Thursday, November 26, 2009

Maggie's Tiny Thankful Post

Today's Thanksgiving, and there are many, many things this incredible and insane year that I am grateful for, but I'm going to keep it short.

I'm thankful:

1) that I am still wildly in love with my best friend, who happens to be my husband. We met when I was 19 and when he asked me to go out with him, I told him "give me a good reason." He's been giving me good reasons to love him for nine years now.

2) that some people love my books. I don't need the whole world to love them. I don't even need a lot of people to love them. But as long as there are some people out there who love them, I'm pretty darn happy.

3) that my kids shout "MAMA!" and hug my knees when I come home from book conferences.

4) that I have found a really wonderful publishing home. I love Scholastic and I'm beyond thrilled to be writing for them for the foreseeable future. Thanks, guys.

5) that I still love writing. That after a year of insanity, of bestsellers lists and face out in bookstores, of foreign rights sales and auctions, of movies and madcap dashes towards revision -- I still love to write. I was really afraid that somewhere along the way, that would change and it would become a business or I'd get burnt out or . . . anything. But no. Whether I have everything or nothing, it turns out that it's still the same: I'm still a writer.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Dear John Letter to NaNoWriMo

Dear NaNoWriMo,

We're through.

I know that you have enough people who love you and care for you that this break-up won't be difficult for you (Last collective word count of all NaNo'ers, everywhere, was 1,776,482,205 words), so really don't have a problem telling you exactly what I think of you.

You're a bad concept, NaNo. You suck.

No, no. Let me back up. I can be reasonable. Just because I'm feeling vehement and emotional about you ruining my life . . .doesn't mean I should be unfair.

You are not a bad concept. You're a bad concept for me, NaNo. This is why: you make me write crap, NaNo. You make me make bad novel decisions. You take away my ability to brainstorm between chapters. You make me rush through characterization. You make me pack filler in that will only get ripped out later, having taught me nothing about my novel. You make me into a bad writer.

You know what hurts me the most, NaNo? I want to write something meaningful. Something with subtext and theme. That's the reason I write, really. And you took that away from me. How could I possibly contemplate the greater picture when I was constantly chasing word count? What kind of conceptual boyfriend are you anyway? That you would make me write superficial tripe?

Oh, for weeks I believe your spiel: that it was okay that we were bad in the sack together now, that we'd get better with revising. But I see through your lies, baby. We will never get to sweet, sweet passionate love on the beach from where we are here. Basically, if we played the game your way, I'd end up rewriting every single word I wrote.

So this is me saying, I've been cheating on you. Since November 15th, I threw on the brakes, reread what I'd written, cut out huge parts, and started writing my novel the way I like to. And the difference is that now I have 23,000 words that I love. Instead of 50,000 words that I can't stand to read over.

But it took me a long time to get to that point, NaNo. Because you made me feel like I was turning my back on some great goal that I'd made. You hit me where it hurt, NaNo; you know that I don't like to give up a goal once I've made it. So here's where I say thanks. You taught me that not all goals are good goals. That some are picked up out of principle and aren't worth pursuing. You reminded me of what I used to always tell people in conjunction with my little goals speech: that you should choose your battles wisely.

And you aren't a good battle, NaNo. You're just a bad boyfriend and a lousy literary lay. I'm taking my Secret Novel and getting the hell out of this relationship before you can hurt us anymore! We'll be fine without you. Nay, better off without you! When you see me walking down the street with the hardcover edition of Secret Novel in 2012, looking fine, fine, fine with its deep theme and subtle characterization, I hope it makes you throw up a little in your mouth.

Oh, and happy Thanksgiving.

50,000 superficial words of love,

Maggie

Friday, November 20, 2009

Five Things on a Friday: The Brownies & Cole Edition

1. I could post about something awesome before going off to NCTE, but instead, due to popular request, I am posting my Awesome Brownies That Taste Like Box Brownies recipe.

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbs vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I like Hersheys' special dark)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 8 x 8" baking dish. Combine everything but flour, cocoa, and salt, stir. Throw in everything else but the chips. Add the chips. Stir, baby! Bake 30 minutes or until a fork stuck in the middle just comes out clean (let set up for about 10 minutes before eating or they will be goopy).

2. I've posted the tentative dates for a lot a lot of the foreign editions of SHIVER, if you're curious.

3. I'm at about 20,000 words on my NaNo novel. Am I worried? Not yet . . . will be posting on this concept later.

4. Don't let your Jack Russell get into your brother's espresso. Just sayin'.

5. Musical obsession for the day/ month/ life: Anyway You Choose to Give It, by the Black Ghosts. It's on the playlist for Cole from LINGER . . . *gasp the spoilery, it kills me!*

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Clearly, You Need Some Cheering Up

The collective You seems a bit down today, so if You are one of these, have a feel good post.

A feel good song ("Any Fun" by Coconut Records)





A feel good short video (it is 14 minutes long, but get your boss to watch it with you and tell me you aren't smiling at the end):


A totally feel-good story about Nubs.


Another cheery song without a fun video.




And finally, a feel-good inspiration statement that's true as true: you're not somebody when you achieve your dreams, you're somebody as soon as you start to try to achieve them.


Not precisely sure why I feel compelled to post this, but I do, so here it is. My feel-good post. I'm doing something for someone today that I feel really good about doing, so maybe this is the cause of my smiley face.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pre-Order LINGER! Whooo!!!

Cover for LingerWhoohoo! We interrupt this Maggie-work-day to announce that LINGER is now available for pre-order!!! It has a tiny bit more about the novel. And I should also mention that the price will probably drop closer to the date, if it's the same as their other pre-orders, and Amazon charges you the lowest price when it ships. I can't believe it's already up! And that it's still thrilling to see it, even though this is Maggie Book #4.

Oh man am I excited and nervous to see how readers react to this one. :D

The Care and Reading of Maggies

I've been thinking the past week about how much my reading habits have changed since I was a teen. It used to be that I would finish everything I started, no matter how little I liked it, and I could only read one thing at a time. And never while I was writing.

Now, I put down books regularly if they aren't gripping me 'round the neck, I read several books at a time, depending on my mood, and if I get stuck in my writing, it's a surefire sign I haven't been reading enough. I'm gonna say I think this is because of time crunch and solidifying my own style and subject matter.

Anyway, at the moment I'm reading a couple of things -- SISTERS RED, by Jackson Pearce (it's an ARC), SO BRAVE, YOUNG, AND HANDSOME, by Leif Enger, and of course, the Italian version of SHIVER ("Lasciami in pace, Ulrik, okay? Lasciami in pace.")(I still can't read Italian).

I came to the Enger book by way of his first one, PEACE LIKE A RIVER, which I love with the fire of one hundred suns. And I came to PEACE LIKE A RIVER by way of the Alex Awards. I'm usually not a big fan of lists -- tis the season for lists, like Amazon's Top Ten Teen Books for 2009 and Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books of 2009, both of which have SHIVER on them, so I say too much -- simply because my tastes are not the most mainstream of tastes and lists often don't help me. Like . . . I like paranormal, but not mainstream genre paranormal for the most part, so lists of werewolf books leave me high and dry, for instance.

But then I stumbled across ALA's Alex Awards. I didn't even know what they were for at first, I just knew that they had three books that I'd loved on the list. Adult books, which is odd for me, because I tend to live in the YA section. So thrilled with finding a list with so many Maggie books on it, I began madly requesting other books on the list from my library to see if I had finally, finally found a Maggie List.

And I had.

Even though I don't always love all the Alex Award winners with the fierce affection of PEACE LIKE A RIVER or THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE or CROW LAKE, I can still see why they're on the list, and I can finish them (which these days is pretty impressive for my gnat-like attention span). They all have a certain produndity to them (is that a real word? I don't care. I'm using it) and they are all told stylishly, with powerful, memorable characters. They tend to be slow, whimsical, unfurling plots set in rich settings. And did I mention character-driven and pretty prose? Oh, yes, the hot buttons of Maggie were being punched, and I didn't even know what the award was for.

Well, recently I bothered to actually read the mission statement and found out that "The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18." Well, this particular YA author is nothing if not predictable.

Anyway, suddenly, I understand lists. Because I would have never picked up the books on this list in a thousand years -- the descriptions of some just don't pull me in -- but my faith that they would be told in the same way as the other Alex books I'd read made me buy them. And they are always worth it. (So thanks, ALA!)

So do you guys have lists that work for you? Awards you always pay attention to?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A New Look at the Romance Genre & National Press Club Book Fair

First of all, Thing 1 wrote her first story today. It was this:

"A Princess"

And a princess
loved the prince.
The Prince
loved
the Princess.

The End.

So upon finding her writing this (she is five years old and very slow at writing so it probably felt like she'd written SHIVER by this point), I entered a motherly dialogue with her.

ME: That's a nice story.

THING 1: I skipped the Once Upon a Time. Because Once was hard to spell. And everyone knows that part anyway.

ME: True enough.

THING 1: It's a love story.

ME: A love story?

THING 1: In a love story, nobody figures anything out.

ME: *snorkles*

THING 1: But the prince loves the princess. And the princess loves the prince. I'm giving this to Grandma.

Anyway, I would like to point out that these views on starting the story where your plot begins (none of this Once Upon a Time stuff) and nothing but kissing going on in the way of plot is exactly how I came to write Shiver.

Out of the mouths of babes.

That aside, if you're in the Maryland/ D.C. area, I've been invited to sign at the National Press Club Book Fair tomorrow night from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in downtown D.C. With posh political luminaries. It is $5 to get in, but once you're in, there is 90 of us authorly types, including Chris Matthews, Gwen Ifill, a senator, Spike & Carla from Top Chef, and of course an author of werewolf kissing books. How can you stay away? I mean, seriously. if nothing else, it's the great start for a joke.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hey, you Virginia Types: Book Signing Today

Hey, Virginian types: if you are in the area, I have a signing today from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Midlothian Barnes & Noble: 4600 Commonwealth Center Pkwy, Midlothian, VA 23112.

Now I must manically go burn a playlist to listen to on the way down there, for my NaNo novel. Because there are not yet laws against brainstorming while driving.

Yet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Early (Horrible) Writings of Maggie Stiefvater

Or, what a bestselling author's work looked like at age 16.

Our theme on Merry Sisters of Fate this week is our horribly bad high school writing years, complete with examples. Today was my day to post some examples of my early writing, the more hilariously bad, the better.

I have to say that I had a plethora of bad writing to choose from, as I wrote (but didn't always finish) 34 novels before I was published, and started writing when I was but a tiny maggot.

There were many forms of badness to choose from, from the very subtle to the roaringly hilarious, but finally I put my writing faults into a few major categories. And if you want to read them and find out just how bad I was (I was very bad, trust me), you'll have to go here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Three Things on a Thursday: the Autographed Italian Boy Edition

1. I asked on my twitter and facebook the other day if anyone would be interested in being able to buy signed copies of SHIVER or my other books online, and the answer was enough yes's to make me go to my local indie and find out if they're game.

They were game.

So, now you can order a signed copy of SHIVER at a normal price with pretty decent shipping (and it's free shipping if you buy over $40 of books there). In time for Christmas, even! Not quite the same as looking into my beady little eyes as I sign your book right in front of you, but . . . it's still signed! By me, even, instead of by the monkey that I am trying to train up to do my signature (he still gets stuck on the S. I do it all loopy.)

2. I am at about 13,000 words on my NaNo novel and I'm doing what they tell you not to. I am going back to the beginning and rereading and ordering and making it relatively coherent. I know this is a NaNo No-No (just say that out loud. Please.) but it's how I write all my novels. I need to be constantly checking pacing and mood, and I can't get that without rereading. Plus, it's hard for me to work in a vacuum, and normally at this point in my novel, I'd be handing it off to my crit partners to glance over and see if I'm on a good path. Which is exactly what I'm doing now. I'm only giving myself a day to tidy and then I'm sending it on to Tessa. I'm not worried about this slowing me down (Again with the hubris). Because I know that I can clock ten thousand words in a day if I'm on a roll or staring a deadline in its red eye. NaNo may be setting the timeline, here, but I'm setting the rules, baby. NaNo is my #itch.

3. I am trying to stop reading the Italian edition of SHIVER. Not that I can really read Italian. I took some years of Latin in college, which means it's vaguely familiar and understandable in a pig-latin sort of way. Mostly, I like reading it out loud and thinking it all sounds very, very sexy. Liek Sam would get laid more if he'd said it this way first. Like (accents totally removed because I'm lazy):

mi schianto nel vuoto tremulo
cercando la tua mano
perso in sterili rimpianti
questo fragile amore e
un modo
per dirti
addio.


Yes, Sam. Yes, indeed. I agree. Whatever you're saying.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What is NaNoWriMo Teaching You About Yourself?

Okay, fellow NaNo'ers, what terrible things are you learning about yourself this month? (For those who just friended me and don't know any better, NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month, where tens of thousands of crazy people all attempt to write an entire 50,000 word novel during the month of November).

This is just about what I'm learning:

This is my first year doing it and I have to say, I'm finding out some things about myself.

1) I have been tending to skip scenes when I get stuck, replacing them with bracketed text like [REMEMBER TO GO BACK AND ESTABLISH THAT GABE WAS A GOOD BROTHER AT ONE POINT EVEN IF HE IS A TOTAL DOUCHE NOW] This is problematic. I have learned I cannot skip that many scenes without ending up with fanfiction of my own characters. Who are you people and why are you in my book?

2) Maggie, do you remember how you always said that you hated the first 10K words of whatever novel you're working on? Well, that's still true. Actually, it was the first 9,644 this time. And you know, because sure as he%& you were counting. At 9,644, the following IM was sent to my crit partner Tessa:

me: oh yay yay YAY finally I found my damn novel, Tess!!!!!
Yes, I was so excited that I swore. I thought I would hate this novel forever.

3) It was hard for me to write every day before NaNo. And it still is. I really need that downtime inbetween to lay on my living room floor playing my brainstorming music so loud that my butt cheeks wiggle. I'm still adapting, by trying to intersperse my writing with butt cheek time all on the same day.

4) I am less in love with the principle of it than I thought I would be. I can see how it really would make non-finishers finally finish. But I have a hard time believing that this wreck of a draft, this un-nuanced piece of crappola, this totally unsubtle plot-explosion, will in the end take less time than a traditional four month draft of mine. Because revisions, oi! This baby is going to need so much work in the aftermath that the fact that the first draft was quick will be a pyrrhic victory. Oh don't you tell me with the squiggly red lines that PYRRHIC is spelt wrong, you crazy spell checker you. I'm classically educated and you're just a wikipedia jockey.

5) Terribly, I still felt that rush of satisfaction at reaching the first 10K words. And I'm at 12,024 words. I am, despite knowing better, still a word count ho.

6) Also, I was very inspired by getting copies of my Italian SHIVER in the mail -- this happened right before my brainstorm that made me like my book. See the pretty? See the real slashes in the cover? (note to Italian fans: I find it amusing and terrifying that you have been emailing actors who look like Sam. They have been emailing me and telling me about it.)

So, how about you guys? What have you learned?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Maggie, in Music & Pictures

Back from AASL in Charlotte, NC. There's more to say on this, but I'm about to word-war with Tessa for my neglected NaNo novel. So we'll let some pictures and music say it all.

1. Music from the Ballad video is now up for download for my site. (up for down, did you catch that?)

2. Some sketches from the Sketchbook of Doom. These are from the way to and from AASL.
Sketch in Charlotte Airport

Sketch in Richmond Airport

3. My current musical obsession: "Percussion Gun" by White Rabbits. The whole album rocks. I can't stop listening to it. It's like if Vampire Weekend had babies with The Bravery. (also, if that happened, could I watch?)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Numbers Post

Okay, so since I'm using up all my letters on NaNo, I'm going to do a numbers post before I head off to AASL in Charlotte, NC, today. (Kindly pray that my head doesn't explode while on the plane since my sinuses are all clogged). So here are the rundowns on some numbers currently influencing my life:

Age I'll be on my next birthday, Nov 18: 28

Number of e-mails I received and replied to in October: 4,165
number of e-mails from Scholastic in Oct: 47
number of e-mails from my agent in Oct: 24

Word count for my NaNo novel so far: 6,673

Number of LiveJournal comments replied to in Oct: 389

Number of my husband's tropical fish I killed in October: 11*

Number of friends added on Facebook in October: 306

Number of harp strings I strung by hand last week: 32

Number of messages received on Facebook in October: 105

Number of wall posts received on Facebook in October: 646

Number of nostrils a human breathes through at any given time: 1**

Number of weeks SHIVER has been on the NYT Bestseller List: 14

Number of people living on the smallest of the Scilly Isles: 90

Days on the road for SHIVER in October: 12

Hours of driving logged in Loki: 11

Number of giant snails featured on my blog: 2

*I did not mean to kill his fish. I merely added some water at a perfect 72 degrees to the tank. And they came over all dead-like the next day. And the day after. And the day after that. And the day after that.
**I discovered this while looking up remedies for stuffed up nose (saltwater rinse works awesome, by the way). A person only breathes through one nostril at a time (put your finger 1/2 inch under your nose to see which nostril you're using), and which side is dominated by the hemisphere of the brain that is currently active. Left brain: right nostril. Right brain: left nostril. Unless you're stimulating your brain to use one side of the other, each hemisphere dominates in cycles that last from two to four hours. You can also clarify your thinking and balance your brain by using the yoga technique of pinching one nostril shut and breathing out of one side and then the other a few times. Cool, yes? Okay, so it's not. but now you've learned something against your will.

And now, number of bags I'm off to pack for my flight? 1

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TEASER TUESDAY: LINGER!!!

As promised, I'm revealing the cover and first paragraph of LINGER today. A little bit about LINGER, for starters -- it's the sequel to SHIVER, it's coming out July 20th, and it is about after. What happens after you discover there are werewolves in the wood, after you've fallen in love for the first time, after you've lost what you think you can't live without, after you've become someone you can't live with (and no, not all of these are talking about the characters you think they're talking about.)

It was also the easiest and hardest book I've ever written, coming off the heels of SHIVER's immediate and crazy success. I can only imagine that Chris, the cover designer, felt the same way I did writing LINGER when he was trying to design the cover for it, because the SHIVER cover was such a smashing success, how would he follow it?

Well, I think he did. Behold, ze official cover of LINGER!


Linger Cover, Large



And now, the first paragraph(s). I've been asked a couple of times if folks can repost either of these things on their blogs and the answer is an absolute YES I'D BE FLATTERED PLEASE DO!!! Okay . . . the first bit of LINGER:





grace

This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one.

Just a few months ago, it was Sam who was the mythical creature. His was the disease we couldn’t cure. His was the good-bye that meant the most. He had the body that was a mystery, too strange and wonderful and terrifying to comprehend.

But now it is spring. With the heat, the remaining wolves will soon be falling out of their wolf pelts and back into their human bodies. Sam stays Sam, and Cole stays Cole, and it’s only me who’s not firmly in my own skin.



Is it what you expected?!

Monday, November 2, 2009

'Mazing Things on a Monday

Okay, so the title's a stretch. Mostly it's because I have the flu and I need to do a bullet post and I am too lazy to think of a better name for the post.

1. NaNo. I have 1,408 words at the moment and I'm thinking I'll double this this evening after the kids go to bed. Cold medication + drafting = not great idea. I keep feeling really productive and then realizing that I've been staring at the wall for an unknown amount of time. I also have spent too much time reading about the Scilly Isles today, because I like saying "I'm reading about the Scilly People" to my husband.

2. Interested in LINGER? Tomorrow at noon EST, Scholastic has given me clearance to post the official cover for LINGER and the first paragraph. That should have little fireworks-y things around it. First paragraph! Whooo!

3. Somehow, SHIVER ended up as one of the Publisher's Weekly Best Children's Books for 2009, in exceedingly good company. It breaks my brain, just a little, to think of all the books published this year and to think that SHIVER, out of all of them, is one of fifteen children's novels picked.

4. While I was trying to understand this concept, Amazon posted their Top Ten Books for Teens in '09 list and SHIVER was on it.

5. It is only the cold medication that is making me sane right now. Otherwise I'd be floating.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo: Day One: What Am I Doing?

Those of you also doing NaNoWriMo are infinitely aware that it is now November, and thus that writing can begin on NaNo novels.

So what am I doing today?

I am reading.

Why, you ask, in a race to 50K words, am I spending the first day of NaNo reading? Well, first of all, because I get terrible writer's block if I don't read several books a month. writers = readers. And second, because it's Sunday, and Sunday is a day that I don't write, no matter what my evil deadline is, because it is a day to recharge batteries. For me, it's a good rule, and NaNo's not going to change that.

Here's the thing about NaNo, or any other deadline. It is not a helter skelter race to the end, an every second writing sort of affair. Think of it this way: an average scene in a novel is 2-3K words long. That means that what you're really looking at with a 50K NaNo novel is not 1,666 words written every single day, you're looking at writing 16-25 scenes that lead toward an end. Which means, some days, if you are calculated and thoughtful and in the mood, you can power out two or three great scenes -- 4,000-10,000 words. Writing words just to write words will get you more words, but no closer to the end. Writing scenes and worrying about wordcount secondarily? That'll get you somewhere.

So yeah. Day one, NaNo. Word count: 0. Perturbed? Not yet.

The Great Ballad Contest Results

Okay, it's finally time to tally the results of the big Ballad contest! I have to say that this contest goes down as the only one that I have asked my readers to do something (apparently) illegal: take photos in bookstores. For all of you who were run out of stores by feral employees or couldn't find the book in time, I'm profoundly sorry.

For the rest of you who performed illegal acts in the name of sportsmanship and prizes, booyah!! We had over 250 entries, which is a lot of people photographed with Ballad. And we had two (I believe two, let me know if I counted wrong) entries that had over twenty people in a photo, which I said would get a special prize. And then I did a drawing amongst the folks who did entered by the first deadline, and there's a prize for that winner too (they were also all entered in the overall drawing). I numbered every entry and did a random number generator for the top prize first and then down for them.

So. Without further ado, here are the winners:

Winner of the signed audiobook of shiver is arieleishen.

Winner of the stack of books and signed copy of Ballad is tracy-d74

Winner of the swank messenger bag with the signed Maggie books in it is jb n becca.

And finally, winner of the first-chapter critique from all three of the Merry Sisters of Fate is melenka!


Now I can hear the groans already, so remember there are three more prizes. First of all, I drew from the folks who made it by the original deadline and got a_hoffman79, who will get a signed copy of either Ballad or the Shiver audiobook (you pick).

And then there were two folks, lovethebooknook and Amanda Jirka, who got more than twenty people in a single photo, and I said that would be a special prize . . . so I'll do a 5-page critique for each of you guys. Not quite as good as the first chapter critique by all the Merry Sisters, but a little somethin'!

So congrats to everyone who won and thanks to everyone who entered! Winners, e-mail me your info! (Also, folks who are waiting on CDs from the last contest, they're going out this week).
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