Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Maggie Does Europe (Again): Part 3, Bulgaria

I think I've pretty much proved that if I don't blog while I'm on tour, it takes me three million years to blog about it. Lesson learned. I also have learned that when I am in the final throes of a novel, I never eat, cook, sleep, vacuum, answer blog comments, or look at e-mails. So for everyone who is suffering because of Secret Novel's January 1st deadline, I apologize. All will return to normal in 2011. Also, I will say more about Secret Novel in 2011. Promise.

But until then, I need to blog about the last stop on my 2010 European tour: Bulgaria. I was unable to find out too much about Bulgaria before I left. Mostly I found out they had mountains, the sixth fastest internet in Europe, and had two kinds of cheeses. I was also told that the Bulgarians were not prone to small talk. I later found out that two of these facts were incorrect.

So the trip began auspiciously. We arrived atrociously late but despite this, my smiling Bulgarian publishers were waiting at the airport to greet us. WITH FOOD. With some sort of Bulgarian bread thing, to be precise. It came in handy as I sat in my hotel room. I ate it while rewriting the last scene of FOREVER and then cackled through a mouthful of Bulgarian bread crumbs as I hit send and sent the absolute final version of FOREVER to my publisher to be typeset.  

The next morning, it was off to be interviewed and to see my publisher's booth at the book fair. Look who I found at the booth!

Bulgaria_booth_wantsyou

My interpreter frowned at it.

ME: Do I actually look like that?

INTERPRETER: No.

Bulgaria_booth_me

Hm.

Anyway, then it was time to meet Bulgarian fans. I was uncertain whether or not I had any Bulgarian fans, so I was delighted to find out that not only did I have Bulgarian fans, but they read the blog and knew about Secret Novel. These are a few of my favorite things.

Bulgaria_palace_signing

That is me and my interpreter beside me as I speak no Bulgarian (well, now I can said Zdravei! which hardly counts). I was amazed at how many of the Bulgarian teens spoke amazing English though -- and tried really hard to make me feel at home.

I also got to meet my Bulgarian translator and my Bulgarian cover artist. You all know the Bulgarian covers.

Bulgarian edition of SHIVERBulgarian edition of Linger


Well, these are the guys responsible.

My Bulgarian translator and cover artist

They are wearing Shiver buttons, which is what I'm pointing too. I did have this conversation with my Bulgarian translator.

ME: So, you remember Cole from LINGER?
TRANSLATOR: Uh huh.
ME: You know how he says 'da'? When he picks up the phone? 
TRANSLATOR: Uh huh.
ME: Well, you guys say 'da' too. How did you translate it? In Bulgarian, I mean? Did you make it 'yeah'?
TRANSLATOR: I translated it 'da'.
ME: But it was 'da'.
TRANSLATOR: Da.

I still am not exactly sure what most of my conversation with my translator meant. But that was okay.

Further exploits in Bulgaria included a drive to Plovdiv for a signing.

PUBLISHER: Guess what.
ME: WHAT!?
PUBLISHER: This bookstore we're going to has a piano.
ME: Fancy!
PUBLISHER: A big white one.
ME: Soopah fancy!
PUBLISHER: And we told them you're going to play it.

This is what comes from talking about things that you do on your blog, I expect. There was indeed a giant white grand piano that Elton John would've been proud of, and there were indeed readers waiting for me to play it. I talked about the books and kept thinking they would forget about me playing, but no, their keenness remained, so I played the piano for them. They were happy. I was happy. The piano was happy. Then we took a frigid and beautiful wander through Plovdiv's historic area. I would show you pictures, but I couldn't take my hands out of my pockets to operate my camera. I do, however, have photos of the gorgeousness that was Bulgaria's mountains.

At one point, we drove by a field on fire. My publishers were not pleased as they said it made everything stink, but I thought it was pretty much the most gorgeous image of the entire tour and promptly decided to set something on fire in Secret Novel when I got home (and I did, thanks, Bulgaria). (I highly recommend clicking on this photo to see it bigger) (it is still not as awesome as it was in real life).

Bulgaria on fire bigger

My publishers also took me to traditional Bulgarian restaurants, where I discovered that they do not have two different kinds of cheese. They have a zillion different kinds of cheese in two different colors and nobody can tell you which is which so you just have to try them, Maggie.


A friendly smile


It's always good to see (or carry) a friendly face.


They always said houses were smaller in Europe


They did tell me that houses tended to be smaller in Europe.

Then it was time for the event to end the whole tour: the Masquerade Ball. Blog readers will have already caught wind of this before, because this was the moment when fans came dressed in costume, book trailers were judged, Bulgarian actors were acting as MC, and Maggie was called up in front of the whole lot of them. And told to play the Bulgarian bagpipes. If you missed it, that story is here. Complete with sound effects.

Let it never be said I am not a fan of public humiliation


And then they taught me how to do the Bulgarian chain dance. And by "taught," I mean, called me down to the floor and had me dance until I looked like I knew what I was doing.

Bulgarian chain dancing

I did get to take the bagpipes home, which was extremely cool. Actually, the entire thing was terribly cool. My Bulgarian publishers pulled out all the stops and pretty much guaranteed that 2010 is going to stick in my head for the rest of my life. I would say thanks in Bulgarian . . . but it turns out, they just say "merci."

It's a lovely sort of circularity, isn't it?



See you in 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

In Which Secret Novel Laughs In the Face of Maggie's Distress

So it is 10 p.m. at night the day after Christmas and I am working on Secret Novel because Secret Novel is due January 1st to Editor Mixtape. Lover is out for a few days, traveling intrepidly with my father and brother, and so I am being forced to write at night while Things 1 & 2 hibernate.

Secret Novel is novel-of-my-heart and delightfully dear to me and the best thing I've ever written. Secret Novel, however, is trying to kill me. Allow me to explain why. You may laugh at me, now, as you discover that I make little word count meters for myself and fill them in as I write more words. What can I say? You take motivation where you can get it.

However, this is the word count meter I made for Secret Novel.


As you can see, I have now come to the end of the word count meter.

But not to the end of Secret Novel.

These are my problems.

Also, do you guys think it's unhygienic to fish a tea bag out of a tea cup with a spoon? I couldn't be bothered to get up to get a spoon. I was killing someone in my manuscript and it just seemed like a lot of trouble to go to when I had a pen right there.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Spirit & My Genes Being Powerful Things

This weekend, my daughter, Thing 1 (age 6) told me she was trying to come up with a plan to find out if Jack Frost was real.

THING 1: So I'm thinking I will put ice cream out on the front porch for him.

ME: Awwww.

THING 1: And wait overnight. And then sneak outside when he comes to get it.

ME: Awwww.

THING 1: And then hit him in the head with a brick.

ME: . . .

THING 1: And take a photo.


Oh, Christmas through the eyes of children. Such a beautiful thing.

Maggie Does Europe (Again): Part 2, Hungary

I realize that I promised the two more tour blog posts and then disappeared, but I swear I have good reason. Aside from it being that festive time of year, I am still scrambling to get that draft of Secret Novel into Editor Mixtape before January 1st. Actually, I want it done by Christmas Eve so that I can, you know, take my first day off since . . . November 21st (which I took off for my birthday). This is a very exciting concept for me. And, I think, actually doable, as I think I have about six chapters before I'm done with Secret Novel. So now I'm getting into the ulcer-y stomach churning WILL PEOPLE STILL LOVE ME AFTER THIS BOOK? moment instead. I love writing!

Anyway, onto the second tour post. This one took a long time because I was trying to find a way to condense it and it was even harder than France. See, we were met at the airport by Viktoria Bosnyak from my Hungarian publisher, and she proceeded to show me as much of Budapest as humanly possible during our waking hours. Which was brilliant . . . but also gave me so many photos that I can't possibly show you all of them, because people with dial-up connections will hunt me down and bludgeon me to death with a cable modem.

I think I better just say, to get it out of the way, that any rumors that you've heard about Budapest being gorgeous are absolutely true. See?

















I see that you believe me. In between signings and interviews and live webcasts, Viki also had other things planned for me. None of these quite went down the way I expected.

For instance, she had planned to take us to several Hungarian restaurants to eat Real Hungarian Food.

WHAT I EXPECTED: To politely starve. I'm a picky eater (as a child, I only ate round foods) and though one of my favorite foods is goulash, I assumed that American goulash was completely different from actual Hungarian goulash. Also, goulash is sort of like a stew. Hey, I've read high fantasy. I know that you don't eat stew in strange places. You never know what kind of animal just died for your meal. Or how long ago it died, for that matter.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: I will now eat anything even remotely called goulash. I am moving to Hungary to eat only Hungarian food. Viki also took me to a cake shop and fed me something called apple pie which was not apple pie but was a perfectly acceptable food regardless. 

Another thing Viki had planned was a trip to one of the museums in Budapest, to see 19th and 20th century Hungarian art.

WHAT I EXPECTED: Paintings of villagers frolicking in peasant garb while eating goulash.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Paintings of Hungarian guys in battle dress drowning in rivers, paintings of Turks and Hungarians poking each other with swords, paintings of naked women smiling coyly, and, memorably, a painting of me after pulling an all nighter to get more of my novel done. Basically, it was awesome. Also, Lover was like a boy in a candy shop. Men beating each other up and women with barely any clothing, with overtones of depression and insanity!? Come on! This is like a Russell Crowe movie.



At a dinner with some readers and my publisher and editor, my publisher said they had a special gift for me.

WHAT I EXPECTED: Something I would not be able to fit into my luggage. Possibly something I would not immediately be able to identify. Possibly goulash.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED:
 A special edition of SHIVER, bound in leather and wood, and utterly, terribly, drop dead gorgeous.


 

And yes, that is my tea being served in a flower pot in that last photo. My Hungarian publisher was quick to point out that this was not a Hungarian custom.

Also, before I left for Europe, my Hungarian publisher had asked me if I was interested in going to see . . . are you ready for this? Probably not. I wasn't. They wanted to know if I was interested in going an hour outside of Budapest to see a man who trains wolves for movies. They said they'd arranged for me to go in with the wolf pack, and that I would be provided "appropriate apparel." Of course there is only one answer for a question like that.

WHAT I EXPECTED: I was most concerned about what this phrase meant: "appropriate apparel." What is appropriate apparel for seeing wolves in Hungary? I couldn't decide if this meant padded arm protectors or a leather bikini. One just never knows the cultural norm for these things.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Two waterproof coats over the top of my wool coat and a pair of bright purple galoshes provided by my publisher.


They'd had sudden snow which had melted and left the place incredibly muddy, and they just didn't want me to ruin my clothing.

Oh.

Well, that makes sense. It was also way too cold for a leather bikini. Maybe a one piece, though?

So I meant Zoltan, the man who trains the wolves, and he was incredibly funny, charming, and normal. I guess I was expecting some guy with a beard long enough for endangered species to live in. But instead, here was this guy who really ought to play Beck in the movie of SHIVER.

ZOLTAN: Let's go in through the house first. We'll get you suited up.

ME: Fantastic.

ZOLTAN: Don't let the pig out.

I am sorry to say that I don't have a photograph of the pig that he had living in his kitchen. But I trust that you'll believe me. And then it was on down to the wolves. He had several packs, which he changed up often to keep from having any dominance issues, and I met one of the wolves who starred in the movie Blood and Chocolate.


And then in I went with the frolicking wolves. Zoltan suggested that we let them get to know us before we tried to touch them, and also told us to take care that they wouldn't scratch our faces. Oh, yeah, and he also said they liked to taste things. Basically what this translated into was a half dozen wolves placing my hands in their mouths, tugging on the toggles of my coat, and biting on the end of Lover's camera.


And it was amazing to watch them -- it wasn't at all like a pack of dogs playing. Every pack behavior that I'd read about and watched on TV was so much more exaggerated than in dogs. It was a giant, ever-moving play of dominance and submission, hierarchy, playing, noise-making -- brilliant. It was absolutely brilliant.

ZOLTAN: Would you like to hear them howl?

ME: WOULD I EVER!

ZOLTAN: WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

WOLVES: WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Again, it was absolutely nothing like dogs howling. The notes were so incredibly pure. It was like this. I don't think I can describe to you what it was like to be standing in the middle of a pack singing like that.

Then I got to get up close and personal. A little . . . too up close and personal.


But once I got their tongues out of my mouth, it was slightly less messy.



Okay, not a lot. I'd like you to see if you can spot my jeans in these photos. The mud on them. Keep in mind my next destination after the wolves was the airport, so that's how I flew. It distressed the flight attendant so much that she brought me five packages of wet wipes. That's service, baby!



I'd like to point out in this one that I, for one, am not using my tongue in this kiss.


It was pretty fantastic that Lover could be there as well -- in large part because I always try to explain these surreal tour experiences to him and I know they don't translate properly. Aw, look, he likes me, even in Hungary!


I have give a huge shout of of thanks to my publisher, for an unforgettable time. They gave me Hungarian candies to string up on my Christmas tree and I just wanted to show that they made it on! 




I can't wait to go back.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Maggie Does Europe (Again): Part 1, France

So I know I've been putting off posting about my second European tour, but the problem was that I keep thinking about how best to write about ten stuffed days of fascinating stuff without creating the world's longest blog posts or forgetting anything important. And the idea was so daunting that I decided it would be easier to do the next day. Rinse and repeat.

I've been home since Monday, and somehow this policy hasn't gotten the post written. So here I am, attempting it. 

On December 2nd, Thursday evening, Lover and I trooped to the airport for the eight hour flight to Europe. Because I'm allergic to preservatives, plane food is a no-go for me, turning most travel into a hunger strike. But because of my animal cunning, I've discovered a solution.


My first stop was Paris, France. Paris, France's first response to my presence was to immediately call down snow. As my ears and nose turned red for all official photographs and snow collected in my hair, I was told again and again how unusual this was. Behold this proof of me in Paris.

(I realize that in this photo, it looks like I'm pointing directly to the Australian flag, but I swear, I was pointing at the Eiffel Tower.)




I feel that I was somewhat deprived of a full and meaningful Paris experience for three different reasons.

1) Aforementioned snow. While it made the city almost revoltingly pretty, it also ensured that the sky was a leaden gray for the entire four days I was in Paris, and also turned to rain. Lots of rain. I didn't see the sun until eight days later, when I got to Bulgaria. I was thinking this would be a great town for the Cullens. (The Cullens were on my mind as my French publisher, Hachette, is also the publisher of Twilight).


2) Jet lag. I kept saying: I have two hours free, I should go see the city! And then Lover would nod. And then we would both go to sleep.

3) FOREVER. Editor Mixtape kindly sent homework with me: the copy-edits for FOREVER. Technically speaking, copy edits are just supposed to be fixing typos and timeline issues and repeated words. Easy stuff. I'm quite certain Editor MixTape didn't mean to kill me. However, what really happened was that I completely threw out the last scene and redid it, and then I cut 2,700 words from the middle and replaced them with 2,900 new ones. SURPRISE, EDITOR MIXTAPE! SURPRISE!

I did, however, get to frolic at the Montreuil Book Fair, which is a book fair unlike any I've ever been to before. It's entirely open to the public (unlike our BookExpo or ALA Conference), and kids and adults run around, buy books, and meet with a few hundred authors. Of which one of them was me. Here I am in the Hachette booth with my French books.


And I did get to meet with actual, amazing French readers. I also, bewilderingly, got to meet with a reader who'd come from Belgium. She'd read my blog and she remembered how I'd forgotten my German cookies on the plane in Frankfurt. And she gave me some Belgian chocolates to take back with me. Whoo hoo! 

Too bad I forgot them in the back room of the Hachette booth.

You may shake your head at me now. Okay, that's enough. Stop. I was jet-lagged, okay?

Anyway, for four days, I did interviews, a live chat with French readers, and ate fantastic food, all the while walking between raindrops and snow flakes. Scholastic got wise to the fact that Lover and I have our wedding anniversary in December and sent us to a pretty amazing restaurant for our anniversary dinner. And still it snowed and rained.






We had one entire day free in France, and under a gray, heavy sky, what did Lover and I decide to do? Climb the Eiffel Tower? Go on a patisserie tour? Walk the Louvre?

No, we decided to rent a Hyundai and drive three hours to Omaha Beach in Normandy.

Now before I hear the howls of rage and indignation from your Paris-lovers out there, I should hurry to explain. First of all, Lover really wanted to see Omaha Beach in Normandy. Second, I am busting my @#$% to finish writing Secret Novel by January 1st, and Secret Novel has cliffs in it. So I have gone to great efforts to see cliffs while writing. And more effort. And more, more effort. So when I found out there were cliffs near the Normandy landings, you better believe that cinched the deal.

So off we went, as snow turned to rain turned to snow again. Our GPS spoke to us in English, but it sounded confused, and the road signs spoke to us in French. This resulted in some odd side trips that resulted in patisseries being visited and croissants and Opera cakes being purchased.


A place to get croissants. Near Rouen, maybe? I was working on copy-edits while driving*, so I was slightly out of sorts.

*By which I mean, while Lover drove.


The weather took a turn for the more dire and apocalyptic once we started getting into Normandy. The locals warned us against trying to get down to the beaches. There was massive flooding and rains of fish and two-headed calves (well, everything except for the fish and calves). But did that stop us? 


HA! DOUBLE HA! Of course not. And aren't those cliffs worth it? But, um, it was cold.


Also, Lover saw this and wondered what it said. I translated: CLIMB THIS PATH AND DIE OR BE KILLED, YOUR CHOICE.


But he climbed it anyway, because he wanted to look in the concrete thingy. Bunker. He neither died nor was killed, which is only going to encourage him the next time.

And so that was France. I have left a few things out, like how amazing my French editor and publicist are, and how we spent hours searching for cassoulet and found it, and how a blogger gave me chocolates at an interview and I ate them at 3 a.m. in the morning to counteract jet lag, and how my French publisher saw me ogling this gorgeous book by Rebecca Dautremer and gave it to me, and how I've now eaten duck three times in my life and liked it every time, and how basically lovely and expensive Paris is.

But I think I hit the bulk of it. And then it was on to Hungary.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Incoherent Bulgarian Blog Posts, Out of Order

So I am supposed to be both finishing Secret Novel before Jan. 1st and writing blog posts about my overseas tour. My multi-tasking is not going so well, however, because my desire to make cookies won out over my desire to blog. So instead of doing my full post today, I will instead share a small Anecdote from Bulgaria, my last tour stop.

On my last day in Bulgaria -- nay, my last day officially on tour! -- the Bulgarians threw a fantastic masquerade ball in my honor. They had some hot Bulgarian actor as MC, national dancers doing some pretty amazing stuff, real Bulgarian folk music, giveaways, masks, the works. There were were a few hundreds people there. It was glamorous.

They called me on stage and said they had a present for me. A PRESENT! I love presents. Maybe it's a puppy!

It was not a puppy. It was a set of Bulgarian bagpipes. Which they urged me to try in front of the crowd.

This is what happened.





More to come. Once I've made more cookies and written more on Secret Novel.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

excuses, excuses

I'm afraid that I'm not posting about my Euro tour at the moment because my lovely French hotel (which has the finest pillows known to man . . . if I look plump in some of my photos later, it will be because I've smuggled it out under my shirt) only has internet in the lobby, which is somewhat inconvenient when you're rarely in the hotel and even less rarely in the lobby. Also, I'm just uncomfortable blogging while wearing pants. Lover is trying to convince me to just wear my pajama pants down to the lobby, but I will not be That Girl.

So this is a placeholder blog post telling you that I'm frolicking and meeting French fans and, today, taking a day trip to Omaha Beach in Normandy to let Lover go to the D-Day memorial and me see ever more cliffs for Secret Novel.

Here is a photo of me with my eyes closed, for some reason.


And with that, I'm off to go put on my pajama pants.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In Which Maggie Braves The Elements To Tour Europe (Again)

So you may have heard about the weather blowing across the UK and Europe. I've sort of been watching. They've been using words like "arctic" and "gale" and "too damn expensive to keep public transportation open you fools you fools!" and that's just in England. I'm heading off on tour tomorrow, with Lover in tow, and everyone keeps telling me to prepare. Bring lots of hats and scarves and gloves, they warn. Buy the heaviest coat you can find. Wear up to twenty inches of subcutaneous fat, like a whale, to stay warm.

So I did my best.

I bought these, which my husband say makes me look like I escaped from a prison for Dr. Seuss characters.

I also bought gloves without fingers.

I also made cookies.

Let no one say that Maggie Stiefvater doesn't know how to prepare for a trip.

So, if you happen to be French, Bulgarian, or Hungarian, watch out. I am Coming Your Way. In fact, here's the schedule of public events:

December 3rd
Signing at Hachette's Booth at the Montreuil Book Fair, Paris, France, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

December 4th
Signing at Hachette's Booth at the Montreuil Book Fair, Paris, France, 2:00-4:00 p.m.

December 8th
Signing at Alexandra Párizsi Nagyáruház, Magyarország 1061 Budapest, Andrássy út 39., 4:30 p.m.

December 10th
Questions & Answers/ Chat, International book fair. National palace of culture. Hall №8. Floor №5., 11 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

December 11th
Signing in Sofia, Penguin Bookstore, Sofia, Bulgaria, 2:00-3:00 p.m., http://www.pingvinite.bg/?cid=5&NewsId=271

December 11th
Masquerade Ball, Magical World Meeting: Folklore, Sofia, Bulgaria, 3:30-5:00 p.m., http://www.pingvinite.bg/?cid=5&NewsId=271


(and that is the Bulgarian edition of BALLAD on the right there)(it's keeping warm by setting fire to main characters, as you can see).

I feel I should possibly go buy another pair of socks.
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