A few years ago, as I walked through an old, overgrown lot, I spotted a fragment of sign that read, “Very sharp teeth.” The rest had long been lost to history, but the words stayed with me. After tumbling around in my head for a few weeks, the words became the drushka, one of the alien races in Paladins of the Storm Lord. Lithe, many-jointed, poisonous: I knew what I wanted them to be, the perfect centerpiece for a novel. I worked in some humans, some gnarly mind powers, some romance, and a bit of mystery. Voila! I had a story I was proud of.
As I was still learning, the novel ended up going through several rewrites and character changes. In college, I wrote a short story based on the Paladins universe, and it went on to win second place in a worldwide science fiction contest. I was on top of the world. I had it made.
Taking what I learned from the contest critique, I tweaked the book some more, sharpened those teeth even further, and tried to sell it to agents and editors. I got a few nibbles, but either the markets didn’t think they could sell a novel with so much LGBT content, or I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was. Hell, maybe it was both. Either way, after much soul searching, I shelved it. I still loved it, but if no one would buy it, I knew I should move on to other things. I tinkered with a few other projects before I finally wrote and sold The Pyramid Waltz.
Then after five books with Bold Strokes, Paladins began to call to me again. I thought, I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’m going to give those teeth another polish. I still loved the story, loved the universe, and now I’d learned so much from working with a professional editor and hearing what audiences liked. I made it better, and BSB said yes.
This book has been years in the making, but that just means the diamond is extra polished, right? At its heart, it’s still the same story about a young woman caught between duty and faith, between the lithe alien she’s falling in love with and a megalomaniacal man who thinks himself a god. It’s a book about fighting back against what’s expected.
What I learned from it is to never give up. If you love something, you’ve got to keep fighting for it. Whether it’s your first novel or your twenty-first, you can’t stop striving, can’t stop improving. It’s your work, your words, and you have to stand up for them. Show them you won’t be stopped.
Show them your teeth.
Barbara Ann Wright’s romantic fantasy series, The Pyradisté Adventures https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/the-pyramid-waltz-by-barbara-ann-wright-1003-b, has won two Rainbow Awards and appeared on Tor.com’s recommended reading list. Her May release, Paladins of the Storm Lord, https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/paladins-of-the-storm-lord-by-barbara-ann-wright-1775-b is the first installment in a new science fantasy series, and her comedic fantasy, Coils, https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/coils-by-barbara-ann-wright-1864-b comes out in September. She’d love to hear from you at her blog. https://barbaraannwright.wordpress.com/