Book 4 release!!!

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 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!!!

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.

Literary Candyland

Phew! It’s been a busy month! So far I’ve visited four school groups, with one more to come later this week: one public, one private, and two homeschool co-ops. We’ve done fun activities like making up fantasy names, exploring our 5 senses, and drawing fantasy maps. These students, ranging in age from 8 to 15, consistently amaze me with their insight, creativity, and perseverance. One group was made up of mostly students with dyslexia who use software like Dragon, Siri, or Kindle text-to-speech to overcome their difficulties with print media. Some of them are writing books (or even sequels to books) of their own. It’s always an honor and a joy to meet these fearless young writers. (For details on how to schedule a visit for the 2015-2016 school year, check out my Speaking page.)


With the school year winding down, it’s now time to mark your calendar for the first bookish event of this summer. I’m SO excited for this one. On June 6-7, downtown Berkeley will be closed to cars and open to readers! The Bay Area Book Festival is the first free, public literary event of its kind in the East Bay. The event is family-friendly and even has a whole area dedicated to children and another for teens. It will be like literary Candyland for two whole days! Here are some reasons to get excited:


-Appearances by big-time authors like Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) and Judy Blume

A sculpture built of 50,000 books that readers can take home with them!

-Fun activities like book-themed sidewalk chalk painting, a dance performance by the Ballet Folklorico Mexicano, a giant gecko, a farmer’s market, a chance to play with typewriters, and a petting zoo with a baby kangaroo

-An art installation of flying, talking books

-A visit with illustrator Amalia Hillmann and me! We’ll be at a table in the Children’s Area by City Hall, along with lots of other authors, bookstores, and book-related activity booths, including a stage where performances will be going on all weekend. At our table we’ll have coloring pages and face painting from The Voyages of the Legend, lots of different art prints and some cool new art products, and of course, copies of both The Illuminator’s Gift and The Illuminator’s Test. We’ll even be unveiling a reprinted edition of The Illuminator’s Gift at the event, complete with a map and some new illustrations!

Kindle cover, JPG

I can’t wait for the Bay Area Book Festival! All the details are on the event website. It will be a weekend of nonstop book fun! I hope to see you there!

Inside Creative Minds: Jenn Castro, Children’s Author

Well, I know it’s not summer anymore, but this blog series seemed too good to truncate when I got an interview with Jenn Castro, author of the charming picture book MOM ME. Listen in as she talks about her writing process, urban homesteading, and how to get kids to love reading.


1.     Welcome, Jenn! So tell us–how did you first discover that you loved writing?

When I was 10, I read Marjorie’s New Friend by Carolyn Wells. Reading about her red diary made me want to keep one. That year, I bought a diary. It’s green tweed and has a lock. Since then, I’ve kept many many journals, quote books, and scraps of paper in boxes. When I get an idea, I have to write it down. Eventually the need to write the story is so strong, I have to tell the story.

2.     What are some of your favorite books/authors?

My favorite children’s picture book authors are Margaret Wise Brown (Wait Til The Moon is Full), Leo Leonni (Swimmy), and Marie Hall Ets, (In the Forest). I love these authors because they respect and honor children’s imagination and intelligence. In elementary school, Beverly Cleary was a favorite. As an adult, I enjoy reading her books because she is very skilled at structuring a story. In high school, I liked books about seemingly real teen experiences (i.e., Mr. Pigman, by Paul Zindel). As an adult I am pulled to books about day-to-day life. Barbara Kingsolver’s series including Pigs in Heaven still top my list because of her fresh use of metaphors.

3.     How did you develop the idea for MOM ME?

I can’t say I developed the idea for MOM ME because the story came directly from funny things my kids did, including wiping their noses and mouths on my clothing! Some of the material came from how I played as a child: adults offering their shoulders as diving boards and carrying me across a pool on their backs name two.

4.     What’s one thing you wish someone had told you before you started the book publishing process?

Since publishing MOM ME and starting Hippowl Press, I’ve developed huge respect for the publishing industry. The writing, illustrating, front and back matter, printing, marketing, distributing, etc. is a huge endeavor. I think if anyone had told me all the steps, I might never have done it. So perhaps it’s better that I jumped in without knowing all that.

5.     Which came first for your book–the words or the illustrations?

The words came first. When my youngest was learning to sleep through the night, I’d wake to help him. While awake, I’d grab any nearby piece of paper and scribble a memory from the day. Images for illustrations followed quickly. I loved working with my illustrator on the story images because we saw the story so similarly.

6.     What divides your time from writing? How do you balance it all?

Without my kids, family, and community commitments, I’d have nothing competing for my time. Having so little time to write forces me to become very efficient and put any free time I have to writing. The stronger the story, the more compelled I am to sit and finish. My husband is very supportive and encouraging.

7.     What are some of your hobbies?

Coloring with magic markers on vellum paper is relaxing. I also enjoy painting fabric, bike riding with my teenager, playing cards with my youngest, and urban homesteading with my husband.

8.     What’s the best thing about being a published author? The hardest?

The best thing about being a published author is the satisfaction of finishing my first project. The hardest is finishing my next one.

9.     What do you think is the best way to help a child develop a love of reading?

Children learn to love reading when they see adults in their lives who enjoy reading. Kids (and adults) like to talk about books. I frequently ask kids what they’re reading and talk to them about the books. My own kids tell me about the stories they’re reading and I stop and listen to them. Showing I’m interested, shows them that discussing books is important and valuable. When they see that I value reading, it develops their love of reading.

10.    Are you working on another book project now?

Yes, I’m working on a young adult novel. I also keep a regular blog,, where I write about daily life as a mom, including searching for termites under my house, hiring myself to pull weeds, and many seemingly mundane activities like cooking pancakes for dinner and hanging laundry to dry.

11.    What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?

When you have an idea, write it down. Inspiration is fleeting and it’s important to hang on to it so it doesn’t slip away.

Thanks for stopping by, Jenn! 

To find more information about Jenn or MOM ME, check out her website!

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!