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.

My Body is Ready

Let’s talk about what happens when my ass is in the chair and I’m getting ready to put in work.

I thought I had no ritual but, apparently I do.

I get my beverage. Usually fresh coffee or tea. I have my smokes nearby if I’m at home. I need noise so if I’m at work and music ain’t cutting it, I’m a sucker for the trashiest of trash tv. Reality TV where people are hollering and fighting usually is the thing.

I get office open and go.

If shit is really good, I am rocking and/or somehow wriggling in my chair between sitting up stiff and weird, my feet kick, my tongue pokes out, I pull other weird faces. If I’m really cooking, I mumble, sometimes I read a bit out loud, yell FUCK or NO NO NO NO NO.

authoratwork
[image description: Black femme person wearing a lavender bob style wig, black framed glasses, the tip of their tongue is sticking out]
If I’m being honest, things get weird. Like it’s that scene from that movie Swordfish where NERD!WOLVERINE is at his fancy mega computer, mumbling, dancing around, spinning in his chair. If I’m alone enough, shit gets that real.

I mean, y’all see. Granted I’m looking a lot more put together in this photo than I am at home when I work. But yeah, this is the start of me evolving into your fave indie weirdo writer in composition mode.

Something I find really funny is that the older I get the more I feel writing in my body. Back in the day, while I wrote I fancied myself to be very uh, pretty in doing it. Like I imagined romantic poets to be. All loungy sex and artistic glow.

Y’all nah. When I’m really deep in it, I’m sweating and stinking and grumbling. The other night while I was working on PoetryBookBaby#1, I bit the inside of my fucking cheek so hard it bled and then I was like HOW ABOUT NO FUCK U POMES! Out loud.

It just makes me giggle because the actuality of being a working writer is so not what I thought it was going to be. I thought things would be like, okay BOOM I’M PUBLISHED AND PUBLISHED AGAIN BANG ZIP BOOM MONEY YEAH FUCK YEAH!! PARTIES!! BOOTY!! FAME!!

I’m giggling while I write this, but it is what I thought would happen.

I didn’t think I’d be sitting and swearing at a computer screen at a job that mostly pays my bills, and hoping the phone doesn’t ring and fuck up my flow.

That said, it is not bad.

It’s not always greatness and cash, but you know.

I’m working through some shit and writing and writing and WRITING AND WRITING AND FUCK…I’m feeling kinda prolific but at the same time like there’s not enough energy and time in the day.

I think I’ll feel like I’m not getting the output I want forever. I’m not a machine but I want to be a word machine.

Now that’s this. I have LOTS of stuff to do.

So go read/subscribe to my newsletter. There is a fart joke AND I talk about Impostor Syndrome. come back next week and I’ll talk some more (GEEK SHIT YO) about some recurring themes in my work and how I deal with them in various genres.

 

 

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.

Yeah Write Entry #298- Desiderium For RG

 

Desiderium*

by

Shannon Barber

 

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.

Thoughts, bubbling like black water. Thoughts red and bloody.

I want.

I need.

Id rattling the bars. I am a shell.

A caress that precedes a slap, your hand around my throat. A threatening squeeze that echoes in my cunt.

I want.

I need.

My nails in your back, dragging skin until thin blood mixes with hot sweat.

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

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

I am want.

I am need.

*I am longing for what is lost. 

###

PS

I will craft nerd about this tomorrow and explain a thing. Also it is dedicated to and inspired by one of my Muses Remittance Girl.

The 2016 Wrap Up

Okay, my annual wrap up of the year.

First:

trashfire
[image description: a moving gif of a fire in a dumpster.]
A moment of solidarity and well y’all, the gif says it all.

So let’s talk about some of the hard stuff first.

I learned that mainstream/monied lit world likes to flirt with me. It likes to tell people they know my work but nothing follows. That’s been hard and I haven’t really talked about it in depth, but yeah it was a thing.

I came to terms with a fact I’ve known about my general readership for years. And before I talk about it, understand I’m not grabbing for sympathy or trying to be shady. It’s just the facts.

I’ve known on some level for years that my audiences, let’s say for the past ten years are hard pressed to extend their support to buying my stories or whatever. I’ve talked before a bit about my essentially failed etsy store (2-5$ stories), my other money things. And this year I feel like I’ve finally started the work by making some peace with this.

It has been a hard process. I’ve been through bouts of questioning my very existence as an artist to rage and back. Real talk, sometimes I still get very salty when I see folks I know who are easier on the world than I am sell ALL the things. I really do.

That being what it is, I went through some things. I had a thought of going old school and just delivering ALL the content for free since whatever nobody is tryin to pay me. Nah.

I tried to freelance again to fill the gaps. Noah, son. Like super hella nah. It was a failure. I studied, I wrote pitches that mimicked a lot of what I saw get picked up and….crickets. And as any writer will tell you, crickets is way worse than rejection. That fucked me all the way up.

So I’m not okay with it, but I get it. I guess.

I also realized in the realest sense that, I’m just not going to be one of those writers. And it’s sorta okay. We can’t all do that. I know some kick ass amazing writers who can and I admire the fuck out of them. I just can’t be them.

During these months of strife and anxiety, I also had some shit happen. I had some huge data losses. Like a lot of work just gone. I was able to recover some but some not so much.

I went to AWP and felt terribly gross about it. From my anxiety, to feelign snubbed at the bookfair (which I STILL haven’t written about) it wasn’t awesome. I got to see Roxane super briefly and remembered not to fling myself at her, but I had to run away because I had to pee. I was too shy to say hello to writers I recognized. But, I had a stellar reading and got to spend time with my bestie.

And other stuff.

Let’s talk some goodness.

I got to teach about writing and it was amazing.

I finally shook off my feelings that I am not a real poet and am working on my first to be published poetry book.

I did some other stuff but I want to tell you the most important thing to be saved from the 2016 trashfire.

I am finally comfortable with the creator I am.

I am not an entrepreneur, artist. I’ve tried to learn how and do a lot of things I thought I HAD to do in order to make my work a bit more sustainable and frankly, I’m just bad at it. Promotion, not my thing. I like to share but doing the damn thing overwhelms me and makes me feel bad. My self-esteem suffered because I was trying so hard to follow the advice and lessons and ecourses and everything.

What wound up happening was that I ran out of energy to actually create. My brain was so full of fuck that actually making/doing the things I was trying to hustle was impossible for me.

A big part of this has been that I’ve had health problems all year. The ones I’ve had since I was a kid have just been extra and I’ve learned I have to be very careful as to how I ration my energy. I can’t just burn until I break down anymore.

I’ve had to work through a mountain of guilt and shame about this. I’ve really started to brush it off and not feel less than or like I’m being some weirdo poseur.

One of my goals last year was to make my creative life sustainable in 2016. At the time I was only thinking about the financials.

This year I realized I have to not only consider the cash, but consider my heart.

I kept my little patreon going and it has been a joy and actively makes my real lived life better. There were points I wanted to close it because I felt like I wasn’t providing anything of value and thus didn’t deserve the patronage. Fuck that.

I started what was supposed to be my official writer newsletter. But, it has turned into a weekly love letter to my fellow creative folks. I don’t just talk about my work, I talk about art and it is my real heart. It’s where I give encouragement and talk about my creative failings and wins. I’m pretty into it and look forward to writing it every Saturday.

I started blogging again for me. As with my fatty blog, I’m using my blog to teach myself how I want to write about things like fashion, aging and beauty. I raised enough money during my fundraiser to go pro with it so at some point I can fully customize it.

What else?

I also have felt incredibly supported through this process by my people. I have a mother fucking literary squad.

I have people who understand me and my processes and my foibles and help me get along.

Realizing that while I’m a very solitary type of creator, I don’t have to go it all alone has been the best thing.

So, to wrap up.

2017 is gonna be mother fucking lit.

I’m scaling back on my political posts and essays so I can finish my poetry book and get SCLAB going the right way. I’m settling in and will post work when I feel like it. And feel okay with that.

If you want to get a peek at what the new Self-Care Like A Boss is gonna be, sign up for our email list here. Wanna see me read a tiny bit from the old version? See here. Also check my channel there for longer readings by me.

That’s it for now. I’ll come back with more stuff here and there through the remainder of the sparkle season.

Thanks for being here. I hope you have a good whatever you celebrate and that 2017 brings you what you need.

What had happened was…

Currently I’m in an obsessive work mode.

I’m working on:

  • Finishing two poetry chapbooks.
  • SCLAB materials.
  • Protest fictions.
  • Daiyuverse. 

That’s pretty much all I can focus on. I am not a huge fan of the holidays so keeping them off my mind with work helps. This year has been particularly difficult, regular mundane life stuff has been intense.

As per usual for me, this time of year also brings me way down into a deep navel gazey type space. I’m looking at a lot of my endeavors, looking at what has been good, what has failed.

Some things that have happened this year more than other years:

  1. Me having to explain repeatedly when being criticized for not being journalistic in my work that I am not a journalist. Never have claimed to be. Not one time.
  2. Related, dealing with critique that my work is too personal or too emotional when I’m writing about my own lived life. Not theory- my actual history.
  3. Noticing that as I’ve expanded my audience somewhat, a lot of that audience *mainly white folks* seem to only read my work when I’m hurt or angry.
  4. Realizing that as hungry for my pain as those readers are, they are loathe to pay for my pain.
  5. When I’ve pointed this out to a couple of people who have wanted to give me exposure, crickets.
  6. I applied for four artist/writer grants. Got none.
  7. I still don’t really understand residencies you pay for. like, what about the rest of us?
  8. I’ve had to figure out when I will and won’t write about politics because I find it too emotionally draining to do for free.
  9. I’ve made way less money writing than I did in 2015. By a lot.

#9 has been the hardest. I spent a lot of time at points this year pitching, not hearing anything back, stressing. I also had the biggest dip in self confidence as far as the monetary worth of my work as a writer.

Y’all if I’m gonna keep it 100, that shit was the hardest thing. The disparity between what people I respect have said to me about work I’ve done and ideas I’ve had and the essential non response in the industry or offers of “exposure” etc fucked me all the way up. It got to the point of me really questioning whether or not I should start SCLAB again with Milcah, it had me freaking out that people don’t buy the work in my Etsy store even at rock bottom prices.

I was prepared to shut down all my writing related hustles because the failure of them really got to me. I really couldn’t get over the level of nobody gives three bucks worth of a fuck. A lot of my struggle was also due to finances being so much tighter this year. That living expenses, increase I had in early 2016 fucked everything up.

Add that with my failure to be a successful freelancer and y’all, shit has been a struggle.

My friend Ayla wrote this piece I’m Too Busy Being Poor To Be Creative. It is an old piece but super true.

My biggest challenge as a writer has been to find that place where I can do my best work and survive and it ain’t been easy. Shit is hard as fuck.

That said, how about some highlights from 2016?

There’s other stuff that happened.

So things were not all bad. it has been a huge struggle and a lot of things have flopped. I’ve had some really wonderful success as well.

As the year draws to a close, I’m mostly having to struggle with myself. I don’t want to succomb to bitterness and the salty anger I feel when I see shit get published and paid for. Yeah, it hurts a lot, but I can’t fix it.

Okay that’s it for right now. I will likely queue up some posts for a while so I can get down with my work.

If I don’t see y’all before hand, have a safe and happy new year.

 

But okay so like..I have questions.

I just read yet another super Anti-Black piece of trash in a “well regarded” supposedly venerable publication.

Okay I have fucking questions.

So, in the past few years I’ve not been trying to get as involved with lit world fuckery. That said, I see it. I watch publications publish and pay for boldly Anti Black, racist, transphobic shit and y’all just…

I have mother fucking questions.

Nobody can ever tell me why these are the voices folks choose to put forward. Or why aside from mealy mouthed declarations of freedom of speech, that those things need space.

And then so many of those pubs turn around and brag about their commitment to diversity.

Y’all.

Can I be honest?

Shit like this, is what propels me out of the lit world.

In 2016 I made less than 30 submissions. And most of them were rejected.Most of hte stuff I’ve gotten published that I haven’t done myself has been solicited.

It’s not for lack of done work. It’s because I don’t want to have to wade through the ugly shit to see if I even should submit. I don’t want my name associated with venerable well paying publications that like to post racist or whatever shitty shit without comment except, oooh freedom of speech.

Man.

I have to deal with that.

I have to deal with sooper seekrit lady writer groups where I’ve opened my big ass mouth about injsutices, and said no to whiteness and worry about being told that editors will tell other editors that I might be a problem or hard to work with. I have to deal with the very real thing (that has happened but not lately) of having my ideas stolen and fucked up because I asked my “peers” for advice.

And I have to be able to actually write the shit and not have it come out only FUCK FUCK FUCK MOTHER OF FUCK.

Maybe it is getting older or maybe it is the fact that this election has pretty much destroyed any chill I had left but I just don’t want to do it.

I have SCLAB to do and that is my heart. And I can’t do that if my heart is torn to shreds because the lit world is a burning garbage fire on the regular.

I am so frustrated.

I am angry.

I am so tired.

I feel like my opportunities in the lit world are shrinking.

I have a submission almost ready because someone told me I should submit to their thing. I have a few more like that.

What I don’t have is the strength or girded loins to do deep market research anymore because I keep running into this bullshit.

I dunno y’all.

2017 might be the year I go full indie because I just can’t deal with this AND do my art.

I just don’t know.