top of page
Fantasy BW Map Web.png

Derek Writes Fantasy

Derek Leman lives in the great city of Atlanta and writes fantasy set in a world like Mesopotamia. He loves being a Realtor, but would love even more being a literary powerhouse with multiple movie deals. His only ask is that you would buy copies for all of your friends (and colleagues, and family, and distant cousins). He works hard on his fiction, with a firm commitment to wowing you and never, ever leaving you bored.

About Derek Leman

In case you missed it: Derek writes fantasy.

He didn't always. He spent nearly two decades meditating on a tall mountain in Tibet . . . okay, that's not true.

​He used to work as a congregational rabbi (true) and wrote religious non-fiction (true). Now he's a Realtor in Atlanta who writes fiction to add meaning to his life. And not just any fiction. Derek writes fantasy. Oh, he already said that. And it's fiction set in a world like ancient Mesopotamia. 

He's not one of those quick writers. Life and work leave him less time than he would like to work on his short stories and novels.

Coming Late 2023 or Early 2024 (already written): ONCE UPON A TIME IN HARAL. Some heroes are legends. Some stories are epic. Some myths were once true. This will be a collection of short stories. But wait! You don't like short stories? That's because many of them don't have a satisfying arc for the plot and characters. These are short stories on the longer side, with actual plots and character development.

After That: Next he will release another collection of stories. Then there will be the first trilogy. It will be unusual in that it will contain three books. That's right, how many trilogies can say that?

After the "After That": You can reach out to Derek here to offer him TV and movie deals.

Derek Writes Fantasy Newsletter

Sign Up Here for all email updates. I keep them short, compelling, and non-salesy! If you want less email, look below for the "Announcements Only" list.

Only Send Me Announcements, Derek!

Don't want many emails? But want to keep up with new stuff, progress, etc.? This list is for you.

Samples of Writing

Excerpt from "Kishar's Awakening."
​The first story in the upcoming, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HARAL.

Witches, they call us. They fear our magic almost as much as death. Almost, but not quite. Our teas, liquors, and balms save their lives, so they call on us. That is, the ones who can afford us. Magic does not come cheaply. 

Another reason we are despised.

Our cures sometimes cause pain. Sometimes they fail. Goddess! How I know they can fail! “Death,” my sister-mother told me, “is not easily defeated.” And she would also say, “The healer is blamed as much as praised.” Blamed more than praised, I would say. 

​People utter the word “witch” in a half-voice, more whispered than vocalized, as if just saying it risks bringing down a curse. City-dwellers have dreams about us and call them nightmares. We make them uneasy, even behind their reinforced walls, inside their baked brick homes. And the tent-dwellers on the plains shrink from us when we pass by, although they, at least, have the sense to bring us offerings for the goddess Zemanah.

Throughout the land of Haral, people say, “A witch has cursed us.” When their crops wilt or their wombs shrivel, they believe we have caused it. And they ask, “Where does their spellcraft come from?” The answer seems obvious to them: demons, the very spirits they pray for protection against.

But I did not ask for these powers. I venerate the same gods and goddesses they do — for the most part. Nearly all of my sisters’ wombs have shriveled. Most of us, Ummôt as we call ourselves, choose our work over marriage and family. Such is a witch’s private doom. But even that adds wood to the fires of their trepidation. We are part of “the other,” the unknown, the outer darkness to be avoided.

Excerpt from "Stolen from a God."
The third story in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HARAL.

Hitufel knew perfectly well that answering this summons could be a fatal mistake. Though he purported to be nothing more than a scribe, nobles and kings frequently hired him to help them solve delicate matters. And he did nothing to discourage the rumor that he was a gifted diviner, able to tap into inscrutable powers by means of a secret craft. The perception drove his prices up and kept enemies at a distance. Carefully considered purchases from the witches at Kharsanu helped him maintain the reputation.  So he packed quickly, eager for the challenge.

These were dangerous times, with new armies and allegiances forming, new kings proclaiming themselves and raising new fortresses from the sandy soil of the plains of Haral. While the danger was real, this also meant business for Hitufel was good.

So it happened, on a warm, late winter day, that a summons came to him from Keshda, the self-proclaimed king of a city-in-the-making called Adab-Zaran. “Delicate” described the situation precisely. The messenger, Uri, head of the newly formed temple guard, explained Keshda’s ambitious temple-building project. The king had spared no expense in making a three-tiered ziggurat and large-scale sacred precinct for Agthala, lord of mountain and bronze.

He had built a coalition of supporters—backers who supplied gold, silver, and other precious commodities to pay for the project and a standing army. And those backers were complaining. It seemed some funds were disappearing.

Excerpt from "The Reason of Things."
The fifth story in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HARAL.

Sidu sat on a heap of rocks and no one was going to make him move. He had a view from here of the Great River far off to the west. The smell of burning bodies, ever his companion these past months, still sickened him now as it had from the beginning.

Food? Everything tasted like ash, like the ashes of the dead. He could barely bring himself to eat a little bread, a bit of salt fish, or a few bites of lentil stew. He’d not had anything for three days. 

Sleep? He dreaded passing from the living lands into the world of dreams. At night he paced the bank of the canal, swept his family’s empty house over and over again, sat on the rock heap staring into nothingness—anything to avoid crossing the boundary he dreaded. He was on his fifth day and felt his chin perpetually dropping to his chest, to the point that his neck hurt. 

Water? He drank it. Sidu was not ready to die. He had questions for the gods, questions he wanted to ask in the land of the living. Who knows if the dead can even ask questions or hear answers? 

All around him the survivors of Usan—terribly few were left—dragged bodies on improvised litters. Some had packed their belongings on the back of donkeys and planned to leave today.  

“We’ll find a better life,” an old woman told Sidu. 

“A better life? Where?” he asked. 

“Out on the plains with the Namlutti,” she said. “I have two goats and that’s all I need.” 

He’d thought about it now for more than a day. Life in Usan was all he knew. What was a “better” life? Life had been good in Usan, he thought. But now, he wondered how he would have any life at all. And not only that: what is the point? 

They were all dead. His brothers and sisters. Mother and father. The friends he’d laughed with, chased around the reed huts and stacked-stone walls of Usan, they were dead too. Of the survivors, he had a few acquaintances, people who’d offer to bring him with them.  

He didn’t want to. 

He would demand answers from the gods. It seemed before he could bring himself to find a way to survive, a place to belong, he needed to know more. 

The gods. How could he find them in order to question them? The priest of Huon used to point west, between two tall peaks on the horizon.  

“The gods sleep,” the priest had said. “But they left messengers on earth, divine bulls and lion-dragons. There.” He would point and, even as a young child, Sidu imagined what the sacred valley between the mountains looked like. 

From his perch on the rock heap, Sidu wondered: would the trip take a moon? A few moons? A year? 

No distance was too far.

Except from "The Pit-Temple of Gazakku."
The sixth story in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HARAL.

A bronze hook—I’d paid dearly for it—snapped. And I fell at least half a dozen cubits to the tiled floor. My soft leather boots hardly made a sound.

“Kur!” my friend hissed at me from the stone ledge. “Are you okay?”

“Hush!” I whispered as loudly as I dared. No moon graced the sky tonight in the land north of the Haunted Waste. Only the light of stars guided us in our descent into the pit-temple of Gazakku. Without my trusty hook, the rest of the descent would be much more difficult.

I am a thief, but I have a family. This commission was risky enough already.

Ilulu and Ahur must have tied the rope to something, because they joined me rather more quickly than I was prepared for.

“Can we get down now without using the stairs?” Ahur whispered in the dim light. His bronze-brown skin contrasted sharply with a full head of reddish-white hair and a closely trimmed beard. The clan patriarch had insisted on coming and also that there should be only three of us.

“Not without our rope,” I whispered back. We won’t even be able to climb back up these smooth walls!

“Who says we won’t have our rope?” Ilulu asked with a smile.

I began to answer her, but she was talking to herself and seemed to be concentrating. To my amazement, in less than a moment, the rope fell at our feet.


“Never doubt a witch,” she winked at me.

Contact us

Chasing the Dragon

Derek believes readers of fantasy—the greatest kind of people—can’t get enough of wonder and that feeling where you forget about your dismal real-world existence for moments or even hours at a time. Like most drug addicts, fantasy readers are continually “chasing the dragon,” trying to relive the high they got from Tolkien, Le Guin, Sanderson, Pratchett, Jordan, Gaiman, Lewis, Hobb, McAffrey, or whomever, when they were young readers. His one and only goal is to provide such wonder. But seekers of wonder also want new, shiny things, which is why Derek’s stories are unique in setting and magical content.

bottom of page