Gone, but not forever… going hybrid

Is it officially too late to say Happy New Year?!

I’ve received some messages about why Song of Blood & Stone and Whispers of Shadow & Flame are no longer available for sale. I’d made the announcement on social media and in my newsletter (make sure to sign up to hear all the juicy details first) but here are the deets for posterity:

The books will be republished starting Winter 2018 by St. Martin’s Press. Yes, that’s a long time from now, but I fully believe it will be worth the wait.

The St. Martin’s version will contain new material. Song has been revised, reedited, and as much as I loved the original, I like the new version even better!

For those wondering how all of this came to be, here’s the story.

Early last year I was contacted by Monique Patterson, editor extraordinaire at St. Martin’s Press. Now several people (I’m looking at you Kaia) had told me about Monique and advised me of her awesomeness. But I was deep in the writing cave, working on my two series, and running my web development business (not into the ground, hopefully). Twitter stalking a Big Five editor was relegated to the part of my to-do list that I’ve already given up on.

But the universe had other plans. Amazingly enough, Monique had come across Song of Blood & Stone online, read it, and really enjoyed it. She asked me about my future projects, and once I stopped hyperventilating, I pitched her an idea for a new fantasy series.

I wrote up a proposal for the first book and sent it off. In the meantime, I was getting the manuscript for Cry of Metal & Bone (Earthsinger Chronicles, book three) ready for my copyeditor. The day I sent it off for edits I heard back from Monique. She liked my proposal, but what she really wanted was to publish Song of Blood & Stone and the rest of the series. Would I consider that?

Now to rewind a couple of years, I became interested in self publishing for a number of reasons. I fully admit to being a control freak, and I’m somewhat of a serial entrepreneur. I’ve been completely self employed for nearly a decade. I’ve made independent films, co-founded a literary magazine, and love obsessing over the details of font selection and kerning.

Once I actually believed I could write a novel, publishing it myself seemed natural. I knew how to format ebooks and lay out print books. I’d navigated Createspace and KDP for years. I understood metadata, could create promotional graphics, and knew how to apply for an EIN. It was a no brainer. So much so, that querying agents and trying to land a traditional publishing deal didn’t really cross my mind in any meaningful way. I had this.

Plus, honestly, it didn’t occur to me that a fantasy romance about brown people would strike New York as marketable. I knew would want to read it, and that’s really the only reason I write anything. So I went forward.

Bringing a book into the world is an exercise in extreme self confidence and crippling self doubt. I know I’m not the only writer to feel this way. On one hand, I believe in my work and adore my stories and think it would be a very good idea for everyone to read them. On the other hand, there’s all of the: “Oh my God, someone is actually going to read what I wrote and have opinions about it and realize I’m a talentless hack” hand wringing.

So when Monique asked if I would consider handing over my series, in some ways the books of my heart, my literary life flashed before my eyes. Is this something I wanted? Could I allow myself to want something so seemingly unattainable and rare (see crippling self-doubt)?

In the self-publishing community, often trad pub gets a pretty aggressive side eye. It’s big. It’s slow. It’s woefully behind the times. Contracts have turned draconian. Is it worth the percentage they take?

I thought of these things. I considered them carefully. And ultimately I said yes.

Since I’m unagented, I got a fabulous attorney, Quinn Heraty, who made sure I didn’t sign away my firstborn. I read as much as I could about what to expect. I talked to other authors about their experiences. And I took the leap.

My hope is to reach a wider audience than I could find on my own. To reach the person I write all my books for: fifteen or eighteen or twenty-two year old Leslye. (Or nearly thirty-nine year old Leslye).

And so I’m on a new journey which has been scary and amazing and nerve-wracking and exciting and terrifying. I’ll have to do a whole nother post on the intimate relationship I have developed with my crippling self doubt as a result of this experience.

But I’ll end with this—after I saw the image of Octavia Butler’s journal, of how she created her goals and brought them into existence, I was inspired. So be it. See to it. Those were the words she used. They were so powerful that I decided they’ll be my next tattoo. (I plan my tattoos at least a year in advance, as only makes sense for something that will be on your body forever.)

So much of my life has been about creating and bringing new things into the world. I’ve been “seeing to it” for a long time and have no plans to stop. This is just an unexpected detour on this map-free author journey I started on. It’s like one day I walked out my front door with a laptop in hand, not really knowing where I was headed, but I just kept walking. I’m as interested as anybody to see where I go…

 

Color of Love Blog Hop: The Unwashed Cover

I recently read this story about how bestselling middle-grade author Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson fame) had no recourse when several of his international publishers whitewashed the covers of his books and portrayed a black character as white. He complained but even for an author of his stature and sales, the correction took far too long.

A day or two later an author in a Facebook group lamented that her cover was whitewashed by her small press. This is in no ways new and it never stops being infuriating.

I turned on the TV yesterday and caught a clip of some movie where Blaire Underwood was being beaten by the police for literally no reason. The movie was set in the 1950s. My husband and I just looked at one another — no words needed to be said. It seems we’re still fighting the same battles over and over.

I’ve been told that I was very “courageous” for putting black faces on the covers of my books. This made me indescribably sad. Will white readers feel like my books aren’t “for them” because they don’t feature people who look like them on the covers? Have I ever felt like a book wasn’t for me because of the lack of diversity on the cover? That I wouldn’t be able to relate or enjoy it? Of course not. And my philosophy is to start as you mean to go forward. As an artist (and a control freak) I want to create and through my work begin reshaping the world in the way I want it to be.

I made decisions regarding my covers that many believe will impact sales for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I just like seeing black people on my covers. And having my covers represent the characters in my books. To quote a Twitter poster “the melanin is winning.” And since I self publish, I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to shout into the void and not be heard like Riordan or Ursula LeGuin or the many other authors whose books have been whitewashed over the years and continue to be so.

One day representing my reality the way I live and perceive it will stop being “courageous” and just be normal. Until then, I’ll put whoever I want on my covers and be grateful I have the freedom to do so.


I’m giving away a copy of Angelborn as a part of the Color of Love Blog hop. Check out the other fabulous prizes you can win!

BookBox: embed book widget, share book list

BookBox: embed book widget, share book list

Here’s how to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And check out the other posts in the blog hop!

My Creative Process

The lovely and talented Emily P. DeLoach (author of the fantastic book Escaping the Mirror, which everyone should read) invited me to participate in a blog hop on the creative process. Here is my take:

What am I working on?

Probably way too many projects 🙂 I’m working on the revision of my fantasy romance novel, codename: Earthsinger. I received amazing feedback from my developmental editor, Danielle at Double Vision Editorial, and am busy pulling it all together. I’m also co-writing a paranormal romance serial with my partner-in-crime Nakeesha. We’re sending part one to beta readers today and are digging in to the draft of part two. In the midst of this, last week, I finished the first draft of a story that was nowhere on my writing schedule. It’s called Angelborn, and those 30,000 words just demanded to be written. I actually woke up at reeeally early one Saturday and crawled over my husband to find a pen and paper to start scrawling out ideas. When inspiration strikes, you have to follow!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My fantasy romance doesn’t take place in medieval times, but in a 1920’s-esque world where two races are separated by skin color, magical abilities and five hundred years of war.

I came up with the pseudo-tagline “romance for the head and the heart” because as much as I love fluffy, light stories, I can’t seem to write them. My characters tend to be tortured in some way: societal outcasts, refugees fleeing a brutal dictator, teens coping with a false diagnosis of mental illness, a daughter seeking closure from her dying, abusive father. I don’t see a romantic comedy in my future, though I won’t rule anything out.

Still, at the end of the day, I want my stories to make people feel good. Life is too real for too much realism in your fiction, in my opinion. Hence the magic and the happily ever afters.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I believe you should write the stories you want to read. I write characters of color because I want to read about them, and I believe others out there do as well. I write fantasy and paranormal stories because I want magic to be real, and believe that sometimes it is. Falling in love is the most magical thing of all, and I write love stories so I can experience the wonder over and over again.

How does my creative process work?

Occasionally the lightning bolt will strike and the words will magically flow from my fingers, but most of the time it isn’t like that. These days I get up at 6am every day to write for at least an hour and a half.

I keep a notebook of story ideas like most writers, but I take it one step further. When I have an idea, many times I’ll log in to 750words.com and just start writing a small section of it. Start in the middle and write for ten or fifteen minutes, sometimes longer, just to get it out of my system. I could use Scrivener or Word, but I don’t want to have to worry about filenames and where to put it on my computer, the website saves it and I can go back through all my idea snippets later on and choose one to expand on.

I talked a bit about fast drafting before – dumping out a first draft as quickly as possible helps me coalesce the idea in my mind. Then the second draft is all about fleshing it out, making sure there’s a plot and conflict, goals and motivations, and then a third draft to polish before anyone else looks at it. Critique partners are key to let me know when I’ve gone off the rails and to encourage and motivate me.

 

Tag, you’re it! Up Next on the Blog Hop: Angela D’Ambrosio & Nakeesha Seneb

Angela grew up in a small mountain town in Idaho and graduated at the top of her class of seven. She was born in Boise, Idaho in 1977, the second of four children and the only girl. She still lives in Boise, where she raises three small kids and blogs at http://angelad.me about reading, writing and the human condition. She has been featured in Go Read Your Lunch and IDAHO Magazine.

By trade, Nakeesha is a screenwriter. She wrote and produced for the kids’ programming block of the Black Family Channel. Currently, she teaches screenwriting and digital media production at an art college Washington, DC. She loves being immersed in a story whether it’s on a page or on the screen. Having success with the small screen, she’s turned her attention to the small press. She will be self-pubbing a collaborative shifter paranormal romance in the fall of 2014.

Do you want to play, too? Answer the four questions above and post a link here in the comments!