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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Wot? Wot? Wot is this? The 4th of July and I’m in . . . England? On this day of American national freedom, I’m starting it in England, and ending it in . . . wait for it . . .


Yes, Paris. The city that has caused me nothing but trouble in the past. The place Daphne Unfeasible and I don’t talk about.

I arrived here, in England, yesterday. My trip here was made slightly more interesting by the fact that once we boarded the plane and left the gate, we stopped moving. Then the captain came on and told us, in a voice that sounded very sorry, that he was very sorry and that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while. Like, two hours or more. We were so far back in line for takeoff that even the Sky Chef food trucks were ahead of us. I spent a lot of time staring out of the window at them, imaging them charging down the runway and taking flight by accident. The wait was so bad that they turned the video on demand system on (something I have never seen them do before takeoff), so I watched the movie Zodiac. This was good, because I’d wanted to see Zodiac but was much too chicken to do so before. The Zodiac story has always creeped me out to the core—but at the same time, I’m fascinated by it. So I decided to take advantage of the fact that I was completely surrounded by other people, on the most locked up and monitored place I could possibly be, outside of jail. This is the safest zone for the watching of scary movies.

The result of all of this was that the flight was several hours off, and since I don’t really sleep on planes (especially after watching Zodiac), I had been awake all night. I arrived in lovely London, where it was both sunny AND raining softly, and I had the first twinges of delerium.

(By a complete coincidence, my friend Cassie Clare, author of the New York Times bestseller City of Bones also traveled here on Monday. From the report on her blog, she had about as much luck as I did. But now that we are both safely here, we can start UK WRITING KLUB! I hope you have read City of Bones. It, and Cassie, are made of awesome. Cassie and I are going to be roommates on DRAGONTRAIN. From what Scott has told us about the size of the compartments, we think we might be married by the time we get off.)

There were changes afoot.

The London Office has moved. It used to be in a very new, sleek, high tech building. This was nice, but it never felt very English to me. It’s now in an older building smack in the middle of town—part of a little cluster of buildings around a pretty garden. The rooms are big, the ceilings high, the windows massive, and there’s a cast-iron fireplace with lovely tiles and a big bucket of coal and basket of wood all ready to go. That’s more like it! The main bedroom, however, was designed with someone with a very strange view of what the word “restful” means. They walled up the lovely fireplace in there, installed all the solid wood cabinetry they could legally manage without sealing off the door (including several mysterious display cases with glass shelves and focused lightning . . . for figurines? guns? the skulls of your victims?), and finished it all off with maize-yellow textured wallpaper and plaid curtains. Still, it is not as seizure-inducing as I’ve probably made it sound. It is bizarrely charming. I think I am pro the new office, even though I am already working on making changes to it in order to help Oscar. I like to help people do things in their houses, whether they ask me to or not. I give without asking for anything in return, and sometimes, without asking for permission. (Though he says that at no point can the word “sledgehammer” be used in any sentence when referring to the wall that blocks the fireplace. No one lets me do anything.)

I have said before that the London Office is not actually in London, but right outside. I’ve even said, for the literary among you, that it is in the town where Ford Prefect is from. I will go even further today and tell you exactly where it is. It is in a town called Guildford. So if you are in Guildford and thought you saw me, you were probably right. (Unless that Maureen Johnson impersonator has been running around again, committing minor acts of vandalism and ruining my spotless reputation. I’ll get you yet, impersonator!)

I mention where the L.O. is to explain this . . . in order to get to Paris tonight, here is what I must do:

1. Walk out of the L.O.

2. Walk down to the high street to the train station. Meet Oscar there.

3. Hop on the train to London, Waterloo (two stops).

4. Get off at Waterloo. Walk down the concourse to the sign that says Eurostar.

5. Get on the train.

6. Next stop, middle of Paris.

So Paris is literally three stops away on a train. The entire thing will take about four hours, and that includes me walking down the street, stopping in to the store for more batteries for my camera, and getting my passport stamped. There is something about that that is very hard for my American mind to accept. I know France is not that far from here, but it shouldn’t be that easy to get to.

(Crap. While I was writing that, the little string on my sweatshirt decided to jump into my cup of tea and soak. Why didn’t you guys tell me?)

Anyway, I was talking about my arrival yesterday at the new office. Because my setting was different, I decided to do things differently. Whenever I fly over to England (and have therefore been awake all night, even when not watching Zodiac), I immediately crash. It happens every single time. This time, I made myself a strong cup of tea, settled down with my computer, and got right to work.

“Maureen, stay awake,” I told myself. “Look lively. Stay sharp. You can make it until tonight. What’s one night with no sleep? If you make it until tonight, you will reset your clock perfectly and be in great shape for Paris tomorrow!”

A light, pattering rain started. Pat. Pat. Pat. It was kind of nice, soothing, a gentle little noise that . . .

zzzZZZzzzZZZZZzzzzZzzzzZZZZZZZzzzzzzZzzzZzZzzz . . .

When I woke up, I was slumped on the sofa, still clinging to my computer. I was woken by the sound of what I thought was a fire station siren. It sounded just like the one that we have in my hometown outside of Philly that alerts the local volunteers to come running to the station. And weirdly, it was right outside the window, in the little garden. I was still groggy, pulling myself in and out of sleep. But it was like tar—it just kept sucking me back.

Maybe you know this kind of sleep? It goes far beyond just sleep. It feels like you’ve been drugged, poisoned, like you brain has actually changed and there will never be a time when you don’t sleep, and you can’t really figure out what’s real and what’s not, and you incorporate everything that happens into your sticky dream world.

But eventually this siren that went on and on and on finally registered in my brain as being kind of weird. It was unlikely that there was a tiny fire station directly beneath the window, only two feet or so away. So I clawed for the coffee table and pulled myself out of the ball I had curled into around my still-warm MacBook Pro and went over to the window to see this tiny fire station for myself.

This one was staffed by cats.

Yes, the little garden outside is full of the most adorable cats in the world. All the apartments have little cat-flaps (including this one), so this is a little kitty social club. And yesterday, the club was . . . well, it was THAT kind of club.

That siren noise? Yeah, that was not one, but TWO cats, all puffed up, backs arched. Those poor cats had . . . needs. The other cats were kind of hanging around, looking mildly interested in this action. Then the rain started again. Most of the cats sauntered off to hide in the doorways, but these two cats held out as long as they could, making their demands known.

So, the garden window is pretty much the scene of debauchery during the day. I’ve told Oscar it is only a matter of time before they come in through that cat flap, seeking favors and treats.

He said, “Why would they?”

I silently pointed to the cat flap. It’s very existence means that they will come.

In my limited experience, British cats seem to live pretty debauched lives and run in and out of each other’s houses via these cat flaps. For example, my actor friends Trevor and Grace Dangerous have a cat named Othello. (Trevor and Grace live, or lived, in the house in Islington that Richard’s house in 13 Little Blue Envelopes was based on—they just moved too. This must be “everybody in England, move!” month.) Othello had a little cat flap in the kitchen that lead to a roof, which connected to various other walls and roofs, giving him the run of several blocks. He had several girlfriends he would meet on the roof, the main one of which was Ching Ching Boo-Face. She was so named by Trevor because she wore a little pink bell around her neck that went ching ching to announce her approach, and if you so much as glanced at Othello (nevermind petting him), she would give you this look that could kill, if she wasn’t such an adorable little cat with a pink bell. This “boo-face” clearly said, “STEP AWAY FROM MY MAN!”

This is Othello. Don't let the innocent face fool you. He is one of London's most notorious.

Othello, Ching Ching Boo-Face, and the Kat Gang went in and out of each other’s cat flaps all the time. Because of this, Trevor and Grace closed the kitchen door at night with Othello in it, so that he could go adventuring but not bring half the neighborhood into their bedroom. Trevor and Grace often woke in the morning to find the kitchen covered in multiple paw prints. One time, they opened the door in the morning to see that Othello had brought them a small stuffed animal, a ladybug, still in a plastic wrapper. The next morning, they opened the door to find an identical ladybug, again in its wrapper. This is when they began to be concerned that Othello had added thieving to his life of vice.

This is what we can expect from the cat flap. But this is fine by me. I love cats, even sinful ones.

In any case, Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans, and anyone else who would like to be wished a Happy Independence Day!

A quick note about Bartlesville: many of you have written in to tell me that Neil Gaiman posted my note about the banning on his site (and welcome, if you’ve come from there). Neil Gaiman won the Defender of Liberty award for working against censorship, and he has raised a lot of money for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. He doesn’t like book banning, and his support in this matter has been much, much appreciated. I also saw the Galleycat pieces on my Bartlesville saga, including the one about the flooding. I am very sorry to hear about the Bartlesville floods, and I hope everyone there is safe.

Many people have asked if I’ve sent books down to the school or the library. I have, to both. Those “reserve shelf” copies are presumably the ones that came from my own Shelf of Myself. (The real name I have given to the shelf of my books behind my desk, because really, what else am I going to call it?)

And about the banning . . . like I’ve said before, I’m not half done. I’m working on something right now to try to take this a bit further, and if it works, you’ll be hearing about it. Fighting book banning . . . now THAT’S a good way to spend Independence Day.

Rather than, you know, freeing Scooter Libby.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha it looks like my cat

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! That was my flat Trevor and Grace were borrowing. And long before their mangy pussy Othello took up residence, the flat was visited by the neighbourhood tomcats who took great delight in spraying the kitchen.

- Derek.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

Maureen! You'll be pleased to know that I, one of your most avid readers has finally, FINALLY gotten ahold of The Bremudez Triangle! I know, I know, this book has been the topic of conversation for A LONG TIME. Why did I not have it? Because my bookstores do not have your wonderous book (haven't finished it yet, only 23 pages in but already loving it, by the way). They have all your other ones but not the one I wanted!

So I had to brave using Amazon.com to get a copy. It was...quite the experience. Really, you should talk to Oregon about their shortage of Maureen, and other books. Like Specials, by Scott Westerfeld? (Whom I want to adopt me even though I like my family v. much and am almost 19.) They didn't have Specials for FOREVER. I put them on speed-dial on my cell and called them every single day. After a while our conversations went somewhat like this:

Evil Book Store (EBS): Hello, this is an unnamed but big enough bookstore to HAVE SCOTT BOOKS, how may I help you?
Me: Hi, I was wondering if you had a book in stock yes. It's cal-
EBS: 'Specials'? No we still don't have that book in stock. Just like we didn't this morning.
Me: I ordered it two weeks ago.
EBS: *click*

IT WAS AWFUL! Finally my mum bought it off Amazon for me. It's SAD how small our YA sections are. It's MORE than sad.

Come visit me, Maureen, we the readers of the teenage population of small cities in Oregon NEED YOUR HELP. Plus I just love you.


Have a splendid time in Paris.


6:03 PM  
Blogger Allie Beckaliciousness =) said...

sounds like you're having a blast in england =)
you phrased it perfectly, the kind of sleep you're stuck in. i get like that on rainy days (my favorites!). have fun in Paris! happy july 4th!


9:47 PM  
Anonymous Cameron said...


Ford Prefect claimed to be from Guilford but actually came a” small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse”

Damn, I hate it when that happens.

4:19 AM  
Blogger La Reina said...

I'm reading Bermudez right now. I'm thankful I bought it outside of school. I would've never been able to get ahold of it in school.

My librarians don't go so far as to ban books, but ones with high sexual content and other naughty things are kept on a special secret shelf. She only lets kids that she knows can handle them check them out. Thank God I'm one of the "You can handle this material" kids.

Right now my school only has The Key to the Golden Firebird. I'm working on changing that, however. I bought 13 Little Blue Envelopes and Girl at Sea this summer, and I'll donate them if I find I'm willing to part with them. :)

6:01 AM  
Anonymous Malcolm said...

Wait a minute... you decided to try to avoid going to sleep by lying down on the sofa? That's a bit of an amateur blunder.

You have to stay active. Wallpaper a room. Accidentally sledgehammer the fireplace back into life and claim it was sleep deprivation. Draw a map of the world on the kitchen wall and colour in all the countries that used to be British colonies and now aren't (excuse: it was in honour of US Independence Day).

Well, okay, none of those things, since they might be misinterpreted. But lying down in a warm room with rain outside?! As if that wasn't going to backfire.

6:10 AM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

my way of staying awake? scott's blog. refresh. refresh. refresh. refresh. zzzzZZZZZzzzzzZZZZZzzzzz. wat? o wow. refresh. DAMN! comment 59? how long was asleep?!?!?! I'll never win a copy of extras this way.

7:14 PM  
Blogger ebrien said...

Okies! Jeeez! I grew up there and then became a literature teacher in Arizona. Of Mice and Men was banned while I was in high school so I didn't have the pleasure of reading it till later. My wife is a librarian. How can we grow if we won't read or allow to be read material that challenges?! Hang in there and stop by Shakespeare and CO. while you're in Paris!

Cheers and good luck with the Okies! (They're not all bad!)


8:30 AM  
Blogger Joanna said...

If libraries keep losing funding and I'm forced to go into porn to pay the mortgage, do I have your permission to use the name "Naughty Katz"? That would rock.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me begin by stating that I think you are an amazingly talented author and I have avidly and eagerly devoured all but one of your books (that one being The Bermudez Triangle - don't worry; working on that).

Secondly, I would like to say that your Independence day sounds very interesting, having been spent in London. I hope you got to see at least a few fireworks - or some other form of fire - for, what is July Fourth without some sort of smoldering hazard?

Lastly, I apologize for not informing you that your hoodie string felt like a swim. It seemed so happy in your tea - I didn't want to ruin its fun!

Keep on writing!

3:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maureen, I applaud your struggle against censorship and homophobia that seems too common around Oklahoma and everywhere else lately. But after reading your letter to Neil Gaiman, I take issue with your choice of words. Calling the mid-high censors "idiots" and trying to "shame them" isn't going to make them any more open to your view. It's only going to make them even more defensive and less cooperative than they already are.

I know you've defended your own past actions by (correctly) arguing that their actions were sneaky and wrong. I know they did you wrong. They did the entire city and school system wrong when they acted to ban a book because they didn't like its content. But you should be trying to raise the dialogue above silly name-calling and threats. We need a constructive solution to this problem!

You have the support of a lot of people in Bartlesville (including me!), and I hope that your newest plan of action (whatever it is) proves successful.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whose eye is dat peerin out from da cat? i don't know why but i keep starin at it n its really creepin me out!
O n Ching Ching Boo Face- possibly the best name for a cat...ever.
Have rainless fun in Paris!!:)
xx Hanna xx

10:40 PM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

i wouldn't be very happy with the whole cat flap thing seeing as i'm highly alergic to cats. :'(

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Trevor Dangerous said...

Update from Othello:

A very busy weekend was spent *not* watching Live Earth or Wimbledon with Trevor. Instead I spent it sleeping...


2:05 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

You know, I have a confession to make: I've never read one of your books. I found this site almost by accident, trying to find authors from countries other than the US of A. But now that I've discovered you? I'm instigating a family shopping trip (quite a tricky process with my large family) so I can get my hands on at least one of your books. Preferably 'The Bermudez Triangle' to spite those annoying book banners.

Random fact: Did you know you have the same name as a character from "RENT" (a musical and movie)? The Maureen in the musical happens an actress- and she fights against 'censorship' of her stage performances (among other things). Yeah. Just thought you should know.

4:45 AM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

in one of her other posts, liz, maureen talks about googlegangers, or people of the same name as you. you check this out here:http://maureenjohnson.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_archive.html

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with your blog. It's really random. Do you know Ally Carter? You two would be cool friends. Just go over to her website www.allycarter.com read her blog July 9th is so funny!

8:19 AM  
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