My headphones are still my office.

And it’s time to get to work.

Influences- How the Cowboy Was Born

First open this here in a new tab. My latest fiction published at Rigorous.

This is gonna be a long ass writing/craft lesson so get some coffee.

Let’s start with the opening paragraph which incidentally is pretty much the one thing that didn’t change through several iterations of this story:

The Cowboy walked into the juke joint at the outside edge of a half-dead town in the deep in the drylands expecting nothing more than a watery beer and perhaps someone to warm his bed that night. The barroom was clean and smelled of the bunches of flowers on most available surfaces. He paused to look down at a bunch of light purple flowers that exuded a scent like nothing he’d ever experienced.

To start out with, I wanted to create an origin myth. If you’ve read me for a while you know that’s kinda my jam. I love creating and reimagining mythos through various lenses. For this particular story I was inspired by the following: *book links are amazon affiliate links

In the Gunslinger Mythos we have all of these fantastical elements that King has so masterfully integrated with the classic Western. For me, I kept wondering what would a Black cowboy in the desert be like? I started out with a Roland Deschain archetype. I wanted to explore the anonymity of my Cowboy and kept him as a nameless man who as you get further into the story has a presence.

In my notes from when I started this story I had a mission to tell the reader that there is magic in this world, that this loner Cowboy is capable of and full of wonder and when I started, this wasn’t actually a love story. It was going to be a gunslinger story. I’d had this want to re-imagine Roland Deschain as this other and this story was originally supposed to be world building practice.

Sometimes, shit does not go as planned.

I got to the Cowboy finding this oasis and now enter my mermaid. I spent some time reading various mermaid myths and settled on an idea. What if in this other world, this dry dirty world of the Cowboy mermaids have had to evolve? If I was that mermaid, where would I post up to hunt?

At a saloon. And because I was intent on giving context clues to the Blackness of this story, I used the worlds Juke Joint rather than saloon. I wanted to evoke both the wild west and the dirty south. Late nights, hard liquor, brown women, dirty dancing.

When I got to this part in the writing of the story I had very definitive ideas about how I wanted this story to continue. Some sensuality, some sensuality from our male protagonist, I wanted to portray him in a way that is often only for female characters. I wanted the Cowboy to have the kind of moment where, you feel so sexy and you forget the good stuff that usually bothers you, see here:

For long minutes he forgot his knobby knees, scars and grizzled body hair. He forgot his big flat feet and narrow buttocks. Her gaze gave him beauty and grace. Her soft eyes pulled him out of his role as Cowboy and into the role of sweet pure lover. “Come, let me bathe you.”

In terms of erotics and sensuality, this male character is feeling a feminine gaze and feels beautiful. So here we have some of my gender role fuckery afoot. This doesn’t show our Cowboy to be emasculated or submissive, rather he’s put into a position to be feelin’ himself.

Because our Cowboy is if not a learned man, an experienced one he knows on some level that he’s in danger and has to fight through his erotic haze to work it out. I didn’t want to bring the eroticism down too much while he was figuring it out. I wasn’t going for boner killer necessarily.

Inside of the realization that he’s in danger the Cowboy let’s his desire lead the way.

I really wanted to give him this moment to understand and accept things.

“Saw these. I know these.” When she put her mouth against his and her soft chubby body squished into his long starved body, The Cowboy wanted to die.

It was a perfect moment. The apotheosis of his most secret desire to be felt and loved. He felt seen for true, the way his Nan had looked at his Nana. It was enough for him to happily go into the next place.

And we also see that this world has Queers.

And an Easter Egg. I first heard the word apotheosis in the Gunslinger and I remember looking it up in a dictionary when I saw it. It is really one of my favorite words. The idea of divine perfection summed up in such a pleasing word tickles me. It is one of my favorites.

Moving along, we’re getting towards the end. I wanted to give the Cowboy some more opportunity for sensualism and to be around women. In this world, women move things as the Cowboy was taught:

“Because they women, and women drive the changes.” Nan took special care to explain the intricacies of womanhood to the Cowboy because he feared women. Men–well, the men he knew–had little in the way of that level of sankofa knowledge.

Often in romance, we see women as being those who have to get ready. I wanted to give the Cowboy another chance to feel pretty. Also, I wanted to give a nod to Black folks going to the salon or barber shop for company and community.

The Cowboy blushed with pleasure and the Aunties chucked him under the chin and whirled into action. One oiled his hair, combed and washed it, another gooped something sweet into it and wrapped it in what he thought might have been some sort of hat. “Excuse me, Auntie? I brought no coin for pretty hats.” The Auntie filing his fingernails snorted and slapped his knee.

“You hush. You too pretty to be such a worry. You are courting the Pisces, we know what she likes.” The Cowboy settled and let the Aunties do as they pleased. They did things to his eyebrows and rubbed his face with unguents, they shaved him. When they were finished, he stood in front of their mirror with tears in his eyes. “I’m pretty.”

In the context of writing this piece, originally I spent a lot of words at this part. This was one of those stories where I had too many ideas and really wanted to jam ALL the things into it. Rather than stopping myself out of hand, I let it happen. One of the drafts of this story topped out at a chunky 7K and wasn’t what I wanted.

In the past, when I’ve put the brakes on my nerdiness, I often didn’t finish the stories. I would kind of flounder deep in nerdland and never slog through it. For this story I took my time and let it all out. This resulted in a couple of super long drafts that didn’t look at all like the published piece. I was able to really see what I wanted to carve out of the bigger mass of nerd.

For this final draft, I felt very purposeful.

I wanted to accomplish a happy ending and I wanted to give a glimpse as to what the story might be if you heard it in another place. One of the ideas I had for this while I was writing it was that it is the origin story of something you might hear in a juke joint in this world or sitting around a campfire. It could have been a more bawdy, more violent, but in this case you (the reader) get the sweetest ending.

During the writing of this piece, I discovered I am actually able to get what I want in a story without it being weird. Normally, I write in a totally different way with fiction. Usually, I write from hearing a voice and having a what if question. For this one, I started with that and the desire to create something to go with a Black cowboy myth as inspired by the Gunslinger.

In this experiment, I really had to stretch to mix Western and fantasy. And I really worked very hard on putting Blackness in there and not making it scream OMG BLACK PPL because that always feels weird to me. I worked very hard to keep my references the way I wanted them and not change them to be more open. I worked the Blackness from the inside out rather from the outside in.

For those writing the other this is something I suggest thinking about and practicing. Rather than, OMG LOOK AT THIS VERY NICE MAGICAL NEGRO OMG LOOK NEGROES LOOK, do some reading. Look at cultural markers and ways to use language that goes beyond misappropriating AAVE.

Overall, for the months put in on this story I am very pleased with it. The process of writing, rewriting, cutting and sculpting this piece was really great if long. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that, while my individual story output for fiction is way down, spending so much time with work is enabling me to really get at some stuff I want to play with and I’m grateful for that.

To end, I’ll show y’all a few more of the inspirations/things that helped me write this piece:

Last lesson, before I wrap this up.

Always tuck away bits of information. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

How to be a Cool Reader

Okay, my darling’ friends.

Can we talk a minute about being a reader on the internet?

So let’s pretend you come across a writer on the internet whom you’ve never heard of before. You read an article somewhere like Medium or here on wordpress let’s talk about stuff not to say to them.

  1. Don’t troll.
  2. Don’t point out that you are doing something they are talking about wanting folks not to do?
  3. Don’t assume they are brand new writers just because you’ve never read their work.
  4. Don’t ask them to give you their entire bibliography.
  5. Use fuckin google.
  6. Don’t be an asshole.
  7. Don’t use google to then find everything that person has written and comment on everything you can to tell them how much they suck.

I don’t say these things because feelings.

Most of the writers I know who have been doing so for more than five minutes have heard it all. I personally went through a lot with a group of commenters who hated a blog I had a long time ago, then when they realized I was a hated blogger who was writing at XoJane, they had at it.

Most of what they said made me scratch my head or just sort of chuckle. I mean, XoJane wasn’t known for the sweetness and light of their community, but y’all, some of them were just so silly. And yes, YES, I really did use a half a sentence in a 1200 word piece to poke a little gentle fun at them because it was funny. And as y’all might imagine, that didn’t go over well either.

That said, they did help me make the decision to no longer publish with Xo. The thing is, my feelings weren’t really hurt. I’ve heard worse from better. What bothered me was that I had to take the time to wade through that bullshit in order to get through to the folks who really had questions or wanted to talk.

People who take up space with bullshit are a pain in the ass.

I have made it a personal goal to never post extraneous comments on shit just because. If I kind of like something, if I really hate it. I just don’t. Mainly because my opinion is not that important and neither is yours.

Most of us who write on the internet, have to deal with a lot of shit. And frankly, there’s no reason for any of us to pipe up to be the shitty one.

I also say this because, most of the time the internet is a crap filled enough place. And really, if you have to point out that you don’t like a random article or blog post on the internet, ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Was this thing I don’t like for me? By that I mean, is it addressing you personally? Do you exhibit the behavior the author is talking about? If so, do you need to do it on their piece?
  2. Is what you have to say actually relevant?
  3. Are you just talking shit because you’re bored or whatever?

If you have to talk shit, here’s how without bothering the author, unless your main goal is to be an asshole.

  • Don’t direct link to the piece. If the author uses analytics and sees a shitload of traffic from one source, they are gonna come and look.
  • Don’t hotlink to their images.
  • Don’t decide that the author is wrong because of their looks, because you’ve never heard of them before etc. Especially if they are talking about their lived life.
  • Keep it amongst your friends. Talk about it in a group chat, text messages whatever.

Basically, keep the author out of it.

Lastly, I say these things because often people who engage in this behavior think they are offering some sort of critical response when 90% of the time they aren’t. They are sealioning, trolling or just being an asshole.

Don’t be an asshole.

If your critical response amounts to LOL LOOK AT ME TROLL, nah son.

Nah.

I personally either ignore that flavor of comment or, do the following:

stares
[image description: photo of Samual L Jackson from the film Pulp Fiction with white text that reads: Stares mutha fucker’ly]

Writer Financials- #1 for 2017

So welcome to my first money post of the year.

Like last year around this time I’m looking at another increase in my cost of living (rent increase, transportation cost increase) to the tune of about 250$ dollars a month.

And no increase in income.

I’ve been mathing things out and budgeting and things aren’t quite dire but it’s not awesome.

I knew that 200 of the increase was coming for a while and as y’all might remember set up a gofundme to try and get a bit ahead. I am not fully funded, but I was able to do stuff like get a tablet, and a real winter coat. Stuff I absolutely wouldn’t have been able to do. I was also able to pay off last years rental insurance entirely and remove the monthly cost.

I also have Patreon. Last year my Patreon money was used mainly for things like some software, I saved up for and bought a new office chair and a desk for my laptop. And I got a new laptop. For a few months I had some treats, Audible and about 15 bucks to buy a fancy coffee once or twice a week.

My Etsy store made 60$ (the bulk of sales in April 2016) and my biggest selling item of the year is my little chapbook The Motherfuckess Manifesta.

This year I’m working on restructuring what I have to stretch.

I’m feeling pressed but not panicked. I have kept my promise to myself to not fuck myself up trying to freelance.

I have three book projects to finish (SCLAB, Poetrybookbabies) and other stuff to do.

So, I have been rebudgeting and it is a bit of an austerity budget. I am-

how do I feel?

I feel very tired. I feel torn about my desire to return to my more lit mag oriented roots because most of the ones I like and that I would like to be published in don’t pay.

I’m not acclimated to working dayshift yet so I’m not sure if my energy will pick up enough to freelance at least a bit. Or pick up enough for me to get a part time job.

Honestly y’all, I will likely not write about this type of thing that much this year. Mainly because of shit like this, I wrote a piece on Medium about why I’m not writing about racism for free right now. Here’s a chunk:

I have been more than open about the rock bottom of how to start working out how privilege functions in our lives, how to start not being or behaving in a racist manner, I’ve wept while I wrote about Black children being the victims of state sanctioned extra judicial murder.

Thousands of words.

Thousands of hours of work, the majority of it unpaid.

Hundreds of hours of being harassed, dealing with the hurt feelings of people I wasn’t talking to on a personal level.

Enough bullshit that I shut down my author facebook page, I limit the contact I have with strangers all so I can do the shit I’m supposed to be doing.

That’s writing.

I am a working writer.

And frankly, if you can’t be arsed to look into my back catalog for the stuff I’ve already said, if you can’t be bothered to say hey, I want to pay you to write/teach about this thing- what are you doing?

One of the responses I left public was from Autumn Cole the founder of something called Writer Beat.

This article has to do with racism and I didn’t pay to read it.

There is a conversation with someone else on that thread and it is tedious.

There were a couple of other comments that were a bit more aggressive about their shitty pettiness and I just don’t have the emotional bandwidth to be out there showing my belly only to see this shit. Especially if I am not getting paid.

Also that shitty ass response is a whole OTHER post in and of itself and is a fine example of how Black people are disrespected so casually so often and folks wonder why some of us just stop doing what we’re doing.

Overall, I’m feeling like poverty has me by the throat. The current US regime will dance on my grave and I have too much to say.

That said, other work is going well.

That’s it for now.

Dwelling in Darkness

Before I get to the darkness, some light. My first fiction publication of the year has gone live at the new magazine Rigorous. Read my cowboy/mermaid myth here. I’ll nerd about it later because I worked on it for months and the original inspiration might make y’all giggle.

I’ll nerd about the origin story for that piece later this week.

Per usual, when things are pretty much non-stop bullshit, I turn to the darker end of lit for comfort. Let’s talk about what I’ve been reading/listening to.

House of Horrors: The Shocking True Story of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Strangler. (Amazon affiliate links ahoy y’all.)This book is pretty dingdang good. I actually followed this case with a lot of interest because really we don’t get to see/read about a lot of non-white serial killers. This book was missing the racial analysis I was craving, something more in depth than poverty and shit. BUT, that said a lot of the early history and behaviors of this killer cut across racial lines to intersect with other serial killers. Pretty good read.

I also reread Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Y’all if you’ve never read this book please read it. This one is a hard one for me to read. Every time I read it, the sameness of many of the struggles I have as a Black person are devastating. On the other hand, I also am soothed by the rhythm of this book and the familiarity. Read the thing.

I have a habit of dipping back into the darkness as y’all know.

May I also suggest some of my fave noir?

I really loved this piece in Out of the Gutter, The Flash Fiction Offensive. Initiation by Brendan Bakala.

For some other noir reading, may I suggest back issues of Thuglit. Like issue #5 (I’m in this one) I also suggest reading stuff by the publisher of Thuglit Todd Robinson. He’s good people and his writing is fucking tight. Read The Hard Bounce. I really fell in love with his characters Boo and Junior. His work is vivid and has a beating heart. Get into it.

Lamentation by my homie Joe Clifford, another one that I love. Y’all, like get on that. It is a series and it’s good.

Want something lighter?

Battle Hill Bolero (Bone Street Rumba) by my dude Daniel Jose Older. If I’m not mistaken, this is the last in the Bone Street Rumba series (noooooooooooooooo) and it is so fucking good. It’s just, god damn it. I love this world so much I never want it to end for purely selfish reasons. Just…start at the beginning and read them all.

For an intense but not totally heart breaking read, start up the Broken Earth books by N.K. Jemisin. Start with The Fifth Season. If you like your fantasy with some literary bent and really detailed and showcasing some major, major researching skills, get it. These books are gorgeous.

If you need to get really sucked in deep into a whole other world, read The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. I liked this book, it wasn’t totally what I needed but it is very very good and goes deep into world building and the language is beautiful. 

Thing is, right now we all need some fucking space that isn’t littered with the actual fire that is burning up America right now and fixing to light up the rest of the world.

Don’t feel bad if you need to get away because we all need some of that lately.

What have I been doing?

Well I’ve been writing poems and SCLAB and a few stories. Trying to hang on to my sanity.

Before I go, how about a look at a bite of a hood noir story I started. Another one with a brother and sister duo, I’ve got a thing for that.

“You-‘

Tyrell heard his sister yelling from the front hall all the way into his office and cringed.

“Rusty ass. No account ass. Trifling ass. Shitty ass mother fucker.”

He heard her stomp past his door, steady talking shit.

“One more fuckin’ time I gotta do some nasty shit like that, you gonna take a dick for the team. Chicken ass, scary ass, useless looking bullshitting ass, but you’re better at this Tye Tye, lying ass-“

Her voice muted as the bathroom door slammed. Tyrell heaved a sigh and made a gesture at the other man in his office.

OH one more thing.

My birthday is in March and per request here is my wishlist.

Craft Notes- Deconstructing Desiderium*

Okay.

Buckle up.

It is fixing to get super nerdy today.

First, open this entry from the other day so you can see what I’m talking about.

I did one last Yeah, Write for the year. I posted a little erotic flash story I wrote on my phone titled Desiderium.

I’m going to take it apart and show y’all what I was doing and why I made the choices I made with it.

First the title.

Desiderium is in the group of Latin words relating to desire.  I am a major nerd about things like where words come from and while I was perusing wiktionary for inspiration, I found this:

Etymology[edit]

From dēsīderō(want, desire, wish for; miss, lack, need).

I had bookmarked the entry for desiderium, I have had the word, knocking around my brain for a little while. The other thing that is always rumbling in my brain is the concept of limerence as it was introduced to me by Remittance Girl a few years ago. I can’t remember the context of how it happened, but I do recall that conceptually limerence interests me as a thing to explore.

What the fuck is limerence?

For simplicity, let’s work from this definition from wiki:

Limerence (also infatuated love) is a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person and typically includes obsessive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love and have one’s feelings reciprocated. PsychologistDorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” for her 1979 book, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, to describe a concept that had grown out of her work in the mid-1960s, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love.[1]

In the context of themes I want to play with, I wanted to explore what I call Dark Limerence.

The place where things get weird and bloody. That said, I didn’t want to explore it from a kind of typical Dude sees girl, dude stalks girl..y’all know.

I like to explore lust and limerence through the lens of a female perspective that lives firmly in the taboo. Violent sex, aggression, predation. The very typically “masculine” methods of seduction as presented to us as romance or erotic.

While I’m playing with these themes, I also want to avoid the rape fantasy. Not because I dislike or disapprove. I have zero opinions on whether or not women can have them.

I want to avoid it because often, women are presented only with rape fantasies as a means of exploring eroticized violence and I don’t like that. I think it’s limiting and silly.

I also like to play with the erotic being presented in such a way that maybe it’s erotic but it’s not really explicit but it is absolutely grown folks business.

This narrator, she is in the throes of the kind of memory that makes you wriggle around in your chair because your crotch is tingling. In writing it I wrote it to appear like this:

I want.

I need.

Black wings, a flutter against my skull. I see you and can’t stop the thoughts. Is this mania? When I see the skin beneath your ear, all I can think about is how soft it is, how vulnerable. Teeth or blade? Kiss or bite? Predation. Lust.

I use the two short phrases: I want. I need. To give the reader a moment to start to understand what is happening, the narrator is telling us that she needs. I used the right justification in order to give a visual to almost hearing this in dual voice. The Id “Id rattling the bars. I am a shell.” is almost fighting with itself. We have the simple but powerful phrases: I want. I need. And then we have the poetry of black wings and these questions.

This voice is a secret voice. It is the sort of voice we tend not to see women have in literature erotic or not. This isn’t performative sluthood, this is desire-need- with a big bold face.

I use italics in a few places more for visual aesthetic reasons than any other.

At the end, I bring it to where you the reader know what she’s thinking of. Rough sex. But, I don’t give you enough to figure out the context. Is it make up sex? Hate fuck?

Later, when we are spent, bruised and battered we will weep.

Drop salt tears on my breast, your cock hard again in my hand.

This isn’t a desire we often get to see from women. We see her move from talking to herself, to talking to her lover. She’s talking to both of us and at the end again, tells us exactly what she wants and who she is.

I am want.

I am need.

*I am longing for what is lost. 

A few things about the end here.

I very purposefully used a vague sense of time in this piece. We don’t know when any of this happened, if it happened, if it is fantasy or what? This could be playing out in her head on the subway, in traffic. She might be washing dishes and having this fantasy/memory.

I did that on purpose. I had a more concrete ending to the original version of this piece. The original ending was that she got home and beat up/fucked her partner.

I scrapped it because in terms of when I wrote prose poems/flash fiction, I love leaving it wide open. I know a lot of readers hate it, I hate it sometimes, but when it works, it leaves things that crawl under your skin and I like that.

The last line with the asterisk is also an easter egg if you’re a nerd. You’ll notice that the title is asterisked

Desiderium*

And the last line *I am longing for what is lost.  

The last line gives the meaning to the title if you hadn’t already figured it out.

So there you go.

If you would like a writing lesson for the day here it is.

Tuck away things you learn from other writers. There are times when while other artists talk about their work, what things mean to them it might help you identify something you like to play with.

And play.

Play with themes, play with what words make happen in your head. Play with tropes and commonly held ideas about how people are supposed to be.

Have some fuckin fun y’all.