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!

Five Things I Learned Writing My First Novel (and what you should avoid!)

Did you know roughly 80% of Americans aspire to write a book? Also, that most (some disparagingly high percent I won’t bore you with) of them–like millions of people–will never write the book burning in their hearts. While that number is high and surprised me when I first heard it, the stat that most people never end up writing that novel did not. Why?

Because writing a book is damn hard.

Did you know roughly 80% of Americans aspire to write a book? Also, that most (some disparagingly high percent I won’t bore you with) of them–like millions of people–will never write the book burning in their hearts. While that number is high and surprised me when I first heard it, the stat that most people never end up writing that novel did not. Why?

Because writing a book is damn hard.

And, in my opinion, writing your first book is the hardest of them all. The inertia of writing the first book, which is usually not so great compared the subsequent ones (especially after the first draft), is difficult to overcome and most people simply can’t/won’t/don’t want to do it.

Fair enough. There are lots of things I can’t/won’t/don’t want to do in my life, but writing books is not one of them! Still, I honestly think more people can write that book burning in their hearts if they simply prepared themselves for the realities of what writing a book means. Hint: Not usually romantic days at the coffee shop, occasionally staring out the window, and then typing out gold. Though, good grief I wish it was!

As I’m currently writing my seventh novel (three of which are in current stages of drafts), I feel like I finally have enough perspective to communicate what I learned writing my first. Some of these tips, specifically the last three, may be more suited to an indie author, but I think they’re all valuable. So, here it goes!

  1. It will take WAY longer than you think to write that novel. Like exponentially longer. This is one of the hallmarks that makes a first book stand out from the ones that come after. And the reason why it takes longer is simple:

You are learning gobs about writing a book by actually doing it.

This is the best way to learn (IMO) but takes so damn long. And can be very disheartening. Especially, when you get to the end of your first draft, which probably took years, and realize it’s not very good (there may be some exceptions to this, but I haven’t met any).

Just know, you’re in good company there and that most of the writing is actually editing anyhow. Once you start editing that sucker you can make it better, what you want it to be, what you dreamt it would be. But it won’t just spring into existence like that, especially not in a weeks time, or hell even a few month’s time!

If you think writing is for you just know now, you must be patient with yourself.

2) Not everyone’s an expert. 

Once you have that first draft done and have gone through it a few times it’s time to find some beta readers!

SIDE NOTE: PLEASE never ask anyone to beta read your first (Hell, even your second draft, unless you’re doing a beta swap). Like I said, the first draft of your first novel probably isn’t very good, and I consider it disrespectful to ask someone to put in their time reading something that the author has barely edited. If you do this, be prepared for those who offered their time not to finish reading your work.

Now that that’s out of the way!

Finding beta readers can be fun, and a lot of people can be a pleasure to work with and learn from, but there’s always two sides to every coin. For Prophecy of Three, my debut novel I had about 15 beta readers. I felt having so many opinions could only help me make it as good as it could be.

Man, was I wrong.

Yes, a lot of readers had great input and I took their advice into consideration and I believe it made the book better. But some people–some people–let me tell you, they just want to hear themselves talk. These are often the people who are the harshest (not constructive, just cruel-which I’ve been lucky to avoid for the most part), or say the exact opposite of what others say. However, in my opinion, the worst beta readers to have are people who do not understand or enjoy the genre you are writing.

For example, one time I had a beta reader continually comment on the lack of romance in a novella I was tinkering with. Then, when it got to the end and hinted at a romance said the novella should have started there, at the very end. But my novella wasn’t about the romance, it was about one woman’s journey through a tough time . . . the romance would come later and I wasn’t really interested in that. This woman, as you may guess, is a romance writer, whereas I am a fantasy/paranormal writer who dabbles in romance from time to time. My work is not about romance, nor did I tell her it was (that’s another thing, be clear to your beta readers what they are signing up for!). Her expectations were unrealistic and therefore I had to discount much of what she said. Not a win-win for either of us. I feel like if I was a newer writer and less confident in my ability I would have taken all her advice to heart along with my other beta readers good advice and been very confused. Side note: Every other beta reader understood the story as a non-romance and liked it, so I don’t feel like discounting her opinion is out of line in the slightest.

Be clear about what you’re writing (stick to 1-2 genres when describing), find beta readers in your genre, and don’t give them your crappy first draft.

3) Your novel is not a multi-cross genre novel, and if it is, there’s probably a problem. 

I see this ALL THE TIME, and I DID IT TOO. 😉 We write our first novel and think there are so many unique elements of all the genres we’re ever read. It’s fantasy-sci-f-historical fiction-womens adventure-AND-crime thriller all wrapped into one. It will appease all audiences! It will sell!

Nope.

You’re just going to confuse a hell of a lot of people. Also, if you’re considering indie publishing this is terrible for your marketing. Probably it isn’t great for pitching agents focused on traditional publishing either. Like I said, too confusing, and people don’t want to be confused when they read a book. They want to be swept away! Entertained! Immersed in a different life! Learn something (non-fic). Not think: What the hell was that I just read?

Let’s put it this way, you’re trying to please everyone with one mega-book. But it will never work (maybe if the book is a million pages long but whose going to read that?!). Instead of trying to please everyone, please a niche you love.

So, instead of putting all your amazing ideas into one book, probably making it harder on yourself, why don’t you just pick a few? A few ideas that fit nicely within the parameters of 1-2 genres and go from there?

You’ll have a much easier time finding an audience and that’s a major key to a writers success.

4) Keep your expectations low and you’ll be much happier with your results.

Of course, everyone, and I do mean everyone, wants that spectacular, best-selling debut novel. And because everyone wants this novel and the experience that comes along with it, that means it is very unlikely you (or I-oh wait this already wasn’t my experience!)  will be the one to get it.

I believe the lightening-strike, millionaire-making debut thinking is even more prevalent in the traditional publishing community. Which is unfortunate, since the fact is that most debut novelists in the traditional publishing industry do not even earn out their advance, let alone become a bestseller.

At least in indie (independent author) community, there’re subcultures such as the 20 books to 50K community, where the numbers tend to think of their writing career as a marathon, not a sprint. Something to build over time through hard work, learning from each experience, and growing with your craft. This is the belief I subscribe to as well.

In fact, I did not want my first novel to be the best thing I’ve ever written, the thing people knew me for, the shining star in my career. Because after that the only way to go is down and I figured it would be pretty anti-climactic and sad to peek before I knew what the hell I was really doing. To be honest, as I was nearing the end of my drafting of Prophecy of Three the idea of keeping my expectations low for my first book launch seriously saved my mental health when I actually launched the book.

I’m not saying my book flopped. It still sells, and will continue to sell; I hope even more so when I begin to experiment with paid advertising. It’s a good book, and I know it. But it’s probably not the best book I’ve ever written or will right. And that’s OK because I was prepared to grow with every book, and not have a mega best seller the first time around. I didn’t expect miracles to happen or hordes of crazy fans to come out and buy it or to make it on the Today Show. I expected to sell my book for years to come, fulfill a lifelong goal, and launch myself into a new career.

And, if you want a healthy author career that spans years, perhaps even decades, I suggest you think of your career as a marathon and not a sprint as well.

5) Probably one of the most important things I learned from publishing my first book and the thing I wish I’d done more of, was to give away as many books as possible to strangers.

Yes, I know, you (and I) spent years working on this one project. Shouldn’t we be paid for it? The answer, of course, is yes. Artists should be paid for their work. We should not be expected to entertain people for free just as starlets are not expected to star in movies for free and athletes are not expected to play in arenas for entertainment, while the team owner reaps all the financial benefits. But seriously, that post for another day. And while I believe we should be paid for our work, I also believe that as a new author, on your first, second, or even third book (depending on your specific scenario), it’s in your best interest to get your book into as many hands as possible. Get as many eyeballs on it without making it a hassle for those eyeballs.

This means giving away your book for free.

And before you start wailing about it, just remember, the traditional publishing industry has been doing this for YEARS. Why? Because it works. People talk about things they love or hate. If you want people to talk about your book, you have to make it easy for them to get it. If they don’t know you, this may mean flat out approaching them (or more likely posting about it) and offering that book up for free! No barrier to entry.

Since Prophecy of Three’s release, I have learned to give out more advanced reader copies. And since I’ve done so, my sales have improved. With each free copy given, the chance that a reader reviewed it was higher. With that review being public, another person is more likely to hear of my book and buy it. In short, if you give out a free book and that reader has any sort of social media or friends or family or voice that they like people to hear (who doesn’t?), it’s possible they will tell someone else about your book. And that is how you get the ball rolling on the best form of organic marketing–word of mouth.

Honestly, I could go on. There are many more things I learned after publishing my first book, but those are probably the top ones and I can’t go on writing for forever because I have books to write, you know? So, I’ll leave it there for the day and save any other tips for future articles. If you’re already an author, or are an aspiring writer, and would like to leave a comment or question, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What was the biggest thing you learned about publishing? What are you discovering for yourself if you’re writing your first novel?

And please, now that you’ve read about my experience, try not to make the same mistakes I did. 😉

Happy writing!

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

Rising of Three Cover Reveal!

Cover reveal for Rising of Three, Book Three of The Starseed Trilogy, the final book in series. Did I just say that?

Hello!

You guys, I cannot tell you how happy I am to show you this cover. There were a few hitches trying to get it designed and it took much longer than I expected. What is it they say? Always expect the unexpected? Well, I sure learned this when trying to get this cover made! But enough living in the past!

Scroll down to see the cover of Rising of Three, Book Three of The Starseed Trilogy! OMG, yes, I just said the final book in series! Eek!

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previewactualcover

Do you like it? Isn’t Sara so badass looking!? I can’t wait to share her journey with you.

If you want to be the first to know when Rising of Three hits retailers on August 28, 2018 make sure to sign up for my exclusive newsletter The Coven (link in sidebar). If you’re not into email, consider liking my Facebook Author Page to keep in touch.

All the magic,

Ashley

Siren Falling, A Starseed Universe Novella Excerpt

Hello!

Today I just wanted to pop in and share a quick excerpt from my soon to be published novella, Siren Falling. Siren Falling is a Starseed Universe Prequel Novella, telling the story of Selma de Avila a siren descended from the sirens mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey and her big move from Menorca to New York City. New York proves a huge change for Selma and her siren powers begin to run amok causing chaos in the city. I won’t say more because spoilers(!) but here’s a teensy excerpt to give you a taste of Selma’s voice.

Excerpt:

Beeping horns and the bitter stench of exhaust clouding the early fall air assaulted Selma as she stepped out of the cab. She gripped her suitcases tight and her mouth dropped as she stared up at the buildings reaching for the sky. The movement of people around lit up her every sense and she shivered. It was exhilarating just standing in one spot.

At home, I had an ocean of water before me. Here it is an ocean of people. So far, I prefer the latter.

Selma dove into the crowd eyeing the hostel sign five city blocks away. Her cab driver had pointed it out when Selma changed her mind about her accommodations. Originally, she’d planned to stay in a hotel but once the driver mentioned the high rates on Manhattan, she’d asked if he knew of a cheaper alternative. The answer was as it was in Spain, a youth hostel. Selma disliked the idea of sleeping in a bunk-filled dorm but skimping on the hostel was acceptable to save money for the marble countertops, sprawling city views, and doorman her dream apartment would boast.

The alluring scent of pine and soap filled Selma’s nostrils stopping her dead in her tracks.

“Hey lady! What the hell?” A man, well over six feet tall, yelled and swerved to avoid a collision.

Selma pursed her lips, barely registering the agitated New Yorker as she searched for the source of the delightful spell. Warm brown eyes roamed and she sucked in a breath. Selma had been so in her own head she hadn’t even noticed the dozen attractive men milling about. Tall men, short men, burly and skinny men, clean-shaven men, and men with neat beards; all with glowing smiles, groomed hair, and suits that would make her mamá sigh. Best of all, none of them were the men she’d known her whole life in her tiny island town.

Selma caught the brilliant blue eyes of a man with dark, rich skin and cheekbones that could cut glass.

The man winked and blew her a roguish kiss before glancing away.

Oh, you want to play that game?

A smirk grew on her face and a thrill ran through her. Reflexively, Selma released a thin stream of estrogen and testosterone into her blood. The hormones dosed into the deepest layers of her skin and moved up through her pores, ready for release. She moved closer to the blue-eyed Adonis and swept her arms in his direction. Hormones leapt off her golden skin, heading straight for the man.

The result was instantaneous. The man whirled about, his blue eyes sharp just moments before had grown hazy and his nostrils flared. Catching sight of her, he shot towards Selma.

“Hello, Miss. Sorry to intrude, but you looked lost. I’m Jared. I wondered if I may be of service to you?” The man asked in a posh British accent.

The change was drastic. He looked like a puppy standing there, and Selma felt a twinge of guilt at her use of magic. Even if the guy had been a little cocky she knew it wasn’t ethical. And she’d never have done it back home, under her family’s watchful eyes. Selma glanced guiltily down at the sidewalk.

“Miss? Excuse me, but are you OK? May I assist you with your bags?” Jared’s brows furrowed with concern.

Selma grabbed at one of her two suitcases. Her muscles strained against its weight and she sighed.

I suppose he’s already a teensy bit enchanted and drastic needs call for drastic measures.

“I’d love that,” Selma answered. She met Jared’s eyes and beamed, hoping he’d register her appreciation despite the hormone and mind-altering influence of her enchantment. “I’m staying at the youth hostel down the street.”

Jared frowned. “The youth hostel? Are you visiting?”

“I just moved to town but don’t have a place to live yet.”

“Buying or renting?”

“Renting.”

“I know just the person to help you. Let me show you to his office. He’s a realtor and always knows where the best apartments are for any budget.”

“Sure, that would be wonderful.”

Jared turned and walked down the sidewalk, both of Selma’s suitcases clenched in his hands.

Selma shrugged. May as well go with it and admire the view while I can, she thought following Jared down the street.

End ~

Selma is already starting trouble and she’s barely stepped foot in New York!

Though Siren Falling will not be available until late June you can add it to your Goodreads TBR list now! Use this link. As always, if you would like to know the moment Siren Falling is out, join my exclusive mailing list The Coven (link in sidebar)! They receive sneak peeks of all my work before anyone else, snapshots into my author life, and are the first ones I inform when my books go on special at retailers.

Until next time!

All the magic,

Ashley

Siren Falling

Hawk Witch, The Bonegates Series and update on Rising of Three!

Imagine this: The Throne of Glass series but set in Faerie, with a VERY different, witchy protagonist, Lana Shea and her hawk familiar, Naela. I say very different because Lana is not only a loner, but she’s an illuminator, a rare type of light witch and not a very good one at that! Here’s hoping she grows into her power, because Faerie sure has a lot riding on her talents. 😉

Hello!

Today, I’m introducing my newest series, The Bonegates Series! It’s a secret The Coven (my exclusive mailing list) has known about for some time but now I’m ready to spread the news far and wide!

Imagine this: The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas but set in Faerie, with a VERY different, witchy protagonist, Lana Shea and her hawk familiar, Naela. I say very different because Lana is not only a loner, but she’s an illuminator, a rare type of light witch capable of using the entire electromagnetic spectrum. At least in theory. Lana’s not quite there yet. Here’s hoping she grows into her power, because Faerie sure has a lot riding on her talents. 😉

And if that isn’t enough to entice you, here’s the full blurb for the first book in series, Hawk Witch.

Soar, Surrender, or Die. 

Lana Shea is a mediocre witch, lackluster student, and loner with no direction in life. However, when a messenger delivers a scroll bearing strange clues to her father’s whereabouts, one thing becomes clear. She must search for the father she’s never known. 

 Lana races across Dublin, Ireland solving the obscure clues until finally, she is transported into a bleak kingdom in Faerie. A kingdom her father rules.

 When asked to participate in Faerie’s violent royal tournament known as the Successional, Lana accepts, as do thirteen of her new siblings. To earn her father’s attention, she must win.

 Under the tutelage of her handsome guard Garret, Lana learns Faerie is darker than she ever imagined and as a competitor, there is more than just her father’s love at stake. 

 Can she master her magic in time to survive? Is Lana willing to spill the blood of her newfound siblings to find her purpose?

 

Sounds sweet, right!? Well, I think so, and hope you do too! Now, for a quick update on Rising of Three, Book Three in The Starseed Trilogy. I’m currently frantically editing it to get it to my editor by next month and am hoping for an August release! That’s right, only a couple months away! Between then and now, make sure you’re up to speed on the series and I’ll let you know when Rising of Three has it’s own page on Goodreads so you can add it to your TBR list! I’ll also be sharing the covers for Rising of Three and Hawk Witch very soon so stay tuned my witchy peeps.

As always, if you are interested in becoming a member of my Street Team let me know! Members of the Street Team read and review my books before they are even available to the public. We even have a private Facebook group full of wonderful fantasy readers to chat with. Let me know if you want in!

That’s it for now!

All the magic,

Ashley