A Signed Starseed Giveaway!

Enter to win one of two signed paperbacks from The Starseed Trilogy!

It has come to my attention that I have not done a giveaway in FAR too long! Since I love my readers so much this is simply unacceptable. I can only say I’ve been quite occupied with wrapping up The Starseed Trilogy and diving deep into The Bonegates Series. 🙂 Plus, the holidays are coming up and signed books make the best gifts, don’t you think?

To remedy this, I’m giving away a signed paperback to two lucky people. The novel can be one any of the four published paperbacks in my Starseed Universe (Rogue Fae is not in paperback and hence excluded).  To enter the giveaway, you must complete TWO of the following tasks:

1) Download a FREE copy of Prophecy of Three from Amazon or Kobo and send me a screenshot of your proof of purchase via email (ashleymcleo(at)gmail(dot)com).

2) Follow me on either Bookbub (Ashley McLeo), Facebook (Ashley McLeo Author), or Instagram (a.mcleo). Screenshot that you’ve followed me, email me at ashleymcleo(at)gmail(dot)com and I’ll document it.

3) Leave an honest review for any of my books (there are five of them) on online retailers and send me the review link (ashleymcleo(at)gmail(dot)com).

All of these options are free and thus everyone has an equal chance to win. Please remember you must send me screenshots of your entries or your efforts will be for naught. I will not be able to keep track any other way. And you must complete TWO of the above tasks. I will be documenting. This giveaway ends November 1, 2018. Entries after that date will not be counted. The winners will be chosen by random.org. Best of luck to everyone who enters!

Siren Falling – Final Teaser! Releases 7/31/18

Just because our stories are difficult and uncomfortable, doesn’t mean they aren’t ours.

Hey there!

Can you believe Siren Falling, A Starseed Universe novella featuring Selma’s adventures in New York releases NEXT WEEK!? I sure can’t! This novella took me longer to write than I care to admit. Selma was a tough nut to crack and her story was, in truth, a hard one to tell. She didn’t act like so many of the noble heroines I read about and at times, I was ashamed of her. There were a couple of instances when I thought about throwing in the towel on the story, worried I’d never get it right or readers wouldn’t connect (to be fair I still worry about the later, though I fully believe the story is right now). Still, I love Selma as she is in The Starseed Trilogy, and just because she’s quite different in the novella doesn’t make me love her less. It simply means she changed as we all do. With writing Selma’s story I learned a very important life lesson.

Just because our stories are difficult and uncomfortable, doesn’t mean they aren’t ours. 

So, I told it. As it was, raw and uncomfortable as hell. I hope you enjoy it, even if Selma upsets you at times, and without further adieu here’s the last teaser!

Siren Falling excerpt

Selma had wandered deeper into the enchanted forest than she’d expected. She bit her lip, sincerely hoping Kayla, or better yet, Abby, was running late too. Then she wouldn’t have to hear Abby complain about tardiness. Following the path less populated, Selma wound through the forest toward the front of the ballroom where the string quartet played. She was rounding the final patch of trees before she would have to cut across the slim strip of the empty dance floor to Kayla’s domain when suddenly a figure materialized in front of her.

Selma gasped as her eyes locked with the most captivating man she’d ever seen. He was well over six feet tall with perfectly white teeth and piercing, storm-gray eyes. And while Selma would have happily stared at him all day, she was quickly becoming aware of something cold and wet chilling her skin. Tearing her eyes from the man, she looked down to find a stain smeared across the front of her dress and the man’s glass, hanging limply in his hand, empty. Drops of red wine covered the floor between them. Her mouth closed and lips flattened.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. Hell, look what I’ve done. I’ve ruined your dress.”

The world flipped again. Where there was a brief annoyance, now, only arousal existed. Selma’s skin tingled at the man’s voice, pure bliss in a room full of chatter.

“Please, there’s no reason to be sorry,” Selma assured him. “Look, the silk is already drying. I’m sure I can get the stain out. I—” She snapped her mouth shut when suddenly, his eyes glazed over. Hormones, born of siren magic, were slipping through her lips. Her powers had acted on instinct, without her even noticing it, sensing within Selma her overwhelming desire to have this man.

But I’ve always been in perfect control of my magic.

“You certainly came around that corner fast, didn’t you? It’s her fault too, Andrew.” Another voice, feminine, and cold cut through the moment, slashing Selma’s desire. From nowhere, a woman placed her hand on the man’s shoulder—a left hand adorned with giant diamonds.

End excerpt

Uh oh, I think she’s in trouble!

Pick up your copy next week to read what happens! And don’t forget to leave a review. 🙂

Siren Falling Pre-order link.

All the magic,

Ashley

Siren Falling

Writing with Color – Representation in Writing

As a writer, I get asked about whether or not I think representation in novels is important A LOT. It’s second only to the question “Where do your ideas come from?” <– (Answer: EVERYWHERE.

As a writer, I get asked about whether or not I think representation in novels is important A LOT. It’s second only to the question “Where do your ideas come from?” <– (Answer: see the previous blog post!) To answer the first question you need only read one of my novels, all of which include POC and LGBTQ peoples in important roles. While some writers (generally white-cis-writers) may shy away from writing people from other backgrounds and cultures I think it’s of the utmost importance. Why, you ask?

Because I write to reflect the world around me, and that world is full of diversity. Even in my upcoming series, The Bonegates Series, which is set in Faerie and therefore I could literally make the world as I wanted it, I could not conceive any other way of writing. In fact, in The Bonegates Series, I took it a step further, giving unnatural hair, skin, and eye colors to certain characters because- why not? It’s fantasy!

The argument is constantly brought up that writers do not want to offend those of other cultures by portraying them incorrectly and while I see where they are coming from I believe it far more offensive to delete them entirely. A monochromatic, cis world, where everyone is able-bodied becomes unrealistic. Perhaps for historical fiction or very, very small town settings, it could work but overall, the world is full of color and writing should be too.

Now, as for portraying people incorrectly/rudely/stereotypically, there’s a really simple way to avoid this (if that is your intention). Ask someone from whatever group you’re writing about and talk to them. ASK if what you are writing is offensive. I recently had this experience with a fellow writer who uses a wheelchair. I asked her to read my work and pay special attention to how I portrayed the character in a wheelchair (Alistair from The Starseed Trilogy). She was very pleased to read and was a great help at giving me insight into how a person using a wheelchair may take one of my character’s dialogue. Don’t know anyone from the particular group you are trying to include? Find a writers group on social media and put yourself out there. I’m sure someone will be happy to help.

Another reason I believe it’s incredibly important writers write a diverse cast is because what we write trickles into other industries. If my books ever get made into a movie, I want there to be no question that certain characters look a certain way. If the cast is white-cis-washed it will not be because I didn’t do what I believe is right.

Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, I believe there need to be more characters of color/minorities because I’ve had the experience where a reader of color actually said “I don’t think any of these people are dark skinned” when I used the term “tall, dark, and handsome.” Well, actually, one was. He was even described (briefly-but I don’t believe in banging the reader over the head with such information either. That’s annoying as heck!) as such, but that did not register. I don’t blame the reader for this, I blame our culture. We’ve been white-and-cis-gender-washed for so long, that now, readers simply insert cis white man/woman in their mind even if the author explicitly wrote the character as a POC/minority/perhaps has a prosthetic limb. This tells me we need MORE diversity and we need to say it OUT LOUD, not just in our mind or imply it softly. We need to make this mainstream. To do that, more writers need to get over their fear and simply write the world as it is. Big, diverse, full of color and love for all.

Character Motivations (?) Writer Talk

Please prepare for some major writerly musings . . . 
As an author, I’ve received the feedback

Please prepare for some major writerly musings . . .

As an author, I’ve received the feedback “I’m not sure this character knows what they want”, one or two times. I’ve also given that same feedback and felt it justified giving it. However, the more I read and research the craft, the more I begin to question if that feedback is helpful. I question this for one primary reason:

How many people do you know in life, who actually, seriously, one hundred percent know what they want?

Yeah . . . I know, right? If you have an extremely self-aware group of friends and family, I’d still expect this answer to be “not a lot”. I only recently realized what I wanted to do for a career and I’d been thinking about that for . . . oh, only about half my life. And this knowing what you want thing extends to much more than just a career! There are so many other aspects of life one could question what they want. Kids? Marriage or no? Where to live? What should I eat? What sort of movement practice is best for me? Political parties? Religion?

Every time you answer or even attempt to answer, one of these questions, I swear five more spring up.

Recently when I read about younger characters (young adult genre or new adult genre) I try to cut them some slack. It’s entirely possible they have no idea what they want, and you know what? I don’t blame them! I’ve always found it ridiculous that we ask a 16-year-old to choose what he/she wants to do for the rest of their lives. Most adults don’t even know what they want in life (I’ll cut them slack too), why do teenagers need to know? Societal pressure is why so many people are searching hard for something else to fulfill them. Or spend time procrastinating on social media instead of pursuing the thing they claim to want (side hustle, a book deal, a happy family, a pre-paid trip to Bali). Maybe the character is meant to act a little sporadic (obviously there are limits because I don’t need to know everything the character does-I only have so much time for a book) and make some bad choices that don’t seem in line with their “wants” because you know what? THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY WANT ANYHOW. I mean, maybe they do, however, if the story is well-crafted that will probably change anyhow around 50-60%. Plus, the addition of seemingly crazy behavior is not only realistic, but it’s likely adding conflict, which is necessary for any story.

People not knowing what they want and acting a little crazy to figure it out is a truth in life.

So, now when I read and come across a character who doesn’t seem to know what they want I think that character is simply believable. Astringent “want” is no longer needed for me to feel satisfied. As long as they figure out their real “want” eventually in the story and complete their arc I’m usually happy anyhow. For the rest, I’m just along for the ride.

 

Rising of Three Teaser

Villains are just like us. They have motivations and beliefs, things they love and hate, and things that make them tick. Noro, of The Starseed Trilogy, is no exception.

Hello!

Disclaimer: This post may contain spoilers for those who have not read Prophecy of Three or Souls of Three.

We’re about two months away from the release of Rising of Three, Book Three of The Starseed Trilogy and I CAN’T WAIT to share Sara’s story with you all! She’s just bursting to step out of the limelight of her older sisters Lily and Evelyn.

But to be honest, Sara will just have to wait because today, I wanted to take a twisty little turn and give you a brand new point of view. The villain, Noro.

Noro is a nasty piece of work to be sure, but like the rest of us, he isn’t without his own insecurities and motivations. If you’ve read Prophecy of Three or Souls of Three, you may have caught them. But perhaps you didn’t, and if not, here’s a little insight into what makes Noro tick.

Rising of Three Excerpt:

Noro swooped down the sloping hill through the frost-covered trees, his pace quickening as he approached the abandoned zoo. In the short time since he’d left the new fata of Earth to replenish their magical stores, much had changed. Noro and his First Order Acolytes had furthered the fata cause more in two weeks than they’d managed for millennia. Infiltrating power systems, claiming humans, and creating a current of chaos to effectively undermine human confidence was a splendid start.

The humans won’t need to worry themselves over their fate much longer. Noro flew faster and the largest hut in the park, King Dimia’s personal quarters, came into view.

Learning that his first children, powerful beings sculpted into exactly what Noro needed, had perished at the hands of Eve’s sisters was the last straw. No longer would Noro make concessions for those magical creatures who did not welcome the reign of their ancestors. Nor would he hide in the shadows, skirting around weak humans. No, he would use them as they used the land they were born to. The land they seemed to have little respect for. The same land that made them powerful. The land he would take.

No one born on Earth knew how sweet their world was. They’d never seen their home die as Hecate was dying. Never witnessed the plants and creatures within it wither to nothing. The magic fizzle from their souls.

Soon, the creatures of Earth would understand. And as humankind’s power dwindled before their eyes, the fata would take up their reign.

The witches will pay for what they’ve done. If only Seraphina had consented to help, none of this would have happened. I would not still be called a fool. Fata would not dare gossip behind my back, even as I toil to make them powerful once more. I’ll show them. He shot fifty feet above the trees and magic born of fury flew from him, splitting the tallest oak in the park like lightning.

No matter the amnesty Dimia promises I’ll see to it Amon and Empusa receive vengeance. Dimia does not yet understand how his daughters have changed. How their human blood has tainted the fata within them. How they are no longer his. I shall make him see

End excerpt.

Did that change your perception of Noro? Let me know below!

All the magic,

Ashey

P.S. You can pre-order Rising of Three NOW, right here!

Short Stories? Yay or nay?

What’s your take on the short story?

Hello!

I’ve been kicking around an idea for a while and am wondering what you think.

Short stories? Do you love them or hate em or could really care less? Personally, I’m not a fan UNLESS they are in a universe I love. If Deborah Harkness or Queen JK Rowling herself wrote short stories I’d be all over them. But as stand-alone works, I probably won’t even pick them up. There’s just not enough there to entice me (I like BIG, ROUNDED worlds!) and I’ve read so many that end on an ambiguous note, which is not for me. That being said, I’m thinking about writing some in my fantasy universes. Mostly they would take place in The Bonegate Series universe, but I do have a few outlined for my Starseed Universe. The vast majority of these stories would be digging into side characters I find compelling and who have an extensive story all on their own. The one hitch would be these stories would only be available to my Advanced Reader Team and The Coven, my exclusive mailing list (you can sign up for The Coven in the sidebar, if interested). A sort of “thank you” for being amazing readers.

So, what do you think? Would you be interested in receiving short stories to supplement the worlds you’ve come to know and love?

Let me know in the comments section and if you’re not already signed up, sign up for my newsletter to receive the shorts when they’re ready!

All the magic,

Ashley

Laini Taylor – “We can do more than we think.”

It was very surreal to see someone I admire so much and revere as sort of a rockstar in the fantasy industry a mere twenty-feet from me.

Hey there!

I woke up this morning bright-eyed (Well, kind, it’s allergy season so they were red. I should say bright-eyed in my mind, if that makes any sense.) and bushy-tailed and ready to start my writing day! Usually, I’m slow to wake up and huddle on my couch reading as my mind begins to work. What changed, you ask?

Only that I got to see Laini Taylor, author of the fabulous and bestselling The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and Strange the Dreamer (among other works which I have not read) speak in person last night (really a week ago as you read this)!

It was very surreal to see someone I admire so much and revere as sort of a rockstar in the fantasy industry a mere twenty-feet from me. Laini with her bright pink hair and quick smile stuck out amidst the star-struck fans sitting in The Old Church in Portland, OR.

Listening to Laini, I realized that while we were in the same Hogwarts house (Gryffindor! In case there was any question) our processes for writing were pretty different. She claimed to spend months writing the first act of a novel, often crafting it a dozen times before moving on (she’s a discovery writer who uses very vague outlines). For me, the start of the novel is the easiest. I think because I’ve generally pre-thought things out fairly well, but it could also be that Laini’s plots are simply more complex than mine so I don’t need as many re-writes. She’s not a best-selling author for no reason, after all. While Laini may be slow to begin her novel, she’s quick to finish it, one time writing 26K in a week to sprint to the end! She says procrastination (not wanting to crash the publishing machine by being late) is a huge part of this but also, she gains momentum as the story unravels. Sometimes, I feel like I could not be more different! I’m a very regimented writer and rarely procrastinate. However, near the climax of the story, I usually slow down, sometimes freeze. All that action! All that sensory input. It’s overwhelming to write and that’s the part I’ll put off if I can. You could say (and you wouldn’t be wrong) that I’m writing this blog post to do that exact thing . . .

Laini also talked about something I’ve been considering a ton lately, which is building resiliency in my writing. I’ve told many people that I simply can’t write in public. Of course, that’s really not true. If I had to, I could. It may be difficult to concentrate, and I may not get many words in, but I could do it. It’s simply a limiting belief I tell myself to protect my happy little writing bubble. Laini admitted to feeling the same. She couldn’t write in public until her child was born and she had to get out of the house. Now, she writes at home again, but there was totally a period in her life where she wrote in public because otherwise, the story wouldn’t happen. She changed her limiting belief and made shit happen. Just like when she wrote 26-freaking-K in one week. She built her resiliency (my words, not hers) and now, she can write many places. As a writer this is huge. You can work anywhere, not just your comfortable, quiet office, or the single coffee shop you love. Hearing her speak of her journey made me think I need to build my resiliency too. As a matter of fact, I think this is something most writers can work on. Resiliency is a skill that can transfer across aspects of our lives and it will only serve to make us tougher. So, what do you need to work on or confront in your craft? Now, go do it!

One last tidbit I came away with was Laini’s willingness to claim less “literary” words as her inspiration for writing. She cited Harry Potter, which is something I would claim as well, along with other authors I don’t know but I’m sure are great. In short, though her writing is gorgeous, poetic, and prosey she wasn’t a literary snob, which to be honest, I just found so refreshing. She was just herself and what inspired her inspired her.

There were many more moments of compare and contrasting myself to Laini last night (in a good way, not a ‘woe is me, I suck way’ 🙂 )but if I had to say I came away with a cohesive message, it would be this.

We can do more than we think. 

All those hard things about writing? Writing the first act to get it done perfectly. Writing in public. Sharing our work. Telling others what really sets us on fire and not what they want to hear. They can all be done. Usually, it’s simply a matter of changing your mindset, building your resiliency, and being willing to be yourself.

And now that I’ve gotten all that out, I’m off to write this climax scene I’ve been putting off! Happy writing!