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.

Where do you get your ideas?

Where do you get your ideas? I think it’s kind of a funny question, to be honest.

Where do you get your ideas? This has to be the question writers, and probably other creatives (a term I define fairly broadly), get most often. I think it’s kind of a funny one, to be honest. For me, I never feel a shortage of ideas. I’m currently only three books (of five) into writing The Bonegates Series and already I have another fantasy-dystopian-esque series, concerning Portland, witches, a plethora of tattoos, and talking crows brewing in the back of my mind!

But still, people ask it, so I’d like to try and answer where my ideas come from. Clearly, this is different for different people, so don’t take this as prescriptive advice. It’s merely my situation.

  1. My most influential source of ideas is other books. Or audiobooks (found for free at your local library or pay for an audible subscription) for those people who are about to tell me they don’t have time to read but have a commute and a smartphone. Guess what? You also have time to read! Personally, I believe to be a writer, especially a fiction writer, you have to be a reader and you have to read widely. That being said, many people disagree with this idea. They claim that if they read other people’s works they won’t be able to come up with original content. To that I say, “Do you really think your work is that original?” I can’t think of a single book, show, movie, etc that is NOT derivative of SOMETHING. Let’s cut the BS. It’s all been done before, stop being so precious about being creative. What hasn’t been done is your (or my) particular spin on what has been done before. No one other person on Earth has had your exact life experience and you bring your particular experience to your story. Your experience, your words, your life, and your spin are what makes the story special.
  2. Film is another hotbed of ideas. Sometimes, when I’m actually trying to study pacing (which I think film gets right more often than novels because they have to) or a character I know is particularly well done in a film and I want to emulate I’m all attention, taking it in. I’ve even been known to take a note or two. Most of the time, however, when I watch a movie or show my brain is off. I read all day and to just be able to sit back and not actively work to take in a story is a really nice reprieve. Still, my brain is working when I’m trying to be a vegetable! In fact, just recently, I watched a movie and a single line said as a joke by one particularly annoying character spawned an opening scene of a novel I’d like to write one day. A single line out of thousands! That’s pretty amazing and I bet that if you let your mind wander where it will on whatever interests you in a movie/show you too could easily find inspiration to create.
  3. Folklore/religion/myths are personal favorites for sources of inspiration because I try to inject a little bit of them into every project I write. Even my most urban and contemporary ideas will have something, a line, a subplot, a character which harkens back to one of these cultural aspects. It’s how I make my world richer, more full. I may never tell the reader explicitly that is what I did (though I often do), but I’ll know, and perhaps a few very perceptive readers will catch it. In some of my works like The Starseed Trilogy, my love for mythology and studying religion is quite obvious.
  4. Writers can often be known for being hermits, and I’m not going to lie, I do like being at home, alone, in the quiet and writing. I like it a lot. But if that was all I did how would I ever be able to accurately represent the world around me? You could say other books and film but those are only a person/person’s spin on what is around you. Easily manipulated, just as your worldview is. And maybe that’s OK to write from another person’s worldview, but not for me. I want to write from mine and to do that, I have to get outside. Walk your neighborhood, go to a coffee shop, watch and listen on the metro instead of staring at your phone, do whatever is accessible to you! The outside world is rife with inspiration, but you have to get out there to find it.
  5. Podcasts are a wealth of inspiration! Even after I listen to the purely informative/business ones I usually come out with an idea for some sort of project (it may veer more towards marketing – but that’s still creative right?). If you don’t listen to podcasts specializing in the industry you are interested in, you are really missing out on a wellspring of free, accessible if you have a smartphone, usually well researched (do your homework people, don’t just listen to any Tom, Dick, or Henrietta), and you can listen on the go.
  6. Kids. I don’t have kids, but I do watch children at a daycare occasionally. Not to mention, many of my friends have kids and let me tell you, they are never without some sort of crazy inspiration! If you’re uninspired sometimes it helps to look to someone who is inspired. Look to your child, go to a park and sit on a bench and just listen to what they are saying (in a non-creepy manner please). You can find some gold nuggets in those tiny-humans because their imagination is limitless and often, they have little filter. If you’re not into the idea of hanging around kids, perhaps try to invite a sense of child-like wonder into your day. Do a cartwheel just because. Color. Sprint down the street grinning. Do anything you’ve ever seen a child do, perhaps it will spark a bit of inspiration in your own life.

I could go on, but those are definitely my tops sources of inspiration. I think the key is to keep your eyes open. LISTEN more than you speak because if you’re busy talking how are you ever going to notice anything else happening around you? If you listen now you can use your voice later, like when you want to launch your awesome new creation into the world.

Now, go forth and create.

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!