TEDx talk: “Do Something Worth Writing”

About a month and a half ago, I was invited to give a TEDx talk at Saratoga High School. It was scary, but exciting to talk about my writing and publishing journey. Here’s the video, entitled “Do Something Worth Writing.” Enjoy!

Meet the Voice of The Illuminator’s Gift: Audiobook Narrator Wendy Wolfson!

Today I’m delighted to welcome a special guest: Wendy Wolfson, narrator of The Illuminator’s Gift audiobook! Wendy’s lovely and versatile voice brings such life to the cast of characters. Here she talks about superhero poses, tree climbing, her secret recipe for a limber voice, and her favorite character in The Illuminator’s GiftWelcome, Wendy!


So tell us: how long have you been narrating audiobooks?

I am relatively new to audio narration, and The Illuminator’s Gift was only the third book I have done! I have completely fallen for it though! I studied English literature at university, and have always loved words, books and reading, and now I get to do it aloud as a job! The editing takes much longer than the reading and is not quite as much fun, but I enjoy the whole process.

That’s awesome! What made you want to be an audiobook narrator in the first place?

When I was 14 my father was unwell and used to ask me to read to him. I read him lots of P.G.Wodehouse books and loved them, and my father said then that I should either work on radio or read books for the blind. It has taken me a while to get around to doing narration professionally, having been a teacher of English for a while and then having worked in the public speaking industry, but I feel like I am finally doing what I was always meant to do.

Where do you do your recording? What is some of the recording equipment and/or technology you use?

I record in my own home studio with a Yeti blackout microphone and pop filter, and my little sound booth. I use a teleprompter app on my iPad to read from, and I have my laptop outside the recording booth with the recording software on it.

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Wow, there’s a lot that goes into it. Do you have a ritual or routine you do before sitting down to record?

A cup of honey and lemon tea sets me up for the morning along with some vocal exercises to limber up my vocal chords. I sit down when I am doing my editing, but I always stand when I am recording – usually in a superhero pose! 😊

Hooray for superheroes! What do you like to do when you are not narrating audiobooks?

I love spending my free time with my husband, our little boy, our dog, and 4 cats. We live in a wood in an eco house that we built ourselves, so lots of tree climbing and den building goes on!

That sounds like fun! Where is your own lovely accent from?

I was born in London, but grew up in a rural village in the South of England. Accent? What accent? 😉

When you’re narrating an audiobook, how do you keep track of the characters’ individual voices? How do you keep them consistent?

When I read a book that is well written, I ‘see’ it more than I read it. The characters in The Illuminator’s Gift are so beautifully written that I have a complete picture of them in my mind’s eye. When they are interacting in a scene together I simply visualize them, and their voice goes with them. I know I shouldn’t have favourites….. but I love Jariel, and her energy and attitude!

I’m quite fond of Jariel too 🙂 What was your favorite scene/section to narrate from The Illuminators’ Gift?

There are so many I enjoyed! Without giving too much away……Ellie’s first dream meeting with Ishua was a favourite, as was her standing up to Nikira in the Legend’s library. I also really felt the emotion of the events on Amalpura – but I don’t want to give too much away 😊

Oh good, no spoilers! What do you like most about narrating audiobooks overall?

The books 😊

Last thing: Do you have any tips for aspiring narrators?

Do what you love. Follow your instincts and choose the books you enjoy doing – if you love what you are reading it will come across, and you will have so much fun doing it, it will barely feel like work at all!

Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us, Wendy!

Get The Illuminator’s Gift audiobook now on Audible, Amazon, or iTunes! Click to hear a free sample of Wendy’s lovely narration. (And if you’re not already a member of Audible.com, you can get the book FREE by signing up for a 1-month trial!)

Happy listening!

Audiobook update!

The Illuminator’s Gift comes to audiobook June 21st!!

I’m delighted to announce that recording for the audiobook of The Illuminator’s Gift is now finished! I’ve listened through the whole book, and I know you’re going to love it!!

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I’m excited about this new audiobook for three big reasons!

First, the narrator, Wendy Wolfson, is AWESOME! She has an amazing British accent and brings lots of dramatic flair to the characters’ voices. She’ll be stopping by this blog for an interview next week and sharing her story of becoming an audiobook narrator, so stay tuned!

Second, audiobooks are a great family memory for me, and I’m glad to get to share that experience with you! I remember long road trips, the back seat uncharacteristically quiet as my brother and I got sucked into the magical world of the story we were listening to (on cassette tape, of course). I’m happy that The Illuminator’s Gift will now be roadtrip-ready for your family (and hopefully bring you some peace and quiet from the back seat)!

Third, this book has been a longtime dream of mine because Ellie, the heroine of The Illuminator’s Gift, is dyslexic. She loves stories and learning, but feels like she’s not smart because she has difficulty reading. I’ve talked with so many students who have various print disabilities, including dyslexia and blindness, and I’m SO thrilled that at last, there’s an alternative format of The Illuminator’s Gift available. I believe strongly that visual difficulties shouldn’t keep anyone from enjoying a good story. If that describes you or someone in your family, I am hopeful that this audiobook is everything you’ve been waiting for!

So when can you get started listening?

Release day is June 21st  (the first day of summer)!! So whatever you have planned, Ellie and her friends from the Legend can go with you! If you want to get notified as soon as it’s available, subscribe to my author e-mail newsletter(No spam, just occasional book release updates!)

While you wait…want to hear a teaser clip of the audiobook???

Stay tuned! Release day is almost here!!

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!!!

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!

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.