RATSOS Pre-Order FUN!

9780763676377Hello, friends. So, the next book in the INFAMOUS RATSOS series, The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, is due to publish in September 12th. Hurrah!

In honor of this occasion, I’m going to run a little contest over the next month (from today, 8/11, until pub day on 9/12). Here’s how it works:

  1. If you pre-order The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid from your local indie or Amazon or Barnes & Noble, email me (at karalareau@me.com) a photo of your receipt along with your mailing address. I’ll send you a personalized, signed bookplate and a bookmark for each copy purchased!
  2. If you promote the book on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, email me (at karalareau@me.com) a screenshot and I’ll also send you a signed bookplate and bookmark!
  3. If you do any of the aforementioned things, you’ll be entered to win an INFAMOUS FUNTIME PRIZE PACK, including 1. a copy of The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid AND a copy of The Infamous Ratsos, both signed by me AND Matt Myers, 2. a pack of (new INFAMOUS RATSOS character!) Stinky Stanko’s favorite purple pens, and 3. a Skype visit from me with the library or classroom of your choice, where I’ll read from the book, answer questions, and send along some swag for the audience!

Think you can handle all this Infamous fun? As Louie and Ralphie might say, GAME ON!

 

Five for Friday

Hello, friends, and Happy Friday. I’ve been struggling with a weird cold for the past few days, but I’m happy to say that I’m finally back on my feet, and back to work on the final (?) Bland Sisters novel. This weekend, I’ll be heading to Maine for my annual getaway weekend with my BFF, featuring lots of good food, shopping, and plenty of bubbly. Are you finding some time to “treat yo’ self” this holiday season? I hope so.

Speaking of treats, check out these five links:

  1. So important, especially these days.
  2. I’ve relied on this stress reliever forever. Feeling validated…and also, hungry.
  3. Just bought this for my kiddo. It’s a position we can all agree on, no?
  4. If you’re feeling anxiety about the state of our world and are looking for a way to stay politically active and connected, consider joining Order of the 1460 on Facebook.
  5. 48 tips to Keep Calm and Be Like Ina (aka my mantra).

Have a great weekend — see you again on Wednesday! xo

That moment.

One of my favorite movies is Julie & Julia. Not just because it’s about cooking, or because it was written and directed by the transcendent Nora Ephron, or because it stars Queen Meryl Streep. I love it because it’s about writing, and specifically, about the arduous process of writing (and rewriting) a book you love, and then trying (and trying, and trying) to get it published. I love just about every scene in the movie, but the one that brings me to tears every time is the last one: Julia is cooking in her kitchen when Paul brings in the mail and hands her a package. She opens it, and inside is a finished copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You can see how choked up she gets, and then she and Paul laugh with joy.

You can therefore imagine my reaction when this arrived a few days ago:

 

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Yes, it’s a finished copy of The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina. This book took years, and more effort than anyone will ever know.

I talk a lot about the craft of writing here, and the process of publishing, and the not-always-skyward trajectory of this author’s career. But I would like to take this moment to celebrate what just might be the very best part of it all, when your “baby” is finally born, and you get to hold it in your arms. It is a feeling like no other. Truly, I weep, with relief and with joy.

And then, as ever, I get back to writing.

Making It Happen

Hello, friends. So, as I mentioned on Monday, I ended up taking a vacation last month, and then getting a terrible cold on said vacation. Because I can never leave well enough (or sick enough) alone, my cold morphed into viral bronchitis, which then morphed into pneumonia. I just started taking antibiotics — fingers crossed that they clear things up FAST.

Unfortunately, my revision of the second Bland Sisters story was due last month, when my bronchitis was at its worst; while my wonderful editor did give me a few extra days beyond my original deadline, I still felt awful and foggy-headed, AND it turned out that my husband was away for the whole weekend prior to my revised due date. I ended up hiring a babysitter for the duration, locked myself in the bedroom with my laptop and a big box of tissues, and got to work.

This is not to say I didn’t take care of myself. I ate lots of soup and applesauce, and took naps whenever I could. Also, I stopped caring about the fact that the house was messy, or that I never really unpacked our suitcases from our trip, or that I was basically living in my pajamas. BUT. I also knew I had a job to do, and that job was writing. So I summoned all the physical and mental strength I had, and I made it happen.

Many (many!) years ago, I ran for Student Council President in high school. My slate’s slogan was “We won’t just watch things happen — we’ll make things happen.” Since then, “make it happen” has been my mantra. It’s what I say when I really want something. It’s what I say when I’m facing any kind of adversity. It’s why I get frustrated when I encounter people who live passively, as if they’re sitting by a river, waiting for whatever they want to float by. Sorry, friends, it doesn’t work that way. Not only do you have to jump in, you have to be willing to swim against the current. You have to be willing to get swept away. You have to know you’re going to get knocked down, over and over and over again, and still get back up each and every time. Sometimes, you’ll get back up and realize your bathing suit is missing and feel like everyone is laughing at you. Sometimes, the water will feel SO COLD and it will get into your lungs and you’ll start coughing and sputtering and feel like you’re maybe drowning. But still, even then.

Come on in, friends. The water’s fine. (Well, it seems fine now. But if and when it isn’t, you’re strong and you’re ready and your bathing suit is securely fastened.) Let’s make it happen.

The Weekly Peek

Hello, friends, and Happy Monday. How are you? I hope autumn has been a lovely, pumpkin-spice-flavored dream for you so far.

As to how I’m doing…well. My pneumonia-like symptoms went away a couple of weeks ago, so I declined to seek medical attention at the very point when I probably should have. Because last week, it came back big time — if it were a movie, it would be called COUGH 2: NEVER STOP COUGHING (ALSO, HOPE YOU LIKE PHLEGM). In addition, I started experiencing seasonal migraines, which left me wanting to pull out my own eyeballs to relieve the pressure, and only went away yesterday. And not to be tmi, but my hormones have been a nightmare, and my cramps are OFF THE CHAIN. I’m having a chest xray tomorrow to confirm a pneumonia diagnosis; looking forward to being prescribed some aggressive antibiotics so I can shut down this phlegm party once and for all.

In spite of all of this, I do have a few updates for you. As follows:

Somehow, I managed to hand in my final revision of the next Bland Sisters story. More about this experience on Wednesday…as long as I can get some antibiotics before then.

Last week, we received a review of The Jolly Regina in Kirkus, and (relatively speaking) it is pretty darn enthusiastic! The final line says it all: “‘Shanghai’ and ‘charming’ don’t usually go together, but here they do.”

Good news: I finally got a spot at renowned children’s books retreat Kindling Words East! Bad news: unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend. We just took our (remaining) cat to the vet this weekend, and I ended up having to spring for quite a few tests and was told that some expensive kitty dental procedures are on the horizon, all of which pretty much sapped my discretionary fund. Oh, well…there’s always next year. And I have quite a few friends on the KWE waitlist, so I will be happy knowing that my misfortune has led to someone else getting good news.

So, *coughcough* how’s YOUR *coughcoughcough* week looking *cough*?

 

 

Gratitude

NOTE: My week-long Kindness Contest has ended. But I hope to provide more opportunities for bookish freebies, so I hope you’ll check in here regularly!

Hello, friends. I’m still a bit high from all of yesterday’s book-birthday goodwill — thank you so much to everyone who voiced (and continues to voice) their congratulations and support for THE INFAMOUS RATSOS. Like Louie and Ralphie, you are all so nice and thoughtful and generous and helpful — I look forward to returning the favor someday.

And perhaps that “someday” is now. I know you’re all curious to know who won my Kindness Contest, so here’s who won…EVERYONE! That’s right. If you commented on my blog over the past week, whether it was to recount an example of your kindness, to praise my entries about my creative inspirations, or to congratulate me on the INFAMOUS RATSOS release, YOU WILL GET A SIGNED BOOK. Here are the names of the winners:

Lovie Howell

Patrice Jackson

Anna Craig

Rob McDonald

Michelle Perron

Cathy Ballou Mealey

Robin Arehart

Clara Gillow Clark

Rebecca Reynolds

Stanley and Connie Gorzelany

Claire Bobrow

Carolyn Davis

Tracy Abell

If you haven’t already, please be sure to email me at karalareau@me.com with your mailing address, so I can get the book (and the Ratsos swag) out to you ASAP. I feel a bit like Oprah — “You get a signed book, and you get a signed book, and YOOOUUU GET A SIIIGNED BOOOOOK!” That can only be a good thing, right?

Thanks again — for being kind, for being supportive, and for being YOU.

 

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS: Big Lou

Hello, friends, and welcome to the fourth day of the INFAMOUS RATSOS Kindness Contest!

The winners of Friday’s Kindness Contest are (drumroll, please)…Robin Arehart and Michelle Perron! Email me (karalareau@me.com) your mailing addresses as soon as you can, ladies, so I can send each of you a signed copy of THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, along with some fun swag!

The Kindness Contest will continue to run today and tomorrow, so you still have two more chances to win! As previously mentioned, feel free to share how you’ve been nice or thoughtful or generous or helpful (or all of the above!) in the comments section here. I’ll choose a name at random at the end of the day; the winner will get a signed book, a bookmark, and some INFAMOUS RATSOS “Hang Tough” tattoos (aka “rattoos”). Of course, you’re all winners just for playing (and being awesome), but even if you don’t snag a signed book, you’ll be eligible for some nifty Ratsos swag (more on this later). I’ll announce today’s winners tomorrow. NB: One post per entrant per day, please!

So, I’ve been telling you about some of the experiences and people that inspired me to write THE INFAMOUS RATSOS. Over the past few days, I ‘ve told you all about the people who inspired Mrs. Porcupini, Mr. O’Hare, Miss Beavers, Tiny, Chad, and Fluffy. Today, I thought I’d talk about my inspiration for Louie and Ralphie’s dad, Big Lou.

As you’ll learn tomorrow in greater detail, my grandfather was named Ralph and his older brother was named Louie. Their father was named Carmen. Sadly, Carmen was the OPPOSITE of the character I created for Big Lou — to put it mildly, he was not a nice man. Carmen died when my grandfather was pretty young, so my great-grandmother, Frances (whom I called “Nonnie”) raised my grandfather and my Uncle Louie and their two younger sisters by herself. It was the Depression, and they were very, very poor; honestly, I don’t know how Nonnie did it, but she did. I suppose I borrowed some of Big Lou’s surface toughness from my great-grandfather (who, it turned out, was tough on every level), and then combined it with what I know of my great-grandmother, who did what she could to hold her family together through some very tough circumstances.

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My great-grandfather Carmen (center), with my grandfather (Ralph) on the right and his older brother, Louie, on the left. My great-grandfather’s expression tells you all you need to know about his personality.

I’m so thrilled with Matt Myers’ depiction of Big Lou. I love his buzz cut and his rolled shirtsleeves (complete with embroidered “LOU”), and his trucker hat and his gruff expression — well, gruff to a certain point! The image of Big Lou and the boys crying next to the photo of Mama Ratso gets me teary every time.

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Tomorrow, look forward to my final story about the people and things that inspired me as I wrote THE INFAMOUS RATSOS. In the meantime, hope you’ll enter my Kindness Contest — and spread the word about it to others!