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?

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April Arrivals & Departures

My April has been full of comings and goings.  Some visitors were the usual spring suspects: daffodils, fritillaries, school holidays, rainy days, Easter chocolate, and jellybeans. Others were special guests: friends and family who came to see spring in our part of the world. Overall, it’s been a month of fun and music and good conversation and hard work — and even some sunshine, now and again. (Did I mention it’s been a very rainy spring? Record-setting, in fact.)

On the writing front, there have been lots of arrivals and departures, too.  Earlier this month, I was thrilled to get an ARC (Advanced Ready Copy) of RA THE MIGHTY.

Here it is, in all its glory:

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Isn’t it beautiful?!

On the departure side, I’m happy to report that RA #2 has left the building. I had a lot of fun (plus only a few plot headaches) while I was writing this next installment of Ra and Khepri’s adventures. It’s exciting to know that it should appear as an Actual Book in Fall 2019.

Now I’m taking a little time off to catch up on reading… and spring. And then, once I’m rested, I’ll be diving into more writing.

Ra the Mighty has a cover!

My next book, Ra the Mighty, is a funny mystery set in Ancient Egypt, where the detectives are a pampered Pharaoh’s Cat and his hard-working friend, a scarab beetle. Now it has a cover – and it’s wonderful! Huge thanks to the amazing Sarah Horne, who’s the perfect illustrator for my comic duo. She’s captured Ra and Khepri beautifully!

Inspired by Sarah’s work, we’ve got some very funny animations on the website, including a dancing Khepri. Never seen a scarab beetle dance before? This is your chance!

When Ra the Mighty comes out in September, you’ll be able to see more of Sarah’s fabulous work, as she’s done lots of drawings inside the book, too.

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And here’s the full wrap-around jacket art:

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What music taught me about writing

I’m celebrating a book birthday today! It’s the official pub date for the final book in the Chantress trilogy, Chantress Fury.

I had to work hard for this book. For a slow writer like me, the deadline pressure was overwhelming. And yet there was so much that I truly loved about writing Chantress Fury. With Lucy at the height of her powers, I could finally unleash the Wild Magic of the sea, forcing Lucy to confront wily mermaids, terrifying sea monsters, and a flood that threatens to drown all England. I also had secrets galore to unveil, many of them woven through all three books. And in the midst of all these twists and turns, I wanted Lucy to make a deep emotional journey, one that ends in her understanding more fully who she is and where she belongs.

It was a tall order. Especially under deadline.

Part of what pulled me through was the very thread that had carried me into the trilogy in the first place: music. Singing with my choir, playing the piano, warbling with my family – these gave me energy and perspective to face what was an incredibly challenging year.

But the importance of music went even deeper than that. My childhood was full of music, and much of what I learned then has stood me in good stead with writing, too:

  1. Practice. My extraordinary high school music teacher used to tell our choir that if he had to pick between talent and hard work, he’d pick the hard worker every time. This made a huge impression on me, and I think it’s true of writing, too. If I’ve learned anything from music over the years, it’s that practice matters.
  1. Sharing. Making music by yourself is wonderful, and writing for yourself is, too. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that both can be lifesavers. (At least they have been for me.) That said, there is a special magic in sharing your music and writing with others. Both can be terrifying (again, I speak from experience) but there’s something very powerful about sharing what matters to you. And you don’t have to play at Carnegie Hall to benefit. Making music with friends in your living room will do it, and so will sharing a story with a good critique group.
  1. A Tolerance for Mess. I’m a neatnik by nature, so it pains me to admit this, but music and writing both thrive on a certain amount of chaos. If you’re challenging yourself, you’re guaranteed to hit points where everything feels like a mess. Maybe you can’t hit the weird high notes in your new song. Maybe your poem falls apart in the middle. Don’t despair! Just keep working.
  1. Judgement. You need discernment to get better at both music and writing, so when your gut tells you that something isn’t working, pay attention. And yet at the same time you must remember that you are not always the best judge of your own work. Especially when you are in the middle of it.
  1. Loving Your Work. The work is easier if you’re doing what you love. Of course, there comes a point with almost every piece (writing or music) where the passion cools, at least for a while. For me, it helps to pull back and remember what made me fall in love in the first place—those blues chords in the bass line, the character’s voice in the novel—and see if there’s any way to work a little more of that into my daily practice.

What about you? Is there something you love that’s taught you about writing, or about living? I’d love to hear.

 

 

Mending, Monsters, and the Fantastic Flying Book Club

Almost six months without blogging! I’m pretty sure that’s a new record for me. But they were a tough six months, starting with a terrifying night in A&E in November (complete with my first-ever ambulance ride) and culminating in surgery in March, followed by complications, then flu, and finally pneumonia.

It’s been a long, hard trudge, and it’s not over yet.  Thankfully, however, I seem to have turned a corner this week, and at last the road looks a little easier. (Excuse me while I go find some wood to knock on.  With crossed fingers.  And maybe a little salt thrown over my shoulder.)

I’m doubly glad to be on the mend since this is the week that the wonderful bloggers from the Fantastic Flying Book Club are hosting a blog tour for Chantress Fury.  We have interviews for you and excerpts and reviews galore — and a giveaway, too! You can see if your Top Ten Sea Monsters match mine, and discover what 300-year-old book inspired Chantress. You’ll also find out what I think of the new covers, learn a few of my quirks, and get a hint about what’s coming up next.

The giveaway is a double feature, with TWO finished hardbacks of the book on offer! The first one, from Simon & Schuster, will go to a resident of the US.  The other one is open to anyone in the world.  Winners will be announced on Chantress Fury’s official publication day: May 19th.

You can find the giveaway entry at every tour stop. The complete tour schedule is here!

 

 

 

You donate, we’ll match it – a challenge to fight Ebola

Please feel free to share! MSF is a top-rated charity, with over 85% of its money going directly toward its humanitarian work. They’ve been fighting Ebola since March, and they’ve treated over 3000 people so far.  I’m awed by their compassion and courage.

You can donate to MSF UK here: http://www.msf.org.uk/make-a-donation

And you can give to Doctors without Borders here: https://donate.doctorswithoutborders.org/onetime.cfm

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Thank you so much! And do be sure to let us know when you donate, either here or on Facebook or Twitter!

Three for one!

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Oh, your poor neglected blog! You got pushed out of the nest by Book 3, didn’t you? This year, and especially this summer, Chantress Fury demanded all the words I had to give, not to mention all the energy and time and life-force. Truly, this book took everything. It finally went off to my editor on August 15th, and I’ve been recovering ever since — greatly helped along by my editor’s lovely note saying that the final draft was wonderful. (Such a relief!)

At some point I hope to have more words for new books — and yes, for blog posts, too. But for the moment, what I have to share are pictures.  Today lovely Alyssa Susanna is hosting the cover reveal for Chantress Fury over on her super blog, Eater of Books. It’s actually a TRIPLE cover reveal, as Simon & Schuster is changing the look of the entire trilogy. I’ll post a couple snapshots of the new covers here, but do go and check out Alyssa’s blog post to see the covers in their full glory, and to enter the international giveaway of the first two books!

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Gift books and transformations

It’s publication day! And my books have made it across the Atlantic: the paperback of Chantress, and the brand new hardcover of Chantress Alchemy. It’s wonderful to hold them in my hands.

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Every once in a while, some writers get a “gift book” — one that comes together quickly and with much less angst that usual, one where the story seems to know from the get-go what it wants to be. That was my experience with Chantress Alchemy.

That didn’t mean I hardly had to lift a finger, or that I never made mistakes. I put in long hours, and there were weeks where I lived more in the story than I did in the real world. But mostly this book was a joy to write.

Maybe that’s because it was about alchemy, which is something that’s fascinated me for ages. It’s also about the transformative power of friendship and love, and about the way our weaknesses can sometimes make us stronger — all things I deeply believe in.

But then again, I always write about things I care deeply about. (I’d never find the strength to keep at the writing, otherwise!) So in the end I have no real explanation for my gift book. Which I think is the nature of the beast. All you can do is be grateful when it happens.

At the moment, I’m wrestling with book three, which alas, is not a gift book. Although there’s a lot I love about it, it’s been hard work, and I’m having to finish it on a very tight deadline. So that makes me all the more grateful that the stars aligned for Chantress Alchemy.

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If you’d like to know more about Chantress Alchemy, I’m doing a tour this week with some wonderful bloggers, thanks to the amazing team at Rockstar Book Tours. Today I’m visiting Word Spelunking where I share secrets and photos of the great houses in England that inspired the setting for Chantress Alchemy.

The full tour schedule is here. And the tour includes a giveaway of copies of the book, which anyone in the world can enter!

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ETA: I forgot to add that the first few chapters are now online! You can find them here.

Skype chats, trailers, blog tours — and chocolate cake

A few weeks ago, I found a note in my in-box from a teacher at my old middle school.  Her kids had read Chantress and loved it, and she was wondering if I’d do a Skype chat with them.

Of course I said yes.  On Friday we talked, and the kids were great, bursting with good questions.  I had so much fun talking with them.  And here’s something else that delighted me:  Later on, the kids were going to have chocolate cake as a special treat, because they’d read it was my favorite.

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Warmest thanks to Barbara Peria for making the chat happen, and to her 6th grade class for all their enthusiasm!

The chat came at the end of an incredibly busy week, as I gear up for the debut of Chantress Alchemy on May 6th — now just nine days away!  The amazing bloggers at Mundie Moms unveiled the book trailer on Thursday.  You can win a free copy of Chantress Alchemy over at their blog!

Like the Chantress trailer, this one is a home-grown production.  I wrote the super-short script, and my husband brought it to life.  It wowed Simon & Schuster, which makes us happy.

Chantress is coming out in paperback on May 6th, too — and you can win a copy of it over on Goodreads.  There’s a giveaway of a Chantress Alchemy ARC on Goodreads as well.

Tomorrow the pre-pub blog tour for Chantress Alchemy begins, organized by the lovely women of the Fantastic Flying Book Club.  I’ll be answering questions about writing, Chantresses, alchemy, book covers, and what the week after publication is like.  And yes, I might just be mentioning chocolate now and again.  You can see the schedule here!