• Issue 42 - January 2004

    01 January 2004

    Bye-bye 2003 -- welcome 2004!!! A whole new year ... a new set of adventures ... some new problems ... new friends ... new losses ... new surprises. There's no telling what lies ahead -- anything's possible! I always find this an exciting time of the year -- I hope you do too!! I haven't made any resolutions -- I lead a perfect life already!!! :lol -- but I do promise to try and be a bit more active on the web site this year, especially in the Extras section. I can't promise any new short stories, but I will try to add some new material to it in the next few months. But for now, let's kick the young year off with ...


    [email protected]
    I know how much you lot love these!!! I've had all sorts of prizes on offer in the past -- books, t-shirts, postcards, etc -- but this month I'm offering something enirely new -- MOUSE PADS!!!! When I was in Japan last June, my publishers, Shogakukan, manufactured a mouse pad which they gave away as prizes to a small number of lucky fans. It features an original illustration by my Japanese cover artist, the fabulously talented Tomoko Taguchi, and is a seriously cool piece of work! I'm not sure how many of the mouse pads were made, but I think it was, at most, a few hundred (maybe less!). And they were only available in Japan. Until NOW!!!!!
    To be in with a chance of winning one of the Mouse Pads (and I'm going to sign them, too!! although if you use it, the name will probably rub off eventually!!!), all you have to do is e-mail me the answer to the following question:
    In which of the following countries is Cirque Du Freak (Book 1 of The Saga Of Darren Shan) NOT on sale:
    (a) Korea (b) Serbia (c) Israel (d) Italy (e) Brazil (f) Thailand.
    Of course, you can get foreign editions of my books in many countries (e.g. there is no Belgian edition, but people living in Belgium can get the French or English editions) -- but only one of the above countries doesn't produce their own edition. Which one?!? You'll have to do a little digging around to find out the answer, but it isn't TOO difficult -- in fact, if you read all of this issue of the Monthly, you should be able to find a link which leads the way ...
    *Entry is by e-mail only. Send your entry to [email protected] Closing date is midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, Friday, January 30th.
    *You MUST put your FULL NAME in the SUBJECT BOX of your e-mail when you send it -- you won't be entered in the draw if you don't!
    *Names will be picked at random from all correct entries on Saturday, January 31st. The first five names drawn will be the winners (unless they don't include their addresses! SEE BELOW). I will inform the winners by e-mail, then send their prizes to them by mail.
    *You MUST include your FULL ADDRESS (don't forget to say which country you're from!!!) in the e-mail, underneath your answer. If your name is drawn, and there is no address, I will discard your entry and draw another name!
    *Anyone can enter this contest, no matter where you live (unless you work for one of my publishing countries, or are related to me!!).
    *Only one entry per person -- if you enter more than once, all of your entries will be deleted.
    *I will not use your e-mail or home address to send you junk mail or contact you (unless you're a winner, of course!). Nor will I keep your details on my system, or pass them on to anyone else. Once the competition is over, and the winners have been picked, I will delete all information in my files.


    Forgot to mention the passing of the Lake of Souls microsite last month! I hope you all enjoyed the game and downloads. Since I was away, I didn't manage to find out the names of the winners of the various contests which were part of the site, but I hope all of you who won have received your prizes by now. If not, get in touch with the folk at Harper Collins immediately!!!!


    It's one of my most-asked questions -- "How many books are there going to be in The Saga Of Darren Shan?" For a long time I didn't know the answer. Now, as I hinted recently on the Message Board, I do ...... but I'm not going to say just yet!! Sorry to be a tease, but there are logistical reasons for me keeping it quiet for the moment. But rest assured -- sometime within the first half of 2004, I shall be making an announcement here and letting everybody know exactly how much further there is to go.
    Let the bookmakers start setting the odds!!!!!

    ever-increasing circles

    My books have started to come out in various editions and adaptations across the globe. In the U.K., as most of you proably already know, the first 3 books have been collected into a single volume called Vampire Blood (see the Shanville U.K. site for more info) and books 4, 5 and 6 will be released in a collected edition, as Vampire Rites, in February (more on that next month!).
    In Germany the first book has already been released on audio cassette, and the second book is now also available (or will be soon!), not just on tape, but also on CD. Both adaptations are unabridged -- which means you get to hear all of the books, every single line. (Unlike the U.K. adaptations of a few years ago, which were shortened.) You can see the covers by scrolling down to the Deja Vu section of this Monthly and following the link there.
    In the Netherlands, the first 3 books have been released in a collected edition. (Again, see Deja Vu.)
    In China, books 7, 8 & 9 have been collected together, so there are now 3 trilogies on sale there. Originally the first 3 books were released as individual titles, but I don't think there have been any single editions from book 4 onwards -- so if you live in China, and want to read any of the later books, you'll have to buy one of the trilogies.
    Finally, in Japan, a Darren Shan fan book is to be released in February -- as with Vampire Rites, I'll be telling you a bit more about that next month.


    When I left you last month, Lady Bas and I had just flown from the North Island of New Zealand down to the South, where we were to face an imminent brush with death!!! To get the lowdown on the whole gory story, read on ...


    We started off our three weeks on the South Island in Kaikoura, on the east coast, by going seal swimming (nice, but the seals didn't get in the water -- lazy little so-and-so's!!) and dolphin swimming -- absolutely amazing!! Loads of dolphins swimming under and around us, while we made stupid little squeaking sounds -- apparently the noise attracts them!!!!! Then we drove up to Abel Tasman, where we spent a day kayaking. (I also found a lovely little Japanese-style hot springs hotel on the way, which was nice and relaxing, and reminded me of my happy trip to Japan last June.)
    The next Biggie on the list was a glacier walk on Franz Josef. We meant to fly up in a helicopter and do the walk directly from ice, but because of weather conditions this wasn't possible, so we did a half-day walk instead. Rough and beautiful! Incredible scenery. I wish I'd spent a full day up there, though I saw plenty during the two hours I spent on the ice.
    After that we stopped off in a small place called Wanaka where we saw a film in one of the sweetest cinemas I've ever been in -- a tiny, converted town hall, with all sofas and armchairs, and even a morris minor car which you could sit in and watch the film from! Then -- Queenstown!!! Adventure capital of New Zealand!!! I went on a fly-by-wire here -- a sort of mini-plane/rocket attached to a wire, which you fly about on for several minutes. I also went luge-riding -- sort of like a go-kart track, only MUCH faster! I was going to do the Nevis bungy jump (at 134 metres, the tallest in NZ), but in the end decided not to -- I had a bad feeling about it on the day, so I left it for another time!!!!
    I wound my adventures off with a white water rafting trip -- and it was the most terrifying experience of my life!!! All was going well until we came to the Mother rapids -- 6 rapids, one coming almost immediately after another, within the space of 600 metres. We got through the first two sets of rapids without any problems, but on the third -- the aptly named Toilet rapid! -- our raft flipped over and everyone was thrown out or underneath. Five of the people on the raft popped up out of the water on the side of the raft facing away from the steep canyon walls which were waiting to pummel us to pieces -- so they were all picked up quickly by people in other rafts. But Bas and I, along with our guide, ended up on the inside part of the raft, where nobody could reach us -- so we had to ride the rapids down to the end!!!!! To be honest, I thought the end had come! The force of the water ... the length of the rapids ... the sharp, unforgiving walls just inches away from my head ... it looked bad!!!! But, with the luck of the vampires, we came through unscathed, and were hauled out of the water at the end of the rapids. In retrospect it was hugely exciting -- but I didn't think that at the time!!!!!!!! (And Bas CERTAINLY didn't think that -- and still doesn't!!)
    We'd both had enough adventures by the end of that, so we set off the next day for Milford Sound -- a gorgeous fjord, where we took an overnight cruise. Saw some seals and penguins, and basically just chilled. Then we drove to Dunedin, a nice little town, sort of a New Zealand version of Edinburgh. We went to see penguins here, and also popped in to have a look at NZ's only castle. We finished off our trip by going to see Mount Cook -- we caught it on an absolutely beautiful day, so it was a stunning sight, especially seen from a helicopter! Stayed overnight in the famous Hermitage hotel at its base, then drove to Christchurch. Spent a day doing a train journey from Christchurch to the other side of the country and back again -- very nice, but VERY long!! One-way would have been better! After that we went to stay in Governer's Bay, just outside Christchurch, with famous Kiwi author Margaret Mahy -- the Jacqueline Wilson of New Zealand! Had a pleasant few days there, then flew on to ...


    ... via Bangkok! Had a day in Phnom Penh, where we went to see the Killing Fields and the Tulon Sleng prison museum -- a place where the Khmer Rouge imprisoned, interrogated, tortured and killed about 14,000 people. VERY sobering, and it didn't pull any punches -- you can still see blood stains on the floors.
    From there we went to Angkor for one of the highlights of the hols -- the famous Angkor temples! We squeezed in as many temples as possible -- the famous Angkor Wat temple, of course, along with the Bayon (loads of carved Buddha heads -- incredibly beautiful) and many others. It's a mind-boggling experience. Ranks up there with Petra and Machu Picchu for me!
    Another nice factor about Angkor was that when we arrived at the hotel we'd booked from England, we found that the beds were very hard -- TOO hard!!! I tried a couple of different rooms but they were all the same. So, throwing one of my famed celebrity strops, I told Bas to pack her bags, made a phone call to the Raffles hotel, and off we hopped! Now, the Raffles is a lovely old hotel (Charlie Chaplin stayed there in the 1930s) which has been lovingly restored, so all the rooms are excellent. But when we arrived, because it was a last-minute booking, they upgraded us to one of their better rooms -- nice!! But wait a minute -- what's this?!? Two beds instead of one?!? Nice as the room was, I didn't want to be separated from Lady Bas, so I asked if they had a room with one big bed. They had -- but it was a suite. We had a look -- gorgeous! It cost a bit more, but what the hell -- we were already forking out a small fortune, so I thought, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead! But wait -- what's this?!? Somebody else has booked that suite for the following night, so we might have to move the next day! Naturally we didn't like the sound of that, so I asked if there was any way around it. The manager went away, did some checking, then said yes there was -- and upgraded us to their best suite in the hotel, in a poolside villa!!!!!!!!
    Moral of the story -- never settle for an uncomfortable bed!!!
    Ahem! Back to the holiday ...
    From Angkor (Siem Reap is the name of the modern-day town) we flew to Ho Chi Minch city (AKA Saigon). Spent a day exploring museums, the Reunification Palace, etc. Had lunch in the famous Continental Hotel (where The Quiet American was set). Did a fabulous moto ride -- motos are motorbikes, and practically EVERYBODY in HCM uses them. Imagine, if you can, millions (and I'm not exagerrating!) of people riding motorbikes during rush hour, taking no notice of road signs and traffic lights (not that there were many!), nudging their way through uncountable lanes of traffic when they want to turn left or right. THAT'S what it was like! And it was brilliant!!! Bas and I each had a bike of our own (with a driver, of course -- only a madman would try driving on his own out there!!), and though we hung on tight to the seat to begin with, after a while we relaxed, got in the mood, and rode about with hands on thighs, enjoying the throng and feeling like locals. Fabulous!!!! If you're ever there, you have to try it -- if you survive the ride, it will be an experience you'll remember forever!!
    We did an overnight trip to the Mekong Delta next -- a lovely spot. The river trip was tremendously relaxing (especially after tha frentic pace of Ho Chi Minh) and it was fun to visit the floating river markets -- like a London or Dublin street market, except on the water, and all the stalls are boats. Back to HCM after that, and we saw the Cu Chi Tunnels -- part of the system of tunnels used by the Viet Cong in the war against the Americans. I'm not usually claustrophobic, but after a few minutes down there I was delighted to see the sky again! Our last stop was the curious Cao Dai Temple (a Vietnamese religion, which is a mix of many others-- their mediums claim to be in touch with Shakespeare and Victor Hugo, among many others!!!!!!!), then on to ...
    Hanoi. A day traipsing around the markets and shops in the Old Quarter, then an overnight train to a little northern town called Sapa, from where we went on a two day trek to a hillside village. It was a fabulous experience, but not a comfortable one -- I was wearing ordinary office shoes (the only shoes I had), which probably would have been OK if it was dry -- but it poured rain incessantly the first day, meaning the ground was VERY slippery underfoot!! Trust me -- you don't want to be walking down steep cliff faces, or mincing your way along the inches-thick ledges of paddy-fields, in a pair of non-gripping office shoes!!!!! But, footwear problems aside, it was superb. We really got away from the modern world for a couple fo days, visiting a people who live much the way they did a hundred years ago, in simple houses, where they cook traditionally. We stayed with one of the families overnight. There were some modern conveniences, such as a toilet and a TV (no escappe televsion ANYWHERE!), but otherwise it was like slipping back into the past. The weather was better the second day, and the going easier. We worked our way back to Sapa, aided by our guide Hong Son, and caught the train back to Hanoi. A day of relaxing, then on to ...


    ... which is actually properly known as Sabah, and is part of Malaysia. We saw an orang-utan at Sepilok -- one of the few places in the world where you can see orang-utans in the wild, and our main reason for coming here. We then drove south, stopping at Gomantong Cave where bird's nests are collected to be made into bird's nest soup. We saw some of the workers collecting nests (they only collect 3 times a year, for about 2 or 3 weeks as a time, so we were extremely lucky). It's amazing -- they climb up incredibly long and rickety ladders to pick nests from the roof of a cave that's more than a hundred metres high!!
    From there we proceeded to the country's longest river, the Kinabatangan, where we did a couple of cruises. The night cruise was brilliant -- we were able to get literally within touching distance of sleeping birds, and even owls!!
    The next morning we undertook the long drive to Danum Valley, where we stayed in a lodge. It's a famous part of the country, renowned for its natural rain forest and variety of wild life. We weren't especially lucky on the wildlife-spotting front, but we did a lovely day's walk, saw some ancient burial chambers in the side of a mountain, and went for a swim in a waterfall-formed pool. And, as we were leaving, we spotted several wild elephants -- much rarer and harder to spot than African elephants. So, all things considered, not a bad way to round off the holiday!!!
    After Sabah, we rested for a couple of days in Bangkok, then caught the flight back home, where I immediately got to work catching up with my mail, putting together the December issue of the Shanville Monthly, etc.
    Phew!!! After typing all that up and reading through it again, I'm exhausted!!!! I think I need another holiday ...

    2003 remembered

    It's that time of the year to recap everything of any importance that's happened in the last 12 months. So, without any beating around the bush, let's take a deep breath and here we go ...
    The year started quietly with me returning home from a holiday in Jordan and getting back to work on the Saga. I said that I'd come to a crossroads and would soon be making an announcement about how many books there were going to be -- one year later, I'm still building up to it!!!!! *sorry*
    Book 9, Killers of the Dawn, was officially released in the U.K. and Ireland this month -- although a lot of shops got it in the middle of January, when WHSmith decided to market it as their Book Of The Month!! Book 9 probably had the most shocking finale of any of the books (so far!), and I'm still getting lots of mail and e-mails about it 12 months later!!! The book got to Number 1 in the Irish Children's Bestseller chart, and spent the whole of February in the top 20 of the U.K. Children's Bestseller chart. My UK publishers, Collins, commissioned a series of TV adverts this month, to promote the books, which aired on cable/satellite channel, Nickelodeon -- the first time they ever advertised a kids' book in this fashion! Away from the book front, I went on a short trip to Venice, where I got to meet the Grim Reaper himself at their fabulous "Triumph of Death" carnival event.
    March opened with an earth-shattering bang -- I found out Book 7, Hunters of the Dusk, was the Number 1 bestselling book in Japan, both in children's AND adult's books!!! On the home front, I celebrated World Book Day by doing a signing event at a local shop in Limerick.
    Killers got to the #1 spot on the Heatseekers Children's Bestsellers chart in the U.K. -- an "alternative" bestseller chart -- where it remained for 2 months. Book 5, Trials of Death, was released in the States in April, and to help promote it, my American publishers created a Darren Shan e-card (which you can still access by clicking on this link: http://www.cuttingrichmedia.com/postcard/cirquedufreak.html). In Taiwan, book 4, Vampire Mountain, was released, and got to Number 1 on the General Fiction (adults and children's books) chart!!!!! Got to go to the DVD launch for the second Harry Potter film this month, thanks to celebrity fan Matt Lewis and his gorgeous Mum!!
    Made one of my rare 2003 public appearance in May, at the Listowel Writer's Festival -- had to keep the noise down, because the library where I was performing was built next to a court house, which was in session!! Because of the SARS outbreak, I had to cancel proposed trips to China, Taiwan and Thailand -- but don't worry, my Far Eastern friends -- I'LL BE BACK!!!! (And hopefully VERY soon ...) A short story I wrote about the comics writer, Alan Moore, appeared in a book called "Alan Moore: Portrait Of An Extraordinary Gentleman" this month. You can still order copies (I think!) from the following site: http://www.page45.couk.com/P45main.html
    Went to Japan and Korea in June to promote my books. Had a truly fabulous time, especially in Japan, where I spent a weekend performing in a theatre. It's one of my most cherished memories of the year -- indeed, of any year!!! I was meant to go to America after Korea, but in the end we decided to push that back to 2004. (More info about my proposed trip to the States in a later issue of the Shanville Monthly!)
    Another of my short stories appeared in the fabulous Kids' Night In this month. This is one I'd REALLY recommend! So, if you don't have copy already, click on the following link immediately, or head down to your local shop and BUY IT!!! http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0007157983/shanville I appeared as a celebrity guest at the London book launch for the book, along with Eoin Colfer, Michael Morpurgo, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson and Annie Dalton.
    August meant another trip to the Edinburgh Festival -- my fourth in a row!!! I've had a great time every year, but this year's was even better than most -- loads of fans turned up, the events were great fun, and the weather was beautiful!! I'm scheduled to return again in 2004, for the fifth year running, though I've no idea what I'll be doing yet!!!! Also this month, design student Linzi Foxcroft got a first-class degree with a little help from the World of Daren Shan! To see how she achieved this, click here: http://www.darrenshan.com/shanography/linzi.html
    The Lake Of Souls microsite went online in September -- a mini-web-site, designed by my publishers, to promote the sales of Book 10. It proved an instant hit with Shansters, though I got many frustrated e-mails from Shansters who -- like me! -- couldn't quite get the hang of the fishing game!!! I made another public appearance at the brilliant Word Festival at the Polka theatre in Wimbledon, which I enjoyed very much (especially as I hadn't expected many people to turn up!!). The first trilogy collection - books 1, 2 & 3 - was released in the U.K., entitled Vampire Blood. And book 6, The Vampire Prince, was released in the States.
    Early in Otober I headed down under to Australia -- and for details of that, and my subsequent travels, see this issue and last month's issue of the Shanville Monthly!!
    The last few months of the year saw my books selling better than ever in the U.K. (#3 - children's bestsellers), Japan (#1 - general fiction), Taiwan and Hong Kong (both #2 - general fiction). This is a very exciting time for me -- and I hope it is for YOU LOT too!!! I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your amazing support in 2003 -- for the books to do well, fans have to keep on buying them and recommending them to their friends, and that's exactly what you freakish Shansters are doing!!! If you keep it up, who knows, maybe we'll knock Harry Potter off his perch in 2004 ...
    Heh heh -- sure thing!!!!!!!


    I've added LOADS -- more than 20!! -- of new covers to my web site, from lots of different countries around the world -- Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Netherlands, Israel, etc. They're scattered all over the Gallery section of Shanville (e.g. Book 1 from Israel, Book 7 from Taiwan, Book 9 from Japan), so my advice is to go to http://www.darrenshan.com/gallery/gallery1.html and get busy clicking!!!! Make sure you check out the Other Covers department while you're there -- some very interesting items have started to accumulate!!


    And that's it for the first newsletter of the year! I'll be busy writing for the next few months (before my next big trip!), but I'll make sure I take a break around the end of January/start of February to type up the next issue of the Monthly! Until then, all the bloody best, Darren Shan x x x