February. Get ink. Shed tears.

Or another translation of this post’s title:

February, pick up your pen and weep,
Write poems about February in sobs and ink,
While thunder booming in the background
Is burning in the black of spring.

-Boris Pasternak

Regina Spektor’s song “Après Moi” introduced that poem to me (in its original Russian) and it is all things beautiful and lovely. Check out other translations of the full poem here and here.

This Month in Writing

February underscored for me the difficult knowledge that with each book, you sort of have to learn how to write a novel all over again. Each one is different and presents unique challenges. You’re always learning, and hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes each time, but there are always new mistakes to make.

My “surprise” (to me) novella, Angelborn, will be off to the copy editor in mere days. This last draft was rough going, and I wasn’t sure I was going to make my deadline for much of the month, but last weekend brought with it the gift of six+ inches of snow, so I hunkered down in front of the fireplace with my laptop and busted it out.

I’m also really excited about Earthsinger 2… Darvyn and Kyara’s story has been making me super emotional – too many feels for one book!

This Month in Listening

I discovered the group Ibeyi and fell in love with their sound. Check out this video to get some of their funky cool twin weirdness in your life:

This Month in Watching

Sleepy Hollow had its problems, bit it was a consistently entertaining show that I really looked forward to each week. And, they get the award for best season finale in a long time! I hope they get a third season.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is coming back next week, but really for me it’s all about 12 Monkeys. It always delivers wibbly wobbly timey wimey goodness with the occasional paradox and some fairly interesting characters. Loving it!

I’m quite sure this weekend will be filled with binge watching House of Cards season 3. I also have to work in a re-watch of Twin Peaks at some point this year to prepare myself for the upcoming new series. My high school life was defined by three shows: Twin Peaks, The X Files and My So Called Life. This is slightly odd since according to the Internet I hadn’t actually started high school when Twin Peaks aired. It doesn’t seem like the sort of show appropriate for an eighth grader, but maybe that explains a few things about me… Hmmm. (Sidenote: I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved in sixth grade and did a book report on it. I need to ask my mom what, exactly, was going on in the parental supervision department…)

This Month in Reading

In preparation for my workshop with David Anthony Durham next month at the Hurston Wright Writer’s Weekend, I’m currently ensconced in AcaciaI’m 47% in, and I adore this novel. It certainly puts the epic in epic fantasy. My Kindle told me it would take 12 hours to finish which is mind boggling. I read extremely fast. I’m used to wrapping up an average length book in 4 or 5 hours tops – maybe because I skim the boring parts – but there’s nothing to skim here and I’m exercising my under-utilized patience muscles.

This Month in Fur

Sterlyng found a new pillow:

Not sure this is the ergonomically correct way to type…

A photo posted by Leslye (@lpenel) on

And Saybl is recovering nicely from last month’s illness. You can’t keep a good pit bull down!

Sabyl after playing in the snow
Sabyl after playing in the snow

So, how did February treat you? Let me know in the comments.

 March giveaway info is going out soon!  Get on the mailing list so you don’t miss out!

Monthly Recap – January 2015

This year I started a logbook. I got the idea from Austin Kleon, who lays it out really well here. Every night before bed I sit with my chamomile tea and jot down the events of the day, how I felt, and what I’m grateful for. It adds a routine to bedtime that helps improve my sleep hygeine and stave off insomnia. Besides, I have long wished for a personal stenographer to capture the details of my daily life since my memory isn’t up to the task, and the logbook is as close as I will ever come.

Then, I came across YA author Jodi Meadow’s blog and got the idea to do a monthly roundup blog post. (I do occasionally have original ideas, just saying). So here you go:

This Month in Writing

I did double duty, working on two books at once. I finished up the surprise novella I drafted last fall and sent it out for developmental edits. Also, I put the pedal to the metal on the draft for Earthsinger Chronicles, Book 2. I have a title, but I’m not ready to make it public yet because I might change my mind. (I brainstormed nearly 100 titles before settling on Song of Blood & Stone, so I’m hesitant to commit.)

The Month in Designing

Carrying the book around in my purse to show people is kind of awkward, so I figured I needed some swag. After scouring the interwebs, I came up with a couple of ideas and here is the first one.

I made transforming bookmarks that turn into business cards. #MoreThanMeetsTheEye

A photo posted by Leslye (@lpenel) on

 

This Month in Reading

The first few weeks were a reading desert as the activities associated with the book launch took over. I reduced my yearly Goodreads challenge to 125 books (from 150 last year) because it can be hard for me to read in my genre when I’m writing. Specifically when I’m drafting. Fortunately, one of my favorite authors not in my genre, Courtney Milan, released a new book: Trade Me. It was amazing like all of her other novels and you should definitely check it out!

This Month in Watching

The movie Selma was way, way better than I thought it would be. If you haven’t seen it, you’re really missing out!

I also caught The Imitation Game. It’s great to see movies where the hype is well deserved for a change.  I’m a huge Sherlock fan, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s role as Alan Turing had some deja vu moments, but nothing that took away from the brilliance of it all.

So now I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominations except for The Theory of Everything. I’m hoping to get to that this weekend.

Also, thanks to Ines Johnson, I’m now completely hooked on 12 Monkeys on SyFy. I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore (otherwise I’d never have time to write or read anything. I’m in awe of people who can consume large quantities of media in various formats. Maybe I spend too much time in the shower or something…) But it happened and now I have to deal with it. Hopefully it will be a short season. 😉 

This Month in Listening

The new Sleater-Kinney album No Cities to Love came out. I’ve never met an S-K album I didn’t adore, but it’s taking me a while to warm up to this one. Though I had the same reaction to The Woods and now I can’t remember why I felt that way. So I’m letting the music seep into my pores and settle some more.

This Month in Fur

Sterlying had a good time chomping on my locs as he helped me through my manuscript.

  A photo posted by Leslye (@lpenel) on

And Sabyl had to make an impromptu visit to the vet for her swollen neck. They gave her something that made her almost too high to function and the poor thing is just starting to come down.

 

Well, that was my month. What did the January hold for you? Let me know in the comments.
And don’t forget the monthly giveaway starts in February. Make sure you’re on the mailing list for entry information!

Anatomy of a Release Day

Today is book launch day for my first release, Song of Blood & StoneIt’s been on preorder for several weeks, but there’s nothing like getting it out into the world for real!

Last Week

I’d thought everything was ready — I had uploaded the ebook to Amazon two days before the deadline (a full  12 days before release day!). I’d carefully tested the file on my Kindle, the Kindle Previewer, my iPad, iPhone and the desktop app. Regardless, I fully expected the cover to show up upside down or something when it actually hit peoples’ Kindles. Then I realized that I hadn’t finalized the Createspace version for the print edition. I’d meant to order a second proof just to check and make sure my last minute formatting tweaks didn’t cause some kind of catastrophe. Of course, that didn’t happen so I had to go on faith that things would look largely the way they had before.

The Amazon site says it takes 3-5 days for a book published on Createspace to link up with its Kindle version. Since I was doing this last Wednesday, that was cutting it close. Unfortunately, there’s no way to make sure it happens on exactly the same day. Still, I submitted, waited for the review process from Createspace and then published.

I happened to check on Sunday and found that it was displaying alongside the Kindle pre-order, and there was already a review posted!

Today

I got up at 6:45am, my usual 45 minutes late for my 6am writing time. At this point, it’s more of a goal than an actual schedule, but I keep trying. I had a long list of release day tasks to complete. Things like updating my Twitter and Facebook headers, sending my newsletter, writing this blog post. Not all of those things happened, I had to give up on much of it by 7:30 so I could actually get some writing in.

I managed to post to Facebook and Twitter and not check the KDP dashboard obsessively (I’ve heard of people checking every few minutes. Honestly, I just didn’t have time to obsess, I had a rush job to complete for work.)

Then there was that moment when I was about to tweet the graphic I’d created when I had a freak out that my tagline — the one I’d been using for nearly two months — was grammatically incorrect. Yes, a copyeditor looked at it and gave her blessing, but that didn’t stop me from spending ten minutes on grammar websites reacquainting myself with subject-verb agreement.

The day went something like this: Work. Check Twitter. Check Facebook. Work. Check email. Check Goodreads. Check KDP dashboard. Work. Rinse. Repeat.

To anyone who’s purchased the book, THANK YOU! YES, I’M SHOUTING, THAT’S HOW GRATEFUL I AM!

I’ve been blown away by the early reviews and all the feedback I’ve received. It’s awesome to have crossed this milestone, something I’ve thought about for virtually my entire life.

And now, I must get back to work so I can wrestle with the draft of the sequel, which is refusing to play nice. I realize that this is really just the first step of a long journey. I want to publish 3 more books this year… Eek!

Resolution Revolution – Goodbye 2014!

Remember this from SNL last year? So true.

And so another year has ended and like most people I’m taking stock of my achievements and making plans for the new year. 2014 was good to me – and while my debut novel doesn’t technically arrive on shelves for another 13 days, I did complete it in 2014 which was a huge accomplishment for me. I’ve just uploaded the final ebook file of Song of Blood & Stone to Amazon. Now all that’s left is to wait…

2015 will bring books one and two of the Earthsinger Chronicles as well as Angelborn, a surprise novella that wasn’t originally on my production schedule. And who knows? The muse may bring other surprises this year as well.

As for resolutions, I, like most, have a complicated relationship with them. I’ll stick to goals instead: to keep writing, finishing and publishing books. Keep making time for my reading addiction, exercise, family, and hopefully take that trip to New Zealand I’ve been wanting to go on for years.

So welcome 2015! Let’s make it great!

Do you have any resolutions? Let me know in the comments!

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!

Timeboxing: Change the Way you Waste Time

In a previous post, I talked about time management, and promised you some tools to help battle time wastage. It’s an on-going struggle, but this is what’s working for me right now.

In order to manage the commitment I’ve made myself to write (and finish what I write), plus my business & consulting, as well as family and other duties, I need to schedule them all. Without scheduling not only will things not get done, but since my memory basically looks like this –

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Photo Credit: vrogy via Compfight cc

– I won’t even remember what didn’t get done. This has resulted in me waking up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat from some nightmare about walking into class both late and naked. Continue reading “Timeboxing: Change the Way you Waste Time”