A great distraction

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Here in England, we are riding a rollercoaster with Brexit. No one knows how it’s going to turn out. Two weeks from now, will we still be in limbo? Will there be food in the supermarkets? Will medicines be in short supply? Will planes to Europe be flying? Will we have blackouts?

As a dyed-in-the-wool worrier, I’m grateful for distractions right now. And one of the best has arrived this week:

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It’s the Advanced Reader Copy of Ra #2!*

I loved writing The Great Tomb Robbery. It was a lot of fun to have Ra and Khepri tackle another fur-raising mystery, complete with ferocious jackals, dastardly thieves, and some super-spooky goings-on. (Not to mention snacks and naps!)

I won’t say the book wrote itself, but Ra and Khepri did sometimes take over, and it was great to spend more time with them.

The book also features dozens of Sarah Horne’s fabulous illustrations. And of course there’s her great new cover! One of my favorite bits is the lower left corner, where you can spot Khepri waving a precious clue.

Getting this has really brightened up my week — and I’m looking forward to sharing the book with the world when it officially comes out on October 8th!

 

(* ARCs are expensive to make, so the supply is quite limited. I only have one myself! But if you’re a librarian, reviewer, or book blogger who would like to review the book, get in touch soon, and I’ll gladly pass your details on to my publisher. Pharaoh’s Cat thanks you for your interest – and so do I!)

 

 

 

In which my cover is blown

For most of 2019, I’ve been walled up deep in my writing cave, working on two secret book projects.

As readers of Publisher’s Weekly will know, my cover already has been blown on one of them. I’m working on a YA biography of one of America’s first female cryptanalysts, a woman who has fascinated me for years. The book is called SECRETS & SPIES: THE HIDDEN LIFE OF CODEBREAKER ELIZEBETH SMITH FRIEDMAN.

It took me more than two years to find the right way to tell Elizebeth’s story, but I’m glad I persisted, because researching and writing this book has been a glorious experience so far.  A high point was my visit to the wonderful Marshall Library in Virginia, which holds 22 boxes of Elizebeth’s papers, including love letters, encrypted telegrams, and her college diary. My editor is the lovely Lee Wade of Schwartz & Wade, and Random House plans to publish the book in 2021.

My other WIP has been hush-hush till now. But today I’m happy to announce that there’s going to be a third Ra the Mighty mystery. RA AND THE CROCODILE CAPER will be coming to you in Fall 2020!

Juggling two books has made for a fraught six months, and I expect the next year will be pretty pressured, too. I’ve been working very long hours. But I couldn’t say no to either book because I love them both too much.

Luckily it’s working out pretty well. I’m tired but happy, and Elizebeth’s story of war, love, and madness is so intense and all-absorbing that it’s been good to have a little comic relief from Ra.

Wish me luck as I dive back into my writing cave!

 

Excited and scared

The first-pass proofs for the next Ra mystery have arrived, and as always the first glimpse gave me a jolt of excitement. It’s going to be a BOOK. You’d think I’d have realized that some time ago, and of course there’s a sense in which I have. But there are many months, when I’m deep in drafting, when a book is all mine, and sharing it with the world seems a distant prospect (and sometimes an unlikely one). But that time is over now for The Great Tomb Robbery. Now that it’s typeset and the illustrations are in and you can see the cover page, it’s incontrovertible: this book is on its way into the world.

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Like Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods, I’m “excited — / Well, excited and scared.”  Or maybe I’m more like Little Red’s mother, who probably had some of the same complicated emotions. Who wouldn’t, sending a child into the woods? Will she be all right? Will people be kind? Will she find her way?

Yet both books and children need to find their way into the world, and with luck they’ll find friends and have adventures that you never foresaw. At any rate, that’s what I hope for with The Great Tomb Robbery.

Still, it’s hard not to worry about all the pitfalls and misfortunes that can befall a good book. So it was especially wonderful to hear some great news about the first Ra book last week. The Mystery Writers of America have named Ra the Mighty an Edgar Award Nominee for Best Juvenile Mystery.  There are seven wonderful finalists in all, and I’m thrilled that Ra is among them — doubly so, since I know that humor is often overlooked when it comes to awards.

But there’s work to do yet on those proofs. So now I’m headed back to them.

 

 

 

Thanks, news, and a sequel

Congratulations to my friends who did NaNo this year! Whatever your final word count, you deserve a medal for taking the leap and pouring so much time and heart into your stories. I hope you can rest up now — and catch up on whatever you’ve missed most.

My own November was the opposite of NaNo, so I have no great leaps or impressive word counts of my own to brag about. But I’ve been doing steady work on several different projects that tug at my heart, and I’m looking forward to doing more of the same this month.

I also have some RA THE MIGHTY thank-yous and news to share:

First, a big thank-you to Allison at Allison’s Book Bag for a fantastic review of RA THE MIGHTY! Allison’s blog is a terrific resource for anyone who loves children’s books, and I’m honored that she enjoyed spending time with my Great Detectives.

I also want to thank another champion of children’s books, @mrsreadforfun (Shendel Haimes), for featuring RA THE MIGHTY in her terrific book trailer.

And now for the fun RA news:

  • RA THE MIGHTY will be published in Russia! The publisher Eksmo has bought the rights to the book and its sequel.
  • The sequel has a name… RA THE MIGHTY: THE GREAT TOMB ROBBERY. As you can guess from the title, our Great Detectives are up against a dastardly thief who is robbing the sacred (and spooky) tombs of the Pharaohs. Out in Fall 2019, it features sneaky jackals,  fabulous treasure, spine-tingling suspense, and more cat snacks than you can twitch your tail at! I hope to share the cover soon.

Walking, dreaming, thinking

I used to be the kind of writer who could only commit to one book at a time. Then I became the kind of writer who could only commit to two books at a time. Nowadays I have several on the go: a tenth draft, a finished first draft, a promising opening, and another couple still mostly at the dreaming stage.

This week every single one of my works-in-progress has hit a point where I need to step back and think things over. I think best on my feet, so that means I’m doing a lot of walking.

Just going outside can give me a second wind. My thinking loosens up, and I see patterns that I might have missed before.

 

It may take a lot of walking, but eventually my writing ducks start to get in line. After looking at them from another perspective, I may even discover they’re swans.

Change of seasons

The season is changing, and I’m changing along with it. Now that Ra the Mighty is out in the world, and the copyedits for Ra #2 are with my editor, I’m free to work on other things.

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Spotted on my morning walk

Much as I’ve loved hanging out in Ancient Egypt, I’m excited about my other works-in-progress, too.  Part of the pleasure of being a writer is having the chance to explore many stories.

Given my love of history, my projects often involve some time-traveling, so I’m strapping on my hat and buckling down for an interesting ride.

 

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.

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