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Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Why do I do this? Every time? Whenever I leave New York (which, when I left, was beautiful, sunny, a stunning 77 degrees (that’s 25, if you’re feeling Celsius) with a warm, fragrant breeze) . . . why do I always think it will be the same when I get to London? Exactly how stupid am I?

(Don’t answer that.)

I don’t think I’ve ever landed in England and it hasn’t been wet and kind of grey. Granted, I tend to land at 6 in the morning, but still. At best, AT BEST, there is always just a bit of moisture in the air, like you are being spit upon from a great distance. At worst, you get a day like today, when it was just pouring so much that Heathrow was actually leaking and even the English though it looked “a bit damp.” (Note to Americans: when the English say things are “a bit damp” it really means you should probably be wearing a lifejacket.)

But I encountered this rain long before I ever hit the ground. I met it up above.

On my flight, we had a Scottish pilot who came on before we took off and said, “Ah . . . hullooo, ladies and gentlemen. Aye’ve got to tell ye that we’re harid from London that there’s quite a bit of a [something, something kind of wind] tonight and we’re probably going tae be in for a wee bit of turbulence and . . .”

He kept giving us these warnings all throughout the flight. Nothing really happened until we were well out over the Atlantic, and most people were trying to sleep. I was halfway through a murder mystery Justine had given me, and something very grisly and horrible was about to happen . . . well all of a sudden everything went DING, DING, DING and the cabin crew startled hustling down the aisles with flashlights hurriedly checking that we were belted in before the mad captain came on and was being all “flight crew please take yer seats at once,” and they started RUNNING because this means “GODZILLA HAS US! HE’S GOT US! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD HE IS GOING TO SHAKE THIS PLANE UNTIL WE ARE ALL SMASHED TO SAUCY BITS LIKE WE ARE IN ONE OF THOSE JAMIE OLIVER SALAD DRESSING SHAKERS!”

Now, you might think, from the many, many fears and reservations (waterslides, small carnival rides, the ocean, shallow pools, high jumps) I have that turbulence would bother me. Quite the opposite! I love it! I believe in airline technology and staying in planes, and for some reason, I approve of them shaking and getting tossed around in the wind. This satisfies my sense of logic, and apparently I am okay with fluid dynamics as long as they don’t involve water or apathetic, slightly high people strapping you in, or gloopy things with stingers.

From the way the captain sounded, I knew I was in for something special. (Also, I tend to find when the Scottish sound worried, you are probably facing something worth worrying about. Like, if a Scottish person says, “Ye maight want to have a look at yer troooosers” it probably means your pants are either missing, or on fire, or not pants at all but just a bunch of tarantulas that have clustered on your legs in a pantslike formation.)

I put down the book I was reading and reached for my iPod so that I could enjoy the turbulence to some music. Good thing too, because about a minute after I tucked the book away the plane began shaking so hard that it would have thrown it clear out of my hand. I shoved the iPod into the side of the seat and the lovely music drowned out the screams of my fellow passengers. I didn’t have time to pick out the songs I wanted, so I ended up on shuffle. It was a lucky shuffle, though, and now I know some really excellent new songs to turbulate to.

Oh sure, people were crying and small children were barfing and things started to fall—but the plane was going in so many excellent directions that it all seemed worth it. You didn’t know what was coming next. Sideways, sudden drop, vertical shake, a dip in the front . . . it was absolutely top-notch. I had been awake all night, but by the time we started circling London, I gave in to the soothing vibrations and just gave in and got a half hour of excellent sleep.

I don't want to say it was EXACTLY like this on the plane, but it was KIND OF like this:

Oscar came to get me at Heathrow in The Very Small Car, and we drove down flooded roads to get back to the London Office. We passed a large county fair that was being held despite the weather, and I saw people in boots carrying massive umbrellas trudging toward a field to look at animals in tents.

“Does nothing stop you?” I asked Oscar.

And then when we got home and dried off and put on the kettle, we turned on the news to find that today is the annual Gloucester cheese roll. You might be wondering what that is. Well, here is last year’s:

When I saw this, the following conversation ensued.

ME: Explain cheese rolling to me.

OSCAR: No one ever catches the cheese.

ME: That is an enigmatic statement that does not explain cheese rolling.

OSCAR: Well, the competition is to roll down a hill after a big roll of cheese as quickly as possible, and whoever gets closest, wins the cheese.

ME: Roll down a hill? To get close to cheese? Get close to cheese?

OSCAR: The rolling bit is optional. You should really be running. But it is a very steep hill so it tends to be rolling, and it was very muddy today. It was a bit damp.

ME: Are you guys so hard up for cheese that you’ll chase it down a hill?

OSCAR: Well, it is a really big cheese.

ME: A really big dirty cheese.

OSCAR: It’s got covering.

ME: I think we are straying from the point, which is really that people seem to be willing to risk life and limb for more cheese than they could possibly eat.

OSCAR: Really, the ones running after the cheese are the sensible ones. It’s the ones at the bottom of the hill who are in danger. They could get hit by the cheese.

ME: I question the entire event, really. 19 people were injured this year. The winner hurt his spine. Can you explain the motivation?

OSCAR: Really big cheese?

You know, just when I think I am starting to understand the English, I encounter something like this. I work so hard to bridge the gap, the hands-across-the-water thing. I’ve even been told I get it kind of right, like in this lovely video by missxrojas, who is an actual English person. And just when I think I’ve made real progress, it’s cheese rolling day.


At the end of my last post, I asked three questions:

1. Would you like long posts less frequently, or shorter posts more often?
2. Do any of you live in or near Guildford, England?
3. Do the various characters in the books remind you of anyone?

I got some surprises in the replies, but the biggest of all was for the first question. There were a lot of write-in answers, like, “longer posts more often” or “hakius every few hours.” I fully expected that most people would say “shorter posts more often.” But when I actually tallied the direct answers . . . it was 7 for shorter posts more often, and 48 for longer posts less often. In fact, many people seem to LIKE the delay.

This runs counter to everything I know about the internet! HOW EXCITING! We are doing SCIENCE here! It seems that many of you like to STORE UP long things to read during very boring periods of work or class or for whenever you’re supposed to be doing homework . . . but you don’t want TOO much. You don’t want to feel pressured. I understand completely.

So long and whenever it is! WHEW!

And NONE of you live in Guildford, though some of you live not too far. A few of you do not believe in Guildford. And your images of the characters were fascinating.

It turns out it is a good idea to ask you things! So since I will be in the UK for the next few weeks, what particular aspects of English life would you like me to study? Is there anything you need to know? If you are English, what would you like to hear about from an American perspective? I am here to serve.


Today’s signed book is going to missxrojas, not because she made a nice video, but because she was the actual random winner, which made me click on the link, which is how I saw it in the first place.

May’s not over yet, so I am still giving things out! It’s another book to another random commenter today!

NOTE: Many of you will wonder what I am doing out of the YA Author Mansion. It is up to you whether you believe my story. Maybe I got a pass that let me out for a short time, or perhaps I am lying and made all this up.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Since I busted the wall of secrecy on the YA Author Mansion a few days ago, I have been flooded with e-mails . . . AND the doorknob to my room “mysteriously fell off,” resulting in three days of captivity until someone took the door off the hinges and released me.

I don’t care. I won’t be silenced. And I’m going to answer your questions.

bridget said...
MJ, I have a pressing question about the YA mansion...does JK live there also? Is she constantly barging in your room looking for snacks (is she the one with the dirty dishes)? More pressing, does that mean poor Alan Rickman is imprisoned somewhere in the vast awesomeness of the mansion? The horror. ;)

No. JK does not live in the mansion. Apparently, though, she knows where it is. At least, she knows where my room is. I don’t think she bothers the others. Alan Rickman, to our best knowledge, is still trapped in a compound in Edinburgh. FREE HIM!

cat said...
Does the mansion have a pool?

No, but it has fountains out front and a sensory deprivation tank in the solarium.

molly 18 said...
What are some of the pranks that you all have pulled on each other?

Oh the hilarity of the pranks at the YA Author Mansion! Most of them have to do with stealing each other’s computers, which is really, really easy, because (as many people have pointed out) we all pretty much have the same one. Every YA author computer I’ve ever seen has been an Apple. So we just switch the computers around and mess up each other’s books, inserting all kinds of characters no one expects.

Someone got his hands on my computer the other day. I was reading through this scene from Suite Scarlett 2, and Scarlett and Mrs. Amberson were talking, and all of a sudden there was this werewolf lurking in the background, reading a copy of Vogue, and I was all like, ‘Where the #%&!$# did this werewolf come from?” I went through page after page after page and all the werewolf did was sit there and make witty remarks about fashion and wine, but then the sun went down and he got all feral and crashed though the window, after which I presume he ravaged Central Park . . .

Anyway, it took me all week to make that right, and THAT’S when I notice the hot air balloon full of monkeys that floated past the Hopewell Hotel window.

I have my suspicions about who this was, and let me just say . . . someone’s alternate military history adventure-romance is about to have an encounter with a harmonica-playing vampire whose major frustration in life is poking holes in his own instrument with his fangs, resulting in a wheezy noise when he tries to play. Oh, there is so much wheezy harmonica in your future, friend. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

nicole s. said...
how are the authors placed in the different wings? why was it decided that Stephenie would be in Judy Blume's wing?

I don’t know. You literally wake up in your room. I don’t even know for sure that Stephanie Meyer is in the Judy Blume wing. That’s just a rumor. We keep inviting her to our famous make-your-own-taco parties through intermansion mail, but we haven’t heard from her. Which is really no surprise when you see the guy who runs intermansion mail.

To be honest, I am kind of worried about her. They keep a pretty tight leash on all of us, but I think they might be really hard on Stephanie. It could be that someone is deliberately intercepting our taco party messages. Nothing would surprise me.

Maybe this is the only way I can get the word out: Stephanie, you are totally invited to make-your-own tacos. And if they’ve got you locked up in the house somewhere, give us a sign. We’ll get to you somehow with a taco, even if we have to send John Green through the air duct or make Justine Larbalestier rappel down the side of the building under the guise of “doing Australian exercises.” Let me know! You must be hungry! Say the word and the taco is YOURS. You can use any of the methods I laid out for Katie Holmes in the hamster-eating post.

katie said...
about the mansion: do any of the other authors steal your clothes?

See the next two comments.

e. lockhart said...
It wasn't me who borrowed your Wonder Woman costume. It was John Green. 

E. Lockhart

I suspected as much.

Libba bray said . . .
Maureen, could you please stop taking my Spongebob Squarepants toothbrush? I forgave you for sticking my hand in a glass of water last week and making me pee my pants, but this is really too far. We have standards at the YA Mansion. That's all I'm saying.

Yeah, I’ll get right on that, Libba. How about as soon as you give me back my High School Musical matching underwear set? “Lost in the dryer” . . . .yeah, whatever.


Behold! The first of a TWO-PART video featuring LIBBA BRAY, who, when not stealing my HSM underwear, is my hero. Part two . . . coming soon!


Today, I am handing out five sleep masks and a book. The sleep masks go to random commenters:

Ari :0)

The book challenge for today was to sign up and participate in the forum. The randomly chosen person who did this is . . . Brittany.

And today I am giving away a signed book to a random commenter, again! But you know what . . . I have some specific questions for YOU GUYS. Here are some things I want to know, in no specific order:

1. Someone told me I should post shorter posts more often. Do you guys like longer posts less frequently, or shorter and more frequent? It doesn’t mean that I will necessarily DO shorter posts more often, but I may TRY.

2. Do any of your live in or around GUILDFORD, ENGLAND?

3. I’ve gotten really interested in what you guys think the various characters in my books look like, especially Suite Scarlett. Do they remind you of any people, do you have any pictures? I WANT TO KNOW!

Also, feel free to tell me anything else that is on your mind. I am always eager to hear your thoughts.

Friday, May 16, 2008


This last week, I got caught. Trapped like a trap in a trap.

Those of you who have read this blog for some time will know that I attended a Catholic girls’ academy—a school I later turned into St. Teresa’s in the book Devilish. I have told several stories about this school, but never named it. In fact, I thought I was being extremely, extremely clever and that no one would ever figure out where I went to school.

Again, if you have been reading this blog for a while . . . you’ll also know by now that I’m not clever. So I really should have been more prepared for the day in which I got note after note after note from current students at my former high school, correctly identifying it and asking me to come.

Now, if you’re me, and you have been talking your face off about your old school on your blog, and then you wrote a book in which you infest that school with demons . . . you might feel a certain sense of je ne sais panic when asked to return. I was pretty much convinced that I would walk in the front door, the student counsel president would hit me over the head with a shovel, and I would be thrown into an open pit specially dug in the basement. And then they would sic the hamsters on me.

But what ACTUALLY happened was that I had an amazing time, and a ton of people stayed for a voluntary after-school event with me, and then presented me with a HUGE PILE OF GIFTS. These included 13 little blue envelopes! In which messages and items relating to my books and my school had been placed! They got me Ginny’s credit card from 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Lola’s pink stud earrings and Scarlett’s Empire Suite key from Suite Scarlett, a stack of demerits (actually signed by the principal) for things like “parking principal's car on balcony,” “being tardy,” and “forgetting to be awesome.” I even got a puppy-sized elephant with an engraved collar named Queen Ranavalona!

I made a short video to commemorate this visit, in which you can see at least part of my high school uniform. You can also meet my lawyer, C. Catso Fangola.

I received a question in the comments that Justine Larbalestier told me I had to answer. “It’s time,” she said. “They need to know the truth.”

nicole said...
I'm looking forward to reading sweet scarlett as soon as I get my hands on a copy.
Maureen, how did you meet all of you author friends in New York? Isn't it kind of like being friends with your competition?
(I would love a sleep mask!)

It’s extremely easy to meet other YA authors. Because once you become a YA author, you have to move into the YA author mansion. We all live there. I live there. Justine lives there. Scott Westerfeld, Libba Bray, Meg Cabot, Holly Black, John Green, Cassie Clare . . . everyone. We all live there. They make you. It’s kind of big, so you sometimes don’t see everyone. (I know Stephanie Meyer lives there, for instance, but I’ve never seen her room. I think it’s over in the Judy Blume wing.)

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, “But Meg Cabot lives in Florida! And John Green in Indianapolis! And Stephanie Meyer in Arizona! And, and, and . . .”

Lies. We live in the mansion.

In the past, we have gone to some trouble to cover up the fact that we all live in the YA author mansion. We didn’t want people to go looking for it. Some people didn’t want to move to the mansion, but you aren’t given a choice. On the day your first book comes out, they come in a car under the cover of darkness. If you fight, they knock you out, and you wake up in the mansion with all of your things around you.

Now, to get to the point about being friends with your competition . . .

There is no competition in YA writing. It’s not that people will only read one book and not another. Reading breeds more reading. When you finish one good book, you IMMEDIATELY NEED ANOTHER . . . and so the circle of life continues!

I’ll tell you what the problem is. The problem is when some people leave their nasty dishes in the sink of the YA Author Mansion kitchen, or blast the High School Musical soundtrack at all hours, or keep throwing cricket balls against the wall, or put sheets over their heads and try to scare you by pretending to be ghosts . . . I’m not naming names, but I am getting a little sick of it. We are all trying to write, people.

This is part of the reason I’ve gone public. I have decided that it’s time we talked about the Mansion, and I will answer questions about it, rules be damned.


I am still doing my series of influences, in tribute to the upcoming Olsen Twins book. Today’s influence is very, very special, indeed.

When I was a tiny mj, Murdock from the A-Team was my hero. Sure, The A-Team is PROBABLY the crappiest show ever made. SURE it was predictable and formulaic and violent and insane . . . but my devotion to it was total. Which just goes to show that when we are small, we are not always gifted with the best taste. But I will still WRESTLE ANYONE TO THE GROUND who has a bad word to say about my guys. (Except Frankie “Dishpan” Santana, who doesn’t count. Say what you like about him.)

Murdock, the team pilot and professional pretend-crazy person was my true love and inspiration, and I wanted to be like him. Murdock had STYLE. When I need things for my room in the YA Author Mansion, I use this technique I learned from him. If YOU need things, why not adapt this to your purposes?


I’m getting ready for the Suite Scarlett release party, which will be this week. I was going to throw it at home, since we’re all there, but they do let us out from time to time to see non-YA-author types. We love it when they let us out. Anyway, I am most excited about that.

Today’s five sleep masks are going to:


And today there are TWO WAYS TO WIN THINGS!

First, I will be giving away five sleep masks to random commenters! Second, I will be giving away A SIGNED SUITE SCARLETT! In the FORUM!

See, Scarlett’s Eleven made a forum for me a few weeks ago. In support of their efforts, I’ll be lurking on the forum all week. Join. Chat. Talk amongst yourselves. And at some point I will swoop in and grab someone and that person will get a book. You will feel like I did when I was taken to this mansion, except less like someone in the trunk of a car and more just like someone getting a signed book.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008


I’ve just gotten off another plane, this time from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I was visiting the Michigan libraries Spring Institute, along with John Green and Hank Green. The whole event was excellent, top to bottom, and it was great to see John and Hank.
At the last minute, we threw together an informal gathering at a local library—just a little drop-in between a panel and a dinner. It was done on less than two days notice, so as we drove over in the car, we said, “Maybe ten people will come. That would be nice.”

What we didn’t expect were A HUNDRED SCREAMING, AMAZING PEOPLE armed with gifts and video cameras. We were completely unprepared for this. I didn’t even bring a Suite Scarlett to read from, so I asked if anyone happened to have one . . . only to see Scarletts shooting up in the air all over the place. John read from Paper Towns, and someone even provided Hank with a guitar so that he could do some songs. I was so happy, I did this dance.

We were so overwhelmed by the whole event that we could barely speak for the rest of the night, and sat at dinner alternating between stunned silence and insane laughter.

Michigan may now be my new favorite place in the world. Thank you to everyone who made it happen!

The only bad part of today was when I was at the airport, waiting to get on the tiny, tiny plane. I was really tired, because I had been up late talking with the librarians and John and Hank, and because the guy in the room next to mine was doing some kind of interpretive dance at five in the morning. So I was not at my best and brightest when I arrived at the Grand Rapids airport and was fumbling around, staring blearily at the self-check-in screen. The designers of the screen had gone to some lengths to make their instructions as vague and conflicting as possible, while issuing increasingly random demands.

The four check-in computers were in the middle in the check in area, with three of us poking away at the screens, saying things like, “They want what?” “Passport goes where?” “I can’t fit my head in that slot.” “All the signers of the Declaration of Independence? In alphabetical order?”

I usually appreciate this kind of attention to detail, but I was sort of not in the mood for it at the time. I gave up and decided to talk to a person. There was one passenger at the check in desk itself, and another one way, way, way back, lounging against the barrier. I was pretty sure I had heard him say he was just waiting for someone, and he didn’t look like he was doing anything else. I mean, he was really far back.

So I took a spot between him and the desk and zoned out for a good five minutes, until he tapped my arm and said, “The line starts back here.” With a growl.

And then, this other guy who had just walked up said in a low and knowing voice, “She’s got selective hearing.”

Now, here is something you need to know about me: I DO NOT CUT IN LINE. If I even THINK I have possibly, maybe, in some way almost cut in line, I pretty much have to act like Dobby in Harry Potter and start beating my head against the wall in self-punishment. So that was Level of Horror One.


Level of Horror Two was the obvious contempt in the man’s voice. To be fair to me, he had picked a strange spot to start his line, nor was he acting like a guy in a line. He was practically doing this:

I think if you start a line, you have an obligation for it to be at least in VISUAL DISTANCE of the place you want to go. If you arbitrarily decide to pick a strange, hidden, distant spot half under a potted plant, I think you should expect some confusion.

Level of Horror Three was the REALLY nasty and self-righteous Second Guy who thought I hadn't just made an understandable error, but had actively plotted to cut the one-person line in a dead airport by feigning deafness.

Normally, these kinds of things do not bother me. I live in New York, so you more or less have to shoot me in the kneecap for me to take any serious offense. But this morning, I was stung. If it had just been the first guy, I would have thought nothing of it. It was the pile-on effect, this idea that I had SCHEMED MY WAY AHEAD OF THE NON-EXISTENT LINE. As if my goal in life was to beat the system at the Grand Rapids airport and get to security first.

The insults hit me on so many levels.

You know how some things just get to you? Even when you know that in the long run, they simply do not matter and you shouldn't care? And that caring actually makes you kind of crazy? But you don't care about that either? Because you have gone a little crazy?

I was astonished by how rattled this got me. Maybe it was the afterschock of all the joy I had just experienced. I immediately gave the first man his “spot,” simply saying, “It wasn’t selective hearing. I genuinely didn’t know. I am sorry.” Then I went and stood behind him, in the ridiculously far away place.

He just stared at me. When it was his turn, he went up and started berating the man behind the ticket desk because it was raining in New York and the plane might be late and someone was going to have to do something about it.

My ire was really reserved for Second Guy—the guy who felt he had to jump into to this already strange confrontation and confirm my evildoing. I confined myself to giving him what I would like to think were very guilt-inducing looks, but I probably just appeared insane and crosseyed.

Of course, you should never give in to people like that, and I know this, but it didn't stop me from spending the rest of the time I was in the airport watching out for him and obsessively trying to think up comebacks.

“Oh,” I wish I had said. “Is this a$%&*le convention in Grand Rapids this year? Are you an attendee or featured speaker?”

No, I thought to myself. That’s what he would want. That would make me seem like that kind of person who did those kinds of things. A much better plan would have been to go up to him and say, “It’s not selective hearing. I’m just 80% deaf in my left ear. Thanks for noticing.”

I could have pulled that story off really well, because my good friend Nurse Trixie is really 80% deaf in one ear. (A fact I discovered when we sat next to each other in 3rd period study hall one time, and I sat on her bad side and thought she was selectively ignoring me for an entire semester, when in fact she could not hear a word I was whispering.) Nurse Trixie has told me all of the medical factors behind her deafness, and I could have USED HER STORY to give Second Guy a wicked case of moral whiplash and WON!

In the end, I just got on the plane and took a nap . . . but I am still wishing I did something more . . . like steal the tragic story of my friend's deafness and use it against a largely imaginary enemy.

You will think from this story that I am perhaps not in the best of moods. So untrue. I burst with happiness, and I am now going to prove it.


It’s hard to be influenced by something that came AFTER the book was written. Also, I normally do not approve of giving any direct visual images of characters. I don’t like to point to pictures and say, “so and so looks just like this!” I have a real problem with this because a). the characters live in my head with the brain monkeys and no photos can be taken in there and b). I think you should draw your own mental pictures.

However . . .

I love Goldfrapp, and her new song “Happiness” is in my songlist for Suite Scarlett 2. I wanted to see what the video for Happiness looked like, since I listen to it about 30 times a day.

I was amazed to find that it features quite an accurate representation of Scarlett and Spencer, as they exist in my mind. (A grown Scarlett, appearing in many disguises, but the Spencer is pretty much dead on.) And it’s not just what they look like . . . it’s the whole video, the activities. This is just the kind of part I could see him getting cast in (his dancing skills play a major part in the next book). And the sly little side roles . . . that’s very Scarlett. It’s a strange feeling, like someone has been rummaging around in my head. I watched the video and said, "HOW DID THEY KNOW?"

It's uncanny enough that I feel I have to show it to you.

Even if you haven’t read the book . . . the video is worth watching. It’s an excellent homage to a movie called “Small Town Girl.” It will make you happy.

Do you see what I mean? Aren’t you happy now? (What I REALLY should have done was just hopped around those guys in the airport, because that would have been the best response of all. IF ONLY I HAD THOUGHT OF IT.)

In my absence, stuff has been coming in through the windows. (And by “stuff,” I mean pieces of information, and by “windows,” I mean the internet and other places where information is found. Sorry. I should have been clearer.)

I don’t mean to imply that you should spend all your time reading about me, but in case you are really bored and looking for stuff to do, there’s this interview with Publishers Weekly, and this piece I wrote for the wonderful John Scalzi, who would never have cast aspersions about me at the airport. In fact, I wish John Scalzi had been with me, because I bet he would have had a good comeback.

And now . . . the best part of every post . . . the giving away of things!

First, the very kind Namlhots (who would know where to start a ticket line) decided to give his sleep mask away to Cassandra mortmain, because she sounded so disappointed that she didn’t get one. So, e-mail me your address Cassie!

Today’s RANDOM BOOK WINNER IS . . . breanna. Breanna, please send along your information!

And today’s giveway is . . . FIVE SLEEP MASKS. They’ll go to five random comments who ask a question, or tell me what I should have said to that guy, or really anything else. Basically, just say you want one, and you will be entered!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some jumping around to do.

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Monday, May 05, 2008


First of all, thank you to all of you who sent in your questions! The winners are all listed at the bottom of this post. Some of your may have won completely by accident! Please just send me your name and address, and a sleep mask (should you desire one), will come in your direction.

So, I heard that the Olsen Twins are making this big coffee table art book about their influences. The book will be called “Influences.”

I have to admit, I kind of laughed when I first heard this idea. But then I thought, “Maybe the Olsen Twins will each hide in a copy of the book, you know, like bookmarks! They are small enough! And they will jump out and surprise someone!”

That thought made me like it more.

And then I though that maybe I should tell you about just a few of MY influences. I have a long and time-honored tradition of bringing you things you didn’t ask for. Why stop now?


When I was a tiny mj, we had HBO, and back in the day, HBO tended to show the same movies OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. One of them was Flash Gordon. I know there is a new TV series, but believe me, it can hold no candle to the shiny magnificence of the movie.

Don’t get me wrong . . . Flash Gordon is not a GOOD movie. Whole tens of dollars were spent on the special effects. The lead was a former Playgirl centerfold with all of the acting talent of a bag of hammers. However, it still manages to be TOTALLY AWESOME, and all the music is by Queen. In fact, to this day, when I am feeling very low-energy, I turn on the Flash Gordon theme REALLY LOUD and suddenly, I am writing up a storm!

I feel I am bound, in explaining my influences, to introduce you to this film. And if you do know it, I hope you will enjoy visiting it again. It never gets old.

Here is the original trailer, which captures much of the wonder of Flash Gordon. Rock out to the excellent theme song! Tremble at the scary zoooooinnnnng noises the weapons make! Most importantly, please note the way that Klytus (gold-faced monkeyboy of the evil Emperor Ming) pronounces the word “earth” right at the top of the clip. (Klytus is excellent throughout the movie for this kind of thing.)

The planet ehhhuuutttthhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Flash Gordon was notable for dressing absolutely everyone in the movie in spandex and lamé. That’s it. Those were the only two acceptable fabrics. (Except for Timothy Dalton, who for some reason was forced to dress like a stalk of asparagus.)

Would you care for a side of Timothy Dalton? He’s in season.

I have to think that my love of shiny was influenced by this movie, which has to be the shiniest movie ever made. Flash Gordon will blind you. The clothes, the walls, the props . . . every inch of the set is shiny. And also, vaguely Art Deco. Was this what I was thinking of when I designed the Hopewell Hotel? POSSIBLY.

To give you some sense of the drama and spandexeness of it all . . . here is a riveting clip of Flash returning to attack Ming’s base on what appears to be a flying treadmill. He is blocked by the deeply scary General Kayla. I loved General Kayla, and I wanted to dress like her every single day. I still do.

In rewatching that, it appears that the sequence of events is: Flash flies on treadmill toward baddies, baddies shoot, Flash runs away. Which is not very heroic. Then all the bad guys seem to be scratching their heads in bafflement over their next move until General Kayla suggests that maybe they should go after him and kill him with some Ajax.

I swear this movie was more exciting than this . . .

Nevermind. We'll look at my favorite clip of all.

Here is the scene in which Flash and the Gang meet Ming for the first time. You can get a fairly clear idea of what everyone is like from this little snippet. Flash is the kind of guy who has to have his name written in big letters on his shirt, possibly to keep him from forgetting it. Dale Arden is useless. Her major contribution to the battle is a chicken dance. And Dr. Zarkov (the guy who kidnapped them and took them into space by accident) proves that he is actually the dumbest of the bunch, which is really saying something.

Even the baddies are morons. It takes a squad of them to catch Flash, and even then, many errors are made. Klytus tries to get involved by giving them an inspirational non-speech with absolutely no instructions in it. The only person who comes out of this looking good is Brian Blessed, king of the Hawkmen. Watch his little moves throughout this clip.

(And for those of you who have read Suite Scarlett . . . Spencer could do a MUCH better job in this scene, don’t you think?)

I hope you have enjoyed this influence. Now, let’s answer some questions!


nona leon said...
Hey, Maureen, my question is do you know just how many Starbuck places there are in New York? I envy you so much because you probably have one like a block away but for small townies as i have to travel THREE hours to the nearest Starbuck's.

MJ: There’s this one corner where you can see four of them at once. There’s literally a Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks, which is technically across the street from another Starbucks because there is one in Barnes and Noble. And then there is another one down the block. The day I realized that was the day when Starbucks truly made me afraid.

hillary! said...
Will Scarlett ever travel the tunnels of New York?


kathleen said...
My questions are:

1. How many Suite Scarlett books are there going to be?

MJ: At least three.

2. Why doesn't Naked Lady wear clothes?

MJ: Because she has a roof patio and people with roof patios in New York think they are invisible when they in fact are not invisible at all.

3. Hey there Maureen, what's it like in New York City?

MJ: It’s excellent.

4. Are the sleep masks regular sleep masks, or are they dead ferrets?

MJ: These are regular sleep masks. I know the book talks about a fur collar/essential oil sleep pillow, but these are just made of silk and diamonds.

5. Why are they called "books?"

MJ: They aren’t! They are called algorithms of worditude.

6. Why doesn't the contest winner get to keep you?

MJ: Technically, I am owned by a Spanish candy company and am only being rented out for the contest.

7. Why am I asking so many questions?

MJ: I have no idea, but I LIKE it.

kate said...
Do you like Spencer or Eric better? Personally, I love Spencer, but my best friend is all fangirly over Eric. So I was just wondering who you'd rather hang out with.

MJ: I do have a very definite answer to this question, but I cannot reveal it, as it would give away events in book two.


Below are the winners of the 25 sleep masks! Today is a “random commenter gets a book day,” so fire away!

katlin seagraves
sarah w
magic rob
book chic
alyson wonderland
christina hicks

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Thursday, May 01, 2008


This is it! Today, Suite Scarlett is 100%, officially out there! Which means I can finally tell you about the AMAZING CONTEST! I have been hinting about this contest for ages, so I am very, very happy to pull back the curtain and reveal it at last!

As you may or may not know, Suite Scarlett is about life in a small New York City hotel, owned and operated by the (somewhat destitute) Martin family. (It’s also about theater companies, unicycles, plush towels, black dresses, yachts, and curly hair—but those things are less relevant to the prize. At least, for the moment.)

Let’s get right to it.


YOU and SOMEONE ELSE each get a round-trip airline ticket to NEW YORK CITY!

First, the plane will come for you.

But we would not just drop you off and leave you with nowhere to go and nothing to do. That would be sad.

This will not be your fate.


From there, you and The Person You Brought With You will be taken to a FANCY NEW YORK HOTEL! To stay the night, I mean! Not just to stare at it longingly from the sidewalk!

Glamour will be yours!

From there, Manhattan is YOURS (and the OTHER PERSON’S)! But someone else will be there!


There’s a third part that I am having a harder time bragging about. Because the third part of the prize is me. You cannot KEEP me, but you get me for one afternoon brunch, during which we will LAUGH IT UP and perhaps even re-enact some of our favorite scenes from Shakespeare.

Us. (No champagne, though.) (And don't even try singing that line from The Sound of Music about wanting to stay and taste some. I am immune to The Sound of Music.) (The musical, I mean.)

To enter the contest (and read all of the legal details), go to the official Scholastic Point website. (If you don’t see the entry form there now, it will be there within the day.) A few things to know:

1. You do not have to buy a copy of Suite Scarlett to enter! But why not get one and read it anyway, so that we will have lots of things to talk about, and you can help me write the next book! (Which may be done by then—so maybe you will get spoilers, or you will help me write the third book!)

2. You have to be between the ages of 13-18 to enter.

3. If you are a minor, the "other person" has to be a parent or guardian. So this is a good way for people over the age of 18 to get around this problem. I'm not saying you should force your child to enter, but maybe you could influence him/her with sweets or jewels or books or something.

4. The contest will run from May 1st, 2008 until August 1st, 2008.

5. I am not running this contest, so I can't change any of the rules.

6. I think when we have lunch, I will have some ICE CREAM.

7. Void where prohibited. Though, I have no idea where this would be prohibited. Unhappyland? Miserytown? Sadville? Anyway, if you live in one of these places that prohibits things, this is prohibited. Also, move.

Want to see a video I just made that explains a lot of that, and also tells you more about New York City? Okay!

Here in mj land, all of May is Suite Scarlett month! So let’s get it started RIGHT by giving away 25 SPECIAL EDITION SUITE SCARLETT EXTREMELY COLLECTIBLE SLEEP MASKS. Let’s do it NOW.

Simply leave a comment asking a question about Suite Scarlett or what YOU want to know about New York City . . . and you will have entered. 25 commenters will win!

And let’s give away today’s book.

AMUSING BUT TRUE . . . . when I put the comments through my fancy, patented “random winner system” . . . . Scott Westerfeld won the copy. But I happen to know Scott already has a copy, so the winner of SCOTT WESTERFELD’S COPY OF SUITE SCARLETT IS . . . cortney t. Cortney, send me your name and address so that YOU can check into the Hopewell Hotel.

All right! Let's see some comments!

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