At the start of this year, I received an amazing present from my brother-in-law, Stephen Greenfield. Even the box was astonishing! It was all papered in gold, and there was someone sitting on top of it…
And what was inside?
And not just any ship, but an ancient Egyptian ship. Pharaoh’s ship. Ra’s ship.
Stephen designed and built it himself, right up to and including the scarab sail and the rigging that holds it aloft. And with a little help from my niece Ruth, he made sure that Ra and Khepri and Miu were on it!
There are so many gorgeous details. It must’ve taken hours just to paint the keel.
It’s one of the nicest presents I’ve ever gotten, and I thought Ra fans would enjoy seeing it, too.
I’m celebrating summer by giving away a set of all three RA THE MIGHTY mysteries to a US reader! As you can see, this cat thinks they’re terrific.
If you need more encouragement, Booklist says they’re “perfect for young gumshoes,” Kirkus calls them “hilarious,” and the Junior Library Guild says they’re Gold Standard Selections. It’s a paperback set, ideal for kids 7 to 10 and cat lovers of all ages. Just add a comment here to enter. (Or you can find this post on Twitter or FB or IG, & enter there.) But hurry! I’ll close the giveaway on Saturday 7 Aug at 11pm PT.
Update (8/8): Thank you to everyone who entered! There were almost a hundred of you. The winner is Destiny Lawyer, who has been a reading teacher for 21 years. I’m delighted to be sending these books to her young readers. Happy International Cat Day!
One of the perks of being of writer is that you get such great mail. This week I heard from Ra the Mighty fans Gabrielle and Anders, who sent me a wonderful photo of their own cat, Rocket, posing as Ra. (They tell me they sometimes refer to him as “Ra-Cat” now.)
It was Anders who had the idea of dressing Rocket up as Ra. The costume included a jeweled collar made of tinfoil, and Rocket posed with all the grace of a true Pharaoh’s Cat.
Isn’t he terrific?!
Thank you, Gabrielle and Anders, for sending me the photo and giving me permission to share it here! It’s on my list of all-time favorite fan mail.
Hooray! The third Ra the Mighty mystery is published today! Ra’s still taking in the big news, but on top of his head Khepri is dancing for joy.
To celebrate THE CROCODILE CAPER’s debut, Ra and I are taking over my publisher’s Instagram at @holidayhousebks for the day. We’ll be sharing writing tips, behind-the-scenes insights, and Ra-inspired fun. Please check us out — and keep an eye out for crocodiles!
I am a complete Instagram novice, so this week has been quite a learning curve. I’d be delighted to connect with any of you who are over there. I’m @amybutlergreenfield.
In THE CROCODILE CAPER, Ra and the other Great Detectives take a voyage down the Nile, where danger lurks. Here’s the official description:
Ra the Mighty is Pharaoh’s Cat, Lord of the Powerful Paw. He is NOT Ra the Royal Babysitter. How’s a cat supposed to fit in all his snacks and naps when his charges keep getting into mischief?
Ra’s new job only gets harder on a voyage up the Nile, leading to a fearsome palace where crocodiles swarm the waters. Then Pharaoh’s son disappears. Has he run away? Has he been eaten by crocodiles? Has he been kidnapped, or worse? Ra and his fellow Great Detectives, Khepri and Miu, set out to discover the truth, but the palace is home to many secrets. Can the Great Detectives unravel the mystery, find the missing boy–and make it out alive?
Ra and I are excited that his latest adventure is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
Huge thanks to Sarah Horne for her glorious illustrations, and to all the lovely people who cheered me on as I wrote the book, including fellow blogger Tracy Abell, who gave it a great early read and critique.
Ra and I are now going to go have a celebratory snack.
It’s been deadline city here this month, and mostly I’ve been happy with that. I love being completely immersed in writing. This month, however, I hit a big bump. Just as I reached the final lap for SECRETS & SPIES (due this month to my editor!), the page proofs for RA #3 came in.
Proofs are never one of my favorite stages, and I had absolutely no energy left for dealing with these. I was in danger — as an old French acquaintance of mine used to say — of “losing my quiet.”
In short, my friends, I hit a wall.
Luckily, my wonderful niece Ruth came to my rescue. She had a surprise for me, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Underneath the bulky packing, here is what I found:
It’s a life-sized Ra! And Ruth made him all by herself. Just look at those wire whiskers. And Khepri is there, too — made so that he can twirl around on the top of Ra’s head.
Aren’t they amazing?!
Of course, what’s truly amazing is my niece. Ruth has always been a gifted artist, and now she works in a sculpture studio that makes props for some very famous places. I’d love to see her go into business for herself someday!
I took dozens of photos, then buckled down to those page proofs, with Ra standing guard over the work. I smiled every time I looked up and saw him.
Now that the proofs are in, he has pride of place on a favorite bookshelf — the perfect place for a book cat.
True story: After I wrote and revised RA THE MIGHTY, I sat on it for six months before I sent it to my agent. Why?
Because I worried that if a publisher bought it, they’d want a sequel. And I was afraid I couldn’t be funny twice.
As I explained a while ago, I never saw humor as my strong point, at least not in writing. I was as surprised as could be when Ra and Khepri showed up on the page and started making me laugh. And that’s really how I thought of it – they they were the ones who made things funny. Not me.
Luckily, a good friend pushed me to send the book out. She’d read the manuscript, and she knew it was ready. Her prompting made me realize two things:
I wasn’t going to get over my fear anytime soon.
I was just going to have to take the leap anyway.
At least, I had to leap if I wanted RA THE MIGHTY to find a home, and if I wanted to grow as a writer. And I did.It turned out Ra found a home fast. (Yay!) And yes, they wanted a sequel. (Cue a big attack of nerves!)
To ward off anxiety, I’d already scribbled down some ideas for more Ra mysteries, and it helped to know those were in my back pocket. But ideas are a long way from a book. And they don’t have much to do with voice, which was the wellspring for the humor in RA THE MIGHTY. In the end, I just had to make another leap—and hope that Ra and Khepri showed up again.
Thankfully, they did. And they made me laugh even harder this time, as they tackled THE GREAT TOMB ROBBERY.
I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan for everything (and a back-up plan, and a back-up back-up plan). But I’ve finally realized that what I love about humor is that it doesn’t lend itself to planning. It requires me to leap. And even for an over-planner like me, it’s the very act of leaping that makes it so much fun.
Variety is definitely the spice of this writer’s life. Today I’m digging into crocodile copyedits and researching a 1949 codebreaking crisis … and that’s not all! I’ve also been printing out documents, rehearsing a speech, pondering a research trip, sending out a couple tweets, replying to emails from my publisher, reading a book in my field, and renewing my SCBWI membership. And yes, I’ll be doing a little writing, too.
My favorite days are the ones where I get to write and write and write. Next best are the days when I dive deep into research and discover something new, or when I get to talk to people about books and reading and the subjects I love best. But I’ve had to accept that writers have to do other things, too — including plenty of paperwork and email. I tell myself it’s a variety show.
On a completely different note, I have some fun news about a Ra giveaway. My lovely publisher and TeachingNet are offering a chance to win one of 10 packs of both Ra the Mighty books — SIGNED copies of RA #1 and ARCs of RA #2. The offer is open till October 31 to US residents and you can enter here.
Please enter if you’d like to win — and good luck! And if you know of anyone — especially a teacher or librarian or youth club — that could use some funny books for readers in 2nd through 5th grades, please pass the link on!
Hip, hip, MEOW! Today I’m celebrating the book birthday of THE GREAT TOMB ROBBERY, the second Ra the Mighty mystery, with cake and cheers and maybe even some dancing in the kitchen. And after I eat my cake, I’ll be watching this book trailer, which is 59 seconds of madcap, spooky fun:
Huge thanks to Sarah Horne for the fabulous art, and to my husband for bringing it so ingeniously to life!
I also send my thanks to you, dear readers and dear friends. I’m more grateful than I can say for all your warm and funny comments, letters, photos, videos, and drawings. I hope you enjoy reading Ra and Khepri’s second adventure as much as I enjoyed writing it!