Meet Nora, the not-so-big cat

Radio silence, or in my case, Pandora silence, has been the order of the day at laptop Darroch for far too long. During my many months away from this blog, I’ve been stretching my creative muscles in numerous ways: re-landscaping my entire garden (who knew there were so many varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas?), knitting piles of sweaters and socks (I have a definite weakness for colorful, fluffy fiber), ripping and weaving rags into rugs for my cats to puke on, oh … and starting many new writing projects.

I’m happy to announce that I have completed one of the writing projects, a fun little storybook called No, No, Nora! Nora is a lovely little cat who wants nothing more than to protect her family. However, no matter what heroism she exhibits, they only see her as naughty, even when she saves the whole town from aliens. 

No, No, Nora! introduces the artistic stylings of Sara Parrett, a talented illustrator I had the pleasure of meeting at Geek Girl Con in Seattle, WA. Sara’s quirky drawing style and sense of humor perfectly matched what I was aiming for with Nora, and our collaboration has exceeded my highest hopes. 

I hope that you’ll agree. 

No, No, Nora! goes on sale April 1, 2019, but you can preorder your hard or soft cover now at your favorite bookseller. Ebook fans can order Nora on Kindle, but yours truly feels that the very best reading experience for Nora requires an analog book, a comfortable knee, and a treasured child.

And yes, as with all my writing, this book is brought to you by life’s little moments. Nora and her brother Nick entered our hearts last spring. Here is the dear four-legged mischief maker, I mean, muse.

The real Nora plotting the day’s mischief.

The real Nora plotting the day’s mischief.

Win a copy of The Crystal Lair

From April 18 until April 25, I'll be giving away three copies of The Crystal Lair, Book 2 in the Inventor-in-Training series. If you haven't yet read the second installment of Angus's and Ivy's adventures, or if you'd like to give a copy to your favorite science-loving teen, here's your chance to get it for free.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Crystal Lair by D.M. Darroch

The Crystal Lair

by D.M. Darroch

Giveaway ends April 25, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Hammock Days

We in the Pacific Northwest have been enjoying an early summer. It’s late May, and children are wearing shorts, pools are being uncovered, and June blooms are erupting in gardens. My nose tells me that mine is not the only husband who has begun grilling dinner nightly. This is fairly noteworthy because in the Seattle area it is understood that you cannot count on sunshine and warmth until Independence Day at the earliest.But the sun is out, the temperature is pleasant, so why wait to hang the hammock?

See the boy in the hammock?

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See the book the boy is reading?

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Oh, did I forget to mention that Cyborgia was published today?

That’s right: The third book in the Inventor-in-Training series is now available for your reading and lounging pleasure in paperback format. So stoke that barbecue, dip your toes in the pool, hang out in the hammock, and find out what Angus and Ivy have gotten up to lately.

That’s what I intend to do, as soon as that boy gets out of my seat.

The Fourth Set of Ears

In his book On Writing, Stephen King writes about the importance of having one ideal reader. It’s my favorite passage in a book full of hundreds of compelling passages about the craft, because I’m fortunate to have one such ideal reader.

My son.

His are the fourth set of ears to hear the rough draft of my work. I first time I read the draft aloud—to catch glaring errors my eyes don’t see, to listen to the cadence of the language, and to ensure that the dialogue rings true—three sets of ears hear it: my own and those of my cats, General and Olivia.

The cats’ critiques are useless, though.

Not my son’s. His fourth set of ears listens to my second draft. My son has no problem telling me straight that a chapter is boring, hilarious, or creepy. He is as honest and unflinching a critic as you’d be lucky to meet. If his eyes glaze over, my next few days are spent in rewrites. When he begs me for “Just one more chapter”, I know I’m on to something.

And when my book is finally ready for the eyes of my editor, the boy who owns those fourth set of ears gives me celebratory presents.

The fourth set of ears gave me this skull after I’d finished The Pirate’s Booty.

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The fourth set of ears gave me this tiger after I’d finished The Crystal Lair.

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The fourth set of ears has been listening to readings of the third book in the Inventor-in-Training series. A few rewrites are in order, but he’s been asking for “one more chapter of your creepy book”, so perhaps it’s nearly time to send it to the editor.

I’m hoping for another present soon.

The Loneliness of the Spider

spiderSpring has finally arrived, and I’ve had the windows open to welcome the air into my winter-stuffy home. So I wasn’t surprised to see the tiny spider scrambling across my bathroom floor this morning. I reached out to squish it and was struck with sympathy. Yes, you read that right.

Sympathy.

One spider. A truly small one. Certainly not long hatched from its egg. All alone.

Ants are always leaving the safety of their anthills to search their environs for food. They help each other drag large morsels back to their hills. They work together to care for their young. They join together to battle other ant colonies and predators who would decimate their communal home. I wonder if they mourn the ants that don’t return from a day of foraging. The ants who were stepped on, eaten by a larger bug, drowned in a sprinkler’s spray.

Bees live in colonies, too. Do the homebodies miss the drones that are caught in spider webs or lost forever inside windows? Scientists tell us that swatted hornets send out help-me pheromones to their friends and family. Bluebottle flies buzz around together. Gnats and mosquitoes annoy us in swarms. Everyone knows that if you find one cockroach, there are at least a hundred more hiding close by.

But what about the lonely spider? She lives entirely alone. She is feared and loathed in equal measure. She is the monster of the bug world: hunting, luring, and gobbling those that cross her path. She doesn’t know her family, she has no BFF, and she lives to kill and kills to live. After her lifetime of murder, she eats her mate, lays her hundreds of eggs, and dies. Her babies hatch and begin their lonely lives. And everyone hates them. Is there any creature besides the bird that is happy to see a spider? And let’s face it, the bird would be just as happy to see a beetle or an earthworm.

Even gardeners like me who are glad to see the spider eating pests in the vegetable garden are disgusted by them when they appear inside the house.

I considered the lonely little spider racing frantically across my bathroom floor. She was searching desperately for a dark corner in which to hide. Nobody loved her. Her mother and father were already dead. She would live alone. My heart was moved with pity.

And then I squished her.

Letter to Santa

Santa-Claus-Pics-0316 (300x225)Dear Santa, Thank you for your continued generosity. However, you needn't bring any presents for me this year.

Three days before Christmas, and this writer's present has already arrived.

Ever since a little book called The Pirate's Booty made its debut to the world via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and any indie bookstore willing to take a chance on it, the writer known to you as D.M. Darroch has suffered bouts of stomach pain, nervous insomnia, and hair-whitening anxiety. Truth be told, much of that was due to my battle with this Word Press blogging technology, but a very substantial portion was typical of newly published writers everywhere.

These are the words that go through my head on any given day:

1) Who do I think I am, forcing this drivel on the world? 2) He/She only said he/she liked it because he/she is my friend. 3) Darn it! Found another typo! 4) No one cares, because my story is simply not that interesting.

My husband often tells me he can't imagine what it must be like, living inside my neurotic head. It's a busy place, I tell him. A Grand Central Station of ever-changing emotions and self-doubt run rampant.

But tonight the happy train has arrived, dropping off a wonderful present in the form of a glowing review from Irene F. Starkehaus at the Illinois Review. Seriously, read this:

"The Pirate's Booty – Inventor in Training is kind of a refreshing change of pace...demands a slightly higher reading comprehension level and introduces scientifically challenging vocabulary so that the average seventh grader will need to keep a dictionary handy for quick reference – this is what good Young Adult books should demand of our children...

Angus's parents are my favorite part of this book because they are the complete reverse of that contemporary stereotype of parenting readers too often encounter in American pop culture. The Clarks utterly lack the dysfunctional skill set that we see is a requirement in modern YA literature. The first thing the reader will notice is that Angus's parents aren't bumbling, fumbling idiots and that will hit like a breath of fresh air for any adult who has grown weary of the literary eye roll that lives in the heart of most über cool YA."

So you see, Santa, I don't need anything else. But feel free to drop by for some cookies. The gingerbread is especially delicious this year.