Wrapping up 2015. Hello 2016

The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy, writing

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??

UPDATE: Kalcyon ARC’s

The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy, writing

kalcyon cover

I am officially in the final stages of completing the Kalcyon Advanced Reader Copies to send out to readers! If any of you have ever tried to format a manuscript into book form on Microsoft Word, then I know you understand when I say it is a FREAKING NIGHTMARE.

I’ve done it twice already, once for the Karnage (paperback) and another for the Karnage (Hardcover), and the level of infuriating did not decrease this time around either. I’m not a Microsoft Word wiz or anything, but I do consider myself pretty technologically savvy, but even with the countless articles from google that I read, I’m pretty sure the process I had to go through was the bootleg way. I swear, by my third completed manuscript, I will figure it out!

Anyways, I’m super excited since the formatting is all good now and I’ve submitted the files for review, which means I’ll be ordering them within the next few days for shipment! I thought it was the best day of my life when I held the first physical copy of Karnage in January 2015, but it’s doubly exciting to have the second installment of my trilogy underway. And I just know I might die a little (or a lot) the day I finally complete The Phoenix Ashes trilogy. It’s all still very surreal for me. I still look at Karnage time to time and wonder to myself how I ever finished it.

I learned something throughout this writing process. Things don’t always go the way you thought it would, or necessarily the way you wanted it to, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong way. I’m a Type A personality, so I never think I’m going to fail when I take on new challenges. Basically, I don’t know how to lose so I push so hard from every direction until I’m satisfied with the end product. Not everyone is like this, and after finishing Kalcyon, there was one message I wanted to share with my readers, and that message is in my dedication. (You thought I was going to share it now, huh?)

I’m still hosting my ARC giveaway for Kalcyon. Click here for how to enter! I’ll be sending them out before Christmas!

ARTICLE POST: Constructive Criticism Revisions


The writing process can be a very daunting experience. Some writers will be blinded by the bright overbearing blank pages that are waiting to be filled with a string of seemingly common words woven into something profound and meaningful, while other writers wear goggles as they fill pages and pages of content, most of the time all rubbish. But like everything in life, you need to find the happy medium and be willing to make changes in your work. Adaptability means survival.

Recently, a new manuscript idea came to me and I got really excited and scribbled everything about it in my notebook. Upon returning home, I began compiling a complete series outline before starting to write (something I promised myself I would do from now on). I hadn’t thought about the smaller details of the book and as I wrote my outline I began filling them in where I could. What I ended up with was a goldmine! Or so I thought … I was wearing googly goggles. And I didn’t realize it until I went to my family and pitched the idea to them.

First, I pitched the story to my older sister (27 years old). She had questions but was overall interested in the concept and said it was an original idea that she would like to read. I could’ve stopped there, because validation is the only feedback you want to hear. WRONG, writers keep fishing! So, I went to my mother (55 years old) and I pitched the same story to her. However, she said that even though the idea was unique, it wasn’t grabbing her attention. I can argue that it’s because of her age difference, as this book is a young adult book, however she also read my first fantasy romance young adult novel and said it was very interesting, so it’s not really a valid argument. Then finally, I asked my little sister what she thought (19 years old). She’s the closest to my reading audience, so in a way, her opinion matters the most in this situation. She agreed that the idea was interesting, but admitted that it was a bit confusing for her to understand.

One approval. One denial. And one wishy-washy interest. Something was definitely wrong. For a pitch, I need three unquestionable approvals. So, I took a second look at the outline I had written and realized that each of them was right to a certain extent and that I needed to do some heavy duty revising, even if it meant scrapping chunks of my concepts. So this is what I observed:

First, the premise of the story is strong and original and I need to work out a few details, but they’re minor.

Second, I need to develop a more gripping pitch summary. This is really important since I’m planning on pitching this manuscript idea to two agents at a writing conference I’ll be attending in October.

Third, the series is in desperate need of some simplifying. Sometimes, more is not always more, less is. I realized that just because I make a story more complicated by adding more twists and turns, it doesn’t make it any more interesting; it actually takes away from the main idea because it gets lost under all that gunk, no matter how glittery and shiny said gunk may be.

As a writer, whether creative or academic you must be open to constructive criticism. Most of the time you’re so enraptured by your creation that you turn a blind eye to major problems that others see. So you need to ask a variety of people, revise, then ask again, revise, ask, revise, ask, and repeat until the answers are somewhat in the same ball park. Remember, you won’t be able to please everyone, but you shouldn’t be aiming for that as a writer–your job is to write something that remains true to yourself that hopefully others will enjoy as well.

ARTICLE POST: The Rippling Effect of Reading


I’ve decided I’ll write articles once a week about bookish things, whether it’s trends, publishing information, or just things I’ve noticed through my own personal experiences. This is my first, so thanks for taking the time to read it and maybe it’ll help you somehow, someway. (Warning it is a bit lengthy!)

I’ve noticed the startling decline of young adults who read for pleasure. Most are too busy for reading because they’re out YOLO-ing (You Only Live Once). At the high school I work at, if you asked 10 students what they’re reading, only 1 would answer with a non-academic novel; that to me is extremely sad. I’ve been out of high school for 7 years, but I’m positive it hasn’t changed much. So I do understand that in high school you’re busy with academics, athletics, clubs, and trying to not make a fool out of yourself, but I was there at one point but I still made time for hobby reading. And I’m not saying they’re not out there, but these individuals are an endangered species.

The magic of the written word is dying out like a burning candle as generations pass. And the new light that’s taking its place: strobe lights, iPhone screens, video games on the computer, reality shows on television–all these artificial things that are making this generation of high school students grow up way faster than they should be, informing them of things that aren’t really of any importance. Seriously, why is it important what the Kardashians had for dinner on Wednesday?

It’s an epidemic.

I grew up with Harry Potter and am extremely grateful for J.K. Rowling’s amazing contribution to the literary world. It was an amazing experience to grow up reading one of the best fantasy book series out there. There is so much that books provide. They transport you to a magical place where no airplane, car, or boat can take you. I’m obsessed with fantasy books, have and always will be, no matter how old I get. Your mind is working, your imagination is growing, your knowledge is widening, and you’re experiencing life through a few cleverly, well-thought out plots and fanciful order of words. It’s as simple as that. Those who read are experiencing more of life than those who are not–I’m pro-traveling and to me reading a book is just as beneficial as going to a different country. Travel to a country and read a book and you’ll really be experiencing life. (I hope to do be able to do this one day)

When I was a child, I always read books. I’ve always loved it and it had a lot to do with the way I was raised and my elementary school experiences. First, my mother was and still is a third grade teacher, while I was attending elementary school. Yes, there were the not so fun parts of it–like getting workbooks and having assignments during summer breaks–but there was one thing that she did that I think that every parent should do: she took me to the public library once a week. We were told to borrow one book and would be expected to finish it and write a report on it before our next visit. (This could backfire on many children, but in my case it went well, because it was my favorite part of the summer assignments she gave me). To me, reading the book I chose was a nice break from all the workbooks pages I had to complete. Second, at my elementary school we had a school-wide program called Young Authors–each child was given a blank book and we would write a story and go through the manuscript/draft, editing, and illustrating process. It was fantastic and it was what I looked forward to every year. I still have the books I wrote and illustrated 14+ years ago. It really starts at home and at an early age. If parents are proactive in their child’s literary growth they may find themselves surprised later on.

Fast-forward to middle school, I continued to read and even entered a book poster contest. (I won 2nd place with my poster representation of Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce. I still remember what it looked like! It hung on the wall in the library for the entire year.)

Then, high school came along. I made the volleyball team and found a lot of my time devoted to practices and games and weekend tournaments, along with the homework that was becoming increasingly more difficult. But, that still didn’t stop me. I continued to read and would go to local bookstores to buy books instead of clothes. (Tell that to a high schooler now and they’d probably look at you as if there were marbles falling out of your ears). When volleyball was off-season and I was in 12th grade, I got released after 4th period, roughly around 12:30pm everyday. I had a car, but with a shallow wallet and friends still in school, there really wasn’t much to do, so I went home. I finished what little homework I had and found I had hours upon hours of free time–I watched the entire Bones series, then I read, read, and then read some more. Until something horrible happened, I ran out of books to read. I’m an avid fantasy romance genre reader. I’m not proud to say it, but I very rarely stray from this genre because it is my absolute favorite and I’ve never read a book outside of this genre that I ever truly loved and enjoyed (even to this day!)

So, what is a book lover to do when she runs out of all the fantasy romance books to read because she’s read every single one that interests her and has searched far and wide for more to read but came out empty handed?

She writes.

Yes, this is when I started to write. In my second semester of my senior year in high school, I wrote for fun. I tell this to my friends some times, because they ask me how I even wrote a book, and when I mention that I wrote because I was bored, they looked at me like I was crazy. I didn’t write intending to actually finish a book or to self-publish (a whole entirely different article entry). I just wrote because I wanted to write a story I could read, since I had run out of them. I didn’t have a special writing process; I just wrote what came into my head–most of these ideas are unfinished, juvenile ideas saved as a .doc on my laptop. Whenever I hit a writer’s block, I just moved on to a new .doc, a new story, a new start. No big deal because I didn’t have any emotional connection to the stories. I was just writing to pass time.

However, one day I started a story, a story about a girl named Selena with a special power to control electricity in a world where these people with special powers could get an egg, a physical extraction of a portion of their power, that could hatch into these fantastical creatures! This was the first story that I started that just kept on going and going and going. Before I knew it, I had written 500 pages. 500 pages of completely raw and terrible literature, but a story nonetheless. I still have this first manuscript that should be burned because of how bad it is, but I keep it as a reminder to see how far I’ve come and how far the story has developed. (I swore that I would never let anyone read it!) The entire plot since has been torn apart and rewritten, but the bones of the story and the characters still remained true, and that’s what I found important because it showed me how real the world and the characters were to me–their journey may have changed, but they still remained themselves.

Reading has a rippling effect on people. Yours may not be the same as mine. But, nobody can deny that reading will benefit you in someway or another, whether it’s in a couple years or a decade or two. It’s important for parents to encourage their children to read and show them how truly wonderful books are, because you never know, they may be the next J.K. Rowling!