The Education of a Would Be Speculative Fiction Writer

sekhmet daughterSome time ago, in a younger life that seems far, far away, I decided I wanted to write. I was going to write speculative fiction, like the sci-fi and fantasy books I’d spent so much of my younger life reading. I was going to be a PoC writing awesome speculative fiction that no one had seen before, away from the run-of-the mill elves, dwarves and what-not. And the very novelty of my work would gain accolades and applause.

Then I woke up.

The image above is a character from my first serious foray into writing, many, many moons ago–a Daughter of Sekhmet, a member of an order of women warriors, founded by a priestess during the time of the Mad King, who pledge their lives to a goddess of war and live by a rigid code of honor–like nuns with swords and retractable steel claws. They were one facet of this larger fantasy world I was building, a tale based greatly on the cultures and myths of ancient Egypt, Nubia and other nearby regions, but from a decidedly “unique” perspective, featuring a diverse cast, magic and retro-futurism, demons and gods, and the quest for some magical amulets. Sure would have made a lot more sense than Jaime Lannister playing the god Ra.

In my fantasy realm, the Daughters of Sekhmet–haughty, fierce and a bit on the zealous side–were by far my favorite creation. I liked them so much, I kept them a secret for years, known only to a few beta readers, fearful someone would latch onto the idea. Paranoia that your “grand story” is going to be stolen is of course now recognized as one of the signs of an amateur. But back then, amateur was the best word to describe me.

Instead of deciding to try my hand at short stories or the like, I jumped head first into writing a grand novel–like the guy who has never even run for city council with aspirations of being president. And man did I write. In copious amounts. With drafts and re-drafts. With character sketches. With tons of research to draw inspiration. Even made a trek to Egypt, sitting with a laptop in Luxor and writing up parts of my grand tale–only to accidentally lose everything after plugging it into a socket with the wrong adapter at a hotel in Aswan, allegedly the very one that inspired Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. (Made a repeat performance of this once at a hotel in Siem Reap–that time leaving me without lights. Bad luck I have with foreign circuits).

My drive was simple. I wanted to create a fantasy book with people of darker hue than Aragorn, in cultures that didn’t include horse lords and long swords. I didn’t want to supplant those texts; just really wanted to create something different. And I wanted it to be a grand epic, with characters readers could invest in and a world that seemed fully formed. Had nothing more than one creative writing class under my belt mind you, as my undergrad majors were history and anthropology. Never set foot in any writing course or workshop. And MFA? What was that? But I had ingested fantasy for years. And, through luck, I’d picked up many of the dynamics (and far too many of the tropes) through simple familiarity. I wasn’t the greatest writer in the world; but I was alright.

I wrote first one book. Then two. When my massive fantasy tome was completed, I sat back in satisfaction at what had been a several year effort. And then realized, I had not a clue what to do next. I knew zip, zilch, nada about the publishing world, and what it entailed. Self publishing wasn’t as big then (at least to my ears), and that just didn’t even seem a likely feat I’d accomplish, then on the verge of beginning grad school. So I went out and got one of those nifty Guide to Literary Agents, and tried to educate myself on how this whole publishing world worked. Which immediately gave me a massive headache. Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me this was so complicated?!? Agents. Query Letters. Publishers. Slushpiles. Ack! And what the heck was SFWA?!?

Lessons I learned quick. One, my precious idea wasn’t as unique as I thought. Turned out, every other person with a glint of Afrocentric glory or who had a thing for mummies as a kid had done some kinda Egypto-Nubian based fantasy story. My only saving grace was that, with slight exception, I found most of their works romanticized, tedious or poorly written–writers trying to “kick knowledge” rather than tell a good story. Two, writing a book and getting it published are two animals so unrelated they might as well exist on opposite ends of the biological spectrum. The publishing world was wholly unrelated to my world of plot formation, characters, pacing and sequences and I had no idea how to approach it. Third, I had not the slightest inkling how to get the attention of any agent or much less a publisher. This was way too hard. I needed a break, bad.

And I got one.

A friend of mine actually worked for a reputable agent, a WoC who had worked with some well-known authors, many of them academic and a few literary. Nothing genre, but there was the possibility she might be interested. Sparing me the pitch or the query, my friend gave my novel to a fellow editor. He ran through Book 1 in a weekend and demanded more. Devoured Book 2 in several more days. Was in love with the story, the characters as PoC, set in this very different fantasy realm, the magic, the mayhem, rah rah rah. He pushed it onto the agent and before I could exclaim “Great Caesar’s Contract,” THIS dude had an agent! And it was smooth sailing from there.

Or not.

I was slapped with a few more bits of education, some of them downright embarrassing. The agent saw my two book novels and immediately informed me (as you would a small child): “your two books are of Biblical proportions and there’s no way in the nine planes of H E double Hockey Sticks that a never-published nobody like you is going to attract a publisher until you cut this down to something manageable.” Lengths for books? That was a thing? Who knew? But it was a welcome learning moment. Went and looked up proper lengths and two books become four, with the first at that magical “first time published” length. After some further edits and some hacking and cutting, that first book was ready to go out!

And face rejection.

Rejections that are disappointing because they seem so flat, it must be a rote template. Rejections that make you wince, because they hit at your raw spot. Rejections that make you a bit angry, because you can tell the reader never bothered to go past page five. Then again, made enough of my own mistakes–openings without that essential hook; beginnings that were too wordy; things that didn’t immediately move the plot. And I got another life lesson, something which I, a person who prided himself in being quite socially aware, should have well-known. Somehow, in all my studies and understandings of race and difference, I had placed my fantasy work above all that. Yes, I knew the genre was overly white; but that was because they hadn’t seen what I had to offer yet. My agent broke through my hubris–diversity in the genre I was heading into wasn’t rare because others hadn’t tried. My world setting, outside of the Eurocentric norm, was not going to be my guaranteed ticket in the door. In fact, it might just work to keep me out of it. And did I mention that the protagonist and most of the main characters in the book are women? WoC at that?

Finally though, I got a bite. As fate would have it, or the dynamics at work, a black imprint, a subsidiary of a larger publishing house, liked the tale. They wanted to do something in the speculative fiction market, as all the other black writers they had were focused on different topics. And at least two of them really liked my story. I was informed they were having a meeting to pitch it and they had high hopes. So did I. Was on cloud nine. This was finally going to happen. Wasn’t it?

You know how Kevin Dyson musta felt when he got tackled at the one back at Superbowl XXXIV? Yeah. That’s bout how I felt when the imprint got back to me, saying they hadn’t been able to get a unanimous vote. While everyone liked the story and the idea, they were clueless how to market something like this, especially as it was one book in a larger series. So. Damn. Close. But Don Cheadle said it best in this game of inches: no such thing as almost.

Back to the drawing board. And the rejections piled up. Well, not really piled. I don’t think there were really more than maybe six or so. But each one hurt. And after my recent defeat, was uncertain my agent was even pushing my story much any longer. Then suddenly, about a month later, she informs me she’s folding up the agency biz and moving on to work in some other related field–or that’s the story I was given. I’m released from my contract and that’s all she wrote.

After that, decided I’d had just about enough of this whole writing thing. I still worked on a few other projects. Little shorts here and there I piddled with and (would you believe) a whole other unrelated novel. But I didn’t do anything with them. And after a while, I just didn’t write at all. I took my grand novel, wrapped it up, and set it in a box. Would I return to it? Maybe. But for the moment, we needed a formal separation.

Then, some years later, sometime in 2009, I joined an online group of black science fiction writers, artists and creators. Wow. Was surprised to find so many people who looked like me doing so many different projects. Some of these ideas were interesting. Some were…not. Some were actually quite good. Finding a bit of inspiration, I decided to try writing again and posted it in blog form on the site, a lengthy short fantasy piece called Skin Magic. Indie author Milton Davis noticed it and brought it to the attention of the legendary Charles Saunders–which was all kinds of Holy F#$k! Both asked me to be part of an upcoming indie anthology of African-inspired fantasy called Griots. The book made some waves; got to be included among some new and established writers; and my story in particular received some slight praise.

Amazing how if you feed the egoist beast in a writer, it inspires them. So I started writing again after that. But this time, with much more humble aspirations. Instead of just going for novels, I began focusing on short stories. What was more, I began reading a lot of short stories. Took a few tries, and a bit of rejections, but I managed to get a few published–in pro and semipro markets. One more pro-market, and I’m at least SFWA worthy. (Yep, learned what that is.) Also took the time to join workshops, where people other than my friends can give feedback on my writing. Engaged in online writers forums and just read, and listened, and have been since soaking up all that I can. Haven’t made a big hit or anything with any of my short stories. But I’m writing, and that’s what’s important.

Mostly though, I got over myself. That I thought breaking into the biz would be a cakewalk seems laughable now. There are writers who have been seriously trying for years, decades. There are writers who have gone to all the right conferences and attended workshops and have accolades like Clarion under their belt, and still haven’t made it. I got a few rejections? There are writers with scores of rejections under their belt. And most of them are still pushing it. Some have bravely self-published (which ain’t easy-going either); others continue playing the mainstream publishing game, but they’re still at it. Because this sh*t ain’t easy.

And what about my grand fantasy tome?

Recently, I was brave enough to dust it off (it’s actually on a flash drive, but I’m trying to create dramatic effect here–work with me) and peruse its pages. I see things now that I know need changing, things that make me wince. Who after all writes the same way they did a decade ago? As is, the tale reads almost like an older YA fantasy. Do I still want it to have that feel? This Egypto-Nubian setting seems good, but kinda basic; is there a way to make this world building more complex? The most daunting task however is that it’s a portal fantasy. After hearing rumblings about agents and editors avoiding the well-known trope like the Phage, I’ve toyed with the idea of taking out the entire idea of portals–which would in many ways rewrite much of the tale, and certainly the characters. Decisions. Decisions.

What surprises me however is that I still like most of the story! I still like the characters. I still like the overall idea and plot. I still think it’s a tale people would like to read. I even think it’s possible, I could make it better! So sometime late last year, when the folks at 133Art decided to do a promo, taking on color commissions for a fraction of the usual cost, I chose to get a rendition of one of my favorite characters from my story–A Daughter of Sekhmet, a sister of the Red Mhwnt, complete with claws and that menacing look.

It wasn’t easy. I was very particular. And after a few fitful starts (see the varied forms of the commission below), artist Jason Reeves had to get on the phone with me to discuss precisely what I wanted. I finally settled on the sketch (bottom L) which got a color makeover by Luis Guerrero (bottom R). She’s not a perfect rendition of my writing. There are things I left out or changed from the books. The Daughters of Sekhmet wear face masks, have bloodstained lips, facial tattoos and (instead of the sexy two-piece number) wear tight fitting black body suits over which sits their armor. But still, it’s a damn good likeness, done in part as a reminder, of where I started out with this writing thing and where I still hope to go.

My education, continues.

Excerpt from original text:

“What is this?” a voice growled close by. “Little gazelles enter into the den of lionesses? It is not still too late to eat!”

Khiuata turned to find several tall women standing nearby, almost silhouettes in the night. As they came closer there was little doubt these were full sisters. The colorful tattoos on their faces were evidence enough, as were the silver teeth each bared in a snarl. Their forearms and hands were covered by golden metallic gloves she had heard referred to as “the claws of the goddess,” with talons that looked as if they could slice through steel, and certainly flesh. Red stains like blood smeared the womens’ lips and ran down their chins, only adding to their fierceness. As one, the girls reared back, huddling in fright as the menacing women stalked forward to stand before them, looking very much like terrible hunters.

“Ho! Daughters of the Goddess!” Takhat said, lowering into a deep bow. “These are not gazelles but cubs, come to enter the House of Sekhmet! Will you allow them entrance?”

“Cubs?” one of the fearsome looking women growled. “These are not cubs of the goddess! They are soft!”

“And fat!” a second woman sneered.

“And succulent!” yet another added, licking her red-stained lips with hunger.

Khiuata found she was trembling now. As were her companions. These terrible women were going to eat them; she was certain of it.”–excerpt, book 3, The Isles of Geb, Chapter 1.

The varied incarnations of The Daughter of Sekhmet. Fourth time’s the charm.

sekhmet1sekhmet2dosfinalsekhmet daughter

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85 thoughts on “The Education of a Would Be Speculative Fiction Writer

  1. I want to give you the biggest e-hug. You have done all the things I’ve been sitting on doing…finishing a project, finding an agent, racking up rejection letters. But rejection means the work is being done. It’s progress. No one ever really talks about the hard parts of writing, so thank you.

    • E-Hug accepted! (in Barney Stinson voice) thanks for the comment. i’m in holding mode right now on the agent-searching department. want to get a marketable manuscript and some more publishing notches on the belt; getting admitted to a Viable Paradise or Clarion sometime wouldn’t hurt. but all in good time… definitely a work in progress.

    • love portals myself. grew up on them in YA. magical wardrobes to sorcery-science…portals are classic. unfortunately, rumble in the Publishing-verse has been an aversion to portals of late. and sometimes so much of this is pure marketability–writing to meet others needs rather than your own; tho’ all of that can change with the wind. makes self-publishing look quite appealing, if you have that skill. only reason i’m seriously considering removing the portal element, is b/c i think i can enhance the story, cut down some scenes and create a better world. if i thought removing them devalued or added nothing to the tale, trust me, i wouldn’t!

  2. Your journey sounds so familiar that I might have written it myself. Keep going.
    And I second the motion of portals. We like portals.
    When it comes to agents and the publishing world and tropes, you can’t really swallow everything they’re selling. I don’t know if you were following the industry at the time, but agents were saying vampires were dead as a sub-genre from the mid-90s. That’s how wrong they were.
    Fanfiction was purportedly a waste of time, but that got Fifty-shaded pretty convincingly, don’t you think?
    Write what you like. If you dig portals, then portal shit up. Your passion may lead to the twist that makes it new.

  3. You are being very generous. Your story of your process, journey and lessons is every bit as absorbing as your magnum opus promises to be in your description and excerpt. Thank you for this, and keep on keeping on.

  4. This is me, this is where I am. Right now. At this exact moment. No lie, no snark, I’m genuinely inspired (especially now that i’ve started gathering up rejections and need insipration). Honestly, you’ve always been one of my inspirations (whoops secret’s out!) and a post like this that lays every feeling bare, and the fact that I relate to it SO MUCH gives me nothing but more respect for you.

    Thanks for writing this, bruh.

    • “Dude!” (all necessary emotions are wrapped up in that one term) I think we’re all right there, right now. Thanks for this. I’ve sampled your writing and its crazy imaginative! I expect some protean tale of Korean primal eldritch horror to come oozing and spilling up from the abyss and onto the blank spaces of a page from you any time now….

  5. Check it. We’re listening. I am so happy to have read the post. Its great having a Sistuh share her process. You inspire me to keep writing. Give Thanks!

  6. Seriously?! I like Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, but he is no more the god Ra than Benedict Cumberbatch is Khan Noonian Singh!!! How are they going to explain an Egyptan god looking like a Viking, I’d like to know. Really. It would be a tutorial in torturously twisty thinking, it would.

    I hope that fantasy novel/series gets published. Based on your sample, I want to see more of Sekhmet’s cubs

  7. I think your concept and image are fantastic. They deserve a well-written book. I would recommend reading some of the Ramses series by CXhristian Jacq for examples of how to work Egyptian magic into the cultural setting and keep it real. He’s an Egyptologist. I always recommend good research for fiction, in this case research on Sekmet which I assume you have already done.

    Publishers are old hat these days. I suggest releasing it yourself. Oh and I agree, a Nordic looking Ra is just wrong. I thought the series SG-1 did a good job of casting actors to play Ancient Egyptians. They weren’t just a specific colour, but had a particular set of features that made them believable.

    • Charlton,
      thanks much for the comment and the suggestions. will definitely check it out! my library is still littered with books on ancient Egypt, a place that has fascinated since I was a kid…so seemed an obvious setting for a story. the idea of self-publishing remains an arrow in my quiver; just not a responsibility i can take on at present. the casting of ancient Egyptians has always been *complex*. but yes, in this upcoming film’s case, it seems blatantly off the mark!

  8. As a reader, it is a real education to read the journey that authors have to take. It seems a shame that more publishers don’t take a chance on something a bit different, as lots of genres are crying out for some diversity. The drawing is gorgeous and would look so great on a book cover.

  9. I really enjoyed this post!

    It would be helpful to define the acronyms in your article, for those who are not familiar. I can only assume WOC stands for “women of color” or that SWFA stands for “science fiction writers association”?

    Thanks!

  10. I really enjoyed this post!

    It would be helpful to define the acronyms in your article, for those who are not familiar. I can only assume WOC stands for “women of color” or that SWFA stands for “science fiction writers association”?

    Thanks!

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  12. I have taken a similar journey creatively, only with music rather than words. Just started a blog here a week and a half ago. Saw your post on the Daily Post. I like what I read and will return and finish when I’m settled enough on WP to stop surfing around and spend actual reading time.
    I’d appreciate if you would visit my blog and maybe advise me as I’m really new at this and feel a bit lost.
    Thanks,
    gjk

    • Thanks for the read! I do think the journey can be transferred across artistic genres. As you impute on your blog, its a daily struggle to get the imagination working over the soul-crushing monster known as The Grind… yet that’s the first challenge, as the rest becomes getting your creation to be recognized and communicating it to the masses. will check out your blog from time to time. welcome to WP! hope you stick around.

      • Thanks for visiting. I’m still learning my way around, but it seems a nice neighborhood. Visit again when you have a minute and write a mindmovie, or a scene, or…….. however you hear it.

  13. I am so, so smart. 🙂 Started my journey from a completely opposite side from you, writing poems, flash fiction, short stories, posting all that stuff on my blog, trying to get some feedback. I suspect I’ll end up at the same place….If I ever get that far, which I doubt.
    I find it educational to read other people’s experiences, trials and tribulations…It helps keeping my delusion in check. But I believe you must stay true to yourself and keep writing, no matter how many times you are rejected. After all, to us it is art and to them it is business. Write and learn, be persistent and grow. Just don’t give up.
    Maybe I suck at this, maybe I don’t. Maybe I’ll never get my chance. But every time I release a poem or a story into the world, I feel good.
    In the meantime, I’ll keep my regular job. 🙂

  14. This is amazing. I’m really amazed at your artistry and I’m a writer myself but my characters are based in Japan. But please contact me when this becomes public. I really want to read this so badly.

  15. I made the mistake of attempting a novel as my first wriitng project. Boy, was it terrible. I can’t even read it myself. Good luck with getting your opus(es) out there!

  16. So glad to have found this! I’m going to ask, because I don’t recall seeing mention of it in your writing, but are you also considering self-publishing? It seems to me you have something extraordinary that could do quite well along ‘non-traditional’ routes to the masses. Congratulations on ‘rediscovering’ what had been if not lost, then set aside for a minute…

    These Nubian eyes will be watching!

    • thanks for reading. self-publishing… thought on it, but no easy road to travel. that’s a serious commitment of time & resources. the trend today for some is a hybrid approach–get a book published, or establish a name w/published short stories, then perhaps think about self-publishing. and of course, there are smaller imprints to work with. think i’ll probably have to see which path works best.

      by the way, some dope and inspirational photos on your page!

      • Thanks for checking my virtual place out! Truly appreciate it.
        Yes, it is a tightrope to walk on when it comes to finding the best way to publish written works today… I’m right there with you trying to find the best way for me. I’ve finished a three hundred page plus novel, but the next step is one to carefully consider!
        I’ll tell you though, the more I think on it, the more I’m convinced the answer is to create my own wholly original path! Do something they’ve never seen before… hmmmm???

        Best of luck to you in your creativity!

  17. Having read your post (the words ‘science fiction’ in particular catching my eyes), I find myself noticing my own journey (albeit I am several steps behind).

    In particular, how writing styles change over time. I wrote a lengthy Star Trek vs Star Wars fan fiction a decade ago, and when I go back to it, I cringe slightly. I’ve since written stuff I am far more proud of, including stuff I would ponder publishing, but I have no idea how to do that or how I would handle rejection.

    • thanks for the rea!. first off, if you’re still writing–that is great! keep doing it. that’s the biggest part after all. as for how to get your work out there–lots of places to submit your work for free or for payment. http://www.ralan.com/ is a good place to find a few spots. if you’re willing to spring for the yearly fee, https://duotrope.com/ is worth if for anyone thinking of submissions. i think every writer is fearful about putting their creations out there. rejections and criticisms sting–no matter how thick a skin. BUT… if you never put it out there, well… no one ever gets to see it. my personal suggestion- seek out a good writing group, preferably into genre (SF, F, etc). submit your stories to them first. get some constructive feedback, praise and criticism in a comfortable space. then when you’re ready to submit to publishers, you can feel more confident. good luck!

      • Thank you very much for your reply and your links! I shall check them out! I have some stuff up on places like Movellas – but it’s a site dominated by One Direction fan girls (though there are some really talented writers there).

  18. Boy that sounds familiar, but at least you didn’t finish it and then get it stollen. Like a big dick I wrote a book with an actual pen and pieces of paper, and carried it everywhere in a folder. Obviously it got stollen because I became so comfortable with the idea that I started keeping my credit cads and cash in there too. Still pisses me off. Plenty more where that came from, and plenty of rejections, from an early age. I feel for you. Keep writing 🙂

    • nice write up. sounds very Asimovian (I, Robot- 3 laws) or perhaps the era of “thinking machines” before the Butlerian Jihad in Frank Herbert’s universe. pondering AI and humanity’s future (or non-future in a competition w/our sentient creations) is a tried, tested and still very popular trope in sci-fi. probably one of the more original takes on it I’ve seen lately is Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice …the tale of a conscious star ship who has been reduced to a terrifying existence as a mere “human.” check it out maybe.

  19. The most daunting part of writing, or any creative industry, is learning you must be both auteur and business person rolled into one. I’ve similarly worked on honing my craft, and pushing toward better story-telling, and think I’m almost ready for at least the minor leagues.
    From what I’ve seen, the keys to success are perseverance and learning from mistakes. I always appreciate when others share their journeys, and allow others to learn from them.
    Also, your older draft is intriguing and worthy of polishing.

  20. Reblogged this on boxedinwit and commented:
    My goodness you’ve got modivation! As I read this I couldn’t help but feel as if you were writing about me! I too have a series novel that no matter how long I’m away from it, come back and still love the characters and the story. I only wish I had your luck with an agent! Well, I’m not too worried. I will continue to write! Thank you for the inspiration!

  21. I’m a striving writer and that is the scariest part to me. Wanting to be done with writing. And it’s my life. The thing that makes me happiest! I’m glad you found your way back to it because I can tell you are good at it.

  22. This is such an amazing post, I would love to publish some books later myself and your story was kind of a shock. I didn’t think it would be this hard, thank you for the more realistic view on trying to get a book published. I think a lot of people needed that, I certainly did. But most of all that you are still optimistic about the future. That is so inspiring!

  23. Just being able to write that much and keep the story going let alone interesting is an amazing achievement. As the saying goes ‘we all have one book in us’ but then what? We all have a masterpiece to tell and even then it’s edited to make readable and ironically the more polished and easily readable it is the less effort it seems went into it. To manage 2 books of 4 book length is huge.

    I adore the artwork, it’s nice that you have that as a keepsake of something so important to you.

  24. Excellent post…you just dragged me, kicking and screaming, down Memory Lane. I wonder how many of us speculative fiction writers have old manuscripts hidden under our beds (OK, on a flash drive somewhere) that reflect how much we didn’t know when we started out.

    Maybe it’s time for universities to spend a little more time talking about the business side of writing so that folks like us don’t make prospective agents and edits do a spit take when they see the word count of “Book 1”?

    Or maybe each of us needs to make these mistakes so that we can evolve naturally?

    Thanks for sharing, and best of luck with what’s ahead!

  25. Wow! Amazing what getting Freshly Pressed can do to your stats! For everyone that’s liked the article or commented their well-wishes or shared similar experiences, thanks greatly. Nothing feeds the muse of a writer more than knowing an audience is out there. I probably won’t get to reply to each and every one here (but I’m going to soon make an effort!) but again, thank you, sincerely.

  26. First of all I really enjoyed reading your post, I can only hope I am as tenacious with any of my story ideas, secondly after seeing those commissioned artworks it makes me think your story could be adapted into a comic-book series. I hear they are somewhat popular these days 😉

  27. I throughly enjoyed reading this. I’m hoping to be a writer and have been working on a series for a while now and this is a real eye opener to what happens after you finish the story. Thank you so much! 🙂
    The artwork by the way, is absolutely brilliant! I love it!

  28. Did you ever read the series “Malazan: Book of the Fallen”? It’s a recently completed series by a former Canadian anthropologist named Steve Erikson. He’s constructed one of the most complex fantasy worlds I’ve ever experienced, with so many different tribes and civilizations. Especially interesting is that many of his characters are PoC. The original Emperor of the Malazan Empire is Dal Honese, which is race of dark-skinned people, and many of the other major characters in the series like Quick Ben and Kalam Mekhar are also black. The series is not quite Game of Thrones level of popularity, but it’s up there with Brandon Sanderson levels of readership.
    The only drawback is sometimes there are too many characters, and the writer isn’t as good as George R. R. Martin at making readers feel the character’s emotions.
    But overall, great series, with lots and lots of PoC characters and many varied civilizations and a host of interesting ideas brought over from his days as an anthropologist. You might like it and get some inspiration from it if you don’t already know about it!
    Keep writing!

    • I’ve heard nothing but good things about Malazan. And I’ve been a sucker for long-winded fantasy tomes since Eddings’s Belgariad and Malloreon and Jordan’s Wheel of Time. It’s on the “to read” list…though in the coming years Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive will likely suck up all my time! Thanks for the read and the recc tho.

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  30. Oh boy, do I ever feel your pain… especially with the whole ‘I’ve got an agent! I’ve arrived… oh, wait’ thing. That said, I now desperately want to read this book, if that’s any consolation.

    The one thing I’d say is that however many people say no, you only need one person to say yes. That happened to me this year with something I’d almost given up hope on.

    And that artwork is amazing.

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  32. I applaud all your hard work. Beyond all I laud your perseverance, that will to not give up and especially not give up on your WoC. Also, thank you for keeping it real, you make people like myself feel less alone. And…your writing is stellar! Surely by now you’ve won a book contract in a war bid, topped with a movie deal, but you can’t announce it publicly yet. 😉 Really well done, the blog post, the journey, and the novel writing. I look forward to more.

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