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.

Hustlin’ Hustlin

So.

I am on that hustle because frankly I want to buy some summer clothes that fit my ass and my aesthetic. Also baby got bills to pay.

I also decided to do a digital version of my poetry chapbook The Motherfuckess Manifesta And Other Poems. The print version will be handmade and not the exact same book. I am taking my time with that because I’m terrible at book building.

 

You can go check that out here. I also relisted my Lovecrafty Story Doe Mouse. Deer Mouse. Rabbit and Bunny.  I even added a tiny bonus Crawling Chaos story.

What else?

You can also read more flash by me over at Catapult. 

I think that’s all the news for now. I’ll be starting to deliver some brand new stuff to folks who support me via Patreon. Shit is getting exciting up in there.

What else is happening?

Essentially, I’m struggling to settle into my new/current experience of poverty. Those first couple of months of the increased cost of living haven’t been gentle. I have stress rashes, I’ve had panic attack shits and I’ve choked myself out creatively speaking. Shit is so hard.

BUT, I’m trying really hard not to completely freak out.

I’ve got some freelance paychecks coming in later this month and next month.

I’m sort of on target with writing new stuff ish.

I’m trying.

But shit is fucking hard y’all.

That’s it for now. We may or may not step into The World tomorrow. I have a thing for that, but it’s not quite what I want. I’m on that heavy experimentation tip again so we’ll see if I can pull it off.

 

Yeah Write Entry #209- Book Slut

 

Book Slut: An Ode to Challenged Books

by

Shannon Barber

One of my fondest memories as a reader is the year when I was a tween I decided to read every book on the 100 most challenged book list as published by the King County Library System. One by one I devoured every one and thought about what made them so terrible in the eyes of a few people.

I cried. I got angry. I was sad. I read things I didn’t entirely understand and would return to years later. I read books I had no interest in and couldn’t connect to.

Given the frothy mouthed things I’d read about book censorship debates, I fully expected to be twisted by my adventure. I expected that I’d be struggling with being a drug addled, teenaged prostitute who was pregnant and running away and of spectacularly loose morals. I was under the impression that reading these books, that letting their wicked ideas into my head would change me.

I was down for it and I waited for some shift in my brain to happen. I waited for the inevitable rejection of my budding personal system of morality and ethics to dissolve under the weight of books like Private Parts by Howard Stern or The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison to just happen.

I waited.

I read more books.

I started reading really dirty books by Henry Miller, Anne Rice and other perverse people. I daydreamed about being a beautiful gay boy and having Kerouac or Burroughs or Corso as my lovers. I thought about running away to befriend Alice Walker and sit at her feet to learn to be a writer.

I thought about my Queerness and how to deal with it.

I turned 16 and started trying to plan a life as a writer.

I wanted a girlfriend.

I still hadn’t been ruined by my promiscuous reading.

I exposed myself to violent texts, queer sex, drug use, prostitution, smoking, bullying, offensive language, adult situations, weird or extreme political viewpoints- I didn’t only expose myself to these things I craved them. I gorged on them.

Inside those inappropriate pages I found visions of myself. I discovered worlds I might not have been able to reach out and touch, but that made sense to me and thus helped the outside world to make sense to me.

I was still a child.

When I had problems and questions I didn’t have the voice to ask, they were inside books. When I wanted to be deliciously terrified, books were there. When the whole world seemed too big and terrifying, I had books.

For every person who says that children or teenagers shouldn’t read this or that, I say calm down maybe you shouldn’t read it.

I joyfully encourage the kids and the teens and everyone to read promiscuously. Read things that churn your stomach. Read things that terrify you. Read about people you hate. Read.

The world is waiting for you and if you are a tween like I was, it just might save you.

###

PS for some more info on banned or challenged books, read here.

Y’all are not ready.

I have been sitting on a major secret.

I am super proud to announce that Milcah Orbacedo is opening a brand new press called MotherBlazing Books and I am her first author.

We are going to do SO MUCH together.

There will be special edition print books, ebooks, a brand new website AND TEE SHIRTS.

I am so so happy to be doing it this way. Coming up I’m also going to talk about how meaningful it is to me to be bringing my first not published by me print book into the world with someone who really sees who I am and values me for who I am and who I trust and love.

This is the publishing I want.

Now I am super exhausted and I have been bursting to tell everyone.

To keep up on what’s going on and to see when the new website drops like the bass you can come like my author page on faceook.

I hope you all come along for the ride because it’s going to be fucking great.

 

A Love Letter to Antonia Crane

So we know I adore Antonia but this will be a combo review and love letter.

I’m having a very emotional week for a lot of reasons and I just finished reading Spent: A Memoir.

Wow.

Okay first of all the hardback is really physically beautiful. For my fellow tactile book nerds, the cover has this beautiful artwork and is glossy. It feels nice under the finger tips and the little half dust cover is gorgeous.

And then you open it and start reading.

As soon as you start reading, you realize that this memoir is not tidy. It is not full of sunshine and flowers. It is not a story of a woman who dabbled in the dark and ran from it. While I was reading I was thinking of Antonia’s big beautiful smile and the prior readings of her words and I fucking got it.

You can see in her work that there is a sparkle in her eye and a knowing that you’re going for a ride.

In this book Antonia does not pretend.  She is naked in a way that is so important to me when I read memoir by other women especially sex workers and others who have been through it.

I personally cannot connect to women’s writing that sticks to the sunny and immediately redemptive. I can’t connect emotionally or (in my case) want to sit down and talk to a person who peers into the dark and skips away unscathed.

Antonia got scathed.

She wrote that shit like her life depended on it and even though I don’t know her super well, I’m going to assume her life did depend on it.

Now, I have been waiting for this book since the first time I saw her writing way back on The Rumpus. She had no book deal and I (sorry Antonia if I got creepy) followed her around the internet to get sips of her words. Even from the bits and bobs I read, I knew here is one of my people.

There is a power for me in coming across women who however they do it just take my heart. How they talk to and about other women. Certain styles of sex work writing. There are let’s call them (forgive my woowooness) vibes I get that make my say yes.

Now let’s talk about sex work memoir as a genre.

Back when sex bloggers/workers were the it thing in publishing and I was a semi sex blogger myself, there was a big explosion of shiny books written by madams, hookers, strippers etc.

For me during that time up through now the genre itself was lacking. I read them in a fairly greedy manner and after two or three I realized that the predominant narrative was fairly standard.

A lot of those stories were either handjobs to redemption and ‘saving’ from a illicit life. The heavy handed I AM FEMINIST THEREFORE I DO WHAT I WANT, the pretty White girl going to college and venturing into stripping to boost her self esteem etc.

The tragic was covered, the Red Shoe Diary salacious type semi stroke material.

What was missing to me was the grit. I have known and loved many sex workers in the last (I’m gonna round it out) 15 years give or take. From a beloved crack whore who taught me incredibly valuable life lessons, to peep show workers, strippers, high cost escorts and in talking to a lot of them and living some of it myself when I did a bit of sex work back in the day, the struggle in those stories was missing.

There was often the struggle to reconcile religious or feminist beliefs with sex work but not the how the fuck am I gonna pay my rent, how the fuck do I get out, where do I go from here type narrative.

A lot of sex work memoirs are designed more to give the reader a sense of satisfaction at the end that while sex work is glamorous and full of money and presents, it’s way better to retire gracefully into wifedom or something.

That doesn’t do it for me as a reader or as someone who has not really seen that happen.

Antonia’s book is full of the grit. Her writing is silky and funny, it is rough and gut wrenching but it is not glossy. There is terror. The way she writes about her Mother’s illness and death is going to haunt me.

That is why I love her and her work. I honestly cannot stand writing that seems too shiny. When people write about terrible things but there is a everything turns out in the end gloss. I have a thing about that.

This is not a Red Shoe Diary stroke memoir.

It is sexy but not fap material.

This is real and raw.

Antonia’s work is naked and glorious.

Spent is the kind of book I will return to because writing that is so full of power and beauty moves me. It makes me feel at home. It makes me feel a sense of community when I feel like I’m drowning in suburban bundt cakey blandness.

I am so deeply terribly thankful that I found Antonia’s work.

So before I start blubbering.

This book is fucking fantastic and I absolutely recommend it.

I fucking love Antonia Crane.

If you get a chance to see her read or take a class with her do it and tell her I sent you.

My new book is here!!

selfcare

 

I overshot my initial publication date but it is done and massive.

Here is my promo blurb:

Brand new and bigger and badder. This is your guide to how to start self caring.This is self care for the rest of us. If you need help, if you need a voice of reason here I am my friend. This is more than 30,000 words of advice about everything from what to do when you’re constipated, to how to manage taking care of your body when your self esteem isn’t so great. Also advice for people with gender feels, some advice about skin care, self health checks and much more.

This is for you, this is for all of us. Regardless of your gender, your body size or shape, if you are able bodied or disabled, if you are chronically ill, if you’re gay or asexual it is for you. Come on homies. Let’s go for a ride.

As a bonus, if you missed the original version of the book, I have included a download link at the end where you can get V1.0. That is TWO BOOKS full of ALL THE THINGS.

And as a special thank you to everyone here, after purchase you will get a coupon that is good through the end of June for 10% off when you spend two dollars.

Click the photo or click here to get your Self Care on.

And if you can’t afford to buy that is TOTALLY OKAY. Signal boost this post, pin it to pinterest, share it on facebook.

Holy shit.

I am so glad I finished it and I love it.

I hope you love it.

 

Books and things.

I’m feeling emotionally better. Thank the Gods of Chaos I have a strong support system for when shit gets to be too much.

And shit was too fucking much.

I’m almost done with V2.0 of the self care book and I am very excited.

AND I have been doing some serious amazing reading.

So first I just finished Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell. I am pretty sure I first heard her name from my friend Milcah and I started following along after her on the internets. See her site here.

I was ready for this to be good but goddamn it is pretty great. I love the way she writes about people she loves. It’s not all hearts and flowers, it’s hearts and flowers and some grit and grime. We know I love that.  I feel like I will probably start creepily tracking down all her stuff and reading it because I just love it.

Next up I started listening to the Sword of Shannara. So far I have a lot of thoughts not all of them good.

Normally by this point in a book I know if I like it or not. This one I’m not so certain. I feel like some of the battle scenes so far could have been more, more exposition of the magical world they are in.

On the other hand that might have been heavy handed.

I do see where people are saying it is watered down Tolkien but I wouldn’t say that. It is in the same realm but not the same thing to me.

AND THEN.

I finally got my little hands on a copy of Antonia’s book Spent. First of all the design on that book is fucking stellar. The half dust jackety bit, the colors. Really a stunner. Even if I didn’t know Antonia and I spotted the book I’d be likely to buy it just because it is gorgeous.

I read a tiny bit of it and fuck y’all. We know I am already pretty in sparkly literary lady love (alliteration ftw I’m doped to the gils on dayquil right now) with Antonia Crane. She is my kind of people.  The writing is stellar.

It just is.

Also she put my name in the thank yous bit, when she told me on facebooks I looked and teared up a little bit.

The thing is years ago I never thought I would find my people in terms of the literary world. I felt out of place and like I had no voice in the greater literary community and that I shouldn’t talk to other writers because I don’t have an MFA, I don’t write books etc etc etc.

The fact that I have met and been in the background support for other people I think are super talented, that there are people in the world who aren’t my best friend or partner and believe FULLY in my voice and my work…fuck y’all.

That is something I never foresaw myself having.

It feels good.

It feels good to know that while yes I am frequently shouting into the void, sometimes the void shouts back. Sometimes it kicks me in the ass, sometimes it just says, I like you and want you in my universe and that is pretty fucking great.

Having actual humans who’s work I really love, tell me I matter is something I cherish.

Now don’t get it twisted I don’t need outside validation to keep going.

But it is nice to have someone say, you are my people. I like my people. Come be my people, is really fucking great.

I’ve also realized that this little spot in the Universe that I am inhabiting right now is kind of okay. I like it.

What else?

Oh I just finished line editing my second spec fic story I’ve ever seriously written. I am going to send it off later tonight I think.

I am still feeling a lot of discomfort as a writer when it comes to genre fiction.

I don’t know. I’m sending my stuff anyway and crossing my fingers my feelings will resolve themselves.

Okay that’s all. Time for more dayquil and dayjob shit.