I always have music playing when I write, but there have been certain songs that really resonated with me as reflecting the characters and themes of Dagger and Coin.

Here’s the Spotify playlist where you can hear them all:

Direct Link to Spotify Playlist

More info about how each song fits with the story:

  1. “Am I Wrong” by Love Spit Love: The restlessness and defiant self-reflection of this song capture Soraya’s mental state in Dagger and Coin so well that I would often begin my drafting sessions by listening to the song and typing up the lyrics to get into her point of view.
  2.  “Sit Still, Look Pretty” by Daya: I consider this Soraya’s anthem. The line “this queen don’t need a king” is kind of self-explanatory.
  3. “Ladyboss” by Rachel Bloom (warning: explicit but oh-so-right-on): Soraya navigates the specific pitfalls of being a woman in power, and this song describes them so well.
  4. “My Silver Lining” by First Aid Kit: Another song for Soraya: “Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I’ve got to go/There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on/And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on…”
  5. “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift: “Nothing lasts forever/But this is gonna take me down/He’s so tall, and handsome as hell/He’s so bad but he does it so well…” Soraya and Gelti and a steamy night in the house by the ocean…need I say more?
  6. “Music for Gymnastics” by Jordan de la Sierra: This is one of my favorite instrumentals to listen to – often on repeat – when writing.  The tension and drama in this music was perfect inspiration for Dagger and Coin.
  7. “King of Anything” by Sara Bareilles: The best musical depiction of mansplaining ever. So many perfect lines in this song, especially: “You sound so innocent, all full of good intent/Swear you know best/But you expect me to jump up on board with you/And ride off into your delusional sunset.” And this line, when applied to Gelti, just makes me cackle: “Who died and made you king of anything?”
  8. “Let Go” by Frou Frou: This is for the moment when Soraya has to let go of everything she once valued to make a new life for herself. “It’s all right/’Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown/So let go…”
  9. “White Horse” by Taylor Swift: This may be the most honest depiction of betrayal and heartbreak I have ever heard, and it’s perfect for Soraya in those moments in the upper room. “I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairy tale…”
  10. “Edge of the Ocean” by Ivy: This one is for Kirol going to the Nath Tarin, and Soraya’s brief dreams of doing the same. “At the edge of the ocean/We can start over again.”
  11. “Send Me a Song” by Celtic Woman: This is for Loris and Soraya and an unexpectedly difficult parting.
  12. “Elysium” by Klaus Badelt and Lisa Gerrard: To me, this song represents the feeling of the farewell to the Melarim and the reunion of the Ruling Council.
  13. “Shine All Your Light” by Kimmie Rhodes: This song represents the themes of Dagger and Coin so well that I had actually hoped to have the chorus printed in the book as an epigraph, but couldn’t get the permissions in time. “Like sand on a mountain/Rain on a fountain/Shade on a shadow/A breeze in this tornado/Just do what you can/Clap with one hand/And shine all your light in the sun.”Or, as Soraya says:Now that I’d had my own otherworldly encounters, did I believe that Sotia fought for peace through us, as Raisa insisted? I couldn’t say. I only knew that I couldn’t regret the choices I had made, and that whether I was an agent of the goddess, or just her bloody knife, I wasn’t giving up anytime soon.

Thank you to my amazing betareader Manuela Bernardi for helping develop this list!

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One more signing before Christmas!

One more chance to purchase signed copies of Nita’s First Signs, Dagger and Coin, and Sword and Verse before Christmas! I’ll be signing at the Ellicott City Barnes and Noble on Saturday, December 22 from 1-3 PM, along with Veronica Bartles, author of Twelve Steps and The Princess and the Frogs and Rebecca Evans, illustrator of Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick Knack. Come on in to purchase signed books and learn more about the Read Local Challenge!



        Dagger and Coin by Kathy MacMillan 

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She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World, which I co-authored with my best writing buddy Manuela Bernardi, is now available for pre-order!

This nonfiction picture book highlights 14 women who stood up for what they believed in, and incorporates actual recordings of their voices that readers can hear at the touch of a button. Researching and writing this book has been truly inspiring, as we had a chance to highlight inspiring figures such as Maya Angelou, Jane Goodall, Dolores Huerta, Abby Wambach, and Malala Yousafzai.

She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World will be published March 1, 2019 by Familius Press. See the book trailer here:

Pre-order the book here!

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Signed Copies of My Books Now Available in the DCI Online Bookstore!

If you have followed me for any length of time, you are probably aware of how proud I am to be affiliated with an amazing organization called Deaf Camps, Inc., a volunteer-run non-profit organization dedicated to providing fun, safe, communication-rich camps that promote the physical, spiritual, and social development of Deaf/hard of hearing children and children learning American Sign Language.  You may recall that my launch party for Sword and Verse was a gala fundraiser that raised scholarship money for Deaf Camps, Inc. I have been volunteering with this organization since 2001, and have been on the board since 2003. I have volunteered at camp every year and served in various capacities on the board. Currently I am DCI’s treasurer and director of the Interpreter Internship Program.

So I am pleased to announce that from now on, autographed copies of all my books – along with some terrific bundle deals! – will be available in Deaf Camps, Inc.’s Online Bookstore, with all proceeds going directly to Deaf Camps, Inc.’s scholarship program. To have a book personalized, simply note name(s) in the comments section on the order form.

And remember, signed books make excellent holiday gifts!  Order now!

DCI Bookstore

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UK Releases and Upcoming Events

Sword and Verse released in paperback in the UK this week, with Dagger and Coin to follow in hardcover on December 27!

Upcoming Events

Friday, December 7 from 6-8 PM: Book signing at Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt (Timonium, MD)

Come on in to purchase signed copies of NITA’S FIRST SIGNS, LITTLE HANDS AND BIG HANDS: CHILDREN AND ADULTS SIGNING TOGETHER, SWORD AND VERSE, and DAGGER AND COIN! Perfect for holiday gift giving! Make a sign language craft and learn to write your name in the language of the gods. Purchase a book and receive 20% off your Sweet Frog yogurt purchase!


Wednesday, December 12 from 5-8 PM: SCBWI MD/DE/WV Barnes and Noble Bookfair Kickoff  Multi-Author Event (Ellicott City, MD)

Shop at Barnes & Noble, either in-store or online, between December 12 and December 19, and present them with our bookfair voucher or Bookfair ID number (12467247), and SCBWI MD/DE/WV will receive a portion of the sales.

Join us for our Book Fair Kickoff event at Barnes & Noble Ellicott City on December 12 from 5-8 p.m. Purchase signed books and play games like book bingo, pin the book on the shelf, crazy guessing games, and more with these Read Local authors:


Veronica Bartles, author (Twelve Steps, The Princess and the Frogs)


Rebecca Evans, author/illustrator (Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick Knack)


Laura Gehl, author (Delivery Bear, I Got a Chicken for My Birthday, My Pillow Keeps Moving, Peep and Egg: I’m Not Using the Potty)

        Dagger and Coin by Kathy MacMillan

Kathy MacMillan, author (Nita’s First Signs, Sword and Verse, Dagger and Coin)


Deborah Schaumberg, author (The Tombs)


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It’s a great big SALE! Order Nita’s First Signs at 40% off the cover price! Makes a great gift for the young children, expecting parents, and educators on your list! Go to https://tinyurl.com/NitaSale and enter the code ReadingFamily to order!

Posted in Little Hands Signing series, Nita's First Signs | Leave a comment

A DAGGER AND COIN Short Story: The Council of Four

Time for another Dagger and Coin extra! Today I am pleased to share a short story that bridges Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin. This story shows the very first meeting of the new Ruling Council, and takes place between the final two chapters of Sword and Verse…but it’s from Soraya’s point of view.  This story was originally featured in the Fall 2018 YA Scavenger Hunt, and I pleased to share it now with all my readers.


The Council of Four: A Story from the World of Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin
by Kathy MacMillan

IT HAD BEEN a day since I agreed to be on the new Ruling Council, and my mother had not said a word about it. She must not have figured out the best way to use it to her advantage yet. Or perhaps she had, and was staying silent to provoke me into asking what she thought.

I watched her as I sat on the bed Aunt Silya and I shared in the priest’s residence at the Temple of Aqil. Mother lay in the second bed, one arm over her eyes, her other hand on her copious stomach. I’d already given her one of the little honey-herb packets that were supposed to help her dizziness, but I couldn’t help worrying.

Alshara was curled up on her side next to Mother, facing the wall. Mother took up so much space that Alshara practically clung to the edge of the bed. If she’d been in her usual state, my sister would have been complaining nonstop, but she’d hardly said more than two words in the past five days, since she had witnessed our father being cut down by the Arnath Resistance, since I’d had to tell her, haltingly, of finding the body of our sister Aliana, her twin, lifeless in the courtyard of the palace.

I never thought that I would actually miss Alshara’s whining.

I should have been relishing the peace; Aunt Silya and her constant chatter had removed to the gardens with much muttering that my mother had made the room smell like a barnyard. She wasn’t wrong—Mother tended to sweat profusely when the headaches and dizziness took her, and we hardly had the perfumes, oils, and powders we had once had to cover up foul odors.

I was debating with myself. I didn’t quite know what it meant, the fact that I had agreed yesterday, in front of everyone, to be on the new Ruling Council, and I was annoyed that no one had bothered to enlighten me. I was sick of sitting around waiting for something to happen, but it felt indecently self-revealing to seek out those answers. I couldn’t have Mati and Raisa and Jonis thinking I was eager to join in their plans.

I ran my finger over my father’s signet ring, worn on my right thumb because it was so large it slipped off every other finger. The pad of my index finger was becoming callused from the number of times I had repeated this gesture over the past few days. This is ridiculous, I decided. I was head of the Gamo family now. If Mati and Jonis didn’t want me on this council, then that was all the more reason for me to force them to give me answers.

I pushed myself up off the bed and smoothed the skirt of the yellow dress I’d been wearing for days now. Aunt Silya had disappeared not long after we’d arrived at the Temple of Aqil and returned with a pile of clothes, of which this dress had been the least offensively plain. The fact that she had known her way around the priest’s residence made me wonder exactly what kind of relationship she’d had with Penta Rale, her brother-in-law, and whether any inappropriateness had started before or after her husband had died. I was certain that she had been the one to convince my father, her younger brother, to join in Rale’s coup.

Regardless, I’d been glad enough to shed my torn and muddy wedding dress. I would have liked to toss it into the fire, but I knew how much the silk in the rosettes would be worth when unraveled. Most of my family’s wealth remained in the west at Pira, of course, but our finances would not escape the ravages in the city unscathed, and there was no sense being wasteful.

When I stepped into the hallway, Valdis looked up from his seat outside the door. I started to tell him where I was going, as if I owed him an explanation, but I ran my finger over my father’s signet ring on my thumb and stopped myself. I was his mistress, not his charge.

“Stay and guard them,” I ordered, though he’d done nothing to indicate that he planned to do anything else.

I marched down the hallway, glancing into open rooms and straining to hear conversations behind closed doors. I had no idea where to find Mati or the others, but I was reluctant to ask anyone I passed. I kept my head up and turned a corner as if I knew where I was going, and caught a glimpse of Mati entering a room at the end. I went directly to it and knocked on the closed door.

“Coming,” said Mati’s muffled voice.

He opened the door a moment later, tying the laces of a rough brown tunic that didn’t suit him at all. His hair was damp and the ends dripped onto his shoulders. He looked nothing like a king, which was fortunate, since he wasn’t one any longer.

I couldn’t help a bit of satisfaction at the fear that flashed over his face at the sight of me. My father had inspired fear in his enemies, but the only people who’d ever been afraid of me had been servants dreading the edge of my sharp tongue.

After all Mati had done to me, he should fear me.

Read the rest of the story here.

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It’s been three weeks since Dagger and Coin made its appearance in the world, so I guess it’s time to start sharing some extras!  Today I’m sharing some of the images I have held in mind while writing the story.

First, here are Soraya and Raisa, and a very apt quote for Soraya:

And here’s a poem that always, always makes me think of Soraya. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

To see more of the images, quotes, and songs that inspired Dagger and Coin, check out my Pinterest page:


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Read More and Read Local!

I had a great time last weekend at the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston, WV!  Thanks to everyone who came out to my workshop on Storybuilding and my Nita’s First Signs storytimes! Here’s a great photo of all my helpers with their masks on learning how to sign “Wake up, sun!” (This photo is also a minor miracle because it’s one of the few photos taken of me mid-sign that doesn’t feature a weird facial expression! Kudos to Chris Dorst of the Charleston Gazette-Mail for pulling that off!

I was thrilled to be able to spend time telling festival attendees about the READ LOCAL CHALLENGE, and now I get to tell you too!

The MD/DE/WV Region of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators invites all readers  to take the Read Local Challenge! Read as many books from participating local authors/illustrators as you can by May 31, 2019 and enter for a chance to win signed books and free Skype visits with one of our Read Local authors or illustrators! Our participating authors and illustrators this year live in Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, and the challenge features traditionally published books at 3 levels: Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult.  Individuals, schools, libraries, homeschool groups, scout troops … groups of any size can enter! All materials are available for download at http://mddewv.scbwi.org/read-local/

This program was designed to be as easy as possible for teachers and library staff – so SCBWI is handling all the prize distribution, coordination, etc. All we ask schools and libraries to do is help spread the word and make program materials available! All the participating authors and illustrators are also offering discounts on their school and library visits if you mention the Read Local program.

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I am so thrilled to finally share with you the project that I have been working on with my bestie/editor for life/all-around awesome person Manuela Bernardi, She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World.  This nonfiction picture book highlights 14 women who stood up for what they believed in, and incorporates actual recordings of their voices that readers can hear at the touch of a button. Researching and writing this book has been truly inspiring, as we had a chance to highlight inspiring figures such as Maya Angelou, Jane Goodall, Dolores Huerta, Abby Wambach, and Malala Yousafzai.

For me, personally, this book has been a wonderful experience. How often do you get to write an awesome book highlighting amazing women, with your best writing friend? Manuela and I first met almost twenty years ago, when we co-wrote Harry Potter fanfiction at SugarQuill.net. (It’s still there!) Since then, we’ve critiqued each others’ work and supported each other through countless edits – all while living in different countries.

She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World will be published Spring 2019 by Familius Press. See the book trailer here:

Posted in She Spoke | Tagged | 1 Comment