Some Free Advice for Editors. V Eleventy Million.

The partner Uniballer and I almost have our wee fambly moved.

SO Imma talk some shit.

Buckle up babes.

Lately part of me decompressing after doing move related stuff has been research and note taking on what’s going on in the freelance world. Something I keep seeing is bothering the shit out of me.

If you are an editor for whatever publication and are seeking to diversify what you’re doing asking for what you want is great. It is amazing.

How you do it matters.

I’ve seen no less than about ten calls for QTPOC to contribute around places. What isn’t great is when the same editors can’t seem to name or come up with a single QTPOC they’ve published to serve as examples of the work they want. I feel like it leads to some of us side eyeing said editors because, if you have really not published us, why would we trust you with our work?

I had an editor with a call out contact me and on the face of things I was a little titillated. Largeish byline, good money. What I wasn’t so thrilled with was that the subject matter suggested to me had zero to do with what I do. This is an editor I know somewhat casually through friends and when I asked them why contact me with the request and after two weeks now no answer.

Something else I keep seeing is in um, groups of women and women id’d folks and femmes, I keep seeing white women big upping each other or trying to grab at opportunities being offered to QTPOC specifically. Stop.

If you are someone interested in expanding who you publish there are things to think about before you start taking work from folks or asking for it.

  1. Don’t come out of the gate patting yourself on the back.
  2. If you aren’t already publishing QTPOC for example, maybe think about why.

Let’s stop there for a second.

#2 means you have to be about some shit and not just in it to say, LOOK AT THE BROWN PPL I HELPED or whatever white saviour bullshit. #2 means, you have to get very uncomfortable with your own biases.

What biases?

Let me look at my own back catalog of ghostings and rejections.

I have a longer essay that is written as both memoirish, exposure and an object lesson in how we folks in the Black community MUST do better in order to save our children. I use myself as an example. One rejection said that it was “too focused” on Black people and that I should rework it to try and make it more universal.

I said no thank you and how dare you.

Another rejection came after some go rounds with other editors who were not comfortable with some of the subject material. Was it the childhood suidical ideation? Nope. It was me framing the religion of oppressors as part of why my community is fucked up.

Got a note to submit to a magazine “something really intense and personal that you do so well” (not a direct quote) I did. Ghosted for um, let’s say four months now.

Here’s the thing. Don’t ask for Blackity Blackness, or make it known that you are open to it and then be too uncomfortable to deal with it. I had one editor reject that piece because they “didn’t know how to edit it without coming across racist”.

Y’all.

If you are familiar with a writer enough to say, YO I WANNA PUBLISH YOU. Don’t be shook when they deliver.

I’ll be honest and say the piece I’m talking about needs some extra work but y’all, shit is good.

It is rough.

It will make non Black folks uncomfortable and being uncomfortable is okay.

If you are really into diversifying and using your privileged gatekeeping ass position for the good. You can’t just publish the Nice Negroes/Queers/Brown folks.

On one hand, I suppose that when a lot of our most famous voices write in very particular ways, it is very easy to use them as the measurement of what’s good in terms of stuff outside of your lane. It makes sense.

However, stopping at reading the most famous among us is not going to really help you out in the diversifying your editorial stuff. Some of what you find will in fact hurt your feelings. Some will come from folks who might not seem like the type of folks you want to just hang out with or squee about.

So at this point the decision is, is what do you really want?

Do you want the cachet of saying, you published X famous marginalized writer?

Do you want to really start dismantling the whiteness that is the publishing world?

Do you want to take a risk?

That is where you should start before you ask for shit you ain’t ready for.

Experiences like the one above are really a huge part of why I don’t freelance in a more ambitious way.

Frankly, y’alls. I am not famous enough to be acting up like this. I’m not. I’m not famous enough to say no. I’m not famous enough to be so choosy and so mouthy.

I know I am likely as has bee prophecied by others ruining my tiny career. That’s okay. I’ve accepted my role as Purple Lipstick Wearing Loudmouth.

I have some folks I like working with and trust.

So-

Fuck it right?

Advertisements

I Made a Mistake.

I’ve got a story in the works that is as I said on facebooks:

A thing i’m working on is a little post apocalypse, a little sf (very soft) with a little sauce of horror. I feel like it is spec fic. Perhaps even a bit Afrofuturist ish. A thing that I’m almost done with and after that will likely have ZERO idea where to submit because I’ve never read anything quite like it AND it has cis people upsetting things like gender fluidity as the norm and as indicated with spelling and punctuation, disabled people and no portal to or from Whiteness.

Now this is a departure from stuff I normally write but I had this wild ass idea I wanted to play with. I started with the question, what would some working class brown queers do in a post (unspecified) apocalypse where capitalism had resettled itself? I wanted to present a world where there are monsters and things are dark but not one where humanity has been regressed to clubs and grunts and learning to poop in the woods.

I also wanted to play with this idea of a sort of future tinker. But tinker not in a disparaging way, more in the holy shit you are amazing way.

There’s some other stuff but that is the gist.

NOW.

Y’all……….

I fucked up. I did something I have not done in a long time. I joined a small loose crit group and sent over the WIP in the post your WIP conversation.

Shit went fucking sideways.

The cis hets were pretending like it is impossible to understand gender fluidity being signaled by language and punctuation.

The white people (most of them in the group) couldn’t understand that these are Black people because I didn’t put neon signs and AAVE in it.

None of the crits I got were based on weird punctuation I was using, nor was it based on me signalling my main characters using ASL and me denoting it with special punctuation, none of it was based on my hella soft sf and non disclosure of what the monsters are exactly.

It was entirely gender and race.

*Insert the longest sigh here.*

None of them commented on my use of language, or remarked on me asking about the use of X punctuation vs Italics or something.

…………….crickets on literary shit.

Lots of opinions on why my scenerio is impossible that don’t involve shit like zombie references.

THIS is why the fuck I stopped joining such groups. I left a note for the mods and left.

I am close to done with the piece and would like to see it pubbed somewhere good. For to steal a Deadpool phrase, dick kicking revenge.

I dunno. Shit is exhausting y’all.

However-

I am reminded that there are reasons things like VONA exist even if I can’t participate.

Want a bite of the thing?

Here ya go:

“Let’s retire and have some babies. Bae, really? You want to make babies with me?” They hadn’t really discussed the idea, people in their position in life generally didn’t. Babies were a time sink and not really something people who grew up in the Dirty districts of the cities thought about. Sure, they happened sometimes but it was never something to be planned, never something to be cherished. Khalid/a smiled, feeling Viola rumble and yammer her pleasure. Their head turned slightly, one slim brown hand gesturing. “Sweetie, I can’t hear you.” 

PS

My move is still full of fuck and terrible so, posting shall remain erratic until life is less bullshit.

Be That Shit: My Hustleverse

*This appeared in a longer version at Patreon*

Let’s talk about how my writing hustle breaks down by readership, interest and earnings.

First a snapshot of my follow counts across various platforms.

WordPress as of the end of 2017:

631 followers.

7769 Views

143 likes

23 comments.

My most read post was my where to read my work post. https://shannonsdreams.wordpress.com/where-to-read-my-work/

At Medium:

1.1K followers.

At the end of December, I had a total of, 498 reads views, 248 full reads (on Medium views means someone clicked reads mean they spent time and read the thing).

In general, my Medium nonfiction pieces get about a 20-30% read. My fiction or fiction related work on Medium is lucky to get 1-3 reads a month and zero interaction.

So being that I’ve used those the most in 2017 let’s talk about what it has shown me.

In trying to work out how to make my artistic life more sustainable, what to do with my Self Care Like a Boss concept and work and trying to yanno live, I’ve been keeping steady track of what works where, who reads what etc.

Now I am not fishing for compliments here so please don’t, this is what the data has shown me and reinforced over the years.

When I collect up the hard stats on what happens when I do stuff, a lot of the time it doesn’t look good. My fiction and Self-care stuff does terribly across all platforms. My poetry on occasion performs well at Ink Node. Overwhelmingly, when I publish or post work myself, the support of folks who have often asked for said work is nil. No retweets, no shares, no clicks, no reads.

I’ve tried a long list of methodologies and there’s the usual FB fuckery in terms of what shows up when but, there is legit a circle of about 20 or so people who click, read and/or share. The same group for years now and who have mainly been the ones to keep me from ragequitting.

The thing I spent most of 2017 trying to make sense of is this.

If a large number of folks tell me, HEY PLS YOUR WORK PLS MORE!! Or are gassing me up in public but, the actuality of numbers shows me the opposite, what do I do?

This has extended a bit to Patreon. When I was polling prospective Patrons or trying to rather, nobody really answered except to literally on my survey tell me to stop begging. The thing that was really fucking me up for a while was this huge discrepancy in what has been asked of me as a creator and what has been given to me.

For a lot of 2017, this discrepancy left me feeling both used and unseen. This doesn’t even touch the free labor I’ve been asked for in terms of things like FB arguments, random dm’s from white folks demanding I teach them how not to be so racist etc. This feeling comes from my own community at large.

I had to learn to accept a few things.

First thing is that this is a real thing. Years of analytics from way back when I was a semi-popular fat blogger and got a book deal dangled in front of me to the occasional agent related hey I like your work –but- notes from social media etc to these days when I’m sort of methodically shotgunning what I do with work I don’t necessarily believe will sell that, I’m just not gonna be the one if I put it out myself.

After feeling shitty about it, let down and just uh, wrong as in the wrong sort of Black person I decided fuck it. However, as fuck it as I feel sometimes, it still gets me down.

I think for the work I in particular do, this is just going to be a thing.

I’ve accepted that in this particular timeline, my most idealized dreams about what I do with my writing will likely not wind up being sustainable. The biggest component I need for that to happen just is not there for me at all. At least not on the level I need in order to be both sustainable and be able to spend the time, spoons and money on stuff.

So here in 2018 I’m spreading my hustle a bit.

The big thing is I decided not to go ahead with my plans for Self-Care Like a Boss. The main reason is that the level of work it would take for me to get it all the way I want it, and the cost of hosting and paying folks for guest blog posts (another thing we’ll get to why I don’t do so much anymore) was just too much for me to foot the bill.

That decision took months of crying, writing, cryng some more and a lot of bitterness because when I started publishing and talking about self-care, well people went fucking in on me. My first self-care book sold a good number of copies, I still have folks who talk to me about it. The second version wasn’t my best work and I failed at it and thus the book didn’t go well.

That said, when I got the blog going and other things and I wasn’t asking for money the support I was counting on, that I was told from various sources was just not there. Not for merch I designed, not for me presenting that work as an independent creator. Real talk, it was devastating and really made my vision for SCLAB (and the domain I bought) just unfeasible. It was a hard decision but, I had to make it.

Beyond the feasibility, the thing is this. I’ve had to not only acknowledge but embrace the fact that I do not possess the spoons to produce work on the scale that I used to. I have had to really take in and live with this. I may want to provide my community with ALL OF THE GOODNESS I have. But I can’t do that without support. Well let me put it this way, support that doesn’t evaporate when I ask for something.

In terms of production, I’m still doing okay. I write a LOT of shit that never sees the light of day because it sucks. As I mentioned in my blog, I have a roster/short list of editors I’m comfortable with and will be doing some more freelance work this year. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to pitch/sell and what I want to put out myself.

Some of that work is going to be Old Queer Yelling at Clouds and I’ve accepted that. Some of it may earn me some coins behind the paywall at Medium and any coins are good coins. I am gonna write what the fuck I want to write regardless and I have to adjust my expectations of what that looks like for me.

This is where I want to talk very specifically about y’all.

 

[redacted Patron only section]

As bad as I want to be the high dollar mega super star, I want to write what the fuck I want to write.

I’m learning to work with my output. What’s amazing to me is that unlike in years past, my fiction writing is much slower and more deliberate. Less in the planning way and more in the, I have a goal with a story and am thinking carefully about how to get there way. My non-fiction is kinda flowing far easier. I’ve got subjects on deck to tackle that I’ve been afraid to previously.

2018 I am setting myself free artistically speaking.

I’m going to work the fuck out of my Weird Voice. I’m gonna write and make some ugly shit, some of it will shiny up nicely other stuff well….some stuff just gets put away.

I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to try out creatively and I’m going to because yanno, life is too goddamn short for me to be torturing myself because I fail at being a “successful” artist.

That’s how it is going down.

 

A Few Thoughts on Output

This morning I realized that I have now typed about 100K words or so on my little purple computer (I named her Dinky) and I wanted to talk a bit about output.

On average for every 2k words I produce, the world sees maybe half. That includes blog posts, stuff for Patreon (though, Patreon folks get to see a LOT of naked me talking myself through a first draft), stories, essay drafts, stuff. Poems. A lot of things.

A lot of those things are in fact crap.

They are often things I reread and I’m like:

Me: WTF IS THIS SHIT?

Me: ??? Que?

Me: WAT THE FUCK IS YOU EVEN DOING RN?

Me: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯- I DUNNO. GO WITH IT.

Ahem.

Half of my brain is like, I DO WHAT I WANT FUQ U AND UR PLANS…LOLOLOLOLOL.

That used to be a hang up for me. I really wanted to be a hot take type. Kick down them think pieces and make mega dollars. At least mega dollars in my little world.

Well, nope. That’s just not how it goes here at Shannon HQ and management would appreciate me not freaking out about it ALL the goddamn time.

Y’all real talk, I write some fucking hot ass garbage. And I write a lot more slowly than I used to. And it’s fine.

I’ve learned to accept that yes my process changes and that means I miss out on a lot of shit. But, on the other hand what I produce is exactly what I want to produce so, it is all to the good.

So really what I’m saying like I always say in my loveletters, be cool to your Weird Voice.

Don’t fuck up your process when you don’t have to.

Once upon a time, I thought if I was writing a thing I had to do something with it. At some point I decided that hustling for cash outweighed my need to make art. This led to some decisions I don’t necessarily regret but that I wish I’d given myself more time to do.

I put a huge amount of pressure on myself not only to produce ALL THE WORDS but to have them polished and ready immediately.

Nah son.

I wanted it so bad, I often fucked it up.

So yes, a lot of my published shit isn’t as perfect as it could be but, that’s just writing and it’ll be okay.

Before I go, real quick OMGOMGOMGOGMGOMGOMGOMGOMGAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

My book is shipping today.

Go check it out.

AYYYYYY we OUT HERE in 2018

Ahem.

Hi y’all. I hope the new year finds you upright and feeling not too terrible.

What’s good 2018?

So I’ve been in the background scheming and plotting and writing.

I’ve been making a lot of plans and working up a lot of decisions.

One of the things I’m thinking very hard about a couple of things.

Do I want to divest from a lot of traditional/mainstream lit world shit? The decision has been weighing heavily on my mind for months.

Honestly, 90% of literary pubs just do not cater to, serve or even on teh face of just reading them want shit to do with me. I feel like I’ve fought for the literary community so hard, I have done so much labor and wept and bled and had anxiety attacks and now, I just don’t know.

I’m very torn between my very deep and real love for the literary community at large and the fact that often after interactions,  I feel beat up.

For a while I honestly just thought, maybe my work just sucks now. I suck. I mean, I got fucking doxxed for doing the work in terms of decolonizing and whatnot a writing space. I fall down these terrible shame holes when I check the analytics on damn near anything I do.

I have a BIG ass essay about this and all my real feels but really why do I do this to myself?

I originally had planned on actively seeking out more mainstream lit (remember I DO include freelance work in my saying lit world) world opportunities. And then I was like, why am I trying to put myself back into the same position I was in before? Do I really want to tell myself lies on the level that yes I can do me and STILL get the opportunities?

Nah.

I did some heavy re-evaluating of what I want out of my creative life and here’s where I’ve landed for now.

Truths:

  • I will likely never be a super high dollar writer.
  • I have a sizeable distrust of a LOT of people in the industry.
  • I cannot work with people I don’t trust. I have to do that in the WHOLE rest of my fucking life so, I don’t want to do that with my creative work.
  • The other choices I’m making in my life in order to improve the quality of my lived life can apply to my work.
  • I have worked with some very amazing editors in the past couple of years, all of whom welcome me back with open arms and hearts and who appreciate me as I am.

So what am I gonna do?

  • Write like the mother fucker I am.
  • Continue to write what moves me and not what’s gonna make me money.
  • Continue using Medium as a small income stream.
  • Be a bit less shy about pitching the editors I trust.
  • Continue being adventurous with what I’m doing.

That’s all the fuck I need to do.

All I have to do, is the shit I know I am good at.

The rest, will happen. I have to trust myself and my process and my Weird Voice and my heart.

That’s what is going down.

Soon, I’ll be coming back to nerd real hard again about some stuff. So happy new year babes.

I love y’all.

 

HOLY SHIT 2018

Well here we are.

Holy shitballs we made it.

Please pat yourselves on the back.

Now, what is in store for me this year?

First up some ch-cha-changes.

  1. I will be reading fewer physical books because we are moving into a tiny apartment and I already have been culling books for months.
  2. I’m expanding my offerings at Patreon. Now not only is there a letter, the Daiyuverse and whatnots but, I’m also going to be posting early access craft stuff. Like this entry but with WIPs and other extras. There is more but I’m not ready yet.
  3. MORE SHIT. With my commute being cut by about 2.5 hours a day I’m looking forward to being able to do more creative work.

Other stuff is a surprise.

So how about some 2017 numbers?

Submissions. I did not submit much. First up places I was rejected from, ghosted on or not responded to. There are more I forgot to put on my spreadsheet:

  • Argot Magazine
  • Submittable blog
  • Okey Panky
  • Literary Hub
  • Electric Literature
  • Buzzfeed

Acceptances:

  • Wear Your Voice Magazine (my first listicle and first submission of 2017) This made a lot of people very angry. It was reprinted a few times, also made people very angry.
  • ROAR  A poetry review that got hella personal.
  • Wear Your Voice Magazine II. Funnily enough, it made a few people angry but not as many.
  • Ravishly. My first very in depth look at my personal woo in the context of the whiteness of witchy things.
  • Unchaste Anthology II.  Wee poems for a beautiful little thing.
  • The Wanderer. Some much rejected poems found a home here.

My most rejected stuff was the poems in The Wanderer. Most of the rejections were form, one said that they didn’t publish confessional poetry (that place does but that is a privilege reserved for White women).

My JT Leroy essay behind the paywall at Medium was form rejected four times according to my email. However, it is doing fairly well by itself there.

What else happened in my lit life?

I didn’t publish as much about race as I have in years past but, 2017 was the year of White folks completely raging out about my work. Some gems. This person literally commented on almost every comment on the first Wear Your Voice Article:

David Brooks · 

Sage Radachowsky christ your also not black. have you read the article? it more or less says white people have no say nor idea about what racism is. So you need to stop commenting as well. I am just helping out the author here and trying to get all you whities to understand your not allowed to comment.
Like · Reply · 2 · 30w
And another winner:

Christopher Crafton

Except that being called ‘white’ IS stereotyping.
There is ZERO genetic basis for lumping pale skinned people into a monolithic category. None.
Not genetically, nor culturally.
Don’t believe me? Try walking up to a Israeli in Jeruselum and telling him he’s the same as a Palestenian because they are both white. See how long it takes to get knocked on your ass.
Like · Reply · 18 · 30w · Edited
I recall a few comments also calling me personally cancer, racist, cunt etc. One of the reprints was in a local magazine and after reading some comments from local people, I was glad they didn’t include my photo. I was “told” things like:
  • I should give the author some real problems.
  • Shannon is rude.
  • This is anti-white propaganda.

2017 was also the year that specifically my work in various spaces to deal with Whiteness got me doxxed with some other folks.

I spent a lot of this year screening racist filth out of my inboxes, I blocked some here, I had to hear about it from friends and frankly, it really fucked up a lot of my year. I clocked in threats that covered everything from you’ll never get published in X magazines, to I’ll rape you, to I’ll teach you a lesson bitch to we’re going to tell everyone in the industry what a racist you are.

I landed a few FB bans. One for having the phrase White people in a status and two other times for saying men are trash.

After all that stress and dealing with my partner being really ill, bills and shit you know what?

I’m still fucking here.

The threats, name calling, doxxing, having my posts on FB reported, etc. Yes they slowed me down during the latter half of 2017 because I had to make some hard decisions about my work.

And you know what?

I hit fuck it.

2017 really cemented for me the fact that, there is not a lot I can say without somebody calling me a racist. Set boundaries for White people? Racist. Talk about Whiteness as a cultural construct that is hell bent on fucking up shit for everybody? I AM THE REAL RACIST.

And you know what? I can only assume that my work is hitting the right nerve. Change hurts. Learning hurts a lot.

Fuck it.

I also learned that sometimes I reach out into the blue nowhere that is the internet, and I touch folks. When I hear that my newsletter/loveletter thing made someone feel good. Or when someone says to me, I read this and was pissed and then I realized I needed to see this it is fuckin great.

I learned that wading through the people who devalue my work for whatever reason, and through the people whom I make so uncomfortable they are willing to try and take food off of my table and fuck up my life in general- I can get through it.

I can get through and still do what the fuck I am meant to do.

Because fuck those people.

For every Pepe avatar having shitfuck to the “reasonable” White feminists who are actively working to silence me- fuck em.

I have shit to do and art to make.

I have a life to live and ain’t nobody got time for that.

What else?

Later this month the little beautiful poetry book I wrote is coming out. These fuckass people almost ruined what is a dream for me.

gasolineheart
[image description: a square image with round purple sequins, yellow text overlay says: Gasoline Heart Shannon Barber]
I FUCKING MADE THAT.

I am so proud of it and have so many things to say.

You can have that later on. Pre-order for shipping in a few weeks here.

So really, 2017 was a lot of painful lessons. A lot of realizations about myself, my work and where I fit in the world.

And a lot of great support. Beautiful friends. Amazing writers. Great books and stuff.

I hope 2018 brings me some new stuff. New adventures. Big Swing pitches and submissions.

That’s all.

As I like to say:

WELCOME TO THE PIT MOTHER FUCKERS!!

How a Cowboy is Born. New Mythos

Welcome loves!

I’m going to be doing a new thing. Over at Patreon, I’m going to be posting some craft essays with some extras. I’ll reprint the essays here without the extras. What are the extras you ask?

Might be a WIP, might be a curated playlist, might be a writing exercise. Want to get in on that? Head over to Patreon and drop a dollar a month. For real that’s all it takes and you’ll get that AND get in on that Daiyuverse action.

NOW let’s get on with the mythos. Go get a snack, I’m going in.

Welcome to Nerdtown population you and me.

You ready to get down with some deep dorking about writing and myth creation? LET US NERD!

Few things before we get going.

If you are a Patron, you’re seeing this about a week before I blog it. That is a new thing, we talked about it and here it is.

If you are reading my blog and want early access to craft shit, WIPs and stuff, join me at Patreon for as little as a DOLLAR A MONTH YO!

Ready?

First for reference material I’m going to be referring to my cowboy/mermaid myth that was in the first issue of Rigorous. Link here, feel free to follow along.

Let’s get started.

One of the things I enjoy playing with is myth creation. I’ve long been a fan of mythology from the European classics we all learned in school to myths from the African Diaspora, Afro-diasporic religions, indigenous religion and myth. I love it. For our purposes I’m considering myth to be a broad umbrella term that covers religions, mythos worlds like Lovecraft, etc. Vampires, werewolves, fairies, Gods/esses. All that stuff is mythos for us.

For me creating or remixing mythos is a combination of what if, I wish and let’s roll with it and see what happens. I am using the I wish method to create an expansion to what we can consider a Western by introducing mythic magical elements. As we see in the Cowboy and Mermaid myth, I took the idea of a long gunslinger (inspired by a re-read of the Gunslinger) and I had very specific things I wanted to do:

  • I wanted to inject Blackness into a Western.
  • I wanted to figure out, what would happen to the mermaids in a dry dessert world.
  • I wanted to give the sense that there was a mythos/reality in place in this world.
  • I wanted to tell a magical story the way I would tell a realist story.

Before getting into mythos remixing, it is highly importance to do your research. Remixing doesn’t mean you can take what is sacred and poop on it. I mean, you can but it is a dick move and nobody needs to be that person. For the new cowboy myth, I’m working with, as I was starting it I had a basic framework to deal with.

  • Another lone cowboy on foot
  • Vengeance (inspired by watching the reboot of the Magnificent 7)
  • Loas
  • A huge black horse
  • GAYS

These are, in terms of classic Western mythos, very disparate things. Westerns have Christian churches, steely eyed white dudes and gays well, we know.

How did I start?

The great thing about being a writer is that, you get to make it up as you go along. My basic is this. We have the lone, broken hearted cowboy on a mission. Why? (SPOILERS) his town was destroyed by oil/railroad barons. His family, everyone is dead. Classic right?

I decided to give our gays very prominent role. They are going to be the bridge between the classic Western, they fucked up my town now they gotta die, to the mystical. I don’t want to disrupt the Western so much as tweak it, instead of finding the sheriff, our cowboy is going to be taken to visit a Loa who, in this world has several manifestations and it is just how it is.

In creating or remixing mythos, don’t dither. This is where you as a creator need to drive it like you stole it. For mythos creation, I recommend some notes. If you get nerdy like me, sometimes a framework as opposed to a full outline is enough. You can use my bullet list method, decide on who is telling the story, what is in the world, what myths you want and go. Be bold, own it and don’t be afraid to just go for it and see what happens.

Now back to our cowboy.

In this story, I wanted to create a world where the Loas are the dominant gods. And they hang around but, I don’t want them to be presented in the horrible racist way a lot of things to do with Afro-diasporic religions. Frequently, we are presented with the scary ignorant savage trope and that is crap. So, prior to starting I did a lot of reading by people who are practitioners, I paid close attention to how they talked about the way they feel when they communicate with their Loas.

For me as a writer, part of my general mission in my creative life is staying in my lane and being as respectful as I can to the material that influences and inspires me. I feel it is my responsibility as a writer to do my research and consider carefully how to use the source material. I want to show actual love and appreciation and not the I LOVE U I DO WHAT I WANT type.

If you are a White writer, inspired by cultures outside of your own this is triply, eleventy million times more important. If you want to think of it selfishly, you don’t want to be dragged in public and to be bigger about it, you don’t want to insult and demean the people you are appreciating.

What next?

Next, we play.

Not enough talk about writing includes this and I’ve found it to be an integral part of my process. Even when I’m writing serious material, I want to play. I want to fool around in the world I’m making, play with detail and textures and speech. Writing fiction doesn’t have to be all serious business.

Now how about a lil taste of the new Cowboy myth?

“Thank you kind sir. It has been too long since my shadow was welcome across any doorstep.” Warmed and calm the man took a table and ordered himself a feast. Salty fried potatoes, meat patties, beer and a request to the piano player for something bubbly. The piano player refused his coin and sat rocking before playing an effervescent bright tune that had every toe tapping. As the sun set outside, the café began to fill with a colorful array of patrons.

No one treated him like a stranger, folks nodded, some stopped to talk to him and one tall freckled man with a ginger afro and gold hoops in his nose sat and presented the man with a little cake. “Hello and good evening sir. My name is Andreas and you are?” The stranger smiled at the cake then the man. “My name is Francis. Good evening to you, eh may I?” Andreas nodded, “please do or you’ll like hurt my husbands feelings. He makes little sweets for folks and you look like a man in need of a sweet. I recommend having it with a brandied coffee.”

Once the coffee came, Francis bit into the little cake and closed his eyes. Heady vanilla so strong it was almost musky followed by the slight tang of spices he couldn’t name made him see stars. “Your husband, has a gift sir. This is the best cake I’ve ever head, pray don’t tell my Mama Gods rest her sweet soul. What a gift, how can I repay your kindness?”

Let’s talk a little about my process and how this story is being shaped.

Okay strap in, I’m gonna show you my brain. The initial push for this story came from the cover of the Hank Williams song, I’m So Lonesome I could Cry as done by Johnny Cash and Nick Cave.

I like to sing this version to myself and as I was doing so on my way to work, I had a vision of another cowboy. Said cowboy hung around my brain not saying anything for a few weeks and then my partner and I watched the reboot of the Magnificent 7 (excellent, very enjoyable eye candy) and that first glimpse of Denzel as a cowboy, my cowboy started talking and said, “I want every one of those motherfuckers dead.”

The general arc of this story reflects my personal interest in the manifestations of the vengeance narrative that doesn’t just involve some rando angry white dude. I have a thing with that and well, I’m just gonna go with it. I’ve not really tried it out pairing it with a Western aesthetic so, I figured why not?

Throw in some Zydeco music, my person relationship with Baron Samedi and frequent conversations with my personal group of dieties and here we are. The soundtrack for Black Rider is moving from a lot of Johnny Cash, Dr. John, The Blues Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco, and the exquisite version of Psycho by Teddy Thompson from that awful Psycho film reboot soundtrack. Film=garbage, soundtrack=100%.

I’m not totally sure how our cowboy is going to meet the Black Rider or if he will. I don’t know yet, I’m leaning towards he will because I want to try my hand at writing a big ass gun fight influenced by the Haitian Revolution and the mythos surrounding how it got started. Why? Why not!

Okay my loves there you have it. This is how the Cowboy in this myth is born.

Next time, I’ll talk some about how the voices of things manifest in my brain.

Questions? Comments? HAVE AT IT YO!!