Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How To Turn a Novel Into a Textbook

I'm here on tour in Australia, which is amazing (and if you're Australian and would like to come see me, here's my date for Perth tonight, and my other dates for Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane), though I'm spending more time talking to Australian classrooms than seeing Australian landscape. Later, when I find my card reader, I'll share pictures (of landscape, not classrooms).

Earlier in the week, I was at the Melbourne Writers Festival, and one of the girls in line asked me how I made my novels longer, as in, not just thirty pages longer. I told her it was about description and also about engaging the five senses, but the more I thought about it, the more I considered how that was not what my failing was when I was first beginning. Like a lot of beginning writers, my first manuscripts were short, short, short, and I couldn't understand what they were lacking.

So I did tell the reader that I recommended looking at published novels and deconstructing the pages to learn how to pace her novel, but I wish I would've been able to show her what I meant. One of the finest tools in any writer's arsenal, I think, is the ability to turn a novel into a textbook. For copyright reasons, I'm going to use my own books to demonstrate how I would do it, but obviously, I recommend doing it with whichever books that you love.

Okay. Here's a page from FOREVER. The first page, actually.






You can learn a lot of things from a great first page (also from a bad first page. Not so much from anything in between). Want to know what works as a compelling beginning? Ask a reader you know well: you. When I'm stumped at starting a new project, I still go to my bookshelf and pull off a big stack of old favorites. I sit on the floor or my office and all I read is the first page. You can do the same thing.

Well, please don't do it in my office.

Ask yourself:
What do these first pages have in common?
What is hooking me into the story?
Who is introduced? The main character? a side character? setting?
Is there dialogue?
Is there action?
How does it look on the page? Long paragraphs? Short sentences?
Again: how do these work together to hook me?
I used to believe that a great way to start a story was with some cracking dialogue and some fast paced action, but often, that's totally meaningless to a reader who doesn't care whether or not this unfamiliar character lives or dies. Instead, the hook can be a quite subtle thing. Really, the hook is just an unspoken question that the reader pursues to the next page.
Is there a question on the first page?
There's one other very important aspect of a first page, and it's the first line. A great first line can hook a reader, set mood, introduce character, and start the conflict rolling all in one. Not all first lines do this. And they don't have to. But they should set the tone. So, final question for the first page:
How does the first line relate to the rest of the book?
Here are my first lines:

LAMENT: "You'll be fine once you throw up," Mom said.
BALLAD: I was used to being the hunter.
SHIVER: I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.
LINGER: This is the story of a boy who once was a wolf, and a girl who was becoming one.
FOREVER: I can be so, so quiet.
THE SCORPIO RACES: It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

So, having exhausted everything that a first page can give us, another really, really useful thing to look at is how other authors shape dialogue and description. For that, you usually need to go beyond the first page. Sometimes, when I'm stuck on a very particular problem, I will find a novel that I remember solving the problem well — pacing an action scene that takes place in a short time, for instance — and reread the passage to try to see what techniques helped.

Here's a page from LINGER.



I will confess, that in my beginning writerly years, this page would have read like this:
"I never pegged you for a fan of the obvious, Sam," Isabel said.
"I'm not," I said. "Or I would've said, Hey, shouldn't you be in school?"
"Touche," Isabel replied.
"I've been seeing wolves near my house," Isabel said.
"How close to your house?"
She shrugged. "From the third floor, I can see them in the woods. Clearly they have no sense of self preservation, or they'd avoid my father. Who is not a fan."
In its entirety. It would not have occured to me that anything was missing. I would have merely gotten to the end of an 11,000 word draft and thought: HOW IS THIS NOT AS LONG AS A NOVEL!? IT HAS A BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END!

It wasn't until I took apart my favorite novels that I started to understand how to manipulate pacing. The thing is, there is nothing wrong with that stripped down 7-8 line page. It's just that it's missing so many opportunities to play with mood, character, setting. It's nothing but plot sitting there like that, and while plot is a crucial enough thing, it's not what keeps a reader reading. People keep the reader reading.

These are the questions I would ask myself looking at a page like this:

How varied are the dialogue tags? ("said," "replied," "shouted")
How is the writer showing a pause in dialog? By saying "she paused" or by inserting a non-dialogue paragraph?
How is setting worked in?
Is there subtext going on? Are the characters thinking something different than what they're saying?
Can I imagine myself there? Why?
If I remove a sentence, how does it change my perception?
If I remove a paragraph, how does it change my perception?


So that's how I would pull a book apart, in a nutshell. If I had a bit more space, I'd actually pull apart a scene line by line here on the blog, but this post is already epic. Let me know if you guys want something like that.

I'm off to breakfast.


Even the crows have accents here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Writing

On Twitter and Facebook, I promised to answer a writing question before I left for Australia today, and asked what that question should be.  So many of the questions that came in were ones that I'd already tackled that I realized what I needed to do was not answer another question, but organize the stuff I'd already blogged about. When I started to organize the blog posts, I realized . . . I talk about writing a lot.


WRITING

How to Write a Novel


Seven Steps to Starting a Novel


Novels, on Starting Them

How I Prep for Writing a Novel

How Many Words/ Pages Should my Book Be? also Making your book longer than 30 pages

Staying Focused on One Project

Rough drafting


Writer's Block


On treating readers badly


CHARACTERS

Knowing Your Characters


Purposeful Characterization

Why Normal People Can't Be Characters

On Stylizing Characters


On Harming Characters


AFTER THE NOVEL: REVISING

Revision, Part 1

Revision, Part 2

Revision, Part 3

Questions on Revision


Revising for Mood


Death to Line Editing


Finding a critique partner



AFTER THE NOVEL: QUERYING

Courageous Querying

10 Rules for Query Letters



INSPIRATION

Being a writer, but also being something else

Books that feed me

Reading as inspiration


On Writerly Confidence:

On Writerly Angst

More on being a writer




MISCELLANEOUS


Writing for your audience

My early terrible writing

Miscellaneous Writing Questions

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Which Onions Inform My Fashion Sense

Tomorrow, I leave for a month of touring in Australia, Germany, and France, and as I pack, I discover that I am flummoxed.

This is because, due to an accident of geography, Australia is on the other side of the planet, which means they are opposite to us in many ways. When it is day here, it is night in Australia. When our water goes clock-wise down the drain, theirs goes counter-clockwise. When we are watching re-runs, they are watching pilots. When it is summer here, it is winter there.

That is problematic because my tour packing usually involves me stuffing my 17 black tank tops into a duffle bag and calling it a day. It means that it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between photos from most of my tour events. The internet is populated by identical photos of me in black tank tops.

The Australians have informed me, however, that if I wear tank tops to Australia, I will be cold. Remember, the Australians are playing Opposite Day with us, which means that since I’m happy wearing tank tops here in Virginia, I will be sad wearing them in Australia. This leaves me with a packing conundrum. I have to think of something else to wear.

Luckily, this is not the first time I’ve had to apply my brain to tour wardrobe malfunctions. I think it’s time to explain this particular photo.


Maggie at Rainy Day Books

That is Kansas City. On tour. You’ll notice that that is me wearing, like, the opposite of a black tank top.

The reason I happened to have that dress packed on my road-trip driving tour happened about four days before my tour began. I was having a perfectly lovely morning and then Something Terrible happened. Namely, I began to put on my jeans (I was putting on jeans because it was a day that ended with ‘y’) and I realized that I was . . . not comfortable.

Further exploration revealed an ABUE (Angry Bump of Unknown Etiology) near my waist band which Google informed me was an ingrown hair. For those of you who, like me, had never had an ingrown hair, allow me to explain: it is when the natural order of the world is reversed and a hair grows in instead of out. It is much like opposite day and Australia in that respect, but more painful.


HAIRS

Aside from being ugly and painful, it was also humiliating. There is nothing sympathetic about an ingrown hair. Like pimples, they are a trial that must be borne alone, only appearing in public to be mocked on Family Guy.

Google told me not to worry. It would be gone in ten days, six days after my tour began.

But I could not wear my jeans.

I do not think the internet can adequately convey the fear and horror that washed through me as I realized that my tour wardrobe had been stolen from me in the blink of an eye. In the twitch of a hair. If you took all of the capital As I have ever typed in the history of this blog and add them to all of the lower case hs I ever typed into the Wolves of Mercy Falls, and you put them together, that would begin to create the sound that defined my agony.

Hurriedly, I consulted Google again. Surely there was a way to wish this abomination away sooner. Google offered a lot of remedies, but some of them sounded like beginning of stories my E.R. doctor father liked to tell at dinner, and some of them sounded a lot like magic. But I was desperate.

Which was how I ended up spending a day with half an onion strapped to my thigh.

After about ten hours of smelling like cheap salsa, I decided to get onto G-chat and ask my Oracle for advice. My Oracle = Jackson Pearce. She has never steered me wrong, except for when she has. On g-chat we discussed potential solutions. Some of them involved tweezers. Some of them involved baths and ice cream. For some reason, a lot of Jackson’s suggestions involve baths and ice cream.The following conversation happened:

me: Should I buy a dress for tour?
Jackson: If you buy a dress it'll be made of iron grommets and heavy weight burlap

Jackson has this theory that I will only wear clothing that is heavier than my body, or that looks like heavy machinery. The theory is not entirely unsound.

I am not a dress person.

But it wasn’t as if I could wear this onion on tour. Aside from imparting a less than beautiful silhouette, it smelled like rush hour at Chipotle. So I bought a dress. It was a beautiful dress, much to Jackson’s shock.   

Jackson: oh look at that!
That dress is delightful.
me: HA! double HA, pearce!
You thought it would have rivets!
... I couldn't find rivets.
Jackson: Who are you
stranger with Maggie's google name
me: I bargained with myself.
If I wear pretty things, I can wear giant hardware on my arms.

The dress was crochet, which means “see through” in layman’s terms, so, feeling clever, I bought the slip the site recommended. Both arrived. I tried it on. It looked like a million bucks. I looked like a million bucks. It was no jeans and tank top, but still, I was pleased. I emerged from my room, triumphant, to show Lover.

Lover: Uh, Maggie?

Because, this.

Dress warning

I'm not certain who designed this particular dress/ slip pairing, but they clearly had never aligned the two aspects to realize that crochet + crochet = still see through.

By now I was in proper form, frothing at the mouth, days before my tour, moving slowly as not to dislodge the ever-present onion. With the firm eyebrows and twisted mouth I'd learned from Bruce Willis in nearly all of his movies, I went from place to place until I tracked down a pair of bloomers to cover up my lady-parts.

In the interim, my in-grown hair went away.

Still, full of the principle of the thing, I brought the Onion Dress with me on tour, a sort of gruesome trophy. Twitter convinced me to wear it to the event in Kansas City. Photo, explained.

So, you see, I really have the experience to pack for this Australian trip now. I have loads of options. I even have a dress. And bloomers.


But I already miss my tank tops.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

SCORPIO WINNERS!

scorpio race header

Okay, we have three winners for the Scorpio Races contest! We had over 800, which is pretty . . . amazing. Thank you guys, as always, for sharing your blog space with my trailers.

These three folks should e-mail me with their mailing addresses at
StiefvaterReaderMail

which is a gmail thing. If any of you guys have problems deciphering my anti-spam language there, leave a comment.

Amanda Machonis
Jackie Woodburn
Jennica Cooper

PLEASE e-mail me by Tuesday at noon, or I'll pick a new winner.

Everyone else, thank you so much for entering. Fountain Bookstore as always is shipping out signed, doodled copies if you pre-order from them, and also, if you come to the launch party event in Washington D.C. on October 20th, not only could I be persuaded to doodle if you asked, but you'll also have a shot at winning the painting above (which doesn't have the title of the book on it in real life).

Thanks again!!

Last Minute Reminder for the SCORPIO RACES contest

Oh! Oh! I totally forgot to post a reminder because writing MagicalNovel is eating my brain.

There are just a few more hours to enter the contest to win a signed, doodled in advanced review copy of THE SCORPIO RACES.

Basically the contest just involves posting the trailer on your blog/ facebook/ twitter. And the details are here.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Five Things on A Friday

1. Suburbia is making me lose my sense of humor.

2. THE SCORPIO RACES just got its third starred review, which is crazy and wonderful. I feel like I should be more crass about this by now, but the fact is . . . I love THE SCORPIO RACES more than anything I've written so far, and I haven't felt a personal buzz about a book like this since SHIVER. And THE SCORPIO RACES is such a MAGGIE book, I just didn't know how people would take it. Well, this is how:

“Masterful. Like nothing else out there now.”
-Kirkus, starred review


“a study of courage and loyalty tested . . . an utterly compelling read.”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review


“A book with cross-appeal to lovers of fantasy, horse stories, romance, and action-adventure, this has a shot at being the next YA blockbuster.”
-Booklist, starred review


Man, I'm just going to say "Masterful" over and over again. At the dinner table. Lover's going to be so happy about this, I'm sure.

3. Pretty much everyone who reads this blog probably knows I have a monthly short story blog, the Merry Sisters of Fate, with my two critique partners, Tessa Gratton & Brenna Yovanoff. Well, because of the annoying things going on with Livejournal, we moved it over to Wordpress, though the address stayed the same. We all did a short story based upon a common prompt this week — one of my favorite paintings ever. It has the angst BUILT RIGHT INTO IT.

4. Has anybody seen Cowboys vs. Aliens? Is it any good? I want it to be good, but I'm filled with fear.

5. Does anybody know where I could find a good children's map or guide to Germany? You know, like THIS except 100% mehr Deutsch. Thing 1 & Thing 2 love that book, and it'd be cool to give them something similar for our trip to Germany.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pictoral Examples of Productivity

Today, instead of blogging or giving an excuse as to why I'm not blogging, I will merely show you why I'm not blogging. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I figure a thousand words is a long enough excuse.


My Office

decoded:


My office, decoded

(click for larger image)



If you want some of those SCORPIO RACES review copies shown in the picture, remember there's an easy contest going on now.

And I will be back later this week, because I do have a blog post about dresses and onions I want to write. But I need time for that one, and time is the one thing not found in that office of mine.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Hero In Your Own Life

I’ve been meaning to post about the themes I hoped to get across in the Shiver series. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I thought about it the other day, in this spoilery chat about FOREVER, when I was asked some variation of what I hoped readers would take away from the trilogy. And yesterday, when I was reading about the London looting. And last night, I was doing an interview with an Australian newspaper in preparation for my tour there.

So here it is. What I want readers to take away from the Wolves of Mercy Falls: that you should be the hero of your own life. It’s a conscious choice, a way of looking at the world. I thought about this concept a lot when I was a teen, especially at the time mentioned in this blog post.

When I say “be the hero of your own life,” I suppose I really mean three things.

First, a certain self-awareness. To see whether you’re the hero of your own life demands that you step outside of your body and say, all right. This is how people see me. This is how I see me. This is the greater arc of my life and these are the demons I’ve struggled with and right there, those are my strengths and my weaknesses. This is the general shape of things, and here I am in the middle of it. From outside your own life, detached and objective, you have to decide: If they wrote a book of your life, made a movie of it, would you be a hero? Would you be a villain? Or, worst of all, would you be a side character?

Because the second thing about being a hero in your own life is that heroes act. They might begin their book reacting — actually, they often begin the books shy, afraid, damaged, or otherwise incapable of changing things for themselves or other people — but by the end of the book, they’ve learned how to be powerful in their own skin. How to be able to act to change their own circumstances. So many people wait for other people to change their world for them, and often, that change never happens. If you’re a hero, you must act. Side characters are often moved by events or by the actions of the hero or the villain, so the direction of their lives is dictated by other people. Heroes move their worlds for themselves.

Actually, so do villains. Which is why, to me, the last thing about being a hero is about principle and values. When you step outside your own body and look at yourself as the narrator of your own life, are you proud of what you see? Even if you’re the underdog, are you someone you like? A hero is someone who’s noble and honorable, even in the worst of circumstances. It’s someone who is heroic even when no one else is around to see them. It’s someone who does the right thing, even if the right thing is the laundry. It’s someone who tries hard and learns to be a strong, unique individual, either because of their past . . . or despite their past.

There are a lot of different sorts of bravery.

So that’s what I hope readers get out of the trilogy, watching four teens struggle, wander, and finally charge into their lives in FOREVER, finally powerful in their own bodies and in their own worlds. I reckon that’s a lot to ask of a single series and I’m not sure it will come across, but what can I say? Sometimes this particular hero is a little grandiose.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Playlist for FOREVER

I've been asked a gagillion times in the past year to share my playlist for FOREVER, and I finally, finally have done it. Part of the problem was the length of it — I have to listen to music while I write, and usually the list is quite short, but with FOREVER, I had to narrow it down from 193 songs.

Here it is. As always, if you love a song, please buy a legal copy of it and support the artist.

The Forever playlist


  1. "Comes and Goes (In Waves)"—Greg Laswell
  2. "No One's Gonna Love You"—Band of Horses
  3. "Green Hills Race for California"—Emerson Hart
  4. "Canvas"—Imogen Heap
  5. "Samson"—Regina Spektor
  6. "The Dragon"—The Guggenheim Grotto
  7. "New Slang"—The Shins
  8. "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song"—Fleet Foxes
  9. "First Floor People"—Barcelona
  10. "Librarian"—My Morning Jacket
  11. "Sort Of"—Ingrid Michaelson
  12. "Never Bloom Again"—The Perishers
  13. "Powerlines"—Western States Motel
  14. "33"—Great Northern
  15. "Miner's Lamp"—Steve Reynolds
  16. "Kings Horses"—JET
  17. "Honey Honey"—Feist
  18. "Winter Song"—Sara Barilles & Ingrid Michaelson
  19. "Lille"—Lisa Hannigan
  20. "I and Love and You"—The Avett Brothers
And here's the lot of it sorted into a playlist on iTunes.





Not everything was available on Playlist.com for sampling, but here's most of it.


Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones


I also have a rather disorganized and louder collection of music that I used to write Cole's scenes, but I'm not certain that will be as universally liked . . .

ETA: okaaaay, but don't say I didn't warn you. Here's the Cole/ Isabel playlist (and here it is on iTunes).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

THE SCORPIO RACES: trailer and advanced review copy contest!

It's been hard to know when to start talking about THE SCORPIO RACES. I had to keep it very quiet while I was writing it, and then FOREVER murmuring began and then I was on tour, and so it never seemed to be the right moment.

Well. Now it is a moment for THE SCORPIO RACES.

The book started as a short story written for a tiny anthology I did with the Merry Sisters of Fate, back when we began. It's based on a legend I've always loved (Irish water horses) and deals with two character types I adore. A fierce girl with loads of brothers (I have lots of brothers myself) and a Mr. Darcy sort of love interest (my first Mac was named Mr. Darcy. You know, difficult to get to know but worth it in the end. GET IT?). It's about a deadly horse race run at the base of chalk cliffs, and it is all about siblings, repressed love, and revenge. I spent months researching cliffs and islands and Irish horse racing and buns made with lots of honey to write this novel, and it's basically the most me novel that I've ever written. You can find a full description here.

My sister and I went into the studio earlier this year to record the music for the trailer and had more fun than humans should have. The track involved stomping, clapping, an instrument called the "Vibra-tone," and smacking drum sticks and mallets on lots of things that weren't supposed to be smacked. And then the trailer involved acrylic paint, a lot of transparency paper, a lot of tracing paper, and a brush too manky to be very useful (while I was on tour, all my good brushes moved away).


SCORPIO TRAILER Animation Worksheet2SCORPIO Trailer animation worksheetCrows in Tails for Scorpio


So here it is. The trailer.



As usual, I'm running the trailer contest for a chance to get one of three advanced review copies of THE SCORPIO RACES. They'll be doodled in and personalized. I cannot send the advanced review copies overseas, but I'm not going to disqualify international entries. If the winner lives overseas but can provide me with a U.S. address, I'll send the ARC to them. If the winner lives overseas but don't have a U.S. address, I will send something else Cool to them and award the ARC to another U.S. address.

The way to enter is easy -- just embed the trailer on your blog or post it on your Facebook or Twitter (you may say whatever you like about the trailer)(you can also post a link to where you can pre-order a signed, doodled in copy of THE SCORPIO RACES, but it's not required: http://www.fountainbookstore.com/autograph-maggie. I'd merely love you forever).

Then let me know where you posted it, along with your contact details

HERE ON THE CONTEST PAGE
<------ click! click! click!

You can tell it's the place to enter the contest because I made it giant and bold. COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG ARE NOT ENTRIES!! You can tell that's true as well, because it's also in bold.

It's one entry per place that you post it: if you post it on your blog, facebook, and twitter, that is three entries. These contests tend to get huge and unwieldy, so please use common sense when deciding what constitutes an entry. Posted on your Wordpress blog? Yes. Posted on your mom's gallbladder support forum? No.

The contest runs from now until August 21st. I'll notify the winners, but please do check back on the blog to see if you've won. I will be ruthless about re-awarding the prizes if I don't get an email from the winners within 2 days, because I'm taking off for AUSTRALIAN TOUR on the 25th and I want to have these all mailed out before I'm away from my desk for a month.

I always seem to forget some part of contest posts, but I think I got the important bits. I should mention that there is another contest running for an ARC over at Merry Sisters of Fate, and it ends tomorrow night. That's here.

I believe I am now done talking about THE SCORPIO RACES for now.


ETA: I knew I would forget something. Here is the code for embedding the video on your blog (on Facebook, just post the link and it should appear properly). You'd post this code into the html view when you compose your blog post:

<iframe width="560" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/tojCn2Y41ig" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ten Questions with Two Audiobook Narrators

One of the most fascinating parts for me as an author has been the non-printed word ramifications of my novels — the music, the art, the fans sending me plays they've done of Shiver (true story). Audiobooks fall squarely in that category in my mind. Scholastic Audio does all of my audiobooks at this point, and starting with LINGER, they began to use my music in the audiobooks and ask me for input on the voice actors. By FOREVER, when they needed another voice actor to read Shelby's prologue, they asked if I wanted to be that voice.

Cool, yes?

I will answer for you. YES. Those of you who have listened to the audiobooks to this point know that Cole's voice is gritty and wonderful, Sam really sings the songs, Grace becomes wryly funny, and Isabel becomes the most sarcastic person alive. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to score interviews with two of the voice narrators, and here they are.

DAN BITTNER, ON BEING COLE.

MAGGIE: So the first thing I noticed when listening to the audio book was how well you really brought the somewhat tumultuous character of Cole to life. Talk to me about traditional acting versus voice acting. Do you have to get into character when you narrate in the same way you would with traditional acting? Do you have rituals, like standing on tables, speaking in tongues, or break dancing? Did you ever consider other “personas” for Cole?

DAN: The great thing about doing audiobooks is being able to play a larger spectrum of characters you normally wouldn't be right for. When I go in for TV/Film and Theater, I fit into a much smaller world. When my agent sends me breakdowns for roles it's a pretty sure thing I will find white, preppy, all American, fresh faced, quirky in there somewhere. Cole is the guy I would love to read for, but I'm the farthest thing from him. People give me their babies on the street, I'm not exactly a rough around the edges type, like Cole. I don't have any rituals except for making sure I warm up my voice beforehand. Reading a book in that lower register for so long can be rough, I go through a pitcher of water an hour. Going back to Cole and his persona, I knew exactly how I wanted him to sound when I read the description and a bit of the text.

MAGGIE: As I googled you in an attempt to ask intelligent questions, I noticed that there are only two other Dan Bittners of note. One who repairs appliances in Ohio, and one with a trucking company in New Jersey. Do you repair appliances or haul things in your spare time? And if not, what do you do when you’re not being Cole?

DAN: When I was growing up there used to be a Bittner that was a plumber in my hometown. It seems all the other Bittners out there are tradesmen. What a disappointment I must be for them. If I'm not acting, I'm usually just watching TV or playing video games (I'm starting to think this interview was a bad idea, I'm just going to crush the mental image of who people thought I was). I love food too, I live in Brooklyn with some of the best food around. Meeting friends for dinner over drinks would be ideal for me.

MAGGIE: So I headed into the studio to record my two pages of narration for FOREVER, and it took me about a half hour (fifteen minutes of that were because I apparently cannot pronounce ‘incisor.’). That’s longer than the full-length version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly, which is saying something. How long did it take you to record LINGER and FOREVER?

DAN: It's so hard, right?!? I neeeeever would have thought I would be recording audio books. I can hardly read! I've gotten a lot better, but it's still a marathon of a process. I can relate to your "incisor" problem, sometimes these words come out that you have said a million times, but for some reason they are like a foreign language. I recently had to say "crimson" for another book and I could not for the life of me pronounce it without an "m" on the end. It took at least 12 times to get it right. The trick is getting in that zone of storytelling and not thinking about how you are sounding, or if you are messing up. As soon as you start commenting on what you are doing, you're done for. It usually takes about twice the time of the finished product. So if you listen to Linger and it's 5 hours, it takes about 10 hours to record.

MAGGIE: I think it’s safe to share your fan nick-name with you: in the trenches, your voice is referred to as “Sex-on-a-stick.” This may or may not have begun with me but it certainly hasn’t ended with me. Comment. Show your work.

DAN: I've deleted my current resume and all I have on there is your quote, "Dan Bittner is sex-on-a-stick". I can see the t-shirt now...
 
MAGGIE: What’s next for Dan “Sex-on-a-Stick” Bittner?

DAN: I was very happy to come back to read Forever. Besides reading other audiobooks, I did a small stint on the upcoming Men in Black movie as well as an indie film called Grand Street. Next up is an episode of Bored to Death, a show that is a personal favorite of mine that I am very excited to be a part of. It will be the second episode of the upcoming season. Other than that, I'm just waiting for it to stop being cold so I can go outside.

Listen to Dan being Cole in FOREVER: 
Dan Bittner Sample by historyschild




PIERCE CRAVENS ON BEING SAM.

MAGGIE: First of all, I would like to apologize for forcing you to sing Sam’s song on the audiobooks of Linger and Forever. If it makes you feel any better, Scholastic Audio made me sing them very early in the morning, before caffeine, and I do not sing. Was this a first for you?

PIERCE: When I heard you sing, "Man, this is high for eight in the morning," I couldn't stop cracking up. It's the first time that I have ever sung for an audiobook, but I have been singing ever since I was a baby angel in a Christmas show at the Dallas Children's Theater. After that, it was straight to Broadway, but I stopped at Go first to collect $200.00.

MAGGIE: When I go into the studio for my music, it takes approximately four hours to record a two minute track. By my admittedly poor math reckoning (I was a history major. Dead white men, not math, were the priority), that’s 2 minutes for every finished second of music. I think the Linger audiobook is around 11 hours. Please tell me you weren’t in the studio being Sam for 1,320 hours. (This math may be wrong. I will now take any questions you have on dead kings in the Anglo-Saxon period.)

PIERCE
: And I was an International Relations major, so I'm no help either. On Forever and Linger, I spent approximately 2 to 3 days in the studio working on the book. If I make a mistake, I simply started the sentences over, while the studio is still recording. After I finish reading, the editor and director listen back through the recording and take out all of the mistakes. Now to the dead kings: Was Alfred the Great really that great, or what he more Alfred the Pretty Good?

MAGGIE: Actually, he was Alfred the Pretty Damn Spiffy. How do you prepare for your studio work? Do you read the entire work first? Does it matter if you hate it? (If you hate my books, I don’t want to know.)

PIERCE: I read through the entire book to get a feel for the character and story. Then I read back through Sam's chapters and made notes. One of the things that I love about your writing is that it is highly poetic and descriptive -- with that comes beautifully packed, lengthy sentences. As a reader, I have to be cognisant of where I need to take a breath so that I can make it to period without running out of air.

MAGGIE: I did attempt to google you to ask intelligent questions, but all I came up with was your date of birth. I see that you are a young punk with roughly one million voice and traditional acting credits to your name (including the noble “Slimer #2” on Nickelodeon, back in the day). When did you first get into voice talent stuff, and how’s it different from traditional acting?

PIERCE: Slimer #2 was the role of a lifetime and I think I got snubbed by the Daytime Emmys. I got into doing voiceovers when I was an even younger punk. I started doing voiceover commericals for radio and TV and then started to do some cartoon voices for Disney, the Cartoon Network, and more audiobooks for Scholastic (pick up a copy of one of Froggy's adventures, if you don't already have one). One of the challenges with voiceovers is that your voice is all you have. Whereas, with traditional acting, you can communicate the character to the audience visually and auditorily.

MAGGIE: When you are not being Sam or Slimer #2, how do you spend your time?

PIERCE:
 I'm passionate about theater and film production and I am always on the look for new works to produce. I also love playing squash (the sport, not the vegetable). I live in New York City and like to check out all of the new events and restaurants that are constantly popping up. One of my favorite places in the city is the Natural History Museum and the Planetarium. Oh, and Go Yankees!

Listen to Pierce being Sam in FOREVER: 
Pierce Craven Sample by MaggieStiefvater


Huge thanks to both of these narrators for going under the knife for the blog.

And of course you can find the audiobook online from major retailers, order it signed from my local indie, or download it from Audible.

Monday, August 8, 2011

French, German, and Australian Tour Events

Here's the final list of these tour events* this year**: 

 *PLEASE double check with the venue to confirm all times before traveling long distances! Also, I'm happy to sign as many books as you bring, venue permitting, but I do ask that if there are books for sale there, you buy one from the hosting store as well to reimburse them for having an author event there. Thanks!

**I'm also going to be in the UK for a 10 day tour in November, but I don't have details yet. I will also have West Coast dates in October (Portland and California), so I'll post those details when I get them too.

August 29
Melbourne Writer's Festival
details here.
"Why I Read" - 10:00-10:45 a.m.

"Meet the Author" - 12:30-1:15 p.m.

August 30
Melbourne Writer's Festival
details here.
"Meet the Author" - 10:00-10:45 a.m..

September 1
Discussion & Signing
Dymocks, Melville
6:30 PM
Details here

September 2
Discussion & Signing
Dymocks, Melbourne
234 Collins Street
5:30 PM
Details here

September 3
10.30 am – 11.30 am
Readings Bookshop
701 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
Tel: 03 9819 1917

September 5
Discussion & Signing
Books Kinokuniya
Level 2: The Galleries
500 George Street
Sydney
6:00 PM

September 7
Brisbane Writers Festival
Breezeway, Mairwar – State Library of Qld
9.45 am – 10.30 am
Session: Wild Words panel
Panel with Margo Lanagan, Peter Stanley and Maggie
Details here

12.30 pm – 1.15pm
Breezeway, Mairwar – State Library of Qld
Grades 8 - 10 (400 kids)
Session: Meet Maggie Stiefvater

September 8
Brisbane Writers Festival
Breezeway, Mairwar – State Library of Qld
9.30 am – 10.30 am
Session: Meet Maggie Stiefvater

September 9
Brisbane Writers Festival
The Edge – State Library of Qld
9.45 am to 10.30 am
Session: Stories that move: book trailers

Panel with Tristan Bancks and Maggie
12.30pm to 2.15 pm
The Edge – State Library of Qld
Wordshop: Creating Characters workshop

September 10
Brisbane Writers Festival
Workshop: Writing for Young Adults
10am to 12 noon

German details here.

14. September: Hamburg
16.00 Uhr: Harbour Front Festival, Christianskirche, Klopstockplatz 2

15. September: Bamberg
20.00 Uhr: Hübscher Buch und Medienhaus, Grüner Markt 16
VVK in der Buchhandlung Tel: 0951/9822522

16. September: Freising
15.00 Uhr: Kino Camera, Obere Hauptstraße 54
VVK: Bücher Pustet, Obere Hauptstraße 45, Tel: 08161/537730

16. September: Ingolstadt

19.30 Uhr: Thalia Buchhandlung in den City Arcaden, Ludwigstraße 25
VVK in der Buchhandlung, Tel.: 0841/9938770

23 September: Paris
Event with Cate Tiernan
VIRGIN GRAND BOULEVARDS
6:30-8:00 p.m.

24 September: Bordeaux
Event with Cate Tiernan
LIBRAIRIE MOLLAT
4:00-6:00 p.m.

So Now We Come to the End (Well, Sort of)

And by "end," I mean the end of the FOREVER U.S. tour. And by "sort of," I mean that I'm heading off for my Australian, German, and French tour dates in two and a half weeks (details on that here) so that means I'm practically still on tour.

But still, it's end of the road trip part of the tour, and I first of all have to say a huge thanks to you guys. 75% of every audience was people I knew from my blog or Twitter or Facebook, and it was fantastic to be able to meet people have been with me for this entire crazy journey.

I know there were still a lot of blog readers who didn't get to see me at one of my tour stops, and I wanted to do something for folks who couldn't make it to an event. I have some leftover Fun Things from the tour. Namely, these things:

A few keychains.

My cool keychains! Made of genuine pleather! If you want one, just take a picture of yourself holding one of my books and send it to me along with a self addressed, stamped envelope, and I'll mail a keychain back to you. I get a smiling face, you get a keychain. Send all those here: P. O. Box 1448, King George, VA 22485. I'll keep sending them out until they're all gone.

Speaking of things that were sent in the mail, I did come home to this in my mail box.

IMG_2814


ARE YOU SURE IT'S REALLY MY CAR?

ticket


I suppose it is. FINE. But I'll have you know, I never speed.

Well.

It's finally starting to sink in that FOREVER is the end of the trilogy and the U.S. tour is all done: 17 tour stops, 2 co-pilots, 238 gallons of gas, 4,000 miles, and one air conditioning condensing coil later. Here's the last video of the tour, with music courtesy of Brad Sucks (huge thanks to Brad -- if you love the song, please find it on iTunes or wherever you buy music!)



And if you missed the other tour videos, here are the links.

1. The Ringing Rocks of Pennsylvania

2. Into Every Life, a Little Construction Must Fall

3. A Day in the Life

4. Caves, Geodes, and Other Nifty Things

5. Look at that Animal!

6. Hotels with Lifeboats and Beds with Ladders

7. Nordic Style!

8. Maggie and Tessa at Wild Rumpus

9. Lions, Tigers, and . . . Binturongs?

Now, just to finish that novel and THE SCORPIO RACES book trailer before I leave for Australia.

Wisconsin

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Binturongs, Oh My!

On the 2nd, I had the very fortunate opportunity to tour the Conservators Center outside of Raleigh, NC, before my event at Quail Ridge Books. Those of you who know me at all know that there's nothing I like better than poking fingers at animals, and rumor had it they had wolves and lions and lemurs, most of them rehabilitated from closed zoos, failed exotic pet owners, and road accidents. A huge thanks to Tom and Bonnie for making this happen, and also to Mindy and Kim for sharing their time and expertise with us.

One of the animals Mindy was proudest of was the binturong. I'd never heard of them, which amazed me because of the sheer number of hours I logged in front of National Geographic as a child. But Mindy explained to me that they were crucial for the existence of the rainforest. Here is some Binturong arithmetic.

biturong arithmetic


The binturong eats the strangler fig, poops it out minus the seed casing, and up grows a rainforest. No bintorong equals no poop equals no strangler fig equals only Wal-Marts.

What a useful animal!

You can see more useful animals (and also hear one of the more impressive auditory events in my life) in the video.




And the Conservators Center is open for tours and runs on donations, so please consider one or the other! I would love to take Thing 1 & 2 back there.
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