ARTICLE: 4 Stages of Life

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It has been the alpha and omega of writing ruts for me. Looking back, I posted my last article on February 1…of 2016! Starting 2016 off, I had just released Kalcyon, the second installment in The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy, and planned to complete the last book by the end of the year. Quite ambitious, even for me, but I always work better under pressure. Deadlines push me forward because of my resolute belief that failure is a result of your own laziness, at least 90% of the time.

It has been a little over a year since I have touched my trilogy, not because I didn’t want to write but because it was one of the busiest years for me. If you are the type of person who cannot stay idle for too long without wanting to pull your hair out, then you and I are in the same boat. If I find there is extra time in my schedule, I always find something new to fill it with.

As the saying goes, “idleness is the enemy of the soul.”

When I had first started writing, I was going through a transition of “professions.” This allowed me more flexibility and free time than most people, since my job did not revolve around the cookie cutter 9 to 5 office job. I was by no means making any financial progress, but I was also in my mid-20’s and decided that this was the perfect time to pursue my passions and discover new ones. And when I start something I take it as far as I can.

Anyways, I watched a Korean drama that gained instant popularity from its unique story line and perfect cast. Goblin was a fantasy take on an old Korean tale about goblins–it is nothing like the goblins American’s would picture. Read the synopsis of the drama here. Watching this drama made my creative nerve itch; this always happens whenever I read or watch something that piques my interest. There was a specific belief that was introduced and woven through the drama and its characters.

Each person has four lives:

one that sows

one that waters

one that reaps

one that consumes

While, I will not take this time to go into a debate of reincarnation, I will say that I see my current life going through these stages.

1990-2015: Season of Sowing. From the moment I was born, until the end of 2015, I had been preparing the land and sowing my seeds. Though there were times I stumbled and lost my way, it brought me to where I needed to be.

2016: Season of Watering. All the hard work in 2015 was beginning to give life to a few sprouts of hope. It was tedious and trying, but my anticipation grew…

2017-?: Season of Reaping. If all goes as planned, the crops are going to be in full bloom. Even though my workload would be increasing, it would be the best thing that has ever happened. The downside is that the growing of one business means the draining of another part of my life.

But, it is funny how the world works. The slightest change or single conversation can switch your gears to turn in the opposite direction; it can remind you of where you were two years ago. 2014 me and 2016 me were two totally different beings. Despite advancing into a new stage of your life, remembering how you were before will renew you in a way that will propel you forward.

The biggest failure in life is not finishing something you started. And today I had an unexpected reminder of that. An innocent conversation with a few kids made me remember my passions for writing. Money and fame do not define a passion.

The passion exists because you love and will do it no matter what anybody says, no matter the benefits or consequences, and no matter how little time you may have to accomplish it.

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BOOK REVIEW: Six of Crow by Leigh Bardugo

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Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult
Series: Six of Crows (Duology)

SIX OF CROWS: ★★★★★!!! (5)

Buy it on Amazon

SUMMARY: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction―if they don’t kill each other first.

REVIEW: I loved the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo so I was sure I was going to love Six of Crows as well. I am actually a bit obsessed with Bardugo’s writing style. There is a special complexity with they way she weaves her words together that truly brings the whole story to life. I started this book months ago, but because life got really busy I wasn’t able to finish it until now (though I read the remaining 200 pgs in one night!)

The first thing I’ll mention is that the book is written from six different perspectives. When I first heard this, I was a tad bit skeptical because I’ve read books that bounce between characters and sometimes they begin meshing and you end up losing track of who’s who. But, not once did I get confused while reading Six of Crows. I always knew who was speaking because they each had such a specific feel. And I appreciated the fact that Bardugo delved deeper into the background of each character, really only giving us small tastes into each personal drive for committing themselves to this impossible heist. There was no repetition of the story and it flowed so flawlessly that I really felt as if I was part of the heist itself!

Weakness. Six outcasts with special sets of skills, yet still human with their own weakness. First driven by money and greed, each outcast discovers something about themselves and their true reasoning for agreeing to the heist. The way Bardugo unravels the history of each character humanizes them and even though they have done terrible things, you feel for them. Everyone has a weakness, even someone who seems so untouchable as Kaz Brekker, it only takes one moment to realize that no one is without a weakness.

KAZ BREKKER: Kaz is the leader, the brains, the mastermind. Despite his bad leg and young age, people fear him and know he is a force to be reckoned with. Kaz is a thinker and a solver; never giving in to failure, he always finds a way. I can’t wait to see what Kaz has up his sleeve for the next book. He has been so hardened by his past that he doesn’t allow himself to show any vulnerability, but I do hope he’ll find that there is more to life than money.

INEJ: Inej is a Suli girl who makes a name for herself as the Wraith of the Dregs. She’s a strong and capable young girl. Despite her past at the menagerie, she devoted herself to overcoming the darkness and becoming someone others fear and respect, while staying true to herself and her Suli beliefs.

NINA: Nina is a Corporalnik Grisha. Despite her beauty, she has a sharp wit and mouth. Despite what you may think, Nina is the most selfless character. She’s never really thinking of herself and acts for the greater good of others.

MATTHIAS: Matthias has a bittersweet past with Nina as he was betrayed and convicted of a crime he had never committed. He’s a Fjerdan who is also betraying his home country, ironically to be reinstated his freedom to it. He made me nervous at times because if anyone was going to betray the group, it would be Matthias. But as Kaz says, Matthias is too “decent” a man.

JESPER: Jesper is a sharp-shooter. There’s a secret reveal during the heist too that I didn’t see coming. Kaz always has something up his sleeve and he chose Jesper for the heist for a specific reason. There’s a subtle undertone of homosexuality with him and Wylan, though it’s not outright confirmed in this book. Maybe the next…

WYLAN: Wylan is a mercher’s son who ran away. At first Kaz adds him to the heist more so as leverage for the exchange after the heist, but Wylan proves to be quite useful during the heist. At the beginning, he acts like a nervous, naive young boy who doesn’t belong with the seasoned group. However, he grows stronger and more confident in himself as he finds a place among the other outcasts.

One thing I do want to know is if others noticed the similarities between Fjerdan-Grisha conflict and Nazi Germany. I’m not sure if the connection was intentional or if I’m just reading into it too much, but it reminded me of the Nazi regime. The Fjerdan (Nazis) hate the Grisha (Jews) and basically burn them on stakes and run tests on them because they’re different and have powers they don’t believe they should have. I guess I made the connection more so because the Fjerdans are described to have blonde hair and blue eyes. It might not have been intentional, but I thought it was something worth mentioning. I’m curious to see if anyone else made that reference too.

I’m also very proud to say, that I did see that twist at the end coming! I guess after reading into Kaz’s mind so much, I started to think like him as well 🙂

Anyway, I DEFINITELY recommend you read this book. It’s fantastic and you will not be disappointed. It’s also a duology and Crooked Kingdom is slated to release in September! I can’t wait.

Buy it on Amazon

BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Minds by Alexndra Bracken

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Author: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian/Romance
Series: A Darkest Minds Novel (Book 1)

The Darkest Minds: ★★★★ (3.5)

Buy it on Amazon

SUMMARY: When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

REVIEW: This is my first read of 2016 and it was a solid novel. I typically do not like to read young adult dystopian books, but I heard a lot of good things about this one (plus the fact that I stumbled upon a hardcover copy for only $3), I decided, why not? “The Darkest Minds” earned 3.5 stars from me. Overall I found the book enjoyable and interesting, but something about the journey kept me from giving it a higher rating.

Bracken’s writing is spectacular. No doubt about it, this author has a talent. She was able to provide descriptive explanations without being too wordy or confusing. She builds the world and sets the tone early on in the story. The beginning was a bit slow for me, but I understood she wanted to emphasize the darkness early on by revealing a little bit about the main character’s background from her experiences. I did appreciate the fact that the author did not literally write everything out for readers and would allow them to discover things on their own though.

The world she builds is somewhat believable, but there were times I found myself thinking it was a post-apocalyptic one, only to remember that the government was still somewhat running and the older folk were still working and living life. It is a bit unbelievable that parents would send their children to a camp believing they were being rehabilitated and accept the fact that they’re NEVER allowed to visit them again. The fact that most of the thousands of children inside the camps are just shipped somewhere by their parents willingly is still a bit hard for me to believe.

Basically, children who don’t die from IAAN (this disease the government makes up) they develop special abilities which are defined by color:

Green: great memory and very smart

Blue: ability to move things

Yellow: ability to manipulate electricity

Orange: ability to play with the mind

Red: ability to manipulate fire

Ruby: Ruby is an Orange, one of the last in the world, and the protagonist of this book. She starts out as a nervous, unsure young girl as she is sent to Thurmond for “rehabilitation.” After she escapes, she begins a journey that is destined to change her forever. By the end of the book, Ruby is more resolute and “cutthroat,” I guess you can say. But throughout the story, I did find her to be a bit whiny. One of my my pet peeves is when characters insist on keeping a secret because they’re afraid of being shunned, which is what Ruby does for a majority time. Overall, she wasn’t a terrible heroine, but she also wasn’t one of my favorite.

Liam: Liam is a Blue and the charismatic leader of the pack Ruby ends up joining. He’s tall, ruggedly handsome, and looks older than he actually is. Liam’s heart is huge and he’s always thinking of others before himself, sometimes at a fault. (No one can be perfect after all). The Skip Tracers and Psi Officers are all after him because he organized a breakout, not to mention the $250,000 bounty on his head, but you know you can rely on him because he’s so capable.

Charles “Chubs”: Chubs is also a Blue and the comedic mean kid of the group. He doesn’t like outsiders but is extremely loyal once he accepts someone. He never lost sight of what needed to be done and wasn’t blinded by the temporary “happiness” at East River like the others were. And even though he was upset, he was loyal until the end.

Suzune “Zu”: Zu is a yellow and the cute, young Asian girl of the group. She doesn’t have much control over her abilities so wears rubber gloves all the time to protect the others. Because of her traumatizing past (that isn’t fully revealed) she’s mute and interacts with them with expressions and motions instead.

The romance is introduced near the later end of the book. I found it strange that in the beginning of the book, the author emphasizes how uncomfortable Ruby is with boys because she was separated from them for six years. Then all of a sudden, she’s on a journey with two of them and becomes more comfortable pretty quickly, as she’s sassy with one and starts to like the other. Her character was very vanilla, and the conditioning she experienced in the camp for SIX YEARS would not disappear in a few weeks or a month even…

The reason I didn’t rate this book higher is because the whole story was basically a long road trip. There were some car chases and close calls with Skip Tracers and Psi Officers trying to recapture the group, but it consisted of them just traveling in a car trying to find out where East River was to find the Slip Kid (Rumored to be an Orange kid who was able to get in touch with parents). I also didn’t like how it ended. I understand why it had to be done and I can just assume what is going to happen later, but still it’s not a very “feel good” ending.

If you like young adult dystopian novels, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. I do plan on continuing the series to see how it finishes.

Buy it on Amazon

UPDATE: Netflix Addiction

WARNING: If you don’t like gifs, then get outta here. It’s my first time incorporating it so I might go a little crazy. GO BIG OR GO HOME, RIGHT?

Netflix and chill. It’s more like Netflix and rot! My friend just recently gave me her login for Netflix to watch “How to Get Away with Murder.” I finished the first season within a week.

The second season hasn’t released on Netflix yet but I hear it’s crazy. I can’t wait. Ever since I got rid of the TV in my room, I’ve been on Netflix even more.

Currently, I am watching The Office. (I’m behind the bandwagon, I know). Upon some recommendations from my friends, I decided to give it a shot, even though it never really appealed to me. It took me about one whole season to start to get into it. Throughout the first season, I think I may have laughed….once?

But, I stuck with it and powered through. That was 2 weeks ago. Now I’m on Season 9…

I found myself in a never-ending loop–wake up, go to work, eat dinner while watching The Office (8+ episodes…), sleep at 3 a.m. Today I’m taking a break from watching it and I’m writing about it instead. I’ve always been a binge TV series watcher because I hate to have wait to see what happens next. I prefer one big dose rather than multiple small doses. (Just like how I would break my arms before taking two trips to take groceries from the car to my house).

My favorite characters are Jim and Dwight. Their relationship is so fun to watch and their pranks are the best part of the show. Their snarky remarks and the quick wit of the characters are a couple of the things I’d like to incorporate into my writing. Dialogue is so important in books and watching shows like this really helps me develop characters through their conversations. (The character in my next book may or may not be inspired by Dwight!)

It’s 3 a.m. right now and I’m not going to review this TV series, but if you haven’t watched it, then I recommend you do (especially if you work in an office). But, make sure to start from the beginning or you won’t get the full effect of funny and some things won’t make sense. Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and The Office are all must watch series in my book.

ARTICLE: So, what do you do?

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So, what do you do?

What have you been up to?

 Did you find a job?

As a millennial in her mid-20’s, this question has easily become the bane of my existence. My life in regards to employment is unconventional to say the least. I’m ridiculous busy, yet not busy at all. If you don’t know me personally, let me give you a brief overview of the things I do (in order of importance).

  1. Club. I own a volleyball club that runs year around because there is a girls and a boys season. My responsibilities include all bookkeeping, ordering equipment/gear, coaching at practices and tournaments, and general admin work. (aka it’s almost tax season and I’m kind of stressed.)
  2. Coaching. In addition to owning a volleyball club, I’m also the head coach at a high school for a boys volleyball team. This is a lot of work as well because I have to invest more time into it. I practice 2-3 hours every week day and two of the days there are travel games, not to mention weekend tournaments. Once March rolls around, until the end of May, my scheduled is BOOKED.
  3. Weddings. I also started my own wedding videography business a couple years ago. So whenever I don’t have a tournament on a weekend, I book weddings to film. Usually this is an all-day affair for filming and consists of about one month of editing.
  4. Writing. While I would love to dedicate more time to writing it is more of a hobby as of now. I just finished Kalcyon (The Phoenix Ashes, #2) and I should probably start on the last installment of the trilogy soon.

Anyway, you’ll notice I’m not the traditional 9-5 type of person at all. I dabble into a lot of different things and so organizing my life is kind of a nightmare sometimes because I have to make sure to meet deadlines for each “job.” Which brings me back to the original dreaded questions. “So, what do you do?” People/family always ask this; it’s the question to fill silence with an answer that may or may not be interesting. The real question is, “What don’t I do?”

Typically, I’ll answer depending on my mood at that given moment. I hate to list the things I do because it usually leads to a lot of questions, so I stick with one and don’t mention the others. I have the luxury of trying new things at this moment in my life and I’m always thankful for the chance to discover what it is I want to dedicate my life to. I think it’s easy enough for me to find an office job and work a 40-hr week, but that’s just not me and I would probably go insane. (I’ve worked in an office for a fashion company before and when month three hit, I just couldn’t take it anymore).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though the road is tough and may not yield immediate spoils, seek your dream job or passion if you have the opportunity. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to put in hours and hours of your time without it feeling like work at all. Most of the times, you won’t end up where you thought you would five years ago. I never imagined I’d be where I am today and I’m ecstatic with what I’ve accomplished in my 25 years of life. I might not be rolling in the dough, but I can confidently say that I am more than satisfied with where I am right at this moment. I can just feel that this year will be an incredible milestone for me. Keep reaching for the stars, they’re closer than you think.

Stop asking, “So, what do you do?”

It’s time to be asking, “So, what do you want to do and what are you going to do about it?”

Kalcyon Soundtrack

Kalcyon will officially be released on January 31, 2016. And I’m happy to say that the e-book, paperback, AND hardcover will be available for purchase!

To have a little look into what to anticipate, here is the soundtrack that inspired me throughout the writing journey of Kalcyon. Enjoy!

I made both the Karnage and Kalcyon playlists public on Spotify if you want to listen to them at your own leisure.

Karnage Soundtrack

Kalcyon Soundtrack

KALCYON SOUNDTRACK

  1. i believe by Christina Perri
  2. human by Christina Perri
  3. Wings by Birdy
  4. One the Water by Finding Favour
  5. Stars by Marie Hines
  6. Young Blood by Bea Miller
  7. The Call by Regina Spektor
  8. Feels Like Coming Home by Jetta
  9. If You Say So by Lea Michele
  10. The Sun Is Rising by Britt Nicole
  11. Cassiopeia by Sara Bareilles
  12. Crystals by Of Monsters And Men
  13. Hunger by Of Monsters And Men
  14. Black Water by Of Monsters And Men
  15. I of the Storm by Of Monsters And Men
  16. Monsters by Katie Sky
  17. Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars
  18. Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl by Wet
  19. Statues by Nina Nesbitt
  20. Pilgrims On a Long Journey by Coeur De Pirate (Instrumental)
  21. Pau hafa sloppio undan punga myrkursins by Olafur Arnalds (Instrumental)
  22. Four Walls by Broods
  23. Run – Snow Patrol by Eklipse (Instrumental Cover)
  24. Runaway by AURORA
  25. Who We Are by Tristan Prettyman
  26. Brother by The Brilliance

Wrapping up 2015. Hello 2016

In 2015, I published my first book (Karnage) and completed my second (Kalcyon). When I was a senior in high school, I could only dream of this moment. Writing was my medicine for boredom and though some people found it a strange prescription, I found it absolutely right (pun intended!).

As I occasionally fan through the pages of my book, I still can’t believe it myself. I wonder how I sat my scattered mind down to write 600+ pages of a story. I’ve immersed myself in the fantasy world of Celestria this past year and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I have the last book of the trilogy slated to be completed by the end of this year and I’m not only sad but excited for this adventure to come to an end. (Though I don’t think this world will ever come to a complete end for me and I’m sure I’ll venture back to Celestria, and maybe expand beyond just Selena’s story).

One thing I’ve learned in 2015 that applied to every aspect of my life was a realization I had when writing the dedication for Kalcyon:

For everyone who had a dream that seemed too far to reach–greatness is achieved when you transform your weakness into strength.

I’m a hopeless dreamer when it comes to life and I always believe that there is something greater out there, so I continue to reach forward no matter how impossible things may seem. And I want to encourage everyone out there with a dream that you may have had as a child or still currently keep close to your heart because anything is possible. I know it sounds cliche, but you will only get as far as you believe you will. It may take five days or even five years, and even if you have to crawl to get there, every move forward gets you closer to achieving that dream.

It’s worth it.

The things you love the most are the things that get you the most frustrated. I’ve wanted to bang my head against the wall multiple times during my writing process, but I never gave up and continued to look forward because I knew all the blood, sweat, and tears would be worth it in the end. 2015 has been a hallmark year for me in terms of personal achievements and I’m sure 2016 will be no different. Happy New Year!

Leigh’s 2016 Writing New Year’s Resolutions

I. Complete The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy
II. Complete book 1 and 2 of the Death Wish Undone Trilogy
III. Get traditionally published
IV. Publish “Moon Lily”
V. Read 30 books!

 

What did you learn in 2015 and what do you hope to achieve in 2016??