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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I’ve been getting a lot of comments and e-mails from you guys recently about the Internet. Some of you have written to say that you are obsessed by something or someone and can’t stop looking for updates, or notes, or news. Others of you have studying or other things you have to do, but you can’t seem to break your electronic connection. Still others of you write and say things like: “PLZ HALP! My family is taking me to a CABIN in the WOODS to be EATEN BY BEARS and we have NO INTERNET and I am going to DIE.”

I am glad you came to me. I can help. And my help starts with me telling you something that may shock you to the very, very core. Are you ready?


I realize that this will make me sound like I was born in 1901 like Edward Cullen, but I wasn’t. We had The Simpsons when I was in high school. We had Law and Order. But no Internet. See, the Internet is just not that old.

Well, okay . . . TECHNICALLY there was an Internet when I was in high school, but it wasn’t very fancy, and pretty much no one knew about it, and you couldn’t really do very much with it. I think it was just some crap like the lunch menu at the Pentagon and you could only get to it through a phone line if you were a complete computer wizard who made jokes about binary code.

So I went through all of high school without using the internet. Well . . . okay . . . there was this one time I used the Internet in high school. I guess I can tell you the story.

My hot friend (you know, the hot one) and I were sitting around in my room. We were bored, so I got online and made contact with another machine. This other computer said to me in a creepy computer voice, “Do you want to play a game?” And I was like, “Sure.” It asked me what game I wanted to play, and I said, “I don’t know. How about Global Thermonuclear War?” It said fine and started rolling out all these sweet graphics of submarines and maps of Russia.

So the computer, my hot friend, and I are playing this game . . . but then my hot friend and I realized it totally WASN’T a game when the FBI swooped down on us. See, (and this is the embarrassing part) . . . we’d accidentally hacked into a military supercomputer and sort of, in a way, started World War III. So we had to escape from the FBI and find the crazy professor who made the computer in the first place. Then the professor, my hot friend, and I broke into NORAD. We thought the professor could reason with the computer, but the computer didn’t want to hear it. It had started a game of Global Thermonuclear War, and it planned on winning. (I kind of understood this because I am the same way with Monopoly, but still.)

I was all, “OMG, I am so sorry.” Things were looking pretty bad, but then I realized I could teach it the futility of war by getting it to play thousands of games of tic-tac-toe, which it did until it finally gave up and said “the only winning move is not to play.”

And that was really the only time I messed with the Internet in high school.

Oh, no. Wait a minute. That’s the plot of the movie WarGames. I was wondering why I looked so much like Matthew Broderick.

I’m really glad that that there’s an Internet for you guys who are in school, though I often wonder what would have happened if I had been born just a few years later and had the same opportunities. I shudder to think of the insane hijinx I would have gotten up to if I had had the Internet back in the Polyester Gulag days. I would have had a blog, and I would have joined all kinds of groups and forums and updated my page every two hours.

I think if there had been online chatting as well I would never, ever, ever have done my homework. As it was, I skated by without doing any math (except in class, on my lap), ad libbing my way through religion on the “I am not Catholic and therefore could not possibly understand” platform, and copying my friend Suzanne’s advanced music theory homework. I did my French in homeroom, and I definitely remember finishing a project for social studies on the windowsill of the third floor bathroom. ("What about the BUS?" you ask. The bus came at 6:30 in the morning and was usually about 110 degrees with steam on the windows, so the bus was for sleeping. We all slept. I called it the rolling incubator.) At night, I did my English, whatever science I was taking, and my German, because my German nun could kill a man with one arm tied behind her back while armed with nothing but a St. John Neumann prayer card. The rest was improvisation, more or less.

If I had had a blog too it would have been ALL OVER and I’d STILL be in high school (as I dream I am about three nights out of every given week) . . . so I hand it to you guys for finding some balance, if you have.

IF you have. That’s a big if!

The Internet is awesome. There’s just no getting away from it. Take away my wifi and I twitch like a tiny, tiny bug in a twitching competition. I like the Internet so much that sometimes I HAVE to unhook myself so that I can . . . you know . . . do my job. Because it can be hard to write a book while you’re checking your e-mail and chatting on the Abba forums. Oh, I call it research. I call it work. But 75% of the time it’s just me JACKING INTO THE MATRIX TO LOOK AT LOLCATZ.

So I disconnect, and I twitch for a while, and then . . . productivity comes. One of the reasons I CAN do this is because I remember my old self, the one that had no Internet. I remember not having Wikipedia. I remember not being able to get any news I wanted by clicking a button. I remember a time before my e-mail inbox.

Sometimes, that’s what you have to go back to, friends. Whether you have a test to study for, or you have to stop obsessing over something, or you have been forcibly removed from your computer . . . sometimes, you just have to face not being online. And because I like nothing more than to give you tricks and tips . . . here are some for making that painful transition.

Step one: Step away from your computer for a few hours at a time.

Hey! We have to get green! Turn that thing off (when you are done reading this blog)! What’s the worst that can happen? Oh, yeah, sure . . . maybe David Tennant will send you an e-mail saying, “DO YOU WANT TO PLAY MY NEW COMPANION ON DOCTOR WHO? ANSWER RIGHT AWAY OR I HAVE TO ASK SOMEONE ELSE.” Or someone will leak the entire new Harry Potter movie, and the site will only stay up for fifteen minutes. Or Abba will try to IM you.

Try not to think about those things.

Okay. That’s impossible. Just skip this step and go right on to . . .

Step two: Go outside without a device that transmits information.

That’s right. No laptop. No phone. Remove the GPS chip your parents had surgically imbedded in your arm. Be unreachable. Wander! Remember, bear attacks are not that common! If you were online, you might be reading the quotes from Allena Hansen, who survived a bear attack earlier this month:

“I found myself down on the ground. I heard, ‘Chomp, chomp, chomp.’ I felt it go through my skull. I felt it bite through this eye,” Hansen said. “I heard kind of a squishy, crunchy pop. I went, ‘There goes my eye!’ Then it got hold of my face and started shaking—you know, worrying it. I could feel it tearing off. I could feel the blood, the wetness; I could see it dripping; I could hear it ‘whooshing.’ And I think the one thing that was most vivid to me was watching that little bugger spit my teeth out.”

Errrr . . . don’t go outside. Forget that. Why, you can have an adventure right in your own house! Try . . .

Step three: Bond with your family.

Oh, that’s who those people are! Learn how to do it from this short movie!

Looking back on my three steps, I am starting to think that you should maybe stay online. Yeah. Just stay online. Like me. Stay online and leave me a comment, because you might win the last Suite Scarlett in this summer’s giveaway! It was HORRIBLE before the Internet. What was I THINKING?


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Sunday, August 17, 2008


In my last post, I asked you if you had any questions about books. Today, I have tried to answer just a few of the questions that came in. They were all excellent, but I ended up going on and on and on about a few. Feel free to chime in! Everyone can chat in the SALON!


lightforms said...
Why don't vampires go after people their own age?

I assume because “people their own age” are either extremely, extremely old or are, in a word, dead. Just to take Twilight as an example . . . Edward is what? 107 years old? Even eHarmony is not going to be able to help with that. Can you imagine his online profile?

Name: Edward Cullen

Age: 100+

Physical appearance: Rock solid body. (No, really. A rock solid body.) Also, kind of pale, sparkly. Basically, I am a diamond shaped like a guy.

Skills: Running, basic cooking, playing piano. Also, can throw a minivan half a block and hear you think.

First concert you ever went to: John Phillip Sousa plays “27 Great Military Marches.”

First album you ever bought when you were a kid: Home gramophones were not commonly in use at the time.

Likes: Overcast days, running through the woods at night eating elk.

Dislikes: Open wounds, large dogs.

Do you see what I mean? Even with his 29 dimensions of compatibility, Dr. Neil Clark Warren would have a hard time finding Edward a match. And if there are some single 100 year old women out there, they are probably not very good with the internet.

Even the littlest vampires are about 80, and it’s technically possible for them to find someone their own age . . . but then you’d have an 80 year-old going out with someone who looks and acts like someone about 20 and then you’d have . . .

Oh wait. You’d have Harold and Maude! And that would be AWESOME! Okay, I see your point. Maybe they should actually date people their own age, if they can. But if they’re over a hundred, anyone should be fair game.

a literate musician said...
What do you think of Jacob imprinting on Nessie?

It certainly puts a new spin on cradle robbing.

hayley said...
Dear Maureen:

I just wanted to say that I am an avid reader of your blog; and, also, a vampire. I would like to know if I could come to your house one day and discuss obscure literary theories. I promise I won't eat you.

Sincerely, Hayley

You cannot fool me, “Hayley.” I see right through you. I know exactly who you are. Free Alan Rickman now!

killersmile said...
I hear that a lot of people didn't like the end of Breaking Dawn and so a lot of people returned it to their bookstores. I don't think that there is any area of this situation that doesn't suck. Readers get a bad (ish?) book, bookstores don't get any money, and Stephanie Meyer, who has put so much time and effort into this series, gets negative feedback. Do you think this hurts more or less than having a book banned? How do authors deal with negative feedback?

Having a book banned is always worse, because it is worse for everyone. All book-banners are fascist dweebs, without exception, and they are almost always non-readers. When they win, we all lose, because that means that we are now taking direction from certified idiots and have curbed the public discourse based on their incredibly limited understanding of anything.

Negative feedback is just one of those things you have to deal with. Just because the comments are negative doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wrong. But the psychic impact of reading all the negative comments to get to the nuggets of wisdom, if they are there, can be profound and leave you twitching in the corner. You deal with it by . . . um . . . just dealing with it. Or by twitching in the corner.

beauxdanseur282 said...
Has the fan reaction to Breaking Dawn frightened you, as a YA author?

Let me answer your question by talking about something else entirely.

I was fascinated by the Breaking Dawn discussion because it brought so many people out to talk about books. There were two comments I saw over and over again really made me go a little insane. They aren’t really about Breaking Dawn; they’re much broader. I have responded to these below, because if I didn’t, I was going to lose my mind and end up eating my own tie on television like Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili. (Oh, BBC News. Did you really say “chews over his next move.” Really?)

ANNOYING POINT ONE: Fiction doesn’t have to make sense! It’s okay for the rules to change at any time. Fiction is just a bunch of made up stuff! Fantasy, especially, can do anything, at any time . . . because it’s really WEIRD fiction!

Yes, fiction is “made up stuff,” but in order for a story to function, it has to follow its own rules. If it doesn’t, it is BROKEN. All meaning and significance goes out the window. Fiction is not just a grab bag of random paragraphs, unconnected ideas, and cracked trains of thought. Saying that fantasy IN PARTICULAR has no rules . . . oooh. You just made a lot of fantasy writers reach for their phasers, light sabers, and sonic screwdrivers.

Fantasy is a creative way of re-examining the world we know, giving us a new angle on familiar concepts. The stories resonate because, at heart, they are talking about things we know and understand. Stories can be strange—very strange indeed. They can diverge from whatever you think of as reality in a million different ways. A good fantasy strikes at a universal truth. To dismiss a story because of its fantastical nature is AN EPIC FAIL.

Fantasy writers (at least the good ones) break their own backs building the worlds of their stories, weighing the impact of their choices, showing the cause and effect of the new conditions they have established.

Just taking one of a bazillion examples of fantastic fantasticals: “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka is about a man who wakes up one morning and finds that he has turned into a giant insect. Bam. From the first sentence, weird things are going on. But the story doesn’t just fly off in a dozen different directions, breaking its own logic. It consistently follows that reality, and in doing so, tells one of the most moving stories about the human condition that has ever been put to paper. It’s not just random crap about some DUDE who gets BUGGY. He doesn't just stop being buggy for no reason. There's a POINT, and it gets made in a way that is, of course, impossible in life. This is the beauty of fantasy . . . showing us the real and possible through the unlikely or impossible.

ANNOYING POINT TWO: It’s just fiction! It doesn’t mean anything! If you want meaning, read non-fiction!

It’s hard to even know where to begin with this. I had to ice my head.

Look, not every book has to wield the Big Red Hammer of Significance, bringing it down on your head over and over again . . . but stories do carry messages. Maybe the message isn’t very deep. Maybe you don’t like the message. Maybe the author didn’t even mean for the message to be there. But stories show us a slice of experience—no matter how major, minor, wrongheaded, fabulous, profound, or inane. I think people who make statements like the one above are grossly underestimating the value and impact of fiction, especially on themselves.

I think most people know this, and we all figured it out in a different way. I learned it from watching Fat Albert when I was four years old.

My dad and Bill Cosby grew up in the same area of Philadelphia around the same time, and Fat Albert is based on real people Bill Cosby knew. My dad told me this, so I watched Fat Albert appreciatively. At the start of every episode, Bill Cosby explained that while stories would be fun, they might also have a meaning, something we could glean from them. This pretty much blew my four year-old mind. That and the fact that he was throwing signs and things to Fat Albert and Fat Albert was throwing them back.

That a cartoon could actually reflect real people and real situations . . . tiny mj was staggered. Then I was trundled off to Sunday School, where I learned that Jesus taught people through parables . . . stories! Fictions! Bill Cosby AND Jesus were both using stories?

That’s how I got the point. What about you?

I’m not suggesting you should analyze every story until your brain splits apart into tiny pieces . . . but just to dismiss any significance because something is fiction is deeply foolish. Stories are one of the most powerful and ancient rhetorical tools out there. Entire civilizations fall, and their stories remain. On the surface, some of these stories are cracked-out crazy . . . stories of gods and monsters and magical whatsits of all stripes. But these stories explained the entire world, and were often carried along, changed, retold . . . so that some of those ancient cracked-out stories affect the way we see things NOW.

So maybe that cheesy romance book you’re reading isn’t a civilization builder—it still may say something about the perceptions of romance and love, of desire, of our society’s current view of relationships. Or maybe it’s all about shoes. (Which could mean it’s about consumerism and our value system.)

There’s a million ways to nerd out on this. I just get freaked out when people are so quick to dismiss fiction as a force, especially coming from people who seem to be passionately moved by a work of fiction.

I’m much calmer now.


nicole s. said...
have you read How to Ditch Your Fairy, did you like it, and should I read it when it's released?

YES. I read How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier when it was just a little Word document, just making its way into the world. You should read it because it is EXCELLENT. No, really. It is AWESOME. And if you are disappointed in any way (you won’t be), come to my house and I will make you a taco.

betty said...
I just want to know what you think of "Paper Towns".

I think Paper Towns is awesome, and not just because I like John Green. It’s hard answering these questions because it sounds like I just like my friends’ books, but the thing is that I DO like my friends’ books.

summer said...
I has book question!

 In The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, where does the Time Traveler go to the bathroom?

I have always wondered this exact point about the TARDIS. Also, I didn’t realize until recently just how snide the Daleks are. For trashcans with plungers sticking out of them, they certainly are full of beans. I was particularly fond of this argument they get into with the Cybermen. I think I have a DALEK CRUSH!

Does this answer your question?

intheclouds23 said...
Do you think that Clary and Jace are really related?

You are talking about the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, which I adore. But you are asking the wrong question. The more important question is: HOW CAN WE GET MORE SIMON IN THERE? Why doesn’t she call it THE SIMON STORIES? This is what I want to know! And she KNOWS it, too!

But as for your question . . . I can’t actually talk about this because I have spoken to Cassie about these books at length (in my attempts to get more Simon in there) and she’s told me everything. My lips are sealed.

renee said...
Do you think Neil Gaiman is real? Do you think that you are real?

I am pretty sure I am a figment of Neil Gaiman’s imagination.


at said...
I was listening to "Honey Honey" while reading this blog post. 
Why hasn't there been an ABBA-inspired novel in which the main characters wear awesome fur coats in the snow and are practically perfect?

THIS IS AN EXCELLENT QUESTION! Books about completely perfect people are almost by definition boring and dumb, but this would be the exception. And they should also fight crime! And maybe have a spaceship! And a talking shark!

Oh wait. I’m channeling 70s cartoons again. Why were so many of them about pop bands who fought crime? Like Josie and the Pussycats and Jabberjaw.

I don’t care. IT’S STILL AWESOME.

suvi said...
Today was the first lesson of the compulsory music course in upper secondary school. You know what we did? WE SANG AND LISTENED TO AND LEARNED ABOUT AND WROTE ABOUT ABBA! All lesson was about Abba, and a little bit about the musicals Benny and Björn have done after Abba. We sang Money Money Money, and Mamma Mia, and SOS, and the teacher really tried to make sure that we know everything about them.

Now I know that Finnish education is the best in the world. Everyone HAS to take that music course. They won't graduate without it. And what is so very important that everyone has to know about it? Abba, of course!

I can’t hear you over the sound of me PACKING MY BAGS AND MOVING TO FINLAND.


reese said...
Did you ever consider writing a book about Aliens that suck out people's brains while at the Olympics?

Have you not read Suite Scarlett?

libraryhermit said...
What's your next book going to be about?

Thank you for asking! The next one to come out is Scarlett Fever, the sequel to Suite Scarlett, and the one after that will be the sequel to Scarlett Fever! So it’s pretty Scarlettastic for the immediate future. Then I’ll do something else.

chelsea said...
I just noticed that on the cover of The Bermudez Triangle, the 'M' in 'Bermudez' and the 'A' in 'Triangle' are both a little out of line. Does that have anything to do with Mel and Avery, or is it just a coincidence?

WOW. That is some observational skill. I have no idea.

victoria said...
But is this choice of a random commenter to win a copy of Suite Scarlett really random? Or do you just choose you're favorite comment and say its random? Will it help my chances by saying that I nearly died laughing while reading Suite Scarlett, and that Spencer is now one of my favorite literary figures of all time?

What if I told you that you happened to be today’s random winner? Because you are. But it’s not because you were nice—I SWEAR.

In case you are thinking that I will be giving out Scarletts to random commenters forever . . . I won’t be! It ends this month!

But since it’s still on now, leave a comment and let me know what YOU are thinking about!

Did anyone see the Obama/McCain live forum tonight? One thing is clear . . . TIES ARE OUT! WHAT WILL THEY EAT WHEN THEY GET NERVOUS?

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Thursday, August 07, 2008


It is impossible to be in the world of YA and not mark the release of Breaking Dawn, which came out this Sunday to wild fanfare. I saw many vampires and werewolves on the subway on Friday—many more than normal. All were heading to the bookstore! I like big events in which many, many people crowd bookstores. And I like the fact that people are so excited to read!

There’s been a lot of talk about Breaking Dawn since it came out. It’s sparked a spirited debate. Again, I saw, hooray! So much book discussion!

In fact . . . the discussion is EVERYWHERE. My inbox is flooded with questions from people who want to know what I think about the book and the issues it raises. As you know by now, I don’t shy away from the hard questions. Today, I wanted to talk about a few of the critical questions. I hope this can in some way inform your arguments, or maybe just add to your general knowledge base.



Vampires are 100% real, but, of course, they don’t behave in the way you see in stories. Real vampires are extremely boring.

Vampires do not generally attack anymore because the government carefully regulates them. The Red Cross was invented as a cover organization to provide them with all the blood they need. It is generally assumed that this marks the point at which vampires actually stopped being cool, putting on awesome outfits and hunting their prey. They became lazy and complacent, sitting around waiting for their blood deliveries in their underwear.

Mostly, vampires hang around the house, spending almost all their time online, leaving incredibly tedious and needlessly complicated comments to discussion boards and updating their blogs. All vampires have blogs. You have never read one because they are so boring, no one ever links to them. They also run Wikipedia.

It is a tremendous act of charity that so many writers take on the subject of vampires and make them sound glamorous. Vampires love to read vampire novels, but being the annoying creatures they are, they tend to obsess over all the wrong details. Instead of noticing all the sexy and cool things that the vampires in the books do, they will focus on minutiae (“in chapter three, the author says the main character’s car is forest green, but in chapter eight, it’s more like lime!”).

Make no mistake, though. Vampires are dangerous. Given the chance, they will come into your house and talk to you—about obscure literary theories, the history of the tractor, the taxation system in ancient Mesopotamia—whatever takes their fancy. Because they don’t need to breathe, they can talk and talk and talk until you die. And then they eat you.

Real vampires are socially awkward.


No, of course not.


Why does anyone do anything? Here is a picture of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, as carved from a 2,000 pound block of cheese. Why did someone do this? I HAVE NO IDEA. I mean . . . what do you do with it? Do you eat it? Do you just keep it around until it molds? Do you keep it in a refrigerated unit forever? This kind of thing keeps me up at night and makes me feel like I don’t understand anything. It also really makes me hungry for a cracker. Do you see what I mean? DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN???

One of life’s wonders.


As more or less everyone knows by now, whether they’ve ever read the books or not . . . Bella and Edward get married. Edward is 17 by way of 80 (vampire years), and Bella is 18. Getting married at eighteen is a fairly shocking prospect these days, at least where I come from. How do you know if you’re ready? How do you know if the time is right?

I found this highly informative two-part video that will tell you everything you need to know about this question. Please watch it carefully.

If you want to continue learning, please watch the second half, in which more graphs are produced:


Thank you for asking! Yes I do. Not only is this shiny, but it is the best disco number of all time. I have personally just watched this twenty-five times in a row, and if I don't get one of those sparkle outfits, I will die. (If you look closely, you will notice that their microphones are color coordinated to their outfits. Oh, Abba. You and your constant perfection!)

Today’s Scarlett winner is kuri-skoldpadda. The summer of Scarlett giveaway is almost over, but not YET! So another book to another random commenter. Do you have any more book-related questions I can answer, about any books at all?

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