Musings in the Dark: Guest Post: "The Shade of It All"


Guest Post: "The Shade of It All"

The following is a guest post from a fellow author, friend, and my brother from another mother, Dennis R. Upkins.

Before I begin, I want to thank Amaya for having me as a guest on this Virtual Book Tour, promoting my next novel West of Sunset. Amaya and I bounced topic ideas around for me to discuss: getting published, advice for aspiring writers, my writing process, etc.

But for Amaya, I couldn't just hand her any guest post. It had to be something special. You see Amaya is more than family. She's one of the elite member of my inner circle, my Ride or Dies. She's my twin. That sibling from another maternal figure. One of the perks of having someone who is family or a twin, is that you can have those REAL conversations that desperately need to be had without fear or hesitation.

One of said REAL conversations that need to be had, preparing for the inevitable shade and how not to let it hinder your progress.

As Amaya knows, being a writer is no easy feat, especially if you're a writer of color. Unfortunately, you're going to find yourself a target for jealousy, resentment and even sabotage.

When I released my debut novel Hollowstone, it was an exciting time for me, to say the least. Years of prolific blogging and this one little book were opening up doors left and right. I was being invited to write guest posts for some very awesome websites and invited to attend cons.

At one of the first cons I attended, I recall sitting around with a group of writers, and I was the only non-white author present. When the authors asked about my book they immediately assumed I was a self-published author. Not that there is anything wrong with being self-published (contrary to what half of spec fic writers believe), but many whites can't wrap their heads around the idea that someone may like a black writer's story enough to buy it and publish it.

When I explained that my book was published by Parker Publishing, there were the sneers, the eyerolls,and the other microaggressions.

“Oh,” one author said wryly. “I've never heard of them.”

“Parker Publishing publishes book for women of color,” I then explain. “While romance is their main genre, they've actually begun branching out in YA and speculative fiction. I'm honored to say that Hollowstone is one of those first ventures. But yeah Parker has been around for many years and has featured many talented writers of color, including the late but very talented L.A. Banks.”

At that point, I left the con and made a quick trip to the Goodwill to donate the large stack of wigs I just procured.

I've discussed this before but a few years ago, I was invited to contribute to a Civil War anthology. The editor, a white gay man, specifically sought me out because he needed the black perspective. However he had one mandate, I couldn't bring the gay and I needed to write straight characters for the straight audience's sensibilities. Yes this editor told a gay black writer to bring the blackness for a Civil War anthology but leave out the gay.

Shockingly enough, a year later when a reader called the Editor out on his lack of diversity, he hemmed and hawwed and couldn't understand why he couldn't get contributions from non-white writers.

Online friends who had been working on fanfics and manuscripts to no success, abruptly cut ties.
As a rule, I soon became discreet with whom I shared my writing career in 3D space. Many whites would be amazed and impressed that such a quiet black man had accomplished such a feat at such a very young age. Too often that amazement shifted into resentment as those whites would inevitably reflect on their own shortcomings and their own abysmal failures and somehow it became their sworn sacred duty to take me down a few pegs and try to remind me of my place.

Unfortunately even some fellow PoCs opted to adopt the Master's tools and mindset. Upon releasing West of Sunset, and preparing to promote it, a former friend showed her true colors and hypocrisy by channeling her internalized racism by telling me that my story which stars a gay protagonist of color wasn't PoC enough and then when I called her out on her comments, she then proceeded to make homophobic remarks about who I date and my taste in men.

And this is why West of Sunset will be the last book I ever write and I will fade into obscurity after this.

Or so they would like. Unfortunately for them, that's not going to happen. Unfortunately for them, I couldn't care less what they think. If my success at this juncture has pissed them off this fiercely, then they're going to really be upset when they see what I accomplish next.

I have an old saying that you can always count on two places for people to show you their true loyalties. When you're rock bottom and when you're on top of the world. It's usually in those two places that people reveal if they're genuinely in your corner or if they're plotting to plunge a dagger in your back.

While betrayal never loses it sting, it is a tutor to whom the wisest student should pay heed. When naysayers, critics, and haters insist on throwing shade on you and your progress, you need only ask yourself why. What's their motivation? If you're so inferior then why are they acting so threatened? If they are so confident and happy with themselves then why is said happiness contingent on attacking others?

To paraphrase that Slayer of mine, Buffy Summers, “It's about power. I have it. They don't. This bothers them.”

When it comes to my detractors, I need only examine them to discover the truth of things. Do they practice what they preach? Are they genuinely happy and content in their own lives or are they spewing toxic bile to others besides me? Where are they in their careers, their relationships, their anything? The failures they keep accusing me of, are those my faults or are they merely projecting their own baggage?

Those white bigots resent the fact that I've accomplished what I've accomplished without straight privilege/white privilege and it eats them alive.

It's not random happenstance that the very same writers taking passive aggressive jabs at my career have a virtual non-existent one themselves.

The same folks making homophobic remarks about my taste in men and my dating life, have no dating life to speak of themselves.

You soon realize that the biggest egos and the biggest mouths are attached to the smallest of damaged insecure people.

As I told one unfortunate soul, throwing shade at me (or anyone else) isn't going to make you look any brighter, it's going to bring light to your shade.

And just as light exposes shade, light also attracts light. Just as you'll find traitors and haters in your midst, when you're working hard, progressing and doing something positive, you'll also attract those who will help you on your journey and you'll also have the privilege and honor of helping others on their journey.

That's why I never lost sleep for each storm I've weathered. Because each trial meant I was on the right path to something greater.

So I say all of this not to discourage you but to prepare you for whatever your journey may be: writer, artist, musician, doctor, scientist, attorney, professor, etc. It can be a taxing journey, but in the end, your light is going to shine that much brighter for it.


Thanks for sharing, my friend.  And as always, keep your eyes on the prize.  xoxo! ~Amaya

Denny's latest novel, West of Sunset, will be on bookshelves April 30, 2014.  Go ahead and gather your coinage!

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