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the key to the golden firebird
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007



I didn’t mean for almost two weeks to go by without reporting. There is an explanation, as always, but this explanation is made more exciting by the fact that IT IS A SECRET.

Yes. A secret. So secret that I had to sign a document promising that I wouldn’t talk about what I was doing . . . but I may be able to tell you in March or so. (I wish I could tell you. I really do. But don’t bother asking an ASK MJ question about it, because I won’t answer it—and I hate letting you down.)

I can tell you I am in ENGLAND, I am working on something that is not one of my books. It is sort of book related, and it is VERY COOL. It’s also what’s kept me busy since last Monday.

So I’ve basically just crawled out from under a pile. To make it up to you (and because I’ve missed you something terrible), I am going to try to post EVERY DAY THIS WEEK.


A small bit of business first: if you are going to the National Council of Teachers of English conference in New York City this weekend, please come by and visit me! I will be signing at the HarperCollins booth from noon to one, and then will be visiting the Scholastic booth after that.

So . . . now I have a DELUGE of questions. There were so many zombie questions that I had to put them all to the side. If I answered them all, I would have come right up in a zombie Google sweep . . . so we have to lay low for a while on those, then I’ll get to them all. Fortunately, there are loads of others to get to.


nuwon wearspants said...
If you met a talking dolphin, and he was pretty but only one man could control him - and you understood the dolphin, but couldn't control him - and that one man was a hobo with a bottle of Lysol for a hand, would you befriend him?

Who has the Lysol hand? The hobo or the dolphin? (Ooooh. The Hobo or the Dolphin. That’s a good title. I want that for my autobiography. Or as the name of the imaginary restaurant I keep thinking I want to open.)

I guess it’s the hobo, right? Dolphins don’t have hands. I follow. I gotcha.

Okay, I understand the dolphin, but the Lysol-handed hobo (I want that title too) . . . he controls the dolphin, and . . . . wait . . . what’s the question? Would I befriend the Lysol-handed hobo or the dolphin?

I think my answer would be yes to both. I want nothing more than to meet a talking dolphin, and I really like Lysol. It’s sort of how I love vacuum cleaners—especially ones with those clear containers where you can see the dirt being collected! Oh, that’s the best. It’s SO SATISFYING. I just bought this little Dyson handheld, and it’s light and it sort of like a big yellow tazer, except it CLEANS. Nothing can escape it! I ran all around my apartment, hand-vacuuming everything that wasn’t moving (or was moving too slowly to escape me). And Swifter . . . don’t even get me started on Swifter. Those things changed my life . . .

Wait . . . what was the question?

the perilous t said...
So, you're walking down the street one day, and everything appears to be normal. Suddenly, a delivery truck swerves to a halt in front of you and a beautiful cakes comes tumbling out. The truck driver (who just happens to be Zac Efron) and the entire High School Musical cast get out of the truck and gape at the cake in shock before asking you to assist them in lifting the thing back into the truck. You oblige, and have successfully placed the ruined cake where it should be when Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes come bursting out of the nearest building, screaming that their daughter Suri is choking on an anthrax-spiked bagel. They shove her into your arms and beg for your help, only to be silenced by a white grand piano falling off of the roof of a nearby apartment. 
The Cruises are now dead, except for Suri, who's still choking on the poisonous bagel while Zac starts singing a chorus of 'What Time Is It?". What do you do?

I guess my first question is . . . why is Zac Efron driving a cake truck?

Out of everything that happens here, and A LOT happens here, this is the element that concerns me the most—probably because that cake truck is aimed at me. And how big is this cake that the ENTIRE CAST OF HIGH SCHOOL MUSCIAL CAN’T LIFT IT without my help? And why do they think that I am the secret weapon here? What am I, the Hulk?

It’s not a cake at all, is it, Perilous T? You can’t fool me. I’m the Einstein of personal dangers. I’m not touching that thing. I don’t know what it is, but I know that the cast of High School Musical wants me to touch because it will ASSIMLIATE ME into their world where everyone is trapped in Sisyphean rounds of auditions that never turn into shows. I’ll probably end up like that kid who never puts down the basketball.

It really can’t be a coincidence that the Swiss Family Cruise is in a nearby building, feeding bagels to their small child—bagels that turn out to be poisoned with anthrax. They have obviously angered the cast of High School Musical.

As for what to do for poor Suri . . . I am reminded of my favorite Deep Thought by Jack Handy: “If you're being chased by an angry bull, and then you notice you're also being chased by a swarm of bees, it doesn't really change things. Just keep on running.” Does it really matter, Perilous, whether or not you are poisoned as you choke?

I think my main hope would be that my hero Rupert Grint would come and rescue me in his ice cream truck. Did you know that Rupert Grint owns an ice cream truck? That is a true fact.


[comment on a Bartlesville book banning update post]
Anonymous said...
Bartlesville has no place for such dribble.
Silly, silly homo.

Oh, you crazy homophobes! I guess you have finished eating all your crayons and have come to search the Interwebs! Hello! Welcome to my blog!

I find homophobia to be terrible affliction, but I have great hopes that it will be overcome someday. In the meantime, if you want to drop by and leave your thoughts and further the discussion, you are welcome to do so!

Bonus points for writing something that sounds like a little Japanese poem! I hope you don't mind, but I changed your comment around so that it is in haiku format.

Silly, silly homo-phobe

And my reply . . .

Free Monkey says, "Oh!
Homophobia soon will go!"
Happy days will come.

I invite you to come back again!

Everyone is welcome!


reese said...
It has come to my attention by the book club people at Joseph-Beth in Cincinnati that you refuse to come to our store. That you only do "regional stuff." But Maureen, we NEED you to educate the people in ways of good literature. We need you in Cincinnati! Why won't you come to save us?

What? Who told you that? I never heard of this. I guess someone was making a decision on my behalf. I promise you . . . it wasn’t me. That’s ANNOYING.

It was probably the %@#$&^% cast of High School Musical intercepting my messages.

I’ll be honest with you—part of the problem is that I have three publishers, and not everyone who fields these questions really knows me, so they may just say I won’t do something because they’re overloaded with work. But I can tell you I never heard about your store, and I don’t have any kind of “regional” policy.

I’m working on refining my system of dealing with requests. The best thing right now is to send them to me—or rather, to Free Monkey, who handles all of this. I consider every request I get! It all comes down to a matter of what’s practical and possible, schedule-wise. Sometimes it’s not really feasible for the publisher to send me somewhere to do one event. What I’m trying to do now is gather up all these requests to package them together for the release of Suite Scarlett. So it might be possible! Please drop me an e-mail and Free Monkey will enter you into his system.

I consider all requests!

jez said...
Hey Maureen, guess what I did today! I created a LiveJournal community devoted to you & your books.

WOW! Thank you, Jez!

rebekah ruth said...
I'd like to inquire as to how many words, on average, you write per book. For example, how many thousands words were put into the final copy of Devilish (which if my favorite of all your books).

Free Monkey is looking in the files right now and is shouting numbers at me . . .

The Key to the Golden Firebird is 71,216 words. The Bermudez Triangle is 75,131 words. 13 Little Blue Envelopes is 63,614 words. Devilish is 56,438 words. Girl At Sea is 80,592 words. And at the moment, Suite Scarlett is 88,371 words. But don’t be surprised if you get it and it’s 88, 247 words or something. Please send no letters of complaint. I’m still doing some tweaks.

becky said...
I was just in a show, and our cast was just so unbelievably close... It was amazing. And now the show is over. I'm majorly depressed. How can I get over my post-show depression?

I have the solution! You can read SUITE SCARLETT, which will give you a WHOLE NEW SHOW! Hamlet . . . on unicycles! Unlike High School Musical, which doesn’t even HAVE a musical in it . . . SUITE SCARLETT delivers, and you can just read it again when you need another hit of show!

Maybe this is why the cast of High School Musical is after me . . .

anonymous said...

Can you show us the cover of Suite Scarlett?

I couldn’t before, but it wasn’t done, done. But now it is!

Friends, I present to you . . . Suite Scarlett, the cover.

Behold! EYES!

I sort of found this out through the ever-awesome Little Willow who saw that it can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Feel free to start discussing it on that little forum at the bottom. If you put something amusing down there, maybe I will send you a PRIZE.

Until TOMORROW! Since I’m in the UK right now, I am especially interested in answering questions about the American experience in England. What do YOU want to know?

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Tim Walker said...

My question for you: what's your best NON-TRUE explanation for the super-secret thing you're doing?

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Kayli said...

I would like to know whether you've ever gotten lost while drinking tea.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous ally said...

Can we have a video while your in England? Maybe of one of your favorite places? Please :]

Isn't she kind of old looking for 15?

1:09 AM  
Anonymous Liz said...

MJ, I'm sorry, but that cover is AWFUL. The girl looks like she ducked her head in peroxide and proceeded attempt to put her hair in curls.

Do you have a lot of say in the covers of your books?

1:21 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

I have a Very Important Question to ask of you. My English teacher is very disapproving of YA literature. He saw I was reading Dramarama by E. Lockhart (and I'm sure you know full well how amazing E. Lockhart is) and actually scoffed at it. How can I convince him that all YA isn't bad? That's it's actually quite a wonderful genre for teens, not just fluffy, mindless, dumbed down crap that he seems to think it is and that it's not a waste of my time and intelligence?

1:22 AM  
Blogger Tobias said...

I'm sorry to say this Maureen, but as representative of your male readers (I decided that I should represent them, since I haven't seen many other males in the comments, although I've seen an increase lately) that your cover is a bit girly. I know you don't have a say about the cover of your books (and I know you quite liked this one), but I don't think they are appealing to the male gender. I read 13LBE and I liked it a lot, but I was ashamed to be seen with a book with such a cover. Ooh well, all in the name of sales I think (females do make a better target audience in the YA-books field).

Question about the UK:
How do you like the public transport there? I loved the subways in London, but I was quite disappointed with the normal trains in the UK (the Netherlands have much comfier ones). Do you ever use public transport these days (when you're in the UK)?

Good luck on the posting every day!

2:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The girl on the cover looks like she's thirty.

2:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay so if you can't make *visits*
could you maybe do a conference call with a book club?

3:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh. the red looks nice on the cover.

eyes are great but now i need to ask: what is she looking at? and why is she smiling like that? she looks sort of...scary. like she's just poisoned someones diet coke and is waiting for them to start drinking it.

and now the red can be seen in a whole new light. like BLOOD.

well, if the font wasn't so cursive.

will Australia be getting the same cover?

3:54 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Guess what happened to me today? I finally conquered the loooong waiting list at my library (apparently, everyone in my city loves your books) and now I get to read Girl at Sea! Yay! I'm super excited.

Also, my question is: what is the best non-touristy thing to do in England? Something I would have never heard about during my previous trips there ...

4:29 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Can you answer my question? Why is is that every college I have absolutely no interest in attending sends me daily mail while those I like (and have signed up to be on their mailing lists) take weeks to send their things, which get lost in the mail and finally show up months later, torn in half and stained?

4:31 AM  
Anonymous singing emu said...

Would you help a drunk elephant? Would the name of the elephant change your mind as to if you would help him? If the elephant liked to, wait what sounds to elephants make? If the elephant [elephant sounded] like a polar bear one broadway would you still help it? What about drunken hippos? Are they less special that elephants?

4:43 AM  
Anonymous phases of the moon said...

i'm very concerned at what Scarlett is contemplating....perhaps she is watching the cast of High School Musical get eaten by werewolves, or perhaps zombies. perhaps she ordered the zombies upon them. i do appreciate the fact she has eyes, and is so...peppy and twenties. though i do admit she looks rather old, as others have mentioned.

also, i must agree with tobias that the covers are MUCH girlier than the books inside. i am a girl, btw, but i must say i sort of put the cover down and try to deny it's existance while i'm reading it. girly things tend to scare me, and i would admit i feel sort of wierd carrying them around as i am more than slightly goth.
the books inside = gold, but more neutral covers would be nice.
i understand that you have no input over the covers, true.

wow, how many Arctic Monkeys B-Sides can i listen to in one day? as many as there are, that's what.

5:06 AM  
Anonymous reese said...

I ask this and risk sounding stupid. Who exactly is free monkey? And why does he seem to travel without a trainer?

6:34 AM  
Anonymous nuwon wearspants said...

I wrote an essay/comment to my teacher. Today in class, he said that there is not poiont to "The Lion King" and when a girl said - "It has a wonderful theme!" she ccouldn't think of anything.

But -- I thought of a theme. I ALSO compared it to Hamlet (evil uncle kills brother for throne, son of dead man is confused about what happens and what he thinks happened).

Do I have too much time on my hands? Because I figure I just REALLY love English (and want to be a writer), so it wasn't too weird.

Also - yes, the hobo had the lysol-hand.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous nuwon wearspants said...

By the way - did you have fun being an English major? Is that what you were? Or Theatre?

I want to be an English major, and college is a fast-approaching mystery to me. Any tips for college-bound? Literary-related majors?

7:00 AM  
Blogger nurin said...

Oo, cover time! Not bad, even though it isn't exactly my favorite out of all of your other covers. But I'm sure the book will be awesome.

Anddddd...my question is..what would you do if your hands suddenly became youur feet? What problems would they cause? What would your reaction be? (Besides test out your newly moved limbs=p)

On another note, my sister just sent me this http://youtube.com/watch?v=n12uDvkgA3c and while it's pretty likely that you've seen it already...isn't it just great :D

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Daphne Unfeasible said...

I love the cover, but then you know that. As for the comments about their crossover appeal, MJ, you know that there's this whole cool big organization called a sales department that gets lots of input into cover designs for the books they're selling, and they talk to the art department, and they talk to the editor, and the editor talks to the agent and the author, and ALL TOGETHER they come up with the best possible cover for the book that they think will sell.

Sometimes that means books with coves with girls without heads. Sometimes they're covers with curly-headed girls who look slightly older than 15. Sometimes they're covers without any pictures at all, just a little drawing or icon, that someone somewhere said would sell books.

Having been one of the lucky ones to have read SUITE SCARLETT, I think the cover looks like her. And you think so too, remember?

7:04 AM  
Anonymous tess said...

Why, Maureen?


There is no headless girl. For that I am grateful. But why is there a slutty-looking girl on like EVERY SINGLE ONE of your book covers? (Exceptions being Bermudez and Devilish.)

Seriously. I know you don't have much input on your covers, but still, why?

7:14 AM  
Blogger Aislinn Ai said...

This is a question...
You're going to plant/have planted a Brotherhood 2.0 scavenger hunt clue in London, aren't/haven't you?

Am I right? Am I right?

Also: Have you ever gotten into a phone booth and tried to transform into a superhero?

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personaly I like the cover it reminds me of the old Guys 'N Dolls feel mixed with harry potter..dont really know why...but is it just me or is the back ground a lil sidways of Suite Scarlett?

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am insanely jealous of my English teacher, who is going to said English conference. Would you be totally terrified if a lady in her sixties came up to you and asked for a book signing for one of her seniors? Maybe I will ask her. Ahaha! I bet she would do it!

I have always been more of a Daniel Radliffe man, myself (dear God, have you seen that video of what he can do with his tongue?), but... I certainly wouldn't say no to Rupert Grint if he swooped down to New Hampshire from England in his ice-cream truck. Swooped. Yes.

Er. Really none of this was question-like. But. Um. I am here, and lurking, so... How incredible is England? I won't lie; Harry Potter has turned me into an England fanatic. Have you had any more run-ins with JKR?

PS - I'm sorry if this gets posted a billion times. I'm also relieved, because that means it's actually been posted.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous jas said...

Ooh! The NCTE! I got an award from them. They’re a pretty cool group—unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it. I have school. And, well, more school. I tend to be drowning in it.
So I should probably avoid asking another zombie question, but I barely got any sleep over the (three-day) weekend, mostly because I was flying up and down the east coast checking out schools for next year. I'm dead tired and several people have commented on my resemblance to the un-dead, and I also got a book called World War Z, which is the most amazing zombie-related thing I have ever beholden, so I've got zombies on the brain. (I dressed up as one for Halloween as well, and I did an absolutely amazing job of it, if I do say so myself. Especially since my costume was put together in an hour.) And I've got part of the soundtrack from 28 Days Later on my iPod. You can probably tell that I'm mildly obsessed with our not-so-human enemies. I'll probably be on the frontlines with a shotgun and an axe when the big day comes. Or I'll be a quivering pile of jelly underneath my bed. I'm not really sure about that yet.
So... oh, crap. I forgot the zombie-related question I was going to ask. Well, how's this:
Do you wanna see some pictures of me as one of the undead?
Or this:
If Romero asked you to star in his next movie, who would you chose to play? The plucky heroine who may or may not suffer a painful death in the end? The battle-hardened warrior who dies valiantly? The coward who ends up taking down half the main characters with pure stupidity? Or something of your own devising? Maybe you'd like to join the ranks of the living dead yourself...

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE the cover!

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the cover. Can't tell if it's perfect without reading the whole story of course, but it's got a good vibe. It has character, and looks like a hotel I might like to visit, say when the book is out and I can do just that.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Megan said...

Sorry Maureen, but Free Monkey's haiku was a little off..."Homophobia soon will go!" is 8 syllables, not 7.
I liked it, though. Silly homophobes.
And Rupert Grint is made of so much awesome!

1:48 AM  
Anonymous megan said...

oh, and sorry for the double commenting, but I just finished reading and oh my goodness! Hamlet on unicycles? that would be too good to be true. I don't really care about the unicycling part, but Hamlet is quite possibly my favorite play of all time.
yay, maureen! and yay for girls with heads.

1:51 AM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

Glad to pass along the cover/link. Thank Miss Erin for sending it to me. :)

8:11 AM  
Blogger Chelsea said...

Now I've already read Suite Scarlett, and this was posted a while ago, but I'm shocked to see that some people didn't like the cover.

MJ, I LOVE the cover. Love love LOVE it. Sure, Scarlett doesn't exactly look fifteen, but it's PERFECT for the book. Perfect. She has the little bell and the bright red lipstick and she's behind the counter and GAH. I love it.

And she doesn't look slutty. She's wearing the dress Lola gave her. My goodness.

I guess this was posted before people read the book, but seriously. It's a great cover.

Keep 'em coming, MJ. :)

7:39 AM  

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