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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.)

January

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).

February

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

March

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).

April

Recovering and writing.

May

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.

 

June

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.

July

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.

August

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.

September

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.

October

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.

November

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

December

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…

 

Song of Blood & Stone wins the BCALA 2016 Self-Publishing EBook Award

Sometimes you’re just going along like normal, wrangling with the words on the page and the other million things you have to get done, and then you open your email and the entire trajectory of your day changes in a split second. In an amazing way. I’ve had several of those days over the past few weeks, but the day I learned that Song of Blood & Stone had won this award was extra special.

I’m so honored, humbled, awe-struck and excited to be a recipient! Words can’t express how it feels to know that people read my work and seem to get what I’m trying to do.

I write fantasy so that I can get lost in other worlds, while at the same time trying to make sense of my own. I write romance to remind myself that love is powerful—it brings solace and healing when we need it most. I self-published because I believe in myself and my voice, and wanted to make sure my stories got out there unfettered and on my own timeline. While I’ve never sought the validation of anyone other than my readers, I’m very grateful to be recognized in this way.

The press release is below: Continue reading “Song of Blood & Stone wins the BCALA 2016 Self-Publishing EBook Award”

When Black Women Fall Promo & Giveaway

When Black Women Fall is a week long promotional tour of romance novels featuring African American heroines in the contemporary, historical, paranormal, new adult, and erotica genres.

Romance novels are increasingly featuring heroes and heroines of color, from Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series to Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. As society and its citizens increase in diversity so does the market. With more and more authors bypassing publishers and uploading these colorful romances on their own, starved readers now have a buffet of books to choose from.

In this promo, you will find that when black women fall in love it’s a sign of the times in these contemporary offerings:

In Farrah Rochon’s All You Can Handle love was the last thing professional pastry chef Sonny White was looking for, but she finds it in a sleepy town with a motorcycle riding hottie.

In Lena Hart’s Because You Love Me when an old desire is reawakened Sabrina will discover that even an imperfect love can triumph over all.

In Xio Axelrod’s Falling Stars Hollywood actress’ Val Saunders finds her career skyrocketing which makes her real-life attraction to her on-screen love interest come at the worst possible time.

In Ines Johnson’s Pumpkin: a Cindermama Story having given up on fairy tales after falling for her toad of an ex, Pumpkin is afraid to take a chance on a prince charming who comes to her rescue.

In Kim Golden’s Maybe Baby Laney must choose between the man who offers her financial security and the one who makes her mind and body sing.

In Victoria H. Smith’s The Space Between Lacey has dreams of the opera, but life has its obstacles, namely a man  who lights a fire inside of her that challenges everything she thought she wanted.

In Christina C. Jones’ Inevitable Conclusions Friends? Lovers? Both? For Kora and Tariq, those lines have been blurred for a long time.

When black women fall in love it’s a magical affair as you’ll find in these paranormal stories of love.

In L Penelope’s Angelborn he gave up eternity for love… and lost. Will Maia be his second chance?

In Laverne Thompson’s Angel Rising Thalya, a soulless creature, meets her match when she hungers for the love of the man assigned to hunt her.

When black women fall in love it’s a defining moment as you’ll find in this historical romance.

In Piper Huguley’s The Preacher’s Promise Amanda Stewart aims to teach newly freed slaves, but meets with the resistance from the town preacher. Can these two put aside their differences and come together?

When black women fall in love it’s full of growing pains as you’ll see in this new adult romance.

In Twyla Turner’s Chasing Day Daylen is the shy cellist who falls in love with her best friend who also happens to be the popular quarterback.

When black women fall in love it can get a little spicy as you’ll find in these erotic romances.

In Harper Miller’s Entwined trouble finds Gabby when she meets an ex-marine looking to release a little tension.

In Rebekah Weatherspoon’s So Sweet Kayla is shocked when the sexy billionaire she meets on an online dating app turns out to be a dream in and outside of the bedroom.

From February 8-14, the intersection of Valentine’s Day and Black History month, check out these discounted romances and enter for your chance to win a giveaway basket that includes a Kindle, along with a few quintessential romance novels featuring black heroines, and a gift certificate for the beauty and cosmetics company Carol’s Daughter!

To find the books, get a free excerpt book, and enter the giveaway, visit http://whenblackwomenfall.com

Win 100 free books & a Kindle Fire!!

If you aren’t already familiar with Free Kindle Giveaway, they are a company that promotes books AND their authors! Readers join their list for great deals as well as opportunities to connect with amazing authors…while also having the chance to participate in monthly giveaways! There are a variety prizes, but most often the winner has a choice between $100 PayPal Cash or a Kindle Fire! But for this special giveaway, Free Kindle Giveaway is giving away 100 dollars (or a Kindle Fire) AND 100 ebooks while telling you about 100 special ebook deals. It’s the 100/100/100 Giveaway!

Learn More About the Prizes Below, or Go Here to Enter to win:

Enter Here

The Prizes: 1 Kindle/$100 + 100 Books!

kindle_fire_feature_three

Continue reading “Win 100 free books & a Kindle Fire!!”

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?