Letting Go

Today’s Rebelles from the Heart guest is Penelope Leas. Her story NO MAN LEFT BEHIND is a Contemporary Romance finalist in this year’s Golden Heart®. 

Finaling in the Golden Heart reminds me of when my oldest daughter went to college.


Bear with me.

I was a wreck the day we took her to Appalachian State. I held it together until we said our final goodbyes and drove away, leaving her standing in the doorway of her dorm building. I bawled inconsolably all the way home. I’d loved her and nurtured her every second of her life, and then I had to let her go to make her own way in the world. It gutted me.

But I got over it. She wasn’t being held prisoner in a foreign country. She was only four hours away and, for some unknown reason, my washing machine was the only one in the world capable of doing her dirty laundry.

Writing “No Man Left Behind” was akin to birthing and raising a baby. I labored to give life to a story that was in my heart. There were days when the words came easy and days when I couldn’t string enough words together to form one, single sentence. The story kept me up at night, disturbing my sleep with its needs. Sometimes the story cooperated, and we zipped along in lockstep. Other times, the story rebelled, exerting its independence and not wanting to go where I thought it should. I loved the story enough to withstand its growing pains. There were some missteps along the way, some necessary course corrections, and some deletions that made my soul bleed.

I didn’t give any thought to agents, editors, publishers, or my social media presence. Those things weren’t important to me. The idea that my story would ever be published was as farfetched to me as my cat giving a damn that her white hair is permanently embedded in my black pants. I wasn’t writing the story for anybody else. I was writing it for me.

Enter my inspirational Rebelle sisters.

Excited to send their babies out into the world, they’ve embraced the art of letting go. They know it’s time. They’ve spent a good chunk of their lives molding their stories into compelling reads. They’ve typed “The End” and are confident enough with the final result to pitch to editors and agents, to send out query letters, and to engage in self-promotion. In the meantime, they’re working on other books.

I’m a couple of steps behind them, still holding my 90,000 words in a protective embrace. I don’t want to let go. My story has been with me for so long, I won’t know what to do with myself if I’m not working on it. It’s finished, every word as perfect as I can make it, and edited to within an inch of its life. But every time I open the document, I find myself making happy-to-glad changes, fueling my delusion that it still needs me.

Finaling in the Golden Heart is the kick in the pants I need, like the letter of acceptance my daughter received from the college of her choice. It’s the next step on my journey, however reluctant I may be to take it. I’ve watched with awe as my fellow Rebelles have fearlessly embraced this opportunity. They’ve been better for me than a twelve-step program for authors.

My Hero and Heroine have their HEA, and they’re standing on the precipice of their new life. It’s time to let them go.

They’re a part of my heart, and I’ll miss them.

But I swear to you, if they bring me any dirty laundry, I’ll revise the epilogue and exile my Heroine to a convent.


Pennie Leas 2 FinalMarried to a retired Marine, disabled veterans hold a special place in Pennie’s heart. These men and women were proud to serve their country and would do it again in a heartbeat, but they will bear the physical, mental, and psychological scars of their service for the rest of their lives.

Pennie lives in North Carolina, where she can be found on her screened-in back porch writing contemporary romance novels starring disabled vets finding their well-deserved HEAs. Her two cats supervise this endeavor when they’re not in the throes of righteous indignation because of birds in the trees. When you meet her in person, please just ignore the cat hair. It’s impervious to a lint roller brush.


6 thoughts on “Letting Go

  1. cgrissom says:

    Pennie, my firstborn is off to college in August and I feel twin spikes of pride and terror at the thought. He’ll be twelve hours away by car and less than two by plane, so I won’t have a weekly laundry mountain to greet me on specialty visits, but your blog resonated with me. I have yet to submit my story on query.

    I can’t wait to read your book and to meet you in person someday soon.

    C.R. Grissom


  2. Tracy Brody says:

    I get you on the painful cutting of scenes that hurt.
    Hopefully, we aren’t going to have to pry the MS out of your hands to send it on. 😉 Yes, you have to let your book babies go. You’ll find you can write other stories and love the characters just as much as your first and hopefully none will bring your their dirty laundry. lol


  3. Melonie says:

    We all understand this feeling Pennie! And you are so right, it is hard to let go – I laughed at the line about continuing to make changes to an MS you know is “done” as way to delude yourself into thinking it still needs you – I’ve played that game, let perfection be the enemy of good and tinkered with a story rather than brave the next step. The GH is a fabulous way to dive into the deep end 😉 Be Brave, Rebelle sister – you got this!


  4. Janet Halpin says:

    Terrific post, Pennie! I’m so with you on the inability to let go (my office is stuffed to the gills with proof of not being able to get rid of anything!). And as far as that tinkering thing goes, when I send out a query or a MS I think of 10 things I want to change as soon as I hit send. Chalk it up to writer’s self-doubt. You’re a GH finalist and there’s a reason for that–your work is outstanding and that’s something to hang on to!


  5. Julie Sturgeon, imprint manager, Crimson Romance says:

    Penelope, how can we best contact you to see about reading the full manuscript?


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