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.
My mom did shiny, swirly face painting, with designs either from the story of The Illuminator’s Gift or inspired by the cover.
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).
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.
Then we all got to do some reading. Perfect party, right? This image is a snapshot of my dream job.
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.”
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.
A few weeks ago, I was tagged in the #mywritingprocess blog tour by my good friend Angela Wallace, herself an author of thrilling, imaginative fantasy and urban fantasy. So, considering interviews are a theme of this summer’s blogging, I thought I’d take a turn and give you a peek inside my writer brain 🙂 I’ll answer four questions, then pass them on to two other writers.
What am I working on?
I’m currently writing like a freight train to finish the sequel to The Illuminator’s Gift, a book which is scheduled for publication this December! At this point I think I can safely say that it’s quite different from the first book, but is still a continuation of the same story. If you enjoyed the characters in The Illuminator’s Gift, I think you’ll enjoy watching them grow and face new dangers, enemies, and challenges in the sequel.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
The Illuminator’s Gift is fantasy, but truth be told, I’m not a die-hard fantasy lover. (Did I say that out loud?) Of course I enjoy discovering new worlds and encountering mythical beasties, but those aren’t enough for me to fall in love with a book, either as a reader or a writer. Dragons and swordfighting alone aren’t enough to make me care. So my work combines genres–some fantasy, some theology, a dash of history, a sprinkle of fairy tale, a little travel writing. I love to read cross-genre books, so why not write them?
Why do I write what I do?
Fantasy books like The Lord of the Rings trilogy and C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Great Divorce have been some of my best friends and truest guides as I have navigated the roughest places in my life. What I really love about fantasy is its ability to grapple with deep truths and teach us how to tackle life’s difficulties and darknesses, all without triggering our defense mechanisms or putting us to sleep. So when I write, I seek not only to spin a good fantasy yarn, but to infuse it with truths I’ve learned along the way, because I think all good stories have truth at their center. Not that I have it all figured out! Often I find myself exploring and growing right alongside my characters, which is part of what makes writing challenging and fun 🙂
How does my writing process work?
Hehe. Today or yesterday? As with many important disciplines, I don’t think writing habits are something you learn once, master, and practice like a machine for the rest of your life. The way I wrote my first book is not the way I’m writing my second. Part of that is because I learned from a few mistakes the first time around! I consider myself a “pantser,” meaning that I tend to write by the seat of my pants, letting the story develop organically rather than planning out a whole book in advance. This time, however, I did start with a sketchy, big-picture outline of the story’s events, leaving big gaps for serendipity to happen. I think the general outline has helped me stay on track (and write faster), but some of my favorite scenes have come from the serendipity gaps 🙂
And the blog tour continues with two other splendid writers, both of whom I hope to introduce to you via interview this summer!
Shelley Adina is the author of over twenty books, from Victorian steampunk to Amish women’s fiction.
Jenn Castro is the author of Mom*Me, a charming picture book for young readers and their moms.
If you’re local to the SF Bay Area, come say hello at Village House of Books next Thursday, 7/10! From 6-8 PM, illustrator Amalia Hillmann and I will be there, signing The Illuminator’s Gift and answering questions.Plus lots of family-friendly activities including face painting, snacks, an art contest, and a drawing for a free book! We’d love to see you there!
With Memorial Day behind us and summer around the corner, it’s time for something new on this blog. Which is why I’m launching a summer series, taking us “Inside Creative Minds.” Interviews with writers, artists, and other creatives will give us a peek inside their lives and creative habits.
Our first guest is novelist A. R. Silverberry. We became book friends after swapping titles at California Bookstore Day.
Welcome, A. R. Silverberry! So tell us–how did you first fall in love with writing?
Well, I’m in love with other people’s writing! I’m pretty hard on my own. What I love is the creative process, discovering things I never planned or anticipated, discovering connections that were completely unconscious on my part. I especially love when a character steps on stage and announces herself, fully born. All I have to do is get out of the way and let her speak! Other characters, I have to really work at to know, and I better pray they aren’t main characters or I’m in for a tough time. I love writing the first draft. I don’t love writing the final draft. By that point, I’m aware of what I call my Waterloo chapters, those spots where I just can’t complete things to my satisfaction. Ironically, it may be a single sentence that’s hanging me up.
Do you hear that scream? It’s my wife after I’ve asked her for six months straight which permutation of a passage she prefers!
What are some of your favorite books to read?
A Tale of Two Cities,To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lacuna, and all things Tolkien. I grew up on fairy tales, myths, and the Oz books. Nowadays, for pure fun, I read Dean Koontz.
You publish both paper books and e-books. As an avid reader yourself, which medium do you prefer and why?
I had the good fortune to go into a Shakespeare museum and got to look at a book written in 1606. Imagine! Shakespeare could have touched the same book! Physical books are an art form. As long as there are people, art won’t die, and neither will physical books. I’ll always prefer them. How do you cozy up to an e-reader? But darn if those e-books aren’t kind on old eyes. I love that I can enlarge the font, look up words I don’t know, and most surprising, my reading speed increased.
What are your two novels, Wyndano’s Cloak and The Stream, about? Are they related?
They’re unrelated. Wyndano’s Cloak is a fantasy adventure for children. The Stream is tale for adults, in the same genre as Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
Wyndano’s Cloak in one word: Empowerment. More specifically, girl power, though the message to believe in your inner gifts applies to all, young and old alike.
I asked one of my beta readers what she thought The Stream was about. She replied, “Good heavens, what is it not about?!” Here’s the best I can do:
What if your world was six miles wide and endlessly long?
After a devastating storm kills his parents, five-year-old Wend awakens to the strange world of the Stream. He discovers he can only travel downstream, and dangers lurk at every turn: deadly rapids, ruthless pirates, a mysterious pavilion that lures him into intoxicating fantasies, and rumor of a giant waterfall at the edge of the world. Defenseless, alone, with only courage and his will to survive, Wend begins his quest to become a man. Will tragic loss trap him in a shadow world, or will he enter the Stream, with all its passion and peril?
Part coming-of-age tale, part adventure, part spiritual journey, The Stream is a fable about life, impermanence, and the gifts found in each moment.
Wow! Two powerful books, quite different from each other. So who or what inspires your writing?
Ideas tumble into my mind from every conceivable corner. Take The Stream, for instance. The initial impetus was a conversation I was having, where I used the metaphor of a stream. I kept thinking about that metaphor. In a few hours, the character of a small boy, alone, defenseless, trying to understand the ways of the world, popped into my mind. I saw images of him confronting the challenges we all face in life: love, loss, pain, losing your way. The next morning, I put aside the novel I was working on (it wasn’t working anyway), and started writing. It pretty much tumbled out of me and didn’t let go until it was done.
What appeals to you about fantasy stories?
The unique thing about fantasy as a genre is that it’s not limited by the laws of physics. Anything can happen. Magic exists. Unexpected things can and do occur. Conflicts are painted in bold, broad strokes. The hero or heroine is up against unspeakable power, power beyond human ken. If they can triumph over that, I can triumph over the foibles of my life.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?
Be wary of advice, except mine of course! And here it is: read a lot; write a lot; learn the craft, but don’t be a slave to it; and break the “rules” if it helps the story. Don’t try to write like anyone else. There is only one you. Let the beautiful voice inside you sing.
Do you have another job? How do you balance it with writing?
I’m a psychologist, working primarily with children and adolescents, though I see adults too. I try to write every morning while my mind is clear and closer to the dream world. I wrote Wyndano’s Cloak while commuting on Cal Train! It worked out great. The sound of the train triggered me into writing mode. I wrote three hours a day, five days a week. Between the train and work, I walked for twenty minutes, taking notes about snippets of dialogue or description. The biggest loss to my writing was when we moved away from that train! I have to drive now, but I’m listening to a lot of audio books!
Are you working on a new book now? Can you tell us anything about it?
I never reveal the plot of anything until I’m ready to release it, but I’ll say this: It’s a dystopic young adult sci-fi fantasy trilogy. Say that five times as fast as you can!
Thank you for joining us! It’s been a pleasure!
A. R. Silverberry will be answering questions in the comments today, so ask away! Check out Wyndano’s Cloak and newly released The Streamon Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
About A. R. Silverberry:
A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, WYNDANO’S CLOAK, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. THE STREAM is his second novel. Visit his website or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter!
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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).
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!
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*Meby 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!
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.
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!
For some time I’ve had a covetous eye on new, bigger bookshelves. Because, of course, one does not downsize one’s library. One acquires bigger bookshelves.
Well, on Saturday I found the shelves. Six feet tall. Bank Alder finish. Some assembly required. Drool, drool.
I brought them home in my little car. So for a little while, I was the Bookmobile.
When an engineer and an author build things together, they read the directions. (Only one of them understands the directions. I’ll let you guess which.)
But first, I moved ALL the double-stacked books off my old bookshelves. There’s nothing to make you happy like handling every book you own in one day. It was like a party for old friends. Dust and words everywhere.
My whole family helped to hammer in approximately 144 nails. (I promise I helped too. I just took a break to snap this picture.)
There was a quick episode involving extreme wobbles, and a few debates about earthquakes and fires.
But finally the shelves were done. Big. Empty. A smell like my summer job at Barnes & Noble.
But what good are empty bookshelves?
Anna Quindlen is quoted as having said, “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”
One of the things I didn’t realize I’d get when I wrote a book was a book family.
I thought writing a book was about sitting alone for hours and hours, documenting your thoughts and ideas, and sending them out to other people. Like a one-way letter to the world.
What I didn’t realize was that others would write back.
The Illuminator’s Gift is connecting me with all sorts of people: friends and strangers, children and adults, people who are like me and people who are different. As they read, the story becomes theirs. The ideas no longer belong to just me.
It’s the best thing ever.
I’ve gotten to meet dozens of kids in schools. Some of them have written me letters with questions about the book that I’d never thought of before.
One girl even wrote a book report. I think her summary of the story was better than mine.
One precious boy had The Illuminator’s Gift read aloud to him because he can’t see the black-and-white letters on the page. He catalogued his reading time in Braille, a language of dots that I don’t yet know how to read.
And I’m not the only storyteller out there. Two anonymous writers sent me prequel and sequel chapters to The Illuminator’s Gift. Maybe I should take a leaf from their book. So to speak.
Maybe the most fun, though, is the e-mail correspondence I get to do with people I’ve never even met. As a kid, I was too shy to write to my favorite authors (even the ones who were still alive). I didn’t want to bother them or take up their time. Now I see that not only was I missing out on the fun of a correspondence–I might have made their day. I wish I’d been as brave as the kids who write to me now.
I thought writing a book was something I would start, then finish. That once it was published, the journey would be complete.
I couldn’t have been further from the truth. The journey is just beginning. What was once a one-way letter is now a two-way conversation.
I am blessed by a book family, bound together by words and pages.
It’s funny that I, who can’t handle graphic descriptions in books and rarely watch movies rated higher than PG-13, consider dystopian literature one of my favorite genres.
What is dystopian literature? If you’re a fan ofThe Hunger Games or Divergent (which will soon be making its movie debut), you’re already familiar with it. Word history makes a little more sense of the genre’s odd name, though.
A utopia is a perfect world (deriving partly from the Greek word ευτοπiα, meaning “good land”). Flip that on its head and you get a dystopia (δυστοπια), a “bad land.” The setting is often a futuristic or fantastical version of our own world–but something is very, very wrong with it.
The exact type of wrongness varies. It can be a nationally televised event in which teenagers fight to the death. It can be an association of “firefighters” who work to burn books rather than save them. It can be a community that has rejected the burden of memory.
All disturbing scenarios, without question. But it is that very ability to unsettle that makes dystopian literature so powerful. It makes us understand consequences. Fahrenheit 451 portrays the book-burning “firefighters” as a consequence of culture-wide entertainment addiction. The cold extermination of humans in The Giver is a consequence of a society that chose painlessness and order over compassion and mercy.
The consequences are extreme, even grotesque, in these fantastical novels. But they raise questions for real life in the subtle and palatable way that only fiction can:
What are the problems with our own society? What will the consequences be? And what can we do to change things?
And that’s why I love dystopian novels–not because I’m a freak who loves to read about twisted worlds. I love these stories because I’m a person who wants to see the sickness of the world I live in and help prevent it from worsening past cure. I like these novels because they make me think, but more because they make me care. Maybe that’s why the genre has picked up so much popularity, especially in the turmoil of recent years.
So: pick up a dystopian novel and let it raise questions for you. If you need a place to get started, here’s a list of my top 5 dystopian novels:
“In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.” -Amazon.com
“Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.” -Amazon.com
“The story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community.” -Amazon.com
“Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.” -Amazon.com
Although this is sometimes classified as a science fiction novel (and it does contain science fiction elements), its placement on an isolated island in our world, paired with its disturbing social commentary, make it a good example of dystopian literature as well. A power-crazed scientist makes humans out of animals, positioning himself as their god–but when the animals begin to regress, we must ask where the boundary between man and beast lies.
Have you read any of these books? Or do you have another favorite you’d add to the list?
Congratulations to Hillary, whose submission to the TIG on the Shelf contest won her a free e-book of The Illuminator’s Gift!
Enjoy your book love, Hillary!
And though, no, I did not enter the contest myself, I had a little fun taking #TIGontheshelf pictures…
I’ve always wanted to snuggle up on the white bookshelf in the corner, cozy between Sabatini and Scott. I would, however, feel a little awkward–not only because I’d be horrifically misshelved among the classics, but also because my book looks like a giraffe next to those mass markets!
So ah, this is home sweet home: my children’s lit shelf. And a pretty nice neighborhood it is, I must say. Levine, Jacques, Sage (with a bookmark still in it)…these are classics I treasured as a child and have never stopped loving.
Have a lovely, bookish long weekend!
If you didn’t get around to entering this contest, stay tuned–we’ll be having more fun with different kinds of contests in the coming months 🙂 You can find out more by following me on Facebook and/or Twitter (check out the sidebar)!
Though I’ve been a book addict since before I could read and much of my childhood was spent haunting Barnes and Nobles or public libraries, it wasn’t until college that I really discovered independent bookstores.
Here are my top 3 reasons to choose an independent bookstore:
1. Cheaper books
Many independent bookshops stock used as well as new books. As any economist can tell you, when the price of a commodity falls, demand for it rises, because people can afford to buy more of it. Cheaper books=more books on my shelf. Where’s the problem?
Far from the mass-produced commerciality of chain bookstores, with their hygienic, matching stacks of flash-in-the-pan bestsellers, independent bookstores have the allure of individuality and eccentricity. Don’t get me wrong–I love a good multi-story Barnes and Noble with a digitized inventory system (I spent two college summers working in one), or in Britain, a big, clean Blackwell’s or Waterstones. But from the sign over the door to the entrance display of books to the cat in the window, no two used bookstores are exactly alike.
Chain bookstores have the feel of business parks; independent bookstores are more like house parties with literary friends. You step in and run into someone you know (“Mr. Wordsworth! It’s been too long!”), make some small talk, and pretty soon they’re introducing you to their friends and their friends’ friends (Eco, Joyce, Zusak, I take down on my To-Read list). Next thing you know, you’re exchanging business cards and promising to keep in touch and walking out with a dreamy smile and a stack of “finds” you didn’t know existed an hour ago. (This is why I often leave my credit card in the car when I enter a bookstore.) It reminds me of the movie Midnight in Paris, where if you step into the magic car at midnight, you might be whisked off to sit in Gertrude Stein’s living room and watch Hemingway argue with Fitzgerald. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by the collective wisdom and camaraderie that I get teary in front of the fiction section.
Image courtesy of stock.xchng and kaeska
So, to shed some light on these little-known gems (and to give myself an excuse to visit more of them), I’m starting a blog series profiling various independent bookstores, especially those that include used books. Some will be local to my area, some farther afield. While there won’t be a new one every week (I wish), this series will be recurrent as I discover more bookstores. If you read about one you’ve visited, feel free to post your experience with it in the comments section. If there’s one that strikes your fancy, go visit (and let me know how it goes)! Or, best of all, if you have recommendations for bookstores I should cover, I’d be only too happy to hear about them 🙂
Next week: a trio of bookstores on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz…