Book Review- Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias

Okay my babes. Buckle in cause I’m about to go in on the homie Gabino Iglesias.

If you haven’t been with me for a while, Gabino is one of my favorite writers. I wrote a review on his book Zero Saints here. Open that in a new window and read it next.

SO lets GET INTO THIS. Coyote Songs* by Gabino Iglesias.

coyote-songs-gabino-iglesias-book-cover
[image description: a book cover with a weathered but beautiful Virgin Mary, the title is in yellow Coyote Songs below that the authors name, Gabino Iglesias.]
The short version is, holy fuck this is an amazing book. It is not for everyone. The TL:DR is coming at you.

It took me weeks to read this book. It isn’t the longest book nor does the frequent Spanish slow me down, it is so fucking rich and beautiful and bloody, it hurt me to read. Yes it is very violent, it is graphic, it is intimate and reaches into your heart and it is so beautifully written. It is fucking brutal and the kind of beating I crave as a reader.

Yeah I know some of y’all are gonna nope out because it isn’t fluffy and that is fine. For me, this type of hard hitting, gut punch writing is my escape.

This book is gorgeous. It is a bloody mouth I would kiss and be happy. I also want to note, if you are averse to needing to look up some Spanish it is also not for you. My Spanish isn’t awesome but, what I couldn’t figure out I looked up and it is worth it.

Gabino has such a masterful touch with the way he uses language. One of my personal favorite things in any type of literary art is when a writer can use use violence with grace. Gabino is excellent at this. There were a lot of times I just put it aside, to let the blood dry and I liked it.

This is gory but not mindless. The depth and care that obviously goes into the violence in Gabino’s work transcends the ew factor. I am not really a fan of silly gore in books. I’ve never been into gore for gore sake horror. I don’t really like the gross out because most of the time it is some shitty bullshit punchline and I don’t fuck with that. What I do like is the use of violence and gore etc in a manner that is both helpful to the story but also just beautifully done by itself.

For me, this is the same thing that allows me to visually enjoy certain filmmakers because I do love something terrible done with grace and beauty. This is also why, when I was a baby potato writer, my favorite writer was Nabokov. For me, the art of transcendence in the context of using your medium to lift the work out of the pile of shit is just magical.

Gabino’s work, especially in this book hits those buttons for me.

Gabino’s work in this book, is transcendental art.

I don’t want to give a lot of plot away because I hate that. I want to talk about a few of my favorite characters.

Alma the artist. I love all of these characters but she feels special to me. This is what got me:

She wanted to shine on the institutionalized racism that made this country a pain for anyone on the “wrong” side of Otherness.

Bruh. The entire passage is so real and so deep. Gabino has an ability to write women, diverse women so well. Yes, even women who have been violated or victims of violence there is that same grace he brings to the other violence in his work. These aren’t tropes. These aren’t vaginas meant to forward a dudes story. That is so important and I want other male writers to do this level of work.

In this book, the characters each have a pulse. They have heartbeats, they are weighty and meaty and some of them are awful.

The prose in general, goddamn. There are multiple times in the book where I thought to myself, you mother fucker that’s amazing. I just love a writer who makes me feel a little jealous. This is beautiful, writing full stop.

Lastly.

This book is a sterling example of why #ownvoices is important. Nobody wants to get dragged like Jeanine Cummins,  and really why read that when you can read this?

Listen. You can google #ownvoices and all the reasons why it is important. What I’m going to tell you is this. If you want publishing to be better, read better. Dassit. Read better and talk about what you’re reading.

Gabino Iglesias is a deeply important writer to me. The literary canon fucking needs him. I need him. Real talk, I revisit Zero Saints (THAT ENDING U BASTARD) often. Y’all. I’m a fan. I’m an admirer. I’m down for this human.

SO go check him out. He hustles hard and has a LOT of things to read so start at twitterkids. You won’t be sorry.

Some Craft Notes from the Daiyuverse.

Hello friend.

In case you don’t know what the title references let’s talk about that. The Daiyuverse is the patreon based project I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.

TL:DR it is an ongoing novel/lla about a Black queer magical girl named Daiyu. It is urban fantasy that takes place in Seattle, down the west coast etc.

What I’m doing is wanting to show how the sausage is made. One of the things I could never grasp as a writer was the how books are born. We don’t get to see Stephen Kings (aside from twitter) fuck ups. For 1$+ I’m giving a new whole ass story thing and you get a front row seat to how it happens.

That means, readers get to read my all caps freak outs, notes to self, parts I hate all of it. Unedited and raw.

Now you got the basics. For a while I did what I call cycles. I have this undying love of a big world to write in and instead of doing a traditional novella as planned, I called them Cycles. I was really wanting to create a sort of not quite linked short stories but things you could read out of order and the story would still be awesome.

In Cycle 1 I was working off of quite literally a finished Nanowrimo project with the same characters and my original characters for my cast of main characters. I didn’t know what I was doing.

I got upset with what I was doing and scrapped Cycle 1 and started Cycle 2. I was playing a lot with the order of things, the POVs and a lot of stuff and last month well, I decided Cycle 2 was also finito.

SO Last month on Patreon I announced and posted that we’re doing a whole ass real book. WHOA.

I’m using cycles 1 & 2 as well as very old stuff I wrote related to it for research material.

Now one of the best parts about doing Patreon for me as a creator has been getting to play. Through my attempts at freelance and some other stuff, the Daiyuverse has been what I do to unwind. It is the writer at play. It is a real life look at how I create and how I make stories. How I make mythos.

Now the most exciting part of this iteration of the verse is that, it starts out in fucking Tombstone AZ in the 1800s. I had notes from last year about how I wanted to use that location and some other stuff I’d taken out. So WE STARTIN OVER.

An excerpt:

In town as Nathan was being welcomed into the Emryss household, a high yellow beauty woman was escorted off the 1 PM stagecoach, the man waiting for her took his hat off and everyone saw the smitten idiot grin. “Ida, my Ida you made it. I’m so happy.” She allowed him to take her gloved hand and kiss it, she felt the weight of eyes on them and when she turned her head to meet the gaze of a frowning priss in an ugly blue dress she smiled, wide and sunny as all outdoors. 

“Hello my love.” Her raspy little baby voice sent a pure chill down the man’s spine. She was just as perfect as she’d been when he found her in New Orleans and fell head over heels in love. From her bright tignon to her big black doe eyes she was just, everything he remembered and more. “Ida, I’ve got the room you requested and if you’ll just follow me, we’ll get you settled.” 

Ida Marie Rufus walked with her back straight and her head up, she felt the looks and met each with cool ease. The man at her elbow continued to yammer about her room, the mines, the wild nights she only paid half attention, the man was a means to her arrival, and he’d served most of his purpose. They passed a bustling brothel and she could feel the spellwork, they slowed, and she smiled at a doe eyed black-haired beauty leaning against a pillar.

“Hi pretty.” The woman had a drawl and her carmine lips promised sins Ida might have been tempted by had she not had work to do. She smiled back and nodded, “afternoon ma’am.” The look that passed between them had recognition and knowledge, hustlers know hustlers and witches know witches. The man immediately had the idea he’d take Ida to the saloon later, he’d heard things about women like her, especially the ones from New Orleans and the doves in Tombstone had just as wild a reputation.

That is from the beginning. I also brought back the use of the chorusdevice from the original. I’ve always loved that part of Greek tragedy and in this ‘verse have wanted to make them their own character because I want the reader to know most of everything. It might not be clear but I’m imagining folks reading and just yelling at the story, OMG NO DON’T.

Another thing I’ve used the Daiyuverse for is experimentation. Play. I’ve used the universe as a backdrop for other stories. For instance I wrote a Daiyu story called The Beloved of Colel Cab. A queer teen romance story. My first and so far only.

See me read it here:

Or since the audio is low read it here. 

And I’ve also used Daiyu and a set of characters created by a friend to explore a more bad witch, Lovecraft influenced horror series over at Wattpad. There are four parts so far to Deacon and Daiyu- Adventures in the Daiyuverse. Those stories are absolutly grown folks biz.

So let’s talk about what I’m doing with Daiyu now. Starting the real deal novel I decided I wanted to set the stage. It is magical, brown, queer and my goal is to really set the stage for the next part of the adventure. I’m planning on this portion lasting about a quarter of the book so the reader, (omg that’s YOU) has this kind of broad view of how shit got started.

I’m working off of the original magical theory and questions I had.

What if, magic is all over? What if, some POC got together to preserve their ancestral magics and learn how to magically defend themselves from bad things? What if, there is every “cycle” (for our purposes a cycle is not a measure of number of years but of who is a living person in the world) there are some people who can do a kind of magic that is either (cliche) world saving or world ending?

What do you do?

What if that witch is one of your kids?

How does magic work? etc etc.

I’ve been so excited about it, I’ve almost got a FULL thing about how magic in the Daiyuverse works and how I came up with it. That will be a Patreon extra in May. I will also be offering up a spreadsheet of the cast of characters for Patrons.

I’ll probably be adding more Daiyu related stories around.

So that’s the big announcement. Feel free to go check it out. Some of y’all might be saying BUT SHANNON what to we actually get?

For 1$+ per month (I only have one tier I am VERY committed to keeping this as financially accessible as I can) you get everything I post at patreon. Generally it is at the very least 3k+ words or so of the story and a letter. Some months I may post extras. I don’t have a schedule for this because frankly my readership there was not into it and I don’t want it to suck for folks.

So go check it out. Share it with friends who like hella Black, hella Queer magic. And maybe weird western stories.

thanks babes!

Horror Musings- Ma and #ownvoices

I saw the movie Ma recently and (spoilers in link) and I have some thots. Buckle up. SPOILERS bro.

On the surface of it, Ma is a pretty okay movie. Good amount of suspense, interesting main antagonist but, by the time they started to “reveal” Ma’s backstory it was really too late. This was obviously not written by a Black person. I checked and sure enough, nope.

From the start, this had potential had someone Black written it. Here we have Sue Anne, one of obviously very few Black folks in this town and we (we as in probably mostly Black folks lezbehonest) know some shit happened. When you are one of few Black folks in any very white place, shit is gonna go down.

Perfect set up for a psychological thriller where you Sue Anne get your revenge by killing the kids of the folks who fucked with you. However, this is where #ownvoices is so important, in spite of how magnificent and menacing Octavia was in this role, the lack of providing us even glimpses via flashback, nightmares, something left the later mentions of stuff having happened empty to me.

In the end, regardless of the performances (I also really loved Juliette Lewis playing a grown person) there is a disconnect in this film. I could tell very quickly this was not a Black story. From wiki, this is the problem:

He read Scotty Landes’ script of the film, which Blumhouse Productions had bought the day before.[5] Although the original draft was written with a white woman in the title role, Taylor immediately thought about Spencer.[4] He went out to the hall, called Spencer, and asked her if she would like to be in a horror film;[5] without reading the script, Spencer boarded the project.[5]

The issue is that, you can’t just plug Blackness into any story. You can’t always just say NO BUT MAKE THEM BLACK and have that make the Blackness in the media you’re creating work. To put a finer point on it, if you’re going to bring in that racism and misogynoir into the story, the men who wrote it have no clue about how those things could make a monster like Sue Anne and for me it fell flat.

This is where I would say the solution is sensitivity readers/writers. I think Blumhouse really missed a great chance to look at a script and say, we need Black folks on this to make this story better. If you want to:

“I want to do something really fucked up.”[5]

Do the damn work.

This is why #ownvoices is so important. This film could have been so much better. Deeper. Richer. A more terrifying experience.

Overall, it was ok. I’ll probably watch it again for Octavia’s work alone but, really if you’re gonna make a Black ass horror story, consult some Black people.

If you’re gonna use a racism trope, use it. Don’t drop it in cause you’ve switched your main antagonist to be a Black person. This is an instance where I want to cheer but I feel like, y’all coulda done more. Blumhouse has the cash. Do the work. Take a chance on doing something great and fucked up.

In terms of horror fiction, this is a great set up. It is rich territory to explore and we need more of it. Just, not done by a team of white folks.

I think that’s all for now. Coming soon, book reviews!!

First up next week, beloved Jen Pastiloff then beloved Gabino Iglesias. WOO!