He was excited to see 150 new emails in his inbox. The world had given him the gift of solitude in his communications. No more ridiculous chanting, no more exhausting transmogrification on demand, a simple button push and voila, everything he needed to get it all done. The little ding of an email sent or received had become his greatest pleasure.
He thought he would spend the rest of his eternity quietly tapping away on his miracle machine with dignity and organizational beauty but, no. One email, a single line and the dreaded high importance flag.
He left his little safe space and appeared as summoned. He stood with his hands folded in front of him, trying to look pleasant. The Boss looked at him over his glasses.
“Harold. We need to talk.”
The Boss nodded.
“Harold, you are not an administrator anymore. You are dead. You are a ghost. Do your job please. Those emails you send, they don’t go anywhere. Please, you are assigned to full manifestations and shadow person appearances. We have tried to work with your needs and this, situation is untenable. It has been fifteen years.”
Harold sighed and squirmed.
He looked so dejected and heart broken, The Boss held up a finger and tilted his head back. He hated to see such a face and made a decision.
“Harold, we’ll be moving you into this new industrial office park. It was built on desecrated ground. They have a lot of those computers you are so fond of. You can get in there and do whatever you want. Send emails, block emails, uh do the YouTube.”
The grin that spread across Harold’s misty face was beatific for a moment.
“Oh yes sir. I would like that very much. May I go right now?”
The Boss nodded and Harold dissipated. The Boss shook his head a little and muttered as he got back to work, “once a bureaucrat….”
Your problematic fave has some news and stuff to read.
An essay I’m terribly proud of finally found a home. Head on over to Queen Mobs Teahouse to read my ‘Make Me a Monster‘ essay. This essay which is, me at my rawest and realest got itself a lot of rejections included one that was from a solicited submission.
How about some hustle updates? Recently, Medium has changed how they calculate payment. I have put some new stuff over there and in absolutely non shocking news it doesn’t do well. I am trying to stop hurting my feelings with analytics but, frankly while yes I make about .60$ more a month or so, most people aren’t interesting. So on one hand, yay I made 1.87$ last month, I also offered up more than a few thousand words.
Other hustles, the holiday patreon drop off has begun. I’m not super worried about it. That is just what it do. Also as history has shown me, when I’m talking expansion that drives off patrons still so…eh.
On to Amazon. In the kindle publishing thing if you make your work available for Kindle unlimited you can make a bit of coin from page reads. I do not have any page reads since Sept 7. No sales of any of those pieces since Sept 25. I did one two week run of advertising to people I don’t already know. 600 impressions, 0 clicks, 0 sales. So I ate up my profits. I might make .52$ by new year. In total, for 2019 I made 35.46$ Minus advertising and when I tried FB advertising, my profit is about 4$. My two fave things I have available are the tiny horror collection Flashes of Discomfort. And the short story Bernie’s Warg. Those are affiliate links.
I think that’s it for hustling. I am trying really hard not to focus on it. It is so hard when you know that just a little more financial success would change so much. It is also hard because I know how I am and frankly, like I have said eleventy times before, I’m gonna write the shit anyway.
So I distribute stuff as I see fit. I’m doing really well at noting when things flop and why. I’m doing better at not getting bogged down in my financial failures. Emotionally, having my work not read/enjoyed etc isn’t the part that burns and that is so frustrating to me. It is a struggle but, we out here.
I think that’s all for now. 2020 is lookin up. I have one for sure thing that’ll be out third quarter. Maybe I’ll stop fucking around and write a real book. Another one. I dunno.
That’s all my loves.
OH OH wait..hold up.
I might be relaunching my creative loveletter thing. I am not sure yet. Stay tuned.
Her lover likes to paint the slight concavity of her empty sockets. Daisies today. She always sits still and allows this silly indulgence, it keeps her lover quiet for a while, their rants softened by contented soft humming. “Pretty, pretty. Flower baby.” She smiles at the soft nonsense.
“What color daisies?” She can feel her lovers soft sweet smile, “white in the left, blue in the right.” She doesn’t smile so as not to disturb her artist. Her lover has the smoothest most gentle touch, for monsters their lives had entwined into a softness that rarely showed itself for what it was.
She likes to feel the heat of her lovers breast. The naked hot weight of it resting on her near skeletal arm a hot reminder of life. Her lover in their turn loves to brush their long nipples against the ridges of her body, the protuberance of eat gnarl of bone far surpasses anything else.
They are jaggery and cream. All and nothing. The emptiness of after the end and the full ebullience of the beginning. They go on forever.
When her lover is done, her blank eye sockets run with color and life. She smiles and knows her lover has tears on their cheeks. “I only wish, I hadn’t taken your eyes. But I love that I took them.” She always forgives her cream lover. Always.
Let’s get in our way back machine and have a look at a little flash fiction yours truly had published in 2009.
First the story and then under it, we’ll talk some deconstruction and what I was doing at the time. CW: eroticized murder.
By Her by Shannon Barber
July 21, 2009
The smoky tenor voice of the woman standing in the doorway brought him back to the reality of his situation. Suicide via sexual fantasy fulfillment, the only proper end for a man like him. Of course, all of the things people had said about him over the years are true. Pervert, dilettante, masochist of dangerous proportions, and so it has all come to this.
“Yes of course.”
He walks over and takes her hand, bends to kiss it. There are to be no names in this exchange, it had been meticulously arranged by a third outside party for a modest fee, a matchmaker of sorts to those with exotic and dangerous tastes.
“It’s a pleasure and an honor madam.”
Ever the gentleman, even in the moments before his last orgasm. The woman smiled at him clearly pleased.
“The pleasure is mine sir.”
Arm in arm they walked up the hall to a lavish bedroom that belonged to neither of them. This part another provision of their outside party, a place for the thing to happen, people to clean up the mess and dispose of the body. Everything to create the penultimate fantasy come true.
It is a bonus that the woman, the avatar of his death is his kind of beauty. Fleshy, large busted, wide hips and an ample butt. He could almost picture lush big meaty thighs, he wondered absently how long her nipples might be and contented himself knowing he would find out.
“Take your clothes off. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
He does as told, folding his black slacks and black shirt neatly. Stacking his boxers, shoes and jewelry atop them just so, fastidious even to the end. He lays on the bed waiting, watching his cock twitch into alertness. He hears the woman enter before he turns to look at her. She is naked and breathtaking.
“You’re exquisite. Thank you.”
She poses for him, framed right arm bent to hide the hand. His eyes fixate on her bent right arm, he knows what she has, the knowledge burns until he asks, his voice breaking.
“Show me, please.”
Slowly, terribly slowly she shows him what it is she has. A hunting knife, huge in her small hand, the blade gleaming and pristine. A frisson of fear, delight and anticipation runs down his spine to settle in his cock.
She crosses the room, smiling at first his erect cock then his face.
“I’m glad you like what you see. Now shut the fuck up and get ready to die.”
Her tone changes, turns cold and his smile brightens then his eyes close. Ready to die just as he had lived.
SO what exactly was I doin?
One of the things I got really interested in at the time was the idea of presenting the erotic without the explicitness literary minded folks tend to run screaming from. I still feel some type of way about that but we’ll do that another day.
I also as ever have an interest in the idea of eroticizing violence or murder in ways that don’t depend on rape tropes. Or scorned woman or some “psycho” dickhole pretend Patrick Bateman fantasy. My interest comes from the book Lolita.
BUT Y SHANNON!
Here’s the thing. The first time I read Lolita, I think I was about 15. At that age, I was drawn to Lolita herself as some archetype of sexuality that resonated with me on a deep level. I was drawn to the desire at that age to flirt with sexuality. In presenting Lolita as this object of obsession by the terrible yet elegant Humbert appealed to me. It appealed to me in the same way *due to my genders being fluid as fuck* that reading a lot of gay fiction about hustlers and rent boys.
I wanted to both be the man and the object of lust. In my mind at that age, I had no right to or link to desirability. I was pretty well convinced that I would never be the object of that level of lust and it fascinated me.
I reread it in my 20s and I was struck less by that identification with Dolores herself but, the beauty of the language of something so terrible.
I have always been fascinated by the beautification of terror and horror. I love to play with the language of a horrible thing by making it beautiful. I like the lure of it. I like the idea that I can feel like I’m being stroked with silk and then BAM oh shit that was…terrible.
Another author who influenced me heavily in this direction is the magnificent Dennis Cooper. I’ll do a list of other of these influences below.
Thing is, one of the things what I do in my work is find those silky paths to bloodshed and mayhem. I like to explore things like predatory desire expressed by women and non cis men. I like exploring places where, being that I was raised and socialized to be a woman I was taught not to explore. Especially not to explore in a way that is pleasurable and outside of the purview of the white cis hetero dude view.
So below I’ll link/cp some of my other early work in this vein and then a list of authors and artists who have had an impact on this trajectory.
A poem reprint from June 2006. Originally in Zygote in my Coffee.
by Shannon Barber
You stare at me as if I should know better.
You look like I should be jealous.
Jealous of your smile and wily ways.
You part my lips in the semblance of a smile.
Eyes that are not mine stare from the mirror.
Barely constrained by civility.
I look closer.
Yes eye to eye with the enemy.
I smile – She smiles.
Obsidian eyes gleaming with cold fire.
I say I’ll eat you alive.
She says I’ll finish you for desert.
Slowly she is no longer the stranger.
This skin is my own.
The glittering eyes I begin to recognize.
And I am no ghost.
I smile and give her a wink.
She smiles and winks back.
We say – I don’t love you but I know you.
Love will come soon enough.
The woman I was-
The woman I am
Together behind black eyes and secret smiles.
~ This was 13 years ago and I believe that my use of words like bitches and my love of the Self Vs Self are rooted in this era of my work. Self Vs Self was also heavily influenced by one of my favorite artists Hazel Dooney. The evolution of that influence culminated in this piece of erotic literary flash. Self Vs Self, originally printed in Sleep. Snort. Fuck. June 23, 2010. You can also see some of my earlier mythos remixing happening here.
A recent piece where I play with these things was from Heavy Feather Review. Blood Fugue by yours truly.
OKAY actually I’m gonna do some book recs that put me on the path.
So post writer hustle life, I’m finding the joy in writing fiction and non fiction that I’m pretty sure nobody wants to publish. Waaaaaaaaat? I know right? Here’s the thing. I don’t go into the lit streets assuming that everyone wants to publish my genius words. A lot of folks don’t and that’s okay.
Once upon a time during my most prolific and successful (in the context of how much I got published) eras, I was in the headspace I’m in now.
I am writing whatever I want. Might it get read? I dunno. Will anyone but me like it? Dunno. Don’t care.
Thing is, I write a LOT of things other people don’t like or don’t like enough to expose their readership to. I always have.
Currently I feel like I can write my stories and fling them at the lit streets and see what happens. So what is happening?
GOSH y’all. I’ve been just scribbling away, stretching my fiction muscles. I’m playing and when I can play I write some cool shit.
One of the things I’ve learned through this HELLA painful trying to make money as a creative thing is that, I have a tendency to restrict myself when I really want to try and make money. I get deep in my own head about the ways in which a lot of the work I enjoy producing, doesn’t sell.
On a deeper level, I have also had to learn to navigate real trauma. As I’ve mentioned before if you’ve been here a while, I’ve been plagiarized many times. Concepts I started writing about a long time ago have been lifted sometimes verbatim. I’ve seen my pitches ignored only to read that thing in a magazine two weeks later.
This is real and having to learn that it was really happening and not just happening to me fucked me up. I have also had to learn to deal with being gaslit about this by (lezbereal White women in writing groups), other writers and whatnot.
In my retirement from that fuckery, because god damn it it IS FUCKERY, I am at play.
I am as I said previously, as free a mother fucker as I can be. And it is good. SO how about a lil bite of something I”m cooking up?
Fuck. Fuck fuck, fuck fuck, fuck fuck; I didn’t realize I was muttering until my phone dinged softly in the pre-dawn darkness, “yes Melissa?” My voice assistant calls me by my real name, I was also startled when it piped up. “Shut up Binky.” I named it Binky, I liked to pretend I still had someone to bitch to about dumb things. Binky shut themselves down and I sat on the edge of my bed in the dark sweating and muttering, fuck. Fuck fuck. Fuck fuckfuck.
Soon my loves, we’re gonna have some new fun shit here. So enjoy babes.
In the sun, in June you are safe. But, it grows. Cradled in light and heat, you are free, safe. There is no reason for the world to slip and slide on the periphery of you. No reason for the chill between your thighs.
You will not scream. The darkness will not come. And yet the cold place grows inside.
So this is gonna be the last post about this era of my writing career. If you’ve missed it check out here and here. Go ahead I’ll wait.
Now I want to warn y’all this is gonna get long as fuck and real raw about a lot of things. If you’re new here, put on your hardhat and athletic cup. If you’ve been here. Sorry boo.
For background, a few years ago I decided it was time to level up my career. Post a fairly brutal doxxing by other writers, I felt like I really needed to re asses, set some goals and get the fuck to work. When I found out I had a book of poetry coming out, that was my cue.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in these lit streets since the late 90s. Like most writers, especially those of us swimming in the big ass ponds of poetry and short fiction, I’ve had ebbs and flows. I’ve rarely had a lot of success in poetry. There was a time period where I was a bit notorious amongst white poets because I’m a big ole mean ass Negro who hates free speech.
I was gonna link a bunch but nah. If you want to read my older stuff, links live in the sidebar.
I had a few minor moments, at one point my short fiction high my acceptance rate stayed up in the high 70s with about, 10-15 submissions per week so that was tits.
I got to know some poetry folks who made me feel great. I went to AWP (this is actually a hilarious story so I might try to make a video about it) I got to meet Roxane Gay at the first one and almost peed my pants. In the years between what like 2014-2016ish I was feeling myself in the, obscure but getting some great feedback area of writing.
In 2016 or so I decided that since I was armed with knowledge, a network of readers (a thing a writer I really admire complimented me on was how I engage with folks, that was just great) and I believed.
What I believed was that, in spite of my big mouth and all my shade at the lit community etc that I could carve out some kind of little financially sustainable writing life. I started with freelancing. After my first non-fiction publication I had a taste for it. I have an ability to write about things like racism, fatness etc in a way a lot of folks found good at the time. I had some experience from writing at XOJane. I’d figured out how to deal with things like:
Being told for years what a shitty asshole I am for writing things.
Being doxxed/harassed by angry racists, angry feminists and some other folks.
Being told explicitly (with pull quotes and footnotes) why folks were hate reading me and then why they wanted to make sure I know how much I suck.
Folks trying to get me fired from my dayjob.
Etc etc etc.
All those things continue to suck but I learned how to deal with it. My next plan for my glow up when I realized that to be a “successful” freelancer I’d have to eat a lot of shit, I decided to scale WAY back. Also real talk, dealing with white women in the sooper seekrit internet writing groups, fucked me up and in a lot of ways forced me out. That’s fine.
Some things I’ve been successful at in the last few years:
Figuring out I am not good on spec.
I am too stubborn to settle.
I refuse to eat shit for a byline.
I still write pretty ding dang good fuckin essays.
Don’t get it twisted. I am a fucking bad ass writer. I am. I cannot be fucked with and I continue to sometimes write some really bad shit. Overall. I’m a bad mother fucker.
I am Fat Laila. (MY FAVE INTERNET CHONKY KITTER DO NOT FAT SHAME HER THIS AIN’T THE PLACE BRO) Look at her. This is raw footage of my work and shit. No I just really wanted a giggle break. Stay with me.
So when I decided to level up, I felt intensely ready. I did some courses from places like the Void Academy. FYI the links I share ARE good shit. They just aren’t the good shit for me in particular. When Medium launched their pay program. I put some stuff behind the paywall and pretty much failed hard. I learned SO MUCH from my beloved Milcah. I have held this advice so tight in my little hand. I very literally say it to myself a lot.
From my journal from the time, my number 1 goal was GET MY SHIT READ. Thus I embarked on the type of marketing and self-promotion folks say to do for years.
It didn’t go well.
I had a beautiful most amazing little poetry book come out. Buy her here. Shit this part burns. But I did the thing folks say to do. I reached out to a LOT of people. I offered review copies and I think I got 2 reviews. more stuff I haven’t told anybody. I sent emails, queries etc to lit venues offering review copies, I answered a few very specific calls that put my book into their wheelhouse. Out of 60 emails of this nature sent, I got zero replies.
Privately I was fucking devastated. Part of how I experience anxiety often means I want to apologize to people for bothering them with my needs or whatever. It is just a thing. I was really tempted and so heavily triggered I almost asked my publisher to cancel the book.
I’m glad I didn’t. It is a good little book.
Now here is where I really started to see the pattern of my career at work and exposing a lot to me. Now, in terms of how people respond to my work, even here in Seattle people really love it. On a personal level, people tell me how much they like things I do. Some folks wrote me really lovely notes about how much they enjoyed the book.
After publication, I tried another round of promotion in the review angles and again, nothing happened. Nothing. The few folks who took review copies never said anything about it again. It has taken most of my self control to not email ALL of those people to ask if they just hated it. I don’t need to know.
I know enough.
Those months are what my career is at this point. I’ve realized these things:
The agents I’ve queried have all been either super interested and then once they saw more of my work *who I actually am* they ghost. Or their advice is to cut the social justice stuff, talk about racism less etc.
There is something about ANY of my work that does not keep the attention of people enough to really support it in any material way.
Again, I’m not talking about my ride or dies. I’m talking about the 5k+ folks in my social media, other people. I just ain’t it bro.
Superficially that makes my inner child wail. I want to lay face down on the floor. I want to suck out my personality and brains and everything and try to be more like the badass writers I’ve been compared to (or mistaken for in Ijeoma’s case) Roxane, Nikki. All writers I admire deeply.
If I could in fact eat or otherwise ingest some of their successes and turn them into my own, maybe.
I am not them and that is okay. I don’t have to be.
I could honestly go on forever. I know a lot of super talented, successful amazing writers. I stan them. I get so excited when I see their names in the news and on best of lists etc.
And just this year I realize, that is probably not going to happen for me. I hate it and it breaks my heart into a million pieces but that is just what it is. Whatever it is about me, my work, etc is not gonna be the thing that gets me the big money or the big publication or probably a spot on any best of list.
I’ve accepted it and that my beloveds is why I’m closing my professional FB page. It is why I’m not doing a newsletter anymore, why I’m not going to bust my whole ass trying to get people to do the TWO things I need.
Action doesn’t happen for me when I ask. Unless I’m having a complete panic fueled meltdown and as I’ve said that is exhausting and humiliating and also doesn’t really work in terms of success I can link to it. When I do that, I might get a few bucks thrown at me on Kofi or maybe an extra 2 shares but folks ain’t reading, ain’t buying, ain’t sharing.
So that my friends is the end of this part of my writing career. When I publish on Medium I might use the paywall I might not. I’m writing a lot of fiction. I’ve got some horror coming out this year. I want to get back into noir.
My failure to not get famous, that wasn’t the point. The point was to move my life into a more sustainable model, maybe someday sell a book and keep writing and making some coin. I failed. There were a lot of reasons but I failed.
So like I been doing for 20 years, I’m gonna do what I know how to do.
Write like a mother fucker.
So that’s it y’all. A different adventure begins. Please stay tuned, next week I’m gonna talk about stuff I’ve got planned, we’re gonna nerd the fuck out about horror and weird fiction. It is gonna be lit.