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suite scarlett
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13 little blue envelopes
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the key to the golden firebird
vacations from hell
let it snow

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Whew, doggie! It’s done, friends. Suite Scarlett is currently with Emma. It will be coming back to me in a few days for some final edits.

“So, what are you doing now, Johnson?” you ask saucily. (In my mind—a lot of things happen in my mind.)

Well, I’ll tell you.

The very first thing I had to do was take my beloved computer, Gilda, to get repaired. She has technically been broken since I accidentally stepped on her at the Westeralestier Compound in April. I simply do not know my own strength. One little toe landed on her, and I managed to just slightly bend the opening of the disk drive. So she is getting an entire new outside shell.

The computer I am working on today is former Gilda, and former Gilda is very cranky from being wiped clean and left unused for nine months. She has responded by eating my e-mail, crashing, and refusing to run Scrivener. Also, I think her battery is dead. Otherwise, she is fine.

So I moseyed on over to Tekserve, which is a kind of mecca in New York for Mac users, where a very nice guy took Gilda from me. I am not ashamed to admit that I stroked her before she went back.

“Okay,” you say. “So you got your computer fixed. But what are you WORKING on?”

You have foxed it out of me! I will tell you.


I may or may not have mentioned this before . . . (Apparently, I tell people the same things over and over—like John Green was saying the other day, when I asked him for what had to have been the fifty-seventh time if he had ever seen Dead Like Me, and he said, “You ask me that ALL THE TIME.”)

Anyway . . . I may or may not have mentioned that I am working on a book with John Green and Lauren Myracle. I know what you are thinking. You are wondering how I got mixed up with two classy people like that. (Well, one classy person. John Green has appeared on camera drinking a blenderized happy meal, so he is really fooling no one.)

How? I hardly know myself. I only know that it happened, and we are writing a book called Let It Snow, which will be out late next year.

“Finally,” you say, twirling a cigarette holder between your dexterous fingers (again, in my mind). “You seem to have some actual news. Can you tell us more?”

Oh, fine. Force it out of me, why don’t you? You know I can’t resist when you ask!

Let It Snow is (and by is I mean will be) a collection of three interconnected stories that take place over the course of one Christmas snowstorm in the same town . . . kind of like a YA Pulp Fiction, with less murder and more hijinx. So, I’ve been busy with John and Lauren building and populating our town.

“I like it,” you say, setting the cigarette holder in your alabaster ashtray and sitting down at the piano to play a little song. (In my mind, you not only smoke in an exceedingly pretentious way, but you are musically inclined. I can’t help it. It is just the way you are.) “Do you have anything else to mention, book-wise?”

It’s so weird how you do that! You totally know what’s going on in my head.

There is a lot of Scarlett-related activity, the majority of which I can’t talk about until it’s all finalized . . . but I am looking at the cover right now and talking with Emma a lot, basically doing all the cool stuff you get to do when the book is actually done and is being prepared. It is no exaggeration when I say that I am more excited for Scarlett than I have ever been for a book. Now that the story is essentially done, I can finally give you a little synopsis of what it’s about!


Suite Scarlett is the first book in my very first series. Yes! SERIES!

The story centers around fifteen year-old Scarlett Martin, the middle sibling in a large family. Her nineteen year-old brother (and best friend) Spencer is an out of work actor who charms the ladies by convincingly doing pratfalls down entire flights of stairs. Eighteen year-old Lola has the delicate looks of a model, the practical nature of a nurse, and a wealthy boyfriend from the ranks of society. Eleven year-old Marlene is the family terror with a tragic past.

The Martins live in the family-owned Hopewell Hotel on New York’s Upper East Side. Back when it was first opened in 1929, it was an Art Deco gem, crafted by a design genius. Now, it’s a money pit with non-functional toilets, constantly on the verge of an invasion by the pigeon army that roosts in the attic. Though people often assume they are wealthy, the Martins are broke. Unlike her friends, Scarlett cannot afford to escape the city for the summer to go to learn French in Paris or teach tennis camp. She’s stuck working at home, trying to help Spencer fulfill a family pledge to get an acting job. He has just four days left to do this, or he will have to go to culinary school.

When a former Broadway diva named Mrs. Amberson moves in for the summer, everything changes. Mrs. Amberson soon assumes control of Scarlett’s life. What follows is a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, theatrical deception, and an impossible romance with the most beautiful guy that Scarlett has ever seen—a guy who is, quite literally, smoking hot.

But life with Mrs. Amberson is not easy, and it takes everything Scarlett has to keep a handle on her love life, Spencer’s career, her relationship with her family, and the fate of the hotel itself.

Also, you get to see Hamlet performed with unicycles.

Now you can see why it took me so long. That’s a lot to get in one book. And now that the first one is done, two is already in the pipeline! Suite Scarlett will be coming out in May, which seems so, so far . . . but it will happen sooner than you, or I, think.

“That is a long time,” you say, as you finish your song and reach for your drink (which is in a coconut shell and has at least nine little paper umbrellas—what is with you?). “Do you have anything else coming out before that?”

Um, actually yes. Two things.

First, in December, you will be able to get “The World of the Golden Compass,” which is a book of essays that will be released concurrent with the film. I’m in it, and it was edited by Scott Westerfeld, so . . . there’s that.

Also, in January, there will be a new edition of The Key to the Golden Firebird, with this shiny new cover:

This cover is in keeping with my other covers, all of which illustrate my love of fantastic abs. That's mainly what I write about. Great abs. The rest is window dressing.

(Also, I love the new pinkness. That is the exact shade of pink I want for my stun gun! It's FATE!)

Okay . . . on a purely non-book related note. There is something else I’ve done in the last few days. Yesterday, my friend Peggy came up from Philadelphia, and we went to a taping of the Daily Show.

I was an unabashed fan of Jon Stewart before . . . but now, my respect has climbed to new heights. I’ve seen some shows taped before, and quite a number of them were disappointing—fussing, flubbing, hair-fixing. (I saw one in which the host took out a mirror and fixed his hair every five minutes. Really.)

Jon Stewart did none of this. Before the taping, he talks to the audience, and is exactly as funny and personable as he is on the show. Then he sat down and did the show in ONE TAKE. He didn’t mess up a single line.

The guest yesterday was kind of unusual . . . it was the President of Bolivia. Jon explained in advance that he was going to be working with a translator for the first time, and that it might be “even more awkward than usual,” since all his jokes had to be translated on the fly. There was nothing awkward about it. He conducted a riveting interview, during which we were all hushed.

After that, through an incredibly random set of circumstances . . . I met the Superman who gave me a knowing nod of fellow-Justice-League-ness at Dragoncon! He even knew that other Wonder Woman, the one with the costume . . . with the butt. That one.

The world is officially much too small.

In any case, to make up for my long pauses and quietness, I will be posting again very soon, and am taking an open call for questions. Put a question in the comments, and I will answer it honestly. (As I can without incriminating myself or others.) (And not that I ever lie to you.)

Go on! I DARE you!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Oh, friends. How I miss you. As far as I know, by the time you read this, I may be dead. If you want to see what it’s like, witness this disturbing photo collage Justine Larbalestier made of me last Thursday. (Someone got an iPhone. Turns out, it has a good camera, along with an MP3 player, a GPS system, a life raft, and a full-sized kitchen, or whatever else it has.)

Though I am here, I am far—far into the land of Scarlett. It’s amazing the kinds of things that you have to push aside as being “too time consuming” in the final week, like doing the laundry, buying more cereal, and getting out of the chair.

John Green and I keep IM windows open and occasionally say things like:

I am really sick of my chair. What about you?


You know what’s fun? Sitting in a chair, for like, nineteen hours.

Sitting plays a bigger role in writing than you would think. I mean, a lot of people say, “Oh yeah, I want to write a book one day.” And I smile and nod. Some of them will—but a lot of them can’t sit still for more than fifteen minutes if the TV isn’t on.

You have to sit like a champion when you write. Oh, you’re laughing. You think you can sit like a pro. But when it starts to all go rocky, when your characters don’t behave, when the wolf is at the door and the plot is starting to quake like a jello mold on a trampoline . . . . I defy you to keep sitting.

Of course, the other day I was complaining about my chair, only to discover that the problem was that I’d been sitting on my phone charger. For seven hours.

In any case! There are many exciting things to say about Scarlett, aside from the fact that she is almost done! But I can’t say anything YET. I have SO much to tell you, but time constraints today limit me to telling you little snippets of the week. Rest assured, many long entries are coming your way next week, like a swarm of locusts.

- On Friday, a man stood on the sidewalk outside of my apartment and played scales on the harmonica for an hour. Maybe that doesn’t sound bad to you . . . but really think about that. Think about a time you’ve been under the gun and your brain was on fire, and then some MANIAC decides that not only is he going to perfect his basic music skills, but he going to do so on the street, and the chosen instrument is a HARMONICA—something you can make with a tissue and a comb if you really have to.

I have long claimed that the most jarring musical experience in New York was the guy who plays Glenn Miller’s “Take the A Train” on the steel drums during rush hour in Times Square, but that guy has been blown right out of the water. Yes, playing scales on the harmonica in front of my building while I’m trying to finish a book . . . sir, you are the new winner.

Of course, that man is dead now. So let’s all take a moment to remember him.

[Side note: it turns out that some harmonicas are professional quality and they are hard to play. Or so I was told by someone I know who had three “professional harmonicas” in a drawer. Why did he have three “professional harmonicas” in a drawer? That, I cannot answer. I can tell you that I annoyed him immensely by picking one up and IMMEDIATELY playing “Happy Days Are Here Again” on it. I have no idea why this was the song that came out, or why I couldn’t play any others, or why I could play AT ALL. But it turns out that is one of my four or five totally useless superpowers. We all have some.]

- On Friday night, I changed location and worked at Libba Bray’s house, because Libba Bray is a saint. I was there for a group viewing of “High School Musical,” including Libba, her husband Barry, Scott Westerfeld, Justine, and Cassie Clare. I heard them screaming with delight from the living room and cheering “GO WILDCATS.” I was in the kitchen, with the guacamole, hummus, pizza, cakes, and other “snacks” that Libba had put out. TIP: don’t even LOOK at High School Musical for a SECOND while you are writing, not even when you just walk through the other room to get your power cord from your bag. It has MAGICAL POWERS and can sink into your brain even if you watch it for ten seconds!

It’s funny, because you wouldn’t think lyrics like this would stick in your head:

Just keep you head in the game
You gotta get your head in the game
We gotta get our, get our, get our get our head in the game
You gotta get your, get your head in the game
We gotta get our, get our, get our, get our head in the game
You gotta get your, get your head in the game
We gotta get our, get our, get our, get our head in the game

It’s like Cole Porter has been reborn!

And Zac Efron can steal your soul if you look into his eyes for too long.


- On Saturday, I took the book with me to Daphne Unfeasible’s engagement party. When your agent is your friend and you are in her wedding—not even a deadline can keep you in. But she arranged it so I didn’t even have to do any thinking about how to get there, or even stop working until we arrived. I will be giving a speech at Daphne’s wedding—something I am very, very excited about—but it turns out Daphne’s mom is concerned. She pulled me aside and said, “It’s not going to be silly, is it?”

I assured her that I had no idea what she could possibly mean.

- Don’t think I didn’t savor every second of those “Kerry Stunned by Student Tasering” stories. I know when the gods are speaking to me.

But the real reason I slunk out today to post is this . . .


There are some lost dogs out there. Last night, the fence blew down at the home of my friend Rexroth Implausible (the future Mr. Unfeasible). His two dogs, Jake and Dizzy, got out. They had just been bathed, so weren’t wearing their collars. They have not been seen since.

If you live in the area of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and if you see two dogs like this, can you contact me at once? I will immediately tell Rexroth. And if you know anyone in that area, can you forward this post on?

Jake: Black Lab/Dane mix, about six years old.
Dizzy: German Shepherd mix, about five years old.

If any of you help find Jake and Dizzy, I will thank you in the acknowledgements page of Suite Scarlett and send you more books than you could possibly eat in one sitting.



Jake and Dizzy were found--together--by some excellent people at the Dreampower Pet Rescue Ranch, 35 miles away from their home. (There is a suspicion that they may have stolen a car and driven around. These are clever dogs.)


They will be mentioned in the back of Suite Scarlett.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007


So, I’m sitting here at my desk in New York, eating these chocolate stick things that Sarah Mlynowski gave to me earlier tonight when we were discussing the Law and Order presidential candiate situation, which obviously concerns us both, as we both dream of being dead bodies someday. (On Law and Order.) So much to catch up on!

I have promised stories from behind the videos, and I must deliver. First . . . a bit about Dragoncon.

There are many, many stories I could tell from Dragoncon. So many that it becomes hard to know where to begin—and this is maybe not the best time to be bursting with bloggy stories, as I really have to spend all of my time working on Suite Scarlett for the next two weeks. I tried to fit the essence of it into the movie, but there were dozens of day-to-day moments that really need to be remembered.

The Wonder Woman costume—which I have to admit I was a little hesitant about putting on—was actually the easiest way to blend in. I promise you, I took that thing into the bathroom when we registered, and I emerged as a member of the tribe. I was instantly accepted by the other 20,000 or so dressed up people. It was completely natural that I’d be Wonder Woman. Everyone likes Wonder Woman! I have never in my life posed for so many photographs. That’s what people do at Dragoncon—they pose. Or they ask people to pose.

I was a little shy about the first picture or two, but then I crossed the armbands . . . and I was basically off and running. Theo Black bought me that massive sword (the one I twirl so badly and that he does such an amazing job with). (Well, until he accidentally let it go and it went flying . . . but it was great until then.) (And to those of you who wondered how close I came to getting a three-foot sword in the head . . . not that close. It hit the wall a foot or two next to me. Theo felt really bad about it, but I enjoy a small amount of danger in my life.) (Very small.)

Anyway, within about an hour of arrival, I had become a pro Wonder Woman, snapping right into a pose the minute someone came over with a camera. I had developed three by the time the night was over. And then I walked back to the hotel wearing the costume—which was about five blocks, dragging my sword all the way.

This is when Holly told me I’d “gone native.” I think she meant that in a very approving way, as her own husband was walking next to me wearing a real, from-the-set Farscape costume, carrying a robot.

There were other Wonder Womans. I saw about five. One looked really good, but the others were honestly revealing WAY TOO MUCH BUTT. I don’t think you should wear any bottom bits that fit so tight that they create new skin flaps that waggle around—like you have four butt sections. I saw this, and did not like. That is not what Hera would want. I was much happier in my little sparkly skirt, and the cape was great for hiding the fact that the costume was too big and was being held in place by a dozen safety pins.

Just as we were leaving, Cassie and I were sitting in our hotel room packing up. She was reading to me from the massive program book. We discovered that there were literally about a hundred awesome things we should have gone to.

Here are just a few I have flagged:

Off the road with CHiPS: An Hour with Erik Estrada

Danger Woman! (I have no idea what this is and refuse to read the description. I prefer to imagine it.)

Building the Future: In Plastic!

Zombie Squad: Are You Prepared?
(So awesomely practical! Justine and I should have gone. We know the zombies are coming, even though the others will not listen to us.)

Finding the Evil Within (I could have lead this one.)

Is There More to Gaming than Fun? (I want to know.)

Klingon Karaoke

The 2007 Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant

There Be Pirates, Arrrr!
. . . which was then followed by the Secret Room Pirate Party.

Which is sort of where Scott and I enter the story. In the video, you see some very dark footage of Scott and I at the Yule Ball. It took us forever to find the Yule Ball, because Dragoncon took over three entire hotels, so we were constantly going from building to building, crossing streets with huge platoons of Storm Troopers, wending our way through superheroes, going up and down escalators with Quidditch teams.

At the bottom of one escalator near the Yule Ball, we found one pirate all by himself, in his crushed velvet coat, his hook hand at the ready. As we approached, he asked us, “Do you guys know where the pirate party is?”

He was the loneliest pirate you ever saw. We didn’t know, unfortunately. He stood there, all by himself, looking around.

Scott was really taken with the lost pirate, and started speculating on a story called "Dude, Where's the Pirate Party?"

We arrived at the Yule Ball in time to see an entire stage full of Snapes dancing to “I’m Too Sexy,” which I have to report made us go right back upstairs to the bar. The sight was just a little more than we were ready for. As we went, we passed dozens of pirates, whole gangs of them, all with knowing looks in their eyes. They all knew where the pirate party was, obviously. We tried to find the loneliest pirate to tell him, but by then he had been picked up by some Star Trek people.

But . . . let me tell you a little bit about the making of John’s birthday video, which I am astonished to find has had over 12,500 views since going up the other week.

ME: I have an idea for John’s birthday video. We should do a dance video.

SCOTT W: (staring at me over computer) I do not dance.

JUSTINE: I do not appear on camera. But I bet Libba, Emily, Bennett, and David would do it.

One e-mail later . . . Libba, Emily, Bennett, and David all agree to do a dance video.

“It’ll be like OK Go!” said I. “Or not that coordinated! It’ll be like the Praise You video! It’ll be like both of those! Or neither! Whatever! Wear . . . clothes!”

Scott came along, though he was firm about the not dancing.

With my airtight plan in place, we all gathered at Libba’s house. When you visit Libba, even on short notice, she likes to put out a small snack. This time, she had only provided nachos, homemade guacamole, and salsa, fruit salad, hummus, nuts, bagels, two types of cake, cookies, and homemade whipped cream . . . but we had come on short notice.

David had just returned from a visit to his family’s house. He proudly produced a bag of genuine 1986-wear, from when he was thirteen. Astonishingly, it still all fit. We demanded that he keep wearing his multicolored long shorts.

The conversation as we gathered in Libba’s kitchen went something like this.

LIBBA: So, Maureen, what’s the plan?

ME: Oh, the plan is . . . (sticks as many nachos into mouth as possible)

EMILY: Do we have chorography?

ME: (nachos)

BENNETT: Yeah. What should we be wearing, anyway? Dance stuff, or . . .?

LIBBA: I was going to be insane Stevie Nicks.

DAVID: I guess I’m wearing these shorts. I don’t know what that makes me.

ME: (nachos)

SCOTT: You don’t have a plan, do you? (laughs mischievously)

ME: (nachos, indignant)

EMILY: What about a song? Do we have a song?

I plunk my iPod into the base station. The first thing that comes on is Abba, and the first song it cycles through (after the insane “Tiger,” which no one knows but me) is Mamma Mia. I point to the iPod triumphantly, start to eat nuts.

(This entire time, Scott was recording our every move with his fancy new camera. He has much more footage of this than I do. What he plans on doing with it, we may never know. Scott has many schemes.)

Having done my bit of direction, I then let Emily do the chorography. Everyone chimed in with something. We all agreed that it was important to move/climb on as many pieces of Libba’s furniture as possible. That was the most important part. I managed to slice open my knee while doing an across the floor slide (I still have a big mark—it may be a scar, a lifetime reminder of John’s birthday).

The result was about forty minutes worth of footage that iMovie barfed up on four separate occasions, making the editing process a joy! I am pleased with the result, but I promise you this . . . if anyone ever plays Mamma Mia at me ever again . . . I will punch them in the face.

The upshot to all of this is that my beloved editor Emma Lollipop has been writing me for a week, saying things like, “How’s Scarlett doing? Is she easier to make than a dance video?”

Which is fair enough, but it shows you the perils of putting things up on YouTube for all the world to see.

There is nothing but writing ahead for me for the next extended period of time. Feel free to send food. Or a Vespa. Or, as Meg Cabot pointed out, a pink stun gun. While I have advertised them freely here, she is quite correct in saying that no one has sent me one. So I have been forced to take an intermediate step.

Now, that may look like a large-barreled curling iron covered in pink lip-shaped post it notes with stuff written on them. That’s because that’s what it is. This is the best I’ve got. It will not stun you, not unless you drop it in water, but it will certainly surprise you!

I hope the makers of pink stun guns will see this and do the Right Thing.

Back to work. Expect future book-related posts! Onward, Scarlett!

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I’ve just gotten off the 18 hour return train journey, but almost everything you need to know is in here. I’ll be back tomorrow with a written report.

Thank you to Scott for providing so much footage. I was, of course, fighting crime much of the time.

Also, thanks to E. Lockhart for giving the scoop on the making of John’s birthday video.

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