Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Writers, Feed Your Brain

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

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

I swear I’m working to a point here.

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

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

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

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

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

I’m going to go eat an egg, I guess.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tour Schedule, One Last Time

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 14, 2012

Well. This is Pretty Much Perfect.

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

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The One Where Maggie Buys a Race Car

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

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

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

 Although I do own a pair of aviator sunglasses.

My New Cheap Sunglasses 

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

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

Parking the Camaro in London, Ontario

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

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

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

R2 Mock Up winged copy

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

Face Off, R2

Butt Shot, R2

Guts of the R2


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

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

r2 demystified

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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

20 Miscellaneous, Unprioritized, and Unasked for Pieces of Wisdom

1. Hang paintings at eye level.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to add a piece of wisdom below.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Last Call for Signed, Doodled Raven Boys

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

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

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

Bookplate for Fountain Bookstore

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

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

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

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

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