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.

20160710_143353

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.

20160710_144850

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.

20160710_154904

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.
20160710_151338

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.
20160710_144716

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!

DSC00007

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!
DSC00083

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.

1

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!

20160807_163840

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.

Summer Inspiration: Bay Area Book Festival 2016

Benjamin Franklin is credited as having said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” 

Last spring, I was totally absorbed in trying to write something worth reading–and in fact, today The Illuminator Rising is on an Amazon Top 100 list! Woohoo!

This summer, I’ve been busy trying to catch up on the other half.

So for the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing posts about some of the events that have brought color and life into this summer. Some of them may or may not wind up as ingredients in the creative soup for The Voyages of the Legend, Book 4!

Today takes us back to the Bay Area Book Festival (June 4-5) in Berkeley, CA!

IMG_2657It is a special, special thing to have an entire city rope off its downtown for a 2-day extravaganza just for bookworms. While I was 500% exhausted afterwards, it’s so fun to just be able to strike up a conversation with anyone in a crowd, knowing that you have a love of books in common.20160604_121638

My wonderful mom was my table buddy and partner in crime for the weekend. She used her whiz artistic skills to paint Voyages of the Legend designs on the hands of visiting readers!

20160604_112328

Fun, huh? It was also a pleasure to get visits from some friends and family, including my aunt who lives some distance away 🙂

20160604_121615 I got to network with some literary colleagues of all stripes: librarians, teachers, and fellow authors, to name a few.
20160605_133743 (2)

One of the coolest booths I saw was an artisan who makes shelves, etc. out of (humorous) groupings of old books. Look closely at these titles, and see if you don’t laugh.

humpty-dumpty

But the best thing was seeing so many kids enjoying reading. Two girls purchased copies of my books, then immediately dashed off to the lawn to start reading them. Whole groups of parents and kids sat down together for outdoor storytimes. It reminded me of some of the happiest moments of my own childhood, and restored my hope that not all kids are growing up as screen addicts. Not these ones, at least.

20160605_120009So, while this introvert couldn’t have been happier to curl up in the silence of her own room after all the activity, overall the Bay Area Book Festival was a jolly, literary, inspiring weekend.
20160605_103720

Hope you can make it next year!

Book Launch Day: The Illuminator Rising!!!

It’s here!!!

Book 3 ebook cover, Amazon, medium res

It’s launch day for my new book, The Illuminator Rising! I can’t even tell you how excited I am to introduce this new book. As the third (but not the last!) in the Voyages of the Legend series, it involves some of the characters I’ve written with before, but each and every book teaches me new things–and this book taught me a lot. And threw me more than a few surprises!

Here’s a sneak peek!

Jariel tapped out the rhythm with her foot. “I like fast dances.”

“Then you should dance,” Ellie said.

“Nah. You need a partner for this one.”

“So? Find one,” said Connor, rejoining the group.

“What? You volunteering?” Jariel rolled her eyes.

“Sure.”

“Sure? You don’t even know how to dance!”

“I do too.”

“Then why haven’t I ever seen you?”

“Maybe I didn’t want to.”

“You’re bluffing.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Then dance with me.” Connor cocked an eyebrow. “I dare you. Or are you too scared?”

“I am not scared.” Jariel stood up, dusting herself off. “Hurry up, slowpoke.”

Ellie watched as Jariel and Connor joined a reel on the dance floor. They fumbled awkwardly to find each other’s hands and perform the first set of spins. But then they seemed to find a rhythm. Both of them were strong and athletic, and they both had a good sense for the music. They began to clap in time and skipped down the line with energy. Their movements fell into practiced unison, as if they were working together to trim a sail or polish a deck.

“Do you…like to dance?” Kai asked Korrina.

Korrina gave a fierce laugh. “I like to fight.”

Kai nodded briskly. “Yes. Fighting is better. At least you know if you’re winning or losing.”

You can find The Illuminator Rising right now on Amazon as an e-book and paperback! (Amazon hasn’t yet linked the two together, but both are listed on my author page.)

If you’re local to the SF Bay Area and looking for a signed copy, you’re invited to my launch party on Saturday, June 25, at Village House of Books! There will be a reading, kid-friendly activities, snacks, and even a drawing for a free paperback copy of The Illuminator Rising!

If you can’t make the launch party, check out my News and Events page for other stops on this summer’s book release tour!

 

To celebrate this book’s launch day, I’m doing an e-book giveaway right here on the blog! Entering is easy!

Step 1: Subscribe to my e-mail newsletter. (The newsletter only includes book-related news and only comes once every few months! Since nobody likes spam. If you’re already subscribed, you can skip this step.)

Step 2: Leave a comment on this post, including 1) your name (first and last) and 2) one reason you’re excited to read The Illuminator Rising. 

On Monday, 6/13, I’ll draw a name from the comments and send a free e-book to the e-mail address you used to subscribe!

 

As always, I can’t do this without you! Please like, share, retweet, and leave an Amazon review to help launch this book! 🙂

Coming soon: Book 3, The Illuminator Rising!

Coming June 10, 2016:

Book 3 of The Voyages of the Legend: THE ILLUMINATOR RISING!!!

I’m so excited to see this book go live in just 3 1/2 weeks! The second-to-last book in the series, The Illuminator Rising is my longest and most complex book yet. Thanks to my awesome team of test readers, I hacked through a jungle of revisions with a literary machete, all to bring you a story that’s loaded with suspense and excitement. At least, that’s what I hope you think when you read it 🙂

20160420_150948
Hacking through a jungle of revisions.

Here’s a synopsis of Book 3: 

Driven from their home island of Rhynlyr, Ellie and her friends must solve a riddle to find the survivors of the Vestigia Roi. But instead of a safe haven, they discover a hopeless band of refugees paralyzed by fear. Strengthened by new allies and new gifts, the crew of the Legend faces dangers like never before. Can they escape being shot out of the sky, falling over the Edge of the world, or being engulfed by urken armies long enough to rally the Vestigia Roi? And can they rekindle a fire from the ashes of the One Kingdom before Draaken takes over the world?

The Illuminator Rising already received a 5-star rating from Readers’ Favorite:

“…a thrilling read…plenty of action…[Sayre] has a flair for being able to capture the interest of a reader and hold onto it.”

Or, in the words of award-winning author Angela Wallace:

“Painted in dazzling and exciting settings that inspire imagination, it is not just the illuminator coming into her own and rising, but the entire epic saga.”

Woohoo! I hope you’re as excited as I am to see this book published! When it releases, please help it take wing by retweeting, reblogging, Facebook sharing, and telling your friends (and of course, reading the book and writing a review on Amazon)!

I’ll be running a blog tour during the first week and a half of the book’s life, so follow along for some fun reviews, interviews, guest posts, and even giveaways! If you’re local to the San Francisco Bay Area, I even have an in-person book tour in the works–sign up for my e-mail newsletter or watch my News and Events page for dates and locations!

While you wait to read the actual book, here’s a mischievous little teaser I made on Wordle, containing the 150 most-used words from The Illuminator Rising. Mwahahaha 🙂

 

Book3wordle

 

Book 2 cover reveal!!

Happy Wednesday! I have something exciting to show you: the beautiful, second-edition cover for Book 2, The Illuminator’s Test! 

Book 2 ebook cover, Amazon, medium

Ta-da! Isn’t it gorgeous? Another masterwork of Jenny Zemanek at Seedlings Design Studio. I love the way this cover blends together beauty and danger: two elements that intertwine throughout this story.

The new edition features a new map as well as classroom-ready discussion questions and project ideas. It will replace the first edition on Amazon early next week, so if you want an illustrated, first-edition copy for your collection, make sure you grab one right away!

In other news, last week was Children’s Book Week at Village House of Books, and I was one of several guest authors at their Saturday party. I got to read a section of The Illuminator’s Gift to some adorable kids, sit in the Queen Chair (yes, that’s a thing!), sign a few copies, and even get my picture taken with Curious George!

20160507_142846

I also scored a first-edition, signed copy of Kate DiCamillo’s newest book, Raymie Nightingalein its special Independent Bookstore Edition! Kate DiCamillo is one of my all-time favorite authors and a personal hero of mine. Coming home to snuggle up with a new book of hers is one of the best feelings I can imagine 🙂 (As of Saturday, Village House of Books still had a few copies left, so call them if you’re looking for one!)

Stay tuned for more news about Book 3, The Illuminator Rising, coming June 2016!!!

Good Books & Good Friends: The Bay Area Kids’ Book Fair

Woohoo! The 2nd edition of The Illuminator’s Gift is now live on Amazon! The old cover may still appear on the Amazon preview, but if you order the paperback or e-book now, you’ll get the beautiful 2nd-edition cover as well as all the new features inside, including a new map and classroom-ready discussion questions and project ideas. Yay!

In other news, last Saturday I had a booth at the Bay Area Kids’ Book Fair in Sunnyvale, CA. In one action-packed day, lots of things happened.

20160416_092804

First of all, my mom and I set up this snazzy booth in less than 45 minutes! Yay us!

20160416_115058

My wonderful teacher friends Jordan and Annie stopped by to hang out and see what I really do in my secret author life. Thanks for coming, guys!

20160416_110027

I also got to meet this amazing young lady. She couldn’t wait for her class to finish reading The Illuminator’s Gift and The Illuminator’s Test, so she got her own copies (promising, of course, not to spoil the endings for her class). After finishing the books, she drew this incredible illumination!

20160418_112716

Isn’t she talented? She gave me the drawing, which is now proudly displayed in my office.

20160416_101750
Speaking of talented artists, my mom did hand painting with designs from The Voyages of the Legend. All day long, kids begged her for vines of roses, compasses, and shiny double-colored lightning bolts. She’s the best.
And because I can’t ever leave a book event without buying a book, I met Aaron Safronoff and his team at Neoglyphic Entertainment and bought Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall. It’s a fascinating young adult novel with both black-and-white illustrations and full-spread, full-color illustrations–almost like a hybrid novel/graphic novel. Neoglyphic has spun it off into a video game as well. I’m always really interested in cross-genre projects, so it piqued my interest. Technically the book doesn’t release until April 27th, so I got an early AND signed copy! Next week you can find it on Amazon

So many lovely people and lovely books, all in one short day. And now, because I have used up all my introvert superpowers for the moment, I shall be in hiding for the next few days…getting Book 3 ready for you to read, of course!

Cover reveal!!

Dun dun DUN!

To celebrate the release of Book 3, coming June 2016, Books 1 and 2 are getting a makeover!

These new editions include beautiful new covers, a new map, and discussion questions and project ideas perfect for classrooms, homeschooling, and book clubs.

So without further ado, I reveal the new cover for The Illuminator’s Gift!!!

Final ebook cover, BN, smallest

Eee! This cover totally takes my breath away. It’s the work of the immensely talented Jenny Zemanek at Seedlings Design Studio. She worked with me long and hard, bringing to life the flying ship Legend and the magical feel of this book series. I couldn’t be more dazzled.

And while we’re looking at pretty things, here is the new map of Aletheia, designed by Brian Garabrant of Brian Garabrant Illustration. I love the way he made my flying islands fly!

Map 1 White

These fabulous new editions (print and e-book) will be available on Amazon.com starting next Monday, April 18th (assuming I don’t get eaten by the Technical Difficulties Monster). They will also appear in bookstores shortly thereafter. You can get a signed copy at one of my upcoming events, including Children’s Book Week at Village House of Books or the Bay Area Book Festival in June. (If you’re looking to snag a first-edition copy, the Bay Area Kids’ Book Fair this Saturday, April 16, is your last chance!)

I hope you love the new look as much as I do!

What Dystopian Novels Can Teach Us about ISIS

I am still in mourning over the worldwide terror attacks of last week.

I grieve for the families who lost someone in the violence. I grieve for a sense of innocence lost. And I am afraid.

ISIS strikes fear into my heart. A militant organization that wants to kill everyone who is different from them, no  questions asked, seems like a force of unconquerable evil. How can you reason with such a juggernaut of hate?

I don’t enjoy talking about politics, but somehow worldwide bombings of civilians seem to fit in a different category. And while I can’t pretend to understand all the politics behind ISIS, I have done some reading since the terror attacks. This extremist group is sweeping through parts of Syria and Iraq, killing anyone they believe to be an infidel or an apostate from their brand of Islam. And that includes lots of other Muslims. According to some sources, over 220,000 people have been killed in Syria to date, and 12 million more are refugees. Families. Children who have never known a world at peace. Last week’s attacks raised the question of where these people can go. Several world leaders are stepping forward to offer them refuge.

And in the midst of my grief for the victims of last week’s terror attacks, I think what grieves me most is the way I see some people reacting to the question of these Syrian refugees. Political figures who promote the complete and unconditional closing of American borders are the most visible. But we on the ground are part of it too. Last weekend, many people overlaid red, white, and blue stripes on their Facebook profile pictures to show solidarity with France. I did it too; I think it’s a lovely symbol of compassion.

But this week, some of those same striped-profile-picture people are campaigning to completely ban Syrian refugees from entering the United States. Homeless civilians fleeing from the violence of ISIS. Families, women, children. Some more vocal campaigners have even gone so far as to label all Muslims or all Syrians as terrorists.

There’s so much hate. Prejudice. Cruelty. Revenge.

And the reason for it all? Fear.

Fear that what happened in Paris could happen here. Fear that there may be terrorists mixed in with fleeing Syrian refugees. Perhaps, deep down, a fundamental fear of people who are different.

I’m afraid too. My knee-jerk reaction is to want to hide under the covers, let the rest of the world deal with its terrorists, keep them away from me and mine and everything will be okay.

But in a conversation with my brother over the weekend, I discovered one of the reasons underlying my love of dystopian literature. If you’ve hung around this blog a while, you know it’s a favorite genre of mine. I discuss it with my students frequently. I’ve always found it thought-provoking.

But this week I realized one reason I love dystopian literature is because it prepares us for situations like today’s–situations where fear is a monster in the dark and everyone is gripping a baseball bat, trying to keep it away. Because ultimately, dystopian premises begin with fear. For example:

The Hunger Games: The Capitol’s fear of a second political uprising leads them to exact a yearly tribute of two teenagers from every district (Capitol excluded) to die on public television.

Fahrenheit 451: The nation’s fear of unhappiness from the ideas in books leads to forced federal censorship, the banning of free speech, and a society based on mindless entertainment.

The Giver: The society’s fear of the famines and wars of the past leads to the systematic elimination of diversity, memory, and choice, ultimately leading to a community without love.

 

In each book, the dystopian (literally: bad land) setting arises because a climate of fear leads the society to make sweepingly inhumane choices: gladiator games, censorship, euthanizing society’s weak and helpless.

Today, in America, we have a unique opportunity to build our own dystopia. We can certainly let hate dictate our actions toward innocent people fleeing violence. (Side note: hate and  caution aren’t synonymous. I’m all in favor of background checks and security screenings for those applying to enter the United States, from Syria or anywhere else). But if we shut out Syrian refugees completely, the game is already over. Fear wins. ISIS wins. The juggernaut of hate will have successfully manipulated us into playing its game.

But something else about dystopian novels is that the hero is usually someone who stands up to society–who chooses something bigger than the cultural mania of fear  and hate. Back to the same 3 books:

The Hunger Games: Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Games, sacrificing herself out of love for her sister.

Fahrenheit 451: Guy Montag sacrifices his home and his job to rescue, hide, memorize, and share books because he believes in the power of ideas to heal a society.

The Giver: Jonas absorbs and shares memories, ultimately sacrificing his place in the community to give his society a chance to choose again and love again.

I feel so small in this global crisis. I’m not a politician or a lawmaker, and I don’t understand everything. I’m only one person with a blog, some books, and a heart that yearns to help suffering people the way I’d want them to help me. So I hold tight to my dystopian novels, and to the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:

Stand against the fear. Combat hate with compassion. Be a voice for light and love this week.

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.)

20150423_111401

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:

Brand

-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!