The Illuminated Kingdom Launch Party Review!

11/18 was the launch party for The Illuminated Kingdom, hosted by the lovely Books Inc. in Santa Clara.

One of their amazing booksellers hand-drew this sign in chalk!

The entire staff was wonderful (and decked out in unicorn getup for a later event. What could be better than bookstores plus unicorns?)

I felt so honored by all the people who turned out for the event, even though it was the weekend before Thanksgiving! We read together from The Illuminated Kingdom, had some Q&A time, and of course, signed books.

My lovely mom did washable art on people’s hands (some Vestigians even got their fleet tattoos).

It was especially priceless to see the faces of old friends who have traipsed with me throughout the journey of this series. Plus the face of the small and perfect person to whom Book 4 is dedicated ❤

Thanks to everyone who came out for the launch! If you’re still looking to get a copy signed before Christmas, I’ll be at a table in front of the Recycle Bookstore West on 12/17 from 9:30-12:30 (during the Campbell farmers’ market). I also have more events coming in January, so keep an eye on my News and Events page! 

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!


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!

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.


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!


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.

In Which I Rave About A Bookstore

Last weekend found me in Seattle for a friend’s wedding. Weather forecast: Rain. As usual.

While there, I accidentally stumbled upon something amazing: the brand-new Amazon Books bookstore!


Little did I know, the store had opened up just over a month earlier, representing Amazon’s new experiment in brick-and-mortar book sales.

Why was this cool, other than the fact that it’s a bookstore? After interrogating a poor unsuspecting bookseller, I found out. In Amazon Books:

All titles are displayed face-out. This means a smaller inventory, but it also means you’re much more likely to stumble upon a new read you didn’t know you needed in your life. Face-out titles=easier discovery of new books=more love matches made between books and readers.

All titles are listed with a plaque featuring a review from–so you can basically ask another real human being, “How was this book?” and they’ll tell you. No filtering through publishers, professional review companies, etc. Just real people telling it like it is.

No fixed prices are listed on the shelves. Instead, the bookstore has price-scanning machines. The price of the book is whatever it’s selling for on Amazon that day (usually a significant discount from the list price). Discounted books=yay!

Best of all: Amazon Books stocks top-selling books from, regardless of whether they’re traditionally or independently published. That means readers, not publishers, are deciding what gets displayed and sold in this bookstore. Amazon’s Createspace and Kindle platforms have already democratized publishing; now Amazon Books is democratizing the bookselling supply chain as well. As an independently published author, I personally think that’s fantastic–not only for me, but for readers who get to see more of the books they want on the shelves.

Amazon sometimes gets a bad rap for being a big company, and a big company it is. I sincerely hope the success of this new bookstore doesn’t come at the expense of smaller, independent bookstores. However, Amazon’s existence also nurtures the success of other little guys, like small presses and independently published authors. It gives us a platform from which to send out our voices. And more voices in the book arena=more ideas and stories circulating=happier and better informed readers=hopefully more understanding and compassion in the world. I’d call that a win-win.

So did I come home with a book from this bookstore? Why yes, I did. For some time I’ve been wanting to read the bestselling I Am Malala, memoir of the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, and I found it at Amazon Books (for less than $10). Malala’s story of courage is truly inspiring.

What do you think of Amazon’s new bookselling experiment? 

All Noisy on the Book Front

Good news! As my summer marathon of writing chugs forward (and Book 3 makes surprising twists and turns) all is not quiet on the book front (hehe, catch that Remarque reference?). Here are some exciting updates in the life of the Voyages of the Legend series:

1. New bookstore!

Bookasaurus 7-15

I’m thrilled to partner with Bookasaurus, the children’s division of Leigh’s Favorite Books, in Sunnyvale. This charming independent book/toy shop is a paradise for the young and young at heart. A fixture of the community, Bookasaurus now carries both The Illuminator’s Gift and The Illuminator’s Test. And the manager, Heather, is a real-life adventure heroine. At just 21, she goes to school, runs a bookshop, and reads every book she stocks. Hearing that she liked The Illuminator’s Gift was praise indeed. I want to be her when I grow up.

So check out this independent gem and shop local for your next book copy!

2. Five-star review!

Low res shiny

I was also thrilled to hear that Readers’ Favorite, an independent book-review service, recently gave The Illuminator’s Test a 5-star review!  Here’s an excerpt:

The author’s language is exquisite and the detailed descriptions make the scenes come alive. The simple and elegant style of writing gives good pace and movement to the plot and the story moves forward fluidly. It resonates with young readers along the lines of the Harry Potter series and The Lord of the Rings with lot of adventure and whimsy that will make readers dream and imagine.

Don’t know if I can really compete with Tolkien and Rowling, but I’m quite flattered anyway.

Speaking of reviews, if you’ve read one or both Illuminator books, would you take a second to leave a review on Amazon? In the indie-publishing world, reviews from readers strongly influence what gets read. Many thanks!

Stay tuned for more events and updates in the works!

A Newsy Month for Books

Lots of exciting updates here! Besides being my birthday month, February has been a big one for the books!

First was the FANTASTIC news that Reader’s Favorite, an independent website, published a 5-star review of The Illuminator’s Gift (and gave it a shiny medal)!! I was so honored and encouraged to receive this kind of praise from a third-party source. You can read the review here. If you haven’t already left your own Amazon review of The Illuminator’s Gift and The Illuminator’s Test, I’d greatly appreciate it!

Low res shiny

Next up: I’m pleased to announce that you can now find BOTH my books shelved at Village House of Books (Los Gatos), Spectator Books (Piedmont), and Hicklebee’s (Willow Glen)! I won’t deny that I enjoy the convenience of Amazon, but if you’re looking for my books, consider doing something good for your neighborhood and picking up a copy at one of these local shops (they’re super cute on the inside, too!).

Spectator Books 2-15 Hicklebee's 2-15

Last but not least: this month I had the opportunity to be the first-ever author guest at the College of Adaptive Arts in San Jose. This innovative program offers adults with disabilities the opportunity to flourish by learning a variety of creative and life skills in a safe and nurturing environment. To be honest, presenting a lecture here was a stretching experience for me. Standard presentation formats all went out the window in the first five minutes. But in exchange, I got to witness the unique perspective and unlimited enthusiasm of these sweet students. They understand, perhaps more than anyone, that writing means seeing the world a little differently, like looking through a kaleidoscope.


More exciting events are in the works, so keep checking back to the News & Events page for updates! To find out how to book me as a speaker at your own school, homeschool group, or event, check out the Speaking page. 

Book Launch Party!

Last Thursday was The Illuminator’s Gift‘s first solo appearance in a bookstore! The charming Village House of Books hosted a party that entertained both kids and kids at heart. About 50 people turned out for the fun, in spite of a massive traffic accident that blocked Highway 17 and much of Los Gatos. I myself was almost late to the party. But hearing about a huge truck crash with fatalities makes you grateful to be alive, let alone be at a bookstore having fun with some wonderful kids.

Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

My mom did shiny, swirly face painting, with designs either from the story of The Illuminator’s Gift or inspired by the cover.

Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

Kids of all ages entered a coloring contest, redesigning the cover of The Illuminator’s Gift according to their own imaginations (and supervised by cover artist Amalia Hillmann).

Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

More than one guest arrived in a stroller or baby wrap. These moms are my heroes for starting ’em young. This little charmer was helping me sign books.

Photo credit: Daniel Sayre

Then we all got to do some reading. Perfect party, right? This image is a snapshot of my dream job.

Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

One lucky girl won a free book as a door prize. A bunch of the kids followed along in their copies as we read from chapter 15, “Illuminations.”

Photo credit: Jim Hillmann

Another girl won a book based on her shiny entry to the art contest. Several of the contestants posed to show off their beautiful work.

Fun was had by all, then this writer went home for a good night’s sleep.

For a complete gallery of pictures, visit artist Amalia Hillmann’s website!

California Bookstore Day

Last Saturday was California Bookstore Day–a statewide day of celebrating books and the independent shops that create warm, welcoming community spaces for them.

Better than Christmas, right?

Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

My friend and cover illustrator, Amalia Hillmann, and I spent the day glorying in the adorable children’s nook at Village House of Books. My book’s original cover art was displayed by a window, where the warm light made the gold paint shimmer and sparkle. One of the other visiting authors said it was like “a window into another world.”

Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

We signed copies for some brilliant young readers and got to chat about the process of writing, illustrating, and publishing a book.

Not going to lie: seeing The Illuminator’s Gift on display beside a wall of books including The Giving Tree and If You Give A Mouse A Cookie was a lifelong dream come true.

Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

One of the highlights of the day for me was getting to meet some amazing local authors. A.R. Silverberry, author of the young adult fantasy Wyndano’s Cloak, and I became book friends as we signed copies for each other.

Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

Laughter about fan comments, incriminating book research, and mundane day jobs was interspersed with tips about contracts, cover art, and professional organizations. Though I was the youngest author there, everyone (including shop owners Steve and Cheryl Hare and author liaison Lloyd Russell) made me feel like part of a literary tribe. We’re all just trying to follow the passion that’s been placed within us (and not end up living in cardboard boxes).

L-R: New friends A.R. Silverberry, Amalia Hillmann, me, Hannah Jayne, and Erica Goss with our books! Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, but honored to be welcomed into such a smart, quirky, fun book family. I look forward to introducing you to some of these wonderful people via blog interviews this summer!

My book haul at the end of the day

And of course, a day spent in a bookstore meant I couldn’t come home without books! My dollars ran out before my book cravings did, but I still managed to secure copies of Hannah Jayne’s Under the Gun, Vibrant Words by Erica Goss, Wyndano’s Cloak by A.R. Silverberry, and Mom*Me by Jennifer Castro. All signed, of course. Plus a cheery yellow book bag from Village House of Books.

Now I just need to find more time to read.


I’m THRILLED to announce that I’ll be back at Village House of Books for a TIG-specific book party this summer! More details to come, but mark your calendars for the evening of Thursday, July 10th! 


Refreshing Creativity

Don’t forget: tomorrow, May 3rd, is California Bookstore Day! Come visit illustrator Amalia Hillmann and me from 10-12 at Village House of Books!


This adorable nook is located at 326 Village Lane, Los Gatos 95030. Free parking can be found off Bachman Avenue.

There will be book signings, food, balloons for the kids, and a chance to see the original Illuminator’s Gift artwork! It’s also a great chance to show support for a local independent bookshop. Downtown Los Gatos is a fun and walkable community, so stop by VHB, then keep wandering! 

A day of writers + artists + independent booksellers will = a lot of creativity.

Which leads me to poet John Donne’s famous line, “No man is an island.” (Or woman, for that matter.)

Especially not a creative man or woman.

Much of creative work is solitary in nature–writing, painting, sculpting, knitting, composing. I actually really enjoy this aspect. Too much time with people can wear me out.

But not enough can wear me out, too.

I’ve lately been encouraged by meeting with a few other creative friends. Last Friday we got together for dinner and a chance to collectively discuss/pursue our endeavors.

Creative Night 2

A calligraphy artist, a painter, a video game designer, a knitwear designer, and a writer sat around a table, ate cookies, talked about canvas stretching and fountain pen brands, made geeky jokes, and occasionally fell silent to be productive.

Creative Night 1
Photo credit: Juliet Nicklin

It was such a fun and inspiring night that I wrote a haiku about it:

Creative Night

Swish of pencils, click

of needles, tick of pages–

nerdy artist friends.

Sometimes, it’s other people who refresh our own creativity.

Independent Bookstores: Village House of Books

Today we continue our Independent Bookstores blog series at Village House of Books in Los Gatos, CA. I had the pleasure of interviewing owners Steve and Cheryl Hare, the warmest and most down-to-earth bookworms you could imagine.


This new bookstore just opened its doors on August 17, 2013, but it already has a romantic history–Steve and Cheryl signed the building lease just 8 days before their wedding and ordered books on their honeymoon. Together these book lovers have created an inviting space in artsy, community-oriented Los Gatos.


Located in a building that’s previously been a hair salon, a yarn store, a guitar hospital, and a yoga wear shop, Village House of Books has a cozy, relaxing feel. Yellow walls, vintage furniture, and thoughtful accents like curtains and chandeliers make it feel like home. And that’s not even mentioning the books.


Steve and Cheryl say they’ve chosen a lot of the books for their colorful covers as well as their content. They take customer suggestions for which books to stock and special-order books if they don’t have the title in the store. Many of the books are creatively displayed face-out, so it’s easy to meet new books without looking very hard. The staff works closely with local authors in every genre, hosting readings, book clubs, and signings nearly every week.

I even recognized one of the local author books! Lit Knits by my talented friend Audry Nicklin looked quite at home in the nonfiction section.


Cheryl says her favorite section is the children’s nook, and I have to agree. A wall painting of the Cat in the Hat, a vintage bed window seat, and a fuzzy array of stuffed animals made me want to move in.

So…I did.



To my delight, The Illuminator’s Gift is now at home in this very section! You can drop by for a copy anytime. But for some extra fun, stop in on Saturday, May 3rd…it’s California Bookstore Day!

On May 3rd, independent bookstores across the state will be flinging their doors open for book lovers to unite! To celebrate, Village House of Books will be hosting about a dozen local authors of all genres…

…and yours truly will be representing the kids’ section!

Come between 10 and 12 in the morning to visit cover illustrator Amalia Hillmann and me! There will be a book signing, a chance to check out TIG’s original cover artwork, and balloons and storytime for the kids. It will be a great day to meet a variety of local authors and book lovers as well as support a beautiful independent bookstore.

I hope to see you at Village House of Books on May 3rd! 


TIG’s first bookstore!

I have joined forces with my first bookstore!

Paperback copies of The Illuminator’s Gift are now available at Spectator Books in Piedmont, CA! (I blogged about them when I first visited last month.)


On a bohemian street offering boutiques, antiques, and handcrafted coffee, check out this independent bookstore that’s bigger on the inside. Spectator Books sells both used and new books. Their fiction selection (for both adults and children) is particularly impressive.

And now I can personally attest to one of the titles in that section 🙂


So if you find yourself in the area, get a little lost in this lovely labyrinth of books. And maybe pick up a certain title while you’re there (wink, wink).