The Goddess Cycle#2

Sekhmet

 

Them women raise hell. That’s what the bartender told me when she caught me giving a brick house butch the eye.

“You seem like a nice girl. Stay away from them, especially tonight.”

I nodded and thanked her. I found an empty back booth and posted up to watch. It wasn’t my town or my crew. I knew well enough that I was fresh meat and fresh meat causes problems. I have sense so I stay in my corner.

Two jukebox songs later, a beer appeared at my table, followed by a cat who sat in front of me meowing in my face.

“Well, you’re a pretty girl.”

The cat rubbed her face against mine and made herself comfortable laying half on the table and half on my tits. I stroked her back and felt her rusty purr.

“Just like back home.”

She murred at me and I murred right back at her. I do love my little sisters. More beers slid onto my table, the waitress leaned down to speak in my ear, her lean body radiated lust.

“These are all from Vic. The big bitch with the fade. Careful baby.”

She turned away and I lifted my mug to Vic, the same brick house butch I’d been eyeing earlier. I’d wait her out. I saw the narrowed eyes from a few other femmes in the room.

After another few beers Vic sauntered over and slid into my booth.

“Hello Victoria. Thank you for the beers.”

I watched her squirm and tilted my head. Outside there was ruckus going on, the sound of glass shattering. A red faced woman ran inside, her face streaked with tears.

“They fucked up my car.”

Victoria and I rose together and she grinned at me, I saw in her eyes that she knew me finally.

“To battle.”

I pounded the last of my beer.

“Hail unto me.”

We went into battle armed with bats and chains and blades. The fight as battles go was small but glorious. We drank the shrieks of pain as we would drink rich dark beer later. Those girls did indeed raise hell and I was the demon at the head of their pack.

In the grayness of dawn sated and my need for destruction softened to blunt hunger, I went on my way. My blessings had been given.

Look for me in the corner of your favorite bar and when you know my name, I will come.

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A Confession from your Problematic Fave

Y’all.

I have a terrible confession to make.

Most of my Yeah, Write entries have been not just funsies flash, but, I’ve been experimenting on your readers.

This has been a little bit of a long long con.

I’ve long held the theory that a lot of what makes us not read particular genres isn’t necessarily subject matter or levels of say gore or terror but, in how it is presented. I’ve known people who refuse REFUSE to read anything that looks even pulpy or horrory or romancey because EW I don’t read those genres.

My experiment has involved presenting the reader, you- a thing that is either snugly or loosely genre fiction.

I have given you noir, fabulism, horror, quiet horror, slipstream, Non Western style literary fiction etc.

This week for yeah, Write I presented Lovecrafty fiction. Specifically, it was the quietest of Nyalathotep stories. Folks liked it. A friend of mine asked if it was from my archive of ideas for short scripts.

I was trying to satisfy both the literary reader, the quiet horror and on another level the Lovecraft nerd.

Here is what I did.

One of the hallmarks of Lovecraft (racism and fuckery aside) is the language he used and the names of things. Working from both memory and some resources like this website, I took some of his favorite words and used them in modern contexts:

The Gibbering Loon.

Somewhere deep inside his antediluvian self,

ululations

The next Lovecrafty clue was in how I referred to the mysterious Vivian.

When he lifts his face to look into her eyes, he sees, he sees the secrets of the Sleeping, Dreaming Gods and the black notice of the Outer Gods.

References Lovecraft fans know well.

I also decided to make her unmistakably Black. I have had an ambition to use Blackness in these Lovecrafty stories in a way that heals that particular wound for my inner baby nerd.

And Vivian herself tells us who she is:

“See inside me, I am the Crawling Chaos. I am reborn. Be mine, Detective St. Pierre.”

We Lovecraft dorks know what the Crawling Chaos is without having to invoke the name Nyarlathotep.

What interests me more, is that folks who I know aren’t necessarily Lovecraft dorks, got the terror.

Folks from Yeah, Write and some others I’ve spoken to have not totally understood, but y’all understand without the need for the genre restrictions that might make your eye as a reader skip it because, horror.

I have always believed that how we’re presented with things matters deeply, perhaps more deeply than a lot of folks like to think of themselves, as to how we take in and appreciate a thing.

As a reader, this is just human nature. I don’t think it is good or bad, it just is. And we can recognize it and make the decision to do something else. Read POC, do the year of no cis hetero White male authors.

As a creator, I’ve found that because this is where I live. In these inbetween places. In a place where I just write the shit. Trying to squirm around the constraints of genre work, has played a huge role in my development as a writer.

On one hand it does make it harder to get published sometimes.

On the other, I get to engage in Quiet Horror and sneak into your brain or your bed and live there for a bit.

Ultimately, as an artist the latter is far more satisfying to me personally.

It feels better for longer when someone says, I was thinking about this thing you made for three days.

I also get the satisfaction of representing what I’d like to read.

I get to fully plumb the depths of my own brain without worry or feeling like because I am writing X genre, I must do X thing.

I’m considering my experiment to be successful.

I am writing what the fuck I want to write.

Sometimes I have readers who feel it.

Sometimes I have readers who are like, I don’t know what the fuck is happening, but I’me with it.

I’m into it.

So now that you know what I’ve been doing, I hope you come back to see where else I go.

Thanks y’all.

Thank you for helping me get to this place, I’m eternally changed and grateful.

I was going to do a shout out list, but it got too long. Y’all know who you are.

 

 

 

On Rejections and Thangs

Behold first a list of places I’ve been rejected from in the last few years. These culled from my Submittable (OH sidebar: if you ever need help with your Submittable account their CS is FUCKING STELLAR. Like really great.) account.

I MADE THIS.

Publisher *Interrobang Magazine*Bone Bouquet*Portland Review*Two Serious Ladies*Corium Magazine*Black Fox Literary Magazine*Menacing Hedge*kill author*Quickly*Jersey Devil Press*Looseleaf Tea*MUD LUSCIOUS PRESS*Red Bridge Press*d.ustb.in*Cease  Cows*Wyvern Lit*The James Franco Review*The Butter*Storyglossia*Necessary Fiction*Atticus Books*Knockout Literary Magazine*Girls with Insurance*Linden Avenue Literary Journal*The Molotov Cocktail*Word Riot*Camroc Press Review*SmokeLong Quarterly*Vending Machine Press*The Rusty Nail*Side B Magazine*Curbside Splendor Publishing*Used Furniture Review*fwriction : review*Word Riot*Belletrist Coterie*The Offing*Specter: A Curated Literary Website*The Offing*A-Minor*Word Riot*Bloom*The Midwest Coast Review*Leodegraunce*Eclectic Flash*fwriction : review*Stone Highway Review*Specter: A Curated Literary Website*Metazen*tNY.Press*ExFic*wtf pwm*[PANK]*fwriction : review*Camroc Press Review*Used Furniture Review*Unshod Quills*BLACKBERRY: a magazine*Gravel*Birdfeast*Necessary Fiction*Slit Your Wrists! Magazine*Wilde Magazine*10 000 Tons of Black Ink*Monkeybicycle*Counterexample Poetics*deactivated TOSKA Magazine*Little Episodes*Gertrude Press*ABJECTIVE*Battered Suitcase*The Monarch Review*Out of the Gutter Online*[PANK]*freeze frame fiction*Publishing Genius*Menacing Hedge*The Citron Review*Dark Sky Magazine*DREGINALD*Behind Closed Doors*Barn Owl Review*decomP magazinE*Necessary Fiction*Word Riot*The Rumpus

So if you get through that, you’ll see some repeats. Places that are in my mind big swing and miss type submissions.

I’ve been reflecting about the process lately since I don’t submit on such a rigorous schedule anymore.

I was reading something about rejections and I frankly refute the idea that it is always the writer.

The thing is that if you are writing from a perspective or about marginalized people in a way that is not the accepted (generally when it decenters Whiteness, heteronormativity, etc etc) there is an uphill battle, whether people who are closer to acceptable want to recognize it as part of the process or not.

After doing the submission thing and research things and reading thousands upon thousands of pages of what journals/mags publish, the struggle is real. I look over this little rejection list and this one from my race to 100, there are some I can point to as having probably been based on how I was telling stories about Black folks or Queer folks, rather than just my shitty writing.

Of course, there are times when I look back and cringe because things can always be better, tighter, more perfect, etc.

However, after going back through a lot of that work (and many of those pieces found homes eventually) and looking at the language in a lot of rejections (not just from this list but over a ten year period) I can say that I’ve seen some patterns and the patterns have fit in with my research.

Here is where I invite editors to pay some full attention, marginalized writers too:

  1. If I go through say five back issues of your thing and I see no POC, no stories about anyone other than White people in whatever form, I’m 99% sure if I submit a story about POC/other marginalized people you won’t take it. I often envision the, we love your work, but no fit yadda yada. For me, over the years, this has been a thing a lot.
  2. If you have words like diversity, inclusion or anything related and you haven’t done the work in your previous however many issues, see #1.
  3. If I’ve been reading and following your thing and you have a few POC or other marginalized folks and tend to only publish certain types of narratives, whether fictional or not, or the only POC you interview fall into a few distinct categories, see #1.

Etc.

One of the habits that has been ingrained in me since I was a wee baby writer age 19 in 1996 carefully copying addresses out of the back of Poets&Writers, I read where I want to be. At one point after I had my own computer (I think I got my first one in like 2001?) I had dozens of pages of individual notes on publications. I transcribed them from PW, from websites, from notebooks. I had a system. I spent two months writing like a motherfucker as much as humanly possible, I spent a month editing everything and then a month submitting.

This habit has remained with me, though I have learned to use trackers (GODS damn I wish someone had told me to do that back then) and figured myself out in terms of the truth of what I do, I’ve learned to read more closely and that is how I’ve figured out my system for parsing rejections and figuring out where to submit.

There have been times where I’ve spoken with editors, I can think of a few who really went to bat for me because I did not fit their standard narratives. That is gratifying.

Experience informs how I deal with my rejections.

In this phase of my writing life, I’m not as interested in trying to blaze trails.

I’ve got a big fucking mouth and I do indeed talk a lot of shit and occasionally name names. I’ve decided that rather than hold that in, I’m letting it out. I’m sure that will cause me rejections over time. It’s fine.

I realized during AWP and some subsequent interactions with lit world folks that I just don’t have the energy or mental health reserves to be one of the brick wall busting types.

I’ve hit fuck it.

I’ve figured out that I feel okay being a terrible self-published author.

I’m fine trying to hustle fiction out of my Etsy store like a literary pusherman.

I don’t hold out hope to be raised up by the loving hands of some literary agent.

I don’t really care if I get the Big Book Deal.

I’ve discovered the depths of joy I feel when small indie bootleg ass presses tell me if I do X thing, they want first look.

I’ve discovered the joy of putting something from my heart out that is flawed but touches other hearts.

It still fucks with me that people don’t buy my shit when I sell it.

It still fucks with me when I read things and I don’t see myself or other marginalized folks represented.

It still fucks with me when the literary community is largely a burning tire fire of racism and bullshit.

After all this, the real lesson is this.

This is a grind. Rejection alone won’t be the end of you. It is up to you as an artist to decide how to deal with it.

Now if y’all will excuse me, I have anxiety to deal with and shit to do.

Showing up Bloody.

Recently, I’ve been trying to deal with some trauma that I thought I had pretty much handled. Poverty trauma that reaches deeper than I realized it did.

I found myself having a really terrible day, flashbacks, really awful feelings, repressed panic attacks, bad enough to give me the shits for three days.

So I did what I always think is the thing to do and started writing. I started an essay (maybe my first long form) that is a testament to a lifetime of mental illness and how it has manifested and how the idea of the Strong Black Woman almost killed me.

The thing I’m most surprised about is that given my memory issues (related to my sleep disorders mainly) is the clarity of certain memories. Smells, how my skin felt, I close my eyes and see it. This is beyond confessional writing, I’ve done a ton of that over the last 20 years. This is exposure.

This piece is not the sort of confessional, I can smirk about and shrug because Shannon is gonna Shannon and not be embarrassed. This is stuff that makes me cringe. I want to say I’m sorry if I ask anyone to read it because it burns me. I know it will hurt the people who love me to know that has been my life and in some ways still is.

I’m fucking terrified.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I find being a memorist of any seriousness fucking scary. I know that in the scheme of Black writers and Black people and Black women, especially, what I’m working on could be one of those important little pockets of solidarity. I’m considering pitching it when it is closer to being done.

As I’m thinking about/researching that, of course I stop to wonder outside of a handful of pubs I already know, who would give space and cash to this story?

I know it is still very hard for the world (Lemonade or no Lemonade) to see that Black people have feelings, that we are human beyond the photos of our bleeding, broken bodies or scoring points or generally being acceptable but not quite human enough to see into. I know that when some people look at me, they want the Sassy Shannon Don’t Take No Shit and Don’t Need Nobody type. I know.

What I don’t know is where do I go to be a different facet of the purple lipstick wearing loudmouth? Where do I go not to rail about racism or other fuckery, but to show the world my emotionally bloody self?

I don’t know.

Or maybe I will self pub it as a mini memoir.

Who knows.

What’s important for me right now is to get it written. To confess. To strip off the last vestiges of the stone faced person I thought I wanted to be and show up naked and terrified but fucking there.

I’m there and right now that’s what matters.

Puppies, Hugos and Good Lordt.

If you’re not familiar with what I’m referencing here have a look.

Looking at a lot of conversations in blogs etc about this whole shitshow y’all, if I’m going to be honest, it really makes me even more hesitant to enter the arena.

A lot of what I’ve seen said by whatever flavor of puppies is automatically booting work that I do out of hand because “message’ which I generally read to mean about anything but White straight men.

For me a lot of my fiction is escape. My non-fiction tends to draw the uh, day to day version of pupppies of one sort or another. The White men who email me to tell me how “loud” and “terrible SJW” I am because I write about my life and that often includes my Blackness. The same type who, when I was just a little online journal writing type, would first ask to see my tits or to meet up and when I said no would call me a nigger bitch.

These are the same type of dudes who will correct me about any number of dumb things usually ending with, well YOU’RE THE RACIST.

And I’ve been following this since it started.

Thing is, the fact that this is still a fucking problem that I watch a lot of authors I respect both personally and professionally either be very stressed out about this or show their racist ass.

I watch and read all the commentary and links. I read a lot of the books in question.

At this point, all this whole situation does is show me more reasons I don’t even want to fuck with the industry.

It’s not that I wouldn’t love getting paid for my genre work, reaching a wider audience and all that shit. I just don’t want it ruined. I don’t want yet another part of my literary life to be speckled with this flavor of bullshit.

Not too long ago I had a pretty good sized list of mags and whatnot that would help me in getting SFWA membership. I had stories ready to shiny up and fling out into the nerdverse. Now, nah.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got the same amount of side eye for the horror areas as well. Especially given some professional organization fuckery that occurred right after getting a pretty warm sell on joining up and getting back into the horror genre in a larger fashion.

I keep telling myself things like the following:

Posi Brain: No, it’ll totally be fine. You’re being paranoid not everything is awful.

Non Posi Brain: Bitch whet? You saw that last note, we got right? You’re being a dipshit. Nothing is fine. Everything is awful.

Remix- repeat.

All this said, I don’t think I’m gonna be fuckin with it. I am stressed out enough. I hear enough about ALL the reasons why anything I say ever whether fictional or not are, somehow the end of White men everywhere.

My audience isn’t huge nor are they throwing big dollars but, I feel like we get each other and that feels good.

That’s how I feel about it for the couple of people who’ve asked me. Basically, I see it and I don’t like it so I ain’t fuckin with it.

Now, speaking to my audience, oh hey you.

Rewrites on The Daiyu Saga have begun and if you want to see the second draft of my first urban fantasy novel as it goes along, all it takes is like 2$ a month and BOOM access to every chapter and love letter that goes along with it. Head over here to check it out.

In other news, I will have some new lit in the etsy shop soon and you can still get this bad bitch right here, for a few dollars. Come get all your life.

 

mfcover

Plans Of The Writer

For those who aren’t supporting me on Patreon, I’ve announced over there that I’ve started rewrites on my urban fantasy novelette in progress working titled The Daiyu Saga and those chapters will be the new Patron only stuff.

That done, I will likely list a bunch of my source material on Etsy along with some other stuff.

I’ve also been thinking about what to do with The World  (go back to last Sept to read them all) I still have a deep interest in putting them together in a collection of linked stories. I’m thinking I could do that as a kindle book, try it for KDP select and that way a LOT of folks could read them for free/I wouldn’t need to manage the way I do my Etsy stuff.

I’m also working on SCLAB stuff and essays.

My output right now is pretty consistent and I’m pleased with it. I put a new piece up at Medium about marginalized writers and risk.

While I’m very happy with what I’ve been writing lately, what I’m not as happy with is that I’m again finding myself in a pressurized position because economically, not one of these things is really viable for me in a way that helps me life my actual non writing life.

Intellectually I know that even as things are, my partner and I still have our little apartment. He’s got the medication he needs. We have food.

Emotionally speaking, if my non writing life is the toy I am these birds. Inside my brain there are cats, hamsters, puppies a carnival wheel and a class full of first graders hopped up on Mt. Dew all losing their collective shit at top volume pretty much all the time.

My Poverty Brain has kicked in full speed with anxiety kicker.

I will say that unlike previous years, the shit fuckery in my head isn’t causing me to be unable to write so there’s that.

That said, I’m stuck at that point of making some of this shit profitable while battling a whole host of other feelings. Those are feelings I will likely keep to myself and a few friends because reasons.

So that’s what’s going on.

I might schedule up some posts here because I have ANOTHER thing. In a few short days, I’ll make my triumphant return to personal blogging.

Come and check it out, subscribe and hold on to your butt.

auntieheader
Aww YISS!!

Now I’m going to dayjob and work on shit.

Grind grind grind grind.

Try to make them extra coins.

And stay calm.

Yeah Write Entry #263- Down Home

Down Home

by

Shannon Barber

Mama said I’d know when the time was right. She skipped all the magical menses bullshit and woowoo sparkly nonsense. She sat me down and told me straight.

“I can’t tell you one way or the other if you got the gift or not. If The World wants you and you got what it want, it’ll call. Stop worrying about it and go do them dishes.”

I waited until I was thirty goddamn years old. I had accepted it. I would not be like other women in my family that way. I did not have the magic.

Two weeks after I turned thirty I felt it. I saw the Shadows gathered in the corner of my living room and I felt the heartbeat of The World. I felt the pull, I felt the need deep in my belly. Lower than lust, deeper than need, it pulled at the marrow in my bones.

The World did not call me home as I thought it would. Not my real home at any rate. It called me home to a swamp full of dank nightmares and thin places. When the air touched my skin, that is when it all really happened.

“Sss, errr, esss, ood. Mmmmm.”

The first voice came on the first current of hot wet air, the rest joined it in a susurrus of hissy, sibilance that I felt on my arms. I felt the little silky summer dress lifting away from my body, I felt them as silken paws of sensation.

“Stop.”

I signed desperately. The World, may have been speaking, but it did not listen. These were not things of the world and my body wanted them. I wasn’t speaking to them, I was talking to me.

My body opened to the voice of The World as it had never opened to any lover. My skin craved subvocalalizations that thrummed against me as if my skin was nothing more than the thinnest thing between air and something full of liquid and fit to burst. I was broken. Naked and brown in a hot swamp thousands of miles away from my Mother and on my knees.

I heard none of it. I felt it in the waters of my body, I felt fricatives devouring my cunt and the plosives I yearned for exploding against my eyelids and the tender flesh at the nape of my neck.

The World took me more completely than any lover and touched me deeper than any God. It called me to touch me with fingers made of language I will never hear.

I don’t know what it means. This was not my Mother’s calling.

I am the living secret of The World. I am deaf to the world and my body feels the true voice of The World and I don’t mind. I’m no Mage or Warrior, no Beholder or Scrivener. I am only a Secret.

The World wants me and it will have me.

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