Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Best Books of 2012

Just this week, NPR asked me to share my top 5 YA of 2012 (it proved extraordinarily complicated, actually, to classify my 2012 reading that way — I read quite a lot in 2012, but not all of it YA, and of that YA, certainly not all of it was published in 2012, and the stuff that WAS published in 2012 I had in many cases read in advanced reader copy form in 2011 and so does that make it eligible for the list and also what am I to make of these crossover titles that are being sold as both YA and adult, do they count, and also, have I really exhausted my supply of cookie dough?). In addition to the list, they asked me to come in to the DC studio and talk about my absolute favorite YA of the year. You can find the list here, and the audio as well. I want to say something about the YA-dissing in the comments there, but I probably won't, because I'm too civil and the entire thing makes me feel weary and lofty.

So, I mention the trip to the studio because of something that happened on the way back. Where "something" means "foreshadowing." I drove Loki to the studio. This is unsurprising. For starters, it's my business car, all official with the IRS and whatnot, and so I'm supposed to use it for all businessy things so I can deduct my not inconsiderable fuel expenses.* And for finishers, I'm quite vain about cars in a way that I'm not about clothing, and I think Loki flatters me, especially my left side.

*Loki could never be construed as a fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly vehicle. Well, there is one case in which it would count, which we shall discuss presently.

Anyway, I did the studio bit and headed out of DC. It was all ghostly and quiet because of the impending holiday. And on I-66, Loki sort of went went "hockhock." Actually, in the words of James Herriot, “Well, tell me, do you mean two hocks or one hock-hock?"

Probably two hocks.

But nothing else came of it. I figured it was a spot of indigestion or bad fuel. Fast forward to the next morning. Time was of the essence as Lover and the Things and I were due to drive to Pennsylvania for holiday mirth. Quick as an assassin, I darted to FedEx to hurriedly pick up a delayed Christmas package. Of course, this happened:

camaro breakdown

If you like, you can add sound effects to this scene. You'll need a chorus of FedEx warehouse men hooting appreciatively from one of the warehouse bays, and a few FedEx customers saying things like "this is why I drive a Ford." Mechanical fuel pump, by the way, if you were wondering. I'm sure you were. That's the official term. The unofficial term is "broken."**

**Otherwise known as the only time Loki is considered a fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly car.

Anyway, I mention all this because readers of the Raven Cycle should know that every time Loki leaves me by the side of the road in real life, I write a scene where the Pig leaves Gansey in the lurch. That is all.

And now, without further ado, my complete list of favorite books I read this year.

1. The Secret History, by Donna Tart. I picked this book up reluctantly. Loads of people were reading The Raven Boys and saying it had the same vibe as this novel. Normally what happens in these situations is that I read the book in question and then feel sulky and deeply misunderstood. But not so with The Secret History. Instead I felt pink and flattered. Full thoughts here.

2. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. I know if I tell you this is about a girl being tortured in World War II France, you won't want to read it. But I'm telling you to read it anyway. I tell you more here.

3. The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton. A pretty perfectly constructed little thriller. That sounds condescending, but it's not. It takes ever so much talent to write a book that is read so easily. More here.

4. Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley. This book and I had a rocky start, as I wanted a book about helicopters, guns, and magic, and this book is about woodpeckers, missing boys, and missionaries. But I still loved it.

5. Mr. Chartwell, by Rebecca Hunt. Remember that one time I told you to read a book about a girl being interrogated during World War II? Now I'm telling you to read this book about Winston Churchill's depression. It's a big black dog. And it's here to stay. Read it.

6. Endangered, by Eliot Schrefer. I talk about this one a lot on NPR, but I'm going to direct you to where I talk about it even more on Goodreads.

7. Purity, by Jackson Pearce. I feel weird writing about this book because Jackson Pearce sometimes comes to my house and drinks my coffee and I know she reads my blog. So I won't write about it here. I'll instead talk about it on NPR. SHE'LL NEVER SEE THAT.

8. Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman. I only just finished reading this one and haven't had time to do a proper blog post about it. It's dragons, but wait! they're awesome. More about it on NPR, too.

9. The Lover's Dictionary, by David Levithan. I know everyone is talking about David's Every Day this year, but Lover and I both enjoyed this short novel of his — a story told in dictionary form. It sounds gimmicky, but I thought the story was astonishingly true feeling.

10. chapter 8 of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon. This book in its entirety was hit or miss for me, but that chapter. Best chapter of any chapter ever. That is all.

Probably I will be doing a best music of 2012 blog post this week, too. Once I put in a new mechanical fuel pump.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Tour in 22,000 Words

I am in arrears on blog posts. I realized I had never posted about my tour, although I took a billionty photographs. If it is true that a photo is worth one thousand words, here are 22,000 words about my Raven Boys tour.


First, the airport. Signage is important, always, at airports.
This is a Test test test


While in NYC, I had to recreate my first Sharpie guitar so that I'd have one to give away both in New Jersey and in Toronto. Some quick hotel Sharpie-ing . . .
Dueling Guitars 2
At one point, housekeeping came into the hotel room.
HOUSEKEEPING: Those guitars are lovely! Are they yours?
ME: Who . . . who else's would they be?
HOUSEKEEPING: Some of the guests here have guitars provided in their rooms for them.


WHY DID I NOT HAVE A GUITAR PROVIDED TO ME?


I had an impressive view from my guitar-providing hotel: I could see both up the Empire State Building and directly into a very expensive apartment across the street. I spent hours creepily watching the beautiful couple who lived within, enjoying the world's sketchiest soap opera. Look at him! He's tying a skinny tie in front of that antique mirror! Look at her! She's beautifully reading a book on her white canvas couch!
Beautiful People Apartment


Don't judge me. I took a photo of their orchid for you. With a giant telescoping lens.
Manhattan Window


I feel marginally bad.


No, I don't. That's why there are curtains in this world and the next.


After NYC, there was some New Englandy stuff. I have some pretty definite ideas about many of Connecticut's residents. Connecticut did little to argue with me.
Boston Madras


From New England, it was down to DC for the National Book Festival. I was put up in a horror film set:
DC horror


And the next morning a national monument grew out of my head.
DC Spike Head


I saw this in DC, too. What's everyone else's excuse?
Driving Straight


I then jumped on a plane for Toronto. I have no idea why this is the only photo I have from Canada.
Canadian Dogs


My next stop was Traverse City, Michigan. A reader begged me to visit her guitar shop, Zamar Guitar, which I duly did, hoping for a big, Oprah-esque surprise appearance. In actuality, the man behind the counter professed ignorance of not only me, but also her, and possibly guitars in general. It was all very anticlimactic. But I took a photo as proof.
Maggie Traverse City Guitar


Then it was to Naperville, IL.


I . . . I don't know what's wrong with me. This seemed like a really good idea to Becky and I at the time.
Three Maggies of Fate Naperville


Working my way west, I hit Denver and then ditched my rental car to drive to Salt Lake City. There was no mistaking the state line between Colorado and Utah. That asphalt line is a thing of precision beauty.
Utah has a paving budget


Probably I can't really explain how stunning Utah was.
Utah


And how NOT-EAST-COAST it was. It really felt like I'd traveled to a different country.
Utah Train


Lover flew out to join me in California, where I took him to see the redwoods at Muir Woods. These trees > other trees.
California redwood


Muir Wood


And I stood inside a tree, like they all did in THE RAVEN BOYS (although I had no visions, other than that of a cedar closet, which is what it smelled like).
Glendower Tree


I finished up the year in Las Vegas, where Scholastic rented me a red convertible Camaro for my birthday, and I escaped into the wilderness.
red rock canyon


Red Rock Canyon Beginning


Here is a photo of my editor David Levithan taking a photo.
David Taking in the Mountain Air


And here are more beautiful things.
Valley of Fire


Valley of Fire. And a Camaro Mirror


Because I'm finishing up the sequel to THE RAVEN BOYS, expect other similarly lazy blog posts for the remainder of the year. I'm thinking there's gonna be a lot of BEST OF 2012 stuff going on here. Books. Music. Knock knock jokes?

Friday, November 30, 2012

In Which Maggie Gives America's Youth A Piece Of Her Mind

A reader recently asked me what she should do in college if she wanted to be a writer. This is what I have to say about it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Deceased Language of Speed

I've always enjoyed languages. I like 'em dead, really, because then they can't go round changing on you. Latin, my favorite in college, is beautifully, thoroughly, conclusively dead. No one is inventing any new Latin idioms any time soon. No one has to worry about "google" switching from a noun to a verb in the Latin lexicon. I'm telling you all this because I'm about to tell you about my first rally, and even though you might think this will be a post about cars, it will actually be a post about languages.

I guess I have to start with cars, though. Those of you who read the blog regularly will know that recently I bought a race car. How I arrived at purchasing a race car is a long, convoluted, and ultimately spoilery story that I cannot and will not share at the moment, but all you need to know is that I have been having a mid-life crisis since I hit age seven or eight. You never know, man. You never know when that scythe-guy is coming for you. BUY A RACE CAR NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.

This is the part where everyone always asks "do you mean Nascar?" No, I do not mean Nascar, because Nascar involves roads, and I think driving a car on roads is cliché. Everybody drives their cars on roads. My race car is a hipster car. It drives on gravel paths, which were cool before anybody even thought of asphalt.

I feel like I've already said the word "car" a lot of times for a blog post I promised wasn't about cars. I'm going to skip ahead. I'm going to skip to the part where we're all driving to our first rally, a Canadian race called Rally of the Tall Pines (which was not the species of tree I became the best acquainted with while there, but I get ahead of myself). We were in two cars — Lover and my dad in one, as I'm such a bad influence that they'd decided to race as well, and me in my Evo, listening to loud music that you will not like.

After about ten hours of driving, we arrived at the Canadian border. I arrived first, and even though I turned down my music, Canada didn't seem happy to see me.

CANADA: What is your destination?  
ME: A rally race in Bancroft.  
CANADA: What's that?  
ME: A car race on gravel roads with lots of jumps and cliffs and stuff.  
CANADA: Why would you do something like that?
ME: Are you questioning my life choices?  
CANADA *coldly*: Explain your license plate.

Mitsubishi Evo

ME: It's a reference to my next novel. It's sort of spoilery. I can't tell you.
CANADA: We need to see you in the office.

And then they sent me to be questioned in the building where all of the other punks sat while Canada searched their cars for drugs and illegal fruits and vegetables. I had to pull out my rally notes and explain I was an author (Canada was very unimpressed). Generally I flapped my hands around a lot and was charming.

CANADA: We see that you are charming. That might work back where you are from — Virginia — if you are even from Virginia. For our part? we are going to do a background check.

They did a background check. They asked again about the license plate. By this point, Lover and Dad were feeling a little tetchy about my life choices, too.

LOVER: You could have just gotten a normal license plate.
ME: Normal is so cliché.

Ultimately, Canada let me in, although she looked displeased about it. It just goes to show you, though, that people believe in the packaging. If the cereal box says "heart healthy!" they totally think it's good for their cholesterol levels. If the car says "THIEF," clearly the driver is a stone-cold bandit.

So in I stole to Canada (get it? get it?) and didn't even speed that much. I don't think, anyway. Everything is in kilometers in Canada and I find it hard to speed in kilometers.

Once again I find that this blog post seems to be about cars, and I promised languages. I'm going to skip ahead again.

Once in Bancroft, there was evidence of the rally everywhere:

Who knew?

Including my car. It was still white and naked — it won't be sexily vinyled* up to look like the book cover until the 2013 races. But I liked it anyway.

The Fiesta at Rally of the Tall Pines 2012

*I feel this is the most innocent use of the phrase "sexily vinyled" ever.

I wore my green sunglasses, because they make me faster.

tallpines

So. Rally. The hipster roads we run on are unpredictable and rutted and lacking in guard rails and signage and all of the other things that humans have come to expect. Which means the Rally of Tall Pines (really, it should be the Rally of Tall Birches, but I get ahead of myself again) has an attrition rate of fifty percent. Most years sixty cars start and thirty cars finish. There's always a list of the cars that didn't finish and why and it usually looks like:

ROLLED
OFF ROAD
3 FLAT TIRES
MECHANICAL PROP.
ROLLED
ROLLED
OFF ROAD
OFF ROAD
FLAMES
CLUTCH
DROVE INTO LAKE
HORSE ATTACK

Some of those are lies. But most are not.

THIS IS WHERE I'M FINALLY GOING TO TALK ABOUT DEAD LANGUAGES.

In an attempt to make fewer cars and humans die, rallying has adopted stage notes. Each rally's Big Book of Misadventure/ Handbook for the Recently Deceased lovingly describes each turn, crest, jump, and distance. Like a bedtime story on fast forward, the co-driver reads these to the driver at precisely the correct time. With funny voices for the good parts. And this keeps all parties from being shocked by a suddenly tight turn with a cliff on the other side.

stage notes

Allow me to translate. That would be

RIGHT 5 minus over a small crest into a LEFT 4 plus over a small crest, 80 meters, crest, BRAKING OMG BRAKING, RIGHT 6 into CAAAAUUUUTTTIIIOOOOON big jump! into crest, RIGHT 4 plus, off camber, and crest, 100 meters, RIGHT 5 short into LEFT 5 over small crest, 100 meters go go go!

What a fine bedtime story that is! You can see, in addition to its compelling prose style, how it would prevent the car from flying over a blind crest and off a cliff. You can also see how a, when the co-driver and driver are working perfectly together, you can hurtle along blindly, much faster than a) someone without notes or b) someone with common sense.

And did you notice that it is a lot like a DEAD LANGUAGE? A language without jokes, but still, a language. I'll admit that when I cooked up my plan to race with Bill, I fully intended to co-drive as little as humanly possible. All I really cared about was hurtling through the woods behind the wheel. But . . . color me fascinated. Driving + dead language = puzzle. It also helps that co-driving is really hard. As in, the hardest thing I think I've attempted in the last ten years, and that includes trying to make tortillas (I always somehow end up making the kitchen smell like fish). I'm sort of a practice junkie. I don't like not being good at something. Basically what I'm telling you is that you're going to be hearing rumors of me doing a lot of co-driving in 2013. And hopefully improving.

I think I'm done with the language part of this blog post. I think now I'm going to consummate my tree references by telling you that on the first stage of the rally, Bill and I hit a tree. A small one. Five inches diameter? Seven? It was not a pine, though. It was a birch, and it left a birch-shaped print on the hood of the car. Possibly the most interesting part of hitting the tree was lifting our eyes to where another rally car was buried in the trees a few yards ahead of us. Clearly someone had had the same idea as us, only they'd approached it with more enthusiasm. It was a cautionary tale.

We backed out of the tree and then the ditch. We were vexed, but there was no swearing. I generally use swearing very sparingly while driving.

Example A:

CAR: *hits tree*  
MAGGIE: Hm.
BILL: Yes.

Example B:
CAR: *flies successfully over giant jump*  
MAGGIE: %^&* yeah!  
BILL: Yes.

And we continued racing. We didn't hit more trees. Instead, we passed forty cars. I'm not sure how to tell the next part, because it's not very plausible. It's this:

award

Really, this shouldn't have happened, as it was my first rally and Bill's first rally. And because we started off by hitting a tree. But we got better. You, gentle reader, might also be pleased to know that Lover and Dad did not roll over, crash, or otherwise destroy their car. I hear that they swore more than us, though. And I'm telling you now that Lover knows a lot of swear words. Some of the compound words he knows are linguistically incredible. I'd tell you, but there are children reading this blog, and they don't need to hear #$%^&nozzle in a sentence.

Anyway, the rally was brilliant. And I was looking forward to driving back over the border into the U.S. We used the Evo to recce the rally roads, and it looked delightfully disreputable, and I was certain that they'd be even more suspicious than Canada had been.
 
Evo after Recce

But this is what happened.

U.S.: Where are you coming from?
ME: Canada.
U.S.: Ha ha. Where in Canada?  
ME: Bancroft.
U.S.: What was in Bancroft?  
ME: A rally. I was —
 U.S.: Tall Pines! AWESOME! How'd you do?  
ME: First. I was —  
U.S.: You can go. Great license plate, by the way.

So off I went back home. Listening to music you will like.

2013's going to be awesome.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bookplates for CANADIANS!

Do you guys remember that time I posted about bookplates that I was giving away if you sent me an SASE and a picture of you holding your copy of The Raven Boys? And I said it was U.S. only because the postage issues?

Bookplate for Fountain BookstoreWell, Scholastic Canada has swept in and offered to help; I'm going to send them a Canadian chunk of bookplates and they will mail them out from Toronto. So if you're Canadian and want a signed limited edition bookplate, follow the directions in the video, but send all of your materials to:

Nikole Kritikos/ Bookplates
Scholastic Canada
604 King Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 1E1

A big thanks to Scholastic Canada for their help on this front and a note to everyone who's sent a letter so far: they'll probably get sent out in a big batch right after my first rally race at Thanksgiving. So they'll arrive in plenty of time for Christmas, but it'll still be a bit of a delay.

And here's the instructions for how to request a bookplate again:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bookplates for EVERYONE (well, everyone in the U.S.)

I feel bad for the readers who wanted to make it to events on my Raven Boys tour but couldn't, either because of time or distance. I recently discovered that I have leftover limited edition bookplates in my office, and I reckon now's a good time to give them away to readers.

This is what they look like (they feature the colored pencil art I did for the Raven Boys animated trailer).

Bookplate for Fountain Bookstore

Here's how to snag one, if you want one. This isn't a contest, just a giveaway, and I'll keep sending them out until I run out. Unfortunately, because of my difficulties with IRCs, this has to be U.S. addresses only.




Thursday, November 1, 2012

Denver & the Mind Reader

This is a story about cars. Well, actually, I've told quite a few stories on this blog that are more properly about cars than this one, so I should be honest: this one is about mind-reading.

It happened while I was on tour for The Raven Boys, just last month. It was quite late in the tour, day 24 or 28 or something like that. It was far enough into the tour that when my Scholastic person Becky and I landed at the Denver airport, all I had had to eat that day had been a latte and a bag of cocoa-dusted hazelnuts. Part of this was because of lack of opportunity, and part of it was because, once I reach day 20 or 25 or 28 on a tour, I forget how to eat, sleep, or do things like a normal person. I become instead an imaginary creature that is found in hotel rooms and in the trunks of taxi cabs. This imaginary creature that is me late on tour is also fanciful and, like the ancient Romans, easily amused by spectacles of wonder, terror, and magic.

I believe the men at Hertz must have sensed this.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Becky and I staggered into the Hertz rental offices at the Denver airport, light-headed, as I said before, with our meal of coffee and nuts. I was in fact still clutching a bag of these cocoa-dusted hazelnuts. I should emphasize that they were delicious, even if they weren't a balanced diet. We were both feeling less than optimistic — our last rental car, a Nissan Altima, had murdered itself outside of Kalamazoo (this is a car story for a different time) just days before — and we were full of the bitter knowledge that our rental car would suck even if it did not self-immolate. As someone who adores driving and cars in general, this was like taking a chef to a Denny's. One knows one must eat. One knows one will not like it.

So all of this was going on in our brains as we made our way to the eventual head of the line. An older man was typing away on a computer. Seeing me clutching my bag of nutritionally bereft but culinarily delightful hazelnuts, he asked, "Chocolate covered coffee beans?"

"Nay," I replied. "Have some."

Ordinarily strangers would probably turn down brown food objects shaken from a mostly unmarked bag, but he did not. To the imaginary creature that was tour-Maggie at that point, this didn't seem very surprising. Of course he would be aware of the wonders I was offering him. It would have been more shocking for him to turn them down.

He began to process our reservation as he ate the two hazelnuts. He informed us conversationally that his name was Maurice, and that he was Peruvian, and that people often thought he was Italian. He also informed us that we were all set to pick up a mid-size car.

Warily, Becky asked him what kind of car that would be. Now, I hear people ask that question all the time at rental car places. They're told they are getting a fullsize or a midsize or a compact and they look confused and ask what sort of car it is. And then they are told it's a 300 or a 6 or a RAV-4 and it's clear that they don't know what this is, but they are comforted nonetheless because now it has a name. Something they can shout at it when it enthusiastically jumps a curb after getting the bit between its teeth or breaks down by the side of the highway after deciding it just can't go on like this anymore.

But when Becky asked this question, what she was really asking was, "Is it an Altima?"

Maurice said, "It's a Corolla."

Becky said, "Oh, that's fine."

But then Maurice the Peruvian turned and looked directly at me and said, "But you don't want a Corolla, do you?"

The truth was that I didn't want a Corolla, but I didn't see what that had to do with anything. I didn't want any rental car, actually. We were going to be doing quite a lot of driving in Colorado, and it had been twenty-odd days since I'd been home, and what I really wanted was my car.*

BlueLoki and Old Loki

*on the left is the car that I have now. It is a blue 1973 Camaro named Loki and I love it like an inferno.**

**on the right was the car that I sold to get the car on the left. It is a 1973 Camaro also named Loki that broke down all the time and so I sold it and wrote it into The Raven Boys, renaming it "The Pig," as a form of therapy.

So all of this was going through my mind. I told him that, no, I didn't want a Corolla, but I guessed that's what I was going to get, and I'd made my peace with that.

Maurice the Peruvian said, "You're a Scorpio."

I am a Scorpio, because I was born on November 18th, so this was not new knowledge for me. It was, however, shocking to hear it said out loud, as I had not met Maurice the Peruvian before and I furthermore had not yet given him my license with my birthday on it. Cautiously I confirmed that I was.

Maurice the Peruvian said, "I am too. We Scorpios always know other Scorpios."

Now, this statement was false. Because under that reasoning, I would've known that he was a Scorpio, and I had not even considered the concept.

Maurice the Peruvian said, "It's in the eyes. You know that about Scorpios, don't you? We can read minds."

Well, that part was true. I can read minds. I'm reading yours now.

Maurice the Peruvian said, "And I'm looking into your eyes and I can tell that you don't want a Toyota Corolla."

Becky said, "I could've told you that beforehand."

Maurice the Peruvian said, "I'm reading your mind because you are a Scorpio and I am a Scorpio and what I can tell is that you would rather be driving . . . a red Camaro."

Becky and I looked at each other, and then we looked at Maurice the Peruvian, and then we ate two more cocoa-covered hazelnuts. As far as delight goes, I was pretty delighted. I told you, imaginary Maggie is easily pleased with displays of wonder and magic, and this qualified.

"That's true," I admitted.

Maurice the Peruvian said, "I think we can make that happen."

Now, Maurice the Peruvian did not have my Camaro. That would have been wondrous and magical even for a fellow Scorpio (also possibly worrisome, as he would've had to fetch it from my garage in Virginia). But he did have a new, red Camaro, and he did make it happen. And it was ever so much better than a Toyota Corolla.

For all of the Camaro's charms, however, it is not the acceleration from 0-60 that I remember when I think back on Denver. It is Maurice the Peruvian/Scorpio's mind-reading powers, exercised just when I needed them the most.

Also, the cocoa-dusted hazelnuts.































Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In Which Maggie Tumbls, and Falls

It's true. I finally gave in and started a Tumblr.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER, SPOILER

This is the video where I totally spoil the end of FOREVER and also have a rather large rant about girls.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Houston, Austin, Vegas, UK & Germany!

Tomorrow I will have Real Content in the form of a video, I think, but before then, I think I'd better post about some upcoming events:

Thursday, October 25, 6:00 PM Signing with David Levithan, Houston, TX - Barnes & Noble https://www.facebook.com/events/453543204688280/

Saturday, October 27: 12:00-1:00 PM Conversation with Maureen Johnson at Texas Book Festival, Austin, TX https://www.facebook.com/events/457733270931887/

I'll also be at the NCTE/ ALAN Conferences in Las Vegas next month, and although I do not have any specifics yet, I am slated to come over the UK and Germany in March of next year. So batten the hatches!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Fire-Proof Smile

Do you remember that time a few weeks ago when I said I'd bought a race car?

Well, I also bought a race suit to go with it. I had to: you can't drive in a rally unless you're wearing a fire-proof suit. I had to have it specially made by an Italian man who said that he would change the measurements to fit my "developments."*

*(He meant my boobs). (Although they stopped developing awhile ago).

The suit was waiting for me when I got home from tour and I was forced to try it on at once. It fit a like a glove, where "glove" is "garment that encloses your entire body and protects it from the burning flames of your poor vehicular decision-making."

I have a helmet, too. Now I just need to sort out what I'm going to wear on my feet. Lover, who's also racing next year, bought fire-proof underwear. I don't know if I'm going to do that. I sort of feel like if everything else is up in flames, I won't be so bothered about the undercarriage** going as well, if you get my drift. I really think it's just shoes I need to track down. Between that and my fire-proof smile, what else could I possibly require?

**I mean my boobs.

I realize this post makes it sound like all rally cars do is catch on fire. That's not really true. Mostly they run into things or roll over or slide into crap and get ugly, but there is no preventative for ugly. Fireproof suit, yes. Uglyproof suit? That is for scientific humans to discover in a hopeful and beautiful future.

What a proud moment this is.***

In Which Maggie Buys a Race Suit

***This is the finest photograph that has ever been taken of me.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 14, Raven Boys Tour

Day 14 of The Raven Boys tour is done! 16 more to go. I'm taking all the travel rather well, I think:


Day 14 of Tour 

 Imagine me on day 27.


 Yes, that's a face mask. It's not woad. Nor my natural coloring.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Writers, Feed Your Brain

I am now on day eight of my tour for The Raven Boys — at least, I think it’s day eight — and I’m eating my breakfast here in my room and thinking about a blog post I’ve contemplating for a long time. It is sort of about writing, but it’s also sort of about room service.

Right now, this is what I have on my room service tray: an unsliced banana, a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice, and two sunny side up eggs. Tomorrow I will probably also get room service and tomorrow this is what will be on my room service tray: an unsliced banana, a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice, and two sunny side up eggs. In fact, by day 30 of this tour, I will have probably had as many eggs, glasses of orange juice, and bananas. I will never want to see any of them ever again.

I swear I’m working to a point here.

My point is this: I’m allergic and/or intolerant to pretty much every chemical preservative under the sun. Some make me big, some make me small, the details are largely unimportant. All we need for purposes of this post is the knowledge that, at worst, they make me fall down, and, at best, they make me feel slightly awful. They are my kryptonite. I’ll do anything to avoid them, even if it means thirty days of sunny-side-up eggs, bananas, and (when I can get it) freshly squeezed orange juice (Also, 30 days of Chipotle, the only national chain that’s preservative-free). (That’s a lot of burritos.)

Having to obsess over my food has taught me a lot about how my body reacts to certain foods and chemicals. In the past, I rejected the idea that a trace amount of a preservative or a coloring or a raising agent would’ve had the power to change how I feel. Now, that seems like a strangely cavalier attitude. I trust a tiny bit of ibuprofen to cure a headache, a tiny bit of caffeine to wake me up, so why wouldn’t I expect other chemicals to have effects? I reckon at this point you’re wondering when this stops being one of those conversations where you nod politely and plan your exit and begins being something relevant to writing. THAT MOMENT IS NOW.

I think everybody has a dietary kryptonite. We all react differently to common foods: milk, corn, honey, red food dye, baking soda. It might not be a large enough reaction to be properly called a food intolerance, but it would be enough to make you sluggish or irritable. Also, it’s generally cumulative. Here’s the writing bit. As a writer or a creative person, it behooves you to listen to your body. Because focus and concentration are the first things to go when you’re eating something your body doesn’t care for. You might not notice that you’re operating at 90% when you’re shopping or working the day job or doing laundry. But that 10% is often the energy you need to be able to write or paint after doing everything else in the day. Studies have shown that the creative bit of our brain is the first to go. As writers, that’s the only bit that matters. That’s the part that lets us conceptualize an entire novel.

So this post is me urging aspiring writers to look at their plates. Even if you don’t have an allergy or intolerance, I recommend keeping a food journal for a month. We eat a lot of crap — especially we Americans — a lot of non-food things, and those are the ones that often mess with our creative brains. If you simplify your diet and keep a journal, you'll be able to easily track what makes you feel great and excited and what makes you feel sleepy. Basically, if you aren’t feeling bright and awake for all of the moments that you have your eyes open, there’s room for improvement.

And you’d be stunned, I think, at what it will do for your creative productivity.

I’m going to go eat an egg, I guess.






Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tour Schedule, One Last Time

I have finally completed my packing for tour. I think. It's hard to prepare for 29 days of surprises, so I always pack for 29 days of everything going perfectly as planned and assume that the sheer weight of that packing expectation will shape reality.

 

And if not, I can always buy an extra set of toe-nail clippers in Chicago.

Here is the tour schedule, for anyone who missed it before. Know that I will be wearing something that is in that pictured suitcase. Know also that I'll be at the Texas Book Festival and will have more details on October Texas dates very soon. And good golly. I hope you enjoy The Raven Boys if you pick it up these next few weeks.

Tuesday, September 18, 7:00 PM (SHARPIE GUITAR event!) Launch Event, Paramus, NJ - Barnes and Noble https://www.facebook.com/events/415863355138053/

Wednesday, September 19, 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. Informal Stock Signing at The Strand, New York, NY https://www.facebook.com/events/445474842170998/

Wednesday, September 19, 6:00 PM Event with David Levithan, New York, NY - Books of Wonder https://www.facebook.com/events/262135043898896/

Thursday, September 20, 10:30 AM New Haven, CT - Book Signing at the Yale Bookstore https://www.facebook.com/events/146528482153013/

Thursday, September 20, 1:30 PM Storrs Mansfield, CT - UConn Bookstore https://www.facebook.com/events/433332923377044/?context=create

Thursday, September 20, 7:00 PM Cambridge, MA - Cambridge Public Library https://www.facebook.com/events/390951300971219/

Friday, September 21, 10:00 AM Cambridge, MA - The Harvard Coop https://www.facebook.com/events/365882940149613/

Saturday, September 22, 1:40 PM Washington, DC - National Book Festival https://www.facebook.com/events/368883439846870/

Tuesday, September 25, 7:00 PM Brampton, Ontario - Chapters https://www.facebook.com/events/364937963575548/

Thursday, September 27, 7:00 PM, doors at 6:00 PM (SHARPIE GUITAR event!) National Writers Series, Traverse City, MI - City Opera House https://www.facebook.com/events/160116380787647/

Friday, September 28, 5:00 PM Lansing, MI - Schuler Books https://www.facebook.com/events/349701605105280/

Sunday, September 30, 2:00 PM Naperville, IL - Anderson's Bookshop https://www.facebook.com/events/406132696100589/

Monday, October 1, 5:00 PM Libertyville, IL - Cook Memorial Library https://www.facebook.com/events/303291439769299/

Tuesday, October 2, 7:00 PM Winnetka, IL - Evanston Public Library https://www.facebook.com/events/431714280212317/

Wednesday, October 3, 2012, 5:00 PM Signing with Libba Bray, Chicago, IL - State Street Macy's https://www.facebook.com/events/272099026225442/

Thursday, October 4, 2012, 6:00 PM St. Paul, MN - The Red Balloon Bookshop https://www.facebook.com/events/253883174714668/

Friday, October 5, 2012, 7:00 p.m. "This is Teen" Group Event with Eliot Schrefer, and Pete Hautman, Minneapolis, MN - Intermedia Arts https://www.facebook.com/events/489852737709475/

Saturday, October 6, 7:00 PM Signing with Brenna Yovanoff, Denver, CO - Tattered Cover https://www.facebook.com/events/404345879627445/

Sunday, October 7, 1:00 PM Boulder, CO - Barnes & Noble https://www.facebook.com/events/423280011057934/

Monday, October 8, 7:00 PM Orem, UT - Barnes & Noble https://www.facebook.com/events/276556335787359/

Tuesday, October 9, 7:00 PM Salt Lake City, UT - The King's English Bookshop https://www.facebook.com/events/402077596508159/

Wednesday, October 10, 6:00 PM Signing with David Levithan, El Cerrito, CA - Barnes & Noble https://www.facebook.com/events/270476899725701/

Thursday, October 11, 7:00 PM Petaluma, CA - Copperfield's Books https://www.facebook.com/events/445642445458650/

Friday, October 12, 7:00 PM Signing with David Levithan & Ellen Hopkins, San Francisco, CA - Books Inc. https://www.facebook.com/events/186202041512953/

Saturday, October 13, 2012, 6:00 PM Corte Madera, CA - Book Passage https://www.facebook.com/events/270064606438108/

October 27-28, Texas Book Festival, Austin, TX http://texasbookfestival.org/Author_Page.php?aid=4747

Friday, September 14, 2012

Well. This is Pretty Much Perfect.



Today I was driving back home from signing Raven Boys pre-orders at Fountain Bookstore, and the mountains were looming attractively all around the interstate, and the sunset was smiling ferociously over the top of them, and the car was charging tremendously fast beneath me, and I was playing 80s music because, why the hell not, and I thought to myself that my current life sure did compare rather favorably to my childhood dreams.*

P. S. New Line/ Warner Brothers just optioned The Raven Boys' film rights, with Akiva Goldman producing. And if Akiva's name sounds familiar, it's probably because he was a writer for Fringe, Angels & Demons, I Am Legend, and Cinderella Man, and producer for yet more awesome like Constantine, A Beautiful Mind, and Da Vinci Code. *thank you, readers, for that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The One Where Maggie Buys a Race Car

Right. So. I've bought a race car.

I just feel like there's a point in everyone's adult life where they think to themselves: we have an adult decision to make here. Do I set up a 401k, do I actually decorate the guest bedroom, or do I buy a race car?

In a way, I feel this decision has been fated for my entire life. I went into kindergarten one year early, I got engaged just a month and a half after meeting Lover, and I published six novels in four years. I just like doing things fast. And what better way to go fast than in a race car? Well, the answer is: in a fighter plane. But let's not be ridiculous here.

 Although I do own a pair of aviator sunglasses.

My New Cheap Sunglasses 

Those of you who read the blog regularly will know that I already have a Car Slightly Slower Than a Fighter Plane, i.e., Loki* the '73 Camaro, which went with me on my FOREVER book tour last July. And Loki didn't really break down at all during that, unless you count the total failure of the air conditioning system outside of Nashville, which I don't. Mostly because I don't remember anything from those parched days of 190 degree heat and 127,000% humidity.

*so help me, if anyone comments on this post with "You mean Loki like THE AVENGERS!?!?!?!" I will punch them in the face with a Wikipedia article. Although I enjoy that Loki, that is not the Loki to which I refer.

Parking the Camaro in London, Ontario

But despite Loki's totally trust-worthy nature (I am laughing even as I type this)(anyone who has ever had to push/ pull/ rescue/ fuel/ pump/ lift/ tuck Loki and I from the side of the road is probably also laughing at this point), he is ill-suited to the sort of racing I want to do in 2013. Which is this sort:


Rally racing involves gravel and dirt and rocks and also cars with speed restrictors on them to keep you from driving off (too many) cliffs. It requires a rather rugged sort of race car, with two people in it. One to steer. One to shout the blind turns as they come up. I shall be one of these people. The other person shall be Bill Lauze, a brave soul who seems strangely untroubled by putting his life in my hands.

So. The car. This is what it is supposed to look like by 2013. That's right, there's just no point in driving a race car unless you can plaster your book cover all over the outside.

R2 Mock Up winged copy

But this is what it actually looks like at the moment.

Face Off, R2

Butt Shot, R2

Guts of the R2

2012-09-10_10-52-24_857


Observe that button right there. That button would ordinarily start the car. I believe at the moment that the word "POWER" is what we like to call "a lie." Do you remember when you were a child and your parents used to give you old, broken remote controls so that you could pretend they were your cell phone? That is what that button is right now. It is a pretend button. You can push it and pretend your race car has started. And then you can make thrum-thrum-thrum noises as you run around the shop. You know, like a grown-up.

I realize that all of these car photos are rather technical, so I have taken the liberty of demystifying one of these shots for the layperson.

r2 demystified

Of course, Bill is the one suffering through eviscerating the car at the moment, while I labor at finishing as much of the sequel to THE RAVEN BOYS as I can before I head out on tour. Which starts in two seconds. So I should get to that. I'll leave you with an image of me wearing a very silly helmet and getting my other car grubby.




Thursday, September 6, 2012

20 Miscellaneous, Unprioritized, and Unasked for Pieces of Wisdom

1. Hang paintings at eye level.

2. Use vinegar on jellyfish stings. Don’t pee on them. Unless you’ve been drinking vinegar.

3. When lost in a city, follow the direction of the heaviest traffic; it’s usually headed to the city center.

4. Sage is the Thanksgiving spice. When you want to make that Typical Thanksgiving Gravy, it’s sage. I swear it.

5. Sean is pronounced the same as Shawn. Seamus is Shamus. Sinead is Shin-ade. Celt always has a hard C, like cotton, unless you’re talking about a sports team, and I have no idea why you’d be doing that.

6. Your dad told you, and I’m telling you again: turn in the direction of the skid.

7. If you feel tired after drinking coffee, drink a glass of water at the same time.

8. The reason why your skin looks funky is because none of us wash our faces enough. SCRUB, dammit. No, you don’t need soap. Just get that dead stuff off, for crying out loud.

9. If you need the meat of a nonfiction book in a hurry, read the first chapter and last chapter. If you have more time, the first paragraph and last paragraph of each chapter. If you have even more time, first sentence and last sentence of each paragraph. That’s the point of it. The rest is just proof.

10. Hank is short for Henry. Chaz for Charles. No, I do not know why.

11. The longer you soak beans before you cook ‘em, the less farting happens. Soak overnight and rinse before cooking and then rinse after cooking for the least explosive dining experience. But you can also boil them for a minute and let sit for an hour before rinsing and cooking and rinsing again.

12. Don’t drink milk when you have a cold. It thickens your mucus and makes it last longer.

13. If you’re not checking luggage at the airport, you can be way later for your flight and still make it.

14. When two strangers are in a conversation, they have a tendency to adopt the same position. The person who changes position first has the upper hand in the discussion.

15. Athletic shoes have been carefully designed to provide as much support as the bare human foot. Being barefoot is awesome.

16. But you can get hookworms if you’re barefoot.

17. Less likely to get athlete’s foot, though. Athlete’s foot is a fungus that likes warm, moist places and hosts with sweet teeth.

18. Your marker probably didn't actually run out of ink; it probably just ran out of solvent to keep the pigment flowing. You can use water to rejuvenate most pens, but for a marker, you'll need something more like what the company puts in there. Which is a lot like lighter fluid.

19. Your home-made cake doesn’t taste like a box cake because you’re using butter instead of vegetable oil.

20. Don’t stand behind a strange horse, don’t look a strange dog in the eyes, don’t rub a strange cat’s belly, and for God’s sake, don’t let strange men handcuff you to your bed.  




Feel free to add a piece of wisdom below.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Last Call for Signed, Doodled Raven Boys

Hullo guys! Radio silence always means one of two things: I'm out of the state, or I'm on the last few weeks of a deadline. The latter is true this time — I'm frenzied working on the sequel to THE RAVEN BOYS, which is even weirder and more Maggie. If you can even imagine such a thing.

Anyway, I was reminded by Fountain Bookstore that very soon I'll be driving down there to sign and doodle in all of the copies that are pre-ordered through them. I figured I'd better mention it again on the blogs, because I have gotten a few questions about it each week on Facebook.

Here is the deal. If you pre-order a copy of The Raven Boys from Fountain Bookstore, I will sign it and doodle in it. And I also got these really spiffy limited edition bookplates that feature my art from the trailer, and one of those is going in each pre-order too.

Bookplate for Fountain Bookstore

Fountain Bookstore ships all over the U.S. right through their website, which is convenient if you can't make it to one of my signings (although surely you'd prefer to hear my cheery voice telling bad jokes)(although I generally don't doodle at my in-person signings). And they also ship ALL OVER THE WORLD if you shoot them an e-mail so they can arrange for the shipping.

And yes, I will sign every book that is ordered from them BEFORE the release date of September 18th, which is when I'll be taking off on tour as well. And yes, it is only through Fountain Bookstore that I'm doing this, because they're the only store that I visit to sign books before the books come out. They do also have signed copies of everything else I've written too.

I will be doing a More Useful blogpost (you won't be able to believe how useful it is) later this week.

. . . I cannot really believe it's two weeks until this book comes out.

(is it braggy to say it just got a fourth starred review from Children's Bulletin? Probably. I didn't say it).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

DO NOT LOVE YOUR CHARACTERS (More or Less Than Your Readers)

Dear Internet, I apologize for being absent. I was out of town and then I was writing the sequel to Raven Boys and then I was buying a race car. I know. Excuses, excuses.

A few days ago, I posted some coffee-fueled writing tips on Facebook and Twitter. As follows:

1. Thou shalt not love your characters more than your readers do.
2. Do not forget the weather.
3. (specially for YA writers!) Only 20% of US families are single-child families. HELLO SIBLINGS.
4. Read it out loud. In Emma Thompson's voice, if you can.
5. If you're bored while writing, the reader is bored while reading. Delete & regroup over coffee.

I got asked a few times to clarify #1, so that is what I intend to do. When I said it, I was not referring to the treasured writing wisdom “kill your darlings.” Faulkner was the first to advise writer to kill their darlings, which basically boils down to: if you love a bit of your writing too much to be reasonable and logical about it, you should cut it. That you should never sacrifice the good of the whole because of blind affection for a single bit. (I do not agree with this advice, by the way. I think if you love a part of your writing beyond reason, you should delete the rest of it and write the rest to match the loved bit).

What I meant when I said “thou shalt not love your characters more than your readers do” was that you can love your characters, but you must show your work.

I can’t tell you how many times a writer has confessed to me how much he/she adores her characters, how their voices inhabit his/her life, how he/she wishes they were real so he/she could spend time with them*. Then I read the manuscript and the characters are flat as a board. It’s possible — nay, probable — that these characters are vivid, living, lovable characters in the writer’s head, inhabiting a fully-realized world full of authentic moments. But none of that character-building has made it onto the page. The writer hasn’t managed to write the characters well enough to allow the readers to share that experience.

*sometimes writers tell me they have crushes on their character and would date them and then I get squicked out and run away. So feel that way if you must, just don’t tell me about it. Because I will run away.

As a writer, you have to earn every little bit of affection. Our goal as writers, maybe over and above anything else, is to convey the story in our head in such a way that readers experience it exactly the way we imagine it.

Loving characters that readers don’t care about is just . . . unseemly. When you’re in love with them, you have to make sure that your fondness for them isn’t ruining your objective portrayal of them. Perhaps Faulkner was right after all. If you love a character too much to be able to tell if you’re getting across their coolness, maybe you are better off just cutting them.

Oh, you know I don’t really believe that. I always think the answer is improving your writing to match your passion, not stripping passion from your work. I think it holds true for characters too. Listen to what your critique partners say about your them. You know your characters through your emotions and imagination. Your critiquers know them only through your words. Your job is to make those two portrayals the same.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Raven Boys Tour 2012

I guess it must officially be getting close to fall because I can finally share my public tour events for The Raven Boys! I'll be on tour/ away from home for a month, which is why I own 32 black tank tops and 16 pairs of identical jeans (American Eagle, in case you're wondering). It's also why folks at the end of the tour will get a slightly more slap-happy Maggie than folks at the beginning of the tour.

If you're wondering what an event is like, here is a rough idea (though, sadly, this tour will lack Camaros and Tessas. The rest is applicable). (Also there are many slap happy videos from my tour last year on YouTube).

Like last year, I took a guitar and Sharpie'd all over it, and like last year, I'm going to be giving away this guitar to a reader at the launch event. Here it is (click to see it bigger): The Sharpie Guitar for The Raven Boys

But in case you can't make it to the launch event, I will be giving away things at the other events. Namely, the frames from The Raven Boys trailer, nicely matted. (You can get an idea of the other frames by watching the trailer).

RB kiss

And also some of the frames from The Scorpio Races trailer, which are weird and transparent, as you can see. Frames from The Scorpio Races Video

Frames from The Scorpio Races trailer

Anyway, I am very excited to be getting on the road again and seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones. You can get more details and RSVP on the Facebook event link beneath each event. Come see me? Please?
The Raven Boys Tour PUBLIC appearances
Tuesday, September 18, 7:00 PM Launch Event, Paramus, NJ - Barnes and Noble https://www.facebook.com/events/415863355138053/

Wednesday, September 19, 6:00 PM Event with David Levithan, New York, NY - Books of Wonder https://www.facebook.com/events/262135043898896/

Thursday, September 20, 10:30 AM New Haven, CT - The Yale Bookstore https://www.facebook.com/events/146528482153013/

Thursday, September 20, 1:30 PM Storrs Mansfield, CT - UConn Bookstore https://www.facebook.com/events/433332923377044/?context=create

Thursday, September 20, 7:00 PM Cambridge, MA - Cambridge Public Library https://www.facebook.com/events/390951300971219/

Friday, September 21, 10:00 AM Cambridge, MA -The Harvard Coop https://www.facebook.com/events/365882940149613/

Saturday, September 22, 1:40 PM Washington, DC - National Book Festival https://www.facebook.com/events/368883439846870/

Tuesday, September 25, 7:00 PM Brampton, Ontario - Chapters https://www.facebook.com/events/364937963575548/

Thursday, September 27, 7:00 PM, doors at 6:00 PM National Writers Series, Traverse City, MI - City Opera House https://www.facebook.com/events/160116380787647/

Friday, September 28, 5:00 PM Lansing, MI - Schuler Books https://www.facebook.com/events/349701605105280/

Sunday, September 30, 2:00 PM Naperville, IL - Anderson's Bookshop https://www.facebook.com/events/406132696100589/

Monday, October 1, 6:00 PM Libertyville, IL - Cook Memorial Library https://www.facebook.com/events/303291439769299/

Tuesday, October 2, 7:00 PM Winnetka, IL - Evanston Public LIbrary https://www.facebook.com/events/431714280212317/

Wednesday, October 3, 2012, 7:00 PM Signing with Libba Bray, Chicago, IL - Barbara's Bookstore https://www.facebook.com/events/272099026225442/

Thursday, October 4, 2012, 6:00 PM St. Paul, MN - The Red Balloon Bookshop https://www.facebook.com/events/253883174714668/

Friday, October 5, 2012, Time TK "This is Teen" Group Event, Minneapolis, MN - Location TBA https://www.facebook.com/events/489852737709475/

Saturday, October 6, 7:00 PM Signing with Brenna Yovanoff, Denver, CO - Tattered Cover https://www.facebook.com/events/404345879627445/

Sunday, October 7, 7:00 PM Boulder, CO - Barnes & Noble https://www.facebook.com/events/423280011057934/

Monday, October 8, 7:00 PM Orem, UT - Barnes & Noble https://www.facebook.com/events/276556335787359/

Tuesday, October 9, 7:00 PM Salt Lake City, UT - The King's English Bookshop https://www.facebook.com/events/402077596508159/

Wednesday, October 10, 6:00 PM Signing with David Levithan, El Cerrito, CA - Barnes & Noble https://www.facebook.com/events/270476899725701/

Thursday, October 11, 7:00 PM Petaluma, CA - Copperfield's Books https://www.facebook.com/events/445642445458650/

Friday, October 12, 7:00 PM Signing with David Levithan & Ellen Hopkins, San Francisco, CA - Books Inc. https://www.facebook.com/events/186202041512953/

Saturday, October 13, 2012, 6:00 PM Corte Madera, CA - Book Passage https://www.facebook.com/events/270064606438108/

There is also this event coming up in a few weeks. It is pre-Raven Boys release, but I'll have special bookplates for you to stick in your book when you do get your hands on it. Plus there will be Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff there with me, signing copies of The Curiosities.

Saturday, August 25, 2:00 p.m. Merry Sisters of Fate event, Lawrence, KS - Lawrence Public Library https://www.facebook.com/events/497328386950345/

UK'ers, be not sad — I'm doing my best to head over there in the spring.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...