Fire by Night: Release Day!

It’s poetry book release day!! Fire by Night is now available online!

To me, it feels appropriate that this book goes out into the world on the weekend Daylight Savings Time ends. The days get shorter, the brilliant trees go bare, and we must remember how to be in the dark.

But this is also one of my favorite times of year. As an introvert,  I love few things more than curling up with a good cup of tea and a cozy blanket. Yes, there’s less daylight. But that can also mean a slower pace of life. (Maybe) a less hectic social calendar. More time to process and think, to read and just be. It’s a good time for authenticity and reflection. A good time for poetry.

Fire by Night isn’t an easy book. It’s raw; dark in places. But as the days shorten and the dark comes early, it’s also about the authenticity and hope to be found along the way. 

I hope it is a quiet companion at the close of the year. 

Find the book now on Amazon! In a few weeks, signed copies will also be on the shelves at Books Inc. Campbell!

Announcing: Fire by Night

Last autumn, I gave a TEDx talk called “Do Something Worth Writing.” It was about the strange feeling of accomplishing a dream and the disorientation that can come with that. Writing The Voyages of the Legend series was the work of over a decade. Finishing it left me wondering: what’s next?

The answer is: poetry.

With a mixture of nerves and delight, I announce my 5th book: Fire by Night, releasing on November 2nd. It is a collection of 50 poems grouped around the theme of wilderness wandering. These poems explore dark places, such as loss, grief, depression, anxiety, and spiritual deconstruction. Yet they also catch glimpses of love, joy, wonder, and above all, hope–a theme this book shares with my previous novels.

This is the most personal and honest piece of writing I’ve ever published, which is why it’s both exciting and scary. But I share this book because I think every person’s voice has something unique to contribute to the music of the world, and because courage means taking a step in the right direction in spite of fear.

The e-book is available to pre-order on Amazon now, but both the e-book and paperback will officially launch on November 2nd. After that, Books Inc. Campbell will stock signed copies in time for Christmas! I’ll be publishing poem snippets to my social media pages (links at the bottom of this email) so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming clips like this one!

Stone Church

Prayers are candles
in a dim stone church.
Some are slim tapers
in tall glass flutes.

Mine are squat,
smeared with sooty fingerprints,
mismatched all.

Still,
the flames rise
and light.

The Particular Rock I’ve Been Under

Well, hello there. It’s been a while!

Where have I been? I’m so glad you ask.

Under a rock is the answer. A very particular, very heavy rock.

I spent this last year teaching.


Yes, last fall I accepted a job with a one-on-one private school. I taught English and Life Skills to students with a variety of learning needs, from ADHD and dyslexia to autism and severe anxiety.

It was very rewarding. I met some incredible kids and inspiring teachers. Education is amazing, because you literally get to see your work growing up in front of your eyes. Someday I’ll probably end up writing about the experience.

My English-teacher Halloween costume. (Also Hamlet in the corner.)

It was also hard. Extremely hard. Even if I don’t mention the hours (ahem, unpaid overtime), that doesn’t even begin to touch on the stress and the chaos, the student meltdowns, the last-minute sub requests, the weekly Contagious Diseases Roulette, the discipline, the lengthy and critical parent emails, the active shooter drills.

If you can read this, go thank whoever taught you to read. No, really. Stop what you’re doing. Okay.

For myself, I decided to step away from the position at the end of the school year. While my teaching experience left me with immense respect for everyone who works to help young people grow up okay in a world that isn’t, I also realized that being a full-time classroom teacher isn’t for me. A worthwhile experience in itself. And the reason I have been mostly MIA from the writing/publishing world for a year.

Which was one of the hardest things about this job. Writing gives me life, and it was so tough to have nearly no time to work toward my passion. However, in spite of the chaos, I did still manage to accomplish a few things on the writing front this year. I wasn’t very good about communicating them, though, so here’s a brief recap in case you missed anything!

  1. I released audio versions of The Illuminator’s Gift and The Illuminator’s Test
  2. I gave a TEDx talk called “Do Something Worth Writing”
  3. I had a poem published in an online literary magazine
  4. I wrote a handful of new poems
  5. I’m just happy I stayed alive for a year, let alone published anything!

Now that I’m starting to recover from a year’s worth of lost sleep, the creative juices are flowing once more. I have a few new projects coming down the pipe, at least two of which I hope to release before the end of the year! Keep your eyes peeled for:

  1. An audiobook of The Illuminator Rising, read by my awesome British narrator, Wendy Wolfson!
  2. A completely new book! It’s still very much under construction, but I will say that it is a book of poems.

Yes, poems!

I focused on fiction writing during my English studies and have never primarily thought of myself as a poet. Yet I’ve been writing poetry since I was 12 and have read, studied, and taught poetry in various contexts. I’ve even written about poetry, shared a few poems, and interviewed a poet on this blog. More importantly, poetry is the clearest way I know to give voice to the truth as I see it. And to make music with words, because words are beautiful and interesting and filled with all the meaning in the world. It will be very different in genre and tone from my previous books, yet I can already see that they will share a number of themes, such as loss, hope, and redemption.

More details to come! For now, I am happy to be climbing out from under my particular rock.

The Illuminator’s Test Comes to Audio!

Merry Christmas…Audiobook #2 Is Here!

Hooray! The second audiobook in the Voyages of the Legend series is here!! If it’s possible, I’m even MORE excited about this audio adventure–more characters, more action, and more amazing voices by Wendy Wolfson! It makes a great companion for holiday travels (or holiday introverting).

Buy it on AudibleAmazon, or iTunes (a great use for some of those holiday gift cards!)

Not already an Audible.com member? Then you can listen to the audiobook for free by trying a 30-day membership (you can unsubscribe anytime you want!)

(Did you miss out on Book 1, The Illuminator’s Gift audiobook? Check out the debut of Wendy Wolfson’s spellbinding British narration and incredible cast of character voices!)

Enjoy this new adventure (and those holiday leftovers!)

TEDx talk: “Do Something Worth Writing”

About a month and a half ago, I was invited to give a TEDx talk at Saratoga High School. It was scary, but exciting to talk about my writing and publishing journey. Here’s the video, entitled “Do Something Worth Writing.” Enjoy!

Meet the Voice of The Illuminator’s Gift: Audiobook Narrator Wendy Wolfson!

Today I’m delighted to welcome a special guest: Wendy Wolfson, narrator of The Illuminator’s Gift audiobook! Wendy’s lovely and versatile voice brings such life to the cast of characters. Here she talks about superhero poses, tree climbing, her secret recipe for a limber voice, and her favorite character in The Illuminator’s GiftWelcome, Wendy!


So tell us: how long have you been narrating audiobooks?

I am relatively new to audio narration, and The Illuminator’s Gift was only the third book I have done! I have completely fallen for it though! I studied English literature at university, and have always loved words, books and reading, and now I get to do it aloud as a job! The editing takes much longer than the reading and is not quite as much fun, but I enjoy the whole process.

That’s awesome! What made you want to be an audiobook narrator in the first place?

When I was 14 my father was unwell and used to ask me to read to him. I read him lots of P.G.Wodehouse books and loved them, and my father said then that I should either work on radio or read books for the blind. It has taken me a while to get around to doing narration professionally, having been a teacher of English for a while and then having worked in the public speaking industry, but I feel like I am finally doing what I was always meant to do.

Where do you do your recording? What is some of the recording equipment and/or technology you use?

I record in my own home studio with a Yeti blackout microphone and pop filter, and my little sound booth. I use a teleprompter app on my iPad to read from, and I have my laptop outside the recording booth with the recording software on it.

Image result for yeti blackout microphone

Wow, there’s a lot that goes into it. Do you have a ritual or routine you do before sitting down to record?

A cup of honey and lemon tea sets me up for the morning along with some vocal exercises to limber up my vocal chords. I sit down when I am doing my editing, but I always stand when I am recording – usually in a superhero pose! 😊

Hooray for superheroes! What do you like to do when you are not narrating audiobooks?

I love spending my free time with my husband, our little boy, our dog, and 4 cats. We live in a wood in an eco house that we built ourselves, so lots of tree climbing and den building goes on!

That sounds like fun! Where is your own lovely accent from?

I was born in London, but grew up in a rural village in the South of England. Accent? What accent? 😉

When you’re narrating an audiobook, how do you keep track of the characters’ individual voices? How do you keep them consistent?

When I read a book that is well written, I ‘see’ it more than I read it. The characters in The Illuminator’s Gift are so beautifully written that I have a complete picture of them in my mind’s eye. When they are interacting in a scene together I simply visualize them, and their voice goes with them. I know I shouldn’t have favourites….. but I love Jariel, and her energy and attitude!

I’m quite fond of Jariel too 🙂 What was your favorite scene/section to narrate from The Illuminators’ Gift?

There are so many I enjoyed! Without giving too much away……Ellie’s first dream meeting with Ishua was a favourite, as was her standing up to Nikira in the Legend’s library. I also really felt the emotion of the events on Amalpura – but I don’t want to give too much away 😊

Oh good, no spoilers! What do you like most about narrating audiobooks overall?

The books 😊

Last thing: Do you have any tips for aspiring narrators?

Do what you love. Follow your instincts and choose the books you enjoy doing – if you love what you are reading it will come across, and you will have so much fun doing it, it will barely feel like work at all!

Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us, Wendy!

Get The Illuminator’s Gift audiobook now on Audible, Amazon, or iTunes! Click to hear a free sample of Wendy’s lovely narration. (And if you’re not already a member of Audible.com, you can get the book FREE by signing up for a 1-month trial!)

Happy listening!

The Illuminator’s Gift Audiobook Release!

 The Illuminator’s Gift audiobook is online NOW!

 

Get it on Audible.com today! (It will also be available on Amazon and iTunes in a few days!)

The audiobook is officially listed at $19.95 (a pretty good deal for nearly 9 hours of addictive British narration). But here are 2 ways you might be able to get the audiobook for FREE! 

1) If you’re not already a member, you can subscribe for a free 1-month trial of Audible.com. Just for trying it, you’ll get a credit you can use to download The Illuminator’s Gift audiobook for free! You won’t pay anything, you can cancel your membership anytime, and you get to keep the audiobook regardless. It’s awesome! (And in case you’re concerned, I do still get paid through this option!)

2) Do you run a blog, book review site, or YouTube channel? If so, you might be eligible for a free review copy of The Illuminator’s Gift audiobook! To apply, send me an email with a link to your site or channel and a quick description of why you think you’d make a good reviewer!

Even if neither of these options works for you, I hope you’ll still give the book a sample listen and consider downloading! It’s been a pleasure to create, and I hope that enjoyment will carry over to your family as you listen.

Now, go forth and listen! Enjoy! Share with friends! And if you’d be so kind, please leave a quick review on Audible to let others know your thoughts!

Audiobook update!

The Illuminator’s Gift comes to audiobook June 21st!!

I’m delighted to announce that recording for the audiobook of The Illuminator’s Gift is now finished! I’ve listened through the whole book, and I know you’re going to love it!!

Image result for headphones

I’m excited about this new audiobook for three big reasons!

First, the narrator, Wendy Wolfson, is AWESOME! She has an amazing British accent and brings lots of dramatic flair to the characters’ voices. She’ll be stopping by this blog for an interview next week and sharing her story of becoming an audiobook narrator, so stay tuned!

Second, audiobooks are a great family memory for me, and I’m glad to get to share that experience with you! I remember long road trips, the back seat uncharacteristically quiet as my brother and I got sucked into the magical world of the story we were listening to (on cassette tape, of course). I’m happy that The Illuminator’s Gift will now be roadtrip-ready for your family (and hopefully bring you some peace and quiet from the back seat)!

Third, this book has been a longtime dream of mine because Ellie, the heroine of The Illuminator’s Gift, is dyslexic. She loves stories and learning, but feels like she’s not smart because she has difficulty reading. I’ve talked with so many students who have various print disabilities, including dyslexia and blindness, and I’m SO thrilled that at last, there’s an alternative format of The Illuminator’s Gift available. I believe strongly that visual difficulties shouldn’t keep anyone from enjoying a good story. If that describes you or someone in your family, I am hopeful that this audiobook is everything you’ve been waiting for!

So when can you get started listening?

Release day is June 21st  (the first day of summer)!! So whatever you have planned, Ellie and her friends from the Legend can go with you! If you want to get notified as soon as it’s available, subscribe to my author e-mail newsletter(No spam, just occasional book release updates!)

While you wait…want to hear a teaser clip of the audiobook???

Stay tuned! Release day is almost here!!

Life Goal Unlocked: Meeting Kate DiCamillo!

A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very, very long time:

I got to meet Kate DiCamillo!

You probably already know who Kate DiCamillo is, because she’s THAT famous. But if you don’t know, then it’s high time you had the pleasure. She’s written numerous short stories, picture books, early readers, and middle-grade novels. She’s one of, oh, SIX people to ever win two Newbery medals AND a Newbery Honor, plus she served as the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature in 2014-2015.

Also, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, she’s my writing idol. Her books  (two of which are on my Top 30 Favorite Books of All Time list) touch my heart and make me both laugh and cry. I love to teach them almost as much as I love to read them. Their key themes are empathy, creativity, community, and the mixture of joy and sorrow we encounter in life. I want to be her when I grow up.

Which is why I didn’t think twice about driving 3 1/2 hours to see her speak on a Friday night. She’s based in the Midwest and almost never makes appearances in northern California. To borrow a Hamilton reference, I wasn’t about to throw away my shot.

Listening to her speak was worth every minute of the drive. She was funny, down-to-earth, and supremely articulate. She spent most of the time fielding questions from the audience, and her answers validated so many of the things I have experienced and come to believe about writing. One of my favorite quotes of the night:

“As a writer, you have to have everything open: your eyes, and your ears, and your mind, and your heart.” 

And that’s why she’s amazing.

I didn’t even feel awkward standing in the signing line with a gazillion starry-eyed elementary schoolers, because there were plenty of other starry-eyed adults in line too. I felt like a teeny bopper at a boy-band concert. Except…you know. Without the boy band. Or the concert. Much more fun.

And finally I got to meet her! In spite of the throngs of adoring and noisy fans around her, she was so personable and easy to talk with. We talked about writing and publishing and the themes of loss in her books. She signed all the books I brought/bought (including four copies of Because of Winn-Dixie, because, you know, a person needs four).

And I’m pretty sure I gushed about her all the way home. Life goal, unlocked.

Bay Area Book Festival 2018!

Last weekend was the Bay Area Book Festival–the most bookish weekend of the year!

For the fourth year running, downtown Berkeley closed off several square blocks of traffic, and I ran a booth on Milvia Street. The difference this year was that, for the first time, I had the complete Voyages of the Legend series on my display table. It was a strange feeling to see the work of nearly a decade spread out in front of me. 

It was really fun to see faces both new and familiar at this year’s fair! After working so hard to put out Book 4 last fall, I was especially encouraged by returning readers who came by specifically to pick up The Illuminated Kingdom. 

My lovely mom did hand painting, using glittery designs from each of the four Voyages books.

It was a chilly, blustery day in Berkeley, but the carnival atmosphere was unmissable. The smell of kettle corn drifted tantalizingly from the food court and kids rode the mini train up and down the street, waving at passersby, all day long.

My booth neighbors, authors Raenell Jones and B.C. Hatch of Little ChickLit Books, were both lovely. Little ChickLit had this photo wall supporting girls in embracing descriptors beyond “pretty,” and asked me to pick a word of my own.

I picked the word “brave”–which not only represents Ellie’s journey in The Voyages of the Legend, but my own as I’ve navigated writing and publishing this series over the last ten years. It felt fitting.