Indie Reading Fest

I like to read. (Oh yeah, just a little bit. I’m a maniac out of control on this one.) I’m keeping count of how many books I’ve read this year, and I might actually blog about that later on. But especially as the weather gets colder and the nights get longer, reading is my favorite thing to do. And I’ve had the privilege of reading some really great indie books over the last year or so. So with winter and the sometimes-overwhelming holidays zooming up, I thought I’d share my top indie picks to keep you reading happily. Especially because Black Friday weekend=deals on books. And most of these e-books cost less than $3 (some are even free). So yeah. Check out these awesome indie books that bring new and different flavors to the reading world. You’re welcome.

Side note: many of these authors have actually been so gracious as to stop by for an interview on this blog! You can find them by typing each name into the blog search bar!

Dreamwalker series by Angela Wallace (fantasy)

Lady of Devices series by Shelley Adina (steampunk, oh yeah! I’m on book 10 of the series.)

Masque by W.R. Gingell (fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast)

Mourning Cloak series by Rabia Gale (fantasy)

The Rummy Club by Anoop Ahuja Judge (contemporary)

The Stream by A.R. Silverberry (fantasy)

Sunbolt series by Intisar Khanani (fantasy with an awesome Middle Eastern flavor)

Wish series by Grier Cooper (contemporary)

And…

Oh hey, The Illuminator Rising ebook will be 99 cents from Black Friday through Cyber Monday! And if you haven’t yet started the Voyages of the Legend series…

 Oh guess what, Book 1 will be 99 cents all weekend too!🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, and happy reading!

Illuminator Rising, meet My Little Pony

I never really got into My Little Pony as a kid, but my author friend Angela Wallace did.

So, to celebrate the release of my third book, The Illuminator RisingAngela designed and drew this book-themed pegasus pony! Awesome, right? The pony follows the fiery color palette of the book cover. I’ll call her Mharra, after the island where that erupting volcano is located. And I’m entering her in #PonyFest16 on Rebecca Enzor’s blog!

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For reference, here’s the book cover:

And a quick book description:

Thirteen-year-old Ellie and her crewmates aboard the flying ship Legend must rally the fearful survivors of their fleet and rise up against the deadly evil threatening to conquer their world. 

Fun times!

Recipe for a New Book

In a comfortable seating area, combine one new notebook, one mug strong coffee, and assorted writing utensils to taste.

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Add one absurdly multicolored spreadsheet.

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Combine ingredients until they have formed a suitably large mess on the office floor.

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Pour mixture onto blank pages.
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Get excited, because Book 4 is coming!🙂

Summer Inspiration: Hearst Castle

News flash: yesterday was my five-year blogiversary! The moment may have been an invisible blip to the whirl of the internet, but it was a significant moment for me. It meant that five years ago, fresh out of college, full of dreams and determination, I gathered my courage, faith, and naivete and put up my first blog post. It’s embarrassing and awkward to me now, but I firmly believe that each leap of courage and faith makes possible other, bigger leaps down the road. So hooray for five years of blogging! Thanks for your participation in this small internet living room over the years.

Now for a fourth installment of summer inspiration: a fun, whirlwind girls’ weekend trip to Hearst Castle with my mom, aunt, and cousin.IMG_2991

I’d been to Hearst Castle once as a teenager, and I remember collecting story ideas there for my very first novel. That high school novel ended up in the proverbial drawer, but it taught me that inspiration can be found in all sorts of places. Visiting it a second time, more than ten years later, brought me different inspiration, but inspiration all the same.

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Not all the rooms were equally inspiring. Of course I had to see the library. But while it was impressive, I didn’t fall in love with it. For one, the books were behind metal cages. For two, if you had basically all the money in the world and a hilltop with an ocean view, why would you build a dark-wood library with hardly any dedicated window space? I would have made the room almost entirely out of glass. Okay, with curtains to protect the books from direct sunlight.

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Similarly, some of the decor left me with mixed feelings. These lampshades, for instance. They’re made out of old vellum pages–music, in this case. While that’s incredibly awesome on one level (BOOK lampshades, yes!), another part of me cringes. Who would take apart a beautiful book, probably quite old, and make lampshades out of the pages? It’s like making furniture out of body parts. Really conflicted about this one. 20160723_115704On the other hand, some parts of the house were breathtaking and loaded with writing inspiration. For instance, the matching “Celestial Suites” at the top of the Castle’s twin bell towers. Got that? Bedrooms at the top of bell towers. Already awesome. But to make it even better, their Moorish-inspired design allowed the lamplight from inside to compete with daylight flooding in through the lace-like symmetrical perforations in the walls. The room was full of light. One guest said it was like “sleeping in a jewel box.” I wrote that down in my idea notebook. We even got to hear the bells ringing as we started down the stairs.
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Probably my favorite sight of the tour, though, was the Roman Pool. A cool, dim, indoor room entirely covered with blue-and-gold tiles, it’s a magical play of light, reflections, and symmetry. On the hot day of our visit, I could just imagine a dip in those quiet, deep-blue waters, where the tiles below the water compete with the reflection of the ceiling. It was hard to tell what was real and what was a mirror image. Also, I kind of have this thing for blue and gold.

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This California landmark brings on a swirl of mixed feelings. The Castle is an architectural marvel and also a display of opulent self-indulgence; it’s an amazing art museum and also an exhibition of mishandled historical treasures (case in point: lampshades). But whatever else it is, it’s certainly a feast for the senses. Which, for a writer, is a pretty great find.

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All in all, it was a lovely weekend, with some great family time and amazing sights (like this beautiful sunset in Cambria). And I collected some inspiration to take home with me.

Summer Inspiration: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Travel is one of my biggest sources of writing inspiration. I don’t always go as far or as often as I’d like, but inspiration can be found even in the most unexpected of places. Although I was generally collecting ideas for Book 4 this July, I didn’t realize I’d find them in Seattle when I visited relatives and college friends. In 2012, a new museum called Chihuly Garden and Glass opened (showcasing the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly), and knowing how much I love art and museums, it seemed like a good sightseeing option.

Boy, was that an underestimation.

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This was one of the most spectacular museums–no, places–I’ve ever been. I didn’t know what to expect from a museum full of glass artworks. It turned out to be transcendent.

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Words don’t do it justice. The glass itself was eye-popping, but the arrangements and lighting created perfect harmonies, like music, like poetry. There was an ocean-themed room, a Native American-themed room, and a garden of whimsical shapes that felt like something from Willy Wonka’s factory. I couldn’t take story notes fast enough.

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There were boats loaded with glass spheres that looked like planets, resting serenely on a black mirror that doubled their images.

20160710_153342There was a handmade glasshouse with a spiral of fiery glass flowers. It’s incredible how such a piece can weigh thousands of pounds, yet create the illusion of weightless fragility.
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You could see the Space Needle through the walls of the glasshouse!20160710_152759There was an outdoor garden where natural plants grew among glass pieces, the beds of flowers and glass grouped by color.

But my favorite was the rainbow room.
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Glass shapes, again both ponderously heavy and effortlessly delicate, layered a glass ceiling. Lights shining through them created water-like reflections on the walls. I almost burst into tears from so much beauty. The people beneath–even the selfie-taking tourists–turned beautiful in the rainbow light.

20160710_160033It was pure magic. I have a feeling you’ll be seeing some of these inspirations in a book.

 

Summer Inspiration: Bookstore Signings

In the crunch phase of writing and producing a book, I spend so much time sequestered away in my office that I can sometimes forget that other people exist. Let alone that some of them read what I write.

And while I write for many reasons, not least of which is just for the sheer fun of it, one of my most affirming motivations to get back to work is seeing young readers enjoy my books. And that’s just what happened at my two bookstore signings this summer .

The launch party for The Illuminator Rising was held at Village House of Books on June 25th. The owners, Steve and Cheryl Hare, are incredibly welcoming and just some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. They even heralded the event with a window display of The Voyages of the Legend–a total dream come true for me!

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I got to sit in the “queen chair” in the charming children’s nook.

 

DSC00026It was totally fantastic to see the standing-room-only gathering of young readers! They were full of eager observations and great questions. Some of them are on track to be writers or illustrators themselves, so watch out world!
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The second summer signing took place at Bookasaurus, the children’s division of Leigh’s Favorite Books. Though space in the store is tight, they sure make the most of it! Again, it was wonderful to have the signing so well attended by strangers, friends, and family. These are just a few of the people who sustain me on my journey.

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Some of the students who visited have been faithfully reading The Voyages of the Legend since the release of Book 1. I’m having the amazing privilege of watching them grow up–some, into very dedicated and articulate writers themselves!

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And one more perk of the day. See that shop doorway on the left of the photo? That’s an incredible gelateria called Bella Roma. Gelato may or may not have immediately followed this book signing. I can’t think of a better way to end a day full of books, bookworms, and fun.

Summer Inspiration: Bay Area Book Festival 2016

Benjamin Franklin is credited as having said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” 

Last spring, I was totally absorbed in trying to write something worth reading–and in fact, today The Illuminator Rising is on an Amazon Top 100 list! Woohoo!

This summer, I’ve been busy trying to catch up on the other half.

So for the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing posts about some of the events that have brought color and life into this summer. Some of them may or may not wind up as ingredients in the creative soup for The Voyages of the Legend, Book 4!

Today takes us back to the Bay Area Book Festival (June 4-5) in Berkeley, CA!

IMG_2657It is a special, special thing to have an entire city rope off its downtown for a 2-day extravaganza just for bookworms. While I was 500% exhausted afterwards, it’s so fun to just be able to strike up a conversation with anyone in a crowd, knowing that you have a love of books in common.20160604_121638

My wonderful mom was my table buddy and partner in crime for the weekend. She used her whiz artistic skills to paint Voyages of the Legend designs on the hands of visiting readers!

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Fun, huh? It was also a pleasure to get visits from some friends and family, including my aunt who lives some distance away🙂

20160604_121615 I got to network with some literary colleagues of all stripes: librarians, teachers, and fellow authors, to name a few.
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One of the coolest booths I saw was an artisan who makes shelves, etc. out of (humorous) groupings of old books. Look closely at these titles, and see if you don’t laugh.

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But the best thing was seeing so many kids enjoying reading. Two girls purchased copies of my books, then immediately dashed off to the lawn to start reading them. Whole groups of parents and kids sat down together for outdoor storytimes. It reminded me of some of the happiest moments of my own childhood, and restored my hope that not all kids are growing up as screen addicts. Not these ones, at least.

20160605_120009So, while this introvert couldn’t have been happier to curl up in the silence of her own room after all the activity, overall the Bay Area Book Festival was a jolly, literary, inspiring weekend.
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Hope you can make it next year!

Book Launch Day: The Illuminator Rising!!!

It’s here!!!

Book 3 ebook cover, Amazon, medium res

It’s launch day for my new book, The Illuminator Rising! I can’t even tell you how excited I am to introduce this new book. As the third (but not the last!) in the Voyages of the Legend series, it involves some of the characters I’ve written with before, but each and every book teaches me new things–and this book taught me a lot. And threw me more than a few surprises!

Here’s a sneak peek!

Jariel tapped out the rhythm with her foot. “I like fast dances.”

“Then you should dance,” Ellie said.

“Nah. You need a partner for this one.”

“So? Find one,” said Connor, rejoining the group.

“What? You volunteering?” Jariel rolled her eyes.

“Sure.”

“Sure? You don’t even know how to dance!”

“I do too.”

“Then why haven’t I ever seen you?”

“Maybe I didn’t want to.”

“You’re bluffing.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Then dance with me.” Connor cocked an eyebrow. “I dare you. Or are you too scared?”

“I am not scared.” Jariel stood up, dusting herself off. “Hurry up, slowpoke.”

Ellie watched as Jariel and Connor joined a reel on the dance floor. They fumbled awkwardly to find each other’s hands and perform the first set of spins. But then they seemed to find a rhythm. Both of them were strong and athletic, and they both had a good sense for the music. They began to clap in time and skipped down the line with energy. Their movements fell into practiced unison, as if they were working together to trim a sail or polish a deck.

“Do you…like to dance?” Kai asked Korrina.

Korrina gave a fierce laugh. “I like to fight.”

Kai nodded briskly. “Yes. Fighting is better. At least you know if you’re winning or losing.”

You can find The Illuminator Rising right now on Amazon as an e-book and paperback! (Amazon hasn’t yet linked the two together, but both are listed on my author page.)

If you’re local to the SF Bay Area and looking for a signed copy, you’re invited to my launch party on Saturday, June 25, at Village House of Books! There will be a reading, kid-friendly activities, snacks, and even a drawing for a free paperback copy of The Illuminator Rising!

If you can’t make the launch party, check out my News and Events page for other stops on this summer’s book release tour!

 

To celebrate this book’s launch day, I’m doing an e-book giveaway right here on the blog! Entering is easy!

Step 1: Subscribe to my e-mail newsletter. (The newsletter only includes book-related news and only comes once every few months! Since nobody likes spam. If you’re already subscribed, you can skip this step.)

Step 2: Leave a comment on this post, including 1) your name (first and last) and 2) one reason you’re excited to read The Illuminator Rising. 

On Monday, 6/13, I’ll draw a name from the comments and send a free e-book to the e-mail address you used to subscribe!

 

As always, I can’t do this without you! Please like, share, retweet, and leave an Amazon review to help launch this book!🙂

Book Launch: Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani

Hi guys!

Today I have the privilege of introducing a new author friend of mine: Intisar Khanani. Besides being incredibly talented and super friendly, she’s just released a new fantasy novel, Memories of AshIt’s a sequel to her novella Sunbolt, which I *might* have stayed up past my bedtime reading. Oh man. I read a lot of fantasy, and this was one of the most original and gripping I’ve read in a long time. The setting is rich and interesting, the suspense had me reading chapter after chapter, and the protagonist, Hitomi, is a mighty girl with a strong sense of conscience but also a relatable vulnerability. Go read it right now. Right. Now.

Then come back for an interview with the author!

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Welcome, Intisar! How did you first get started writing?

I’m one of those people who was always writing. I stapled my first books together when I was three or four, and never stopped. I’ve always had stories and characters in my head; even if I wasn’t actively writing, I was still telling myself stories as I went through my days. Nowadays, if I don’t write them down, I find I’m a much less happy person—which means if I’m feeling particularly grumpy, I’ll sometimes just excuse myself to go write a story!

What draws you to fantasy/fairy tales?

I love fantasy (and science fiction, though I don’t write it) because it takes us out of our world. We deal with issues in a different framework, and so we can challenge ourselves more deeply because we think we have less at stake. Likewise, fairy tales contain old, deep truths within them—some of them that bear challenging as social contexts and cultures change, and some that rise above time and place. I love the depth that fantasy and fairy tales are capable of while still granting us an “escape” from our own lives. I may also have a soft spot for dragons, mages, and talking horses.😉

What inspired your current series, The Sunbolt Chronicles?

I wrote the first ten pages of Sunbolt thinking that I was writing a short story. I had no idea where it was going, though, and was unable to write the ending. Two years later, while staying with my in-laws in Pakistan during a family illness, I volunteered to stay awake through the night with our ill family member while everyone slept. (I was the most jet-lagged of everyone, so this made a lot of sense.) Sitting up each night in the sick room with my laptop, I picked up that story and Sunbolt, Memories of Ash, and a third novella all came pouring out of me in the space of about two or three weeks. They were a necessary and complete escape for me, and if you look at each carefully, you might see a bit of the illness and sorrow we were dealing with, especially in Sunbolt. Admittedly, each story went through massive revisions before being published, to the extent that the third novella is now utterly irrelevant, and Memories of Ash is an epically long novel. But that’s how revisions roll.

Did anything unexpected happen as you were writing Memories of Ash?

My beta-readers laid down the smack with me, and informed me that I needed to stop trying to make Memories of Ash into a novella. They wanted more detail, more connecting scenes, and a couple less short cuts (I admit the short cuts were a bad idea). I took their advice, and the book literally doubled in size, and then grew some more. I really was planning for The Sunbolt Chronicles to be a novella serial, so I’ve had to re-imagine the rest of the series, and apologize profusely for everyone who thought I was going to be able to churn out a sequel within a year. Between taking a writing hiatus for family reasons, and writing an epically long sequel, it’s been three years!

Wow! You are disciplined! So why did you choose self-publishing? What’s your favorite thing about it?

I chose self-publishing because I spent two years searching for an agent, and it was miserable. When my husband e-mailed me an article about Amanda Hocking’s success, I went, well, I don’t care about making a fortune, but if I can reach a few readers this way, why not? I haven’t looked back since, and I absolutely love it. I love being able to have complete creative control of my work, get the covers I love (and change them if I need to), and offer my book at a more affordable price to readers while still making more than I probably would have from a traditional publishing deal (given that midlist authors make almost nothing when traditionally published). I also just love how quickly I can move from completing a book to releasing it—the wait is for the actual writing, and not for the publishing process.

That’s awesome. What gets you into creative mode?

My kids going to bed. Seriously. I get them in bed, sit down with my laptop, and get to work. I don’t have any routines or any special tricks. (I should probably try ringing a bell before I get to work to see if I can turn on my creative juices at the sound of a chime… Thank you, Pavlov, for that idea!)

I do, however, often do writing sessions with friends online, where we check in for a few minutes beforehand via chat, then spend an hour writing before reporting back in. This keeps writing from becoming that isolating, lonesome misery we writers fear.😉 It doesn’t get me into creative mode, but it does make me more accountable, and that helps me get going!

What are three books you’d want with you on a desert island?

  1. Desert Island Survival 101
  2. How to build a sea-faring craft from scratch
  3. Navigating by the Stars

I’m getting off that island one way or another!

Practical!  I’d probably just sit there reading until the coconut supply ran out. So which character in Memories of Ash do you relate to the most? Why?

I definitely relate to Hitomi, the heroine, a lot, but I think that’s probably because I’m writing from her perspective. When I sit down and think about it, she’s a lot braver and probably more moral than I am. If there were another character in Book 2 that I relate to more, it would be Huda. She’s strong but in a quieter, more down-to-earth way. She’s got a lot of problems, but she doesn’t let it slow her down too much. And she’s stubborn as all heck. Yep, she and I both have that going. I really like Huda and am so glad she’ll be back in Book 3!🙂

Ooh! What a teaser! Thank you so much for joining us, Intisar :) 

Here’s where you can find a copy of Memories of Ash: 

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble |  Apple  |  Kobo

And add it to your Goodreads TBR list!

Synopsis:

 In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

Intisar’s bio: 

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.

Connect: 

Website: http://booksbyintisar.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/intisar_Khanani

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/booksbyintisar

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BooksByIntisar

Happy reading!

The Illuminator Rising: Cover Reveal!!!

Book 3, The Illuminator Rising, releases online THIS Friday, June 10th!!!

To celebrate, I’m running a blog tour with the help of some amazing authors/creatives. There will be book reviews, interviews, and guest posts, and some even include giveaways of Book 3!

Here’s the full schedule of hosts and events: 

June 8: Release announcement with children’s author Jenn Castro
June 9: Interview and giveaway with craft author Margaret Bloom
June 10: BOOK 3 RELEASE DAY! Party and giveaway right here on my website!
June 11: Guest post: “Traveling Writer” on the blog of fantasy author Angela Wallace
June 12: Guest post: “Five Tips to Jumpstart Your Creativity” on the blog of fantasy author W.R. Gingell
June 13: Book review and release announcement on the blog of fantasy author Rabia Gale
June 14: Guest post: “Writing to Music” on the blog of fantasy author A.R. Silverberry
June 15: Guest post: “Insanity-Free Revision” and giveaway on the blog of fantasy author D.M. Stoddard
June 16: Author-character interview on the blog of fantasy author Intisar Khanani 
June 18: Radio interview with artist and tech guru Caleb Fong 

Follow along to join the fun and (maybe) win a free book!

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…

…the cover reveal for The Illuminator Rising!!!

Book 3 ebook cover, Amazon, medium res

Another awesome work by Jenny Zemanek of Seedlings Design Studio! Leave a comment to tell me what you think! The book releases on Amazon June 10th!!!