Zombie idol!

So, the whole Maureen Johnson stick a zombie into a novel thing has just gotten heaps bigger. Like heaps. You need to go over there to check out the extent of the bigness. I heard a rumour that there are more than a gazillion entries already! A bazillion gazillion trabillion! So many that’s she’s extended the competition.

And gotten some judges in. Stellar judges such as Meg Cabot, John Green, E. Lockhart, and, um, me.

I’m excited and delighted and slightly nervous. How long does it take to read a bazillion gazillion trabillion entries? Also—Oh. My. God.—I’m a judge with Meg Cabot. I think I’m going to faint.

To forestall the fainting fit here is my little take on the whole thing:

I got him to propose to me yes even though I am a zombie he said yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of zombieness and yes so we are zombies all a zombie’s body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for zombies today yes that was why I ate his brains because I saw he understood or felt what a zombie is and I knew all of his grey matter and pain and I said yes I could leading him on till he asked me to say yes take my brains take my bones take my marrow take my everything and I wouldnt answer first only looked out over the sea and the sky I was thinking of so many zombie things he didnt know of Mulvey’s brains and Mr Stanhope’s brains and also Hester’s and father’s and old captain Groves’s and the grey matter of sailors playing all birds fly and I say yes your brains are the best and the pink and blue and yellow zombie houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar awash with blood and bones where I was a zombie of the mountain yes when I put the blood in my hair like the Andalusian zombies used and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall with his brains calling to me and I thought well as well him as another his brains are bigger and greyer and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower zombie and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my teeth all perfume on his skull and yes and his heart was going like mad and yes brains I said braiiins yes I will Yes.

Please don’t sue me, Joyce estate . . . is parody. Also it just sang out for zombies. Don’t you reckon?

Where do you get your ideas?

I’ve been asked this question about eleventy bazillion kajillion times and I’ve only been a published writer for about three years.1 Most recently my new (and FABULOUS) publisher Bloomsbury USA asked me, “Where do you get your ideas?” in their author questionnaire. Here’s what I said:

I steal them from Maureen Johnson.2

So now Maureen, the wise one herself, has answered the question and she’s done it so brilliantly and perfectly that I can do what I said I do: steal her idea, which is

brain monkeys

(This is how I imagine brain monkeys look. Though they are actually twin albino pygmy monkeys.)

That’s where Maureen gets her ideas from and it’s So True. Mine come from brain monkeys, too! Nasty little buggers running around in the old brain pain, flinging poo, screeching, tugging at bits that don’t want to be tugged, laughing.

Evil annoying brain monkeys.

Except when they cobble some really cool stuff together like cricket and mangosteens and Elvis and monkey knife fights (though should they really be pointing at themselves?) and quokkas and feminism and runic surfing and it congeals and melds and explodes and winds up being my next book, formerly known as The Ultimate Fairy Book, which is coming out in September and whose brand new title and cover I hope to share with you sometime in the next three or four weeks.

Glorious brain monkeys!

Now we all have the answer to that extremely irksome question. Bless you, Maureen.3

  1. I hate to think how many times Stephen King has had to answer it. I mean, seriously, if he punches the next person to ask, that should be permissible. []
  2. Was probably funnier before the most recent plagiarism scandal . . . []
  3. We must all tell Stephen King before he punches someone. []

Ask Maureen

Over at Maureen Johnson’s blog she’s busy answering punters’ questions in a vastly entertaining way.1 Yay, Maureen!

If you haven’t already go over and ask her a quessie. Make it curly though. The most difficult question you can think of. Then make it more difficult than that even. Frankly, I don’t think she’s being stretched enough. We all need to really put her through her paces.

I wish Maureen would tell me how to write six things at once without my head exploding.

  1. The trick to entertaining answers, apparently, is to make stuff up. Why didin’t I think of that? []

Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson and other famous persons

One of the fabulous things about this tour is seeing how popular so many of my friends are.

At a book shop on the outskirts of Chicago I saw this:

City of Bones

I pointed it out to Scott. “Look! Someone here loves Cassie’s book. And they have a tonne of copies!” (There were more in piles above and below this book shelf.)

The bookseller who wrote that shelf talker overheard me:

“You know Cassie Clare?! Oh. My. God. I LOVED that book so much!!! She is a genius! I have loved her ever since I read her Secret Diaries!”

At a school in Walnut Creek, California lots of the kids had painted posters of their favourite books. The room was full of them:


I checked each one, looking for a book by one of my friends, and lo and behold what did I find?

Maureen Johnson’s Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes.

During tonight’s fabulous event at Copperfield books in Petaluma praise was heaped on Holly Black, Libba Bray, Cecil Castellucci, Cassie, Maureen, and Garth Nix. It was joyous to hear. And, yes, I was bad, I boasted about knowing them all!

Book tours are fun!


Maureen Johnson ones again reveals the truth of what it is to be a writer:

Sitting plays a bigger role in writing than you would think. I mean, a lot of people say, “Oh yeah, I want to write a book one day.” And I smile and nod. Some of them will—but a lot of them can’t sit still for more than fifteen minutes if the TV isn’t on.

You have to sit like a champion when you write. Oh, you’re laughing. You think you can sit like a pro. But when it starts to all go rocky, when your characters don’t behave, when the wolf is at the door and the plot is starting to quake like a jello mold on a trampoline . . . . I defy you to keep sitting.

The sitting thing is why I rarely join my writer compadres in coffee shops. I’m only there if I absolutely have to get out of the house.1 My back is so destroyed by the whole sitting thing that I need an entirely ergonomic set up. I’ve got my ergie chair, my ergie desk, my ergie keyboard. All of it the right amount of heights and distances and blah blah blah. Even with all of that the end of every book I’ve ever written has seen me spending considerable time and money at the chiropractor’s. Oh joy.

Except this last book. I started going to the gym four times a week with a trainer—oh, yes, I’m now one of those wankers—and working mostly on my back and tummy muscles. Result: I finished a book without having to go into traction. I could achieve the same thing by swimming every day but there’s not a 50 metre pool within coo-ee. Buggered if I’ll swim in one of those annoying short course pools. Aargh. Yoga’s good too. But I’ve never found a yoga teacher as good as the one I had back in Sydney. Le sigh.

Anyways, writing = sitting. And sitting can get very bloody ouchy. I’ll never understand why people think being a writer is glamorous. Hah!

  1. So I don’t wind up climbing the walls and rending my hair with writerly frustration and madness. []

DragonCon panels

Because I have friends who insist on proper con reports I thought I’d talk about some DragonCon panels. Most of which were excellent and peopled by knowledgable and entertaining folks.

First I must rant:

Hey, Author People, yes, you lot, who respond to every question with deeply tedious plot descriptions of your own books and never mention anyone else’s work—I have written down your names and the names of your books. And I will NEVER EVER EVER buy them or recommend them to anyone. You are boring and the death of many a potentially good panel. I am filled with hate for you and your kind.

Okay. I feel much better now. Now onto the good panels which were all part of the YA thread. So many thanks to the folks what ran it: Bev Kodak, Suzanne Chatham, Lydia Watson, Karen Smith, Heather Lauer, Tara Smith, and Mary Moline! You are all deeply awesome.

My favourite was the one I did with Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson and Scott which was excellently moderated by Bev. We nattered about how we write together, swap ideas, critique each other, and how important it is for us to be part of a writing community. This involved sharing anecdotes from those dark days when we thought we were the only ones incapable of finishing a story or ever selling one. Or—now that we’re published—meeting the deadlines from hell. It was a lot of fun and only marred by being cut off before enough people could ask questions. The few we got were dead smart.

I also enjoyed the panel where Maureen Johnson went berko at the two members of the panel who dared to dismiss the “expanding pants” section of YAland. By which they were referring to Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and all the other chicklit YA books. As Maureen writes those kind of books and considers their writers and readers to be her people she was somewhat ticked off. I ably assisted her by pointing out the quality of not only Maureen’s books but also Meg Cabot’s, Sarah Dessen’s, Rachel Cohn’s, Jaclyn Moriarty’s and many, many others.

I find dismissals of whole genres particularly bizarre when they’re coming from lovers of a genre like fantasy and sf which is routinely dismissed as trash. Can we all agree not to trash a genre unless we know it well? Reading one or two or even a dozen examples does not cut it.

My most embarrassing moment was on the YA around the world panel. I was bemoaning how little non-English YA gets translated. Then Cassie Clare pointed out from the audience this little thing called manga. Der! I smack my forehead. How did I forget manga?

My favourite panellists—other than Holly, Cassie, Maureen and Scott—were the librarians. Specifically, Susan Fichtelberg, Bonnie Kunzel and Diana Tixier Herald, who not only have an encylopediac knowledge of the field but are also witty and smart. They kept bailing us out when we’d describe a book then flail hopelessly for the author or title. They knew. Every. Single. Time. They also kept referring to YA books for their examples and not TV shows or movies. I’ll admit I was a little depressed by the folks who only used media examples and seemed not to have heard of even the most famous YA writers.

Fortunately, they were few in number. The vast majority of the audience and panellists were dying to talk about J. K. Rowling, Diana Wynne Jones, Garth Nix, Jonathan Stroud and Stephanie Meyer—an excellent fight broke out about her character Bella Swann—and oodles of others including Holly, Cassie, Scott and me. I also enjoyed the opportunity of telling many more people about the glories of Kathleen Duey’s Skin Hunger, which I managed to mention not just on all my panels but from the audience of many more. Read it!

DragonCon Blues + Urban legends

The worst thing about DragonCon—other than the way too many people thing—is that it’s on the exact same weekend as the WNBA conference finals. I missed seeing Phoenix sweep San Antonio (woo hoo! Amy—sorry, Rebecca) and will miss all the Indiana-Detroit games (please Indiana win tonight!)

Seeing all those insanely brilliant costumes is some compensation I suppose. Riding on the train with Holly, Theo, Cassandra, Maureen and Scott ditto. Sitting around in a hotel room with them telling ghost stories also not too foul.

Which reminds me what are your favourite urban legends? Feel free to leave a link in the comments if you don’t feel like telling the whole thing. So far we’ve done the finger nails one, the hook, the headless roommate, the evil clown statue, and the finger licker.

Beluga whales

The train trip was fun. Biggest difference between travelling by air in the US of A and travelling by train is that the staff are happy and relaxed and like to talk to you. We heard all sorts of stories about train life (includuing gruesome stuff about what happens when someone throws themself under one).

Although the cabins are kind of on the squalorous side—especially compared to first class sleepers in Europe—it was fun hanging with Holly and Theo and Cassie and Maureen while kudzu covered forests zipped by. We dissected the YA publishing world, described the plots of our next five books, and planned collaborations that will never ever happen but would be amazing if they did. I could live on a train with those guys forever!

Except that would mean not staring at the beluga whales at the Georgia aquarium. We were the first people into that part of the aquarium this morning. It was just me and Scott standing in front of Nico as he pirouetted and somersaulted over and over again in front of us. Staring back at us as intently as we were staring at him. We could see the texture of his skin. Every scar, every pore. I have never been so close to such a large mammal in all my life. I could have stayed there for hours.

Tomorrow DragonCon begins. We’ve already seen our first klingons. I suspect there will be photos. Lots of them.

Train train train

In not that many hours we—Holly Black, Theo Black, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson and Scott and me—get on the train and head to Atlanta, Georgia for DragonCon. Is it bad that I’m more excited about the train than the con? And I’m vastly excited about the con.

I plan to blog from Atlanta but much depends on the outrageous internet charges of our hotel. I will do what I can.

My schedule of events at DragonCon can be found over on Scott’s blog.

In other news I finished the first round of editorial rewrites on The UFB today. I am knackered but really looking forward to not thinking about that book for at least a week or so. Yay!

Yay! Aargh! Woohoo! Eep!

I have like a gazillion billion trakazillion emails in my inbox. This is the first chance I’ve had to go online in almost three days. It’s been crazy busy and exhilarating and fabulous and every big positive happy adjective you can think of.

San Antonio is wondrous. The Texas Library Association conference has been so extraordinarily wonderful I’m left without words. I’ve met so many amazing, fun, smart cool people I think my brain has exploded. Thank you everyone! Yay! Joy! Mangosteens! This trip has also been very educational: I know now how boots are made and have a much better idea of what distributors do.

Scott and mine’s presentation in front of what seemed like thousands of librarians, including Scott’s high school librarian, Darlene, was exhilarating. I’ve never had so much fun doing an appearance. Basically we just gasbagged about how we met, our books, writing, travelling, living in two countries, and answered lots of cool questions from the wonderful audience.

Then we signed what felt like a million books. I think I’m still floating.

To quickly answer two of your questions:

The beasts that shall not be named are evil. That is all you need to know. What do they need that horn for anyway?

Maureen is also evil and you should not do what she tells you to do.

Friday the thirteenth is excellent. Zombies love it. But yesterday’s was the best ever!