This is a story about tarot decks and YA novels.

This evening I bought two sets of tarot cards. Officially it’s because I’m going to a Halloween party at the weekend. Unofficially, I feel really guilty about a small amount of book piracy in 2015.

Officially, I need tarot cards for my costume. I don’t, really, but the dress and shawl I bought in a charity shop are actually just a regular dress and shawl, so I feel like I might accidentally just look like an eccentric  if I don’t bring props. I left it way too late to buy anything fancy – and it’s a house party, not a seance – but I probably could’ve just bought a used deck off eBay or Depop. Instead, because I’ve been meaning to learn more about the tarot for ages, I trawled Etsy and Folksy and eBay and Depop looking for a deck with I genuinely like. No faux realistic graphics. Nothing with too many cats. No pictures of ethereal nymphs wearing gauze.

I found this cute major arcana deck on Etsy with incredibly sweet coffin-shaped cards, but the processing time is up to two weeks! So I bought it anyway because I wanted to support an indie artist (and because incredibly sweet coffin-shaped art, it turns out, is totally not an oxymoron). But I was still thinking, you can’t just dress as an eccentric, Francesca. You already are an eccentric, Francesca. So I trawled for decks with one-day shipping. They were all ethereal nymphs! Or quite expensive given this is a house party not a seance.

Then I remembered that in 2015, I bootlegged a copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves. If you’re new here, Maggie’s Raven Cycle series, in which The Dream Thieves features, is my favourite book series. I’m trying to be kinder to myself when considering past actions, so I am going to reflect upon my reading of a pirated copy-and-paste edition of TDT as a minor moral misstep during a time in which a fictional world brought me great comfort. Also, my library was taking forever to get its copy in.

I knew it was a shitty thing to do though. Then I bought a couple of Maggie’s books used off Amazon, that tax paying, small business supporting gem. Have I mentioned I’m now an indie author.

I’ve since atoned for my sins: I have a print from Maggie’s official store on my wall; at least three of the Maggie books on my shelf were purchased from a bricks-and-mortar shop; I’ve bought copies of her work for family; my YALC ticket that time was absolutely not scalped unlike My Chemical Romance tickets 9 years ago but that’s for another day; her next novel is pre-ordered at my nearest Waterstones.

But my grandmother was Catholic, so every time I see her post about book piracy and The Raven Cycle, I feel completely responsible.

So when I was considering one-day shipping and a costume prop I will realistically be too drunk to focus on, I got Maggie’s Raven Prophecy deck from Waterstones. Express shipping straight to the front door.

cover of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Prophecy tarot deck

Officially, I’m a professional indie creator and a little bit into karma. I can’t ask people to buy creepy cute art from my Etsy shop if I don’t get my own coffin-shaped tarot decks on Etsy; I can’t ask people to buy my weird magic YA novel instead of moaning about why it’s not already on Amazon if I don’t buy weird magic YA novels somewhere that isn’t Amazon. Or, in this case, buy the tarot card-companion to the weird magic YA novel. And really, if we’re being spiritual, the whole reason I have a vague interest in the tarot is The Raven Cycle, so this is quite… cyclical.

I’ve just now realised I don’t have a tarot guide. I have no idea how to read the multiple decks I’m expecting in the next one-to-fourteen working days. Good thing I’ll be three sheets to the wind for most of this party, then!

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I had my tarot read in Thailand? I can’t remember if I ever wrote about it. I can’t remember much of the reading, to be honest, except that I think I was supposed to get married at 24 or 26. It was dark, though, so maybe she interpreted marriage when she should have interpreted huge professional success. Or the desire to drive on motorways. Not sure how specific these things get.

If either of these decks actually turn up by Saturday evening, I’ll post pictures of them with my costume. I’ve bought a lace scarf and gloves off Depop that was originally for an ’80s night… I’m starting to think I’m just going to look like one of the Shelbys.

Update: I did in fact look like one of the Shelbys. I’ve put multiple card/costume photos here.

9 Raven's Prophecy tarot cards with a hand

Queuing, Coffee and Stories of Ugly Babies: Seeing Maggie Steifvater at YALC 2016

So I might have mentioned I went to the Young Adult Literature Convention. Here is a brief summary of my day.

The Working Toilet Search

I came into town on the Liverpool Street line, which is a) shittier than the Fenchurch Street line and b) obliged on Sundays to stop at every station in east London between Shenfield and Stratford. I necked a coffee somewhere around Rayleigh and by Billericay was thinking ‘yeah this carriage could really use a toilet’. By Stratford I was actually going to die so I hopped off in search of one. The only facilities in the entirety of Stratford station, as far as I could see, were out of order – so I made a quick detour to Westfield. Pro tip: Westfield is a ghost mall at 8:30am on a Sunday. Go then.

Why is Everyone So Quiet?

I clocked in just after ten – too late to muscle in on the first event I’d bookmarked, too early to spend all my money – so I got another coffee and sussed out where the fire exits were.

Which was easy to do

Because it was almost deathly quiet

Because everyone who wasn’t a vendor and probably some of the vendors

Was reading The Cursed Child

Which I had forgotten about

Because I am broke and try not to dwell on the things I can’t buy yet. Spoiler: it turned out I wasn’t too broke to buy an illustrated Philosopher’s Stone that was on sale. So I don’t know what past me was thinking, but she was a plonker not to reserve a copy. Pro tip: make sure you have money for Potter-related purchases. Another pro tip: cons are supposed to be buzzing. People in a group reading is wonderfully quiet and stupefying. YALC might be the only con in the world where stupefying is better. Go to it.

Agent Arena Publishing 102: God Exists

There’s quite a large part of my soul that belongs to the book industry, and the Agent Arena talk on publishing filled that part of my soul with hope that I might be able to work in it one day. Could I work in publicity? Maybe. Could I work in editorial? Maybe. Could I work in foreign rights? Probably not, because my grasp of foreign languages is shite. Pro tip: sit up the front because whoever designed Kensington Olympia forgot that sometimes small groups convene and like to hear one another.

Why the Fuck is there No Food Here

See Stories from the Bathroom Floor for why a packet of crisps  and a pot of melon three hours apart does not constitute an acceptable meal. In the end I found the food court at the main London Film and Comic Con (which looks way more chill than MCM, for the record) and scarfed a baked potato. Pro tip: bring more snacks than you think you’ll ever need. Especially if there’s a chance you’ll join a queue.

London Film and Comic Con Kensington Olympia
There’s more light at LFCC than I remember MCM having.

The Queue for Maggie in Conversation

Around about the time I was exploring the fire exits, people turned up. I turned a corner and oh, shit, there’s a fucking large queue to see Maggie Stiefvater in conversation. I should mention at this point that I went to YALC by myself, not expecting to see anyone I knew. I met a lot of people at various points, from bloggers and readers to agents. I completely forgot to ask names and swap Instas. So if you met someone wearing Blue Sargent dungarees and hair that vaguely resembled the bisexual pride flag, leave a comment. Pro tip: if I looked like I wanted to kill someone, that’s my normal face.

Maggie in Conversation

Some of you may yet see Maggie on tour, so I’ll let her tell you the story of the broken sunglasses. And the story of setting John Green on fire. And the story of her child vomiting on a long haul flight. Pro tip: there are no Raven King spoilers.

The Queue for the Queue for Maggie’s Signing

Only in Britain would you be made to queue for tickets that determine your place in another queue. Pro tip: get in there before number 238 of 250 if you want more than one book signed.

Queuing is really just like waiting for a gate to open in an airport, ie after a while you forget why you’re there

‘Come back in an hour.’ I did another round of exploring. I sourced a pot of melon. Then I sourced a baked potato. Numbers zero to 20 had become numbers zero to 40. ‘Come back in another hour.’ I made two phone calls. I took a photograph.

queuing for Maggie Stiefvater at YALC 2016

 

I discovered that my bag made a great pillow. I wrote some notes. I reflected that the last time I queued sitting down was the last time I saw Mindless. I missed seeing Mindless. Pro tip: bring friends to talk to for this bit, or learn to chat. 

Actually Meeting Maggie

It was 5:55pm. The con was closing. The queue was urgently shuffled forward. My number was called. I met a girl named Lizzie who had brought a notebook for autographs. I gave a lady my phone to take photographs. I gave another lady my book with my name on a Post It. A girl in front said ‘please pronounce the name of the boys’ school.’

‘Aglionby,’ Maggie said. Pro tip: she pronounces the G. 

The other lady gave Maggie my book, plus Post It.

Once upon a time an interviewer asked Gerard Way what fans usually said when they met him. ‘They usually just say thank you,’ he said.

‘Thank you,’ I said.

Then I said, ‘my dad told me to offer you his car.’ Then I said, ‘it doesn’t have a clutch.’

IT’S AN AUTOMATIC. I MEANT THAT IT’S AN AUTOMATIC. Also it is a Mustang and was either born in Texas or assembled there.

‘What colour is it?’ she asked.

‘Red.’ Officially I think it’s called something like “Midlife Crisis Ruby Metallic”.

‘Tell him to paint it black, lower it an inch and a half, and then we’ll talk.’

Meeting Maggie Stiefvater at YALC 2016

I have told him, but it’s probably a good thing that she has a no-driving-readers’ cars policy. Southend Borough Council dislikes paying out for road maintenance when the cause is drag racing down the seafront. Pro tip: they usually catch you drag racing down the seafront and moan about you in the paper. (No, that’s not a confession. I don’t think my Micra could drag race. I will wait until the Mustang is unattended.)

Then I hobbled back to the Liverpool Street line (my blisters actually have blisters), did a lil bit of Instagram bragging and thought that I might, like, go to Venezuela.

YALC feat. my hair

Remind me to never ask you guys’ opinion ever again.

Moving swiftly on.

Question: who’s going to YALC this Sunday?

Answer: me.

I’ll be signing autographs at 2pm. Look for pink/blue/purple/still mostly brown hair if you want to say hi, because I’ll be the one wearing it. I’ll also be clutching my copy of The Raven King to present to Maggie Stiefvater. It’s dogeared already because I sometimes read it in the bath. If you say hi, do not mention the bath. Compliment my dungarees or whatever I’ll be wearing to deal with the weather (could be a ski jacket by this weekend, who knows).

I have to go back to my quarter-life crisis now, which today has been exacerbated by Horrific 2016-Worthy News StoriesTM and half an hour counting the float for my craft fair on Saturday which I didn’t even need to do because I did it after the last fair. I also booked my drivers’ theory test yesterday for very soon and I’m just starting to comprehend that a) it’s very soon and b) my knowledge of road signs and motorway etiquette is almost as bad as my knowledge of when it’s okay to go at a roundabout.

I suppose that when I pass both tests I’ll be able to drive away from the crises.