Staying in my Lane- Patreon reprint.

Enjoy a reprint for free from my patreon. To get the file referenced, click here.

 
First, please have a look at this amazing blog post
I was directed to it by K. Tempest Bradford  and have had it bookmarked because the questions in it for non-native authors really got me. Inside my ongoing project the Daiyuverse, several of our main characters are native. I have yet to get into their personal cultures/where they are from because I have plans for it. 
That said, I also am very concerned with staying in my lane. I want to talk about one of the questions from that post. 
Why did you select this particular tribal nation for your story? 
Without revealing too much I want to talk about why I chose X people from the PNW as the tribe of my Crow family. 
First up, it took me sitting down and comparing dates and plot elements and quite frankly location. I have a bit of knowledge about Indigenous people from the PNW. I really wanted to focus one of the Coast Salish peoples because geographically, it works with my needs in creating this work. 
Now, specifically what are those needs? 
  • Representation in an urban fantasy setting.  
  • To explore the impacts of colonization and assimilation on magical POC.  
Those two are uppermost in my thoughts. While I was doing research on creating my native characters, I started to look at the late 1890’s and the forced removal of Native children from their homes during that time. I had read an article about Native boys being forced to cut their hair last year and something clicked for me. I want to go back to that period in time in WA and (we’re getting to it in the verse) follow the fallout from being a victim of that practice to the creation of a space to counteract it. 
I come back to the original question quite often. The way I am working with my native characters, I feel that because I am not working from the perspective of trying to be an expert or speak for these peoples, I can tell this particular story. On one hand, I worry very deeply that I’m on entirely the wrong track here. I in no way want to position myself as an authority or one of those bhole types who thinks just because they can, they should. 
That said, I do want to talk more about why a large part of my cast is native. I really felt like in this world, creating The Institute would play a vital role in the idea of reclamation I thought who that I might meet in the Meat World, would benefit from that here in Seattle. I thought immediately of native people. I was partly inspired by a man I met who is native and we had a really great conversation about how so many of his own relatives were still cut off from their culture and how so many of us Brown folks just don’t have our cultures and myths close to us. 
With that conversation in mind, as well as having followed a lot of the fails of (generally speaking) White authors who decide to write a culture and position themselves as an authority and knowing how terribly that often goes, I am treading carefully and working to stay in my damn lane. My goal with these characters is to have them going through the entirely human struggle of reconnecting with their own roots and using The Institute (in this iteration of the ‘verse we are JUST getting to it) as a counter to assimilation. 
Writing extra-culturally especially when it comes to my fellow POC, is something I am still not sure is the best idea. On one hand, my plot arc for these characters is (at least so far) human first and foremost. They are whole living beings who are not trapped by the Mystical Native (or Negro) tropes. They have some foibles, we don’t know the whole of their history yet but, it is coming. 
I want to quote further from the blog post linked up top: 
The Devil is in the details . . . and the overall tone. Authors can have all their facts historically correct according to accepted sources available. But it is the interpretation of the facts into a story that makes the book harmful or helpful. I’ve seen a number of books that get most of the ‘facts’ correct, but the overall tone is that of stereotypes (which may be difficult for non-Indian writers, agents and editors to see when that has been the prevailing mode of American Indian representation). I’d highly recommend that agents and editors read the Revised Criteria from How to Tell the Difference: A Guide for Evaluating Children’s Books for Anti­-Indian Bias. Reading a manuscript through that lens and thinking deeply about Eurocentrism and colonialism will make all the difference. You can find guidelines, suggestions, statistics and a number of resources here at Writing
About Native Americans. It is a long post (as was this).  
Bolding for emphasis. 
My decisions as I work in this ‘verse are deeply influenced by the bolded. I am very mindful that I have the potential to cause harm and am doing the work not to do that. As I get further into the lives of the Crow family, I will start to include more specifics. Where they come from, how they got their names, what the curse on their family is about. I don’t want to spoil things but, most of the hardship they have gone through is a direct result of one of those forced boarding schools. 
I’m being a bit vague because we’re not quite there yet in terms of the story and I don’t want to give too much away. I am getting into some of the back history (before our heroine Daiyu is born) and honoring my native characters and their histories and culture has been uppermost in my mind. 
I’ll revisit this again when we start going back in time some more.  
For now, how about a peek at who I’m talking about here? 
First up Papa. Who along with Daiyu is as far as characters go, essential and part of the backbone of this whole universe.  
I’m keeping a neato spreadsheet with my characters, their full names, associations, list of magical abilities and other notes. I’m not going to give you everything but here’s a taste:
Papa Crow- 
Magical Abilities (so far, subject to change) Cursed-Prolonged life. Powers: charm, tactical aggressive magicks including but not limited to: elemental control, telekinesis, low level telepath (possible mentalist)- 
Nick Names- Papa, Old Crow, Crow, Bird, Nathan
Misc- Daiyu’s God father, estimated age between 180-300 years old, very good liar
Father Crow-
Magical Abilities- Lesser prolonged life curse. Summoning, Apothocary, traditional herbal healing, elemental magics, seer, demonaic tongue
Nick Names- Crow Jr, Black Wing, Joshua
Misc-Papa Crows grandson, inheritor of the Institute
Maria Crow-
Magical Abilities- Demoniac tongue, World walker
Nick Names- Maria- TBA
Misc- Father Crow/Joshua’s biological Mom
~
That isn’t everyone in the family.  
To wrap up, I am still so excited about this world I’m creating. I am very mindful of the temptation to just write what the fuck I wanna write and damn what anybody else feels but that’s not really who I am as a creator.  I am challenging myself here and putting a lot of trust in my readers to let me know if I’ve fucked up.
Does this tickle your fancy?
How about a bite from the current iteration of the Daiyuverse?
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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.

Staying in my lane and some other noodling.

Over at Patreon I posted a chapter from my OG Daiyuverse and talked a bit about a chunk of plot I took out of the story. Here have a looksy.

I want to talk a bit more about staying in my lane and how I’m looking to pull inspiration from other cultures in this particular verse.

My particular situation arose from a subplot involving a cultural misunderstanding between a Creole Skinwalker and a young Navajo man over the name Skinwalker. The Creole boys people are able to literally walk in the skin of animals by psychically occupying their consciousness. Navajo Skinwalkers are not that in any way.

While I was making notes and researching this, my uppermost concern was that I wasn’t just being appropriative and grabby because it could make for a shiny bit of conflict. I am working really hard on creating ways of bringing together disparate cultures and creating magical traditions within those cultures and not falling on OH MAGICAL NEGRO tropes.

This bit of storyline in particular, I think I can do without being disrespectful, but in terms of the Daiyuverse it may not happen there. I’m not trying to be hamfisted about it. Also, I wasn’t entirely ready to talk about things like tribal solidarity and how that wound function in a sort of pancultural thing like The Institute, how could a Navajo sorcerer reconcile sharing his cultural religious practices AND his magic with outsiders?

I didn’t have answers for that so- bloop plotline put aside.

And this is where I say, I’m gonna stay in my damn lane.

Too many writers I see decide to take something shiny from a culture and run with it without there being a foundation of understanding of both the shiny bits and the struggles of a culture. Personally, I think that is how we wind up with so many Magical Negroes, and sooper spiritual Native folks etc. Too many people don’t take the time to dig deeper and work from a space where yes, YAY magical and brown, but also, this is shit going on within that culture that would shape this character.

For me, this is where I’ve seen things like the Strong Black Woman that don’t need nobody tropes come from and flourish. Even other Black writers can fall into the trap of wanting so badly to create a bad ass amazing character, that they forget that nobody can be that all the time. In the need to defy negative stereotypes, folks forget the squishy bloodiness that makes us human and characters become cardboard cutouts.

I’m currently re-reading Midnight Taxi Tango: A Bone Street Rumba by  my homie Daniel José Older and this is an area where I will point to and say LOOK at how he builds the humanity of his characters through their moments of weakness. In his universe, he’s populated this book with bad ass killers. These are mother fuckers you should be afraid of.

My personal favorite character Reza (if you haven’t read the book read this short and meet her) is one of the folks to be scared of. She’s confident and a gangster and through her swag and gun toting badassery, we see her afraid. We get to see her heart aching for Angie. We see her in full vengeance mode and she’s a person. 

Daniel took what could have been a badass butch cardboard cutout of a gangster and gave her a pulse.

In the context of my own work, especially within this urban fantasy Seattle/US I’m building, I’m paying close attention to the people who are inhabiting this world. I want them to have life and pulses and I don’t want to reread what I’ve done and wind up rolling my eyes cause I’ve not taken enough care to incorporate what I feel is important into the framework of these people.

I’m also taking an opportunity to poke some meta fun at Whiteness tropes. Especially in terms of the hippy dippy pretendian White lady fucking things up with her ignorance and sealioning (I JUST learned that word and it fit so perfectly in what I had notes about doing) causing problems with the legit magical culture in this world. I’m also doing it in an urban fantasy short that makes fun of the Whiteness of Elves type fantasy and the justification of it being “tradition”.

An interesting side effect of not only Turnip Winning but also of my own reactions and health is that, I’ve found a certain freedom I’ve not felt before and I’ll talk about it more when I don’t have a cold.

That’s all for right now y’all. I’m at work and really tired and about to pound coffee and pie until my teeth vibrate.

I will probably be doing some more process/craft nerdery soon because I have many thoughts.

Giving what I have right now.

I can’t be in so much pain and anger today.

That said, I’d like to share some beauty.

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.

Check this slipstream flash story. It’s a happy little thing.

And one more, a favorite story of mine. A little Queer Flash fiction love letter to my fellow Brown Femmes. Check the link for the story and an interview.

This is all I have right now. I’m so not okay I have nothin else.

When I have something, it’s yours.

Until then, take care of yourselves and each other and I love y’all.

Yeah Write# 272 entry- The Goddess Cycle #1

The Goddess Cycle #1

Innana

by

Shannon Barber

When the sweet brown girls call, she comes. She weaves herself from their dreams and candles and incense smoke. The sweet brown girls know her when she moves into their circle. They call her Mother and Lover and General.

Her body made them feel good. Her pot belly and jiggling thighs and sagging breasts takes their breath and fear.

“H-hello sweet children.”

Their tongue feels strange on her lips, but she can manage a greeting. She understands their words, their language comes to her in song and prayers.

She dances with them, all naked and in love and free as wild weeds.

The girls know her names and respect the old dead tongue she knows intimately. She stops their dancing and settles each one to hear her prayers.

The first is lovely and shy, her cock lays half hard on her thigh and she lowers her eyes.

“What is your prayer?”

The girl murmurs,

“I want to be a Mother.”

She is blessed with the cupped palm of the Mother against her groin.

“Get your wife with child.”

The rest of the girl children ask for similar things. One wants to change her body to be fertile, another wants to grow her garden, another to be a nurse. Each gets her blessing until she gets to the last.

The last child does not sing nor does she grin. She stares at her Mother, her Lover and General, calls her with the scent of blood and need.

“Yes, Child?”

The girl has her fists clenched into tight little chubby brown balls and her body vibrates with rage.

“Mother, my Lover, my General. I want to fight. I want to go to war.”

“If you want to go to war child, can you name me?”

They stand up together and the child puts her fists on her wide hips.

“You are the Queen of Heaven.”

The Goddess nods.

“Louder.”

“You are the Daughter of  Sin and Ningal.”

“More.”

The girl’s heart thumps and she pounds her chest with one fist.

“You are she who descended into the underworld and returned. You are my Mother. You are my Lover. You are my General and we want blood.”

The Goddess howled and the divine light of war blazed from her eyes.

“My sweet child. Come, I will teach you the ways of war and the sacrifice of your enemies shall be my glory. Eli baltuti Ima’ ‘idu mituti.”

The naked girl  repeats the ancient words with pride.

” The Dead Will Be More Numerous Than The Living.”

The others cheer and rise, dancing again. Their ululations and sweat and love will carry their goddess and their sister into battle.

The other Gods look and see and smile.

Even old Delight of Frigg smiles at this new crop of prayers and songs.

“God Speed dear Innana. Goddess speed.”

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