Friday, December 22, 2023

The Genesis of Essie – #NewAdultFantasy #Bureaucracy #Giveaway

River Against the Sea tour banner

By Z. Lindsey (Guest Blogger)

In an interview, Stan Lee said many of his most famous characters started with just one word! If this is to be believed, Stan Lee and others at Marvel sat down together and said, “Let’s make an angry character,” and came up with something as iconic as the Hulk.

I’ve been really happy with the reaction to the main character of my debut book. In general, people seem to resonate with her before even having read the book, and a few beta readers have read the manuscript more than once for the fun of spending time with her. I think part of the reaction has been the simplicity at her core. My wife created the character around a simple joke: a devil bureaucrat. In Mexico where we live, the bureaucratic system can be rather Kafkaesque, and in one indigenous hand-printed book by Alfonso Garcia Téllez, Purgatory is surprisingly similar to traffic court. So the idea of a bureaucrat who is a literal devil (or the fantasy equivalent) has a certain logic.

After she came up with this joke, she considered playing a similar character in a Dungeons and Dragons game that never came to fruition. Part of the reason we never played the game is because my wife got pregnant. In the months after she gave birth, we learned that our daughter did not appreciate sleep as much as we did. Every time we’d put on a TV after she went to bed, she’d wake up. So I started telling my wife stories about the devil bureaucrat, because I could speak quietly enough to not wake up our daughter. I named her Essimore Darkenchyl because it sounds dramatic and devilish, but also because my wife is a huge fan of nail art and the nickname for Essimore is Essie.

Essie’s a recent college graduate who is stubborn and expects to do her job perfectly right from the outset, both traits she will eventually be forced to discard to some degree. (Although her stubbornness is also a strength.) One early reader said Essie should be sassier, which my Puerto RIcan wife found a bit offensive. Just because she’s based on a Latina doesn’t mean she needs sass. Ironically, my wife got more than a little sassy about her desire for Essie to lack sass.

While Essie may have one hand firmly affixed to her hip from time to time, I don’t think she’s sassy. She’s witty, sometimes, and she’s got a great sense of wanderlust to her. But at her heart, she’s a geek, and about eighty percent of the things she says involve putting her foot in her mouth. (On the other hand, she really makes the other twenty percent count.)

She’s aware that humans find her weird, and sometimes exploits that but at other times is overwhelmed by it. I feel like this makes her more realistic and relatable. Sometimes we say the perfect thing for a situation, but sometimes we flub. The thing that makes her special, though, is that no matter how overwhelmed she is, she always keeps going forward. She does her best to avoid backing down from a problem, whether she’s tricking pirates or using her latent magic to zap a monster in the face. But at the heart of the character are two words: devil bureaucrat. Hopefully that makes her half as iconic as a Stan Lee character.


Some heroes have swords. Essimore Darkenchyl has a pen. But it’s a magic pen.

Some wizards have spellbooks. Essie has Gossen’s Guide to Shipping Law. But it’s a current edition.

Some sailors have . . . experience. Essie has a new diploma and a year-long contract, and her people have won wars with less.

And that’s good, because between stolen weapons, a coup, and a strange disease creeping in around her and the crew, she might need to win a war.

In a world that blends traditional fantasy with the Age of Exploration, Essie knows a pen is mightier than a sword, especially since hers sometimes shoots lightning.

But what she thinks is a routine political dispute turns out to be something much, much more, and she may have finally met the one problem she can’t talk her way out of.

The River Against the Sea book cover


Essie cleared her throat. From her backpack, she removed the letter of service that granted her travel permission to sail on the ship. It was folded neatly into thirds, with a glittering blue wax seal on it.

Essimore Darkenchyl at your service, sir. I’m your new fully licensed shipping coordinator with Power of the Pen. It’s an honor to be aboard.”

The captain took the letter without opening it, folded it in half with no regard for the beautiful wax seal, folded it messily again, and jammed it into his pocket. The whole time, Essie winced.

Right-o.” As he smiled, the older man’s cheeks dimpled and his white teeth shined in the sun. “Well, I thought we were leaving without you, but here you are. Good on you. Great. Yeah.” The captain turned to the teenager at his side. “Grab her bag and get her stuff to her room. She can hang out there til dinner.”

As the teenager shouldered her bag and grunted, she and the captain looked at each other, the captain with his beaming smile. Once the teenager left, she said, “Thanks for welcoming me onto your ship.”

Yeah. Fully licensed, you say?”


Okay. Have a nice one. See you at dinner.”

Don’t we need to . . . uh . . . onboard?”

You’re already on board. You managed that just fine.”

But . . . signing things. Paperwork. Reviewing the staff log. Staff log, sir!”

The captain’s smile faded, but reappeared so fast she wasn’t sure if she’d seen it go.

Okay, fine. Let’s talk in my cabin.”

About the Author

Zac Lindsey is an anthropologist and a linguist who focuses on the Maya people of Quintana Roo. Since childhood, he's had a not-so-secret love of weird, silly, and well-structured fantasy. When other people's parents were reading them picture books, his mom was reading him Terry Brooks. He typically writes hopeful and character-driven fantasy.

Today, he lives in Quintana Roo, Mexico with his wife, daughter, and various stray cats.



Amazon preorders (for ebook):

B&N preorders (for paperback):

Z. Lindsey will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you so much for hosting this wonderful guest post today!

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Zac - Welcome to Beyond Romance! This sounds like a really original story. Hope your tour goes really well and you gain many new readers!

Sherry said...

I look forward to reading this.

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