First up, please enjoy a little video of me reading my story The Beloved of Colel Cab you may need to crank the volume, my new phone isn’t the greatest for video but here you go. Feel free to share it, like it, subscribe to my youtube channel. I will have more lit vids coming.
If you’d like a copy to read or read along (I am working on a good transcript) click here it is available as a free post at my Patreon.
I have some new self-care stuff coming. Emergency stuff.
I have a new piece of work a prose-poem thing on Ink Node.
I am very well and truly out of spoons and this is what I know how to do. This is what I can give to my community. Some things from my heart that might be a bit of a respite.
I also offer up the pieces on self-care I wrote a while back and put on Medium. Take them and share them if you know folks who need them. Here and Here.
Okay first read this storify of some tweets from the other day.
A few weeks ago after yet another shitty interaction with some fellow “professional” writers, I was musing to my partner Uniballer that they pretend to be so clean but I see through them. I told him that it was/is easier to deal with fuckin dirty ass hood people, than it is with them.
We got to talking about how for me, dealing with pimps, dealers, gangsters and other criminals is just easier. When I deal with those people, we can establish a boundary and 90% of them I have ever dealt with have respected it.
Dealing with some of these writing world, people feels like they are trying to turn me out in the way that pimps did when I was 16. I remember one in particular who would alternately tell me how smart and beautiful I was and then would tell me how nobody else could do for me what he could do for me.
Cue emails/contact from people who offer me “opportunities” which, when we get down to brass tacks means me doing the heavy lifting and them giving me a chance to do a lot of work, get seen maybe and not get paid.
Then there are the (always men) like the one who approach me with some weird Daddy type issues. They always offer to show me the error of my ways, it has happened a million times. I know it has happened to other writers, some of us it happens in college or for me it started happening the first time i went to a writing class taught by an older dude.
There is always an air that they have the answers to make you a better writer, to help catapult you from kinda good scribbler with nice tits to their Lolita brilliant protege ingenue.
Don’t get it twisted, if you want to do that. Do you boo. For real. Do it.
However, I personally don’t. Even way back when at that first writing class in the moments after the glow of this learned fairly handsomish Daddy/Humbert type told me how much potential I had, I got it.
What makes me so angry I rant on twitter like that (or if you know me, I do it in person as well) is I don’t have time for this fucking bullshit. Like, I’m not stupid. I see you mother fucker and no. And don’t keep trying once I say no.
Inevitably, these people who want to take up my damn time, who want to use me as a resource and a way to say OMG LOOK AT DIS NEGRO WE GOT, and AND who are trying to use me as fap material or fuck me, not one of them wants to pay.
As I have been known to say many times, this ePussy ain’t free.
You want to fulfill some Daddy/Humbert fantasy shit? Pay me 25$ a page and I will write you some self insert smut that will spin your fucking head around. But, the essential bit here is:
Short of that, I ain’t fuckin with you.
Not to mention the level of entitlement and privilege it takes to then be offended when I SEE what you’re doing and call you on your bullshit?
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, I used to work graveyard shift. Every morning I’d get downtown about 6:20 AM and I’d head into a restaurant and have breakfast. I got the same thing every time. Four slices of bacon, two biscuits, one fried egg. That’s all I could afford. I usually sat at the counter and read while I ate because the first back to my neighborhood didn’t come until around 8 and I usually took the 8:45 bus because it was less crowded.
I met a prostitute and we would eat together. We talked hair and nails and how tricks were. Eventually she introduced me to her Pimp and when she stopped working mostly, I had breakfast with him. At the beginning he was grooming me to turn me out. I knew it. I allowed it to reel out a little bit before I let him know in no uncertain terms that we weren’t gonna be fuckin, if I was gonna work it would be for myself and naw.
After that, for months we had a decent relationship. Every now and again he’d pitch me on being his newest in his stable, it became a joke. He taught me how to drink bourbon, he gave me a bottle for my birthday and stuff. I went to his birthday party and her birthday party. It was fine.
I knew he was shady. I knew he was up to no good, but he didn’t try to rook me into thinking otherwise.
Unlike these fucking men who bother me.
At one point in my twitter rant, I thought of something I’d seen my homie Kitty Stryker say and you can buy the shirt here.
It says, I want to fuck the privilege, right out of you.
Yes, I want to.
I mean, if dick is a cure all, I have a big dick and I will travel. Like if we presume that these dudes are right and dick is a cureall, I have experience. I will brag and say that once upon a time I very good cocksman. Like I will try to fuck the privilege RIGHT the fuck out of you.
Just saying. I know where the prostate is and I’m a fair but firm Daddy. You want to play Daddy, I know how to be your Daddy.
But as always, fuck you pay me. I am legit too fucking poor to even be thinking about all this.
For our purposes here today I’m gonna use this definition of spec fic from wikipedia:
Speculativefiction is a broad umbrella category of narrative fiction referring to any fiction story that includes elements, settings and characters whose features are created out of human imagination and speculation rather than based on attested reality and everyday life. That encompasses the genres of science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, horror, alternative history, and magic realism.
If you’ve read me for a while, you know this is an area I love to live and play in. Also, please read this.
My own experiences mirror a lot of those N.K. Jemison talks about. When I was a wee baby writer, I did not allow my Blackness in my work in a lot of ways. From the writing perspective my earliest lessons both overt and not were like so:
Anything involving Black characters would likely not be “believable” if they weren’t hood caricatures or portraits of racial uplift. That cut across all the genres I like to work in.
Blackness regardless of subject matter, genre, etc is often treated as a wee tiny box where ALL the Black stories must go.
I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t find all the links. There is a problem when as a writer, you do your due diligence and study the places you are submitting. For me personally if I go back more than 5 or so issues and see no POC or if the masthead headshots are all White men, if the stories are all in one vein under the guise of aesthetics and “goodness” those are not places I’m going to feel welcome.
A problem I (and I’ll venture to guess a lot of POC and especially Black authors) run into every now and then is when White editors are very obviously uncomfortable with Blackness or anything not White centric. Often this isn’t anything blatant, it can be felt in email exchanges where an editor doesn’t understand a phrase that isn’t “proper English”, or suggestions to do certain things (in my case it was an Orisha) more “mainstream”. The suggestion was to change the goddess/Orisha in this story to Aphrodite or, you know, a White one. Being questioned about not italicizing my Spanish. Being questioned about how “unlikely” (in a firmly spec fic story) it would be to have the protagonist be a little Black girl.
The first story I referenced, was published at Expanded Horizons and was my first publication in a spec fic magazine. That story (I just went a looked) was rejected 15 times. There was one nibble of interest, but the editor backed off when I said I would not rewrite to make it a Euro/White story.
The next story isn’t really spec fic (though my inspiration was) but the tiniest bit of unitalicized Spanish made it “difficult for most readers”. (I can’t get to youtube but go there and search Daniel Jose Older and Italicized Spanish, it’s worth it)
The last story (it was Pushcart nominated) was rejected 16 times. The first nibble of interest, I spent about two weeks going back and forth with an editor who couldn’t see or understand how a little Black girl who is a shapeshifter would ever exist in a world where there are shapeshifters. This person also mentioned how my names for my creatures, Children of Apep, Daughter of Sekhmet etc would be too “esoteric” for “most” readers. I actually went back to read the exchange. Yes, references to Egyptian gods/esses as the names of shapeshifters is too “esoteric”. My references to Hyena and Crow were “not really relatable”.
For a lot of years, this is what I had to wade through when submitting so as I’ve mentioned before I just stopped.
This isn’t exclusive to spec-fic. The problem of overwhelming whiteness is one of literature in general. For me, the constancy of the racism in lit has just been exhausting. When I decided to start writing genre fiction again, I again found myself being unable to bear interacting with the community, reading fan stuff etc because shit always gets real racist real quick.
These are many of the reasons why I started self pubbbing my genre fiction. These are many of the reasons I stopped reading genre fiction too.
For the cheap seats. As a White person in a position of power in the lit world, you can’t just say you’re all for inclusion and diversity if you can’t demonstrate it. Words in this matter are useless. You have to act. As I’ve said many times before, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that using Whiteness as the measure for what is “good” is a problem. Even if you don’t mean it.
Understand that there will be things and elements of work that don’t resonate with you and that is okay.
You have to do the work or you’re part of the problem here.
There are SO many easy ways to find authors of color to approach to feature their work, editors you can talk to. It’s not that fucking hard. It is 20 mother fucking 16. You probably have a computer in your pocket.
Listen to what POC have to say.
Read work by POC.
If you are totally into inclusion, be that shit. Don’t just say it. Do it. Do the work.
If you’re a reader. Find the stories and books. Buy them, read them, check them out at the library, talk about them.
As a creator of things, I’d also like to say this.
Stop pretending that the statistics are shocking. Stop it. We all know racism is a real thing and permeates everything. Including literature. Including speculative fiction. Including SF and horror and everything else. Stop. White folks, you are not helpless here. There are tons and tons of articles, stories, etc. written by and about POC so maybe start reading them.
Behold first a list of places I’ve been rejected from in the last few years. These culled from my Submittable (OH sidebar: if you ever need help with your Submittable account their CS is FUCKING STELLAR. Like really great.) account.
So if you get through that, you’ll see some repeats. Places that are in my mind big swing and miss type submissions.
I’ve been reflecting about the process lately since I don’t submit on such a rigorous schedule anymore.
I was reading something about rejections and I frankly refute the idea that it is always the writer.
The thing is that if you are writing from a perspective or about marginalized people in a way that is not the accepted (generally when it decenters Whiteness, heteronormativity, etc etc) there is an uphill battle, whether people who are closer to acceptable want to recognize it as part of the process or not.
After doing the submission thing and research things and reading thousands upon thousands of pages of what journals/mags publish, the struggle is real. I look over this little rejection list and this one from my race to 100, there are some I can point to as having probably been based on how I was telling stories about Black folks or Queer folks, rather than just my shitty writing.
Of course, there are times when I look back and cringe because things can always be better, tighter, more perfect, etc.
However, after going back through a lot of that work (and many of those pieces found homes eventually) and looking at the language in a lot of rejections (not just from this list but over a ten year period) I can say that I’ve seen some patterns and the patterns have fit in with my research.
Here is where I invite editors to pay some full attention, marginalized writers too:
If I go through say five back issues of your thing and I see no POC, no stories about anyone other than White people in whatever form, I’m 99% sure if I submit a story about POC/other marginalized people you won’t take it. I often envision the, we love your work, but no fit yadda yada. For me, over the years, this has been a thing a lot.
If you have words like diversity, inclusion or anything related and you haven’t done the work in your previous however many issues, see #1.
If I’ve been reading and following your thing and you have a few POC or other marginalized folks and tend to only publish certain types of narratives, whether fictional or not, or the only POC you interview fall into a few distinct categories, see #1.
One of the habits that has been ingrained in me since I was a wee baby writer age 19 in 1996 carefully copying addresses out of the back of Poets&Writers, I read where I want to be. At one point after I had my own computer (I think I got my first one in like 2001?) I had dozens of pages of individual notes on publications. I transcribed them from PW, from websites, from notebooks. I had a system. I spent two months writing like a motherfucker as much as humanly possible, I spent a month editing everything and then a month submitting.
This habit has remained with me, though I have learned to use trackers (GODS damn I wish someone had told me to do that back then) and figured myself out in terms of the truth of what I do, I’ve learned to read more closely and that is how I’ve figured out my system for parsing rejections and figuring out where to submit.
There have been times where I’ve spoken with editors, I can think of a few who really went to bat for me because I did not fit their standard narratives. That is gratifying.
Experience informs how I deal with my rejections.
In this phase of my writing life, I’m not as interested in trying to blaze trails.
I’ve got a big fucking mouth and I do indeed talk a lot of shit and occasionally name names. I’ve decided that rather than hold that in, I’m letting it out. I’m sure that will cause me rejections over time. It’s fine.
I realized during AWP and some subsequent interactions with lit world folks that I just don’t have the energy or mental health reserves to be one of the brick wall busting types.
I’ve hit fuck it.
I’ve figured out that I feel okay being a terrible self-published author.
Posting is probably going to be a little light for a hot minute.
I’m yet again working out my hustle.
Things are shifting.
Some good news though.
After weeks of panic and anxiety shits, I think I’ve figured out how to reconfigure my budget (not my dayjob money) and how to make a little bit more. I had to let go of some financial goals that right now I just can’t be dealing with.
I’m still working on the bloody monster piece. I have an idea of what to do with it but it’ll take another 6 weeks of work at least before I can even consider it.
I’ve submitted some fiction and poetry around. Both of those things feel a little uh, time waste-y. I still feel some type of way about it and realize that it’s going to continue to be very difficult for me to get the kind of traction in fiction that I really want in traditional outlets. It just is. That said, I’m also no the fence about hustling it myself because let’s be real, I’m not famous enough for that many people to buy my fiction because they want it.
That is a hard thing for any writer to just say. But the stats I’ve been keeping over the last couple of years bear it out.
See also my failures in marketing, my SCLAB failures. My skill set and uh, being not that famous I guess have put me on the path of oh well fuck me running.
I’ve thought a lot about it and talked it over with trusted friends and I guess it just is what it is. My Etsy store relaunch was profitable for about five minutes and as of a week ago is no longer. I am not comfortable being that writer who is all BUY MY SHIT on every fucking social media platform. I try and it just feels so disgusting to me, I hate myself for doing it and that kind of stress interferes with the writing.
A lot of the methods of marketing for indie folks I’ve studied often leave me feeling more invisible, more completely out of my depth and ultimately more depressed and anxious. It leads to a type of anxiety that makes creating very difficult and puts me in a real bad place. So I’m just not going to do those things anymore.
So what’s left?
I don’t know. Maybe I will just offer up all my fiction for free. Maybe save up what I can to try and launch my writing class things I’ve been working on for like two years.
I just don’t feel like I can get the kind of traction I need to make it all contribute to the sustainability of my writing life. And being that fiction is my first real deep, true love, it just really fucking sucks.
I am feeling kind of heartbroken today about it. I think a lot of that has to do with I am deep in OH FUCK I must MUST provide more economically for myself and my partner because as it is, we’re going to be eating dollar store ramen and our health and (you see where I’m going) and unfortunately my failed fiction shops/income is just another weight added to that.
Hopefully, if some stuff goes right economically I can revisit.
I don’t know.
I wasn’t intending to go all into shit like that today. But I promised I’m keeping it 100 and this is my reality.
It ain’t the artist life I wanted, but it’s the one I have.
That’s it for now. I’m going to try to put up some scheduled posts. I’ll be updating my where to read my work page because soon because some things are out of print, some things are new.
Under the read more you’ll find the whole first page of my second try at fantasy. I tried it before with these characters and tried again. Actually I’ll show you the whole thing I have so far. In FACT I’ll include my fancast for it. Because that is a thing I do often. Also pardon if my train of thought wanders at times I haven’t really slept in two days.
My idea for this is this as follows:
Gender markers being fucked with. Our King is a woman named Nailah. Her wizard wears dresses because he likes them. King Nailah is a war king. She is a bad ass with a bad reputation and she likes to seduce everyone and hang out with her fellow warriors. Think Gina Torres would play her in a movie after beefing up a bit. Okay a lot of bit, like Linda Hamilton in T2. See here but picture her with locs and with some facial scars and tattoos.
Her Queen to be, is a literal cat person. So I spent some time studying feline social behaviors, etc. and came up with the assholest cat to be a cat person. Her name is Makatza and she’s somewhat of a mystical figure in this fantasy land. I thought a lot about how to incorporate some really specific cat behaviors into a human sized being. The tail swish, one turned ear, being a demanding but totally loveable little butthole. Imagine she’s furry, her middle body is beigy brown and as her fur goes around her body it turns black. But her fur isn’t like tiger fur, think more downy softy fur. Her ears are black, her tail is black and quite long. She isn’t a shape shifter, she is a cat person. Think a body type like Countess Vaughn here, but a bit less busty.
Our next important character is called Nazar and he is the King’s bestie, former lover and war wizard. He is also very shy and anxious. In this part of this story (there are longer versions and notes)he’s still a bit young and has a bit of puppy fat yet. But yes this face both the younger and the older are what I imagine when I think of Nazar. He’s very loyal, very good at his craft and is a bit confused as to what role he is to play with the King.
So far we also get a peek at First Regent Bilale who is like the captain of the gaurd, confidant, tactical expert and potentially the man who will teach our King to be a husband. I haven’t decided yet. Picture this gorgeous gent a bit older and scarred up. Like he’s been swinging axes and shit.
So far those are most of the major players I imagine in my head. There are some others I can’t totally see yet.
But we see why this could be an issue don’t we?
I’m sure somebody will be asking themselves, but where are the White people Shannon?
This magical land is full of black and brown folks (there is a char I picture as Margaret Cho with her shaved head, but that’ll happen later) but yeah. Naw.
What’s interesting is that one person I floated this idea to give me a little bit of the “but that’s not believable” I almost automatically spat out that Junot Diaz quote about motherfuckers reading shit in Elvish and inquired about how many places in medievil Europe were rocking dragons and shit?
I’m not sure how much of this world, I will create but so far I’m pretty into it. I’m working on word-building, like a whole world that is Earthy but not Earth. I’m working on creating some language, some cultural stuff and so far I haven’t gone off the deep nerd end.
So here you go folks. It is my birthday and my present to you is a bit of Cat Rules Queen, a fantasy WIP by yours truly. OH also this is entirely unedited exactly as it came out of my brain. No rewrites/correction so don’t trip.
I’ve mentioned a few times here and there that because of folks like Daniel Jose Older, Nk JemisinJemisin, and having an amazing editing thing with Court Merrigan (I’ll be able to tell y’all more later) and what I’ve been doing with my Yeah, Write stuff I have been figuring out how I do word-building.
One of the things that has been a constant in my writing life since I was a kid is my habit of seeing a literary thing, reading the fuck out of the thing to study it (and now I have mother fucking YOUTUBE for that, more on that later) and teaching myself how to do the thing.
I have experimented with huge grand world building as in creating an entire other, uh, version of history on earth. That is too much for my little nerd brain and I have a habit of getting bogged down. For instance. For an RPG character I wrote an entire religion starting in Sumeria up through modern life. I rewrote historical events from Egypt to Rome to the US to hide the existence of an ancient seer/sorceress/vampire.
When I tried the first time to write a vampire novel, I wrote in an entire alternate history for the 23rd dynasty in Egypt and fell out. So huge scope is not my thing yet.
I’ve been doing something else.
My skill leans more towards the intimate.
What I mean by that is for me and how I think, I find it more intriguing to write on the body closely, use sensation as a means of giving the reader something concrete to hold on to even if it is alien in presentation.
For instance from one of my Yeah Write pieces. This bit:
His Black body doubled and the darkness came out of his mouth and nose. It trickled from his eyes and rectum, he felt it ooze from the tip of his penis and he fainted.
Bolding for emphasis.
Now I will be very presumptuous and say that if you’re human you’ve probably had an OH NO moment in regard to something happening in your butthole region. Now I used the very concrete and relatable to ease the reader into a moment of body horror. The fear of something alien and wrong mingling with the terribly familiar.
This is what I mean by intimacy.
I took this approach from how I write erotica.
Skin is skin is skin and every ready knows skin.
One of the things I’m learning to love about worldbuilding in horror is that my love of creating a multiverse, multi layered reality means I can play with sensation and perceptions. There are so many small clues and ways to let the other peek out into the world we walk around in.
That is the type of worldbuilding I’m very into right now.
I want to create a world that is huge but small enough to peek out from behind the shadow of a child because the idea that this place is that close and doesn’t give a shit about our general sense of who and what is innocent, scares the fuck out of me.
I think that a lot of my horror and SF and urban fantasy is less about a BIG sense of another world and more about that intimate thing. I want to bring the reader inside and make them comfortable for five minutes then let them squirm.
I’m still figuring it out.
My ambitions revolve very heavily around balancing my epic dorkness in making alternate realities huge and beautiful and sweeping and my desire for that intimacy with the reader.
I’ve been really enjoying doing this.
And the fact that my ideas about this and methodology feel right cutting across genres is very pleasing to me as well. I used a bit of this for the project I worked with Court on, I’m using it in my Daiyu Saga, I’m using it in my latest Yeah, Write series.
Even though I know that a lot of the stuff I do is weird and sometimes doesn’t work well (see this Yeah, Write entry) I am extremely satisfied with what I’m doing.
Most of it is not publishable in the varying genres and that’s okay.
I find a huge amount of joy in this type of play. I fully believe that this type of play is how I’ve been able to find my voice and figure out how to use it. It’s how I learn and expand my art.
So there you have it.
AND okay, confession time.
This is also a bit of an experiment.
This is the sort of thing I want to put together (with more specific lessons rather than just me yammering about what I do) for the writing/craft lessons I have mentioned here and there.
This is not necessarily for folks who already are writing and publishing. It is for anybody who wants to give something a shot.
If you don’t write say flash fiction or erotica, would you pay for that type of lesson?
Let me know.
OR I might do a poll.
Okay I have a terrible migraine and I’m going to retreat to my corner of the internet and try not to head butt the wall.