Book Review – The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

Hello Blogland!

Today has been a wonderful day so far, though I admit I wish I’d got an earlier start on this part of it. But, my best friend’s dad (basically my second dad) is arriving in town today, so I prepped a big dinner and did some house chores. The next three hours or so will be dedicated to blogging and fiction, and it will have to be good enough.

Last night was the first meeting of Book Club session #3, and it didn’t go that well. Three of the five people didn’t show, though they all contacted me ahead of time. So, I’ll get into the meeting, and the book more tomorrow.

Today we’re here to discuss The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. wildeeps

I learned about this book from my friend and co-worker, Matt. He’s a well read mofo, and can be damn cerebral when it suits him. He can also spend hours figuring out Cookie Monster’s extended family based on geographical location (i.e. Curry Monster for India, Kimchi Monster for Korea, Sushi Monster for Japan, and Gravy Monster for Canada, etc.). His versatility never ceases to astound and amuse me.

Anyway, he read this book a few months back and raved about it to me. I added it to the Goodreads TBR list, and promptly forgot about it. Then, while perusing the library’s catalog for new Sci-Fi and Fantasy, it popped up. I put a hold on it, the only one to do so, and waited.

When I finally checked it out I was surprised at how thin it was. A whopping 212 pages. Immediately I had doubts. Fantasy this short meant that world building would be minimal, or character development would suffer to accommodate it. I wasn’t wrong…

But I wasn’t right, either.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is such a strange, fantastical story that I find it difficult to write this review. There are so many conflicting elements in this story, things that threw me off and alienated me as a writer, but enthralled me as a reader. And educated me immensely as both.

Part luxurious prose that stands out in the genre, part Hip-Hop dialogue that definitely stands out in the genre, and part mythological ballad that brings it all together in this blur of whimsical and visceral language that finds its own rhythm and song.

It was really hard to get into at first, and my own insecurities didn’t help. All the characters in this book are black, as it takes place in what I believe to be (a possibly VERY distant future) Africa, and the main character, Demane, is gay to boot.

The only picture I could find of Kai Ashante Wilson

As Matt and I agreed, we are not the target audience of Wilson’s novel. And I worried that my distance from Demane’s experience might make it impossible to enjoy or even really understand what the book was trying to tell me.

What a silly notion. For sharing experience and encouraging empathy is the true magic and purpose of fiction.

Yes, at first, it was difficult to follow the exposition. And just when I’d found the rhythm, suddenly harsh and unexpected dialogue would throw me off all over again. Until, completely beyond my awareness, it all seamed together into one voice. By the end the telling of Demane’s story was as natural to me as listening to my stepmother speak. This book lilts in a similar way as her thick Brazilian accent does and it required as much willingness to listen as her voice does when I’ve been away for a long time.

I don’t want to go into actual details of the plot, because the way it all unfolds in the book is really important. Telling you a rough explanation of events would just ruin it, and do it absolutely no justice.

That being said, I fully expect to purchase a copy and reread it after I’ve had some distance from it. It’s a book whose ending will directly affect how you read the preceding passages.

The world building is thin. It’s not a focus of this book, but it is there. It also seems to be set on Earth, because there are enough familiar places to suggest it, but no real proof. But, the story doesn’t suffer from it. The character’s are even subtly built, with sparse and purposeful language.

This is a book that uses your whole brain, long after you’ve finished it. I’m glad it wasn’t longer, because it would have lost a lot of its impact by shedding more light on places and people. The bits that we get are given to us for a reason. This is writing that truly embodies the idea that every word must serve multiple functions, and it is beautifully done.

It’s this that has put Kai Ashante Wilson firmly on my list of authors to watch. I look forward to reading more of him. And you should too.

Until tomorrow Blogland,




The Novel Repeatable Routine

So, now that ‘Vessels’ has been sitting, and fermenting, people keep asking when I’m going to “get it published”. Because it’s that easy. Let me just knock on Tor’s door, or even Delacorte’s, and say, “Hey, you really should pay me for this.”

But, it is something that I need to start thinking about. How do I want to go about publishing this story?

Well, the first thing to really decide on, is if I think it’s worth it. If, upon reading it for the first time as a whole piece I think it’s got enough potential to spend the months editing and adding scenes, then that’s where I’ll start.

In order to begin that process, I need to buy a printer. I’ve got my eye on a simple little machine. No frills. It just prints, and apparently pretty well for its size and price. It’s only $30, so even if it broke after printing the novel once, it wouldn’t be that big a deal.

I also need to get a binder, and probably a pretty big one, that can hold the novel in its entirety, as well as all the edits and added scenes that are sure to come along.

Then I’ll print it out. All of it. And I’ll read it all. Preferably in one sitting, if I can. I’ll read it just to enjoy it. Read it like any other story. I won’t take notes, I won’t edit, and I’ll try to keep the mental cringing to a minimum. And from there I’ll know if it’s worth pursuing. But, I really already think it is.

So, if it’s got the potential, I’ll read it again, looking for any gaps and glaring plot holes and clunky scenes. Then, it will be time to edit. I’ll go chapter by chapter, tearing it to pieces. Addressing plot holes, poor grammar, spelling, weird sentence structures, and generally cleaning it up.

My goal will be a chapter per week. And I’ll go in order. So, I’ll read and edit chapter 1 until I think it’s ready for the retype. I’ll retype it, and then print the fresh version. Then I’ll move on to the next chapter. Lather, rinse, repeat. Until the whole novel is on its Second Draft.

Then I’ll read it again. This time really looking for consistency. Making sure that characters are fully developed, that scenes flow, that the pacing is good. And once it’s officially on the Third Draft, I’ll let the people close to me read it. Trevor, my best friend, people in my writing group. I’ll let my mom re-read it, because she reads all the original drafts of my work, as an ego booster for me.

Then I’ll edit further based on feedback from the readers. Once that’s done… I think it’ll be time to start looking for an agent. But of course, that all depends on how I think the editing goes.

But, how long do I wait. How long do I submit to agents and editors, before I decide to say, “screw it” and publish myself?

I’ll admit that Self-Publishing has never been very appealing to me. It’s a lot of legwork. A lot of doing everything yourself, or paying a lot of money up front. But, if it sells, you stand to make a lot more money.

But, the paycheck has never been what writing was about. I mean, it’d be damn nice to get some compensation for the hours spent, the lifetime spent in front of a keyboard. The years spent researching my craft. The thousands of dollars spent learning and making connections.

Yeah, that’d be real nice.

But, Self-Publishing, from where I’m sitting now, feels a little like cheating. It feels like deciding that big name publishers don’t know what they’re talking about, and that I know better than them. Which just isn’t true. I know nothing about this publishing game, at least not now. The only thing I do know is that I want to give traditional publishing a shot.

I want to work hard at it, and do my best to see my book actually printed. I know the money is far less likely to let me write full time, but, I’ve never written full time. I’ve always made time to write, and will continue to do so.

Although being able to only write would be AMAZING!

So, I’m going to try to get published traditionally, so that I can have a team of professionals that can do my book justice, and help me create a name for myself.

But, if it doesn’t pan out, I’m going to keep writing. Finish ‘Cards’, start something new after that, and then come back to it and edit it. And just build that rhythm. Always be working on two novels at once. It’s the Novel Repeatable Routine! My Starbucks nerds know what I’m talking about!

And, keep in mind, Brandon Sanderson was writing his 13th, THIRTEENTH, novel when his 6th one was picked up by Tor. Brandon Sanderson, the Epic Fantasy writing god!

So, it’s going to take time to get this show on the road. No point getting down about it now, when I’ve only just left the gate. There’s a lot of track left, and I’ve got all the time in the world to write my way onto the bookshelves.

So, a long post to answer what people thought was a simple question. When will I get it published? I can’t possibly tell you. Hopefully sooner than later, but I’m prepared if it happens to be later. I have a game plan ready for implementation.

And that feels pretty damn good.

As for the progress on ‘Cards’. Yesterday I wrapped up chapter 3 at 3,099 words, bringing the manuscript to 9,040 words! That’s really exciting for me. This story is already a chapter larger than its outline, and its getting close to being two chapters. And, if I’m writing almost 10,000 words every three chapters, that means it’ll be about 60,000 words by the end!

I know, it’s still on the small end of the novel, but it’s still much larger than ‘Vessels’, and it’s evidence that I’m getting better at writing long form. This is all about practice, and I’m showing improvement already!

So, that’s enough blather for now. I need to get chapter 4 started!

Thanks for the listen, Blogland!