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:
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
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
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?
Download the PDF to get a context free look at some stuff happening in the Daiyuverse. Want to read more?
One buck a month gets you access to the full novella in progress, usually a love letter or an essay or an extra goodie.
Also, your contributions are real live, tactit change. Your support helps actual human beings and that’s pretty cool.
Can’t donate? Please boost my signal. Share the link all over.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Okay, so, in this post election Trumpfuckian* nightmare, being that I am a creator of things, I have been creating things.
I already published one essay about my real feelings post election. Find it here at Medium. I put a general content warning on it for everything. If you’re feeling fragile do not read.
If you’ve been here for more than five minutes you could fairly say, I have a salty tongue. I’m a foul mouthed heathen. I use the Seven Dirty Words quite liberally in my work.
I have long understood that because I stand by my bad words as being necessary, that precludes me being published a lot of places. I get it. I know.
I know I am a difficult sell even when I’m not saying mother fucker every few words and it’s okay. I made peace with that.
Now, before I was totally done with the essay, I had a nibble of interest that quickly turned into a, well if you (insert edits that would strip it of it’s power and turn it into Nice Black Lady Pap+end with hope I don’t feel) and I am not with that.
Now, since I published it myself, the reception has been pretty great. Way less pushback than I expected, some folks saw fit to use my tip jar and send some donations which is incredible. I’m about that life.
That said, I find it interesting that when I’m completely naked honest, I’m talking ass out bucky ass nekkid- I self publish and things tend to go well.
I take that same energy and what I think is an integral part of my voice to the markets and I fail. Miserably.
My literary partner in let us call it impending Unfuckwithableness Milcah has pointed out to me, I’ve succeeded when I’m just 100% about who I am and not trying to pretend.
And we come back around to me being me and my, uh, not quite fitting a lot of the narrative places have of what they want to say.
For instance, some okay, no let me be real about it all of my poetry lately has been bloody, bleak, and not uplifting. Basically how I’m feeling. I clocked some very swift rejections for a piece I’ll put at Ink node later on. Keep your eye out here.
Being rejected doesn’t but me by itself. What bothers me are the notes that came with the rejections about how these pubs are going for Hope and Unity and Feelgoodness (my word) right now.
But why isn’t there room for me too?
I really hate the idea that we as creators must immediately go to the hope and not document our grief and rage. My grief, my rage isn’t going to end with all of us holding hands and singing Old Negro Spirituals.
It’s going to end in blood because that’s how I feel.
There’s room for more than happy uplift.
There is space for those who are despairing and only know to make art or otherwise create to help get through it.
I’ve talked to some friends and a lot of us are in this same boat. We need to scream and make bloody rage filled art and we’d like for it to be valued as much as the uplift and shiny hope.
So yanno, if you have space, consider making space for us less shiny minded folks.
I’m having a hard day today so let’s talk about influences.
I have listened to Solange’s new album A Seat at the Table three times this week. Don’t tell the Beyhive but, I’m a way bigger Solange fan in general. The track that just knocks me down is the one Don’t Touch my Hair.
What inspires me about this track in particular is that I want to make a little music video for it. Listening to the song put me in mind of strong visual like this video but maybe a bit more eh, violent maybe.
My interest in learning film making was rekindled a few years ago when I stumbled upon the Show Studio and fashion/art films. I HIGHLY suggest going to youtube and search for some of the work with Nick Knight and Gareth Pugh.
The thin/whiteness of it aside, conceptually I really love these type of things. I find a lot of inspiration in thinking about my writing in a very cinematic way. Very often I not only fan cast my work but I think about it in terms of movement on screen, how an actor may need to be in the scene in order for me to get deeper inside a character.
I also harbor delusions of film making myself.
Also I have a hankering for arty self portrait projects that experiment with my own concepts of ugly beauty and monstrosity and whatnot.
Eventually I’d like to be able to do 90% of the make up, styling, making of costumes and filming myself. I want to play with this as another outlet for me. I want to use those skills (that I’m working on learning) to create literature and poetry films I make myself.
I’m really attached to the idea of engaging with my own art and expression that way. For a while I was deeply shy about it. I don’t have a background in this stuff, I’ve never studied it beyond watching/consuming it in my way. I don’t really understand the academics of this kind of art/performance. And for a long time that put me off of trying it out.
And then of course, the Pretty Thin White Girl self portraits took over everything and honestly the bit of experimental self portraiture, I did years ago got such a weirdly racist/sizeist response I stopped doing it. Once upon a time, I also had some inclination to do some of it in a more erotic vein but that urge has mostly passed.
Every now and then I get the hankering to make self shot art porn but, not enough to really do it honestly.
I keep writing up ideas and plans and ditching them. I have a lot of boxed up garbage feelings about it based largely on interactions with “artists” and other weirdos back in the day. It left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s a lot like most of my other passions (horror, heavy metal, nerd shit) in that racism and other assorted bullshit really just put a stink on it that’s hard to get rid of.
I legit hate it.
I also am trying out being gentle with myself about it because honestly, I have zero built in coping mechanisms for this. Trying to heal myself of a particular kind of trauma through art is proving to be way more difficult than I anticipated.
I am starting. I have allowances in my fundraiser for some equipment. I’ve been practicing shooting myself and I have a couple of video editing software programs at home to learn.
I don’t know what I will produce, but it will be something. I might start documenting my feelings about this and vlogging it. I dunno.
Maybe a video???
I got my new phone so some things is gonna happen.
Been starved for some good news from your fave Indie writer?
Check out that beauty! I have a new essay in Issue 3 of Witch Craft magazine. This one is a departure for me, it is about Blackness and witchery and a rejection of White washed witchery. Go check it out here and buy the issue!
Are you in Seattle?
Do you want to see me?
You have two chances in October. First, I’ll be facilitating a little workshop thing through Minor Arcana Press. I get to host a talk and writing session on..>DUNDUNDUN HORROR MOFOS!! Even if you don’t write horror come and check it out. We’ll have a little talk, a little write, some talk and stuff. Y’all know teaching writing is on my bucketlist and this is maybe a preview as to how I want to offer classes. Come on DOWN Y’all. RSVP on facebooks.
Can’t make it to that? Stay tuned because I will be reading the next day with some amazing QTPOC. So keep your eyes peeled.
In celebration of me getting to talk/teach about horror writing, I will post a few free flash/prompt type things so y’all can get your creepy on.
I will also for Spooktober, maybe keep the etsy store open and put together something special.
Hopefully if things continue going in a nice way, there will be some new and extra surprises towards the end of the month.
Come back tomorrow for talk about the Daiyuverse and stuff.
For our purposes here today I’m gonna use this definition of spec fic from wikipedia:
Speculativefiction is a broad umbrella category of narrative fiction referring to any fiction story that includes elements, settings and characters whose features are created out of human imagination and speculation rather than based on attested reality and everyday life. That encompasses the genres of science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, horror, alternative history, and magic realism.
If you’ve read me for a while, you know this is an area I love to live and play in. Also, please read this.
My own experiences mirror a lot of those N.K. Jemison talks about. When I was a wee baby writer, I did not allow my Blackness in my work in a lot of ways. From the writing perspective my earliest lessons both overt and not were like so:
Anything involving Black characters would likely not be “believable” if they weren’t hood caricatures or portraits of racial uplift. That cut across all the genres I like to work in.
Blackness regardless of subject matter, genre, etc is often treated as a wee tiny box where ALL the Black stories must go.
I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t find all the links. There is a problem when as a writer, you do your due diligence and study the places you are submitting. For me personally if I go back more than 5 or so issues and see no POC or if the masthead headshots are all White men, if the stories are all in one vein under the guise of aesthetics and “goodness” those are not places I’m going to feel welcome.
A problem I (and I’ll venture to guess a lot of POC and especially Black authors) run into every now and then is when White editors are very obviously uncomfortable with Blackness or anything not White centric. Often this isn’t anything blatant, it can be felt in email exchanges where an editor doesn’t understand a phrase that isn’t “proper English”, or suggestions to do certain things (in my case it was an Orisha) more “mainstream”. The suggestion was to change the goddess/Orisha in this story to Aphrodite or, you know, a White one. Being questioned about not italicizing my Spanish. Being questioned about how “unlikely” (in a firmly spec fic story) it would be to have the protagonist be a little Black girl.
The first story I referenced, was published at Expanded Horizons and was my first publication in a spec fic magazine. That story (I just went a looked) was rejected 15 times. There was one nibble of interest, but the editor backed off when I said I would not rewrite to make it a Euro/White story.
The next story isn’t really spec fic (though my inspiration was) but the tiniest bit of unitalicized Spanish made it “difficult for most readers”. (I can’t get to youtube but go there and search Daniel Jose Older and Italicized Spanish, it’s worth it)
The last story (it was Pushcart nominated) was rejected 16 times. The first nibble of interest, I spent about two weeks going back and forth with an editor who couldn’t see or understand how a little Black girl who is a shapeshifter would ever exist in a world where there are shapeshifters. This person also mentioned how my names for my creatures, Children of Apep, Daughter of Sekhmet etc would be too “esoteric” for “most” readers. I actually went back to read the exchange. Yes, references to Egyptian gods/esses as the names of shapeshifters is too “esoteric”. My references to Hyena and Crow were “not really relatable”.
For a lot of years, this is what I had to wade through when submitting so as I’ve mentioned before I just stopped.
This isn’t exclusive to spec-fic. The problem of overwhelming whiteness is one of literature in general. For me, the constancy of the racism in lit has just been exhausting. When I decided to start writing genre fiction again, I again found myself being unable to bear interacting with the community, reading fan stuff etc because shit always gets real racist real quick.
These are many of the reasons why I started self pubbbing my genre fiction. These are many of the reasons I stopped reading genre fiction too.
For the cheap seats. As a White person in a position of power in the lit world, you can’t just say you’re all for inclusion and diversity if you can’t demonstrate it. Words in this matter are useless. You have to act. As I’ve said many times before, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that using Whiteness as the measure for what is “good” is a problem. Even if you don’t mean it.
Understand that there will be things and elements of work that don’t resonate with you and that is okay.
You have to do the work or you’re part of the problem here.
There are SO many easy ways to find authors of color to approach to feature their work, editors you can talk to. It’s not that fucking hard. It is 20 mother fucking 16. You probably have a computer in your pocket.
Listen to what POC have to say.
Read work by POC.
If you are totally into inclusion, be that shit. Don’t just say it. Do it. Do the work.
If you’re a reader. Find the stories and books. Buy them, read them, check them out at the library, talk about them.
As a creator of things, I’d also like to say this.
Stop pretending that the statistics are shocking. Stop it. We all know racism is a real thing and permeates everything. Including literature. Including speculative fiction. Including SF and horror and everything else. Stop. White folks, you are not helpless here. There are tons and tons of articles, stories, etc. written by and about POC so maybe start reading them.