The upcoming release of Mountain of Daggers is a dream come true. A dream I once feared would never happen. But like it’s titular hero, it has overcome all obstacles. In honor of its release, I wanted to share the Black Raven’s journey.
The Black Raven started with a little short story I penned. Birth of the Black Raven follows a sailor\pickpocket named Ahren who is framed for murder by a nobleman. Trapped in a foreign city, injured, and unable to speak the language, he finds himself under the care of a crime lord. Ahren manages a level of vengeance, but the cost is that he’s pressed into the service of the Tyenee, an international crime syndicate. I intentionally left an open ending to the story, and swore I would never continue it as a series (obviously, I was wrong).
A year or more later, I went to Venice. While there, I was inspired to write a thieving story, and the Black Raven was the perfect hero for it. The story would take place years after the first, and Ahren would now be a master thief. Race for the Night Ruby is still one of my favorite Black Raven adventures. After it was completed, I had no choice but to continue the series. I was hooked.
My plan was to publish a series of adventures in various fantasy magazines, and anthologies, then eventually publishing a collection. I submitted Birth of the Black Raven to a few different magazines, but no one wanted it. Eventually, I submitted it to Flashing Swords Magazine. The editor, Crystalwizard, sent me a message saying that she loved it, but the open ending (the one that I thought was brilliant) would just leave the reader feeling unfulfilled. She suggested I either change the ending or write a series. I told her that I had a series planned and had six stories already. Intrigued, she requested the second story. I did, and she sent me a contract almost immediately. The Porvov Switch was published in Flashing Swords #9 in 2008. MikO’s illustration of Ahren wasn’t exactly true to how I imagined him, but that didn’t change the joy of seeing my first character illustration.
Flashing Swords purchased six stories total. The second, The Reluctant Assassin, was the featured story for Flashing Swords #11. I got to work with artist Johnney Perkins for both the cover and interior picture. That was a real treat.
Crystalwizard introduced me to editor Jason Waltz to discuss publishing a Black Raven collection after all six stories had hit print. Things were moving so much faster than I had dreamed, and I was fervently writing out new adventures to fill the collection.
After Flashing Swords #11, the magazine sold to Daverana Enterprises. After a slow start, issue #12 came out 4 months late. The interior was poorly laid out, and it wasn’t marketed very well. Even my contributor’s copy incorrectly has Issue #10 printed on the cover. That issue contained Race for the Night Ruby, and I was terribly disappointed that my cherished story had such a bad run.
Flashing Swords #13 looked pretty good. Ahren’s adventure, The Ferrymaster’s Toll, was to be the featured story. Sadly, Flashing Swords went under before it hit print. It was a good magazine. I’ll miss it.
However, I do have a proof image of the cover that never was.
Meanwhile, Jason and I continued to plan for our Black Raven Collection under Rogue Blades Entertainment. I had 13 stories, and we’d decided on the collection’s title. We chose Mountain of Daggers, which is the symbol stamped on the medallions of the Tyenee. I’d also sold a 14th adventure, The Second Gift, to the Time in a Bottle Anthology.
Then, at Dragon Con, Jason met with the editor of a large publisher that was interested in a sword and sorcery rogue. Because the larger publisher would be a better opportunity for me, he selflessly pitched Mountain of Daggers to the editor (earning himself my sincere loyalty and gratitude) and they were interested. We sent the editor the first story, they liked it and requested the full manuscript. Things looked promising.
Two years later, they still hadn’t made a decision on it. Frustrated, I withdrew the submission at the 24-month mark. Rogue Blades still wanted it, but said it would be a while before print. So again, The Black Raven waited.
And eventually it happened. Jason Waltz sent me a message saying that Rogue Blades was ready to roll with it. We decided that instead of just a single book of 90,000 words, to add the additional Black Raven stories I’d written in the meantime, and divide it into two collections of 70,000 words each.
The joy in seeing Didier Normand’s cover art for Mountain of Daggers was incredible. After four years, I didn’t believe I’d ever see it come.
We’ve already reviewed the concept sketches for the second collection, Sea of Quills, and it looks even better than the first. I can’t wait to see the final version of it.
One of the first lessons I learned in the publishing industry is to be patient. My very first short story took 30 months from the day it sold to the day it printed. It’s just the nature of the beast, and I never hesitate to warn other authors that patience isn’t a virtue, it’s essential.
The Black Raven’s journey isn’t a story of setbacks and defeats. It’s a story of publishing. Sometimes things move in a whirlwind and the author is racing to keep up to meet deadlines, but most often it’s waiting. For any new authors out there, please remember that. Be patient. It will happen, but it can take time.