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.

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

Rising of Three Excerpt

Hey all!

I have great news! Rising of Three, Book Three in The Starseed Trilogy is officially off to beta readers which means a July release is in the works! Can you say BEACH READ (I know that feels impossible right now, but summer is coming-said in Game of Thrones voice)! That being said, I wanted to share a bit of the book with you here. 🙂 A teensy teaser if you will. So without further adieu —>

Excerpt from Rising of Three:

Sara padded softly along the creaky wood floor in an effort not to wake those still asleep. Stopping before the stone fireplace she fingered the stocking stitched with her name before extending her fingers to the wood laying in the hearth.

“Flampila,” she whispered and a bright orange ball of fire rolled from her palms to catch on the wood. Heat caressed her face. Sara sighed and pulled her fuzzy robe closer. She’d enjoy the chilly winter morning while she could, bundled up, a fire roaring at her back, with a cup of hot tea in her hands.

A toppling stack of papers on the dining table caught Sara’s eye as she rounded the corner of the hearth separating Fern Cottage’s living room from the kitchen-diner. Mary seriously came through, she thought picking up the plastic sheath encompassing The Guardian as her eyes roved over the dozens of other publications.

She spun on her heel, not ready to dig into current events and set about making a cup of cinnamon spice tea.

***

Two hours later the table was covered in papers from all around the world and Sara’s hands were black and sticky with ink.

This isn’t looking good. She chose a journal of questionable quality to skim next. An article on the second page jumped out at her and Sara stifled a laugh at the title.

Aliens Brand Woman for Spaceship Cleaner in Her Sleep

Sara’s copper eyes ran down the words, widening as she took in the subtext of the article shaming a woman brave enough to tell her story, no matter how ludicrous it may sound.

Mrs. Leslie Leeteral from Hackney claims to have received an early Christmas present. One she isn’t at all sure she wants though like all tattoos we acquire once we’ve had a few too many drinks, this one is sure to stick.

The London native claims to have had a couple gins to celebrate her husband’s Christmas bonus and gone to bed early the night of the nineteenth of December. She had big plans to finish her Christmas shopping the next day and take herself out for a solo lunch and pint while her husband watched their three children. It isn’t often you get alone time as a mum so this part of her story, at least, we understand.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Leeteral, her night of rest did not go as planned.

She awoke with a start in the wee hours to find a ghostly figure leaning over her.

“He was massive he was. And bright yellow, like the sun. I thought he actually was the sun at first. Still asleep you know. But then I saw how close he was and figured I’d be dead if the sun came in me room. Well, he saw he’d woken me and he came—he flew—closer, which had me in a right state as you can imagine. Me husband was working the night shift, and I was all alone, defenseless with the kids in the next rooms! I scrambled up as fast as I could and grabbed the lamp to fend him off. Bit stupid really. How do you fight a ghost with a lamp? Like I said I didn’t have me head on straight. He was inches from me when I realized I couldn’t see through him and I thought to meself this can’t be a ghost. When did anyone ever talk about a colored ghost? They’re always white ain’t they? He had to be an alien.”

*At this point in the interview Mrs. Leeteral looks up at the sky and shivers.*

“The alien came right up and looked at me. He had huge black eyes and a round, black mouth. At least I think that’s what they were. He stared at me for what musta been ten minutes and then . . . He touched me.”

*Mrs. Leeteral pulls up her shirt sleeves to reveal cut deltoids and a small, yellow tattoo that looks a bit like the moon.*

“He marked me with this! Looks like the moon doesn’t it? I suppose that’s where he musta been from. No idea why he marked me though . . . Perhaps he was looking for a good cleaner? I’ve been in the business twenty years and you never hear of cleaners on spaceships. Musta gotten tired of living in all that filth.”

And there you have it, folks. The aliens are coming and they need help cleaning up. Or perhaps Mrs. Leeteral should check her bank cards as one may contain a charge to her local tattoo parlor. Gin is a hell of a drink.

A small, nondescript photo of Mrs. Leeteral’s mark was at the bottom of the page. Sara’s chest fluttered wildly as she studied it. Shhhh, calm down. It’s a photo, she thought and her pneuma, the bit of fata soul she’d recently learned had been living inside her since birth, stilled.

It did look like the moon. And she could see the drunken tattoo as well. But Sara knew better than to believe the mark was either. If that reporter only knew how close Mrs. Leeteral was to guessing the truth they’d be peeing their pants.

“How long have you been up?”

Sara jumped in her seat and directed her hands at the door.

Evelyn held up her palms. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you. But really, do you believe anyone is getting past Mom’s wards?” She quirked an eyebrow and headed for the pot of coffee Sara had taken the liberty of making for whoever was up next

Sinking down into her seat Sara let out a long exhale. Of course, I didn’t hear Evelyn. She still doesn’t weigh enough to make noise. “No, I’m sorry. I’ve been jumpy lately. Even meditation has been hard. And no, I don’t think anyone could get past Mom’s wards, but what I think isn’t always right.”

“Touché,” Evelyn filled her cup with coffee. “What’s all this?” She gestured to the pile of papers on the table.

Sara pulled a handful of newspapers closer to make room for Evelyn. “Papers. I asked Mary to drop them off a few days ago. It looks like she may have enlisted Morgane’s help too. They don’t carry all of these in the village shop. They’re so we can keep in the loop.”

“In the loop? Don’t you think we’re a little beyond what the average person knows?” Evelyn pulled out the heavy wooden chair across from Sara with a visible effort.

She’s not getting stronger as fast as Fiona hoped she would. Sara eyed her sister’s lank blonde hair, skeletal arms, and visible ribs. At least her magic has returned a little though. It’s the first step, Sara sighed. “There’s no doubt we have more information on what’s happening, but we’re clueless to what the fata are doing now that they’re on Earth.”

Evelyn scowled and looked into her cup.

“But these papers can help. Most of them are the typical drivel but read this.” Sara handed the page to Evelyn who scoffed.

“You can’t be serious. You know what this is right? Or does this kind of crap not make it onto military bases?”

Sara rolled her eyes and pushed the paper into Evelyn’s hand. “It does. Read it.”

Evelyn opened it and her sapphire eyes skipped over the page, fast at first, then slower as she took in what it meant. “Well, shit. They’ve begun claiming people as their own.” Evelyn set down the paper.

Claiming people. Sara shivered. “It appears that way. These papers are filled with all sorts of wild things. Natural disasters which I’m sure are in no way natural, an increase in missing people all over the world, wild accidents or man-made structures failing. An entire highway in L.A. cracked the other day. The fissure was ten feet wide. They’re blaming it on the San Andreas Fault line but . . .”

“It’s not that.”

“Nope. This journal had the most obvious article. And if this woman was claimed she can’t be the only one. She’s probably just the only one willing to step forward, and this journal is the only one crazy enough to print it.”

Evelyn smirked. “My dad would die if he heard you call this rag a journal. You’d no longer be ‘my level-headed, smart sister’. Too bad you’re not interested in business. He’d hire you in a second. But you’re right, none of these things are normal and that mark is definitely a fata brand. Even worse, it’s not Dimia or Noro’s which means regular fata have started claiming.” She sipped her coffee and looked around. “Where’s Lily? She’s usually up before me.”

“She was up late last night texting. One guess who.” A lopsided grin spread on Sara’s face lifting her freckle spattered cheekbones.

A low whistle ran through Evelyn’s red lips. “That girl has got it bad.”

 

End Excerpt

Hope you enjoyed that! The cover reveal will be soon, I hope within the next two weeks!

I’ll let you know when the preorder is up and remember . . . if you want to be on the Advanced Reader Team email me at ashleymcleo(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thank you! ❤

A Witchy Halloween to you!

As a fantasy author, I adore Halloween. So much so that I am one of those people that dresses up my dog and would love nothing more than to attend a fabulous costume party or gala dressed to the nines as a fairy queen or Cleopatra.

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Flicka as a pumpkin two seconds before the hat got tossed off. ❤

I suppose it makes sense, I have always had an affinity for the magical, mystical, and unexplainable.That I started writing about witches and other supernatural creatures was a natural progression. However, these last few years my interest in the holiday has shifted a bit. I’ve gotten more into the academic history of Halloween and how it has evolved over hundreds of years. Curious about that too? Read on. 🙂

 

I suppose it makes sense, I have always had an affinity for the magical, mystical, and unexplainable.That I started writing about witches and other supernatural creatures was a natural progression. However, these last few years my interest in the holiday has shifted a bit. I’ve gotten more into the academic history of Halloween and how it has evolved over hundreds of years. Curious about that too? Read on. 🙂

Halloween, traditionally called Samhain, an ancient harvest festival in the Celtic world, began it’s metamorphosis to what we know it as today as a night when people believed that faeries, witches, and demons roamed the earth. They set out food and drink to placate the creatures of the night. Throughout history other groups of peoples have felt that same need to honor the ‘other’ by gathering together to hold space for the dead, dancing around bonfires, carving pumpkins (or giant turnips as was often done in Ireland), playing divination games, and bobbing for apples. Much later on, people began dressing up as the very magical beings they laid out food for and began claiming the goodies for themselves, sometimes performing antics or tricks in exchange for food and drink. As you can imagine this evolved into trick or treating, which is enjoyed the world over by millions of children and adults. However, the magically inclined have always tended to think differently from the masses. Even today witches and wizards relate much more to the traditional Samhain celebration where one honors the change of the season rather than trick or treating. Modern witches sometimes consider Halloween or Samhain (depending on which vernacular they use) the ‘witches New Year’ and many still see it as a day to honor the deceased with scrying rituals or burning candles.

I’ll be real. I love witches, historically, fictionally, and presently but I am no witch. Still, I like nothing more than dressing up in my witches hat, grabbing a wand (I’m still patiently waiting to purchase my own in Diagon Alley) and hitting the town for some Halloween *FUN*! However, this year is different. I’ll be on a plane, returning from a writing research trip in England and Ireland for my next witchy series. And I’ll also be releasing my second novel! That’s right Souls of Three is officially out Halloween 2017! Because really, when you write about witches is there a better release day? It’s on pre-order now but you can also sign up for my mailing list, The Coven, and I’ll send you an email Halloween day reminding you that your favorite witchy read is available for purchase.

Thanks for reading (and as my witches would say) “Happy Samhain to ye!”

Link to order Souls of Three: http://bit.ly/2g9Hk32SOT

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Souls of Three Cover Reveal!

Hello lovelies!

We’re less than one month away from Souls of Three’s release which means . . . (drumroll please) it’s cover reveal time! Here she is . . .

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Yup. That’s sassy and at times uptight Miss Evelyn on the cover so if you loved her in Prophecy of Three you’re in for a real treat! And if you didn’t love her, well, she’s a talented witch and may just sway you in Souls. 🙂

Guess you’ll just have to see, won’t you?

Until next time!

Ashley McLeo

P.S. If you’re not already a part of my exclusive mailing list ‘The Coven’ make sure to hit the subscribe button on this site! Coven members get all sorts of cool swag (free novellas and deleted scenes to name two) and are the first to know about book releases and bookish news. Hope you’ll join us!

 

Prophecy of Three e-book launch!

Hello dear ones!

I have exciting news! My e-book Prophecy of Three is now out in the world for your viewing pleasure! You can find it on Amazon at the link provided below. It is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited so if you are a subscriber there you can even read it for free. You can also read the first 10% (about 25 pages) for free with the look inside feature.

For those of you that like the feel and smell of a real book, there will be a paperback coming in about a week. Those take a bit longer to format and I want to see the proof to make sure it’s beautiful before it heads out into the world. Thank you so much for your understanding and patience.

I have one small favor to ask. If you read Prophecy and love it would you mind leaving an Amazon review? These are all important for authors just starting out, like me as they increase the visibility of novels on the huge search engine that is Amazon. I’d really appreciate it.

Thank you and hope you all have a great weekend!

Love and light,

Ashley McLeo