Archive | The amazing RSS feed for this section

Spartacus: Launched!

8 Aug


Donuts were devoured! La Croix was legulped! And–if I’m not mistaken–it seems like a lot of young people found a new book to read. The thought of actual kids reading my book–that thought makes me CRAZY GIDDY. 😀

All of this is to say: Spartacus Ryan Zander and the Secrets of the Incredible is finally out in the world!

The book’s big birthday party was on Friday, Aug. 3 and I’m over the moon about the turn out and how GOSH DARN fun the whole thing was! But this was more than a book reading.


The real party starter was  Mel Aguilera, the multi-talented superhero who brought her hula hoop to greet guests. She then performed some absolutely mind-bending contortions while we all tried not to do a spit-take with our donuts. (Who knew you can pat the top of your own head with your own foot?!)

Mel was also kind enough to do some Q&A afterwards. (The secret to contortion? Surprise! It’s practice.) Also, she shared that she doesn’t prank people by, say, falling over backwards from the waist at dinner parties to surprise people–unless they ask her to. I can imagine that happens a lot.


Next, we heard a hilarious excerpt from Portland comedian Alex Falcone’s debut novel, Unwrap My Heart. (It’s a YA romance novel about mummies. It’s funny. You’ll like it. Also, this man knows how to do a book reading. Book him.)

Finally, after a teeny bit of book summary just because I assume that’s what a book reading is about, we got all that nonsense over with so we could dive into a reading. Alex joined my friend Sarah, myself, and a plucky volunteer to read a 3-person excerpt from The Secrets of the Incredible. It was experimental–and hey! It worked! (Oh, authors: I def recommend this round-robin reading idea for any book with lots of fun, clippy dialogue.)

One of the best parts of the night–besides seeing all my friends and signing books and giving kids fake tattoos and sugar in the form of endless donuts (Doe Donuts, VooDoo, and Back to Eden were all represented! WOOT!)–was that our raffle raised $94 for protecting endangered lemurs. I’m blown away by everyone’s generosity.

We raised enough that I was able to I pull two raffle winners, each of whom will get to “adopt” a lemur. (Feeling lemur envy? You can adopt one, too!)


You might be wondering—why raise money for lemurs? Well, the book has an endangered aye-aye in it named Matilda. I fell in love while researching this wonderfully strange looking lemur and wanted to help.

In addition to the raffle, my publisher and I donated 20% of all book pre-orders to a nonprofit dedicated to aye-aye conservation. While it may sound like a pat on the back (though it’s a HUGE thank you to Fitzroy Books!) it’s actually an invitation to explore the world of lemurs and see how you can help. Learn more.

This post is kind of petering out, but it’s mostly because while I’ve been assembling photos, my amazing hubs created a video of the event, making the rest of my post kind of moot. You can watch it below.

HOWEVER! I can’t end this without giving a shout out everyone who made it out to the signing. I said it there, but let me say it again: It means so much to have you there. There are no books without readers. There are no book launches without friends. There are no kids reading books without adults taking them to the library, so take them there.

And biggest thank you of all to Jaynie and Ruth from Fitzroy Books. You both made this into a wonderful adventure–and made Spartacus’s journey so much fun to read. I can’t wait to see where the road leads us.



I’ve decided my book as a nickname, and it’s The Secrets of the Incredible–and it’s already been spotted out in the wild thanks to pre-orders!

If you bought The Secrets of the Incredible and you like it, please leave me a review on Amazon or GoodReads or even Facebook! (It doesn’t matter where you bought it, reviews are universal.) Oh, and if your child reads it and wants to be featured in my kids’ reviews, message me!

The Circus Queen

27 Jun
Image result for circus natalie merchant

Natalie Merchant – Ophelia

Over the months (or, uh, years *cough cough*) I wrote and re-wrote Spartacus Ryan Zander and the Secrets of the Incredible, I’d always play specific songs to remind me about the initial concept of the story and the feeling.

I’ll admit it: the human cannonball mother (and entire circus theme) came from my high school-favorite, Natalie Merchant. In her lyric-writing brilliance, she gave me the pieces to put together Athena, Spart’s circus performing mother. From Merchant’s song, Ophelia:

Ophelia was a circus queen // The female cannonball // Projected through five flaming hoops // To wild and shocked applause…

Ophelia was a tempest, cyclone // A god damned hurricane…

Athena has an epic storyline—she has an accident, abandons her family to follow her circus dreams, and ends up possibly maybe perhaps (no spoilers!) doing even more nefarious activities.

Sure, it’s fun to have a cool mom. But the truth of the second lyric above cuts deep: A cyclone mom? Yeah, that’s not a mom who can be trusted. She’s someone who runs hot and cold, who is both loving and unreachable, who leaves destruction behind.

To Spartacus, it’s like Athena really is all of the characters from the song, simultaneously: wild and demure. Loving and unloving. He can’t pin Athena down as good or bad (or loving) because she is ultimately a mystery. I spent a good amount of time imagining how her behavior would impact a vulnerable, sensitive child like Spartacus (spoiler: it’s not good). Her arc is the most surprising and becomes Spartacus’s most important lesson.

While Ophelia gave the words, though, it’s this awesome video, Kind and Generous, that gave me the circus-as-family-vibe for the sideshow:

(Btw, I do a fabulous Natalie Merchant impression–so I made this.)

(And if you want to read about the first human cannonball—a 14-year-old girl named Zazel-—click here.)

If you’re interested in seeing other inspiration for the sideshow, you don’t have to jump through any girly 1990s music hoops to get there.


Photo by Jimmy & Dena Katz, “World of Wonders”

I was at Powell’s Books when I stumbled across the World of Wonders, a photography book by Jimmy and Dena Katz. They photographed and wrote about a modern sideshow–what a dream assignment (read this NYT article about them). And, it was like they did this just for me because, honestly, my characters Remmy and Nero and Zeda were all there, just waiting to be discovered. Click the links above to see my make-believe friends.

I can’t wait for the book to come out so you can see all the connections. 🙂

And it’s coming SOON! Aug. 3.! In our around Portland Oregon? Come out and see me.

Oh, and P.S.

Pre-order your copy today!

What’s an aye-aye?

22 Jun

First, a lesson about exploring the far corners of the internet: Never judge a lemur by its patchy fur, giant ears, weird squirrel tail, and long bony finger. It may just become your new favorite animal.

OMG look at that face! RIGHT?? I want to cuddle her little snoot.

Together with my publisher, Fitzroy Books, we are donating 20% of all book pre-order revenue to a reputable nonprofit dedicated to aye-aye conservation. (EEEK! Get pre-ordering now!)

Why aye-ayes?
I discovered aye-ayes while going on a Wikipedia click expedition—you know, where you click one link inside an article, and before you know it, you have 12 tabs open and you know everything about narwhals and cabinets of wonder.

Despite its shocking looks, the nocturnal aye-aye is one of the gentlest of the lemurs—and it’s endangered. Sadly, 80% of its natural habitat in Madagascar has been destroyed, mostly due to logging and agriculture. (This also effects a myriad of animals on the unique island—105 endangered animals, to be exact.) People also kill it, thanks to a silly superstition that says if an aye-aye points at you, you’re cursed (obviously untrue—I promise).

I did a ton of aye-aye research in the writing of The Secrets of the Incredible. At this point, I may have seen more aye-aye videos and photos than I’ve seen cat videos. I even saw them in person and tried not to jump up and down at my happiness of seeing such a rare creature.

I love aye-ayes and I don’t care who knows it.

In order to boost understanding and protection of aye-ayes, I’m donating my portion of the book’s pre-order proceeds to a non-profit; my publisher is donating a portion as well. This group is dedicated to the research of and public education about endangered lemurs. (Apologies; I’m not at liberty to tell you who they are as they don’t want to make it look like they endorse my book, but I don’t hold it against them—they’ll still get the money. :D)

I’m also holding a raffle at my August 3rd book launch (!!!). Each $1 ticket will go towards this same non-profit with the goal of raising $50. The winner will get to “adopt” an aye-aye! Come to the book event—it could be you! More details about that coming soon.

Matilda the Aye-Aye plays a big role in The Secrets of the Incredible—she helps us understand empathy and the vulnerability of circus animals. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to give back.

Pre-order your copy today!


%d bloggers like this: