On Saturday, July 20th, I entered a world of dragons and magic. Between hunting for dragon eggs, dining on Indian cuisine, and watching a young warrior find a dragon, I felt transported to another realm.
Author S.P. Jayaraj hosted a phenomenal launch party for his book The Secret of the Zipacna Dragons. He held the launch at Groundswell in Cedar Rapids, IA, a cafe that follows the mission of providing a place where everyone has access to fresh, healthy food, regardless of their ability to pay. From the first moment you walked through the door, you were greeted with origami dragons, riddles, prizes, and the smell of butter chicken.
Three wooden walls positioned in a triangle in the center of the room bore riddles created by S.P. Each was a clue to finding one of the hand-made dragon eggs hidden throughout the room. Egg finders not only got to keep the eggs, they also received additional prizes.
The room exploded with people rushing around (both inside and out) trying to decipher the clues and be the first to find the eggs. It didn't matter if you were an adult or a child, everyone got in on the action, myself included. And while I didn't find one of the eggs, it was so much fun teaming up with people to try to figure out the riddles. You'd think all my time reading Redwall riddles would have prepared me!
Some eggs were hidden in tables or high above us in the crevice of a wall. And one special egg teased us in the branches of a tree just outside of the building. When it was down to the last egg which challenged the hunters to find the "Winter Elf," we were given one last clue. "She's in this room." I think every woman was approached and asked, "Are you the winter Elf?"
In the end, all of the eggs were recovered by these smiling faces.
Now, you would expect there to be a reading at a book launch. What I didn't expect was there to be two readers, a play, and scenery as well! Author Mindy Mejia, keeping to the theme, read from her book The Dragon Keeper. Behind her, a canvas wall painted to look like a story helped us get lost in her world.
And then it was S.P.'s turn to read an excerpt from his book, only, he did it in script style. Local actors picked up wooden weapons and battled in front of a castle scene then escaped into the woods where the main character, Gradni, was confronted by a roaring dragon. I think about half of the people in the room jumped when the actress unleashed her mighty cry.
It was delightful to watch the story come to life through the play. It definitely made me want to watch/read more.
You can check out the entire readings and play here.
As if writing a book, making dragon eggs, and putting on a play and party weren't enough, S.P. also cooked authentic Indian cuisine for everyone. We feasted on a mix of Dhal (yellow lentils), rice (basmati), potato curry, butter chicken, and Indian ice cream, and they were absolutely delicious! People went up multiple times to get additional servings and chatted with others, both familiar and new. There was such a great sense of camaraderie, and how can there not be when you're sharing the love of books?
Overall, it was a fantastic night, and not even the storm outside attempting to break through the blistering heat put a dampener on the evening. It certainly gave me ideas for future launches, and made me excited for whatever S.P. Jayaraj has in store for his next book.
So if you're looking for an epic fantasy to read all about elves, dragons, and more, check out The Secret of the Zipacna Dragons.
About The Secret of the Zipacna Dragons
The young Gradni has always known that dragons were evil, a belief widely held by the four people of Adijari - his own elves who can summon the energy in the atmosphere, the devs who are empowered by light, the amesha who have a kinship with the earth, and the qui-lahk who share a bond with animals. When his father dies fighting the dragons of Zipacna, Gradni’s only goal is to follow in his footsteps and help destroy the dragons once and for all. But after being recruited by the manipulative Mogurn, Gradni must compete against Erdun, an amesha who has been imbued with the power of the Fire Spirit Ta’ar, and trained by the dev cult that has already eradicated one of the eight dragon species. In addition to being a pawn in a political game of conquest, Gradni starts to doubt if the dragons really are the villains he always thought they were. Alone and without guidance he wonders which side deserves his loyalty, his own people who are offering him everything he thought he wanted, or the misunderstood dragons whom he has hated his entire life.
Photography: All photography and video was done by Wayne Anderson at email@example.com.