When Not in the Writing Cave…

(Before you read this post, you should go grab your sale e-book of The Illuminator’s Test! It’s on sale July 21-23, with the lowest prices at the beginning of the weekend–just 99 cents!)

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, because I’ve been in the writing cave, working hard to get BOOK 4 of The Voyages of the Legend ready for you to read this fall! Title reveal coming soon…

But when I’m not in the writing cave, sometimes I get outside and talk to people 😉 Here’s an update on some fun, bookish events I’ve been up to lately!

My booth at the Bay Area Book Festival (Berkeley, CA). The best part was seeing readers I’d met last year who came back for more! I’m already looking forward to next year 🙂

A school visit to an amazing classroom. I can’t even believe the ideas these brilliant and creative 5th graders came up with during our workshop on “Creating a Story”!

In June, the Recycle Bookstore Book Club read The Illuminator’s Gift, then invited me to join their conversation! Such fun talking books with people who like to read them!

I was thrilled and honored that The Illuminator’s Gift was named a Finalist for the Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition and a Semifinalist for the BookLife Prize in Fiction. I did an interview for Shelf Unbound, which you can read here. BookLife gave the book a score of 8.75/10 and described the story as “…dramatic, steadily building adventures set in a vividly imagined world.” Yay!

I joined author Jody Lee Mott on his Dream Gardens podcast to talk about one of my favorite, favorite books: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Kate DiCamillo is one of my writing heroes, and it was really fun to articulate just what I admire about her writing! Listen in to hear our conversation.

Video is probably my least favorite publicity medium (I’m always more comfortable behind than in front of a camera) but I’m working on it! I now have a YouTube presence, thanks to Alida Winternheimer and Kathryn Arnold of the Story Works Round Table. We had a fun video chat about the characteristics of middle-grade fantasy, with a second episode releasing in the future.

Phew! That was a lot! Time to get back to the writing cave now. But if you run a classroom, book group, podcast, or other literary event, I’d love to do a workshop or Q&A with you! Click on my Contact page to get in touch!

Illuminator Rising, meet My Little Pony

I never really got into My Little Pony as a kid, but my author friend Angela Wallace did.

So, to celebrate the release of my third book, The Illuminator RisingAngela designed and drew this book-themed pegasus pony! Awesome, right? The pony follows the fiery color palette of the book cover. I’ll call her Mharra, after the island where that erupting volcano is located. And I’m entering her in #PonyFest16 on Rebecca Enzor’s blog!

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For reference, here’s the book cover:

And a quick book description:

Thirteen-year-old Ellie and her crewmates aboard the flying ship Legend must rally the fearful survivors of their fleet and rise up against the deadly evil threatening to conquer their world. 

Fun times!

Recipe for a New Book

In a comfortable seating area, combine one new notebook, one mug strong coffee, and assorted writing utensils to taste.

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Add one absurdly multicolored spreadsheet.

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Combine ingredients until they have formed a suitably large mess on the office floor.

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Pour mixture onto blank pages.
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Get excited, because Book 4 is coming! 🙂

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.

The Illuminator Rising: Cover Reveal!!!

Book 3, The Illuminator Rising, releases online THIS Friday, June 10th!!!

To celebrate, I’m running a blog tour with the help of some amazing authors/creatives. There will be book reviews, interviews, and guest posts, and some even include giveaways of Book 3!

Here’s the full schedule of hosts and events: 

June 8: Release announcement with children’s author Jenn Castro
June 9: Interview and giveaway with craft author Margaret Bloom
June 10: BOOK 3 RELEASE DAY! Party and giveaway right here on my website!
June 11: Guest post: “Traveling Writer” on the blog of fantasy author Angela Wallace
June 12: Guest post: “Five Tips to Jumpstart Your Creativity” on the blog of fantasy author W.R. Gingell
June 13: Book review and release announcement on the blog of fantasy author Rabia Gale
June 14: Guest post: “Writing to Music” on the blog of fantasy author A.R. Silverberry
June 15: Guest post: “Insanity-Free Revision” and giveaway on the blog of fantasy author D.M. Stoddard
June 16: Author-character interview on the blog of fantasy author Intisar Khanani 
June 18: Radio interview with artist and tech guru Caleb Fong 

Follow along to join the fun and (maybe) win a free book!

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…

…the cover reveal for The Illuminator Rising!!!

Book 3 ebook cover, Amazon, medium res

Another awesome work by Jenny Zemanek of Seedlings Design Studio! Leave a comment to tell me what you think! The book releases on Amazon June 10th!!!

Book Launch: The First Chill of Autumn, W.R. Gingell

Hey everybody!

I’m not going to lie–one of my favorite things about being an author, especially an independent author, is getting to meet other authors. Unlike much of the world, I’ve found the book community to be a really team-focused, everybody-can-win environment. Which is how I was lucky enough to meet and interview W.R. Gingell, a fellow fantasy author.

Today is launch day for W.R.’s latest novella, “The First Chill of Autumn.” To celebrate, W.R. has graciously stopped by my blog for an interview!

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Welcome, W.R.! So tell us–how did you first get started writing?

Well, I remember that my first story was written in 1st grade, and was something about a family following a sea-turtle into the sea and having an adventure underwater with mermaids, shadowy, dangerous sharks, and underwater volleyball (?!) That wasn’t really the start of it, though. I wrote that because I was told to write a story. I don’t think I wrote it because I wanted to write it. The second was a 10-page saga (IT WAS A SAGA IN MY TINY MIND, OK?) when I was about grade two, and that was written because it was adventurous and featured my then-best-friend Kylie. It involved lions, tigers, bears, and anacondas (on an Australian mountain, no less. My tiny mind had no idea of geography, just which animals were the most ferocious and adventurous). It was, oddly enough, written from 1st person POV, but with the actual heroine being observed from that POV. I think that shows some greatness of mind…or maybe I was always just a bit weird…

That story was closer to being written because I wanted to write it, but I didn’t really begin to write because I wanted to write until I was about ten or eleven. That was after years of reading and having my head stuffed with ideas that just wanted to come out, and when I began to really write, I never looked back. I started with drawings and character-word lists, but found that stopped me really writing; so I gave up on those and concentrated on getting the actual story down. I don’t think any of those earlier projects were ever finished, but I do remember my first finished book (80k-odd words, I think) at fourteen. It was called Those Mad Bradleys. Since then, it’s seen a complete rewrite, and will see another before it is (hopefully) released next year…

Wow! You got started early! So what draws you to fantasy/fairy tales?

I’ve always loved fairy tales. There’s a magical, dangerous feel to them, and all the earlier ones were written with huge spaces for creative freedom in their plainness. It meant that I could take them and shape them and turn them into whatever I wanted to, while still keeping the magic.

What inspired your current series?

I have two current series. One is the Two Monarchies Sequence, which is one book in (I’m working on the second at the moment); and the other is the Shards of a Broken Sword trilogy, which is being finished May 31st! TMS was inspired by fairy tales (Spindle is a sort of a cross between Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel), and SOABS was inspired by Jack Heckel’s Charming Tales, which are light-hearted and rather hilarious. His dragonish POV and a tickling question or two that his books raised in my mind went on to be the story seeds of two of those novellas.

Did anything unexpected happen as you were writing your new book?

No 😦 I’m such a boring person. Though I did get a resurgence of bronchitis, if that helps?

Oh, wait! I rediscovered my love for Owl City and found out that I can write standing up (and dancing), so there’s that…

I think that counts as interesting! So why did you choose self-publishing? What’s your favorite thing about it?

Ah! My creative freedom! My much-larger-cut of the royalties! Seriously, though, I love almost everything about it. I originally chose SP over TP (wait, that doesn’t sound right…) because I loved the immediacy of it, the better pay factor, and the fact that I wouldn’t have to change things I loved because someone else had a different vision for my books. I love being able to choose my own cover artist. I love learning what works and what doesn’t work in advertising. I love the new worlds that have opened up to me, and the new people I’ve met. It gets overwhelming sometimes (especially when I’m sick), but by and large, there isn’t much I’d change about it.

Wow! Especially because you run all aspects of your writing business, you have to be really disciplined. So what gets you into creative mode?

Sometimes it’s music. Sometimes it’s a day-dreaming session. More often, I’m not in the mood, and I have to sit down and write anyway. Sometimes you have to wake up the creative mode before it wants to get out of bed. It’s a moody teenager, but it’s worth making it work for you rather than the other way around.

I love it! What are three books you’d want with you on a desert island?

Oh, so hard! I would definitely have Pride and Prejudice. I would also probably cheat and take my Barchester Chronicles omnibus (thus bringing about six extra books); and I would bring either Kate Stradling’s Kingdom of Ruses or The Legendary Inge.

An omnibus is possibly cheating, but since I’d do the same, I’ll overlook it. Which character in your new book do you relate to the most? Why?

That’s also kinda tough. It would be either Aerwn or Dion. Dion for the pure fact that her physical weakness of shaking and throwing up when under pressure or under unpleasant circumstances is something that I struggle with on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. I’m used to being forced to do things while feeling awful, just because they need to be done and I’m the one who has to do them. I feel for Dion because she has to do much bigger things than I need to do, while feeling worse.

Aerwn, I relate to because she’s the one looking on. She wants to be the one to do things and she’s impatient, because she knows she’s not the one who has to do the things. She has to sit back and watch, because she’s not the special one. So she has to do what she can in the background. She has to fight and struggle and work, and she’ll never be the hero. But she keeps working anyway, because what she’s doing also needs to be done.

 

Thank you so much for stopping by, W.R.! It’s great to hear about your creative process, and congratulations on your new book launch! 

Here’s where you can find a copy of “The First Chill of Autumn” online. It’s only 99 cents at the moment, so check it out!

Amazon
B & N 
iBooks  
Kobo
Smashwords 

To follow W.R., check out her blog and sign up for her e-mail newsletter! 

Here’s her author bio:

W.R. Gingell is a Tasmanian author who lives in a house with a green door. She loves to rewrite fairytales with a twist or two–and a murder or three–and original fantasy where dragons, enchantresses, and other magical creatures abound. Occasionally she will also dip her toes into the waters of SciFi.

W.R. spends her time reading, drinking an inordinate amount of tea, and slouching in front of the fire to write. Like Peter Pan, she never really grew up, and is still occasionally to be found climbing trees.

And a description of “The First Chill of Autumn”:

Llassar is an occupied country– but nobody seems to know it.

Fae began to filter slowly into the land shortly after the birth of the crown princess, Dion ferch Alawn, supposedly fleeing a dark threat in Faery known as the Guardians. But that was fifteen years ago, and now there isn’t a town in Llassar that isn’t populated by or under the control of the fae.

Smaller, weaker, and less talented at magic, Llassarians are quickly finding out that there’s no fighting the invasion that crept in so quietly and politely. Even the castle isn’t free of fae: those closest to the king and queen are faery advisors.

When Dion ferch Alawn returns from a carefully sanitised tour of Outer Llassar, the most exciting thing she expects from the near future is the present her twin sister Aerwn promised for their seventeenth birthday.

Then her carriage breaks down, and Dion gets a taste of what the real Llassar has become: desperate, enslaved, and ripe for rebellion. Getting home safely is just the first problem she faces: the real struggle begins when Dion returns to the castle. Her new knowledge is inconvenient and unwelcome– to declare it, treason.

 

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 🙂

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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 🙂

 

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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.

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

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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!

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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!

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

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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!