Thursday, October 02, 2014

Guest Post: P.J. Hoover on Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life

Cynthia & P.J. at Texas Book Festival
By P.J. Hoover
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life (Starscape/Macmillan, 2014) is my fifth novel, but given how long the publication road has been, it’s possibly the one I am the most excited about.

Tut follows the adventures of an immortal King Tut who is stuck at the age of thirteen and has to repeat eighth grade over and over again (talk about perpetual puberty!).

The first couple chapters are set in the past, in ancient Egypt, as we find out how and why Tut is immortal, but after that, we switch to present day Washington, D.C. where the remainder of the book takes place.

My last published novel was Solstice (Tor, 2013), a book solidly planted in the young adult market.

With Tut, I’ve gone back to the middle grade market. The book is aimed at those Harry Potter and Percy Jackson fans out there, third-to-eighth-grade kids, people who adore King Tut, or anyone who enjoys fun fantasy.

It’s been a four years since my last middle grade title, and one thing I’ve discovered more than anything else is that marketing to this age group has changed!

Not only are kids online more, librarians and educators are, too.

I admit it. I love spending time online and playing computer games.

And maybe it makes me a slacker parent, but I often let my kids play longer on their games so I can play, too. (I’m a firm believer that one of the best family time activities is Mario Kart.) My kids never complain. And seeing how much time my kids want to spend on the computer or game consoles, I wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between gaming and reading.

There are a few exciting things I managed to pull together for Tut.

Why are they exciting? Because they are exactly the kind of book extras that I would have wanted if I were a kid. Heck, I’m an adult, and I am loving them. So get your gamer thumbs ready and read on!



MINECRAFT Server

The first thing I came up with (with the help of my kids and their friends) is a MINECRAFT server for Tut. If you don't know what MINECRAFT is, ask any later elementary school or middle school kid, and they will enthusiastically tell you.

The server for Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life has many locations used in the book. Not only can kids visit the world of Tut, they can interact in the same ways that Tut does. They can escape from his tomb. They can find secret tunnels under Washington, D.C. There is also be a place on my website where kids can “apply” to become builders on the server.

In addition, there is a MINECRAFT scavenger hunt. Kids can warp around from place to place on the server piecing out hidden words that can then be strung together to reveal a secret message.

Just a note: MINECRAFT is also starting to get more traction in the educational market. My daughter’s third grade class used it to learn about perimeter and area. You can read more about the educational version of MINECRAFT and the regular version.

Learn more about the TUT MINECRAFT WORLD.


Video Game (using SCRATCH)

The second thing I came up with is a video game for Tut. The video game itself is pretty cool (with ten levels, codes to decipher, patterns to recognize), but what really makes it exceptional is the platform where I designed it.

I used SCRATCH which is a website designed by MIT and used widely in schools to teach and encourage kids to computer program and write video games. Kids can play games written by others (such as my TUT game), they can remix games, or they can write games of their own.

SCRATCH has millions of users worldwide.

Learn more about the TUT SCRATCH video game.

Pick Your Own Quest

I have to mention first that my favorite books in elementary school (besides Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden) were those Choose Your Own Adventure books.

So the third thing I came up with for Tut is a Pick Your Own Quest adventure (which is similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure except done up King Tut style and on the computer).

The Pick Your Own Quest TUT adventure is a fun way for kids to immerse themselves in the world of TUT online and to try their hand at being pharaoh while seeing how their choices will affect their fate.

For starters . . .

You are about to embark on a great adventure as King Tut, Pharaoh of Egypt. Whatever you do, don't turn back. Once you make a choice, it cannot be changed! One path may lead to you saving the world. Another may lead to your end. Choose Wisely.

Learn more about the TUT Pick Your Own Quest adventure.

Yes, it’s all about gaming, but my goal is to encourage educators to get kids excited about reading by relating to things they know and love. I would love to see educators assign video game programming or MINECRAFT world development as possibly curriculum tie-ins when reading books in addition to (or instead of) traditional book reports.

I adore the idea of kids writing video games based on books they love. And I believe that encouraging creative writing in a fun form such as a Pick Your Own Quest adventure is a great thing for reluctant writers!

I leave you with the book trailer for Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life which pulls it all together.



Now it’s time for reading, writing, and gaming!

About P.J. Hoover

At Comic Con
After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer, P. J. Hoover started writing books for kids and teens.

When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching Star Trek.

Her middle grade novel, Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life (Starscape/Macmillan, 2014), tells the story of a young immortal King Tut, who's been stuck in middle school for over 3,000 years and must defeat an ancient enemy with the help of a dorky kid from school, a mysterious Egyptian princess, and a one-eyed cat.

Her first novel for teens, Solstice (Tor, 2013), takes place in a global warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own.

About Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life

From the promotional copy:
You’d think it would be great being an Egyptian demigod, but if King Tut has to sit through eighth grade one more time, he’ll mummify himself.

Granted the gift of immortality by the gods—or is it a curse?—Tut has been stuck in middle school for ages.

Even worse, evil General Horemheb, the man who killed Tut’s father and whom Tut imprisoned in a tomb for three thousand years, is out and after him.

The general is in league with the Cult of Set, a bunch of guys who worship one of the scariest gods of the Egyptian pantheon—Set, the god of Chaos.

The General and the Cult of Set have plans for Tut… and if Tut doesn’t find a way to keep out of their clutches, he’ll never make it to the afterworld alive.

2 comments:

Deborah Halverson said...

P.J. Hoover, my 9-year-old, fourth-grade triplet sons are about to drop to their knees and worship you like a pharaoh. Coincidentally, I ordered TUT just last night because my boys are those very "Harry Potter and Percy Jackson fans... third-to-eighth-grade" readers you describe, one son being particularly in love with Egypt. That alone had them excited. Then I see this post on Cynsations today and I am clapping my hands. A Minecraft Tut world and a Minecraft treasure hunt? They LOVE Minecraft! You do, indeed, understand how your audience thinks. Can't wait for the book to get here and their Tut adventure to begin. Thanks for an exciting book and good luck to you!

PJ Hoover said...

Thank you so much, Deborah! I love marketing toward this age group. They are so fun and genuine and just a joy all around. I appreciate your support and hope they enjoy the book!

Thank you, Cyn, for featuring me!!!

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