Read, If You Like: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Steifvater

I wrote a review for The Raven Boys about three millennia ago, so as Call Down the Hawk has been something I’ve looked forward to since Maggie mentioned it on Twitter in 2016, it felt fitting to do my current version of a review, which is Read, If You Like. As with all of the reviews-slash-vague-recommendations I do, there are no spoilers!

Read Call Down the Hawk (Maggie Stiefvater, 2019), if you like:

  • Excellent dress sense
  • Questionable dress sense
  • Art. Traditional, historical art,  I mean. Museum art. The sort that talking about gets you quiet respect at dinner parties or makes you sound like a dick depending on how you talk about it
  • Weird shit magic. Properly odd ‘what the fuck is going on do I understand what I am reading wait yes I do this is fabulously mind-bending’ magic
  • Women with beautiful hair. I can think of at least three and probably six women in this novel whose hair is stunning
  • The Raven Cycle. Call Down the Hawk starts after the end of The Raven Cycle, and you definitely don’t have to have read it to understand or enjoy it. IT STANDS ON ITS OWN MAGICAL MERIT. Certain scenes will be more delicious and/or devastating if you have, though, and you should read The Raven Cycle anyway, for health reasons
  • The sort of anxiety that rips a literal hole in your stomach. I meant this in relation to a character, but to be honest I am now thinking a lot about the sequel BE STILL MY INSIDES
  • Over thinking about how you’re living your early-mid twenties. I am now in my mid (!) twenties and whoever said it’s easier once you’re out of your teens was a damn liar. I mean, 24 is better than 17 was, but does it look like what I thought it might look like? Nah. Call Down the Hawk gets it.

Writing this has reminded me that I almost impulse bought a BMW over the weekend. It was red and convertible. I would love to blame the fact there’s a BMW in Call Down the Hawk, but mostly it’s the car’s fault for being the only vehicle on the entire internet that wasn’t absolutely hideous. Why is buying a car so difficult? All I want is something with medium boot space and an automatic gear shift that doesn’t look as though it was designed for a semi-retired boules enthusiast (it’s time to admit that the Mini is giving me taxi driver’s hip and that my complete lack of ease behind the wheel is mostly caused by the fact I can’t reach the pedals). GIVE ME A CAR I AM COMFORTABLE TAKING ON A ROADS, PLEASE, UNIVERSE. One that doesn’t make me feel like I’m about to start a conversation about annuities and The Archers, please, universe.

What a detour from the original topic. Here is my copy of Call Down the Hawk. There is a bit of gin on it already, and some bathwater. Also butter. Those were mostly unrelated readings. I pulled a couple of tarot cards for the picture, since I don’t have any scented candles or bookstagram accessories. By pulled I mean chose the ones that felt apt, which I guess is spoilery if you know your tarot but haven’t read the book yet? FAIR WARNING LOOK AWAY NOW.

paperback of 'Call Down the Hawk' by Maggie Steifvater next to The Tower and Eight of Swords from Raven's Prophecy Tarot

I’m off to look for a car that looks like that BMW but smaller-ish and with less of a rep. Ish.

Halloween 2019 ft. Raven’s Prophecy Tarot and Quite a Lot of Lace

The other day I wrote about finding tarot cards for my Halloween costume and promised pictures. I forgot to take any photos (always the sign of a good party) but I’m aware that many of you will have been waiting for pictures with BAITED BREATH… so I put some of my jewellery back on this morning, used my shawl as a tablecloth and took some photos of Maggie’s Raven’s Prophecy deck, which was shipped with satisfying speed and arrived Friday morning. The cards came with a how-to book, which is good because I ended up reading for half the room.

9 Raven's Prophecy tarot cards on table next to deck

I didn’t think the cards would be simplistic, necessarily, but I did underestimate how bold and intricate they are. The art has been carefully considered and planned out for all 78 (!) cards. They’re also way bigger than playing cards, so if you have the hands of a small child (hi) you might have a bit of a job shuffling.

3 Raven's prophecy tarot cards held by gloved hand

The only thing the cards didn’t come with was a bag, so I repurposed a clutch for the occasion:

Very little of my extended family’s group chat footage is suitable for public consumption, but my aunt (hi Jo) did get a photo of yours truly in wait for her Peaky Blinders audition.

Halloween costume fortune teller

That’s three necklaces, six bracelets, five earrings, one fantastic purple dress I will legitimately wear again and a shawl that doubles as a tablecloth, all for the high high price of £9.05 including the carrier bag. I have no idea why regular shops exist when charity shops are full of fabulous garments waiting to float their way into my wardrobe. Most of the necklaces belonged to my grandmother, who I think would approve of the amount of hair I’ve got these days, and that second glass belongs to my aunt, probably.

I will share photos of the Etsy deck as and when it arrives (I’m so excited for cute little coffins!) and may or may not start moonlighting as a tarot reader. I have no idea how many tarot readers are atheists, but that might be a good selling pitch. ‘I read your cards; you decide your future.’ ‘Reasonably priced tarot readings inside… spiritual advice not included.’ ‘I’ll tell you what the pictures represent; you’ll have to decide if they actually mean anything to you.’

You know where to find me, just saying.

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

‘Am I Screwing Over the Book Industry By Releasing My Work for Free?’ and Other Existential Questions

Over the weekend Maggie Stiefvater wrote about the implications of book piracy and, when the Internet told her off, told a story about dealing with book piracy. You can read them both at your leisure (the story is worth five minutes of your time for its sneaky genius alone). Today I want to talk about the questions it threw up for me both as a reader and as someone who posts writing on the Internet for free.

First off, I work at a literary consultancy a day a week so I know a minuscule amount about publishing. I know a little more about writing and way more about reading. But I do know that publishing fiction in 2017 is not the easiest of things. Books are luxuries and household incomes are not always at luxury-buying levels. Savvy publishers will buy a book whose content or author has a reasonable chance of making them a profit before they consider some left-field niche wee book from a new author. My Everyday Acts of Murder series, currently available for everyone on my stories blog, probably won’t get an ISBN-d print edition until I have 8 million Twitter followers or have been to the Olympics or something. So yeah, books are hard to produce and expensive to buy. People are broke. So let’s think outside the metaphor and share art and make money in other ways?

Enter: me, using Patreon to offer readers an early release of my stories, plus some other little perks I can feasibly create with no budget, from one US dollar per month. You guys get free content, I get money from those of you who care enough to pay me, everyone is fulfilled!

Except.

Maggie points out that ‘if you take away a paying-for-art model, you end up only getting art from people who can afford to work in their spare time or art that is supported by patrons — both models that we have seen before, both models that end up giving you art produced by and for a homogeneous and upper class group’. But Francesca, you’re thinking, you aren’t upper class and homogeneous, we aren’t upper class and homogeneous and we know you can’t afford to give your work away for free! True. I had to double-check what ‘homogeneous’ means, for one thing, and for another I don’t give any other type of my work away for free – not my marketing services, not the stationery I design on Etsy (or not since I made my watermark uncroppable, anyway). So why did I go for the free-content-with-paid-perks-available model?

Before I opened up my story blog I spent several deeply unsatisfying years trying to find a job that allowed me to say ‘I’m a writer’. Eventually I decided to just go and be a writer. Running my own blog gives me the freedom to make what I want and when. I’m always working on something, because a blog can go on indefinitely, and I can interact with my readers in real time. No one directs me (I do have a critique partner, though, I’m not a complete heathen) and it’s my space, just like this blog is. Although you can have a character named after you for a dollar (one dollar!) or suggest a story prompt, I choose what I do with your name and your prompt. F r e e d o m!

Except.

Am I removing piracy’s power by putting everything online myself for free, like Maggie did by flooding the Internet with her own book, or am I ripping myself off and lowing my own standards? If  individuals personally gave me hundreds of dollars of their own money, could I still claim to be completely independent? Would I feel beholden to them and their ideas? When someone throws a tantrum on this blog or Twitter, I can comfortably tell them to fuck off. What happens when that person is paying for my car insurance? Were I to publish a full-length novel, would anyone buy it or would they assume I should post that for free, too? I could conceivably follow the route of never charging up front and rely on people buying perks on Patreon forever, but there’s an economic theory I can’t remember the name of which stipulates that people will pay what they think an item is worth. If your price is low or non-existent, as I have learnt with my Etsy, people will assume it’s not worth paying for. If you demand money, they know that what you’ve got to offer is worth money. I feel like that applies to the book industry as a whole – if I offer my work for free and a person who happens to be a fan of The Raven Cycle likes it, will they resent Maggie for not releasing her work for free as well? Am I devaluing books everywhere? Will I become exclusive and homogeneous? Am I ripping myself off? And is it a new level of narcissism on my part that I read about a New York Times bestselling author’s experience with piracy and immediately worried about my own work, which as an audience of about a dozen people, being pirated?

(Yes.)

This is the bit where I tell you I once read a pirated copy of The Dream Thieves. I could offer the excuse that I was in a bad state mentally at the time, which I was, or that I had the book on order from my library, which it was. But I know better and I could have exercised restraint. I just didn’t. Sorry, Maggie, it was a dick move on my part.

Book piracy is easy and free and right there. It’s not going away unless a lot of people grow a conscience, which isn’t likely, or until enough authors or publishers or agents find ways to beat pirates (ha) at their own game. At the moment, me sharing stories on a blog is also easy, free and right there. I like it. I feel like I’m working hard to create fiction I’m proud of, and I know I can be proud that I’ve tried another way of making money from something I enjoy and am good at. Karma probably exists after all, because I earn one dollar a month on Patreon and will realistically one day have to send a cease and desist to a shitbag on Etsy who thinks they can copy and paste my designs. I haven’t even talked about second hand books today, because unless they’re advanced reader copies someone paid for them originally, but would publishers be less inclined to cut a series due to low sales if they knew how many second hand copies were in circulation? Should second hand sales count in sales figures given that most people who can’t afford a new book will go to their library and/or favourite second hand bookseller before looking for a pirated copy? Would less people pirate books if we had more libraries?

I don’t have the answers – I barely have coherent questions – but I feel like the only way any of us are going to keep seeing books in shops is if we keep talking about what books are worth, and what writers are worth, to us as readers. Some people will never place value on other people’s art, and instead of debating whether piracy is inevitable, we should probably just concentrate on making it really, really difficult. So tell me your thoughts on free art versus paid art and all of that versus piracy. Tell me how you would end pirated books. Have you ever confronted someone you know is pirating books? I’m kind of done with repeating the word ‘pirate’ even if it is Halloween…

(If I ever show signs of becoming remotely homogeneous, you have my permission to punch me in the face.)

PS I remembered I had photographed my dogeared shitheap partially second hand copies of TRC but I seem to have lost ‘Blue Lily’. How appropriate.

Broody BFF Challenge: YA & Music (ft. Maggie Stiefvater, Troye Sivan and… fan fiction)

Okay, so you might have noticed I’m a Maggie Stiefvater fan. I reviewed The Raven Boys way back, I met Maggie at YALC last summer and offered her my dad’s Mustang, I irritated my brother into reading The Raven Cycle and he took The Dream Thieves to Asia with us and now it looks like this:

 

Coincidentally I’ve also been trying to practise my screenwriting, and since I cut my prose teeth on FanFiction.net (yes, you can still find me on there and no, I’m not providing a direct link) I thought I’d do the same with scripts: using a book as a template so I could stop worrying about inventing a story and focus on practising how to tell it. Since The Raven Cycle is one of those books that has found its way into my bloodstream and will never leave, I played around with ideas for a Raven Boys TV show (this was way before the actual TV series was announced). I have index cards and post it notes and tiny little Fade In documents, and it’s safe to say I will look at them again when I want to pull out my eyeballs with embarrassment – think very bad fan fictions, then think of something worse. 

Onto the #BroodyBFF challenge. Last year The Raven King came out and if I love my own books half as much I’ll be pleased. I won’t give anything away but there is a scene that reminded me of a song. Or the song reminded me of a scene, I can’t remember which came first. If I were writing this in a show, I thought to myself, this is how that episode would end. Here is the song:

It would not be a spoiler to say that Bite is not really about anything to do with that scene – it’s about certain clubs with sticky floors and certain men who visit them – but I can’t not think of The Raven King when it comes up on my playlist. Which, once you’ve read the books, is either really appropriate or really inappropriate. Kind of like fan fiction is, now I think about it.

Am I looking forward to the TV show? No. I’ve only ever come across one good book-film adaptation, and that involved the book’s author, who is also a screenwriter and director, doing the screenwriting and directing. As far as I know, Maggie Stiefvater’s long list of talents does not include those things. Also, I’m not writing it. That scene will never end that way with that song. So probably one day I will either write that scene myself into my Fade In documents to satisfy my artistic hunger or I’ll put it in  piece of my own work instead. It’ll be fucking awesome.

I’m at Village Green this Saturday so Read, If You Like... will probably go up Monday. If you’re one of the #BroodyBFFs, link me your blogs! And if you’re involved with the TRB TV show, I am prepared to trade four books worth of script feedback for my firstborn child.

I Got Mail and It Wasn’t Something I Ordered for My Shop

I submitted a piece of writing to a publication today and holy shit I had forgotten how stressful it is. Not the writing (okay maybe a little bit the writing) but the titling and proofing and second guessing whether you can even speak English.

I’m going to de-stress by looking at my recently-filled bank account and browsing Etsy for cute things. Speaking of cute, this arrived in my postbox the other day:

I love fan art zines and anthologies (this is going alongside Ladies of Literature Volumes I and II, and a Heroes of Olympus one). Reading them is the only time I ever wish I could draw as well as I write, because no one ever does writing zines… I guess they would be called books. Anyway thank you to Caroline who very nicely sent me this even though the project’s closed (can  I just say that the level of sleuthing required to find zines that aren’t taking orders any more but you want one anyway and were just broke and abroad when orders were open is insane).

I’m going to peruse it and play a game where I choose which artists I would want to illustrate my work… spoiler alert ALL OF THEM. Also if you have no idea which book series this zine is from you need to read The Raven Cycle immediately. I’ve even reviewed it for you, kind of.

Urgh, now I want to organise a zine where writers and artists collaborate on work. Or just organise a zine. Or just buy more zines.

I’m going to Etsy.

Happy Friday!

Book Hangovers & Nine Hamlets

Good news: I’ve worked out how to live with a fucked keyboard. Bad news: I haven’t gotten off my arse to buy a new one. I did get off my arse when I got a text last weekend that my copy of The Raven King was in Waterstones – literally as I walked through the door after a day of working opposite my local Waterstones, half an hour before it closed. I haven’t physically run that much since year nine cross country, holy shit. Cue an evening of ignoring the universe and wondering who I can sell my soul to in order to write that well.

In short, I’m book hungover. I also missed this:

But I think Shakespeare would have approved of my forsaking him for a story, so thank u Internet for letting me see this later.

Could I buy all the Raven Cycle merchandise I can find and call it a business expense? Insofar as I have remembered how much I love books and how much I want to make books all the time. Maybe I could enter it under Misc: inspiration. If David Cameron can stash his cash in South America, surely I can buy a couple several t-shirts, some stickers and a handful of posters with my HMRC-approved cash?

Or maybe I will just go and reread the series and plot ways to absorb Stiefvater’s evil genius. The temptation to make a sacrifice joke here is potent.

 

Happy New Year!

Happy new financial year! I weirdly feel like it’s a fresh start, because even though we’re already one quarter into 2016 and nothing has changed since Tuesday, I have a new spreadsheet and a new folder and so far I’ve stuck to my to-do list because this will be my year goddamnit.

Speaking of making things mine, I have been s l o w l y carving out time for myself to write and practise writing (which really just means more writing) and buyoed by new year optimism I thought I would give my Patreon page a spring clean. I still need to make a proper video (I nearly had one a while back until I realised my eyeliner was smudged during the whole thing, and it wasn’t a fashionable smoky eye smudge either), but I’ve re-worked my rewards. As it stands as of now, all $3 patrons get a 100 word story on their virtual doorstep every time I review a book, $5 patrons get to see their name in lights, aka on the sidebar of this very site, and $50 patrons will have their name in the thank yous of every book I publish indefinitely. There are tiers between $5 and $50, by the way. Lots of choice.

I haven’t chosen April’s book yet, because I’m in a Raven Cycle reread frenzy before The Raven King comes out on the 26th, but I’m definitely going to have something done before the 26th because afterwards I will be a mess of Maggie Steifvater-loving (or hating, depending on the conclusion) tears.

Okay my allocated blog time is running out and I have five more things to knock off my list before I sit down with Mini Eggs in front of assorted TV dramas later, so I am going to massively hint that this is the link to my Patreon page and remind you that by supporting my work you not only keep this blog wheezing its way into its seventh year but you also help fund my travel and technical expenses, thus leaving my wages free to propel me into the next income bracket and fulfil my desire to spend less time marketing other people’s work and more time making my own. Like blogs about Mini Eggs.