Art Life Musings- Be That Shit my Dude.

Let’s talk about some stuff on my mind today.

Looky here.

So if you’ve been here a minute you already know but for the new folks, hi. I am a self taught human. By traditional mainstream markers, I’m pretty uneducated. I barely graduated high school, was a near drop out, did not go to nor do I intend to go to college. I know, let it sink in.

Very early on, probably by the time I was 16 I saw academia for what it was/is and nah son. It ain’t for me. At one point, I fully intended to go the academic route. I got accepted to some really great schools with programs i was into. I was leery but had decided on one when my financial circumstances (basically my parents were like LOL good luck paying for that) changed and I was entirely unable to do financial aid on my own (it is complicated) and had no other real options.

I only wanted to go that route because I thought I was supposed to and it is what my friends were doing. What moved me at that age, I wasn’t being taught. I had to go outside of what was available to me in my immediate community (remember, I’m old there wasn’t really internet and I barely BBS’d) to learn about actual Black history that wasn’t tainted by anti-blackness, to learn about womanism and feminism, to learn about sexuality and gender, to learn about sex, and most importantly how to write.

Until someone handed me the term autodidact, I just thought I was smartish for where I came from but too dumb to do anything else.

Now with that as background, understand that at this point (WOOWOO almost 41) I realize, that this is just how I function and trying to teach myself how to do something I want to do is gonna make me act weird and feel weird and I’m going to go through this repeatedly because I love teaching myself new shit.

This is on my mind because I’ve been dabbling in memoir. I think I mentioned that a while back I dunno.

The memoir I’m putting my butt in, is more in the vein of my lit Dads than it is, the ciswhitelady healing journey to look at poor people or whatever memoirs that are ubiquitous. Grimy. Not really verifiable in that I ain’t a snitch and I don’t know a lot of legal names and I have a bullshit memory. So I’m trying to weave these stories in a very intimate way.

Intimate and really dirty. Not dirty like crotch tingling dirty but, dirty in the grimy hood/street shit happened.

This is grime in winged liner, queer as fuck etc.

One of the reasons I’m struggling is I’m trying to balance out how hard I code switch, how much I want to tell, and not trying to polish it or soften it for publication. I’ve not read a lot of things like this, of course there were the gay books/memoirs I read in the 90s that were by and large by white cis men.

As I mention in my tweeter thread, I learn a lot by seeing and then shaping what I want to do. Baby see, baby fuck it up and do it their own way.

Hard as this type of learning is, it is the most rewarding for me. I believe in my ability to fuse the grime, femme, queer, etc into something that someone will read and feel me. But I also hate it because it is fucking hard.

I’m also trying *SO FUCKIN HARD* to teach myself to write about art. I’m working on a thing that is about (might be my first braided essay) art, outsider art, being shaped by what I thought that meant, and the included Whiteness and having my heart broken and having to smash my own little niche out of the world and shit.

This has been so hard. I am angry and upset about it because I admire people who can write about art so much. I LOVE reading esoteric and academic shit about art, I don’t understand it but I love it. And I want to get this out so bad, I just can’t find the way.

I’m almost there.

This is also why bloggin has slowed down. I’m really deep in figuring some shit out.

Honestly, if I’m not blogging as much as usual this is probably what is happening to be honest.

What else?

Oh smol side hustle update.

I made a whole sixteen cents on Medium for Feb. For up til now for 2018 across various platforms, I average about 2-5 views. On Medium if I put up something new I get a fairly low read to click ratio. Doesn’t matter the content.

So I’ll likely be putting less behind the paywall because frankly after that initial bit of cash, it is turning out that I don’t have a paying audience there. Or no, actually I don’t have an audience who already pays who is willing to support me in that way. We’ll talk about that cause i have theories.

So yeah.

That’s all.

I will be putting out a new loveletter tomorrow babes. Check out the archive here and sign up, I promise you’ll like it.


Hustle Report And Whatnots.

Hello there.

My life is chaos soup with a stress bomb salad right now so let’s talk hustle updates.

So it is now about the end of Feb and I am in the process of changing my hustle yet again. Here is where I was at new year.

I’ve been experimenting with my side hustles. Namely Steemit and paid content at Medium. Starred items at medium are behind the paywall.

Let’s talk stats and whatnots.

Medium first. At Medium I’ve experimented with humor, feminism and reprints.

I started the experiment Sep 24, 2017. For three pieces posted behind the paywall that much I got $1.61. One body image essay, one much rejected literary essay about diversity and one racial pain pornish essay. The only one that earned was the race essay.

It had: 107 views, 29 reads and 5 fans and 144 claps. For medium speak, that is fairly average for my stuff.

My highest earnings were in Oct 29, 2017 through Nov 26, 2017 I earned $28.29, one of my humorous but serious Dear Sir/s pieces earned the most at $26.71. Everything else was either 0 or neglible. At the time I had 5 total pieces available behind the paywall.

For the last two months I’ve had 11 total pieces available behind the paywall at Medium and made about $2.

On the advice of someone, I have a fairly varied selection. Some shorter things, a little humor, some literary, some body image, some race stuff. But, most of it either goes entirely unread or performs very poorly.

For Steemit, after my first month on a good day I average 2 views of things from poems to photos. So after an initial run of some okay tips on fiction and poetry that has bottomed out.

Now if you’ve been here a while, you know this is fairly common for me and has been for years.

The more interesting thing to me is this.

I have posted hundreds of thousands of free shit to read. For at least a decade. Fiction of many flavors, essays, how to, photos, poems, body image shit ALL THE THINGS.

I’ve been experimenting with some concepts that are popular for artists/creatives and the bottom line is this.

The advice has revolved around creating content and varying it etc.

Here’s the thing, there are barriers. Some of those, I cannot force my way through. I can’t make folks do shit. I can ask and at this point I don’t expect those needs to be met through my side hustles.

I am wrapping up this experiment mostly. I just don’t have the energy to do that much work for no return.

This quote:

I had a mantra in my head. I said, I may not be the best writer out there, but I’m going to work harder than the best writer.

By Morgan Jenkins in interview with Jennifer Baker at Electric Lit. Go read it.

We know I do need the hustles but I am rearranging them. I’ve got an amazing opportunity I am considering doing. I’ve had some editors from mags I really really love reach out to me to suggest I pitch them.

What else?

I am still doing the most at Patreon. I even have a new free post up you can check out here. My expansion at Patreon is going. I’m dropping an extra post or so a month for Patrons and that has been good.

The other important thing going on is that, I’m getting out of my feelings about the things that don’t work for me.

I can’t lie. Sometimes I read through some of the higher earning stuff on Medium etc and I just get depressed. I feel like, I work so hard to give something to my community of value and hear crickets and some silly 400 word thing folks are dropping kudos and cash on. The worst is when I get to thinking about the failed etsy store etc etc.

Add in the resurrected and new traumas from doxxing and losing some really precious resources and whatnot, shit has been rough. Trying to rebuild that sense of community without exposing myself to a certain type of lady writer has been hard as fuck. I don’t like it.

Part of this experiment has been me trying to work out those bad feels. A large part of me working out the feels is diving straight into how I tend to feel them. Hence my analytics and shit.

I really had to go through it so I could get a clear idea if I was just being overly emo or if it was some real shit.

The bottom line is the following.

For me, offering things from me as in me posting stuff etc, doesn’t work. It isn’t just funky FB algorithms, etc. This has been a thing for more than a decade across many platform and encompasses all the shit I like to do.

To tell y’all the truth I’ve been working on this for a long long long fuckin time.

Collating the data on how much a lot of people don’t care has been real hard on me but, I did it.

I am free..

SO that said. I’m off on some new hustles, I’ve let go of needing and/or expecting the community to provide.

That’s all for now babes.

Thoughts on Expensive Lit things

Or why no I’m not applying to ALL of those conferences, residencies and whatnots.

Before I get into it, understand this is no shade to those who can. I’m going to talk specifics to me and my lived life.

Ookay. We’re going to talk about why the famed residency etc type things that you apply for with work samples and cash are not really going to be a thing for folks like me. When I say folks like me here’s what I mean:

  • Poor
  • Breadwinners
  • Caretakers
  • etc

Now when I’m talking cost here, I also have to take in the following:

  • Do I have paid vacation time from work?
  • Can I use it?
  • Do I have sick time accrued in case I get sick?
  • Can I -get- that time off?
  • How long would it take for me to save to cover costs if a scholarship isn’t granted?

We’ll assume that for the spots I’m mentioning, I get into them.

So let’s start with four of the most famous that I know of. Breadloaf. Hedgebrook. Clarion West. And a personal holy grail Vona. We’re going to pretend I’m applying for all of them.

So all in, just to apply I’d need to have available:

105$. (+if after an early deadline an extra 25$ for Clarion)

Now because I’m a practical kind of potato, I’d also only rest easy if I had the deposits available for potential acceptances:

I could only find deposit info for Vona which would be another $200.

Now. In terms of work for me that is almost half a weeks worth of wages. At a total of 330$ is more than a month of groceries for my family so it is a significant chunk of change.

Now let’s say I get in in the same order as above here are my fees:

$3,395 BL

$0 for H for a residency.

$4,200 for CW

$1100. V.

Except for Hedgebrook each of these is more than my two week take home pay paychecks. So for a base just me getting to do the thing, is in general about a month of wages.

This doesn’t include transportation. Hedgebrook is in WA but, to get there I would spend at least another 100-200$. Getting a Lyft from my front door to where I work costs me about 30$ not including a tip and that is ten miles. Hedgebrook in Freeland WA is more than 40 miles from where I live. To take buses that far north (I know from experience) can take up to six hours. It is 3-4 in a car.

If we calculate travel for things not in WA, it’s going to be at least $300-400 bucks.

Now I’ve been told in the past that great success requires great sacrifice. I have also been told that to get myself to these things, presuming I got accepted I should do the things, fundraise, save money, side hustle. The community will have my back.

In reality, not so much.

Let’s use my trip to AWP2016 as an example. That year, I was named as being part of some bully squad because I loudly and frequently objected to AWP giving primacy and promotion to racist poets. I was supported in this. A lot of people really wanted me there. About 9 months prior I started fundraising. As is my habit i was very clear about needing help and support. In almost a year I raised about 200$. The ONLY reason I was there was because of donated membership and a lot of scrambling and debt.

The fact of it is, even to move I’ve been fundraising for over a year and just recently got to about the quarter mark. My side hustles including things like dollar stories, sold nothing. My merch shop sold nothing. The community does not support me or my work in a material way historically. There is a very small number of people who do, including folks at Patreon. This number has remained the same for about five years or so regardless of what I’m offering or why.

So I’d have to rely on my day job.

To go to let’s pick the most expensive and say Clarion West, that would be more than 2 months of my wages. That is without paying rent, buying food, providing my partner his medication, not buying my own medication just straight paychecks.

if you’re new, I am the breadwinner in my tiny famfam. My partner is completely disabled and gets the least amount of assistance available. I make less than 25K a year take home including my side hustles. I am a working poor person.

Now in order for me to attend a few weeks of something I would have to be able to save vacation time for more than two years. However, only 40 hours carries over yearly where I work. So I’d be able to use that to pay for 5 days. My sick time accrues more slowly and this instant, because I got sick in January and had to miss a couple of days, that would give me another 8.42 hours.

So five days and 8 hours.

So I would have to go without pay or income for the time of the workshop entirely. I would also have spent about 2 months of income to do this.

Even with a scholarship to cover tuition, that would not change missing time off of work for which I could lose my job. I would still go without income.

Some folks say, do the one day workshops. These cost $150. Let’s say I want to go to the one Nisi Shawl is doing. April 8, 2018, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. So it would cost me, 8 hours of vacation time, the equivalent of about 9 hours of wages. In transportation the location is approximately a 2.5 hour (first part during rush hour) ride for me.

Outside of the initial layout of cash, let’s estimate that the real life cost would be about 3 times the cost of just paying to put my ass in the seat.

I say all of this because this is the reality of telling folks that these programs are radical and accessible. Financial accessibility is a thing. This is why, I don’t enter chapbook contests, why I closed my etsy store, why when I say I can’t/won’t do this stuff.

On one hand, fuck yes shit like Vona is amazing. I know alums, many of whom have gone on to huge success and that is fucking awesome.

Unfortunately, banking on a future maybe success is not enough for me to starve my family. I’ve said before, poverty ain’t romantic. Food insecurity, not romantic. I have fiscal responsibilities that mean, I can’t in good conscious put a maybe success ahead of putting food on the table.

There you go.

Be That Shit: My Hustleverse

*This appeared in a longer version at Patreon*

Let’s talk about how my writing hustle breaks down by readership, interest and earnings.

First a snapshot of my follow counts across various platforms.

WordPress as of the end of 2017:





My most read post was my where to read my work post.

At Medium:


At the end of December, I had a total of, 498 reads views, 248 full reads (on Medium views means someone clicked reads mean they spent time and read the thing).

In general, my Medium nonfiction pieces get about a 20-30% read. My fiction or fiction related work on Medium is lucky to get 1-3 reads a month and zero interaction.

So being that I’ve used those the most in 2017 let’s talk about what it has shown me.

In trying to work out how to make my artistic life more sustainable, what to do with my Self Care Like a Boss concept and work and trying to yanno live, I’ve been keeping steady track of what works where, who reads what etc.

Now I am not fishing for compliments here so please don’t, this is what the data has shown me and reinforced over the years.

When I collect up the hard stats on what happens when I do stuff, a lot of the time it doesn’t look good. My fiction and Self-care stuff does terribly across all platforms. My poetry on occasion performs well at Ink Node. Overwhelmingly, when I publish or post work myself, the support of folks who have often asked for said work is nil. No retweets, no shares, no clicks, no reads.

I’ve tried a long list of methodologies and there’s the usual FB fuckery in terms of what shows up when but, there is legit a circle of about 20 or so people who click, read and/or share. The same group for years now and who have mainly been the ones to keep me from ragequitting.

The thing I spent most of 2017 trying to make sense of is this.

If a large number of folks tell me, HEY PLS YOUR WORK PLS MORE!! Or are gassing me up in public but, the actuality of numbers shows me the opposite, what do I do?

This has extended a bit to Patreon. When I was polling prospective Patrons or trying to rather, nobody really answered except to literally on my survey tell me to stop begging. The thing that was really fucking me up for a while was this huge discrepancy in what has been asked of me as a creator and what has been given to me.

For a lot of 2017, this discrepancy left me feeling both used and unseen. This doesn’t even touch the free labor I’ve been asked for in terms of things like FB arguments, random dm’s from white folks demanding I teach them how not to be so racist etc. This feeling comes from my own community at large.

I had to learn to accept a few things.

First thing is that this is a real thing. Years of analytics from way back when I was a semi-popular fat blogger and got a book deal dangled in front of me to the occasional agent related hey I like your work –but- notes from social media etc to these days when I’m sort of methodically shotgunning what I do with work I don’t necessarily believe will sell that, I’m just not gonna be the one if I put it out myself.

After feeling shitty about it, let down and just uh, wrong as in the wrong sort of Black person I decided fuck it. However, as fuck it as I feel sometimes, it still gets me down.

I think for the work I in particular do, this is just going to be a thing.

I’ve accepted that in this particular timeline, my most idealized dreams about what I do with my writing will likely not wind up being sustainable. The biggest component I need for that to happen just is not there for me at all. At least not on the level I need in order to be both sustainable and be able to spend the time, spoons and money on stuff.

So here in 2018 I’m spreading my hustle a bit.

The big thing is I decided not to go ahead with my plans for Self-Care Like a Boss. The main reason is that the level of work it would take for me to get it all the way I want it, and the cost of hosting and paying folks for guest blog posts (another thing we’ll get to why I don’t do so much anymore) was just too much for me to foot the bill.

That decision took months of crying, writing, cryng some more and a lot of bitterness because when I started publishing and talking about self-care, well people went fucking in on me. My first self-care book sold a good number of copies, I still have folks who talk to me about it. The second version wasn’t my best work and I failed at it and thus the book didn’t go well.

That said, when I got the blog going and other things and I wasn’t asking for money the support I was counting on, that I was told from various sources was just not there. Not for merch I designed, not for me presenting that work as an independent creator. Real talk, it was devastating and really made my vision for SCLAB (and the domain I bought) just unfeasible. It was a hard decision but, I had to make it.

Beyond the feasibility, the thing is this. I’ve had to not only acknowledge but embrace the fact that I do not possess the spoons to produce work on the scale that I used to. I have had to really take in and live with this. I may want to provide my community with ALL OF THE GOODNESS I have. But I can’t do that without support. Well let me put it this way, support that doesn’t evaporate when I ask for something.

In terms of production, I’m still doing okay. I write a LOT of shit that never sees the light of day because it sucks. As I mentioned in my blog, I have a roster/short list of editors I’m comfortable with and will be doing some more freelance work this year. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to pitch/sell and what I want to put out myself.

Some of that work is going to be Old Queer Yelling at Clouds and I’ve accepted that. Some of it may earn me some coins behind the paywall at Medium and any coins are good coins. I am gonna write what the fuck I want to write regardless and I have to adjust my expectations of what that looks like for me.

This is where I want to talk very specifically about y’all.


[redacted Patron only section]

As bad as I want to be the high dollar mega super star, I want to write what the fuck I want to write.

I’m learning to work with my output. What’s amazing to me is that unlike in years past, my fiction writing is much slower and more deliberate. Less in the planning way and more in the, I have a goal with a story and am thinking carefully about how to get there way. My non-fiction is kinda flowing far easier. I’ve got subjects on deck to tackle that I’ve been afraid to previously.

2018 I am setting myself free artistically speaking.

I’m going to work the fuck out of my Weird Voice. I’m gonna write and make some ugly shit, some of it will shiny up nicely other stuff well….some stuff just gets put away.

I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to try out creatively and I’m going to because yanno, life is too goddamn short for me to be torturing myself because I fail at being a “successful” artist.

That’s how it is going down.


A Few Thoughts on Output

This morning I realized that I have now typed about 100K words or so on my little purple computer (I named her Dinky) and I wanted to talk a bit about output.

On average for every 2k words I produce, the world sees maybe half. That includes blog posts, stuff for Patreon (though, Patreon folks get to see a LOT of naked me talking myself through a first draft), stories, essay drafts, stuff. Poems. A lot of things.

A lot of those things are in fact crap.

They are often things I reread and I’m like:


Me: ??? Que?


Me: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯- I DUNNO. GO WITH IT.



That used to be a hang up for me. I really wanted to be a hot take type. Kick down them think pieces and make mega dollars. At least mega dollars in my little world.

Well, nope. That’s just not how it goes here at Shannon HQ and management would appreciate me not freaking out about it ALL the goddamn time.

Y’all real talk, I write some fucking hot ass garbage. And I write a lot more slowly than I used to. And it’s fine.

I’ve learned to accept that yes my process changes and that means I miss out on a lot of shit. But, on the other hand what I produce is exactly what I want to produce so, it is all to the good.

So really what I’m saying like I always say in my loveletters, be cool to your Weird Voice.

Don’t fuck up your process when you don’t have to.

Once upon a time, I thought if I was writing a thing I had to do something with it. At some point I decided that hustling for cash outweighed my need to make art. This led to some decisions I don’t necessarily regret but that I wish I’d given myself more time to do.

I put a huge amount of pressure on myself not only to produce ALL THE WORDS but to have them polished and ready immediately.

Nah son.

I wanted it so bad, I often fucked it up.

So yes, a lot of my published shit isn’t as perfect as it could be but, that’s just writing and it’ll be okay.


My book is shipping today.

Go check it out.


Well here we are.

Holy shitballs we made it.

Please pat yourselves on the back.

Now, what is in store for me this year?

First up some ch-cha-changes.

  1. I will be reading fewer physical books because we are moving into a tiny apartment and I already have been culling books for months.
  2. I’m expanding my offerings at Patreon. Now not only is there a letter, the Daiyuverse and whatnots but, I’m also going to be posting early access craft stuff. Like this entry but with WIPs and other extras. There is more but I’m not ready yet.
  3. MORE SHIT. With my commute being cut by about 2.5 hours a day I’m looking forward to being able to do more creative work.

Other stuff is a surprise.

So how about some 2017 numbers?

Submissions. I did not submit much. First up places I was rejected from, ghosted on or not responded to. There are more I forgot to put on my spreadsheet:

  • Argot Magazine
  • Submittable blog
  • Okey Panky
  • Literary Hub
  • Electric Literature
  • Buzzfeed


  • Wear Your Voice Magazine (my first listicle and first submission of 2017) This made a lot of people very angry. It was reprinted a few times, also made people very angry.
  • ROAR  A poetry review that got hella personal.
  • Wear Your Voice Magazine II. Funnily enough, it made a few people angry but not as many.
  • Ravishly. My first very in depth look at my personal woo in the context of the whiteness of witchy things.
  • Unchaste Anthology II.  Wee poems for a beautiful little thing.
  • The Wanderer. Some much rejected poems found a home here.

My most rejected stuff was the poems in The Wanderer. Most of the rejections were form, one said that they didn’t publish confessional poetry (that place does but that is a privilege reserved for White women).

My JT Leroy essay behind the paywall at Medium was form rejected four times according to my email. However, it is doing fairly well by itself there.

What else happened in my lit life?

I didn’t publish as much about race as I have in years past but, 2017 was the year of White folks completely raging out about my work. Some gems. This person literally commented on almost every comment on the first Wear Your Voice Article:

David Brooks · 

Sage Radachowsky christ your also not black. have you read the article? it more or less says white people have no say nor idea about what racism is. So you need to stop commenting as well. I am just helping out the author here and trying to get all you whities to understand your not allowed to comment.
Like · Reply · 2 · 30w
And another winner:

Christopher Crafton

Except that being called ‘white’ IS stereotyping.
There is ZERO genetic basis for lumping pale skinned people into a monolithic category. None.
Not genetically, nor culturally.
Don’t believe me? Try walking up to a Israeli in Jeruselum and telling him he’s the same as a Palestenian because they are both white. See how long it takes to get knocked on your ass.
Like · Reply · 18 · 30w · Edited
I recall a few comments also calling me personally cancer, racist, cunt etc. One of the reprints was in a local magazine and after reading some comments from local people, I was glad they didn’t include my photo. I was “told” things like:
  • I should give the author some real problems.
  • Shannon is rude.
  • This is anti-white propaganda.

2017 was also the year that specifically my work in various spaces to deal with Whiteness got me doxxed with some other folks.

I spent a lot of this year screening racist filth out of my inboxes, I blocked some here, I had to hear about it from friends and frankly, it really fucked up a lot of my year. I clocked in threats that covered everything from you’ll never get published in X magazines, to I’ll rape you, to I’ll teach you a lesson bitch to we’re going to tell everyone in the industry what a racist you are.

I landed a few FB bans. One for having the phrase White people in a status and two other times for saying men are trash.

After all that stress and dealing with my partner being really ill, bills and shit you know what?

I’m still fucking here.

The threats, name calling, doxxing, having my posts on FB reported, etc. Yes they slowed me down during the latter half of 2017 because I had to make some hard decisions about my work.

And you know what?

I hit fuck it.

2017 really cemented for me the fact that, there is not a lot I can say without somebody calling me a racist. Set boundaries for White people? Racist. Talk about Whiteness as a cultural construct that is hell bent on fucking up shit for everybody? I AM THE REAL RACIST.

And you know what? I can only assume that my work is hitting the right nerve. Change hurts. Learning hurts a lot.

Fuck it.

I also learned that sometimes I reach out into the blue nowhere that is the internet, and I touch folks. When I hear that my newsletter/loveletter thing made someone feel good. Or when someone says to me, I read this and was pissed and then I realized I needed to see this it is fuckin great.

I learned that wading through the people who devalue my work for whatever reason, and through the people whom I make so uncomfortable they are willing to try and take food off of my table and fuck up my life in general- I can get through it.

I can get through and still do what the fuck I am meant to do.

Because fuck those people.

For every Pepe avatar having shitfuck to the “reasonable” White feminists who are actively working to silence me- fuck em.

I have shit to do and art to make.

I have a life to live and ain’t nobody got time for that.

What else?

Later this month the little beautiful poetry book I wrote is coming out. These fuckass people almost ruined what is a dream for me.

[image description: a square image with round purple sequins, yellow text overlay says: Gasoline Heart Shannon Barber]

I am so proud of it and have so many things to say.

You can have that later on. Pre-order for shipping in a few weeks here.

So really, 2017 was a lot of painful lessons. A lot of realizations about myself, my work and where I fit in the world.

And a lot of great support. Beautiful friends. Amazing writers. Great books and stuff.

I hope 2018 brings me some new stuff. New adventures. Big Swing pitches and submissions.

That’s all.

As I like to say:


How a Cowboy is Born. New Mythos

Welcome loves!

I’m going to be doing a new thing. Over at Patreon, I’m going to be posting some craft essays with some extras. I’ll reprint the essays here without the extras. What are the extras you ask?

Might be a WIP, might be a curated playlist, might be a writing exercise. Want to get in on that? Head over to Patreon and drop a dollar a month. For real that’s all it takes and you’ll get that AND get in on that Daiyuverse action.

NOW let’s get on with the mythos. Go get a snack, I’m going in.

Welcome to Nerdtown population you and me.

You ready to get down with some deep dorking about writing and myth creation? LET US NERD!

Few things before we get going.

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First for reference material I’m going to be referring to my cowboy/mermaid myth that was in the first issue of Rigorous. Link here, feel free to follow along.

Let’s get started.

One of the things I enjoy playing with is myth creation. I’ve long been a fan of mythology from the European classics we all learned in school to myths from the African Diaspora, Afro-diasporic religions, indigenous religion and myth. I love it. For our purposes I’m considering myth to be a broad umbrella term that covers religions, mythos worlds like Lovecraft, etc. Vampires, werewolves, fairies, Gods/esses. All that stuff is mythos for us.

For me creating or remixing mythos is a combination of what if, I wish and let’s roll with it and see what happens. I am using the I wish method to create an expansion to what we can consider a Western by introducing mythic magical elements. As we see in the Cowboy and Mermaid myth, I took the idea of a long gunslinger (inspired by a re-read of the Gunslinger) and I had very specific things I wanted to do:

  • I wanted to inject Blackness into a Western.
  • I wanted to figure out, what would happen to the mermaids in a dry dessert world.
  • I wanted to give the sense that there was a mythos/reality in place in this world.
  • I wanted to tell a magical story the way I would tell a realist story.

Before getting into mythos remixing, it is highly importance to do your research. Remixing doesn’t mean you can take what is sacred and poop on it. I mean, you can but it is a dick move and nobody needs to be that person. For the new cowboy myth, I’m working with, as I was starting it I had a basic framework to deal with.

  • Another lone cowboy on foot
  • Vengeance (inspired by watching the reboot of the Magnificent 7)
  • Loas
  • A huge black horse
  • GAYS

These are, in terms of classic Western mythos, very disparate things. Westerns have Christian churches, steely eyed white dudes and gays well, we know.

How did I start?

The great thing about being a writer is that, you get to make it up as you go along. My basic is this. We have the lone, broken hearted cowboy on a mission. Why? (SPOILERS) his town was destroyed by oil/railroad barons. His family, everyone is dead. Classic right?

I decided to give our gays very prominent role. They are going to be the bridge between the classic Western, they fucked up my town now they gotta die, to the mystical. I don’t want to disrupt the Western so much as tweak it, instead of finding the sheriff, our cowboy is going to be taken to visit a Loa who, in this world has several manifestations and it is just how it is.

In creating or remixing mythos, don’t dither. This is where you as a creator need to drive it like you stole it. For mythos creation, I recommend some notes. If you get nerdy like me, sometimes a framework as opposed to a full outline is enough. You can use my bullet list method, decide on who is telling the story, what is in the world, what myths you want and go. Be bold, own it and don’t be afraid to just go for it and see what happens.

Now back to our cowboy.

In this story, I wanted to create a world where the Loas are the dominant gods. And they hang around but, I don’t want them to be presented in the horrible racist way a lot of things to do with Afro-diasporic religions. Frequently, we are presented with the scary ignorant savage trope and that is crap. So, prior to starting I did a lot of reading by people who are practitioners, I paid close attention to how they talked about the way they feel when they communicate with their Loas.

For me as a writer, part of my general mission in my creative life is staying in my lane and being as respectful as I can to the material that influences and inspires me. I feel it is my responsibility as a writer to do my research and consider carefully how to use the source material. I want to show actual love and appreciation and not the I LOVE U I DO WHAT I WANT type.

If you are a White writer, inspired by cultures outside of your own this is triply, eleventy million times more important. If you want to think of it selfishly, you don’t want to be dragged in public and to be bigger about it, you don’t want to insult and demean the people you are appreciating.

What next?

Next, we play.

Not enough talk about writing includes this and I’ve found it to be an integral part of my process. Even when I’m writing serious material, I want to play. I want to fool around in the world I’m making, play with detail and textures and speech. Writing fiction doesn’t have to be all serious business.

Now how about a lil taste of the new Cowboy myth?

“Thank you kind sir. It has been too long since my shadow was welcome across any doorstep.” Warmed and calm the man took a table and ordered himself a feast. Salty fried potatoes, meat patties, beer and a request to the piano player for something bubbly. The piano player refused his coin and sat rocking before playing an effervescent bright tune that had every toe tapping. As the sun set outside, the café began to fill with a colorful array of patrons.

No one treated him like a stranger, folks nodded, some stopped to talk to him and one tall freckled man with a ginger afro and gold hoops in his nose sat and presented the man with a little cake. “Hello and good evening sir. My name is Andreas and you are?” The stranger smiled at the cake then the man. “My name is Francis. Good evening to you, eh may I?” Andreas nodded, “please do or you’ll like hurt my husbands feelings. He makes little sweets for folks and you look like a man in need of a sweet. I recommend having it with a brandied coffee.”

Once the coffee came, Francis bit into the little cake and closed his eyes. Heady vanilla so strong it was almost musky followed by the slight tang of spices he couldn’t name made him see stars. “Your husband, has a gift sir. This is the best cake I’ve ever head, pray don’t tell my Mama Gods rest her sweet soul. What a gift, how can I repay your kindness?”

Let’s talk a little about my process and how this story is being shaped.

Okay strap in, I’m gonna show you my brain. The initial push for this story came from the cover of the Hank Williams song, I’m So Lonesome I could Cry as done by Johnny Cash and Nick Cave.

I like to sing this version to myself and as I was doing so on my way to work, I had a vision of another cowboy. Said cowboy hung around my brain not saying anything for a few weeks and then my partner and I watched the reboot of the Magnificent 7 (excellent, very enjoyable eye candy) and that first glimpse of Denzel as a cowboy, my cowboy started talking and said, “I want every one of those motherfuckers dead.”

The general arc of this story reflects my personal interest in the manifestations of the vengeance narrative that doesn’t just involve some rando angry white dude. I have a thing with that and well, I’m just gonna go with it. I’ve not really tried it out pairing it with a Western aesthetic so, I figured why not?

Throw in some Zydeco music, my person relationship with Baron Samedi and frequent conversations with my personal group of dieties and here we are. The soundtrack for Black Rider is moving from a lot of Johnny Cash, Dr. John, The Blues Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco, and the exquisite version of Psycho by Teddy Thompson from that awful Psycho film reboot soundtrack. Film=garbage, soundtrack=100%.

I’m not totally sure how our cowboy is going to meet the Black Rider or if he will. I don’t know yet, I’m leaning towards he will because I want to try my hand at writing a big ass gun fight influenced by the Haitian Revolution and the mythos surrounding how it got started. Why? Why not!

Okay my loves there you have it. This is how the Cowboy in this myth is born.

Next time, I’ll talk some about how the voices of things manifest in my brain.

Questions? Comments? HAVE AT IT YO!!