Desperately Seeking Urban Fantasy Writers of Color

Desperately Seeking Urban Fantasy Writers of Color

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for some good urban fantasy written by a person of color or an indigenous person.


Luckily, Daniel José Older has it covered. I’m grateful that he has started an ongoing list of writers of color in the urban fantasy genre. In the immediate, it helped me with one of the tasks for the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read the first book in a series by a person of color. 

I decided early on that I’m adapting this challenge to read only books written by authors of color. For some of the tasks, that’s been easy. For some others, not so much (“Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness”).

But that’s part of what I’ve been challenging myself to do with the books I’m reading. I feel like I’ve become a lazy reader. Even as I type that, I feel my younger self look at me with scorn and I hang my head in shame. As a child, teenager and young adult, I devoured all kinds of reading material.

When I was in graduate school, one of my best friends got me into reading romance novels as a way to give my brain some relief from reading academic texts related to my area of study. It was a good tip; romance had never been a genre that I read a lot of. Now, I have read so much romance, I could probably produce a romance review blog.

These past few months/years have been crunk. So I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels. It’s not the only thing I’ve been reading, and even if it was the only genre, that would be OK.

But considering that this is my #YearOfYes, I’m trying to break out of the boxes that I often impose upon myself. And let’s get real: Mount To-Be-Read was getting mighty high. Like all bibliophiles, I see nothing wrong with buying books and having no “sit down and read this” date in sight.

Now I’m finally at a point where I want to carve out the time to immerse myself in new worlds like I used to. I want to discover new writers.

And the list by Daniel José Older has given me so many new writers to explore. For my challenge, I ended up going with Greg Van Eekhout‘s California Bones, a book which John Scalzi summarizes as a “cannibal magic Ponzi scheme:”

As an adult reader, when I think of urban fantasy books, I think of Guilty Pleasures, the inaugural book in the Anita Blake series written by Laurell K. Hamilton. I’ll have to write another post at another time to talk about what I think happened to that series over time and why I stopped reading it a long time ago, but suffice it to say, California Bones gave me a very different landscape than Guilty Pleasures did. And I’m so appreciative.

I’d like to think that people of color and indigenous people bring something different to urban fantasy novels, which, despite being fantasy, often reproduce the same busted ass racial, gender and sexual politics that we deal with in the “real world.”

This is not to say that just because a black or a brown person picks up a pen – or turns on the computer, as it were – and writes a story, that it automatically becomes a treatise on social justice. Or that it needs to be. However, it’s great to see fantasy and speculative fiction stories told through the lenses of different lived experiences. It’s great AND necessary.

Where would I have been as a teenager if I hadn’t picked up Octavia Butler’s Mind of My Mind and fallen in love with Butler and with the story of Mary, “a young ghetto telepath?” I don’t know if anyone ever labeled Mind of My Mind as urban fantasy, but I tend to think of it that way. It was urban fantasy before we had a name and a genre and genre conventions to go along with it. We need the Tananarive Dues, the L.A. Banks and the Daniel José Olders. We also need the people whose names aren’t on any list anywhere, writing stories that, like California Bones, take a theme like a heist, and flip it on its head. We need them – us – in order to trouble the genres and sometimes disrupt them altogether. 

So I’ll be reading the rest of Greg Van Eekhout’s Daniel Blackland trilogy. And I’ll be reading, per the Read Harder challenge, a nonfiction book about science and a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years. And a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel.

All written by people color. Because, reasons.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

“Real” Writers

“Real” Writers

It’s easy to fall in love with the writer you SHOULD be. You SHOULD be the sort of person who gets up early every day to write for two hours. You SHOULD have the kind of attention span where you love to do that sort of thing. You SHOULD produce perfectly lush, ready-to-read drafts on the first go. You SHOULD like to write as much as you like having written. Nothing should disrupt the perfect flow of your priorities, and if you don’t put getting words on paper front and center of your day every day, if you don’t love writing enough to break up with your significant other so they don’t cut into your novel-writing schedule, maybe you don’t deserve success or to call yourself a writer or–

But all the “shoulds” of Real Writers is bullshit. You are a writer right now, because you have stories you are trying to tell. You will not be a real writer someday when you have met some magical production speed, or published a certain number of the “right” stories, or made a certain amount of money. You are a writer right now. And you should be proud of the little steps, as well as the big ones. Every journey is full of small steps. You don’t take any big steps without small ones first.

–Lev Mirov, “On Small Writing



When I was in my 20s, I really believed that I needed to say yes to a lot of things. Just add more things, especially professionally. Stir. Get exhausted. Repeat.

Back then, I don’t think I thought carefully about what it meant to give so much away and not replenish myself. (Isn’t that what being in your 20s is all about anyway – not worrying about the consequences? LOL)

I woke up and I was in my mid-30s and I’m tired. Really, I think I was always tired, but like an exhausted kid who didn’t want to go to bed, I fought it.

I’m tired. It’s that kind of day.

This music I’m listening to is bomb, but it’s gray outside because winter. I’m wondering why I still live somewhere where winter is on some Game of Thrones type shit, but here I am.

Now that I’m this side of 30, I’m in love with “no.” The idea of refusing to do things – especially things that people expect of me or take for granted that I will do – gives me great joy. The joy that comes from relief.

The load is too heavy; I’m about that jettison life so that I can stay afloat. Or even rise above.

There are days – like today – when I’m consumed with the “no” of it all. Surely, nothing else is required of me but human decency, compassion and a place on the couch where I can drink tea and watch Jessica Jones?

Saying “yes” on these days is a Herculean feat. I’m not ashamed to say that these are the days when I’ll use the dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand (and I’m not a fan of dishwashers). I’ll warm something up instead of cook. Hell, I will tear up some cereal. I will power through that project, if only for the pleasure of being done and clearing the mental space I need to be able to say “no” to something later.

I don’t want the music to be too crunk, or the edges to be too hard. I need my armor, which usually takes the form of a cardigan, a very stylish scarf and my favorite boots. I own too much of these items, but efforts to break out of the mold and wear some wackadoo shirt that usually looks ridic on me never ends well.

I take shortcuts on days like this. I need a lot of love and affection and kindness on these kind of days.

I don’t fight the fact anymore that during this time of year, what I crave is stillness and comfort. I can’t be bothered to get all frothed up. To other people, it probably looks like I’m lethargic. Or aloof. Maybe mean. A little distant.

But really, I am just moving at a slower pace. It’s gray, and cold, and the struggle is real. The idea of bopping around makes me feel like I’m going to break. I’m grateful that I have a partner who understands that sometimes I just can’t even; I know it’s not always easy to live with my moods.

As much as I love saying “no,” I don’t often let myself really admit these things fully. So I’m writing it down because I think I have to. I’m trying to say “yes” to just being authentic.

I’m tired, and I will not be pushing through it to some mythical land of energy and productivity and triumph.

I’m going to eat these reduced fat graham crackers instead and do my thing…very slowly.


A House of My Own

Not a flat. Not an apartment in back. Not a man’s house. Not a daddy’s. A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after.

Only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.

— Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

2015 Books That Hooked Me: Nayyirah Waheed

2015 Books That Hooked Me: Nayyirah Waheed

I read a lot, but there aren’t a lot of books that grab me. Earlier this year, I discovered Nayyirah Waheed, and her reading her writing was a transformative experience for me. How she’s able to articulate layers of feeling with so few words is amazing.

“i bleed every month. but do not die. how am i not magic. – the lie”

I mean…

I keep a copy of salt. and Nejma with me on my Kindle.

Yes, it’s that real.



Yesterday, I was talking to my beloved about the feeling of not being enough. Have I done enough professionally? Have I done enough community service? Have I been a good enough sister, daughter, lover, friend, mentor, teacher, etc.?

Enough, when framed that way, is a hole. It’s a frakking bottomless pit. It takes all the mistakes, all the regrets and magnifies them until they block out the victories, and the laughter, and the personal triumphs.

I talked about an opportunity I wanted to pursue that I didn’t feel like I had done enough to earn. In my mind, I scrolled through my accomplishments and found them lacking.

I thought about friends of mine who I am so proud of, not just because of what they’ve done, but because of the people they are. And yet, I compare myself to them sometimes. And yet, I don’t extend the same courtesy to myself: that it’s enough to be the person I am, regardless of accolades I have or haven’t racked up.

I am your classic overachiever, and so I believe in setting goals for myself. I think it’s definitely okay to want. As a lifelong learner, it’s always been important for me to continue to evolve.

However, it’s so easy to feel like this award or that degree or this position is going to make all the difference. That, if you just achieve this or that, suddenly, you will be enough.

This morning, I woke up with more clarity. I felt more content in my being. Maybe tomorrow or two weeks from now will find me back at square one, needing to put it all in perspective again.

But today, I’m breathing a little easier, not judging myself so harshly. Today, I’m enough.

My Body, Myself

My Body, Myself

When I was in college, I discovered the book Our Bodies, Ourselves. I loved that book and that it exposed me to so many things about women’s health and women’s bodies. Some things were familiar — things I had learned from the women in my family — and some were new. A lot was new.

I treasure that period of discovery, of being curious about my body. It’s taken me awhile to get back to that place of seeking to understand my body.

A few things have brought me back.

The first is just time. My mother used to tell me you couldn’t pay her to go back to her 20s, and lawd, I understand that now. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s either. So much angst. I much prefer my 30s. My 30s are giving me lots of opportunities to make peace with some things. My propensity for giving zero fucks increases by the day. I don’t struggle so hard against my own instincts, and that is a relief. I also don’t struggle as much against my body as it is right now.

The second is a couple of recent health scares. Really, it’s been my partner experiencing those health crises firsthand, but they have galvanized us both. Suddenly, I understand what it means to cut out a lot of sugar (sugar withdrawal, anyone?), and to begin to build a different relationship with foods. It’s exciting, and refreshing and sometimes exhausting, but the changes feel like more than a fad. They feel like a new path.

Third, I came back to yoga. I hadn’t really practiced since graduate school, and I started again this year. There is always a sense of pride when I am able to do a particular asana. I am proud of my strength and flexibility. But outside of the physical benefits, yoga serves another function. I was having a discussion about yoga and body image, and someone framed yoga as a way to work through the things your body remembers, especially past trauma and shame.

That really resonated with me, this idea that our issues live in our tissues. I don’t think that yoga is the only way to address those issues, but for me, it’s been a place to start seeing and feeling my body as real again. For a long time, I think I was just carrying this body around, just letting it move me from place to place without any real thought.

Now, I’m rediscovering (discovering?) what it means to be in my body and it’s a pretty amazing journey.

[Note: the photo above is of Sariane Leigh, of Anacostia Yogi.]


I Am A Writer

I Am A Writer

I am a writer.

It feels weird to own that. Somehow, I’ve gotten away from thinking of myself as a writer and have begun thinking of myself as a “person who writes very well.” It’s not the ability or the skill that’s hard to embrace. It’s the identity.

There’s a lot of self-doubt that comes with writing. It seeps in; even as I type this, I’m wondering why I bought a domain and am bothering with this at all. The point of having a blog used to be sharing ideas and building community. Is that still the point? I don’t know.

All the things that I’ve said to other people, to other writers — “You don’t need anyone’s permission to write.” “You’re still a writer, even if 1000 people don’t visit your blog everyday.” — are coming back to haunt me as I deal with my own shit when it comes to writing.

This is what it means to stand in your truth. To just do it because you feel called to do it.

And there is a sense of power and resistance in that. To know that you have stories and poems and opinions inside of you that you want to give voice to, especially because giving voice to things can feel dangerous sometimes. I’m saying to myself that I don’t need permission, or the desire to launch a brand, or to have some grand experiment.

I can do this because I damn well feel like it. For some people, blogging and this kind of writing is a luxury, just omphaloskepsis. Maybe it is. But as vices and luxuries go, I don’t mind having writing in that category.

I am a writer.