A cover, a tale, and some serious fangirling.

Two posts in two days. *gasp*

I know, I’ve shocked myself too. But I just had to share some news:

My first Harlequin Romance/Mills & Boon True Love cover is heeeeeeeeeeere!

I just can’t even with… It’s so utterly, crushingly beautiful… Everything I dreamed, but also so SO much more. 😭 😭

It took a total of three R&Rs with my lovely editor’s insight to shape the book to where it was the best fit for Harlequin Romance. In hindsight all the time spent wringing my hands and fighting self-doubt was a part of the process. I see that clearly now.

I’m not even a generally lucky person. My luck is just 50-50, so naturally I peeked between my fingers when I got my first look at my cover. Worried that if it was bad, I could somehow ward off the defeating blow of disappointment with the flimsy tactic.

Then I got an eyeful 👀 of my man here, and all I remember feeling is this fluttery giddiness. Gawking first at the sheer masculine beauty before I hurried to show my sister, and she gave her approval. Whoever this gorgeous model is, thank youuuuu for making my first cover experience with Harlequin absolutely amazing. (And maybe, like, call me? 😉) #fangirlingstill #willneverstop #imaluckyauthor

I don’t want this post to get too long. I just wanted to let you know that if you’re out there and writing and feeling dejected about not getting your stories sold, I’m proof that you CAN and WILL do it. It’s possible!!!!!!!

I started writing Second Chance to Wear His Ring in January 2018. I remember rushing to my sister and running two ideas by her, none of which felt right to either of us. Then I told her, “I’d love to write a story set in Somaliland, with Somali characters. But can I pull it off?” She agreed that I could and should. Still, even with the encouragement from my family, I was scared that it wouldn’t be ‘glamorous’ enough for Harlequin Romance. I persevered and wrote the synopsis and first chapter—prayed my gut instinct wouldn’t fail me—and hit send.

Mostly because as I write this I’m rolling up my sleeves (metaphorically) to revise Harlequin Romance #2, tentatively titled Swept Away by the Single Dad or Billionaire’s Temptation in Turkey. Really, it’s whatever I’m in the mood to call it that day. 😉

My closing advice if this post was very TL;DR…

Don’t give up.

That’s it. If it gets hard, you’re either doing it right OR you need a short break to rejuvenate. Self-care shouldn’t trump submissions to agents or publishers. But know that only you can tell the story that you want to. No one else can do it for you. Doesn’t matter if it’s been told hundreds, thousands of times. Your voice and perspective is the backlight of your prose. It adds the spice and the sprinkle to the story. So, don’t give up. Don’t give up. Do. Not. Give. Up.

Love,

Hana

July 2021: An overdue update

Can you believe we’re in July? Like, how is it Canada Day weekend tomorrow (and Independence Day in a few short days)? Where did the time go? Like, what is time even???!

I managed to stay productive even when winter blues struck earlier this year. Now we’re in glorious summer, and it’s uplifting to know that I can go on more walks now. Especially as we’ve exited another lockdown here and have flattened the rising curve of COVID cases and overtaxing our ICUs (yaay). Bless the front-line workers who are going in and saving lives and preventing more sickness with vaccine administration.

Speaking of vaccines, I got my first shot three weeks ago, and hoping to get my second before summer’s end.

A whole lot has happened since I last posted a blog. So, I’ll try and re-cap where I left off…

Re-cap:

On October 20, 2020, I published this blog post here, not anticipating that a little more than a week later I’d be getting The Call from Harlequin and my awesome editor.

I had hoped to update back then, but the months flew by. Here I am now playing catch-up and promising to post blogs more frequently.

Writing:

I’ve sent in the first draft of Harlequin Romance #2, yippee! It took a lot to get it as good as I could make it. Worked around depression and school and I’m happy with this first, rough-ish draft.

With that project off to my editor, I’m now free to work on something new. Something shorter. So far this new project is just called ‘Safiya & Raf’s story’. I usually work harder to come up with work-in-progress titles, but I’m not sure what to call this one. There’s a wedding, a matchmaking mama, and family past hurts… Hmmm. Maybe:

Something Borrowed

An Unexpected Match

Sexual Healing…?

Last one’s a joke, lol. It wouldn’t fit with the sweet heat romance this story is shaping up to be. While I’m still kicking around title ideas, I’m in no rush to commit to anything. Only worried about keeping this book between 8-10K. I tend to write long—she says as she writes a rambling update post (lol).

Here’s my current word count for Safiya and Raf’s short story:

Reading:

I set a goal of 52 books this year. 24 of which I’m hoping to be 2021 Harlequin Romance releases. So far, I’ve read 2 new 2021 Harlequin Romance titles (fail, I know) and 7 other titles that are mostly shorter erotic romances. Currently I’m re-reading Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, and I’m nearly done Book 8, Obsidian Butterfly. If you’re into urban fantasy and mystery with a touch of hard-boiled crime, then Anita’s for you.

I’ve also discovered audiobooks. Let me be clear: I haven’t been living in a ditch, lol. I know audiobooks have existed for a long while. I just thought that they weren’t for me. Like, I wouldn’t enjoy them for some reason. I also like holding a book. Love a new-book smell. And though I adore my dust cover jackets, I put them aside when I’m reading. So, when I decided to give audiobooks a try, I didn’t realize how amazingly useful they are. I tend to listen to audiobooks when I’m doing something else, probably like most people. Baking, cleaning my makeup brushes, folding laundry, getting my cardio in on my treadmill, etc. It comes in super handy.

School:

I’m back in school a year later. Taking accounting courses and giving my creative brain a break by balancing it out with some analytic thinking and…dundundun, business mathematics. You cringing? ‘Cause I am. And I actually like algebra, but solving word problems still make my head hurt.

Other happenings:

Two weeks ago my ten-year-old laptop finally made me throw my hands up and give in. I bought a new laptop, and naturally I had to buy a new desk set-up (but not a new desk because desks are crazy expensive and my wallet needs to be resuscitated).

So far I’m happy with it. Looking forward to writing many stories on it, and in the near future getting all my school work finished with its help.

My old laptop has its sentimental mileage though, and I’m going to miss it.

I called it ‘Ketchup’ ’cause, you know, it’s red. I’m so creative I know. How did I ever get a book deal? 😂 Also, fun fact: I hate ketchup. The smell, the taste, the consistency, the vibrant color, and the fact someone thought to use it as an ingredient in a cake 😱 (*grrrrr*).

In all seriousness though, my Ketchup was what I used to write my first story ever—a sad/lame attempt at a Harlequin Presents that will never see the light of day—and I also wrote my soon-to-debut Harlequin Romance on it. I love it for that fact alone, but also because it put me through uni. Late nights watching anime and staying up to write last-minute English essays. I won my first ever NaNo 50K sprint on it. And it travelled all the way to UAE and Somalia with me. Like I said, history.

But I’ve said goodbye and I’m moving on. 2021 has been about kicking off a serious career as an author. I want to make this work because I love writing so very much and I want it to be a real job.

There’s my 6-month update for now.

Also my life’s kinda boring in general. You won’t be missing much, but when something happens I will pop on and let you know.

Until then cyber friends…

Keep ✨shining✨ and smiling,

Hana

Bitter Pills we gotta swallow

Case in point. Some pills in life are hard to take, but they’re necessary nevertheless.

I used to think that every writing-related opportunity was meant for me. Twitter pitches, Facebook pitches, publisher submission calls for un-agented (and agented) Black writers, etc. When all you have to do is write a short 100-word blurb, first chapter, and synopsis, or 280-character pitch, it seemed all too easy to catch the attention of an agent and/or editor.

Once my plate got too full, and I realized I wasn’t in love with every pitch I’d send in, it grew easier to pass on opportunities I genuinely felt were too much for me.

But back in February 2018, when Harlequin/Mills & Boon held a Harlequin Romance Blitz pitch, I felt compelled to submit a first chapter and query for their consideration. I’d entered opportunities like this with Harlequin before, off and on, from 2013 to 2016. I was expecting a form rejection letter. A “thanks but no thanks”. Instead, from the first chapter I received a partial request (that’s the first 3 chapters). I was pleasantly shocked. Cue theatrics with my family who were super indulgent, bless their hearts!

Fast forward to Summer 2018, I awoke to a lovely email from an honest-to-goodness Harlequin editor requesting to see the full manuscript. Luckily, I’d gone ahead and written the first draft of the entire manuscript. So, I sat down, re-read what I had and quickly realized that I needed to do major edits from Chapter Three onwards.

It took 5 months for me to get it back to the editor. *hangs head* I still cringe when I think of how long it took me to edit and revise. Three rounds of revisions later, I hit SEND at the end of 2018.

The editor’s speedy reply came late January 2019, and I got an R&R. Another first! I was excited that this wasn’t the end of the road for my little manuscript, but I had a fair share of nerves too. I hadn’t done editorial revisions before beyond my critique group (hi, Sassy Scribes!), but I turned the R&R around pretty quickly.

Skip to January 2020 and I got my 2nd R&R. Yay, not a rejection, but I was still missing the mark on my emotional conflict. Back to the drawing board, it took me another 5 months (!!!!) before I sent it off to the editor again.

In July 2020, I heard back from her. She was nothing but kind, patient and complimentary about my romance manuscript. She requested another full R&R, and I was determined to hit the right notes this time.

I submitted this latest R&R only a few weeks ago, so I’m back to waiting.

These past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to enter many of these Blitzes with Harlequin and participate in Twitter pitches like #pitmad and #DVpit. Heck, there’s a wonderful #ownvoices opportunity for Harlequin Presents happening this Friday. I’ve skipped them because I didn’t have anything I felt was worthy of any agent’s or editor’s eyes.

So, though a hard pill to swallow, I’ve accepted not every door of opportunity should be opened. 🙂

Tell me, have you walked away from an opportunity in your life because the timing didn’t feel right? Let me know in the comments.

Love

Hana

Hello World!

This is technically the 2nd post on this new spiffy blog, but I’m not new to blogging. Been blogging since 2013, but I’m not a dedicated blogger and I don’t have a huge following.

Which is totally fine because it got me thinking about what I want from this blog. What can its purpose be? Other than, you know, updating you lovely readers on latest releases and other news.

And then it hit me: I love, love, LOVE reading writing-related blogs from other authors. Like, the blogs that really peel back the layers and reveal that writing isn’t a linear process. On the outside, business-wise, yeah, sure. There’s a very similar process most published books, traditional or indie go through before they get to readers. We got the first drafting stage, self-edits (maybe), revisions, off to beta readers and/or critique partners, more revisions, maybe off to another set of betas and CPs, even more revisions, polished enough to hit submit to agents and/or editors. Rinse and repeat with new book. And then there’s big picture edits, line edits, copy edits, galleys or ARCs somewhere in there, and final AAs before the book is officially out of the author’s hands.

Okay, PHEW. That took a lot out of me. My point being that there’s a ton that happens behind the publishing curtain, when the author is alone with their tablet or laptop or desktop or notebook (hey, old school is always cool!). Where the magic happens. The real real magic.

I call it magic, but it can be writer’s block, doubt crows, etc. Moments where the author is wondering, “What the heck am I doing? Do I even want this? Will I ever be published? Can I make this a full-time career? Great, my book’s out—so, when can I quit my day job?”

It’s those stories on blogs that I come back to time and time again. For camaraderie on this sometimes lonely journey. For a boost when I get all sulky about my own writing. For hope that I’ll be able to make a living (part-time or full) from my stories.

So, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to add to those type of blogs that don’t intend to be inspirational (but totally are!) to other authors, published or pre-published.

Love

Hana

Debut Novella is Available Now~!

Deep breathing… I can be an adult about this… Wait, no, I can’t!

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It was a labor of love, and I had blows to my confidence along the way, but my debut novella is finally—FINALLY—on virtual shelves!

Kwanzaa at His Castle is a holiday read. It’s everything I could ever want it to be. I’ve wanted to write a Kwanzaa-themed romance for a long time coming now, and to have Imani and Tyson’s story be my debut makes this doubly special!

Introducing Imani & Tyson! Don’t they look so cozy?

Imani and Tyson’s love story unfolds in a castle. They’re snowbound, trapped together, and unrequited love blossoms very happily (and quickly). Just to make it even juicier, Tyson’s the older best friend of Imani’s brother. She’s held a torch for him—err, candle (’cause this is Kwanzaa), and this Kwanzaa she hopes to share her love with him. Will Tyson be open to forever with Imani? Maybe… Pick up Kwanzaa at His Castle to find out.

And right now it’s one novella in SNOW IN LOVE, an 8-novella collection of sweet holiday romances.

Snow In Love: Sweet Romance Holiday Collection by [A.K. Creek, Isabelle Grace, Ash Keller, Ann Malley, Lily Rosetta, Heather Scarlett, Hana Sheik, Melanie Waterbury]
Only $2.99 for EIGHT (8) heartwarming holiday romances!

We’re giving you Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s a little ahead of the holiday season this year because let’s face it, we need a whole lotta holiday cheer in 2020.

I’m hoping you get a chance to grab your copy of SNOW IN LOVE. I promise you’re in for a treat!

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