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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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??

UPDATE: Kalcyon ARC’s

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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: Planner or Spontaneous

Are you a planner or the spontaneous type? I rest somewhere in-between the two. On one side, I love to plan–I spent $14.99 on a calendar app, yes, a CALENDAR APP. Sometimes I can’t believe it myself, but then again it’s probably the only app I haven’t regretted buying, and literally use it to list day-to-day tasks and events (It even color-codes! yaaaas). Then on the opposite spectrum, I am so spontaneous–I love surprises and surprising, and trying new things. If you’re my friend, I’ve surprised you once or twice, just for the heck of it.

The type of person and my personality is reflected in my methods as a writer. Every idea has been a result from a spontaneous actions I’ve taken, but if I wasn’t a planner, I would NEVER finish a book. Why you ask? Because behind spontaneity, there is no real sense, it’s purely force of will and desire–a rush of adrenaline. I have this general surge of excitement about an idea, but it’s only a matter of time when I run out of gas, and that’s where my planning side comes into play. Drawing up maps of connections between the characters, listing personality traits and physical appearances, accounting the pasts of each character until they’re real-life people to me, timelining all the events of the world, and outlining a whole series is ridiculously fun to me. It might be because I’m a bit of a controlling, methodical person, and as the holder of the pen, I possess all the power–to kill, to resurrect, to bring together, to separate forever.

But I think every writer needs to be spontaneous. Not only does it open new avenues into your writing, it’ll also reveal hidden doors to amazing discoveries. A writer needs to be open-minded to the outrageous. But they also need to know how to rein in the crazy so that they can get the most out of it.

As you might know, my first published book, KARNAGE, was a self-published book and also a baby of a seventeen-year-old’s spontaneous idea. It some ways, I may have rushed the publishing of this first book. There wasn’t much planning involved and it ended up just being straight doing. I’ve definitely slowed down the pace with the second installment of the series, KALCYON, which is scheduled to release late January, as I am taking the steps of marketing it before its release.

I’m also writing a new manuscript for a new series, titled DEATH WISH UNDONE. I’m hoping to get this series published through traditional methods. I’ve already pitched it to two agents who both found the idea intriguing and asked me to send the first 50 pages of the manuscript. I haven’t sent it to them yet, but I’m hoping to send it out soon. This manuscript was a product of much planning and not much spontaneity. In my opinion, while the world building is much more solid, I feel the story still lacks a spicy kick of sorts and I’m trying to figure it out before I send it.

Anyway, when all is said and done. If you’re the planning type, go out and do something spontaneous. If you’re the spontaneous type, sit down and write down a plan or outline. Either way, you’ll be surprised with the results you get and the ideas that will form!

Check out my young adult fantasy book Karnage (The Phoenix Ashes Book 1)! If you love special powers, dragons, and fantastical worlds then you’ll enjoy it!

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ARTICLE POST: The Indie Book Stigma

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There are two types of authors: self-published authors and traditionally published authors. But at the end of the day, both authors are still just writers who want to share their story to readers around the world. There are benefit and consequences to both methods of publishing. I haven’t been traditionally published (yet) and decided to go the self-publishing route for my first novel.

Why?

Main reason was that I’m insanely impatient. The second, I’m a do-it-yourself type of girl in the first place and I wanted to try my hand at it. From the moment I started writing my book, I had the cover drawn in my head. When I finally hired someone to create it was a surreal moment for me and I may have squealed once or twice. Formatting the book was a complete nightmare. There were nights that I wanted to tear my hair out because I was struggling to get the correct page numbering format on Word. But when it was all done and ready, the moment I held my book in my hands for the first time was guaranteed one of the best days of my life.

Sometimes I think I should have pursued traditional publishing with a little more kick in my step, but other days I’m happy about my decision to self-publish. Self-publishing is definitely NOT for the faint of heart. Luckily, I’m made of steel, or maybe I’m just stubborn and resilient. You have to be committed to the process and know that you’re in it alone and have to rely on your own resourcefulness with no guarantee of a return.

The biggest consequence for self-publishing that I have faced is EXPOSURE. It is near impossible to get an indie book into the hands of the readers. Print on Demand companies have made it a much user-friendly process compared to years before, but still it is near impossible to get it into brick-and-mortar aka Barnes and Noble (THE DREAM!…I’m still in the process of trying to get it on the shelves). There is a stigma in the book publishing industry about self-published books, and it is that the majority stinks; it is not as polished as traditionally published books and come off as amateurish. I agree to a certain extent. While there is a plethora of duds in the growing pile of slush, there are definitely hidden treasures mixed in.

How do I find these hidden gems, you ask?

Book reviewers and bloggers. Trust fellow readers. Especially if you have a book blogger you follow and find their reviews are similar to your own thoughts of the same books, then you’ll find that your reading taste is similar. It’s a chain reaction in the book world, so I guarantee that even if a book was absolutely trash but everyone was reading it, you would end up reading it too.

I’ve sent many copies of my books to book bloggers for a review and many of them enjoyed it very much. So, even though I’m not the most objective person on this topic, I do believe readers should give self-published authors a chance. They work just as hard as traditionally published authors to create stories for you to enjoy and even if you end up hating it, most authors are glad that you took the time to read it. I’ve been blessed with ten 5-star reviews on Amazon, and twelve on Goodreads (not necessarily from the same readers) for my first book KARNAGE (The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy Book 1). However, I wouldn’t mind an extra review that was even 1-star, why? Because at least someone took their time to read it and tell me what they didn’t like about it. I’m always curious to see what readers didn’t particularly like in my books, because it makes me take note of it for my next books.

PS. I’M RUNNING A GIVEAWAY FOR 15 EBOOK AND 15 PAPERBACK  ADVANCED READER COPIES (ARCs) OF KALCYON! Click the picture below to check out my instagram for more info!

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ARTICLE POST: Writing Convention

So I recently went to my first writing convention this past Saturday. It was a one-day affair and about an hour away from my home, so I wasn’t forced to dish out an obscene amount of money to attend it. At the convention, they allowed writers to purchase 10-min pitch times with agents. I decided I would pitch a new trilogy I started writing to two agents, Nephele Tempest and Sara Sciuto.

Before attending, I had no idea what to expect and I was ridiculously nervous about the pitch. I memorized my 1-2 minute blurb and ran it through my head repeatedly the night before, on the drive there, and even during the event. Both my pitches were scheduled early in the day, so I wasn’t pacing throughout the event.

My first pitch was to Sara Sciuto. She represents a variety of works ranging from picture books to young adult books. Which is perfect, because I have a young adult fantasy and a middle grade idea that I’ve been tinkering around with. The beginning of my pitch sounded rehearsed, but it became a more colloquial toward the end (at least I hope it did). She asked me a few questions about it and I answered with more in-depth explanations of the different fantasy concepts woven into it and she said she was intrigued! She handed me her business card and asked me to send the first 50-pgs of my manuscript. I was downright giddy at this point, but I still had about 5 minutes left from my 10 minutes. I didn’t want to just get up and waste half my time, so instead I asked her questions (because from the articles I read about pitches at writing conventions, that’s what you’re supposed to do). I asked her what other fantasy books she’s representing and what style of writing she most particularly enjoyed so I could get to know her better. Overall it was a successful pitch and if she does like my manuscript, I know I would really enjoy working with her!

My second pitch was with Nephele Tempest. By this time, my head was still bobbling from my first pitch, so I was a bit more relaxed and natural. Since I got Sara’s card and interest, I didn’t have all my eggs in one basket. (Of course I wanted it to be a success, who wouldn’t want the interest of two agents instead of one?) My second pitch was more natural and conversational and Nephele made a few ooh’s and ahh’s during it that made me smile. She was also very intrigued by it and gave me her business card to send her the first 50pgs of my manuscript as well. I was ecstatic.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if maybe the agents were just giving their cards to all the authors who pitched to them out of good measure since they went out of their way to pay for those short, precious 10 minutes, but it really didn’t matter to me. I felt that in a way, we skipped the first part of querying agents, the part that has them opening the initial email to read your query to ask for a longer sample. And to me, that’s worth every penny. Plus, now the agents are able to put a face to the query/manuscript, which humanizes the process. There’s no guarantee they’ll like my manuscript. They might have enjoyed the idea of it, but writing style is a whole other beast.

I’ve been working on finishing and refining my manuscript in order to send it to them. (Although, I did learn that an agent’s request for a longer sample has no deadline) Therefore, I’m trying not to rush myself because I really want to send my best work. But I have made a self-induced deadline of October 31 to get the first draft completed and the first 50-pgs refined to send out. I figure that I’ll have another 1-2 months after submitting the first 50-pgs to polish the rest of my manuscript while they read my longer sample.

I’m glad I registered for the Los Angeles Writing Workshop 2015 (#LAWW15). It was a very positive experience and I learned a lot. I think the only thing that I might have enjoyed would have been to connect with other writers more. Because the convention was so short, you didn’t really have much time to get to know that many people. I’m thinking it would be great to attend a writing retreat or even a longer writing convention in the future.

This is the first sentence of my new trilogy!

“A wish made was a price paid, and no power could undo it.”
-Death Life Taken

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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.