Top Secret!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it … listen to this podcast with Book Club for Kids about my Spy Mice books!

Even more exciting?  VALERIE PLAME is the celebrity reader!  And she’s absolutely terrific.  (If you don’t know who Valerie is, she’s a real-life former spy!)

Click here to listen…

Or, if you want to download the podcast, you can snag it for free on iTunes, on Stitcher, or on Soundcloud.


And many thanks to wonderful readers Ashley, Fatima, Josue, Mark, Marissa, and Bryan from LA’s Ambassador School of Global Education for participating in this podcast!  You rock!

Mission bonus:  Can you guess my favorite book?

Interview & giveaway on Writer Mama!

I’m on deck today as part of Christina Katz’s fun Writer Mama Every-Day-in-May-Book-giveaway!

Click here to hop on over and read an interview with yours truly, and to enter for a chance to win a complete set of my SPY MICE novels (autographed, of course)!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying reading what the other writers have to say about the giveaway’s theme topic of self-expression, and what this means to an artist.  You’ll get to add your two cents as well, so what are you doing still here?  Off you go!







My SPY MICE are back, with a whole new look!

I’m thrilled to announce the relaunch of all three SPY MICE books — THE BLACK PAW, FOR YOUR PAWS ONLY, and GOLDWHISKERS!  Sporting fabulous new covers, along with Sally Wern Comport‘s sassy interior illustrations, the international mice of mystery are ready to whisk readers off on a trio of tail-biting adventures.

I couldn’t be happier with my wonderful publisher (take a bow, Simon & Schuster) for splashing out on this, and to celebrate, I have lots of fun in store, starting with a SPY MICE website (click here).

Hope you’ll visit it, take a look around, and scamper off to read the books.  Please tell your friends and share the SPY MICE love!

Up next:  a SPY MICE giveaway! Check back soon, mouselings…



NEW For Your Paws Only

NEW Goldwhiskers

Travels with Heather, Part 2

Still with me?  Onward!  (Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, today’s post is guaranteed 100% potty-free…)

The last of my trio of recent trips was a local one.  Well, sort of local.  Long-distance local.  Because PIES & PREJUDICE was nominated for an Oregon Book Award this year (my friend Emily Whitman’s wonderful book WILDWING was the winner), I was invited by Literary Arts, the organization that sponsors the awards, to go on a mini-book tour.  I jumped at the chance! For one thing, it’s an honor to be asked, and for another, it’s just plain fun.

So I packed my suitcase, and off I went to a stretch of the Oregon coastline I’ve never seen before:  North Bend and Coos Bay.

I have to admit it’s cool to blow into town and see your “wanted” poster plastered everywhere. Here’s one on the window of Ciccarelli’s, the restaurant where we ate the first night.  (Yum!)  One of the best things about these tours is the chance to get to know some other Oregon writers.  I was incredibly fortunate to tag along with two delightful and incredibly talented people — George Estreich, whose book The Shape of the Eye, a moving, heartfelt memoir about raising a daughter with Down Syndrome, won the award for creative nonfiction; and Geri Doran, a poet whose lovely collection Sanderlings was a finalist in the poetry category.

Our fearless guide for the tour was Susan Denning from Literary Arts.  She’s a peach.

And she was a willing partner-in-crime, too, when I suggested we skive off and do a little sight-seeing.  We made a beeline for the ocean, of course, and landed in a great spot called Shore Acres State Park.  Can you believe this view?

There used to be a fancy mansion perched on this cliff, the home of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis Simpson, but it’s long gone.   Too bad.  Like Emma Hawthorne, I’m a sucker for old houses, and I would love to have seen it…

All that remains are pictures, alas.  Oh, and the estate’s formal gardens.  Which brought Susan and me to our first dilemma of the morning — which to visit first, the gardens or the beach?

We opted for the gardens.  All I can say is, wow!

I want a fountain like this one in my garden:

And rhododendrons like these:

And a Japanese pond like this one, please:

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

There was a greenhouse, too, where we admired a variety of beautiful flowers …

… and gawked at a VERY odd plant that looked like a pussywillow wearing a feather boa:

Does anyone know what this is?  I’m clueless.

When we were done touring the garden, it was time to hit Simpson’s Beach.  Oh joy!  We were the only ones there!

Is this gorgeous or what?!

Such a stunning setting definitely called for kicking back, relaxing, and soaking up a few of those rare Oregon rays …

It’s times like this that I’m convinced I have the best job in the world.

I could have lingered in this beautiful spot all day, but there were workshops and readings and school visits ahead, so Susan and I reluctantly pried ourselves away and headed back to civilization. I taught a writing workshop that afternoon, followed by a group signing at the lovely North Bend Public Library, then the following day I visited a couple of schools, including North Bend Middle School, where I hobnobbed with the fabulous librarians from there and from North Bay Elementary School:

Oops, there’s that purple shirt again!  Where’s Megan when I need her?  I really have to go shopping…

The students gave me a fantastic welcome, as you can see.

They’d all read my SPY MICE books, and I had a blast talking to them about my path to becoming an author, and about books and writing.  And then we brainstormed some fractured fairy tales together, which was great fun.

The kids also made some beautiful notes and letters and artwork for me, too, which totally bowled me over:

You can’t tell from the picture, but this one below is 3-D!  Glory’s (the mouse’s) nose and ears have a sort of sandy texture added to them.  Really cute!

An entire class collaborated on that one, and on this amazing collage below.  I’m planning on getting it framed to hang on my office wall:

See why I’m convinced I have the best job in the world?

A hero, a church, and a BFF

So I know you’re all dying to find out where I’ve been.   Sorry to disappoint you, but it wasn’t a top-secret mission.  And it wasn’t a research trip, either.  At least not originally.  It was just supposed to be a little getaway with my BFF.  That changed once we arrived at our destination, however, as so often happens when I’m traveling.  For us writers, story ideas lurk in the most unexpected places…

And this time, that unexpected place was the middle of nowhere–the tiny town of Fulton, Missouri, to be exact.

(Sorry Fulton, I don’t mean to insult you, but you kinda have to admit you really ARE in the middle of nowhere…)

The first thing you see when you drive into town is the church.

Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury

Isn’t it gorgeous?  That’s because it’s a Christopher Wren church.  Wren was the legendary 17th-century English architect who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, one of my favorite spots in the whole world, which played a part in my book Spy Mice: Goldwhiskers.  So how did this church, built in England in the 12th century, destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666, restored and rebuilt by Wren only to be destroyed again in 1941 during the Blitz of World War II, the church where the poet John Milton was married and where Shakespeare–Shakespeare!— most likely worshipped–end up in MISSOURI of all places, you ask?  Ah, therein lies a tale.

And the tale begins with Winston Churchill, one of my heroes.  Here’s a picture of him:

Winston Churchill

See that quote above his head?  It says “Criticism is easy, achievement is difficult.”  I love that!  Winston was full of great sayings like this — in addition to being Prime Minister of Britain during World War II, he was also a writer.  More on that in a minute.

First, though, let’s turn the clock back to 1946.  The war has been over for a year; Churchill is no longer Prime Minister. Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri (believe it or not this tiny town boasts not one but TWO fine liberal arts colleges — Westminster and William Woods University) decides to invite Churchill to give a speech.  But how to convince this world-famous statesman to make the trip?

President Harry Truman was in the White House at the time, and he and Churchill were great friends.  It just so happened that a Westminster College alum worked at the White House, and he offered to give the invitation to Truman first and see if maybe he would add a personal note as an enticement. Truman did, telling Churchill that this college was in his home state of Missouri, and that he’d be glad to accompany him and introduce him if he agreed to come.

Long story short — Churchill DID come, Truman DID accompany him (apparently the two played poker all the way from Washington on the train), and the speech was a huge success.  In fact, it became one of Churchill’s most famous, and in it he coined the term “Iron Curtain” and warned the world of the communist threat and the coming Cold War.

Have I lost you?  Sorry — I’m kind of a history wonk.  Did you know that about me?  And you wonder where Darcy Hawthorne gets it…

Fast forward a couple of decades.  In 1966, the college decided to create a museum to honor Churchill and commemorate the 20th anniversary of his speech.  The church of St. Mary Aldermanbury, meanwhile, which had been bombed out during the war, was still in ruins and slated to be bulldozed. It was given to the college, who transported it stone by stone to Fulton, and restored and rebuilt it to house the museum in its basement.

So Patty, my BFF (yes, the same Patty to whom I dedicated Home for the Holidays) and I had been talking for a while about a wee getaway next time I visited St. Louis, where I often go to see my son, who attends college nearby.   She knows I love history, and she’d heard of Fulton, so that’s how we ended up there.  We stayed at this adorable B&B called the Loganberry Inn:

Loganberry Inn

I was in the Margaret Thatcher room, where the former prime minister stayed (yup, the very same one that Meryl Streep portrayed in the movie The Iron Lady, and for whom she just won an Oscar) when she came to Fulton in 1996 for the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s famous speech.   Patty was across the hall in the William Woods room.  It was just like being back in college together!  We put our pajamas and robes on and stayed up late watching a movie and talking, and snacking on the inn’s famous homemade cookies.  Breakfast the following morning was amazing — I wish I’d thought to take a picture of it for you.  The apple French toast was both glorious to look at and even more glorious to eat…

Also glorious was the inn’s dog Logan, a most adorable little Shih Tzu.  Here he is snoozing on the rug in the parlor:

What could be nicer than an inn with a resident dog who likes to snuggle with the guests?  Logan spent a very happy half hour in my lap after we got back from the Churchill Museum.


Tomorrow:  More fun in Fulton — and another dollop of history — as we peek inside the museum, tour the church, and learn a writing tip or two from Winston Churchill! 


Surfin’ Spy Mice

nenelogoFun!  I just found out that my book Spy Mice: The Black Paw has been nominated for a 2010 Nene Award in Hawaii!  Kids in fourth through sixth grade all over the Aloha State will read the books on the recommended list this coming school year, and then vote on their favorites next spring.

Several friends are on the list, too, which makes me even happier — including fellow Oregonians Rosanne Parry, for her fabulous debut novel Heart of a Shepherd, and Graham Salisbury, for his hilarious Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet.  Congratulations, everyone!