Monday, May 31, 2010

Four Things on a Monday: More Book Covers!

A few days ago, Thing 1 (age 5) noted that Memorial Day was coming up. She said, "I know it's supposed to be about people who fought in wars, but I always think about animals instead." Whether you guys are remembering soldiers or animals, I hope you have a good one.

1. I did some housekeeping over the weekend, as in re-tagging every single blog post and removing funny but useless post tags. So hopefully it's now easier to find butt-kickings, writing posts, rants, events, etc. Without having to dig through posts. Here is the complete list.

2. Paperback. Shiver. It comes out tomorrow in stores and I think is already available online. Rumor has it that it also has blue ink for the text like the hardcover. I am keen to see if this is indeed true. I am planning a ninja trip to the Garrisonville, VA Borders this week to sign their copies.

3. I've had a rash of requests on ordering signed copies of books, so I'm going to post a link to the independent bookstore that ships signed copies of my books in the U.S. and Canada (unfortunately I don't have any way to set this up for overseas yet, though if you're a bookstore who ships overseas and you want to try to work something out with me, let me know if you have any ideas). Anyway, here's the link -- you can also pre-order signed copies of Linger here.

4. I also uploaded a bunch more of some of my favorite things . . . foreign covers. Oooh! Aaaaah! And yes. The Italian edition of LINGER did get renamed DEEPER. Yes. I know. It's still pretty, right?

German edtion of Shiver

German edition of Shiver. It means "AFTER THE SUMMER." I'm in love with the cover.

Greek edition of Shiver

Greek edition of Shiver.

Catalan edition of Shiver

Catalan edition of Shiver. In person, this color -- sort of a dusky rose -- is really insanely pretty.

Brazilian edition of Shiver

Brazilian edition of Shiver. Just came out!

Finnish edition of Shiver

Finnish edition of Shiver.

Czech edition of Shiver

Czech edition of Shiver.

Italian edtiion of Linger

New Italian cover for Linger. Apparently 'Whisper', my suggestion for the alternate title, was already taken in Italy.

Latvian edition of Lament

Latvian edition of Lament.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

How To Be a Neurotic Professional Author

Today I thought I'd tackle a question a blog reader sent me back when I solicited questions. So I looked through them and decided that this was what I felt like talking about today. Because some of the questions are fairly specific to me, and this one is more general. Thanks to for the question

Is it hard to remember a time when you were a struggling writer, trying to find an agent/publisher? Does it seem like you've been doing this forever (so you're a pro) or do you still have anxieties and worries like you did in the beginning?

Do I feel like a pro? Absofreakalutely not. I talk about this with my critique partner Blood Bunny all the time -- someone will ask me for advice or want me on a panel at a conference and I will say, "But I am just a newbie in this business!" At first, I kept thinking that it was a milestone thing. That I would feel like a Real Author once I had my edits. Once I sold another book. Once I wrote another book. Once my book hit shelves. Once I got more positive reviews than negative. Once the second book came out. Or the third. Or once I hit the bestseller list. Once I sold the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth book . . . surely this would make me feel like I had some professional chops and would iron out insecurities and worries.

Um, no.

This may shock nobody else, but it turns out that the Maggie who lived on the bestseller list for over 30 weeks, sold eight books in over 30 countries, written over 75 short stories in two years, writes full-time, internationally tours, and otherwise has the bright and shiny professional life that I imagined as a kid . . . is exactly the same Maggie who was clutching a few dozen unpublished manuscripts to her chest and eyeballing agents and editors with an appraising expression.

I am every bit as eager, neurotic, optimistic, motivated, procrastinating, unsure, utterly sure, confident and naive as I was before. Sure, the things that make me excited or annoyed have different names now, but they are the same types of things. I can still be ecstatic by a particularly en pointe review by a muggle or nervous when I have 10,000 words of my novel written and I'm not precisely sure where I'm going next. I'm as excited about going to California as I was about going to Italy. I am as nervous about Linger coming out as I was for Shiver as I was for Ballad as I was for Lament.

Here's a great example of how neurosis lives on: when Scholastic first told me they were moving my release date and also my tour to the summer, so there'd be no school visits during my tour, the first thought I had was:

I have managed to offend some school so badly during my last school visit that they contacted Scholastic and SCHOLASTIC MOVED MY ENTIRE RELEASE DATE AND TOUR TO KEEP ME AWAY FROM TEENS! I FAIL!

Five minutes later I came to my senses, but it's worth pointing out that that was my first thought, not: yay, summer = swimming pools!

Same thing happens every time I write a book. There's a quote that I keep trying to find again -- the gist of it is that you never learn to write books, you only learn to write the book you're currently writing. And that really is how it is. Every book has that panicked ohmigosh-I-am-such-a-hack-this-book-will-never-see-the-light-of-day moment. Or two. Or fourteen. It doesn't matter how many finished books I have under my belt. I still know I'm going to have it on this book, and the next one, and the next one.

I think what it comes down to is that your sense of confidence and purpose has to come from within. If you're waiting for external markers to change you, you're in for a long wait. Actually, I'm thinking that if you do let external markers change your internal workings, you're in a bad place. I think that's when your head starts to swell and you become one of those obnoxious people who knows everything. I'd much rather think that it is I and only I who can influence my sense of self.

But it's something that I see in a lot of writers -- they keep looking to the outside world for verification. If they land a prestigious critique partner, it makes them more worthy. If they have an agent, they can be more confident. If they get a book deal, it's another notch. A bigger book deal, better notch. But guess what the problem with that is? Let's say your book sales tank and you are off the shelf in three months. You are absolutely destroyed, because all your worth and confidence was tied up in that.

I met my two critique partners, Tessa and Brenna, before they had deals or agents or book deals. And the thing that blew me away about them is that they attacked their writing like professionals. They both had a sense of purpose that came from within, not from external factors. Their confidence and insecurities were all very insular, and were unaffected by my critiques or rejections. I've got to tell you, that's a powerful thing. I would've had these two critiquing for me if they never landed a book deal, ever, because they are consummate writers long before they became Authors.

Anyway, so that was the long answer. The short answer is, yes. I am still the exact same person I was before all this hoopla went down. Hopeful, neurotic, confident, uncertain Maggie, all at the same time. And I think, now, that I like it that way. The day it all becomes second nature is the day that I head off for another career.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tour Info, Release Party, & Linger Music

I completely forgot about this, so involved was I in working on the raffle prize for the Linger launch event. Um, so. It is Friday so that means, amazingly, it is seven weeksish away from Linger's release date. The tour dates are slowly becoming set in stone (here is where you can find the California dates set so far, Texas to come soon, then foreign tours) and first one is the release event here in my home state.

I am very cheery about this one because the same store in Colonial Williamsburg, VA, that held the Shiver launch party will be holding the Linger launch event, and I love Beau, the head brain behind both events. Last time we gave away a bunch of door prizes, including a giant candy basket from the candy store that inspired a scene in Shiver. Well, there is far more music in Linger, so naturally, it makes sense that this will be the main prize to raffle off.

Le Second Sharpie Guitar

No, it is not the original Sharpie guitar. It's a Yamaha I bought for this nefarious purpose and have worked on for way too long with about 12 Sharpies that are now all completely buggered. -- The entire guitar is themed like the books. See?

Grace on the Second Sharpie Guitar

It's Grace!

Wolves on the Second Sharpie Guitar

And wolves!

Quote on the Second Sharpie Guitar

And one of the most popular lines from Shiver.

Anyway. Yes. I will be giving that away in Williamsburg to somebody. I'm going to work out with Beau how the raffle works. And I always get asked if I can come to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Hawaii, Singapore, etc. -- I would love to come every place, but I don't pick where I go. If you are really desperate and longing to have me come to your state/ country/ mini mall, you need to beg Scholastic and your local stores to get together.

Finally. Here is the song from the Linger Playlist. And sung by a guy who is very Samlike to me.

As usual, if you like the song, please go buy a legitimate copy of the tune from iTunes or Amazon or your crazy uncle with the music store.

It's "Girl" by Jim Sturgess, from Across the Universe.

The Great E-Mail Debate, Continued

I got an incredible amount of support and helpfulness and booyah!s on my question about the Great E-mail Debate of 2010, and since you guys were nice enough to help me make my decision, I am going to tell you what I've decided.

1. First of all, no, I'm not going to stop replying to blog comments on a regular basis. I love the blog, I love discussing things in the comments, and I feel like the blog engenders all kinds of talk which is about everything, not just about me. It's what I enjoyed about the reading and writing LJ community way back when I started and I'm loathe to give that up.

2. I'm still planning on directing readers as much as possible towards the blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Places where it's speedy for me to reply. Plus a lot of questions can be answered by other readers on those places.

3. I'm keeping the snail mail address on my website. I designed and bought postcards for the express purpose of making snail mail work. See, le postcard?

4. Finally, I've reinstated an e-mail address that goes to a separate folder. I'm having my website updated to reflect this. and the mighty big disclaimer on it that says that I read them all but can't reply to all of them. Because yes, it's true. I've gotten some intensely private reader mails that have basically made my month as a writer, and if I don't have a place for those to be sent in confidence . . . then they just wouldn't get sent.

5. Part of this is because I read THE GRAVEYARD BOOK and loved it and wanted to send a message to Neil Gaiman saying so. I found his email on his website, with a big I CAN'T ANSWER THESE -- and it didn't bother me. I just wanted him to know that I loved it. So I sent off the e-mail, glad that I had a place to send it to. So there you have it. The Great E-Mail Debate of 2010.

Thank you EVERYBODY who commented and helped me make this extremely ulcertastic decision. I didn't think it would ever come to this and I feel simultaneously very lucky and a little sad that things have to change.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Foreign Editions of Shiver & Linger

Over on Facebook, I just posted this list of the current foreign editions for Shiver and Linger, and I figured I'd post it here too. I'm trying to keep an accessible list of all the foreign editions of Shiver and Linger but as news from foreign publishers is frequently slow, I rely on readers for a lot of the information! So if you see news about any of the foreign editions that I don't already have listed on here, please feel free to post it on the wall so I can add it. Thank you!! (Also, I die a little every time I see this list. I really do. I keep thinking I'll get used to it, but no. No, I don't.)

Foreign editions are in this format:
Territory. TITLE in that territory with link to purchase or info. (Release date if not yet released/ if I know it. )

Bulgarian: Тръпка


Chinese Complex

Chinese Simplified: (May, 2011)


Czech: MRAZENí

Danish: SHIVER (July 2010)


Australian: SHIVER
Canadian: SHIVER
United Kingdom & Ireland SHIVER, LINGER


French: FRISSON. FIEVRE (October 2010).


German: NACH DEM SOMMER (September, 2010)
German, audio: NACH DEM SOMMER (September, 2010)

Greek: Ρίγος


Hungarian: SHIVER Borzongás


Italian: SHIVER and DEEPER (October 2010)

Japanese: (July, 2010)

Korean: (August, 2010)

Lithuanian: (May, 2010)

Polish(September, 2010)

Portuguese, Brazil: CALAFRIO

Portuguese: Portugal


Serbian: (May, 2010)

Slovakian: (May, 2011)

Slovene: (May, 2011)

Spanish: TEMBLOR.

Swedish: FROST


Turkish: (May, 2010)

Vietnamese: (May, 2010)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Giant E-mail Debate

Okay, folks, I am reaching out for your opinion on author e-mails.

For months I have been drowning in e-mails -- I get about 4,000 a month and I was trying to answer them all and write two novels a year and tour and actually be present for my family. Two days ago, my hair caught fire during my attempt to balance all of it (this was metaphorical) and I had my webmaster take my e-mail address off my website.

It did not make me feel good.

But my reasoning was, if I can't answer all of them, I can't answer any of them, because how would I know where to draw the line? And if I can't answer any of them, I won't let people send e-mails to an inbox I don't respond to, even if I read them. And I thought, well, I have twitter and Facebook and the blog and I still reply to just about everybody on those and I also have a mailing address on there. So people can get in touch with me still, even if it's harder, right? 

I still feel . . . funky.

But I cannot keep on answering 4,000 emails a month. It's just . . . impossible. The ulcers are getting too angry. They say: you need more time in the evening not staring at a computer! And you just don't ignore it when the ulcers start talkin'.

So here is the question. As a reader, would you prefer to have an e-mail address to be able to send an email to an author, even if she doesn't reply, or better to have no e-mail because she doesn't reply? 

If You See My Four-Ways, It's Because of Slow Reptiles

Ahhh, springtime in Virginia, which means it's turtle-moving season.

On the way back from dropping Things 1 & 2 at school today, another driver flashed her lights at me as I pulled into my neighborhood. Our neighborhood is not the sort for downed trees or construction, so I knew instantly what it was.

And I was right. It was a box turtle. I slowed down as not to hit the turtle as it crossed the road, a great spring pastime of Virginian box turtles, and then I hit my four-ways, picked that sucker up, and carried it to the other side to safety.

I noticed that the other driver waited at the stop sign, looking over her shoulder, until she made sure that I had not made it into a turtle pancake.

I would've done the same.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Graveyard Book - An Incoherent Middle of the Night Post

I have just this moment closed the cover of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, after loitering rather longingly over the acknowledgments and possibly the back jacket flap as well.

I don't think I can manage a proper synopsis or review of this book -- about an orphaned boy who is raised by a graveyard of ghosts -- so I think I will just have to say that I love it very, very deeply. For so long I refused to pick it up because I thought it sounded quaint and possibly twee, but it was neither. It pushed all the buttons that Maggies love to have pushed: archetypes, humor, high stakes, personal stakes, and a deep ingrained sense of folklore that only comes from the author having grown up with rather than researched it.

Add to all that and I have to say it was, for me, the most well-written of all of Gaiman's books that I've read. I kept seeing things that I associated as Gaimanisms, but they felt absolutely right here. Weapons wielded by someone for so long that they've become part of their arms.

Just ahhh. Loved it. If there are Susan Cooper fans out there longing for that sense of other from the Dark is Rising books, pick this book up.

Friday, May 21, 2010

More Music from the Linger Playlists

So, unbelievably, it is now 8-some weeks away from Linger's release day (and I'm revoltingly happy to report that I will indeed be doing a launch day event in Williamsburg, VA, details to follow). And it's a Friday. That means it's time for some more music from the playlists. It also means it is time for my washing machine to die, apparently. It made that sound from Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail ("the castle of eeuuuuuugggghhh") and just stopped. I am bitter.

Anyway, two songs this week as well. One that represents Mercy Falls to me, and another which will forever be associated with a certain section of the book (thanks to Editor MixTape for that one.) These are also two songs that I didn't like right away -- it was only after several listens that I really liked them. It'll be interesting to see the verdict from you guys.

As always, if you love 'em, go buy the tracks from legit places and support the artists. Make me happy. Hope you enjoy!

"Rock of Ages" - Gillian Welch

And "Out Come the Wolves" - Jacob Golden.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Maggie's Inflammatory Blog Post About Parents in Books

So I believe it is time for me to do an inflammatory blog post about parents in YA literature. I can pretty much guarantee some people will be going HECK YA! when they read it. And I can pretty much guarantee some people will be going BURN IN A FIRE! when they read it. And I can be 100% sure that the latter group are adults.

Allow me to sum up the perennial complaints about adults in young adult books. Sing along if you know the lyrics.

why are they all so bad
where are the role models?
I would never do that to my kids!
parents like that don’t exist and if they did they’d be in jail
what is this teaching kids about adults?
my mom wouldn’t have done that.
supervision? They haz it? O no they don’t.

I was unsurprised to get equal parts love and hate for the portrayal of Grace’s parents in SHIVER. And I gotta tell you, I bet both your booty and mine that I will get even louder reactions for LINGER, because guess what, Grace’s parents in LINGER are still the same people as they were in SHIVER. That means that no, to quote from a favorite movie, they did not improve with age. There is a scene in LINGER, actually, that I debated endlessly. Did I write it the way that I felt the character development demanded? Or did I write something that would be Good and Useful for Teens to Read About?

Guess which one I picked.

And you know what, I will always pick that first option. Writing the scenes to keep the characters true to themselves. Having the characters made decisions that are supported by weight and consequences of decisions and personality up to that point. Why?

I think this calls for a numbered list.

1 - I don’t write middle grade (8-12ish). I write young adult, and upper young adult at that, with significant adult crossover audience. In some of the 32 territories SHIVER’s being published in, it’s being published as an adult book. If I were writing middle grade, I would have morals in the back of my head. If you are writing for middle grade, you are writing for kids. But I am writing for young adults. Emphasis on the adults. When I was the age of my audience, I was reading Michael Crichton and Dean Koontz and other adult books. I assume my audience is as well and that they chose a young adult novel instead of a middle grade novel for a reason -- they want an emotionally mature novel with teen characters. I am not going to condescend to them by treating them as kids. And if I made that decision to write what is Good for Them, I think that’s being condescending. “Yes, you’re practically an adult now. Now let me teach you a little something, dear reader.”

2 - Adults are people too. In other words, all of my characters are flawed, no matter what their age. So why should my characters suddenly grow up and become paragons of virtue? My adults are no more flawed than my point of view characters -- but they are no more perfect, either. And yes, this is a conscious decision. As teens get older, they start to pull parents from pedestals and see that they are more complicated than they ever realized as a kid. You have to come to grips with the fact that we don’t grow up and get all the answers. And you choose to still love and admire them, or not. That was a huge part of my teen life, getting to know my parents as adults instead of as just the idealized figures I had in my head. Why in the world would I not explore that concept in a young adult novel?

3 - Perspective. In a YA novel, your protagonists are teens. The reader sees everything through their eyes, through their filter. So I think this often is going to paint the parents in a less than sympathetic light, even if the parents are doing sympathetic things. Again, I’m going to stay true to my characters. I’m not going to have Grace suddenly step out of her own voice to say, “actually, in this area, my parents were correct to discipline me because I was way out of line.” Uh. Yeah. Not so much.

4 - Agency. I hate to bring this up, as it’s often cited as the only reason for bad parents in YA, and it’s not what most often dictates my choices. But yes, your main characters need to have agency, they need to be the one who solves most of the problems. And that means that helpful adults have to be kept on the down low, or your teen character suddenly has all of his/ her problems taken care of. It means that there are a lot more dead parents, deadbeat parents, and just beat parents in YA than in real life.

5 - Yes, there really are parents out there like that. No, they don’t go to jail. No, you can’t always tell from the outside of the family. Yes, they are more common than you think. Grace’s parents are based upon a real couple that I met several years ago -- upper middle class, college-bound kids, very functional looking from the outside. And definitely not an anomaly in their community.

6 - Bad parents is not the same as bad adults. Yes, I write bad parents. But not all of them are. And not all of my adults are terrible. As teens grow up, they start making connections with non-family adults, building their own support system as they work out how they feel about the people they have lived with their entire life. I’m not the only YA writer that gives a character bad parents but good adult role models in other places. It’s more subtle -- but in real life, it’s wicked hard for a teen to find these role models, too.

7 - And finally, there is no US vs. THEM. Invariably, the ones crying out for justice against the wronged parents are adults and often parents themselves. The voices are full of hurt indignation that adults should be so wronged. Really? REALLY? A bad parent in a book is not an attack on parenthood or on a reader who is a parent. It’s not a blow against a particular race of humans known as humans. I write my parents as characters -- no different than any other secondary character in my novels. Because parents are adults and adults are humans and teens are humans and it is not teens versus adults. It is character versus character, and I think that’s how teens see it. They don’t crow “wow! the teens are really getting their way in this one! Teens - 1, Parents - 0.”

In short, my name is Maggie Stiefvater, and I write about bad parents. And bad kids. And bad animals. And bad decisions.

And I'm not sorry.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Children Are Weird Animals

The other day, my kids, Thing 1 & Thing 2, who are nearly 5 and nearly 6, were outside playing. They were nominally climbing a tree, and didn't notice what I did from my vantage point on the porch: a boy from our neighbor's house watching them longingly. He made the progression from neighbor's yard, to the ditch in front of our house, to the street at the end of our driveway (we live on a quiet-ish road). It was then that Things 1 & 2 noticed them. 

Thing 1: Hey! You shouldn't stand in the road!! It's dangerous!!
Thing 2 (kindly): Are you lost? Did you house burn down?

Lover invited the boy to come into the yard, and Things 1 & 2 promptly incorporated him into a game of hide and seek. At one point, Thing 1 went racing by and I stopped her.

Me: Do you know what that boy's name is yet?
Thing 1: I think Mark or Brian sounds nice.

I wonder at what age we start thinking that names are important and assume that people walking by are not refugees from burning buildings.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Contest Winners!

1. Okay, you guys are incredible, for starters. I posted the trailer for Linger just nine days ago. And it now has 12,704 views -- that's amazing. There were also 1,144 comments on the two contest blog posts (slightly fewer entries than that, because some of the comments were just comments). So any way you cut it, thank you.

2. Because I have your attention, I should remind you that I post free short fiction (sometimes it is stories in the same world as my novels, mostly not) every third Monday over at Merry Sisters of Fate. And today is one of those Mondays.

3. The winners! (it is somewhat crushing to have only four prizes for over 1,000 entries).

The winner of the necklace is francescacullen, who entered on LJ.

The winner of the dust jacket with the art is wordsfreeme, who entered on LJ.

The winner of the signed LINGER ARC is A Simple Love of Reading who entered on Blogger.

And the winner of the SHIVER artwork is Sara Esser who entered on Blogger.

Please head over here, winners, for my e-mail address, and send me your mailing addresses. Congrats again and HUGE THANKS!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Maggie's Excessively Long Post on Time Management

So back when I asked people what they’d like to hear me post about, I got a ton of a requests for a post about time management. The thing is, I feel a little weird about posting about it, because I don’t feel like an expert. An expert is someone who knows how to do something well, who makes it look effortless, and me. . . well, I could’ve had this post finished twenty minutes ago, but I got distracted watching Sponge Bob Square Pants while drinking my breakfast tea.

So basically, this: I don’t feel qualified as an expert. Time management is still something that I constantly have to work at -- it’s not like washing dishes, which I’m perfectly certain I can accomplish. It’s more like writing, where each day is a new project I’m not sure I can pull off.

I think I get a lot done. But I don’t think it’s easy for me. I think that’s the best way to put it. I can joke about it being about caffeine and cookie dough or an inability to sit still, but what it comes down to is: it’s hard. I have to work at it. Anyone who thinks otherwise will be let down.

With that said, here are my basic principles of time management.

1 - Work first, then play. I don’t get to read a book or watch a movie or go outside and frolic before I’ve gotten my work done. The day starts with work, so that I don’t look up at the clock at noon and go, oh, wow, it’s noon and nothing has gotten done! I take my tea and my breakfast into my office and start answering e-mails. The only day that I can be lazy is Sunday. Play is a reward for a job well done.

2 -  Goals. I’m a big fan of quantifiable achievements. Back when I was first working for myself, I would write a list each day of things that I needed to get done that day, that week, that month, so that I could cross them off when I finished them. Now I tend to keep them in my head rather than writing them down, but the principle is the same. So -- I have to finish writing this blog post before I can go shower, for instance.

3 - Priorities. What do you want to be known for? There is a ton of time-wasting that goes on in this world. When a writer friend complains to me about not having time to write and I see that she’s spent two hours on Facebook playing Farmville, I raise an eyebrow. When I’m doing something, I ask myself -- is this something I will remember doing in a week? In two weeks? Yes, sometimes you just waste time as a reward. But for the most part, I would rather be doing something that I’ll still think was valuable a month down the road. So that means writing a novel. Practicing a musical instrument. Taking my kids to see a movie. It doesn’t mean Farmville or solitaire. Those are moments you’ll never get back. And never remember.

4 - Scheduling. When I was writing Lament, my husband was working full time and so was I. I had two little kids and no daycare. I blocked out two hours every evening on Wednesday to be my writing time, and as it got closer to being a Real Thing, I added two hours on Sunday during the kids’ nap time. And that’s how I wrote: when you know exactly how much time you have and how much you have to get done in it, it makes you more efficient.

5 - Kids Will Never Stop You From Taking Over the World. People use kids as an excuse, and it annoys me endlessly. If I had a dime for every time someone said (not knowing I have kids), “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write, but I have a little kid at home” I could buy a pony. There is such a tremendous amount of guilt associated with being a mother and having a life, I’ve discovered. But I’ve also discovered this: kids respect you for having a life. They don’t respect you for being at their every beck and call. Have an identity. Have a career. I’m not saying to work every second of every day. But I am saying that you can establish a two hour slot every single day, right after lunch, and call it “quiet time.” They don’t have to sleep, they can just watch a movie or read, or whatever. But that is their quiet time and your work time. I started this with my kids when they were two and it carried on through school age, and a lot of days, it was the only chance I got to work.

6 - Guilt. Not just about kids. But from friends, family, etc. -- I think the solution to this is talking. A lot of times we’ll feel more guilty about being busy than we need to be. Whenever I feel like I’m spending a ton of time working, I’ll ask Lover if I need to cut back, and he will tell me. My friends, too, understand that when I’m under deadline, that I’ll be scarce. Don’t let unreasonable guilt keep you from saying “Saturdays are my day to work on My Fantastic Project.” And TALK to people to find out whether it’s reasonable or not.

6 - Do What You Love. You’ll make time for what you love. I’m a big believer in having no regrets. So if a major part of your day every day is driving you insane and you hate it, find a way to eliminate it. I despised my day job right out of college -- an office job with great people but inane and mind-numbing work -- so I spent time every day planning and scheming how to be able to quit. And then I did. And since then I have been working to do what I love. My time management works because of this: I love working. I love being with my family. I can’t say I love vacuuming, but heck, that’s what Saturdays are for. Overwhelmingly, I love what I do, and it means that I can take the avoidance out of most of my scheduling.

And . . . uh . . . I guess that’s it. I decided a long time ago that excuses were what was keeping me from getting everything done. Once I stopped making them, suddenly, I was a lot better at balancing everything. It’s not always perfect, but . . . it works. 

ETA: I couldn't understand why I kept feeling deja vu as I wrote this post. After I posted it, I went hunting in my old art blog and found this one that I wrote in 2007. It's nice to see that I'm consistent, anyway.

The Last Last Linger Contest Reminder

Okay, I am writing a blog post on time management that I'll post in a little bit, but I just wanted to remind everyone that the deadline for the Linger trailer contest is tonight at midnight, EST. You can enter here or here (if you don't have an LJ account). Big thanks to everyone who has posted the Linger trailer online at this point -- it's been absolutely amazing.

And that's all I'm gonna say. Back in a few, with time management thoughts.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kermit, Linger, and other Green Things

So today while I was trying very hard to concentrate on Secret Project, UPS delivered a very early, finished copy of LINGER. There are not really many of these in existence, and I'm pretty sure this one was stolen off Editor MixTape's desk while he was in New Zealand (which is only fair. He is in New Zealand. He doesn't need this. I do.)

Anyway, it is pretty stinkin' gorgeous. And, to answer the question I have gotten hundreds of times, yes. The ink is green.

So I whipped out my camera to do some selective focus evidential photography. And here it is. Ooooooh the pretty? Yes. The pretty.

The Green Text of Linger

Linger Playlist Songs: Again With the Opposites

Soooo. It is now 9 weeks-ish away from Linger (unbelievable!) and it's Friday, so have some more songs from the Linger playlists.

I was going to write about how Isabel and Grace are opposites in Linger, in many ways, and how their music from the playlists reflects this, but I think you can pretty much read my post about Cole and Sam and just insert "Isabel" and "Grace" instead. Suffice to say that they're very different people. And also I think you guys can tell that my musical tastes are pretty far-ranging at this point. Basically there is something to offend or please almost everyone in my music collection.

Okay. Music. The usual applies: if you love it, go to iTunes or Amazon or your local sketchy music dealer down the street who keeps CDs in the pockets of his cargo pants and buy it. Support the artists, etc.

Anyway, so for Grace, we have "Almost Lover" by A Fine Frenzy.

A Fine Frenzy - Almost Lover
Download Music Video Code at

For Isabel, "You'll Find a Way" - Santogold. 

Man. I can't believe it's 9 weeks until Linger is out. Summer is coming like a freight train.*

*Why does that expression exist? Every freight train I've ever seen is always this sludge-like thing that holds up traffic for years.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Three Things on a Thursday: The Virginia Library visit edition

1. I can't remember if I blogged that I'd be at the Salem Church branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library (that's near Fredericksburg, VA), doing a writer and reader Q & A next Monday. Details here.

2. I went to the National Gallery of Art and the Phillips Collection with my friend Nicole Caulfield (a great artist herself) yesterday. I am a tremendous John Singer Sargent fangirl and they had a Sargent I hadn't seen in person before, so I was suitably twitter-pated, as my father would say. We also had this conversation with one of the docents, who was standing by the door with a pensive expression:

Docent: Ladies, we have a 12 inch rule. That means you have to stand at least 12 inches from the paintings. We do that to prevent Accidental Touching.
Me: If there was going to be any touching going on here, it sure as heck wouldn't be accidental. I'd be hugging and licking this thing.
Docent: . . .
Nicole: *smiles like a sane person*
Docent: I think that is the first time I have heard that.

I am an excellent person to go to museums with. Don't I look tame?

3. I have not forgotten about the suggested blog topics. I will tackle the first of them presently. Possibly tomorrow. I am working on Super Secret Project which is thrilling me beyond belief, so I am preoccupied.

3b. You guys are wonderful and insane for passing the Linger trailer around as per the contest. THANK YOU. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's a chance to win the piece of art at left, a LINGER advanced copy, a signed Linger dust jacket, and cool bling, and it ends Sunday at midnight, so there is still time to enter. Here's the livejournal version of the contest and here's the blogger one.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Okay! Time for my last contest before LINGER comes out. And well, and for at least quite awhile after LINGER comes out, since I'll be ravaging the U.S. countryside with tour dates, and then overseas. Anyway, this one's a wee bit different.

Mostly, my evil plot is to get you to spread around the trailer for LINGER as much as possible.

And then the rewards are four-fold. The prizes are, in order of how big of a box I have to pack them in,

a necklace I found that is very like the leaves on the U.S. Shiver cover.

the shiver necklace

an ARC of LINGER. I did not know until yesterday whether or not I would be able to secure a final ARC or not, but using nefarious means and animal cunning and too much time on the computer, I did. I think I will probably sign this one. And possibly doodle in it. And maybe stick a few paper cut out animals in it. Who knows. It will be interesting.

The LINGER dust-jacket that I used in the making the LINGER trailer. I'm sorry, it's a bit rumpled, as it was, indeed, used and wrapped around a copy of SHIVER. But I hope I made up for it by signing it and making it match my guitar and laptop (which you could also glimpse on my desk in the trailer) (well, not the guitar). (I just briefly wondered at the fact that I am giving away copies of my book with no book inside. This seems slightly wrong).

Outside the dust jacket

Inside the Dust Jacket

And, finally, a frame from the SHIVER trailer. I have been holding onto these Shiver trailer pieces for a long time, waiting for some good use for them. The first tree frame I've kept for myself. What can I say, nostalgia. But this frame . . . I think it is time for it to be prize fodder. It is 10 x 10" and flat and will be packaged INSANELY WELL to keep it that way.

Frame from Shiver Trailer

So. Those are our prizes. Four different people will win them. I have had problems in the past not laying out rules very clearly and also with things turning wildly insane and making entries difficult to count, so I'm going to try to make this very clear for all our sakes.

1. It is open internationally. Nothing butters my bread on the wrong side like people saying "YOU NEVER MAKE YOUR CONTESTS INTERNATIONAL" after I post yet another contest that is, as always, international. So I am telling you now. It's open internationally. That means inter. nationally. I love people in other countries. You're like family. Family with funny accents, cool music, and probably better food. Yes?

2. Kindly do not adopt thousands of internet personas for purposes of entering this contest. I don't care if your account is newish, etc., and I'm not the Ethics Police, but just . . . be fair and, as Jiminy Cricket says, always let your conscience be your guide.

3. Remember, the idea behind this is to get the LINGER trailer out there into the world. So before you send me an email that says "does this count as an entry?" ask yourself "does it get the LINGER trailer out in the world where actual people can see it?" and the answer is probably yes. If you are posting it on a Strawberry Shortcake listserv that has been defunct for four years, the answer is probably no. Again. Jiminy Cricket.

4. So, that said, this is how you get an entry. I'm going to try to be really specific here. You get an entry for each legitimate place that you post the Linger trailer. Places that count:
- your public blog. Anything that has viewers: so livejournal, blogger, wordpress, etc.
- your facebook.
- your myspace (if it's active -- I haven't used mine for two years)
- your twitter

Places that do not count but that I appreciate:
- forums
- Goodreads blogs
- comments on other people's blogs/ forums

I know there are categories in here that I have missed. When wondering if something is eligible, ask yourself that ol' question: does this fulfill the spirit of the contest? And if your Jiminy Cricket says yes, then post it as an entry. I am trusting you guys to be cool.

5. Ok. Here's where it gets complicated. I would really prefer that you embed the video (I will post the code here) instead of just posting a link, but I understand that on twitter, you can only post a link. I'm going to count Facebook as embedding it if you do it in such a way that the actual video appears on your wall instead of the link. Anyway, if you embed the video, you are eligible for all the prizes. So if your name is pulled, you get whichever prize I am drawing for. If you only link the video, you are eligible only for the necklace and the Linger dust jacket. So if your name is pulled, you get whichever of those two things has not been given away yet. If they have both been given away, your name is chucked and another one is pulled.

6. Now. I hate to make this so specific, but because of the thousands of entries I got on the last contest, I think I have to be. In order to have your entry tallied properly, this is what you need to do.

- post the video in however many places that you are going to post
- return to either this post on either my Livejournal blog or my blogger blog and post a separate comment for each place that you posted it. This is because I will be drawing random numbers based upon the number of comments, and if you post multiple places in one comment, it will only be registered as one entry.
- in your comment, type, in all caps, first, either EMBED or LINK depending on which it was. This is so I am sure which you're eligible for if you name gets pulled! Then post a link back to where you posted it.
- you can repeat this process for as many places as you have available to you for posting. Remember, new comment for every entry if you want multiple entries.
- DO NOT post the same link as multiple comments in an attempt to cheat. Anything which looks vaguely cheaty will make me delete every one of your entries, leave a sad face comment on your blog, and have me calling your mother and hexing you to live a single life populated only by reruns of the O.C. Don't make me do that. It's time-consuming.

Here is the embedding code for the video. You cut and paste it into the html of your blog (googling "how to embed a video" will give you more detailed instructions).

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value=""></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

And here is the plain old link:

Okay. I think that's it. The contest is running for a week. So. You may enter until SUNDAY, MAY 16TH, MIDNIGHT, EASTERN STANDARD TIME. Because I always end up staying up forever doing the tallying, I'm going to say that I will then announce the winner on Monday morning at 10 a.m.

I think I'm getting the hang of these things.

Ok. GO!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Amuse Myself. So Much. (Linger Teaser)

Have a teaser for Linger. This is why I shouldn't have free time on a computer.

Now I'm going to go make pizza.

Sam Roth is in a relationship

The Making of the Linger Trailer, Part Four

Maggie and AndrewAnd the last one, I swear. There will only be one Linger Trailer post after this, tomorrow, to start the last contest I'm running before Linger comes out in July.

Anyway, so in the last part, all the animation had been finished. All I had left to do was the music. I finished the trailer the day before our studio appointment at Third Stream Music, and quickly discovered that the song that I'd written for the trailer was completely wrong for the mood I wanted. It was more in line with the first, jagged sketches I'd done of the trailer. Not something that would go along with clay birds and were-smurfs. So I scrapped the whole thing and watched the trailer approximately 14,000 times with my sister. The next morning, I cobbled together two of my song fragments from last year and some brand new material and tailored it to fit the visual cues of the trailer. And then we packed up the cello, fiddle, harp, tin whistles, and guitars into my car and drove to the studio with my brother and sister.

Kate on Cello 2Kate is a kick-arse violinist and Andrew's a great guitarist, and both of them are fantastic improv musicians. It's really satisfying to brainstorm on the fly and come up with something you didn't expect. My favorite part, however? Playing the cymbal with those little furry mallets. It’s SUCH as satisfying sound. When I wasn’t playing the cymbal (I am such a fantastic cymbal player, it's my finest instrument) I also played harp, piano, and two whistles on the track -- my sister played violin and cello. The whistles completely took over the track when I expected it to be more piano driven, but heh, that's what whistles do.

Andrew on guitar, IIMy brother on his guitar and me on the Sharpie guitar also recorded another track which will appear at a different time. And Matt the sound guy did engineering wizardry.

Five hours after we started, we had two tracks completed. And within thirty minutes of getting home, we were watching the trailer with the music.

And . . . I guess that is the story of the Linger trailer! Did I leave anything out? A lot of swearing, probably. And tea. There was a lot of tea. Still took less work than writing the novel.

Maggie on Keyboard

Kate on Fiddle/ Matt on Sound Engineering stuff

Maggie on Harp

Andrew on guitar

Maggie on Low D Whistle

The Making of the Linger Trailer, Part Three

On to Part Three of the Making of the Linger TrailerIn Part Two, I talked about my intense familiarity with rubber cement and exact-o knives. Now it's onto the actual shooting of the project.

Here’s the set up for my desk -- I needed strong lighting to cast shadows (to emphasize that it was 3D) and I also needed a slightly tidier desk than I normally had. So Mr. Darcy the iMac was rehomed onto a children’s table, and about a million reader letters and receipts were relocated. A few dozen hardcovers helped hold up the lighting. Because finished copies of Linger don’t exist yet, Scholastic overnighted me a Linger dust jacket to wrap around a copy of Shiver (so don’t bother trying to read the book in the trailer; you probably already have).

19 desk set up

My genius replacement for the coat hanger support system was an adjustable lamp. As you can see here.

20 tree strings

 Originally, my birds were to be hung from strings and slowly lifted out of the book. With flapping action. Only, there was one problem: none of the paper birds would hang like birds. They weren’t weighted properly, so they hung nose-down and twirled. Obscene amounts of weight brought them upright, but they were still very unstable. Flapping their wings for the animation sent them crazy again. I gave up shooting for the night as I brainstormed with Lover and my brother.

Eventually, the boys came up with the suggestion of strings that the birds could move along, like a little birdie theme park. Little birdie ninjas. Avian swat team. Then I remembered that I had some Rose-Art modeling clay in one of my office drawers. I’d been keeping it for a rainy day and guess what, today was that day. Clay birds squished nicely onto the strings and could be moved up and down, flapping their wings agreeably the entire time. The strings got photo-shopped out of each individual frame. I saved my bigger paper birds for close up shots. Those got held with fingers that never appeared in the frame.

20 tree strings 2

18 skeet shoot

Here's my test animation with the birds and strings still attached.

17 tree stick 217 tree stick 1Oh, and the leaf. The floating leaf was done by the trick of taping the leaf to a stick and taking two photographs for each finished frame. One with the leaf and the stick in it. One with no leaf or stick in it. Later, I morphed the two photos together and removed the stick. See -- here’s with stick and without stick photos.

Then it was straightforward animation like I'd done for the Shiver trailer -- replacing one wolf cut out with the next to create movement, following the instructions I'd laid out for myself in my storyboarding. The hard part, I knew, was going to be the tree growing out of the book. I knew all along that the easiest way to pull off that bit would be to shoot it in reverse. Which didn’t mean I had to like it. Basically, the opposite of growing is being cut into tiny pieces, which is what happened. First the leaves got cut slowly off. Then the branches. And then the trunk. Finally there was nothing left of the four-hour tree but a pile of paper underneath my desk (which was when the Fed-Ex man arrived and looked a little scared by what my office looked like).

21 tree cutting

Then it was all put together in iStopMotion, a program that will play photographic frames at whatever speed you dictate. Timing was adjusted. Wonky animation sequences were altered. Ending credits added. All we needed now was the music. Which I guess will be Part Four, the last segment of the Making of.

Hopefully you're still entertained.

The Making of the Linger Trailer, Part Two

Okay, Part Two of the Making of the Linger Trailer. In Part One there was the rough storyboarding and the dummy animation. There was not yet a lot of swearing. Part Two sees our fearless heroine tackling the main part of the paper cutting: The tree. The tree is sort of like Jason Statham in the Transporter movies. He's in every frame, so they'd better get his damn hair right. (well, if he had hair). Anyway, the tree had to be perfect because it was in every frame. The whole process of drawing the tree by hand and cutting it out with an exact-o knife took four hours. It was naked, at first, no leaves, because for Maximum Prettiness and Mostest Annoyingest, I wanted the leaves to be all different colors.

3 four hour tree

Then I tested it to see if the paper was firm enough to allow it to stand on its own, coming out of the book. No dice. It was floppy as week old asparagus. So I applied my genius and arrived at a temporary solution involving strings and coat hangers. I figured I’d work out something prettier later.

10 testing

Then onto the moving parts. In this case, a few dozen boys. Because animation has between 6-12 frames every second, that’s a lot of paper people. I drew my boys on tracing paper first and then copied them onto the back of my patterned paper. Oh, look, it looks like that one little wolf boy is grabbing that other wolf boy's butt. Or like a conga line. I suppose that's a more innocent interpretation.

16 more boys

And a lot of wolves.

13 a lot of wolves

14 show me some legMuch to my endless delight, it turned out that the small figures were strong enough to stand themselves up in the spine of the book sans strings and magic tricks. They just needed a bit more height to be seen properly. In other words, they all needed stilts. So out came the glue and some sticks of firm paper. The glue's packaging said it was designed just for paper. It smelled like rubber cement. It made lots of strings. There was a lot of stickiness. I'm not sure the kitchen table will ever be quite the same.

Then it was onto some proto-type birds. I didn't realize at the time what pain they'd cause me later, or there would have been more swearing.

12 failed birds

And finally onto a few hundred leaves in different colors for the tree. More rubber cement. They had to be cut with stems so they could be glued on behind the tree’s branches -- later they’d be cut off and I needed them to be sturdy for that.

15 springtime

All of the cutting done, it was time for shooting. I had a lot of work ahead of my still -- by the time I was done, I would have over 450 photographs.

Which makes this a good place to break for Part Three, I reckon.

The Making of the Linger Trailer, Part One

Okay, on Friday I posted the stop-motion trailer I made for Linger, and I promised a making of blog post. Only, when I wrote it out without photographs in a document, it was four pages long. So I think I'd better make this a multi-part series. So here goes, part one. (you can click on any photograph to see it bigger).

First of all, I should say, I have always loved animation, and stop-motion animation in particular (anyone else remember those California Raisins shows from the 80s? I was all over those). So when I say that this trailer took over 60 hours of work, know that I did it because I love tinkering with this stuff, not because all authors really ought to be spending a lot of time with exact-o knives and rubber cement in order to be successful.

Anyway. Here, first of all, is the trailer, in case you haven’t seen it already.

1 Early DraftsMy first step in any art project is rough sketches, to get an idea of what I want the project to look like. Early sketches for the trailer, as you can see, were wildly different from the final project. I was considering doing traditional animation and laying down a more electronic/ techno track and . . . in the end, I just wasn’t feeling it.

So they got thrown out, and I went with an old, old trailer idea I’d had back when I first started writing Linger. At the time, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. But now, I was feeling ballsy. So I started to storyboard it. This is sort of like . . . pretend animation, with massive amounts of frames missing from in between each step. Basically I just want to get an idea of the big moments and cunning camera angles I might want to try. Now that I think of it, my storyboarding is a lot like my synopsis-writing for my novels.

2 Storyboard 1

5 framesOnce I had a very rough storyboard, it was time to do some equally rough animating. Paper cut outs are fun and thrilling (I think we can all agree that this is a universal principle of life). But they are not fun to experiment with. They take too long and they can't really be changed once they're done. So I did a few hundred sketches with tracing paper, then a few hundred photographs of tracing paper, and put them together to see if I had anything that looked like it was vaguely pretty.

Which turned into this. Rough animation.

It looked a little like a real boy, so it was time to do the paper cutting. So out went the frames on a table for consultation. In this case, my kitchen table since my desk had somehow shrunk to a uselessly small toy overnight. That boombox you see in the background was playing things like Wakey!Wakey! and Broken Bells and Snow Patrol and Blaqk Audio and, when things got very dire, Jon Secada.

6 laying the storyboard frames

There were a lot of frames.

9 the frames all

A lot of consultation.

7 studying the storyboard frames

Then I started to cut.

I think that better conclude part one. It's already pretty stinkin' long. Hopefully you're still entertained.
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