Book 4 release!!!

Announcing:
THE ILLUMINATED KINGDOM
The Final Voyage of the Legend

Coming November 3, 2017!!!

“…[an] astounding, imaginative world…”
-Readers’ Favorite

The Vestigia Roi has risen up to retake their home island of Rhynlyr, but all Ellie can think about is rescuing her missing brother, Connor. Guided by a dream of Connor’s whereabouts, Ellie disobeys the Council’s orders and stows away aboard the Legend. But a simple rescue mission quickly goes wrong as Ellie and her friends confront new monsters and old enemies. The crewmembers of the Legend soon find themselves waging a last, desperate battle to save not just Connor or Rhynlyr, but their entire world. As the One Kingdom hangs in the balance, Ellie and the Vestigia Roi must ultimately decide what they are fighting for—and how much they are willing to sacrifice for it.

After more than nine years of writing this series, the fourth and FINAL book in The Voyages of the Legend series is almost ready for you to read!!! And I’m so excited to share it with you!

Here’s what you can do to be part of this exciting launch:

1. Hop on Amazon.com on November 3rd and get your copy of THE ILLUMINATED KINGDOM! (It would be an extra bonus if you’d leave a review!!)

2: Stop by the launch party on November 18th for a signed copy! The party is at 2 PM at the Santa Clara Books Inc. There will be a reading, Q&A time, and of course lots of books! I’d love to see you there!

3. Spread the word about the book release! It takes lots of voices to create a successful book launch. So if you’re excited about this book, tweet it out or tell a friend!

I’m so excited to share this series finale with you!!!

When Not in the Writing Cave…

(Before you read this post, you should go grab your sale e-book of The Illuminator’s Test! It’s on sale July 21-23, with the lowest prices at the beginning of the weekend–just 99 cents!)

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, because I’ve been in the writing cave, working hard to get BOOK 4 of The Voyages of the Legend ready for you to read this fall! Title reveal coming soon…

But when I’m not in the writing cave, sometimes I get outside and talk to people 😉 Here’s an update on some fun, bookish events I’ve been up to lately!

My booth at the Bay Area Book Festival (Berkeley, CA). The best part was seeing readers I’d met last year who came back for more! I’m already looking forward to next year 🙂

A school visit to an amazing classroom. I can’t even believe the ideas these brilliant and creative 5th graders came up with during our workshop on “Creating a Story”!

In June, the Recycle Bookstore Book Club read The Illuminator’s Gift, then invited me to join their conversation! Such fun talking books with people who like to read them!

I was thrilled and honored that The Illuminator’s Gift was named a Finalist for the Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition and a Semifinalist for the BookLife Prize in Fiction. I did an interview for Shelf Unbound, which you can read here. BookLife gave the book a score of 8.75/10 and described the story as “…dramatic, steadily building adventures set in a vividly imagined world.” Yay!

I joined author Jody Lee Mott on his Dream Gardens podcast to talk about one of my favorite, favorite books: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Kate DiCamillo is one of my writing heroes, and it was really fun to articulate just what I admire about her writing! Listen in to hear our conversation.

Video is probably my least favorite publicity medium (I’m always more comfortable behind than in front of a camera) but I’m working on it! I now have a YouTube presence, thanks to Alida Winternheimer and Kathryn Arnold of the Story Works Round Table. We had a fun video chat about the characteristics of middle-grade fantasy, with a second episode releasing in the future.

Phew! That was a lot! Time to get back to the writing cave now. But if you run a classroom, book group, podcast, or other literary event, I’d love to do a workshop or Q&A with you! Click on my Contact page to get in touch!

Hot Summer Book Sale!

Hey guys! To get ready for Book 4’s fall release, The Voyages of the Legend series is going on sale this summer!

 

Every two weeks, a different Voyage e-book will be on sale on Amazon, so save these dates to save on summer reading! (Deals are best on the first day of each sale weekend, so jump on it early for the lowest prices!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d be extra, extra appreciative if you’d leave an Amazon review for each book 🙂 Reviews don’t just help sell books (though they really do); they also make the books eligible for opportunities like a super-cool publicity program I’m applying to. A review doesn’t have to be long or complicated–it’s enough to tell other people “I liked this book,” or “It would have been better with an extra battle scene.” Just scroll down to where it says “Customer Reviews” (where you see all the stars), then click “Write a customer review.” THANK YOU so very much!And stay tuned, because Book 4, the FINAL VOYAGE OF THE LEGEND, is coming this fall!!! More details to come!!!

(Psst! Subscribers to my e-mail newsletter were the first to find out about this sale! To get the latest news and deals about The Voyages of the Legend (no spam, I promise), subscribe here!)  

 

My Top 6 Books of 2016 (Or: Unsurprising Surprises)

Back in high school, I used to keep a list of books I read each year. Because I like books. And lists.

But for some reason, once I left high school, I stopped keeping track of my reading. Probably because college hit me hard and I had no time to wash my hair or cook in an oven anymore, let alone keep lists of my books (although I did still read a lot, both in and out of class).

Last year, though, I decided to try again. I kept a list of every book I read for a year. And it was satisfying. (Which surprised me, for who-knows-what-reason. Because books. And lists. Obviously.)

I was also surprised that in spite of my two jobs and a published novel this year, I still managed to read 70 books! It was fun to count them and watch the trends in my genre preferences. Fantasy, steampunk, and children’s lit were the big winners this year (more non-surprises). I also starred my very favorite reads, books which (surprisingly or unsurprisingly) deeply moved, entertained, or educated me in an important way. Six books got starred, so I thought I’d share these meaningful books with you.

Alina’s Six Top Books of 2016

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

In a world stuffed with sappy, simplistic spiritual books, Taylor does not add to the problem. This book was deep, sensitive, insightful, brave, and completely helpful to me.


The Color Purple by Alice Walker

A beautiful, sad, empowering classic about a young woman who goes from victim to victor. Favorite quote: “No one is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.”


Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Sometimes (a lot of the time) I learn from teaching as much as I ever did from being a student. Having assigned this novel to my students, I figured I’d better read it…and it was wonderful. Shattering. Honest about the complexities of racial tensions in pre-apartheid South Africa (and anywhere). But also unapologetically hopeful about the possibilities of love and kindness.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I have no idea how I got through high school and a college English degree without reading this one, but I’m glad I finally got around to it. This book was wise, sorrowful, hopeful, and so so so relevant to life in 2016. It had an eerily prophetic ring to it, actually. Or maybe the world just hasn’t changed that much.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

This book was just sheer fun. I love Jane Austen and I love Shannon Hale, so put the two together and you get a decadent slice of fun and humor. And also a strong heroine with some wise insights on being a young woman in the 21st century. I (maybe) read it three times in the same month.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

This one was also pure fun. I was first attracted to it for its cover (yes, even authors do that), but I stayed for the rollicking romp of fantasy-steampunk-science fiction-Sherlock Holmes delightfulness, complete with cyborg alligators and plenty of bibliophilia. Now I must read the rest of the series.

A spiritual book, three social commentaries, a parody on a classic, and a fantasy romp, making the top of my list? How…unsurprising.

What were some of your favorite reads in 2016? 

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.