2017 Reflections & Recap

Happy New Year!

I know many of us are happy to have 2017 in our rear view, and 2018 is shaping up to be just as interesting. I love new years, new calendars, fresh reams of paper on which to write the script of your life. 2018 holds a lot of big events for me. I have a milestone birthday coming up in April, a milestone wedding anniversary coming up in October, and a milestone book release coming up in May (Song of Blood & Stone releases May 1, in case you hadn’t heard).

But first things first, let’s look back at the year that was, courtesy of my Google Calendar because lord knows I don’t remember even half of what I did last year…

(Click on images to enlarge.)


I spoke at the Digital Book World conference in New York and was in town for the Inauguration protests. My husband and I saw Hamilton (him for the first time, me for the second ;-p).


I had a story published in Sycorax’s Daughters, an anthology of horror fiction & poetry by Black women authors.


Hospital selfie

I did two book signings for Sycorax’s Daughters with an amazing group of women. I also had a problematic organ removed by a robot, completed my copyedit review of Song of Blood & Stone, wrote all the chapter epigraphs, and turned in the final manuscript (all in one week!). Began working on editorial revisions for Whispers of Shadow & Flame (Earthsinger Chronicles book 2).


Recovering and writing.


Attended RT Booklovers Convention. Had an amazing time. Presented a full-day workshop on Self-Publishing for the Washington Romance Writers, along with Indie authors Magda Alexander and Rebecca Rivard. Spoke on a panel at the Library Journal Day of Dialog in New York. Hung out with my brother in that really cool library in NYC.



Got an incredible hookup (thanks, Veronda!) and attended BEA for about an hour before catching my train back to Maryland to check out a fiction masterclass by Alexandra Sokoloff. And in the midst of all this, submitted the revised manuscript for Whispers of Shadow & Flame to my editor. Spoke on a panel at DC’s AwesomeCon. Was kept sane by my sistren, Ines Johnson & Cerece Rennie Murphy.


Tagged along on a work trip of my husband’s to Roanoake, VA. Went to Philly for the AuthorGo conference with Ines. We caught a very cool museum exhibit on magic in the ancient world. Went to a concert with my friend Cherise and met John Legend. The next day flew to Orlando for the RWA Conference, where I spoke on a panel and ingested a metric ton of information.


Turned in the first pass pages of Song of Blood & Stone and received the updated cover. Swooned. Attended the BCALA Awards in Atlanta to present this year’s winner of the Self-Publishing Fiction award. Met Congressman John Lewis. Attended my niece’s first birthday party. Experienced the fruit fly apocalypse in our home; waged war and eventually won.


Found my first gray hair. Started my new obsession: rock climbing. Went to the NMAAHC (National Museum of African American History and Culture) for the first time. Got a new tattoo: “So be it – See to it,” words of power and creation from Octavia Butler. Caught Dave Chappelle live. Spoke at the Baltimore Book Festival.

Mourned the passing of my mother-in-law.


Spoke at the Capclave conference. Tagged along on another work trip of my husband’s, this time to Denver where we celebrated our anniversary, and I met my lovely agent, Sara Megibow, in person and spoke to a MFA class with her. Taught a couple of Flash Fiction workshops at a local community college. Attended the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Awards where two of the Real Housewives of DC stole our seats. Fortunately, we were re-seated in time to catch my husband’s 15 minutes of fame.


Turned in the initial manuscript of Cry of Metal & Bone, Earthsinger Chronicles book 3, to my editor. Received the lovely ARCs of Song. Swooned.


Became the pet parent of a brand new pup. Did my Christmas shopping late and strove to express my gratitude for all the wonderful things in my life.

And there you have it! Hope you’re ready for another journey around the sun. I don’t know about you, but I’m entering 2018 like:

Header photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

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…


In which Leslye appears on television

This is my first television interview ever, so it’s kind of fitting that it be for the local TV of the place where I grew up. I actually took video classes at this very station in high school, and that was one of the experiences which made me want to major in film production in college.

Anyway, the show Transforming Lives spotlights “individuals, companies, and charities whose great work transforms lives and improves the quality of life for citizens in Montgomery County, MD and the surrounding areas.”

View the entire episode at: https://vimeo.com/162514551

We’re gonna teach ’em how to say goodbye … to 2015

TL;DR 2015 was a year and now it’s gone… Long live 2015!

This Year in Writing

TimeAndMagicClockThis year I published my first book. (As well as my second, third and fourth). It was the turning point in a journey that started when I was five years old and wrote my first “novel.” Titled Time and the Magic Clock, the story was about a boy who was late for dinner.)

What does a girl so shy that she can barely answer the phone in her own home for fear of talking to strangers do to engage with the world? Read. I read everything from horror to classics to poetry and biographies. Sometimes when I was bored and I’d read everything I had, I would open up the encyclopedia.

I had a typewriter with green ink, which I used to write stories back then. This was before we had a computer in the house (and I’m old enough to have lived in a such a time and to remember the exact day that AOL first got the “World Wide Web”). Pages and pages of stories piled up and the dream grew. Could I really do this one day, for real? Would people want to read the things I write?

Well a surprising number of you did want to read what I wrote, and for that I am endlessly grateful. When I published Song of Blood & Stone in January, I set a goal to sell 500 copies by the end of the year. By April, I had well exceeded that, which was an amazing birthday surprise.

That month, I also dropped the novella Angelborn. I just uploaded it one day and hit publish and didn’t go through all the hoopla I had with the first book. I’d written the first draft in two weeks right before NaNoWriMo 2014 and spent some time cleaning it up while Song of Blood & Stone was with the editor.

It was a story that had come from a dream I had of a girl who falls in love with an invisible boy who only she can see. I’d started writing a very different version of that premise years ago, in a book some of you who know me may remember called Girl Electric. Anyway, Angelborn found an audience as well, without much promotion, and once again I was blown away by the fact that people were reading my stories and enjoying them, for the most part.

Whispers of Shadow & Flame was the next book released in October. A surprising number of people asked if it was me on the cover of Song (it’s not — are there authors that put themselves on the covers of their fiction books? Because my ego is not that big, I promise) but that gave me the idea to put someone I knew on the cover of the next book. I thought my brother Paul would make a pretty good Darvyn. He’s reasonably photogenic and was up for the challenge.

I gave him super helpful notes like “look realistically hopeful” and “you need to look like you’re balanced on the precipice of change.” Somehow he and photographer Bryony Shearmur took this and translated into some awesome pictures. And James Egan worked his magic on it once again and the cover kicked all kinds of ass.

I don’t know when I decided that I should publish four books this year, but once it got into my head, it wouldn’t leave. I made it under the deadline with Angelfall in December. It’s a book I drafted really fast and agonized over during the editing process. Not that that’s different than any of the other books (actually, with Whispers I agonized over the whole thing).

I really wanted to write a straightforward “angel falls in love with a half-angel” story, but, as these things often happen, the narrative took on a life of its own and went somewhere that I couldn’t talk it out of. I love the story—I love all the stories, I wouldn’t let them out into the world unless I adored them—even when they’re not quite the tales I’d intended to tell.

So there you have it, my first year as a published author. It’s been hard, much harder than I thought. It reminds me of before I got married, when people would always tell us that marriage is hard. We believed them, but didn’t know exactly what they meant. What’s so hard about it? What can you do to make it less hard? Knowing and experiencing are different things and as much preparation as you do beforehand, it’s never really enough. But that’s okay. The best things in life are hard. That doesn’t mean you love them any less.

Balancing running a business full-time and being an author, publisher, and marketer (another business) is hard—but I love it. I also love that I’m running towards a goal I never thought I’d be able to reach. Being a published author always seemed like a far-off dream that I wasn’t in control of. Taking control and making it happen is one of the things I’m most proud of in my life.

And if you’ve made it this far in the mega-long-ramble-post, I’d like to thank you. Yes, you. Readers rule! You’re the reason for all of this, and that’s the truly amazing thing.

Next Year in Writing

Six books (six books?). Well, that’s the goal.

Cry of Metal & Bone (Earthsinger Chronicles, book 3) is coming, tentatively in late spring. Plus a bonus Earthsinger novella! Woohoo! And at the end of the year, book 4. (Whew.) Then, of course, there will be Angelrise, the next in the Angelborn cycle. So that’s four.

And then something new. Or two something news to round out the number. Or something old and something new (prequel anyone?). Basically, I haven’t decided yet. I’ll have to see how it goes.

This Year in Other Stuff
  • My city burned in a riot/uprising, depending on your perspective.
  • We tried to persuade the world that black lives matter, but so far they seem unconvinced.
  • I saw Audra McDonald play Billie Holiday on Broadway and it changed my life.
  • I went to North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Virginia, San Francisco.
  • I saw Hamilton on Broadway and it changed my life.
  • I saw Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center and it did not change my life. It was actually kind of meh. Though this may be because of the Hamilton effect where nothing is quite the same afterward.
  • My favorite band Sleater-Kinney came out with a new album (yay!), but I didn’t get to see them on tour 🙁
  • I cut off my hair. It weighed a pound and without it I felt one hundred pounds lighter.
  • I hit a personal record of 95 lbs on my bench press. (Still 40 away from my goal)
  • I spoke on some panels and did some author events (conquering my introversion one day at a time).
  • I got a new sister-in-law when my brother-in-law got married.
  • I celebrated my seventh wedding anniversary.

So yeah, 2015 was pretty epic. Here’s to 2016 … let’s get some shit done!

What do you have in store for the new year?

How did it get so late so soon?

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn.

– Dr. Seuss

This summer has been a blur wrapped in a whirlwind subsumed by an enigma. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

This Month in Writing

Whispers of Shadow & Flame, book 2 in the Earthsinger Chronicles is out with beta readers as we speak. By next month’s update I should have a release date to announce… very exciting! I’m not going to lie, this book kicked my booty. It’s more of a companion novel to Song of Blood & Stone rather than a true sequel, but it advances the story and the world of the first book. Can’t wait for you guys to read it!

This Month in Watching

Mr. Robot took over my world; I can’t tell you how much I love this show. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I love it when a show grabs me and doesn’t let go. I tried watching Netflix’s Sense8, but I just couldn’t get into it. I’m told if I stick through the first 3 episodes I’ll be handsomely rewarded, so I may give it another shot at some point.

Cinema-wise, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was fabulous, though I had some reservations. I can’t decide whether the character of Earl was a magical Negro. He skirted the line for me, even though he was a fascinating character. Something just made me a little uncomfortable about the portrayal. Anyone who’s seen the movie please weigh in.

This Month in Listening

The husband (codename: Megatron) being a huge film soundtrack geek, helped me put together a playlist that I used to finish writing Whispers of Shadow & Flame. If you’re interested in giving it a listen, check it out

Also, the Productivity Booster playlist on Spotify is good to do regular work to.

This Month in Reading

I loved Where One Goes by B.N. Toler. I picked it up because the description is remarkably similar to my initial idea for Angelborn. The story was fantastic and when you read it, make sure to keep a box of tissues close.

This Month in Happenings

My book signing in DC was awesome. I had so much fun with everyone who came out! Check my Events page for more in-person sightings of yours truly. Sometimes I do leave my writing cave and venture out into the world.

For example, I also went to the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City last week and had a terrific, exhausting time. This is interior the hotel we stayed at in Times Square. It was from the future.

2015-07-24 16.13.33-1

Over the next few months, members of my mailing list will get the chance to win books and swag from the conference, so make sure you’re signed up!

This Month in Fur
Sterlyng hangs out in my office
Sterlyng hangs out in my office

Sabyl, you’re doing it wrong.

A photo posted by Leslye (@lpenel) on

I hope your summer has been fabulous so far!

May flowers may make me sneeze

This Month in Writing

I received my developmental edits back for Earthsinger book 2. I hope my editor will forgive me for making her slog through that draft! Now I’m deep in revision mode. I’m a firm believer in production schedules, but I also believe in trying to write the best book I can, and the two are not always compatible. I haven’t completely given up on my schedule yet, however, in Project Manager language, it’s “at risk.” But we’ll see…

I also have a more-finished-than-not draft of another novella in the Angelborn world. If you read Angelborn and were curious about Caleb’s friend Wren, never fear, his story is coming.

This Month in Watching

The movie San Andreas didn’t suck. I’ll go see almost anything The Rock is in, and this movie is on the better end of those mass disaster films that make you want to go take a wilderness survival class or something. Going to see it after coming back from the gym left with me a day-long adrenaline rush.

This Month in Listening

I discovered the song “Here” by Alessia Cara on Spotify and ruled my world for several weeks. It’s like the wallflower anthem. Though I think she cheated because any song that samples Portishead* is going to own me at least for a little while. (*I know, I know, it’s Isaac Hayes, but it’ll always be Portishead to me.)

(The lyrics video is also worth watching.)

This Month in Reading

I practically swallowed whole the first two books in Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassin series. They’re YA historical fiction with fantasy elements and are amazing! I’m also casually re-reading one of my favorite series of all time, The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta which starts with Finnikin of the Rock. I say casually because I tend not to read in my genre when I’m working on a manuscript, so I’ll be popping in and out until this draft is done.

This Month in Fur

It’s shedding season in our house. Clumps of hair in every corner. To battle against it is futile, but my vaccuum cleaner persists it the fight.

Sabyl and Sterlyng
A rare image of the two furry ones together.

Hope your May was swell and you’re ready for summer! Hit me up in the comments with your end-of-spring laments.

Photo by Tonglé Dakum