Hi Reddit, I’m Libbi! I’m here to talk about my new book, PETRICHOR: Book Three of the Scorching Trilogy, which I wrote mostly on my cell phone while nursing a new baby in lockdown by myself. This is my first AMA, so I’m super excited!

Short bio:

You may remember me for my viral Christmas tree hair a few years ago, but I’m also a Young Adult sci-fi author, amateur cosplayer, convention panelist, US Army Veteran, and High School English teacher.

Short book intro:

The Scorching Trilogy follows Madi, a headstrong teen from Pax Lunar Colony, as she journeys to Earth a thousand years after the apocalypse in search of her missing parents. Instead of a barren wasteland, she discovers a garden paradise and a mutant war that changes everything.

My proof: Instagram

Edit: It's 11pm CST; I'm going to respond to a couple more questions, but then I'm going to sleep for the night. Thank you SO much to everyone who has commented so far. I'll check back in tomorrow to answer more questions!

Edit 2: I didn’t want to announce this beforehand, but I’m giving the top comment a signed copy of all three books in my trilogy. Congrats /u/Grenache! I hope this is allowed. Haha

Comments: 95 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

Grenache111 karma

How's the baby?

dibbiluncan145 karma

Aww, this being the first question gave me the biggest smile.

My daughter's name is Heidi Lennox Duncan (named for two of my favorite childhood literary characters). She's 11 months old and perfect! I am seriously so lucky to be her mother. She's currently sitting in my lap trying to help type this response while making pterodactyl sounds and babbling happily to provide background music.

Ghraysone24 karma

Duncan Idaho is one of my favorites too... :P

dibbiluncan15 karma

Haha. Definitely one of the cooler examples of my surname as a given name.

Grenache23 karma

Ah that's lovely!:)

All the best to you and your family.

dibbiluncan19 karma

Thank you so much!

writerbrandt29 karma

What was it like getting back to the scorching series after so much time away from the writing/publication process?

dibbiluncan65 karma

Ooh, good question!

Although I took off months at a time, I did still attempt to write during the years between books. I just couldn't. It honestly opened my eyes to the fact that not only is "writer's block" a real thing, but sometimes it's a warning sign that something is really wrong. I had two cancer scares that set off an anxiety bomb in my mind, leaving me scared and depressed for a long time. Then I had two big life changes--law school and pregnancy--that helped snap me out of it but left me EXHAUSTED. Then there was childbirth, which for me was a little traumatic. For the duration of my "fourth trimester" (the first three months of motherhood) I felt constantly panicked yet heavy and numb--despite also feeling so happy and awestruck by how much I loved my baby.

Then one day I decided to spend my hours of holding a sleeping baby that wouldn't let me put her down doing something productive instead of just wasting time doom-scrolling and making myself feel worse. Coming back to writing, and to the story I love, it was like coming back to life. I found myself again, found purpose, drive, and motivation to wake up and be a person again.

I dedicated Petrichor to Heidi because without her, I don't know when or if I would have gotten back into it. And not just because sitting there with her in my rocking chair meant I had the time on my hands, but because she made me want to get better and be better for her sake.

Summer-Breeze-Reddit19 karma

What keeps you motivated to keep writing? I struggle with motivation big time -

dibbiluncan35 karma

For me, motivation is part inspiration and part desire. Writing is hard work, but if you're inspired by the story you want to tell and you desire to tell it, then the words are easier to come by. You have to love your story. Don't tell the story you think people want to read. Tell the story you want to read. Don't follow a formula. Follow your heart. You also have to love yourself and make sure you're ready to work. If you're unwell (physically or mentally) it's impossible to build up enough desire to sit down and do the work of writing.

I struggled to write this book for more than two years because I had failed on both of those fronts. I usually write a basic outline, but then let the story change and flow as it goes. But for a long time, I didn't have the mindset to let that happen, and trying to force it and stick by the outline I had made me fall out of love with the story. Until I snapped out of it and found myself again, I couldn't find the story either.

Aside from all of that sappy stuff, I also recommend:

  • Read more books and watch more movies.
  • Listen to music while you write.
  • Go for a walk or do some yoga.
  • Set a goal for each day.
  • Track your goal (I used a calendar for my first book).
  • Try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
  • Join a writing community. I recommend /r/writing for starters, but also check out local groups in your area.
  • Review and critique the work of others. Try /r/DestructiveReaders (you can eventually share your work there too, if you like).
  • Drink more coffee!

Summer-Breeze-Reddit5 karma

Thank you so much for your answer! It's really helpful :3 if you're still doing this (I know it's late) do you happen to have any tips for a beginning English teacher? I'll finish my studies next year and I'm very excited to become a teacher.

dibbiluncan3 karma

My favorite and most effective years of teaching were those where I truly felt like I could be myself. Of course being consistent and keeping students engaged are really important too, but I enjoyed it most when I decorated my classroom with a Harry Potter theme and kept a very chill atmosphere and attitude.

GOODronin14 karma

How do you write an entire book on your phone? Wouldn't your thumb fall off? Was there an app you used to organize your thoughts?

dibbiluncan18 karma

It was super challenging. I had sore thumbs and headaches if I wrote for too long, but generally my writing sessions only lasted as long as my baby was asleep... which ranged from half an hour to two hours tops. I also ended up with back and tailbone pain once she started getting heavier, but thankfully by then I had finished the writing and moved on to revising, which I only did at night after she went to sleep (so I could use my laptop instead).

I used Google Docs/Drive for all of the writing, and organized my thoughts using the simple “Notes” app on my iPhone. I didn’t edit at all as I wrote, so the first draft was really rough (especially because my phone autocorrected past tense to present tense for some reason). But I did keep track of things I knew I needed to fix, so that once I started revising and editing, I knew exactly where to start.

GOODronin8 karma

When I helped my wife with late night bottle feeding all I could manage was scrolling through reddit in-between half dozing off, so kudos to you for being able to write and edit a novel while being I'm sure very exhausted!

dibbiluncan7 karma

I did once burn a pot of bottles I had forgotten on the stove, so yeah I was exhausted to say the least. Haha

tmntvsfurby10 karma

What's next? Will you move on to a new series or maybe some Scorching short stories? Honestly, just hope you'll keep writing! :)

dibbiluncan22 karma

I have an idea for a prequel to The Scorching, but it has to do with a virus, so unfortunately I think it would be in poor taste to write that during a pandemic.

I’ll be starting on a new trilogy called A Light in the Desert instead. It’s a YA Paranormal Sci-fi about a teenage girl from Marfa, Texas who discovers she has a genetic disorder that connects her to the alien sightings called “the Marfa Lights.” I’m super excited about it!

_Z_E_R_O10 karma

Do you have any tips for tackling the publishing industry and getting a foot in the door? Either self-publishing or traditional?

I’m an aspiring author, also a stay-at-home parent of two toddlers (120,000 words deep in my latest series of novels, been working like fire for 6 months now). Glad to read about others like me who are actually making the dream work! Thank you so much for being here and introducing us to your novels!

dibbiluncan20 karma

I learned most of what I know from Reddit, so you’re in the right place! Definitely check out /r/writing, /r/DestructiveReaders (for practice critiquing, which helps you be a better writer, and also to get feedback on your own work), /r/PubTips, and any subreddit related to your genre. I’m on /r/YAwriters and a ton of book-related subs all the time.

There are many paths to publishing, but here’s what it looked like for me:

  • Write the book (sounds like you’re good there).

  • Revise, revise, revise.

  • Get and give feedback.

  • Cry a lot, probably, but don’t give up.

  • Repeat until it feels “done.”

  • Research which path you’ll take. Self-publishing means finding and paying for your own editor, cover artist, learning how to navigate Amazon’s Author Central, putting your work on all of the various platforms, marketing, getting reviews, doing events, etc. Traditional publishing means doing most of that, but without having to pay for things yourself, and having support to do it all (but with the added step of querying and signing contracts). I wanted to publish traditionally. I wound up with a small press, but it still had the same steps:

  • Research agents and (if desired) small presses.

  • Write and revise your query letter and synopsis.

  • Query agents and small presses in chunks of 10-20.

  • Enter pitch contests on Twitter.

  • Get rejected a bunch (probably).

  • Revise and keep trying.

  • Go rejections to requests for partials, then full manuscripts.

  • Eventually find an agent (and then go through more revisions as they shop your book to big publishers) or sign with a small press.

  • A small press will mean more work for you, less support, less funding, and a smaller (or nonexistent) advance... but a higher percentage of royalties and more say in the process.

Whew. That’s the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it helps! Let me know if you have any more specific questions, and good luck. I know it seems like a lot, but it’s so worth it!

waiting_for_Falkor5 karma

All of your answers have been outstanding. The best AMAs are where the OP takes the time to answer like this. Thank you!

dibbiluncan6 karma

Thank you so much! The first comment I read made me smile, and so did this one. I think I'll end here for the night. Have a good one!

_Z_E_R_O3 karma

Wow, this was an incredibly thorough answer! I’ll read through all of it at length and check out those subs. Thank you so much!

As a follow-up question, which part of your book was the most difficult to write?

The beginning of mine is proving especially hard. I’m in the process of discovering more of this universe, and as I’ve been fleshing out the later parts of the story, I’ve found that the beginning is constantly in need of revision. This feels natural, but it also makes it difficult for anyone else who wants to read a draft since of course they want to start at the beginning. Did this happen to you?

dibbiluncan7 karma

For me, the middle of the book is always the hardest--especially for this last one. I started relying too much on my outline instead of letting the story develop organically, and it felt way more like work. I'm pretty sure it was also boring AF, so I'm glad I finally snapped out of it. What worked for me was Chandler's Law. I didn't literally have a guy with a gun burst in through the scene, but instead of what I had planned, I threw in a seemingly random event to spice things up, then made it make sense later. It changed the entire trajectory of the story and helped me find my flow again.

For you, it sounds like this piece of advice might help: never edit while I'm working on a first draft. A few writers (Anne Rice comes to mind) revise and edit as they go, but for most people, trying to do that means they will delay or never finish that book. I rarely even re-read my work until it's finished. It's something I learned during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month--November). In order to write (or at least attempt to write) a novel in a month, you HAVE to write a quick draft and then worry about beefing it up and cleaning it up later. To help make that easier, I always keep notes on a separate page of things I realize I need to fix, but I don't actually go back and fix them. I just jot it down and move on.

I'd strongly recommend you try that. I'd also recommend not letting anyone read your first draft for that reason. Haha

Crookmeister6 karma

What made you name the book petrichor? Last I read petrichor is the smell that comes from soil after the first rain. A great smell at that

dibbiluncan6 karma

Aside from loving the word and the smell, it fits thematically and symbolically.

Like a forest burning down: Fire->Ashes->Rain.

HomonculusZero5 karma

Hi Libbi, can you give a quick breakdown of the steps you took to publish your first book?

Did you know at the beginning that you wanted to do a 3 part series?

I have been interested in getting something published at some point.

dibbiluncan5 karma

I did a lengthy response to the publishing pathway in another comment, but here’s a super quick version:

  • Write a book

  • Revise

  • Get feedback (critique group and beta readers)

  • Cry

  • Revise/edit

  • Query

  • Rejections

  • Cry

  • Revise and edit

  • Repeat like 4x

  • Sign with small press

As for your second question, yes. I have always been a fan of the trilogy structure for storytelling. I didn’t have it all planned out when I started, but I knew it would take three books.

Definitely check out some of the great writing subreddits for help, keep reading and writing, and you’ll get there!

HomonculusZero2 karma

Thank you for such an awesome response! I will definitely do that!

If you take follow up questions, this is kind of a strange one; do you find it difficult sometimes to write new information critical or surprising in a story because you don't want to spoil it for yourself? Sometimes I know what I want the story to be but I also want to be surprised when reading it like the audience is so i find it sometimes as a blocker to my creative mind.

dibbiluncan3 karma

That's definitely one of the better problems to have as a writer. It shows you really love your story, but you also love being a reader. I relate it somewhat to that feeling when you read something truly amazing and then immediately wish you could forget it so you can read it again for the first time. For me, the act of having that sort of idea pop into my head at all is one of the joys of writing. I do feel a small sense of what you describe, but for me it's more positive than negative. I revel in the feeling instead of letting it block me. I recognize that if it makes me feel that way as a reader, I'm obliged to put it on paper and hope it does the same thing for someone else.

[deleted]4 karma

Will you continue with books in this universe after the Scorching Trilogy?

dibbiluncan6 karma

I will definitely be writing a prequel, or perhaps even a prequel trilogy, but beyond that I’m not sure. I think I’m finished writing Madi’s story though. I like where things ended for her and her friends. I did already get one request for an epilogue, so I might post that for free as a short story someday.

Jellopuppy3 karma

Are you a single mom by choice? (I am)

dibbiluncan2 karma

Yes I am, and I love it!

Jellopuppy3 karma

Awesome! I love finding people outside my normal groups.

dibbiluncan1 karma

Same here. I love my mom group here on Reddit, but not many of them are single mothers. It's nice to see other strong, independent women out there rocking it! I can't see myself dating any time soon, if at all. I'm just so much happier without a man around. Pretty sure some of the oldest women in the world recommend never marrying for the same reason. Haha

Jellopuppy2 karma

Been there, done that, got the divorce certificate XD

dibbiluncan1 karma

Thankfully I called off an engagement, so I didn’t have to go through that. I don’t envy you, but I respect you for doing what was best for you!

Mrknowitall6663 karma

Why were you on lockdown?

dibbiluncan3 karma

I still am, actually. I haven’t seen anyone outside of doctor’s appointments and a couple very brief, masked, socially distanced family events (either outside or with windows open) since April of 2020.

I have a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and while not everyone with it is high risk, in my case it has caused several spontaneous pneumothorax events (my lungs randomly collapsed). I definitely don’t want to risk getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, or dying—especially as a single mother.

burner4763 karma

Who would you say were your greatest inspiration growing up?

dibbiluncan3 karma

JK Rowling for sure! Harry Potter was the first book I stayed up all night to read in one sitting. Now that I’m a single mom, that inspiration is more relevant, although some of her recent comments are a bit unfortunate.

Also Topanga.

UncleCactus803 karma

Fellow English teacher here (woot woot). How do you incorporate your career as a writer into your curriculum? I feel like you have so many awesome opportunities to share the writing life with young people. Do you share out your works-in-progress as models for student writing?

dibbiluncan10 karma

I applaud you for being able to (woot woot) during this crazy year of teaching. All I can do is give you a virtual Mockingjay salute. Haha

Honestly, I would feel weird about using my books in class because it feels too much like self-promo (especially because they're in my target audience). My first year as a teacher, I read a couple chapters to a group I was tutoring, but other than that I haven't used them in the classroom. Having said that, they do know I'm an author. I usually keep a copy of each book on the shelf so they can read them if they're interested, and I share details about my writing life.

laceandhoney3 karma

I've had writers block for years - YEARS. I struggle with knowing whether it's time to recognize that I should give up the old dream and move on, since I haven't written for so long. If I were serious about writing I would be doing it, right?

But a part of me can't let go. And I think part of what is holding me back is that I'm still in my hometown, the place I always wanted to leave after high school, and now it's over a decade later and I'm still here. I feel stunted and numb to the world outside my zip code. I know moving doesn't solve everything, but my family is here, and my husband's job is here. He couldn't leave his job.

What would you say to someone in my position? Am I in denial and pinning my dreams on the idea of moving as an excuse? When should someone accept that they're not a writer, they aren't writing, and they need to move on?

dibbiluncan10 karma

If you write, you're a writer. If your writing hasn't made it to the page yet, that doesn't mean you haven't been writing stories in your head all this time. Writers are writing when they dream, when they think, and when they speak. Of course, to shift from being a writer to an author, you have to take the next steps. If that's something you still want to do, regardless of how long it takes, then don't give up on it. Period.

As for how to do that, I'll share my experience and get very honest with you. But first, let me preface this by saying that I'm in no way suggesting that my experience is identical to yours or that what worked for me is what you need. Like you, I struggled with negative thoughts about my life; these thoughts held me back from writing for about two years. I wanted to move. I wanted to go back to school. I wanted to find love again. In my case, I came to realize that those thoughts were more than just thoughts--they were a symptom of depression and anxiety. I had two cancer scares that really triggered all of this, and I tried to bury my fear in alcohol, which only made it worse. Then after I tried pursuing the things I thought would help, pregnancy hormones and childbirth just exacerbated my mental health problems. I would not change a thing, but I do wish I had gotten help sooner, because postpartum depression and anxiety were a NIGHTMARE. So yeah, for me, I didn't overcome those negative thoughts that were holding me back until after things got really bad and I realized I needed therapy. Thankfully I had already quit drinking when I became pregnant, so that helped too. Just two months of talking through my problems was all it took (along with daily exercise).

This is why I prefaced my story by saying it might not apply to you. You have some negative thoughts, but they might just be thoughts. I'm not a doctor or therapist, so I can't diagnose you with depression or anything. That's where they came from in my case, but everyone is different. Regardless, you need to overcome those thoughts. How you do that is up to you. Maybe, like me, you need to talk to someone else about them. There's no shame in that if so. Mental health awareness is very important. But maybe all you needed was to admit that those thoughts are holding you back. Now you know that you need to face them. Allowing them to control you is the problem. Moving absolutely would not help, because then you'd just be giving those thoughts power, and whatever new negative thought creeped in would be just as bad. Not only that, but where you live has nothing to do with the worlds you can create (I say that as a sci-fi writer from a small town in Texas).

Face the thoughts--however you need to. For me, it was therapy. For you, it might just be journaling. Talking to a friend. Venting to strangers on the internet. Screaming into a pillow. Going for a run. Yoga or meditation. Hot cocoa. Whatever.

Don't stop trying. Even if you never become a writer, you need to overcome those thoughts to be the best version of whatever it is you become. You can do it!

pujanthakkar3 karma

Do you think your books are a good read for a 19 year old who likes fantasy, romance and thrillers? Which book should I read first?

dibbiluncan2 karma

If you like The Hunger Games, Star Wars, X-Men, The 100, or The Lunar Chronicles, you might like my books. They’re in a sci-fi setting, but there are fantasy elements as well, and of course there’s a nice romantic storyline as well. As for the thriller aspect, maybe not as much. There is action and suspense, but I wouldn’t call it a thriller.

pujanthakkar2 karma

I love how you're replying to everyone. Thanks for the detailed answer. Which of your books should I read first?

dibbiluncan2 karma

The first book is The Scorching, and I'm having a great time--this is the most socializing I've done in months!

trooololol3 karma

Do you have any tips for young aspiring writers? :)

dibbiluncan2 karma

Sure thing:

  • If you write, you’re a writer!

  • Read 30 minutes every day. Fiction and nonfiction.

  • Watch movies and TV shows, and play video games (the kind with stories and dialogue).

  • Write as much as you can every day. Revise. Edit. Get feedback. Repeat.

  • Check out some writing books. My favorite is On Writing by Stephen King.

  • Join a writing community like /r/writing.

  • Live your life. Travel if you can. Find inspiration in the world around you.

And most importantly, never give up. Good luck!

Alf_Stewart233 karma

Where did you get the baby?

dibbiluncan2 karma

A bog witch, obviously.

doingbasiclifeprep2 karma

what tools did you use to help you write on the very small screen of a phone?

dibbiluncan1 karma

I wrote everything in the Google Docs app on my iPhone. It wasn’t easy, but I guess I’m used to it by now. I did this AMA mostly on my phone too, and I use it to text and email people all day.

doingbasiclifeprep2 karma

did you use tap type with 1 hand or use 2 hands or use 'swiping thru keys' to type? or voice typing? why didnt you use a computer, do you just use the keyboard that comes with ios or something else,

i guess ur wpm like others is high but the small screen is still forever very small and for wiritng stuff a big screen is super helpful

dibbiluncan1 karma

I use both of my thumbs to type on my phone’s standard keyboard. Obviously I would have preferred to write on my laptop, which is how I wrote my first two books. I definitely don’t recommend writing an entire book on your phone, but I wanted to share that part of my story to show that it can be done, I guess.

As for why I needed to do that in the first place, my daughter didn’t learn to nap on her own until she was about 7 or 8 months old. Honestly, she still prefers to nap with me beside her. She also usually falls to sleep while nursing, so during the time I wrote the book, I’d nurse her, she’d fall asleep, and then I’d just hold her for the duration of her nap (30 minutes to two hours). If I tried to lay her down, she’d wake up. At first I just played on my phone, but then I decided to use that time to write instead. It allowed me to be productive while still holding my baby as she slept peacefully. Win win!

I will say that I only did the rough draft on my phone. All of my revisions had to be done on my laptop. That process took longer because I could only work at night after she went to bed.

dknt452 karma

Are you a plotter or pantser?

dibbiluncan6 karma

I'm a plotser!

I start out with a basic outline, but usually by about the halfway point I have abandoned it in favor of doing whatever the characters tell me to do. That turning point is where the magic happens, for me anyway. Such a cool feeling.

idontmeananyofdis2 karma

How else are you dealing with the lockdown outside of writing?

dibbiluncan1 karma

I go for a walk every day, indulge in my hobbies (music, books, movies, crafts), do yoga, text/call/videochat with family, and mostly just play with my daughter and take lots of pictures. I also still have my Christmas tree up. Haha

Honestly, I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm able to work from home (although it is stressful), have groceries delivered, and a good reason to enjoy being home all the time. If the pandemic hadn't happened, I would've had two months of unpaid maternity leave before having to send my newborn to daycare and returning to work while I was still in a ton of pain from my c-section. Instead, I have gotten to (almost) fully recover while spending so much precious time with her.

2_bob_rocket2 karma

How much can a baby actually contribute to a book and are you sure you are jot crediting the baby just for the sake of it?

dibbiluncan1 karma

Well of course part of it is sentimental, but she is an excellent proofreader. Haha

In all seriousness, without placing too much of a burden on for “saving me,” she totally saved me. In multiple ways. First, I think she might have improved my heart condition. Second, I had been using alcohol and law school to try and escape my anxiety, but that was a recipe for disaster; I don’t know when I would’ve finished this book if I had continued on that path. Instead, I took a break from school and sobered up. Once she was born, I knew I had to be my best self for her sake, so I got into therapy and started writing again. And of course holding her while I wrote the book was very special to me. I’ll cherish those quiet moments forever.

Nitz932 karma

Your personal top 5 favorite books?

Not the I like these and they sound good and are approved. More like which 5 did you enjoy the most?

dibbiluncan2 karma

This question is always so hard, but I’ll do my best to be honest.

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling

  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas

  • The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgsen Burnett

  • And every other book I own. They’re all my favorites, I can’t do this! Haha

Nitemarex-10 karma

Is Libbi a pet name for Libido?

dibbiluncan5 karma

No, but that sounds like something my high school bullies would have called me. I can share a few others, if you'd like.

Nitemarex3 karma

This was an serious question i know a lot of people with extremely strange names. I didnt want to offend you. I Was just curious

dibbiluncan1 karma

Well then, I apologize for thinking it was a joke. I wasn’t offended, but it did remind me of some of the things I got called in high school. Actually that’s where my username comes from too, so it wasn’t all bad!

Nitemarex2 karma

I am sorry to hear that, but i think overall it made you stronger and forged you into what you are today. I hope your family and you are all well. Much love

dibbiluncan2 karma

Thanks! Oh, and Libbi is short for Elizabeth.

Rudysgoldfish2 karma

I'm a little curious about the others, since I share the same name as you. My high school nickname was Liberace.

dibbiluncan3 karma

I got Liberace too!

The two nice ones I had were Libbo (one of my best friends called me that, but I don’t know why) and Dibbiluncan, which some younger girls shouted at my basketball games to cheer me on.

The rest started because a few popular guys seemed to think I was a lesbian (probably because I wouldn’t sleep with any of them, but also maybe because I wore rainbow toe socks... haha). I got Lizbian, Lizbo, and the worst/best: Lickin’ Libbi. Before that, when I was younger, I mostly just got picked on for being too skinny and tall.