It’s 6-something AM, and I’m blogging from my hotel room. How geeky is that?


But there’s a couple of interesting things. An interview with me in Children’s Bookshelf, which is part of Publishers Weekly. And a review/interview of Peeps in the Brisbane Courier Mail.

Argh. Jetlag and exhaustion sweep over me again, but I will say this: The Alps are pretty from above.

Stuff in My Cat

The Associated Press is reporting that H5N1—also known as “that avian flu that’s maybe gonna kill us all”—has a new vector*:


As readers of Peeps will know, this is a sure sign of The End Times. Well, okay, not really. Unlike my vampirism-causing parasite, H5N1 hasn’t yet been proven to move from cats to people. Of course, no one’s saying that it can’t happen, either.

Felines are scarier carriers than birds, if only because most of us don’t have chickens in our house. Pigeons don’t sleep on our chests at night. Turkeys don’t wind around our ankles when we get home. How much contact do we have with cats? Well, half of all Americans are infected with toxoplasma, a cat-borne brain parasite that changes human personalities. (Biology is kewl.)

For those of you who haven’t read my novel Peeps, it’s about a parasite that causes vampirism. The parasite starts out in rats, moving in times of crisis to cats and through them into humans. It’s kind of disturbing to see such a strong parallel in the real world. Especially as H5N1 is worse than the peeps-parasite in two ways:

1) It starts out in bird reservoirs, which can spread the disease globally much faster than rats.
2) It doesn’t give you any super powers. No night vision, no super-hearing. Zip.

The AP report goes on to make these points:

”We know that mammals can be infected by H5N1, but we don’t know what this means for humans,” [Maria Cheng] said.

[Thomas] Mettenleiter said there are no known cases of the virus moving from cats to humans, but he still cautioned pet owners on Ruegen [a German island in the Baltic Sea] to keep their cats inside for now.

”An infection of humans, which theoretically cannot be ruled out, could probably only occur with very intimate contact to infected animals,” Mettenleiter said.

So don’t toss your kittens into the fire yet. But quit, you know, kissing them.

And here’s some appropriate fan art from Jade Lennox:

AHHHH! (thanks, Jade)

This all reminds me, the beautiful Australian edition of Peeps just arrived in my mailbox, and hits stores in April.

*Note that this is merely the first time that H5N1 has been discovered in mammals in Europe. In Asia, there have been earlier incidents of captive, poultry-fed tigers and leopards contracting the virus, and one case of transmission among house-cats. Sorry for being Euro-centric, but I didn’t catch this till now.

Last Days + Interview

This is NOT going to be the cover of The Last Days (sort-of sequel to Peeps) but I thought you’d want to see it anyway.

You see, we’re still dithering about how to crop the image and how scary/pretty the vamp should be. Probably the skin tone will be made a bit less blue-ish, and a bit more of the picture revealed. (See here for the whole thing.)

But please, give your opinions here! The powers-that-be are watching . . .

Also, Cynthia Leitich Smith just posted an interview with me for the SCBWI conference in Bologna (see previous post). And here’s an equally riveting interview with Justine.

And one more also: I’m now finishing the re-rewrites on The Last Days, adding a layer of facty goodness to the story, much in the spirit of Peeps‘ parasite factoids. Except these are about extinctions.

Extinction is a very intriguing topic, it turns out. You’ve got your meteorites, your gamma-ray bursts, your supervolcanoes, and all manner of human-made apocalypses. So explodey.

World Tour!

Justine and I are only three weeks away to heading off on what we’ve been calling the “round-the-world jaunt that ate March.” This trip may kill us, but for those of you who live in Brisbane, San Francisco, NYC, or Bologna, it will mean a chance to say hi and get books signed.

Here’s our appearance schedule, starting with a trip up the east coast of Australia:

Saturday 25 February 2006
Aurealis Awards Ceremony
Brisbane, Qld

First a short hop up to Bris-Vegas for the Aurealis Award Ceremony. We’re both up for best Young Adult SF or Fantasy novel of 2005! Me for Uglies and Peeps, Justine for Magic or Madness. (I hope she wins, so I don’t have to make a speech.)

A little more than a week later, we fly across the Big Pond to California. We’ll be staying with friends, doing an interview with Locus Magazine, and doing two appearances:

Tuesday 7 March 2006, 7PM
Borderland Books
866 Valencia St
San Francisco, California

I’ll be sitting next to a big stack of Midnighters 3: Blue Noon and Justine will be signing her sequel, Magic Lessons.

And the very next night, doing the same thing, except here:

Wednesday 8 March 2006, 6PM
Books Inc.
Laurel Village
3515 California St
San Francisco

Then it’s off to New York for two weeks of hanging out with friends and making sure the NYC apartment hasn’t burned down, exploded, or become infested with parasites of some kind. For those of you within spitting distance of Manhattah, there’s one public appearance (so far):

Saturday 18 March 2006, 12-2PM
Books of Wonder
18 W 18th Street
New York City

But you aren’t allowed to actually spit on us. It’s just a figure of speech.

Finally in late March, we fly over to Italy for two things in Bologna:

25-26 March, 2006
SCBWI Before Bologna Conference

SCBWI is the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Justine and I are teaching three workshops together about writing for kids. One about synopses, one about slang, and one about regional voices. (Hey, if you want to enroll, it’s cheaper if you do it before February 15.)

And then the Fair itself starts:

27-30 March, 2006
Bologna Children’s Book Fair
Bologna Fair Centre – Piazza Costituzione Entrance

This is an annual event where pretty much every publisher in the young readers’ world comes together to schmooze, eat, drink, schmooze, and buy foreign rights. Justine and I will get to meet all the cool people who’ve translated our works into Italian, German, Japanese, Thai, Swedish, Chinese, Polish, Russian, Finnish, Hebrew, Spanish, and Slovene*. It promises to be full of multi-lingual conversations and good meals, because you can’t beat Italian cities with food named after them. (And that’s no baloney. Hah! . . . sort of.)

And at last there’s the mega-flight from Bologna, to Frankfurt, to Singapore, to Sydney. Followed by sweet, sweet death. (By which I mean, of course, sleep.)

*By the way, did I mention that So Yesterday sold in Slovene? You know, the language of Slovenia. The country Slovenia, next to Italy and stuff . . . Hey, Slovene is the new black, dude.

Peeps Is Unshelved

How kewl is this?

Unshelved a daily comic strip set in a library, which every Sunday becomes a book review in comic form. This is a fantastic idea, on top of which, Peeps is their book of the week! Color me very pleased.

Check it out:

Ah, if only they’d spelled my name right. But you can’t have everything.

For the full-size version, and the rest of this excellent strip, (and to see my name spelled right! thanks guys), go here.

I will take this opportunity to tell you all that Peeps has been on a winning streak lately:

Top Ten Book for the 2006 ALA Best Books YA Awards

Top 40 Children’s Books for 2005 in Kirkus Reviews

Best Books of the Year in 2005 in School Library Journal
(Justine’s Magic or Madness is on there too!)

Awarded a 2005 Blue Ribbon by the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Locus Recommended Reading List for 2005.
(Again! Magic or Madness is there in First Novels!)

Cool, huh? So thanks to all the librarians, reviewers, and editors out there who slave to read dozens (even hundreds) of books every year and then bother to write them up. Without you, us readers wouldn’t find nearly as much of the cool stuff there is to read.

And us writers? Well, we’d just starve.

(Feeling an impulse purchase coming on? Just click here. Or here!)

PS Thanks to John, Joe, and Kendall for alerting me to the Unshelved strip.

Last Days Cover Redux

Okay, so the previous cover designs for The Last Days didn’t get such a great reception. Knives were drawn, tears were shed. But as promised, the drawing board was gone back to. And this time with vamp-tastic results!

Just to remind you, The Last Days is my not-really-a-sequel to Peeps. It’s set in the same parasite-afflicted New York City, but instead of the Night Watch, it follows a bunch of kids trying to start a band and get famous. Of course, making it in the music biz is a tough thing to do under the best of circumstances, but right in the middle of a Zombie/Vampire Apocalypse, it’s really a total pain in the neck. (Get it? NECK!)

Now, this is not a complete design. There’s no text yet, these aren’t the right color levels, and it’s probably not going to be cropped this way. You are seeing a raw image even before the marketing department does! But I just couldn’t keep it from you for another moment.

So here is the new and highly improved cover rough for The Last Days:


I think that it is. And the fact that the only musical prop is a guitar neck (neck, get it? NECK!) is really great.

The oversized photophobic cat-like eyes are very much the way I imagined peeps’ to be. And the gaze is just the right combination of hungry, horny, and inhuman.

The book comes out in August 2006 in the USA. No, it’s not quite finished yet.

Also: Peeps has been awarded a BCCB Blue Ribbon Award, meaning that it made their top ten list of kids’ fiction books of the year. (Buy it here!)

And in other Peeps news, it seems like toxoplasma gondii, the cat-to-rat parasite that stars in Chapter 4, is all over the web. There’s been some new research about how it affects its human host. (Just typing the words “human host” gives me the chills, yo.)

Here’s a reference on BoingBoing, proving again that I am the sf-parasite-guy, and another at science writer Carl Zimmer’s site. Zimmer rocks, and without his book Parasite Rex, Peeps would not have been written.

Specials Cover + News!

So S&S have been promising to send me the cover photo of Specials, but haven’t yet. And lo, I find this on Amazon?

It seems to be missing a tagline.
Uglies: “In a world of extreme beauty, anyone normal is ugly.”
Pretties: “What happens when perfection isn’t good enough?”
Specials: “???”

Discuss . . .

Also: awards news from Australia!

Both Justine and I have been nominated for the Aurealis Awards! Her for Magic or Madness, and me for Uglies and Peeps!

This is wonderful news, and it’s also the first time we’ve been in direct competition for a prize. People always ask us if we get competitive about this sort of thing, and now we can finally make up some really gnarly stories of spousal conflict! (But really, no, we’re not. We’re only competitive about stuff like who can spit the farthest.)

And congrats to all the other nominees, especially our pals Cat, Sean, Rjurik, and Garth, as well as Rob for his editorial successes. w00t!

The Last Days Is Done

The first draft of The Last Days is finally done!

And it was even in time for the seasonal Penguin sales conference. Of course, I had an extra 16 hours, thanks to a little trick that I call “living in Sydney.” Finished the draft at 10:26PM, and my editor got it at 6:30AM the same day. (Hah!)

It’s 60,000 words, and has a beginning, middle, and end–though I think the finale needs to be rather more fleshed out. It went longer than I thought, because what I expected to be the denoument turned out to be a whole ‘nother climax. Argh.

Records indicate that I wrote 10,000 words in the last three days. Don’t try this at home.

But all in all, it’s a worthy quasi-sequel to Peeps. It’s set in the same universe, but a few months farther along (by the end of the book) so you get to see much more of the vampire/zombie apocalypse hinted at in Peeps. What I mean by a quasi-sequel is that it follows different characters through the same time period in New York City, although Lace and Cal do make sizeable appearances. What’s interesting (to me, anyway) is that the characters in TLD know a lot less about what’s going on than Cal did in the first book, being as how they’re civilians and not in the Night Watch. So someone who’s already read Peeps will have more knowledge than the narrators, which was kind of a cool tension to play with.

Now all we need is a cover. Oh yeah, and lots of editors’ notes and rewrites.

Today I recovered by lying in a bathtub and reading Raymond Chandler’s letters. (Re-reading, actually.) I’m going to do a compendium of his writing advice for a post soon, but not before a Specials surprise tomorrow.

Now I am stopping typing because my wrists feel like hamburger.

More Last Days Covers

Thanks for all your cantankerous, feisty, opinionated comments about the possible The Last Days covers revealed in my previous post. I appreciate your brutal honesty. And you know what? They’re just rough versions and certainly I didn’t design them, so I don’t mind if you blast away.

Frankly, I didn’t much like the direction those covers were going in. I agree with a lot of you that the images weren’t genre-rific enough. Not really making me think horror, sf, dark fantasy. More like . . . Bop Magazine.

Like many of you, I have been asking for fangs, so maybe we’ll see one of these re-imagined with more tooth. Or maybe some Peeps-esque eyes. I also agree with those of you who want more goth, more zombie-licious grime, and more intimacy. We shall see what happens.

Just as long as they don’t go with this.

Below are two more possibilities. Now we all know we want more fangs and such. So don’t forget to talk about the composition, fonts, colors and such.

Rock on:

Last Days Covers

I’m back!

Man, a couple of weeks without internet is like . . . having to look stuff up in books.

But I’m back online, and I’ve got some new pretty pictures from my Penguin/Razorbill editors. They’re very rough covers for The Last Days, the sort-of sequel for Peeps. It’s not about Cal and Lace, but it’s set in the same zombie apocalypse reality. It’s about a band struggling to make it big before the world ends.

I’m only about 10,000 words away from finishing the book. But it’s due next Monday. Argh.

So without me saying anything more, here’s the cover number 1:

And cover number 2:

Let me know what you think. Would you buy such a book? What would you think it’s about?

But remember, the designer is just playing with images, and these aren’t completely cleaned up. So don’t be mean. I’ll be posting two more possible covers soon.

Also: I’ll be telling you which book is going to be a movie . . . on Friday!