Ra the Mighty – a giveaway

I’m delighted to tell you that the lovely folks at Purrington Post are offering a giveaway of five free copies of RA THE MIGHTY.  As you can see, their gorgeous cat Newman is a fan:

 

You can enter the giveaway here: https://www.thepurringtonpost.com/ra-the-mighty-book/

To win, you need to be in the US or have someone in the US who can accept a package for you. (Apologies to my friends who live elsewhere.) Five giveaway winners will be chosen on the 26th and will each receive one book.

If you love cats, Purrington Post is a great place to visit, especially when the rest of the internet gets to be too much. It features lots of good cat info and cat stories, plus a range of cat-related products. (A word to the wise: check out Captain Ginger, the cats-in-space comic!) And of course it has lots and lots of fabulous cat photos, including plenty more of Newman.

Good luck to everyone who enters the giveaway!

In other news, I’ve seen the draft cover for RA #2, and it is wonderful. I’m grateful to Sarah Horne for doing such an amazing job with all the art for the book. The cover is still being tweaked, so it’s under wraps, but I can’t wait to share it with you.

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Libraries, Lifelines, and Funny Books

In 2015, I was asked if I could save our town’s school library. It was in desperate shape, and we had no librarian and no funding. Getting it back on its feet was a major job.

At the time, I wasn’t in great shape myself. But how could I turn my back on a library in trouble?

Reader, I said yes.

I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of near 1000 hours of volunteer work — and some major life lessons. Today I’m over at MG Book Village talking about what it was like to bring that library back to life — and how it taught me about the power of funny books. Come and visit — and definitely check out MG Book Village while you’re there! It’s a wonderful blog and community for middle-grade writers and readers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something for the weekend: The Ra Race

I have something fun for you this weekend — a game my 11-year-old daughter designed.

My daughter loves to make games, and this summer she came up with one based on Ra the Mighty. Her model was a 16th-century game called Goose that is still a lot of fun to play today. Instead of geese, however, her board featured Ra and his friends:

 

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Note the carefully drawn symbols. Some of my favorites are the cat snacks (which mean “Have a snack and miss a turn”), the leopard Aat (“Begin the game again”) and an eye  (“Yay! You found the Eye of Horus amulet! You win!).

She made up instructions, too — and even little game tokens. I loved it!

So she and my husband made a printer-friendly version. Then Ra’s illustrator, Sarah Horne, joined in the fun. So now we all proudly present to you our final game board for THE RA RACE, in full color!

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If you’d like to try it out, please download the board and instructions for free on my website. We’d love to hear how it goes!

 

Ferris wheel

The fair came to our town this month, as it does every year.  So of course I went up in the ferris wheel with my daughter — the very same Ferris wheel we’ve been riding in for years.

British ferris wheels don’t have all the safety precautions that American ones do, as I discovered when she was three. I remember holding onto her for dear life, trying to keep her from squiggling under the slender bar that was the only barrier between us and the far-away ground.

She’s a much more restful companion now, and I don’t fear for anyone’s life. We laugh and wave our hands and enjoy the view. But there’s still always a moment when the Ferris wheel jerks to a stop, and we swing out at the tippy-top, and my heart skips a beat. The whole world swirls beneath us. I see clear past the houses and the hills to the distant horizon, and I think of these lines from Tuck Everlasting:

“Everything’s a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way it is.”

And I give my girl a hug.

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Photo by Ashley Elena on Pexels.com

 

 

Fun and mysteries

Just a quick post today to say that I’m delighted to be a guest on Elizabeth Dulemba’s wonderful blog today, talking about writing, inspiration, and unexpected story twists. And also about how the BBC is a boon to writers and how beetles make things better. (Ra’s scarab beetle buddy would agree with me there.)

I even take a closer look at a goddess.

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Yes, I’m looking at you, Bastet!

 

For more fun and mysteries, come check out my post at Elizabeth’s site. And do take a look at the rest of her great offerings, including her newest book, CROW BY CROW!

On writing a funny book in dark times

Today is RA THE MIGHTY’s book birthday! It’s my sixth book, so you’d think that book birthdays would feel very routine by now. Not so. They’re a cause for celebration every time — and maybe especially this time.

When the idea for this book came to me, I was in the midst of a truly terrible year. I’d had my first emergency ride in an ambulance, multiple hospital consultations, surgery far from home, serious surgical complications, flu, pneumonia, pleuritis, further complications, and a flare-up of lupus. And the year wasn’t over yet.

On top of all that,  I felt burned out as a writer. I’d just finished a YA trilogy written under grueling deadlines, and then I’d written a book that my agent didn’t want. I thought I might never write a book again.

But then one day a cat showed up. An imaginary cat, true — but one bursting with personality. A cat who made me laugh. Soon I discovered he had a scarab beetle buddy, who made me smile, too.

Write a mystery for us, they begged. A funny mystery.

I’m sorry, I told them. You’ve got the wrong writer. Maybe I could do a mystery, if I got my health back and I worked hard. But I can’t do funny.  I wish I could, but humor isn’t one of my gifts. You’ll have to find somebody else.

But the cat and the beetle stuck around. Just give it a try, they urged me. It’ll be fun. You’ll see.

So I finally did. And they were right. It was a joy to write their book.

Happy book birthday, Ra and Khepri! Thank you for seeing me through a dark, dark time. It’s wonderful to see you in living color.

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My writing mascot watches over Ra and Khepri’s book

That isn’t the end of my gratitude. All books take a village, and I send warmest thanks to all of mine, especially to Kit Sturtevant and Paula Harrison and my husband and daughter, who read drafts and laughed in all the right places and kept my spirits up. To Sarah Horne, whose art amazes me every day.  To Paula and Mo O’Hara, who wrote such lovely blurbs for the cover. To my agent and editor and the people at Holiday House, who are Ra and Khepri’s champions.

And thank you, dear readers and dear friends. I’m grateful to you all.

 

Something to brighten your Monday

Looking for something to brighten your Monday? Never fear — the RA THE MIGHTY book trailer is here! It’s 47 seconds of pure comedy, featuring Sarah Horne’s fabulous art and some great Keystone Cops music:

I wrote the basic script, but my husband is the genius who put it together. It reminds me a bit of those wonderful old Edward Gorey MYSTERY intros on PBS, only more madcap.

Let me know what you think! And please feel free to share.

 

Double Vision – and a Sneak Preview

My Septembers are almost always busy, but this one has me seeing double.

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The impossibly beautiful Tarn Hows, where I went for a walk ten days ago

Why double? Because I have two big writing milestones coming up.

  • Later this week, I need to turn in the revised draft of RA #2 to my editor.
  • Next week RA THE MIGHTY debuts on September 18th… just nine days away!

One of these milestones would be enough to keep me busy. Taken together, they’ve made my life  a blur of revisions and website updates and long to-do lists. Even the lists themselves are higgledy-piggledy, with arrows and crosses and jottings squeezed in on the side – all too representative of my state of mind.

All is not lost, though. I’m still making time for snacks. And even the occasional nap.  (Ra the Mighty would approve.)

And I do have something fun to share today:  a sneak preview of RA THE MIGHTY! My publisher has released the first two chapters, so they’re now available for FREE online – and you can see Sarah Horne’s hilarious illustrations, too. If you like what you see, I’d be thrilled if you pre-ordered the book, or asked your local library to order it.

I’m wishing you all luck with your own to-do lists. And if you’re having double vision, too — here’s to a clear-sighted September!

Another Pair of Eyes

I am deep in the revision trenches right now. Which may sound like a grim place to be, but it’s not, because I love to revise.

I never send off a piece of writing until it’s the best I can make it — but that doesn’t mean it can’t get better, especially with another pair of eyes. I’m lucky to have had several readers for the next Ra book, and every one of them has made some good suggestions. My editor is the latest person to have sent some wonderful notes, which have helped me to see the book from a different angle.

If you take its Latin roots literally, to “revise” means to “see again,” and that’s what I’m trying to do now: to truly re-envision parts of the book. It’s challenging work, but very satisfying.

I’m also cheered because the first Ra the Mighty book continues to get great reviews, including this one from lovely blogger Melissa at Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries, and Meows. I’m also hugely grateful to Paula Harrison and Mo O’Hara, who wrote some wonderful words of praise for the cover.

And look at what came through my letterbox this week — my first author copy of Ra the Mighty!

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The whole book is beautifully crafted. It’s hard to see from the photo, but Ra and Khepri are done in a shiny finish, so they catch the light, while the brilliant background is matte. My thanks to Sarah Horne and the design team at Holiday House Books for the fantastic art and design!

I also got my first look at the spine of the book, with Ra’s eye looming large. That means I now have TWO books with a single eye featured on the spine.

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Another pair of eyes…

How many authors can say that?!

 

The First Review Rolls in…

I always get anxious when I’m waiting for the reviews to come in on a new book. I’ve learned to work through it, but the shadow of worry is still there, ready to pounce in any quiet moment. So I was thrilled and relieved to get a fantastic review of RA THE MIGHTY from Kirkus yesterday.

Kirkus praised the “exciting ancient setting” and the “delightful repartee,” and the fact that the book has things to say about the nature of power. They said lovely things about Sarah Horne’s illustrations, too.x

The bottom line: “Fast-paced adventure with a lot of charm.”

Maybe I can stop holding my breath now?