Monday, September 27, 2010

FOREVER Cover Contest

Okay, and now the contest! I know I promised an icon-design contest earlier but I’m going to hold off on that because I will be useless for looking at and judging and choosing icons while I’m dancing around with dodgy internet overseas (although I’m told that Lithuania has the sixth fastest connection speed IN THE WORLD). Instead, we’re gonna go for the tried and true cover and pre-order link to win thing. Those of you who were part of the LINGER cover contest will remember this.

So, ze prizes?

1. two signed copies of the Linger audiobook, featuring the sex-on-a-stick narrator that reads Cole’s parts and the narrator who SINGS Sam’s songs in his parts.

2. a signed and intensely doodled in copy of LINGER, personalized to you, naturally.

3. a signed and intensely doodled in paperback copy of SHIVER, personalized to you, naturally

4. 4 LINGER tank tops provided by Scholastic (unfortunately only available in two sizes, small and improbably small.

5. A signed UK editon of LINGER.

6. 20 signed bookmarks

7. 15 doodled and signed bookplates

I am sad to say that if you are an international person, you are only eligible for prizes #6 and 7 (UNLESS you can provide a U.S. mailing address to me, in which case, you’re eligible for all). I don’t really want to have to limit it, but I spent $50 on sending my last two contest prizes out and my postage bill’s over $1000 this year. And . . . that’s a lot. Sorry, people with cool accents.

So, entering for prizes #1-5 is simple. On either your blog (only independent blogs like those on LJ, Wordpress, etc. -- Goodreads and Shelfari and listservs don’t count) or your Facebook, post the cover image and some version of WHOOO FOREVER, THE LAST BOOK IN THE SHIVER TRILOGY, PRE-ORDER A SIGNED COPY HERE! (so they know what exactly it is you’re posting) and the link to the pre-order site: Then come back and comment here with a link (you don’t have to make your facebook profile unprivate, just tell me it is and we can verify if your name gets picked). If you have a facebook and a blog, you can enter twice, just make sure you leave a unique comment for each entry, because that’s how they’re tallied. Please note if you’re an international entry. Please note, too, that ALL of those component have to be part of your entry to be eligible for #1-6.

And if you want a crack at those signed and doodled bookplates, prize #7, here it is: change your twitter or LJ or Blogger icon to the FOREVER cover for the duration of the contest, and come back here and gimme a link so I can see it.  

I know there’s always some question I didn’t answer in the rules, so if you comment with a question, I’ll edit this post to include the answer, okay, so that everyone can see it. Does that sound fair? Yes, yes, it sounds fair.

This contest ends on midnight the 19th, EST. I will post winners on the 20th.

As always, guys, thanks for playing. You’re terribly good sports.


So, tomorrow morning I head off on overseas tour for nearly a month. I am almost packed, in a kind of I-have-picked-out-my-jeans sort of way. While overseas I’m going to do my best to post regularly with images of the weird and the Dutch. (Tour schedule is here.) But for now, I’m going to post a different sort of image: the FOREVER cover.

Oh yeah, you heard that right. I am deliriously pleased to be able to share the cover for FOREVER with you guys today. Once again, it was designed by Christopher Stengel (my interview with him here). It’s coming out July 2011, which seems ominously close.

You ready?

As you can see from the cover, I am not the only one who bought tight, dark jeans before my trip to Lithuania. Hola, Sam!

Pre-order links will be up very soon at Amazon and other online retailers but if you’re wanting to pre-order a signed copy from my favorite local indie, you can do that right now. Fountain Bookstore is nice enough to harbor signed copies of all my books at all times and FOREVER will be no exception.

Now, I think this all calls for a contest. I was going to post it in the same post as the cover reveal, but then I realized that would muddy the entries/ comments. So I'm going to hit post right this second, and then post the contest two seconds later.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Maggie Does Spring Break, Sans Spring and Break

So I'm aware that normally on Fridays I post the music I've bought during the week, however, I just got into Daytona Beach for the SIBA conference. It is about 2 hours until I have to go to my first event, and I've discovered a few things.

First, that I've forgotten my hairbrush, toothbrush, and to update my iPod with my latest music. Also, that the internet only works in the bathroom. No, seriously. I just finished an interview while sitting on the bathroom counter, which feels tres New York Times Bestselling. On the one hand, it's really convenient to be within an arm's reach of tissues, toilet paper, a sink, and a hair dryer while working. On the other, it's a bit weird to watch this Maggie in the mirror an inch away from me typing away. I gotta tell you, she looks pretty darn speedy at that. I mean, I write at 90 words per minute, and I can't even guess how fast she's going.

Here, look, here we are. We get along.

I've also discovered that my hotel is right on the beach. Like, right on the beach. Like, I could spit on people in swim suits. This feels like an act of cruelty to me as a pasty, swimsuit-less author.

Also, my taxi driver amiably used more swear words in a twelve minute cab drive than I used in the entirety of the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. I was very impressed.

I'm sure I'll have even more fascinating news from SIBA and Daytona Beach later on, from the oracular location of my hotel bathroom. Until then, I'm going to leave you with the only track I can firmly remember purchasing last week, without the benefit of my iTunes.

It's "New Low" by Middle Class Rut and if you tell me that it sounds like the 90s, rest assured, I KNOW. And I like it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A (Partial) Day in the Life of an Author

My life is odd, now that I’m a full-time author. I guess I should quantify that. My life is odd, now that I’m a New York Times Bestselling author. Because it was not-normal before SHIVER, but it really took SHIVER to made things out-and-out Odd. I get asked a lot what my average day is like, but I can’t really answer, because there is no average day. There is just what happened this day, and what happened the day before, and what is likely to happen tomorrow. So I can’t tell you an average day. But I can tell you about this day.

Tuesday. September 21st. Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment. Friday I go to Florida for a conference. In one week I leave for the UK.

My day started today at 6:30: the alarm goes off and wakes me in the middle of a dream of a car chase. Lover groans and gets up to get Things 1 & 2 ready for school. Because I had middle of the night Mama-my-legs-have-bug-bites-on-them duty, I get to sleep until 7, when I stagger out of bed and find tea (black, with milk and sugar)(but not too much sugar, because I’m trying to cut down on refined sugars)(okay, I’m lying, I use a crap-load of sugar, because it’s profoundly early). I feed the dogs a raw chicken wing each and then I head to my office, feeling virtuous because my desk is clean, which is only because I spent an hour yesterday answer reader letters and mailing off bookplate requests and sending bookmarks to booksellers. Today I might even take the vacuum cleaner for a walk, if there's day leftover after work.

So it’s e-mail time. Once upon a time, I got 4,000 e-mails a month, and when I opened my inbox, I went blind from all the unread messages. 4,000 is a number that people don’t really fathom, I’ve discovered. I did the math, though, and I found out that’s 16 business days a month to answer them, if it takes 2 minutes each. Now I have my inbox set up so the e-mails file nicely into little labeled sections, like Scholastic and Reader Mail and Business and Family and Facebook and Blog Comments. So I really have no sense of the total number any more, and the ignorance is comforting. On this particular Tuesday, it looks a bit bleak. I’m behind on reading reader mails, but the readers are in good company, because I’m also behind on my mother’s emails. I open the most recent. Mom tells me that they have a chin-up bar available on I don’t think she’s being serious.

I open up my chat window with my critique partner, Tess, and I open up my file for Secret Novel. Secret Novel is frustrating because it is Secret, and so I can’t vent about any or my frustrations or crow about how much I love it online. In the past, I was both poor and extremely unfamous, so I could write about whatever projects I wanted to on my blog. It’s an odd sort of trade-off. I miss going back to old blog posts and watching my clueless progress on Shiver (I like the posts that say things like “WHO IS THIS SAM GUY AND WHY IS HE NARRATING ANY OF THIS BOOK?”). Secret Novel makes me slightly anxious, both because I love it and don’t want to ruin it, but also because it’s due before the end of the year. I have 31,000 words. I’m stuck. I drink my tea. I cut 2,000 words from the document and paste it in an outtakes file, and now I’m unstuck, but I’m also down to 29,000 words. I drink some more tea.

I remember my publicist is supposed to call me at ten to discuss things I need to do before I go on my European Tour. I’ve done a lot of preparation for the tour, namely, training myself to say “European Tour” without galloping around the house and whooping. I make a note to make sure she got my e-mail about the writers’ retreat I set up in February and that reminds me I need to send website updates to my webmaster, and as I’m doing that, I see that UPS is pulling down the driveway. This is the most exciting part of my day so far. You just never know what UPS might bring. It could be books, or car parts, or a pony. Today, it turns out to be a corduroy jacket for my European Tour -- part of my clever idea to look like a Real Girl without having to bring a lot of clothing. I figure, a corduroy jacket makes my Shins t-shirt couture. If it doesn’t, I don’t want to know.

After the excitement of UPS, I write two sentences on Secret Novel before looking at Secret Art Project that Needs to Be Done Before European Tour. I’m undecided as to which one I should work on. The phone rings. I swear, until I realize that it’s my publicist. She asks me when I’m going to answer questions for a German interview, tells me I need to film an acceptance video for an award, and asks if I have time to coordinate the unveiling of the FOREVER cover. She tells me that she’s forwarding me information for a conference I’ve been invited to speak at; a conference so impressive-sounding that I suspect my invitation is possibly a prank. Last year my author friend Carrie Ryan bet me that I’d be asked to give at least one keynote speech in 2010, and I so owe her money.

Any one of the elements of this publicist phone call would have caused me to drop dead of amazement and uselessness this time last year, and it seems slightly unfair that they’ve all decided to travel in packs this year. My publicist asks me if I’ve gotten my itinerary for SIBA, the conference this weekend. It turns out that I’m being auctioned off on Saturday; the highest-bidding participant takes me to dinner. I clarify to make sure that it’s not really what it sounds like, which is that scene in Groundhog Day when they auction off Bill Murray.

Turns out, that’s exactly what it’s like.

I hang up and eat some granola, because there doesn’t seem to be any other logical course of action after hearing that sort of news. Editor emails pop in: foreign rights deal finalized for FOREVER! Award nomination! Publicist email pops up: don’t forget to tell Prestigious Conference that you’re coming! So it really isn’t a prank. Tess pitches in helpfully: that conference is really snotty! Don’t screw up, Stiefvater!

Yesterday, I panicked and ordered two pairs of dark jeans to take to Europe. I don’t think I can possibly survive without them. I have some speeches to write and I can't remember where my passport is and I need to work out some swag to bring to the Netherlands, but if I just had these jeans to legitimize my Shins t-shirt, I would be okay. They were supposed to come overnight, but the website says that my order is still processing. I email the company a slightly incoherent email: HOW CAN I GO TO LITHUANIA WITHOUT THESE JEANS?

Lover brings me a cup of tea and shows me a bouncing sheep on his iPad and I tune my guitar, which makes me feel better. I announce on my Twitter and Facebook that I’ll be showing the FOREVER cover soon. My google alerts instantly announce that people are excited in a way that google deems interesting. I delete them without reading them. I’ve learned my lesson because google alerts, while sometimes useful, also sometimes deliver reviews that say: “Maggie Stiefvater is a genius. You can tell that she is in a solid relationship because you can’t write a love affair like that without having experienced it yourself” and sometimes deliver reviews that say: “Maggie Stiefvater is clearly involved in a loveless relationship because her books demonstrate that she needs nothing more than a good humping.” And you just never know which one you’re going to end up with. And some days I have a better sense of humor than others.

An email from a friend pops up: are we going out for drinks while you’re in Florida? Me: no, apparently I’m being auctioned off and will be with my new owner on Saturday night. Her: This is Odd. Me: I have an odd life.

Another email from another friend pops up: European tour! Are you excited or nervous? I can’t answer the question because I don’t know where my dark jeans are yet. If they’re still in a warehouse in Pittsburgh, it’s the latter. If they’re on their way here, the former, because I’m taking over the world.

I look at Secret Novel. It’s noon. I’ve written -2,000 words today, and earlier, I calculated that I needed to write 1,400 words a day to stay on schedule. My math SAT scores were appalling, but I think that -2,000 is less than 1,400. I should write my novel. I love my main character. I love my world that I've created. I write a blog post instead. My dogs come to the front door: they’ve jumped the fence again, because it’s more fun to sleep under my desk than frolic outside. I reread what I've written on Secret Novel. Not bad, Stiefvater, not bad. Hey, you snuck some past tense in there by accident. Fix it. Your rent depends on you using tenses consistently.

Now it's 1 p.m. I think if I wait til the end of the day to post my average day, this blog post will be longer than my Secret Novel.

*maggie hits post*

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Maggie Does Rock Band

Lover and my kids have recently acquired Beatles Rock Band. In case you're not familiar, Rock Band is a video game that comes with a fake drum set and fake guitar. The object is to play sequences of real rock songs as accurately as possible on said not real instruments. Lover & Things 1  & 2 are quite competent at it, after only a few days. Every so often, Thing 1 & Thing 2 (5 and 6) each take half of the drum set as their responsibility while Lover operates the foot pedal. Later, when Things 1 & 2 have gone to school or bed, Lover will take on the drums himself. 

The other day, he asked me to join him on the Not Real Guitar. I am a fan of racing video games (Need for Speed ahh!)(I could beat you) and I wasn't reading a book, so I did.

I should mention now that I consider myself a bit of a musician. I mean, I play a bit of piano. When I was 17, I was a competition bagpiper (a phrase that I have said so often that I no longer contemplate its oddity). In college, I played harp and bodhran and tin whistle and led a Celtic band that toured 'round and made us some money. Now I have a guitar, too, that I fool around with. I do that whole writing music thing. Anyway, like I said, I consider myself a bit of musician.

So it should come as no surprise to you whatsoever that when I picked up that Rock Band plastic guitar and gripped the fretboard firmly and heard the familiar strains of my favorite Beatles song coming forth ("Hello Goodbye"), that I . . . sucked.

Oh yes, I sucked. Not just a little. A lot. And I perfected my suckage as the evening went on. They say practice makes perfect, yes? In fact, I even think I say that. Oh ho ho but it is not true when it comes to Maggies and Rock Band. The more I played, the worse I got. I got so bad by the end of the evening that the game was kicking me off and telling me I sucked so badly that the other player had to verify my joining back in. I got so bad that the game had to invent a new scoring system to accommodate my failure to play along. My not-real-playing grew so odious that flocks of 13 year old boys who had beat the game and made new high records while eating Cheetos and listening to other records laughed all over the world.

Oh, Lover enjoyed this hugely. He found it things like Ironic and Hilarious and Long-Awaited.

Me, I am finding it hard to walk through the living room without sneering at the little plastic guitar. It's going down, one of these days. Either through skill or by fire. Be afraid, Rock Band. Be afraid.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ideas: Like DNA, Everyone Has Them

So today is Friday which is when I post the music I've found during the week but today I read a great blog post and it made me think that I wanted to post about slightly more than music. Using music as, you know, a segue. The blog post was by Mary Kole (an agent) and it was about ideas versus execution. Which was better -- a novel with a great idea or a novel that was written well.

Well, her post says that part just like I would. But it's the closing bit that she brings up that interested me, because I get a fair number of e-mails about it. She says that ultimately, execution wins, and that's why you don't need to worry about people stealing your ideas. And that's what I want to talk about. Because I get absolute wads of people discovering that I'm an author and telling me that they have an idea for a novel. And then I get more wads saying that they want a critique partner but they're afraid that someone will steal their novel idea.

Which is where MUSIC SEGUE comes in.

Let us look at two examples here.


Boys and girls, that is "Don't Walk Away, Renee," first by the Left Banke, and the second by the Four Tops (I own both, thanks very much)(one of my favorite songs -- it aches). 

It's the same tune -- the same "idea" -- but the execution is what's different. They're more similar than a lot of remakes, though. Think of Johnny Cash's version of the Nine Inch Nail's song "Hurt" or Marilyn Manson's version of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." Jose Gonzalez's "Teardrop" versus the eerie original by Massive Attack. You go on youtube and search for those songs, you'll find those, but you'll also find a bunch of rabid fans with badly tuned guitars (why does no one tune their B string? Ever?)(why do I keep using parathenticals today?) singing their versions of those songs.

If you're like me, you'll groan if the latter is all you find. You want the real song -- a real version by a real band. It's not just about the idea. It's the execution. It has to be professional, and to your taste at that.

We can take it a step further and talk about this in movies too -- fairy tale retellings are a great example. Disney's Cinderella and Ever After are both the same story of a hot girl pressed into menial labor before busting out into happy ending land. The idea is exactly the same. (Actually, in Hollywood, this happens a lot -- did you notice that Pixar's Cars and Doc Hollywood are the exact same plot/ idea, with different trimmings?)

Okay. So my point. My point is that a good idea is a wonderful thing to have. A great idea's even better. But

1) it's not enough. Otherwise you're just the fan video on Youtube, not the real thing. It's like . . . there are a million Harry Potter fanfiction stories out there, but you'll notice fans were still dying for the last book by J. K. herself. Execution. You have to learn how to make that idea shine and fill it out as good as it can get. Nothing worse for me than picking up a novel with a glowing premise and no follow through.

And 2) no one's going to steal it. And even if they did, they'd have to learn how to execute it amazingly. And even if they did know how to execute it amazingly (in which case, why aren't they writing their own damn ideas?), it would look entirely different from your version of the thing. So. Don't let fear of theft get in the way of finding you a critique partner. There are much better things to be afraid of, like crappy critiques.

Wow, I am so helpful today.

I think I better just post the music I found last week. (as usual, if you love it, go buy it legally, or I'll be extremely vexed and hex your family pets).

1. "A Homeward Bound Overture" - Bruce Broughton
2. "Anitra's Dance" and
3. "Arabian Dance" from Grieg's Peer Gynt (I used to write creepy faerie stories to the first as a teen)
4. "Playing Tag and Magnificent Horse" - Carmine Coppolla (from the Black Stallion soundtrack" 
5. "The Legend" - from the Black Stallion soundtrack
6. "The Prince of Persia" - Harry Gregson Williams
7. "Waltzing Matilda" - Ophelia of the Spirits (I have a million versions of this song, which is the saddest happy song ever)
8. "Ashokan Farewell" - Jay Ungar (replacing a disc)
9. "Fate Has Smiled Upon Us" - Marc Streitenfeld from Robin Hood
10. "There is a God in You" - Ramin Djawadi from Clash of the Titans (I listened to "release the kraken" too, because I realllly wanted to like it, but it wasn't what I needed)

And my favorite, because it sums up everything important about FOREVER, "Welcome Home" by Radical Face. (The video is beautiful too).

The lyrics - OMG - the lyrics on that song. When he gets to "ships are launching" I perish every time.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Friendly Butt-Kicking on Courageous Querying

So a few days ago, I asked for reader questions, if ya had them, and there were a lot of really good ones. I'm slowly going through them and this time I wanted to tackle a few related writing-business questions.

I was asked if I'd show queries/ queryFAILS/ post on queries. Such things already exist! Lo and behold! I was also asked how to get an agent (see above posts on queries!)(if that doesn't cover it, tell me what else you want to know).

And finally, I was asked how I kept from being discouraged in the querying process, and if I'd gotten rejected, and how I handled it. This, I'm afraid, is going to be a rant.

In any creative pursuit, you're going to get rejections, roadblocks, people shouting no, and people whispering no, and worst of all, people just shrugging because they don't care enough about your work to either love or hate it. There is no path to making writing equal dollars of any size that doesn't involve rejections at every stage of the way.

I could tell you that it doesn't matter, that they are just words, that everyone gets rejected, that none of them really mean "no," they just mean "not yet," and all of those things would be true. But none of them are enough.

Really, what it comes down to is this: you have to choose courage.

At some point, you have to decide that this is the path you're on, come hell or high water, and rejection isn't going to bother you. Distress just isn't an option. Your heart is an impenetrable box and the slings and arrows of outrageous industry gatekeepers or critique groups or your partner are not going to nick the surface. Choosing courage isn't a complicated process -- it's a decision, but the hard part is, you have to mean it. I started submitting manuscripts when I was sixteen, the same year that I decided that I was sloughing off all my phobias (I had quite a few) and took up the bagpipes. I decided I wasn't going to be afraid of anything anymore. And I meant it. That's the important part. It's not a phrase you write on the mirror or chant in your car or work up to. It's just a statement that becomes true the moment you yourself really decide it.

So when I tell people that none of the rejections I got bothered me, it's true, because I decided before I started submitting that they weren't going to be worth my distress. They're informational, that's all. They showed that I was really working on becoming a professional and where I was in the process. Do you get sad when the low ink light flashes on your computer printer? It's just a fact, something to work around. Save your emotions for your drafts and put on your high heeled ass-kicking boots for your queries.

In the end, being brave is just as easy as being afraid.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Music: Also, Cole's voice. Possibly.

First of all, I wanted to say thank you to the overwhelming response to my art post. I really, literally, truly could not have made a decision without you guys and I hope I'll be able to share the reason behind that decision in the not too distant future.

Second, I'm not so sure about these Friday music posts. They make me realize how fast time is going by on the way to my overseas tour. Because this Friday was really close to last Friday, did you notice?

This week I had a blissful amount of time off the computer and not drafting, so my list is pretty short this week. Music I've added to my collection since last Friday (and remember if you love any of it, go drop a buck on it on iTunes or from the Awesome Music Vending Machine of your choice).

"Far Away" - Jose Gonzalez (this was from a blog reader -- THANK YOU)
"Hiraeth am Feirion" - Branwen
"Fermanagh Highland / Donegal Highland" - Altan
"Raining Nextdoor" - Ringside

and this song, "Struggle," by Ringside, that puts me in mind of what I think Cole from LINGER's singing voice might sound like, though not necessarily NARKOTIKA's sound.* I also have to add that this song wins the "song most likely to be pounded out of a '73 Camaro's open windows" award for this week.

*I get asked a lot how to pronounce NARKOTIKA, which bemuses me as I thought it was obvious that the root word was "narcotic" -- but apparently it is far from obvious. I also get asked why it's capitalized and that also seems obvious. BECAUSE IT'S LOUDER THAT WAY.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Random Poll: Pretty Please?

I'm having one of those moments where I need help with a decision but I can't provide any of the, you know, facts surrounding said decision. So I don't know if this will work or not. You guys know that I used to be an artist in my former professional life, before I made my living writing about teens who had a problem staying teens?

Well, I am working on a . . . um . . project. And I am trying to decide between two of my old styles; colored pencil & acrylic. I can't tell you what the project is. But I can ask you to tell me which of the styles you like better, which I know is the wrong part. Because I know that the answer would change if it was on a wall, a coaster, a book page, a t-shirt, or a website. But -- I have to remain cagey. Will you guys help me out anyway?

Do you like the acrylics?

Or the colored pencil?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some SHIVER related stuff & Random Stuff

1. I keep forgetting to mention that SHIVER has been nominated to the ALA/ YALSA's Teens' Top Ten list. It's a popular choice vote, so if you loved SHIVER and are a teen, I'd appreciate a vote. However, I'm very egalitarian and just like to have lots of participation for stuff like that, so if you seem something else on that list you loved more, vote for it instead. Just vote! Here's the link

2. I have word that the Hebrew edition of SHIVER is in its end stages, for those who have been waiting. And of course the German edition is coming out with much pomp and beauteous cover THIS MONTH.

3. I will be announcing an icon contest and an event with me and Jackson Pearce at the end of the month. ooooh! Aaaaaah!

4. Giant six food squids are taking over the California coast. I'm not making this up. Scientists think it's because California's coastal waters are dropping oxygen levels, and squid like to live in low oxygen areas. So, like, California, shopping malls, airplanes, and conference rooms.

5. I bought one of those bouncy yoga ball chairs to sit on, because people on twitter told me to. It's supposed to be arriving in a week or so. It may effect my post quality; just warning you now. Some people tell me they're hard to sit on, but I kind of like the idea of a chair that must be tamed and broken. SIT, CHAIR, SIT!

6. That's it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

More Wind, Less Snow: Revising for Mood

A little while ago, I posted about how I threw out the entire draft of FOREVER and rewrote it from scratch, which made some people get a little . . . concerned for my health. A lot of readers asked me why I threw it out and what I was fixing. My answer? Mood and tone. I had most of the correct events in the first version, but the mood and tone were entirely wrong for what I wanted for the book (I always tell people the mood is the first thing that makes me want to write a novel, everything else comes after that)(for SHIVER, it was merely: bittersweet).

The bad thing about mood is that it’s not something you can change with a word here or there. Mood is something that steeps into a scene and changes your choice of narrator, scene, the way you tell an event. When I asked for reader questions last week, one of the questions that immediately stuck out was one that asked me what that looked like -- revising for mood. Soooo I’m going to go all pedagogical today (non-writers, avert your eyes) and demonstrate.

Okay, so, revising for mood. It's like a soundtrack. I’m a terrific soundtrack junkie and one of the things that I love to do while watching a movie is see how the soundtrack is used to change our perception of a scene. Fanciful music can make a terrible event seem comical instead of tragic. Dire music can turn an innocent action into a foreshadowed tragedy. Sinister music can make a flower scary. Lovely music can make a tragic scene meaningful instead of senseless.

That’s what we do with our words, when we play with tone. I’m going to see if I can possibly hope to demonstrate this in a few short paragraphs. Bear with me. I’ve not tried to show my process like this before, and, like when I write in third person, it feels as if I'm trying to walking Jell-O on a leash. It may possibly look impressive to an onlooker, if I pull it off for a few seconds, but ultimately, it requires all of my attention and may result in a mess.

I'm hoping I can still demonstrate mood when I don’t have the emotional weight of a novel behind it. I think to do this properly, we’ll have to start out with an immutable event. Let’s do a car crash. I’m not going to change the details of what causes the crash, just the mood. Let’s put two people in the car, Kay and Noah. And we'll go through a few different versions, tweaking the mood each time. And ... go.

version 1

KAY. No one ever crashes a car first thing in the morning. When you see the reports on the news, it’s always, tragedy strikes after midnight for two local teens. Or rain-soaked conditions on Friday evening took the lives of two Richmond citizens. Or occasionally even hit-and-run driver mows down teens in the early hours of the morning; officials demand a crosswalk. I figured car crashes and vampires basically ceased when the sun came up.

But our crash happened at 9:23 a.m. It was bright enough to see everything before it happened: the freckle on Noah’s right cheekbone, the dusty-colored horses in the road-side pasture, the open glove compartment with the tiny box inside it, my white knuckles. I even saw the car we hit: it was a red Ford F-250, newer model. The guy driving it had a handlebar mustache and a totally blank expression.

I must have forgotten to put on my seat belt, because I found myself outside of the car. I don’t remember the flight, just the landing, hard, fast, breathless. I felt as if we were in an alternate reality where I became weightless and the air became a crushing, heavy thing instead, smashing me to the ground. I couldn’t move, but because it was so damn sunny, I could still see. I was facing the pasture. They were cows, after all, not horses.

version 2

KAY. When you stay up to see the sun rise, the morning lasts forever. It had been so long since I’d gotten out of bed early that I’d forgotten just how beautiful it was. My brother once said that there wasn’t any difference between a sunset and a sunrise; that you’d only be able to tell the difference if you were familiar enough with the place to know which direction the sun was traveling. But I didn’t think that was true. Even if I hadn’t seen the sun rising on this particular morning, I couldn’t have interpreted the gloriously pink sky as anything but a sunrise. It was a beginning, a freshly-washed, undeniable rebellion to everything that came before it. I felt it burning inside me.
“Open the glovebox,” Noah said. His face, too, was made new by the morning light. I saw none of his old scarring and all of his freckles. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, we can be friends now.

I let the glove compartment fall open. There was a little box in it. I knew what was inside that box. It was a beginning too, sure as that pink sky.

Trust Noah to make this hard for me.

He looked over to read my expression, and he saw that fire inside me, I guess, giving him my answer.

The sun exploded across the windshield.

version 3

NOAH. I felt like I could hear that little box rattling every time we hit a bump in the road -- and it was Richmond, so there were plenty of opportunities. It felt like my bones were rattling, too. I had to hold onto the steering wheel, tight, like a dead man’s grip, and press my jaw closed. The morning was stark and unfriendly and endless; I was so tired that the sun on my eyes felt like a physical touch.

Kay sat in the passenger seat, her legs Indian-style -- my legs would’ve never fit Indian-style on that seat -- her elbow leaning on the door. She was gazing out into the morning like she was already gone.

It was the wrong timing. I knew it was.

But I said, “Kay, open the glovebox.”

I knew it was the wrong timing. I kept looking at her, waiting for her face to soften. I was still rattling inside, like my bones were about to walk away without me.

Her knuckles were white. Like her fingers might get away.

I didn’t cause the crash. I just didn’t stop it.

Does that . . . make any sense at all? Those are the sort of decisions I make when I write, especially with first person, especially with multiple narrators. The events -- the plot -- they're important, yes, as a spine of sorts, but really, it's the way you tell the event that makes the difference in the long run. That's what carries emotional impact to the reader. So when I say that I rewrote FOREVER, the plot stayed the same, but . . . the filter that the reader got to see those events through changed wildly. My soundtracks shifted.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

UK Tour Schedule!

Okay -- I promised my UK schedule, and here it is. These are all the events that I'll be doing (public, anyway) and though some of the details will be added later, no more events will. So . . . yeesh. I can't believe that I go on to tour in Europe for several more weeks after this! Details will be added here before anywhere else. Sorry there aren't more events in the north; time constraints just made it impossible. I really wanted to hit Scotland (but I'll settle for a crazy schedule in Dublin, since I've never been to Ireland or Northern Ireland).

September 30, Thursday
Meet Maggie Stiefvater, Jennifer Lynn Barnes & Michael Scott
40 Lower O'Connell St
Dublin, Ireland
6-8 p.m.
October 1, Friday
Private library event in Ireland
October 2, Saturday
Noon: London Bookstore signing -- details of store TBA
Afternoon: private media events
October 3, Sunday
Maggie Stiefvater & Jennifer Lynn Barnes at the Bath Literature Festival
Bath Literature Festival
Guildhall, High Street
Bath, United Kingdom
6:00-7:00 p.m.
More info here:
October 4, Monday
Morning/ afternoon: private school event in Coventry
Warwick Words Festival
Bridge House
Myton Road
5-7 p.m. (signing begins at 6 p.m.) Tickets £5
October 5, Tuesday
Crawley Library
Southgate Avenue
Crawley, United Kingdom
6:00-9:00 p.m.
October 6, Wednesday
3 p.m. Public signing/ event at a central London book shop, store TBA

It looks distinctly unimpressive with all the travel and media events taken out. But I promise you, I will be running around like a chicken with my head cut off in between all of those times.

Also . . . I CANNOT WAIT.

That's all.

In Which Maggie Pets Yet Another Book

First of all, I swear I will post about my UK schedule later today. I'm just procrastinating transferring the info and making FB events of them. Second of all, I'm sorry to be posting so many book recommendations in a row. It's unusual for me; normally, I'm such a picky reader that I'll like quite a few books, be ambivalent about quite a few more, and maybe find one that I love once a month or so. But I am having one of those lucky runs of book reading where I keep pulling very Maggie books off the shelves. In this case, the book I picked up to read was KETURAH AND LORD DEATH. This book had come highly recommended to me as a Maggie-book, but . . . well, it's just not the sort of summary that begs you to pull it off the shelf. It's the historical, aspect, I think -- I invariably end up enjoying a lot of historicals over the course of the year, but I always think, before I start them, that they'll be more work.


The plot of this slender novel is simple: Keturah follows a stag into the forest, grows lost, and eventually meets her death. Death, in this case, is a tall, dark, handsome AngstPuppy. Because Keturah has been wandering in the woods for three days, he's come for her because please, man cannot live by roots and twigs alone. Keturah begins to tell Death a story, however, and withholds the ending -- telling Death that she'll conclude it the next day, if he lets her live. Well, Death, despite being dreadfully emo and easily pissed cannot resist. So it goes for three days, in a tightly constructed fable.

So I pretty much love this book incoherently (I kept making noises out loud and annoying Lover), but I'll try to break it down.

1. Writing. It's very tight. Also, full of little presents to the careful reader like repeated instances of three, barely stated character development, and clever plot twists.

2. Strong girl characters! Without being anachronistic. Keturah is brave, loyal, and independent. She's also afraid, idealistic, and longing for true love, a house to put him in, and a baby. I have to say that after reading a ton of novels where feminist strength is portrayed as not wanting to get married, not wanting kids, not wanting true love -- it was refreshing. I think it's too easy to default to Katniss as a "strong female character." I love Katniss, don't get me wrong, but she is not strong -- she's broken and incapable of love. Her rejection of love is not strength. I love a strong character where the girl is operating perfectly fine without a man, but she's also willing to be open to love. And there's a lot of love of many different sorts in this book. Friendly, familial, romantic.

3. The end. My friend who recommended this book to me said that she almost afraid that the ending would ruin it, but that it came around. As I wasn't exactly sure what ending my friend would like, I didn't have any clue what that meant, even as I was reading it. But then I got there and I thought OH NO IT'S GOING TO END THIS WAY. And then, it didn't. It was perfect.

I'm not sure this book is for everyone; those raised on fairy tales like myself will love it. I'd recommend it for people who loved YEAR OF WONDERS and Jane Yolen and Lloyd Alexander and all of those movies with Disney princesses and princes named Eric.

ETA: um, the rest of the post.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Reader/ Blogger Questions

Okay, in honor of finishing FOREVER, I'm tackling my e-mail that I have neglected for far too long and putting out a blog post saying if you have questions that you've been wanting me to tackle, post 'em here in the comments. I think I've pretty much answered all the questions I got last time I did this.

What a strange concept this is, having time to blog and e-mail and read books and swim. Huh!

(in random information, I wanted to make a funny talk bubble image for this post, so I searched for 'SNAPE HARRY' in google images to see if I could find some good base material and OH GREAT TITTIES OF THE GRAIN GODDESS AND MONA LISA I will not be typing that into a search engine any time soon.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Music: The End of FOREVER edition

I feel a little weird tonight. Remember how I said awhile ago I finished FOREVER and then a little less while ago that I threw out that version of FOREVER in its entirety because I wasn't happy with it? Well, today, I finished it for real. I mean, I can feel it in my bones. Before, it never really felt true, saying I was done. I didn't believe it. But now, I'm so done that it's scary. I am wandering around my house looking shell-shocked.



So I promised to post the music that I'd found each week on Friday, and so here is both this week and last week's list (last week's Friday being taken over by the Linger playlists). My finds for the week are dominated in large part by writing FOREVER. As usual, if you love any of them, don't be a jerkface poopoo head. Go drop a buck on them at iTunes or Amazon or your local mp3 peddlar who hangs out by your bus stop looking skechy.

"A Game of Cricket" - Adrian Johnston (Becoming Jane)
"When I Decide" - My Terrible Friend
"Deeper Well" - The Wailin' Jennies
"If You Think You Need Some Lovin' - "Pomplamoose"
"Cello Song" - The Books with Jose Gonzalez
"Undying Love" - Two Steps from Hell

Man, listening to these now, really really really is making me feel weird, because I listened to them on continuous repeat for certain FOREVER scenes and now I'm thinking OH GAWD I HAVE SAID EVERYTHING I NEED TO SAY ABOUT THESE PEOPLE.

Oh, fine, yes, I know I'm neurotic. You don't have to tell me. I know. I KNOW.

It's Creepy and Magically Delicious

I'm very cheerful because yesterday, I just got a finished copy of THE REPLACEMENT from my crit partner Brenna. It's finally almost here (9/21)! The photo stinks because it is gorgeous and metallicky, so there is only hot reflection action instead of clouds like you see in real life on the cover. Anyway, yes, I'm revoltingly excited about this, almost as excited as for my own books, and yes, I've blurbed this one. (see my thoughts on blurbing here).

So, because I want people to *believe* me when they see a quote from me on the front of a book, I'm very picky about what I choose to blurb. To this point, it's only been three YA novels: STOLEN, by Lucy Christopher, BLOOD MAGIC, by Tessa Gratton (comes out spring of 2011), and this book: THE REPLACEMENT, by Brenna Yovanoff. My quote on this one (the finest quote ever, you must agree)(by the most modest author ever, you must agree), is: "I loved this eerie and beautiful story of ugly things. It should be read aloud after dark, at a whisper."

Genius, right!?

(fine, YES, it took me hours to write that sentence)

The hook itself is pretty tantalizing: in the town of Gentry, everyone ignores the source of their prosperity: sacrifices of human children made to the other world that lives alongside Gentry. Replacements are left in the cribs of the babies. Replacements that usually sicken and die before they get too old. No one says the 'f' word: faerie, but any faerie lore junkie will recognize their brand of creepy.

Mackie, our narrator, is one of the Replacements. He's is battling the iron aversion that the Replacements have but he's made it to his teen years . . . well, barely. He's hanging on. He's now just trying to navigate high school life and staying alive. But when one of his classmate's sisters is taken, Mackie can't just let it go. Cue eerie characters, a hot kiss or two, and trips to the terrifying slag heap.

So. There are lots of things for faerie geeks to love in this book, even if they creatures are never called faeries. Dangerous bargains, taboos, iron aversions, musicality, a certain flexible morality. And I suppose I would be lured by those things regardless. But that's not what made me blurb this book. What made be blurb the book is that Mackie has a great voice and the book has a mood that hangs off the pages and creeps around your feet while you read it. Somewhere on the book jacket it mentions Tim Burton, I think, and I completely see why -- there is a darkness and whimsy both to Brenna's books (I've had a chance to read her next one too and YE GODS!).

Then there is the prose. I get frustrated when I open a book and it could be any other book on the shelf -- I want to see an author's particular filter, a character's particular voice, something that makes that reading experience different from another on a sentence-by-sentence level instead of a chapter by chapter level. And THE REPLACEMENT has that. It's spare and deceptively simple, but as an author, I can see every sentence working hard on at least two levels. It's a book to take apart and analyze. It's a book to read twice.

Yeah, I loved it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Things That Make Me Laugh (laugh laugh)

This came to me via Tessa Gratton.

I'm not sure if it's only funny to crazy writers and movie lovers, but . . . I laughed. A lot. I promise, it's totally worth it.

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