I Think This Works Now

But this is just a test. Let’s see if another vast swath of comments disappears.

And, hey, here’s the French cover for The Last Days:


Peeps is called V-Virus in French, so TLD is called A-Apocalypse.

Sorry about all this mess with the server. Maybe it will work now . . .

TeenReads Interview

To those of you who missed me on my recent travels, an interview just appeared on teenreads.com. It contains some of the anecdotes I’ve repeated a zillion times on tour, and even a tiny drib about Leviathan!

Click here to read it.

And now a flash from the subterranean world of Peeps and The Last Days. (No, I haven’t forgotten about my non-Uglies novels. I’ve just been extra-focused lately.)

I just spotted this blog entry about the “Drains of Canada,” and the photos were right out of Peeps. Remember those scenes where Cal first goes down under Lace’s building? And gets chased by rats and stuff?

Well, here they are in the flesh (and in Canada, apparently):



Click here for more delicious underworldliness.

The Last Days in Paperback + DragonCon!

As mentioned earlier, Justine and I are headed to Atlanta next weekend for DragonCon. The schedule is below, but first something that I forgot to announce a few weeks ago . . .

The Last Days is at long last available in paperback! (And Amazon has a sweet two-for-one-price deal on Peeps and TLD. Own the whole duology for $17.98!)

Okay, here’s the schedule with Labor Day weekend. We’re not making any appearances outside DragonCon, because we’re lazy, plus I have tons of National Book Award reading still to do. But for those attending the con, either Justine or I are on the following panels:

Blood and Fur

From Stephenie Meyer to Cassandra Clare, books about vampires and werewolves are enjoying a hair-raising resurgence in popularity. Join us as we discuss why they are resonating with readers and learn about some of the new blood in this growing genre.
Scott Westerfeld, Heidi Heiner, Cassandra Clare, Diana Gallagher, Diana Herald
Hilton, Gwinett

New Voices in YA

Each year, new voices are emerging in YA literature. Join some of our most popular YA authors–Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld, and Justine Larbalestier–as they discuss their books and lives as YA authors.
Hanover CDE

Chicks Rule

Some of the strongest female role models are today’s YA heroines; we have Hermione’s book-smarts, Lyra’s cunning, and Arya’s toughness. Let’s talk about our favorite heroines and how these characters guide us to persevere in extraordinary situations.
Josepha Sherman, Diana Gallagher, Maureen Johnson, Justine Larbalestier
Hilton, Gwinett

Utopias and Dystopias

In books like Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, societies tightly governed by rules can create a perfect place–unless you break them. We’ll look at what makes the best possible worlds for YA authors—and how to function when all bets are off.
Scott Westerfeld, Diana Herald, Susan Fictelberg, Bonnie Kunzel, Tracy Akers
Hilton, Gwinett

I’ll try to do some blogging from the con, especially about the trip down there. We’re going down by train with Cassie Clare, Theo and Holly Black, and Maureen Johnson! DragonTrain!

Thanks for all your orders at Wearable Extras! Let me know how everything fits.

Peeps in Hebrew

Another package from a faraway land, this hebrew version of Peeps!

This is the most impenetrable (for me) version of Peeps so far. Because the alphabet’s different, it’s pretty hard to compare editions and see how things are translated. I can’t even find the website of the publisher, Modan.

And sorry about the lousy focus, but can anyone read the subtitle?

Speaking of all things peeps-like, here’s my new favorite sentence: “Jaded zombies acted quietly, but kept driving their oxen forward.” It uses all 26 letters! Much better than that quick brown fox dude.

And in other news, this was recently spotted online: the very first review of Extras so far. Don’t worry, there are no spoilers.

Photos of Peeps-world

For all you Peeps fans out there, an article in the NY Times today has tons of photographs from the underworld of New York City. These are exactly the sort of ancient sewers and abandoned industrial places that I had in mind while Cal was skulking around and chasing vampires.

If nothing else, this article proves that I didn’t make any of the underworld-y stuff up. This tunnel looks uncannily like one that Peeps spends many pages in:

photo by Steve Duncan, nicked from the NY Times

A gentle warning: One of the spelunkers in this article takes tasteful nude photos of herself underground. If the unclothed (but discretely concealed) human body melts your brain, don’t look!

Here’s the slide show version, with audio.

And don’t forget we’re still blogging at Inside a Dog. The LOLYAs contest is on for 36 more hours!

It’s Cat Week!

Because we were just doing feline-borne parasites, check out this article about cats in the Science Times:

Some 10,000 years ago, somewhere in the Near East, an audacious wild cat crept into one of the crude villages of early human settlers, the first to domesticate wheat and barley. There she felt safe from her many predators in the region, such as hyenas and larger cats, and the rodents that infested the settlers’ homes and granaries were sufficient prey for her.

Seeing she was earning her keep, the settlers tolerated her, and their children greeted her kittens with delight.

At least five females, of the wildcat subspecies known as Felis silvestris lybica, accomplished this delicate transition from forest to village, scientists have concluded, based on new DNA research. And from these five matriarchs, all the world’s 600 million housecats are descended.

That’s right, scientists are now theorizing that cats and humans go back 10,000 years. That’s way before the Egyptian empire existed to immortize its felines in onyx, back to the beginnings of argiculture. I’ve always loved the notion that cats have been with us since the dawn of civilization, guarding our storehouses from the rats and mice. Maybe without these allies, the whole settling-down-and-farming thing wouldn’t have worked, and we’d still be hunter-gatherers.

There are two new finds of interest:

1) A cat was recently found buried with its human owner in Cyprus, in a 9,500-year-old grave. So they’ve been domesticated long enough.

2) Housecat mitochondrial DNA has been traced back to five original females. So the alliance may have started in a single village!

I’ve already covered cat-human alliances in Risen Empire and Peeps. But wouldn’t a novel set in a stone-age village, about the first cats to tie their destinies to humanity’s, be kinda cool?

Cat Scat Fever

The NY Times has an article on parasites today that has some weirdly familiar language.

Predators want to kill you and eat you right there on the veldt. Parasites, by contrast, want to keep you alive, the better to serve as a parasite paradise, a cozy haven where they can grow at their own pace, suckle on your moist, nourishing tissues, multiply their numbers and finally, one way or another, pass those numbers along.

It was all sounding very much like a certain book of mine, but then the writer got to a couple of parasite life cycles I was unfamiliar with.

Meet the thorny-headed worm, which makes pill bugs want to be eaten by birds. And the horsehair worm, which grows so big inside grasshoppers that it finally busts out of them, like when the bad guys rip off masks in Mission Impossible. At the end, there’s an interesting point about taxoplasma-positive humans and our sense of smell.

Anyway, give it a read.

Update: Turns out the entire Science Times is about evolution today. Lots of good articles, including one by Carl Zimmer, who wrote Parasite Rex, the book that Peeps was mostly based on.

Parasite Saturday*

I’ve been blogging about Extras sort of non-stop lately, and have been thinking it’s time to talk about some other series.

Luckily, this new cover treatment came in the mail today from my pals at Atom Books:

Very splashy, huh? The colors (or colours, as this is the UK edition) are actually better than this, which is just a photo taken on my floor. An electronic version has been requested!

It’s more like the Aussie covers than the US ones. See?

And speaking of which, the Australian The Last Days is out now!

In more parasite news:

One of my librarian pals at TLA told me about these parasite plush toys. Squeezable. (Thanks, Kerry!)

Boingboing just blogged Who Is Sick?, a site that allows you to post your illnesses for amateur epidemiologists to track. Sort of a GoogleMaps for symptoms. (Warning: site runs slowly.)

This is a post from Carl Zimmer’s blog about “Corydceps, a parasitic fungus that drives its insect host up a plant before growing a spike out of its head.” With video! You may remember that Zimmer’s book Parasite Rex is the inspiration for my novel Peeps.

And here’s a very amusing and fictional Powerpoint presentation for Peter Watts’ book Blindsight, a novel with a very Peeps-like scientific explanation for vampirism. It’s available here in PDF for free!

Anyway, I’m not sure when TLD comes out in the UK, but the US version of the The Last Days is available here.

*Sunday in Australia.

And the Kitties Shall End the World

A very quick post for Peeps fans.

It seems that cats are possible bird flu vectors, providing the vital link between birds and people.

“Cats eat birds and therefore can become infected by this virus and help it to mutate and adapt” to mammals, said Andrew Jeremijenko, who headed an influenza surveillance project for the Naval American Medical Research Unit in Indonesia until last March. “Maybe there is a role that cats are playing and we don’t understand it yet.”

Sound familiar?

I love it when life imitates art.

Image stolen from Funny Cat Pictures.

Tale of Quasi-Woe

Hey, sorry I’ve been so lame posting this summer.* But I haven’t been totally lazy. I’ve been writing!

What, you may ask? Well, it’s a secret, and I can’t tell you any details about it yet.**

But here’s a funny thing that happened . . .

Quick note: This would be a good time for anyone who works for my publishers to stop reading. No really. Nothing to see, move it a long, because this is SO unrelated to delivery dates or professional issues of any kind. Okay?


So, all you non-publishing types, there I was, 16,000 words (65 pages) into my shiny wonderful new book. Except it wasn’t wonderful; something was deeply, deeply wrong. The voice, the plot, the structure all seemed to be sucking! No matter how much I edited the writing, smoothed the transitions, caffeinated the plot, or voicified the characters, it all just came out flat.

The whole book gave me that icky feeling of inexcusable lameness, like when they rap on Sesame Street, or when my parents would say “The Led Zeppelin” and “Clash,” instead of the other way around. Or when politicians clap along with the musical act before their speeches. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

My novel was to a good book what this object is to a florescent light:

This was taken by me on a NYC street. Is not that the awesomest? What the heck stepped on that light bulb? Godzilla? Truckzilla?

Anyway, back to my tale of quasi-woe. The weird thing was, I was pretty sure that somewhere, maybe just next door to what I was writing about, something pretty cool was happening. The world of the novel was fascinating, but the novel wasn’t.

So let’s skip past many sleepless nights and screaming writing sessions to a day shortly before Christmas. Justine and I were walking to breakfast, and I finally realized the problem . . . I had the wrong point of view.

The main character, the one whose POV I was writing from, was too smug, too knowing, and generally non-likeable. A certain other person in the story was saying and doing much more interesting things. And worse, most of those cool things were being said and done when my POV person wasn’t around, which meant that the reader was only getting told about them.

Which sucked.

So I tossed those 16,000 words, and started over.

Now, I’d like to say this was easy. Like I’m a fearless and industrious perfectionist, who cares only about the final product. But no . . . it came in slow, reluctant stages.

First I said, “Well, we can keep most of this stuff, just change some pronouns and whatnot, and it’ll all seemlessly become Character B’s POV. Just start the story earlier!”

That, of course, failed to work. After all that smoothing and editing, lame Character A had saturated the prose. So I told myself, “Well, maybe we can have two points of view, and I can keep maybe four or five thousand words.”

And that worked even less. Character A dropped back into the story like a led zeppelin, possibly even the led zeppelin.

So after much toing and froing (mostly froing), only a tiny fraction of those lost 16,000 words have been rescued. And all have come at an editing cost roughly equal to writing them from scratch in the first place. Possibly more.

But I promise, the novel is much, much better, and I am a happier writer-person. More importantly, these next months of effort will be far more enjoyable, and the next forty years of having this book on my shelf much less embarrassing. Also, I got to keep 100% of the thinking I’ve already done, free of charge!

And all at the small cost of one month’s work.***

So my words of wisdom for today are:

“Sometimes tossing out vast quantities of words is better than letting a whole book bleed slowly to death. Don’t give up, just start over.”

Okay, maybe that’s not the feel-good story of the year. But these are:

1. The Last Days and Justine’s Magic Lessons have both been nominated for the Aurealis Awards! Yay to us and the other nominees:

Monster Blood Tattoo: Book One. Foundling by D.M. Cornish
The King’s Fool by Amanda Holohan
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillie

2. After twenty-two months in print, Uglies has joined Pretties and Specials on the NY Times bestseller list. It’s wild for such an old book to appear for the first time on a bestseller list, and it can only mean that you guys are still talking it up to your friends. Yay to you.

3. Last July I blogged about some haiku I wrote for an issue of Subterranean Magazine. This issue can now be downloaded for free. Big yay to those publishers who realize that freely downloadable materials lead to more sales, not fewer.

*Southern hemisphere summer = December to February.
**Don’t even bother asking.
***Okay, maybe two months, if you include Thailand. But seriously, non-publishing dudes, I was chilling in Thailand.