To me, it feels appropriate that this book goes out into the world on the weekend Daylight Savings Time ends. The days get shorter, the brilliant trees go bare, and we must remember how to be in the dark.
But this is also one of my favorite times of year. As an introvert, I love few things more than curling up with a good cup of tea and a cozy blanket. Yes, there’s less daylight. But that can also mean a slower pace of life. (Maybe) a less hectic social calendar. More time to process and think, to read and just be. It’s a good time for authenticity and reflection. A good time for poetry.
Fire by Night isn’t an easy book. It’s raw; dark in places. But as the days shorten and the dark comes early, it’s also about the authenticity and hope to be found along the way.
I hope it is a quiet companion at the close of the year.
Last autumn, I gave a TEDx talk called “Do Something Worth Writing.” It was about the strange feeling of accomplishing a dream and the disorientation that can come with that. Writing The Voyages of the Legend series was the work of over a decade. Finishing it left me wondering: what’s next?
The answer is: poetry.
With a mixture of nerves and delight, I announce my 5th book: Fire by Night, releasing on November 2nd. It is a collection of 50 poems grouped around the theme of wilderness wandering. These poems explore dark places, such as loss, grief, depression, anxiety, and spiritual deconstruction. Yet they also catch glimpses of love, joy, wonder, and above all, hope–a theme this book shares with my previous novels.
This is the most personal and honest piece of writing I’ve ever published, which is why it’s both exciting and scary. But I share this book because I think every person’s voice has something unique to contribute to the music of the world, and because courage means taking a step in the right direction in spite of fear.
The e-book is available to pre-order on Amazon now, but both the e-book and paperback will officially launch on November 2nd. After that, Books Inc. Campbellwill stock signed copies in time for Christmas! I’ll be publishing poem snippets to my social media pages (links at the bottom of this email) so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming clips like this one!
Prayers are candles
in a dim stone church.
Some are slim tapers
in tall glass flutes.
Mine are squat,
smeared with sooty fingerprints,
Under a rock is the answer. A very particular, very heavy rock.
I spent this last year teaching.
Yes, last fall I accepted a job with a one-on-one private school. I taught English and Life Skills to students with a variety of learning needs, from ADHD and dyslexia to autism and severe anxiety.
It was very rewarding. I met some incredible kids and inspiring teachers. Education is amazing, because you literally get to see your work growing up in front of your eyes. Someday I’ll probably end up writing about the experience.
It was also hard. Extremely hard. Even if I don’t mention the hours (ahem, unpaid overtime), that doesn’t even begin to touch on the stress and the chaos, the student meltdowns, the last-minute sub requests, the weekly Contagious Diseases Roulette, the discipline, the lengthy and critical parent emails, the active shooter drills.
If you can read this, go thank whoever taught you to read. No, really. Stop what you’re doing. Okay.
For myself, I decided to step away from the position at the end of the school year. While my teaching experience left me with immense respect for everyone who works to help young people grow up okay in a world that isn’t, I also realized that being a full-time classroom teacher isn’t for me. A worthwhile experience in itself. And the reason I have been mostly MIA from the writing/publishing world for a year.
Which was one of the hardest things about this job. Writing gives me life, and it was so tough to have nearly no time to work toward my passion. However, in spite of the chaos, I did still manage to accomplish a few things on the writing front this year. I wasn’t very good about communicating them, though, so here’s a brief recap in case you missed anything!
I’m just happy I stayed alive for a year, let alone published anything!
Now that I’m starting to recover from a year’s worth of lost sleep, the creative juices are flowing once more. I have a few new projects coming down the pipe, at least two of which I hope to release before the end of the year! Keep your eyes peeled for:
An audiobook of The Illuminator Rising, read by my awesome British narrator, Wendy Wolfson!
A completely new book! It’s still very much under construction, but I will say that it is a book of poems.
I focused on fiction writing during my English studies and have never primarily thought of myself as a poet. Yet I’ve been writing poetry since I was 12 and have read, studied, and taught poetry in various contexts. I’ve even written about poetry, shared a few poems, and intervieweda poet on this blog. More importantly, poetry is the clearest way I know to give voice to the truth as I see it. And to make music with words, because words are beautiful and interesting and filled with all the meaning in the world. It will be very different in genre and tone from my previous books, yet I can already see that they will share a number of themes, such as loss, hope, and redemption.
More details to come! For now, I am happy to be climbing out from under my particular rock.
A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very, very long time:
I got to meet Kate DiCamillo!
You probably already know who Kate DiCamillo is, because she’s THAT famous. But if you don’t know, then it’s high time you had the pleasure. She’s written numerous short stories, picture books, early readers, and middle-grade novels. She’s one of, oh, SIX people to ever win two Newbery medals AND a Newbery Honor, plus she served as the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature in 2014-2015.
Also, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, she’s my writing idol. Her books (two of which are on my Top 30 Favorite Books of All Time list) touch my heart and make me both laugh and cry. I love to teach them almost as much as I love to read them. Their key themes are empathy, creativity, community, and the mixture of joy and sorrow we encounter in life. I want to be her when I grow up.
Which is why I didn’t think twice about driving 3 1/2 hours to see her speak on a Friday night. She’s based in the Midwest and almost never makes appearances in northern California. To borrow a Hamilton reference, I wasn’t about to throw away my shot.
Listening to her speak was worth every minute of the drive. She was funny, down-to-earth, and supremely articulate. She spent most of the time fielding questions from the audience, and her answers validated so many of the things I have experienced and come to believe about writing. One of my favorite quotes of the night:
“As a writer, you have to have everything open: your eyes, and your ears, and your mind, and your heart.”
And that’s why she’s amazing.
I didn’t even feel awkward standing in the signing line with a gazillion starry-eyed elementary schoolers, because there were plenty of other starry-eyed adults in line too. I felt like a teeny bopper at a boy-band concert. Except…you know. Without the boy band. Or the concert. Much more fun.
And finally I got to meet her! In spite of the throngs of adoring and noisy fans around her, she was so personable and easy to talk with. We talked about writing and publishing and the themes of loss in her books. She signed all the books I brought/bought (including four copies of Because of Winn-Dixie, because, you know, a person needs four).
And I’m pretty sure I gushed about her all the way home. Life goal, unlocked.
Last weekend was the Bay Area Book Festival–the most bookish weekend of the year!
For the fourth year running, downtown Berkeley closed off several square blocks of traffic, and I ran a booth on Milvia Street. The difference this year was that, for the first time, I had the complete Voyages of the Legend series on my display table. It was a strange feeling to see the work of nearly a decade spread out in front of me.
It was really fun to see faces both new and familiar at this year’s fair! After working so hard to put out Book 4 last fall, I was especially encouraged by returning readers who came by specifically to pick up The Illuminated Kingdom.
My lovely mom did hand painting, using glittery designs from each of the four Voyages books.
It was a chilly, blustery day in Berkeley, but the carnival atmosphere was unmissable. The smell of kettle corn drifted tantalizingly from the food court and kids rode the mini train up and down the street, waving at passersby, all day long.
My booth neighbors, authors Raenell Jones and B.C. Hatch of Little ChickLit Books, were both lovely. Little ChickLit had this photo wall supporting girls in embracing descriptors beyond “pretty,” and asked me to pick a word of my own.
I picked the word “brave”–which not only represents Ellie’s journey in The Voyages of the Legend, but my own as I’ve navigated writing and publishing this series over the last ten years. It felt fitting.
One of the most common questions I hear at book events is: “Is The Illuminator’s Gift available as an audiobook?”
I’m delighted to announce that the answer will soon be:
For the first time this summer, you can follow the story of The Illuminator’s Gift in a whole new way: through your favorite set of headphones! (And I can’t wait for you to meet my incredible British narrator!)
Stay tuned for more details!
Also: have you already marked your calendar for the 2018 Bay Area Book Festival? I’ll be there on Saturday, April 28th, with all four Voyages of the Legend books, plus free bookmarks and hand painting! Hope to see you there!
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 Weston 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!
Release day for The Illuminated Kingdom is just TWO DAYS away! To celebrate the launch of this final book of The Voyages of the Legend series, there will be a series of festive events, both in person and online. Here’s the list!
11/3: BOOK LAUNCH DAY!! Grab a copy and start reading!
11/4-11/17: Online book tour! Several awesome authors/creatives/book reviewers have graciously agreed to host book tour stops on their websites to celebrate the launch of The Illuminated Kingdom. Stop by!
11/4: Fantasy author Angela Wallace: book launch announcement
11/5: Fantasy author Kasper Beaumont: interview
11/6: Anglophile and serenity author Pauline Wiles: interview
11/8: Children’s author Jenn Castro: book launch announcement
11/10: Writer and artist Caleb Fong: book launch announcement
11/11: Fantasy author Intisar Khanani: book launch announcement
11/12: Author and book reviewer Anela Deen: book launch announcement
11/17: Fantasy author A.R. Silverberry: book launch announcement and e-book giveaway
11/18: In-person launch party at Books Inc. Santa Clara! Drop in starting at 2 PM for snacks, activities, reading, Q&A, and book signing!
12/17: Book signing atRecycle Bookstore West! 9:30 AM-12:30 PM (during the Campbell farmers’ market)–one last chance to get Book 4 signed before Christmas!
Celebration time! I hope to see you at some point during the festivities!
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!!!