Carly O’Neill
Editor in Chief

Former Millersville student, Tianna Le’Ray received a message one day from New Degree Press on LinkedIn. She was hesitant at first, thinking the message had to be a scam, since it seemed too good to be true. The message read that New Degree Press would help Le’Ray publish a book for a reasonable price and promised to have it published within five-seven months. It was then that Le’Ray decided that she was going to do it, she was going to write a book. 

Le’Ray had always wanted to be an author so her mom encouraged to get out there and write a book. In her high school and early college days, Le’Ray noticed that there was no diversity in the urban fantasy genre she was reading and she wanted to change that. 

“Growing up, my sister’s the one who got me into writing. She was a big history buff and she was writing this book. She was reading it to me and I remember sitting there and I was like- I want to do that,” says Le’Ray. 

Le’Ray reminisces on her fifth grade self, “I was a weirdo- my first book was about werewolves, because I liked werewolves in fifth grade. But I guess my tastes haven’t changed, because I’m literally writing about werewolves, vampires, and shifters. It’s definitely something I’ve always seen myself publishing, I just wasn’t sure how I was going to get there or if I was even going to get there,” says Le’Ray.    

Two years before this, Le’Ray started out by writing up a simple one page scene. After a while, she decided she wanted to continue working on her writing and went to Millersville’s Creative Writers Guild, an organization for individuals looking to write in a supportive environment and expand their skills. Then around February of 2019, she continued working on her scene until she had a full fourteen pages.

“I was kind of thinking of different ways to make my character’s life suffer, so I was like what can I do that can make their world turn upside down. Writers are evil like that, we make all of our characters suffer so bad,” says Le’Ray.

When Le’Ray decided to go forward with writing a book, she had to set up an interview with the program’s department head, Eric Koester and give a synopsis of her story idea. Once Le’Ray got the go ahead, she was required to pay two deposits. This gave her access to an editor, a promotional video, and a professional marketing team to promote her book. 

Le’Ray gives a summary of her book “Fanged: Blood and Water,” “My book is about this guy named Silas who has forsaken his family, which happen to be vampires. He hasn’t seen his family in ten years and one day he gets a phone call from his mother who says you need to come home. This is enough to shake him to his core. Then he gets sequentially taken home and to exchange his freedom, he has to bring this girl named Harper to his mother. What he doesn’t know is that she has a secret that could change the world and he starts to fall for her.”

Le’Ray describes some of the challenges she faced during the writing process. “The hardest part of writing a book for me is word count. I talked to my [developmental] editor the first day and she said, you have to write 100,000 words. I’m like, I don’t think I know a 100,000 words!” 

The second main obstacle she faced was meeting deadlines. Le’Ray explains how she had four months to write an entire book, which for her meant putting about 30,000-50,000 words down on paper. Le’Ray had recently lost her job due to COVID-19, and found that with this newfound time she had on her hands, she could get down to writing. She finished her manuscript before it was due and turned it in for revisions. 

“It was definitely a struggle to edit your own work. They tell you what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it, but you have to put the creative motions behind it,” says Le’Ray. “I think the different thing with this program is they have a community behind it.” 

Le’Ray describes how New Degree Press frequently used a program called Quip. With this program she could message people, tag people in her documents, and reach out to others in the program for an “accountability buddy.” This basically meant agreeing to help each other reach their word counts. 

Through working with New Degree Press, Le’Ray not only got to enjoy the perk of putting her name to her own published work, but also meeting stars like Tiffany Haddish, Jason Starr and Jim Kwik. 

Le’Ray describes what it was like to meet the famous comedian, “Tiffany Haddish came on to one of our Zoom calls, she was amazing! She was so friendly and bubbly and told everyone “You have to write this book!”” After Le’Ray finished writing her book, she got the opportunity to send it to Haddish and the other stars she met through this program for them to look over. 

“Fanged: Blood and Water” came out for presale on November 20, 2020 on “Indiegogo,” and was originally set to be out for release in April of this year. Unfortunately the presale didn’t raise enough funds for her book to be published on the originally set date, and Le’Ray has since announced that the publication date will be pushed back to this August.

“I do see myself being my own author and hopefully doing that full time, but I know that takes a couple years to get into, so one of the backup careers I have is I would love to be a game writer for PlayStation,” says Le’Ray.   

Tianna Le’Ray is planning on having another presale for her book in March. She has stated that if things don’t work out this time around, she plans on self publishing her book on Amazon. 

“If people want to do this program, they can get in contact with me. The program is open to any college student. You have to balance your school and your work life, but you definitely can write a book. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong it’s very hard, but it’s definitely a fun process,” says Le’Ray.