Monday, June 29, 2015

Medical Mondays: Water, The Poison We All Drink

Ever consider water as a means of sickening your characters in a novel? Yes? Well then, this post is for you. :)

Have you ever heard someone say, "Oxygen is poisonous. After all, 100% of humans who breathe it will eventually die."

Well, the same could be said about water. Except water can kill a heckuva a lot faster if the situation is just right (or wrong, rather). We're talking about water intoxication.

That's correct. Water can intoxicate you, and I do mean in a toxic way. It's also known as water poisoning, or the medical term, dilutional hyponatremia ("low salt in the blood").

There are several situations in which one can become seriously sick or even die from water intoxication.

  • Endurance athletes: Think of marathoners who collapse at the end of a race and need hospitalization. When you're sweating a lot of salt water, your body *thinks* it needs to retain fluid because you're sweating and exercising, AND you're drinking large quantities of pure water, it's a perfect set up for this condition. 
  • Heat Stress: It's a hot day. You're sweating buckets and drinking huge amounts of water to compensate, and then you get a headache...and confused...and pass out. Yep. 
  • MDMA use: Also known as "ecstasy", this street drug not only causes body temperatures to rise (hyperthermia), but users drink a lot of water because of it. On top of it, MDMA can cause the body to secrete a hormone called ADH (antidiuretic hormone) which slows down the ability to urinate out the excess fluid. 
  • Really Stupid Challenges and Games: I'm a huge non-fan of all those internet challenges and games. Like the Cinnamon Challenge, or the choking-somebody-until-you-pass-out challenge. Well, there's also a water drinking challenge, and guess what? People die. This unfortunate woman died after a radio contest was held to see if people could drink large amounts of water and not pee. This 12 year-old died playing water poker where she had to drink a glass of water if she lost a hand. 
  • Psychiatric Illness: All doctors learned about this in medical school. It's called psychogenic polydipsia, in which a sufferer feels compelled to drink water constantly. 
  • Accidental/Unintentional: Babies can become water intoxicated because it takes relatively little water compared to their body size to make them ill. Adults can drink too much water for the wrong reasons (for example, they get nervous before a medical test, or are trying to dilute their urine before a drug test, or are trying to suppress their appetite and drink too much water too quickly). 
  • Torture: Enough said. 
So what is the mechanism of water intoxication? Basically, a healthy pair of kidneys can clear about a liter of water per hour. If you overdue this and drink too much and too fast and retain more water than your body needs and can get rid of, your blood sodium will start to become dilute. 

When this happens, your body cells (which contain a healthy, well-regulated amount of sodium) start to take in water to try to even out the sodium concentration discrepancy between what's inside the cell, and what's outside. So cells start to swell. Like your brain cells. Which is really, really bad. 

Symptoms include headache, confusion, irritability, muscle cramping and twitching. When it's worse, nausea and vomiting, coma, seizures, brain damage, and death. 

How much can kill you? Drinking 3-4 liters of water too quickly could make you hyponatremic. The lady in the water drinking contest drank about six liters of water in a three hour period before she died (that's just over one and a half gallons of water). 

For all of you out there who are now pushing away that glass of water in abject fear and horror, don't! Remember--drink to satisfy your thirst, use common sense to stay hydrated, stay cool, don't do stupid internet challenges, and you won't end up on one of my Medical Mondays posts. :) 

Also, don't use Ecstasy. Bye now!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Medical Mondays: Hello Mummy! (Corpse Decomposition, Part 2)


Boy, it's been a while since I did a Medical Mondays. A few days ago, I received a question on Facebook that prompted me to revive the blog, Frankenstein-like, with a zap of inspiration.

For those of you who are new to my blog or Medical Mondays, here's the short of it. I'm a doctor of Internal Medicine with a background in biology and neuroendocrine research. When I started writing fiction back in 2009, I started blogging but didn't know what to blog about. After all, everyone had a writing journey story to tell. What did I have to add to the mix?

Well, it turned out that I was doing a too-good job of keeping my medical career and my creative side completely separate. I realized, hey, I have a way to give back to the writing community.

I can do medical consults. For free. 

So I told my writer friends I'd help answer their fictional medical questions to help them make their stories more accurate, or at least find the right diagnosis or situation to fit their plot needs. But sometimes, I'd just blog about interesting science or biological randomness just to spur imaginations. (in fact, it was one of my own posts that gave me the idea for the main character in CONTROL.) And voila, Medical Mondays was born.

Since then, I've been happy to help out lots of authors, some of whom were my blogging buddies way back when, like Theresa Milstein, Angela Felstead (this is her question!), Stina Lindenblatt.

I've also consulted with newer friends, including Elle Cosimano (Nearly Gone), C.J. Flood (Infinite Sky), Mindy McGinnis (A Madness So Discreet), Megan Miranda, Tara Sullivan (The Bitter Side of Sweet), Emma Pass, Sarah Fine, Justina Ireland, and more but I'm forgetting the whole list!

So what questions did I get? Take a glance at the tab up yonder and see what I've blogged about before. :)

So here's today's question: Are there body parts that would keep for centuries and not rot? 

*cracks knuckles*

*hopes that readers have a strong stomach*

So a few years ago I blogged about corpse decomposition and what happens under relatively normal circumstances, including which body parts decompose the fastest and slowest. Sometimes, under ridiculously good conditions, it can decay super fast (if you have a strong stomach, check out this video of a pig decomposing underwater. Yep, they videotaped the whole thing and it's so utterly gross and I couldn't look away while gagging quietly).

Today, we'll talk about why things might slow down and be preserved for longer than expected. Consider this part deux.

So. Why would a human body NOT decompose? 

1. Lack of moisture. Like in the poor pig demonstration above, moisture is decomposition's friend. It allows a good environment for bacteria to go to work dissolving a corpse. Without it, the body turns into (forgive me) a sort of human jerky. Bacteria have a lot of trouble breaking down desiccated flesh (which is why jerky is so good for camping, since it won't rot easily. I am sorry jerky lovers, but you are eating mummified food. Yep.)

The Egyptians used to augment the dryness of the environment when creating mummies by using natron--a drying salt found locally that was stuffed into and packed around corpses to dry them out.

Other famous mummies include the Saltmen, who accidentally died in salt mines in Iran and were found 2200 years later, complete with intact pork tapeworm infections.

2. Temperature. Most of us are lucky to have the brilliant technology of the refrigerator and freezer at our beck and call. Not only do they keep food fresh longer, they are also fantastic for mummification. (Lydia is not a serial killer. Please repeat this. The only thing I mummify in my fridge is long-forgotten Laughing Cow cheese.)

There are a lot of mummies found due to their being pretty much flash-frozen and sort of freeze-dried upon death. These include the famous mummies of the Inca and the 500 year old Greenland Qilakitsoz mummies.

3. Acidity. In the fight against decomposition, a low pH is good. We all know that acid is great at preserving. Hello pickles.

The Bog men are famous for their startingly well-preserved bodies. Tollund Man is one of the most famous. In the peat bog, the lack of oxygen, cold temperatures, and high acidity (despite the moist environment) could even preserve facial expressions.

4. Chemical Preservation. So this sort of includes the embalming practices of ancient Egypt and numerous other cultures, but it also includes the more modern methods of using preservatives like formaldehyde to embalm corpses. Sometimes brandy works great! (Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson). In other circumstances, people have asked to have their body parts preserved and mounted, doll-like and thoughtfully arranged, for visitors (Jeremy Benthem).

More recently, the plastination of bodies has made its rounds on display around the world and as a means of academic anatomical study. (I can't help but mention that there was a questioning of the ethical issues surrounding these display exhibitions: see this NPR article.)

So there you go. If you need body parts in your novel to last a LONG time, use some of these methods above to pickle, freeze, or dry out your corpse in question.

Fun times, people. Fun times. This is what you get for hanging out with writers.

And sorry to make your stomachs churn!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring YA Scavenger Hunt: GO TEAM BLUE!

Hi! I'm Lydia. Nice to meet you, if we haven't yet! I'm a doctor and YA author who wrote CONTROL and the sequel CATALYST, which just released from Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin!

When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn't even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA.

A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150—in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms—this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.


Zelia Benten has lost her father, the love of her life, and any future she might have imagined for herself. Now she, her sister, and the band of illegal genetic outcasts they’ve come to call their family are forced to run when the safety of their foster home is compromised. But on the way to a rumored haven in Chicago, Zel hears something impossible: Somehow Cy—the boy she loves, the boy who traded himself for his sister’s safety—is whispering insider her head. She has no idea what it means, but she veers off plan in order to search for him.

What she finds is not what she expected. They’ve been protecting themselves so long against the rest of the world, it’s never occurred to them that the real enemy could be much closer than they realize.

Catalyst is a thrilling ride through a dangerous future that will have you racing through the pages, falling in love, and questioning exactly what it means to be human.


SO! I'll be posting EXCLUSIVE CONTENT for CATALYST somewhere within the Blue Team Scavenger hunt, and giving away a big prize below. Yay! I hope you feel lucky, like my lucky number FOUR. Cross your fingers you'll win! 


Today I'm hosting the lovely Dorothy Dreyer!

Dorothy Dreyer has always believed in magic. Born in Angeles City, Philippines, to a Filipino mother and American Father, Dorothy grew up a military brat, living in Massachusetts, South Dakota, Guam, New Jersey, and New York. She now lives in Frankfurt, Germany, with her husband, two teens, and two Siberian huskies. Dorothy not only writes books with some element of magic in them, but has a fondness for reading those kinds of books as well. She also enjoys movies, chocolate, take-out, and spending time with family and friends. She’s known to make a pretty sweet cupcake when she has the time. She also tends to sing sometimes, so keep her away from your Karaoke bars. 

Connect with Dorothy here: Website / Twitter / FB Fanpage / Goodreads

MY SISTER'S REAPER - Reaper's Rite Book One

Sixteen-year-old Zadie’s first mistake was telling the boy she liked she could bring her dead sister back to life. Her second mistake was actually doing it.

When Zadie accidentally messes with the Reaper’s Rite that should have claimed her sister Mara, things go horribly wrong. Mara isn’t the same anymore—Zadie isn’t even sure she’s completely human. To top it off, a Reaper is determined to collect Mara's soul. Now Zadie must figure out how to defeat her sister’s Reaper or let Mara die … this time for good.

MY TETHERED SOUL - Reaper's Rite Book Two

It’s been months since Zadie faced her sister’s Reaper, months during which she’s been under her mentor’s magical protection. But now that she’s turning seventeen, that protection is about to run out.

When dark forces lure Zadie to wander at night, she’s manipulated into committing unspeakable acts. With her friends and family at risk, Zadie must try to use her powers to break free from the Reaper’s grasp, or surrender to the Reaper’s Rite, which can only lead to death.


And now...for Dorothy's exclusive content!

This scene takes place right after Chase has checked in on Zadie in her room. She’s been wandering at night, and Gavin had to leave town for a couple of days. Chase popped in—through her bedroom window—claiming he thought he saw something suspicious in her room. After he’s decided all is clear and he’s made sure she’s taken her anti-sleepwalking potion, they talk for a bit, and then he leaves her so she can sleep. This bonus scene is told from Chase’s point of view.

I gave Zadie one more glance—the poetic way her rosewood hair fanned out over her pillow—before slipping out of sight and stealthily dropping from the portico roof outside her bedroom window. Daggers stabbed at my heart, as I left her.

I couldn’t stay, of course. Not that she had exactly kicked me out of her room, but she was right in saying I could keep an eye on her perfectly well from where my car was parked. Still, it would have been nice to stay. For her safety, of course, but also for selfish reasons of my own.

She was with Gavin; I understood that. And I would never violate the trust he put in me. A year ago, maybe, when I hadn’t known him so well. But now … dammit. When had I become such a good guy?

I stuffed my hands into my trench coat pockets and stared up at Zadie’s window from beside my car. No doubt she had fallen asleep by now. How I wished it was me she was dreaming about. I kicked the front tire of my car, mentally cursing my stupid heart.


Besides winning the huge YASH Team Blue prize, you can also enter to win a paperback copy of CONTROL or hardcover of CATALYST, your choice, plus luxe swag pack including onyx necklace, mirror, bookmarks, buttons and stickers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now that you've read Dorothy's great scene, it's time to move onto the fab Colleen Houck's blog for the next step in the scavenger hunt! Go forth, read, and hunt away!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Among the Shadows announcement!

Hello all! So excited to announce the cover reveal for AMONG THE SHADOWS, a collaboration of darkish short stories from thirteen YA authors!

The release date is set for September 14th and I'm beyond thrilled to be included in this lineup of amazing authors.

We have a Kickstarter campaign to help with publishing this collection, and it includes all sorts of fantastic perks, so check it out here.

I love the concept of this subject matter. Weird and creepy does show up in my writing a bit, so it was nice to let loose and get, well, creepier. :) I know I am having a blast (and scaring myself in the process) with the story I'm including in the collection.

Spread the word, if you dare!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Hello all and long time, no blog!

I'm so happy to announce the release of the sequel and conclusion to the CONTROL series! I'm thrilled with how this book turned out. It's hard to believe that Catalyst was just a seed of an idea 2011 when I sold Control. I had ideas for a sequel, and let me tell you--it was a trial to make it happen.

Here's a short timeline of how CATALYST came to be. 

October 2011: My agent, Eric Myers, sells Control (back then it was called "The Fountain") to Penguin.

January 2012: I start drafting an outline for book two. Back then, I didn't know what it was going to called. I thought book two could be called CATALYST, and book 3 could be called CODE. I loosely outline CODE, too.

July 2012: I finish writing about 60% of a rough draft of Catalyst. A certain Very Important Someone is NOT in this book. I am calmly told by one of my trusted beta readers that this is sacrilege. After all, in Return of the Jedi, we all know what happens in Jabba the Hut's lair, right? (Trying not to be spoilery but that was super spoilery if you know anything about Star Wars, so...) I discuss this issue briefly with my editor at Penguin, Kathy Dawson, who agrees.

December 2012: Finish drafting Book 2. Commence jumping for joy.

February 2013: This happens:

Lydia Kang's CATALYST, sequel to CONTROL in which a teen girl in 2151 is forced to align herself with her worst enemies in a safe house that's anything but safe, to Kathy Dawson at Kathy Dawson Books, in a good deal, for publication in Fall 2014, by Eric Myers at The Spieler Agency (World).

March 2013: I start drafting book 3. 

June 2013: I start losing hair over book 3. It's not working out well, at all. Meanwhile, I'm writing other books, and gearing up for promotion of CONTROL which releases in December. 

December 2013: Just before CONTROL releases, my editor and I realize that the series would exist best as a duology. I am relieved, because book 3 is full of issues. I am also panicked, because this means I have to rewrite much of CATALYST and smush parts of Book 3 into CATALYST and make it work seamlessly. Oh *$&#@$. 

January 2014: The rewrite of CATALYST is done. That's right. Two months. Less, actually. I basically rewrote 2/3 of a book in about six weeks. One of the most stressful times in my life, because I was also actively promoting CONTROL this entire time. 

February 2014: There is discussion (for the last year, actually) about the title. I want Catalyst to be the title. I NEED it to be the title, for so many plot/chemistry reasons. But Laurie Halse Anderson has a book of the same title, and you know. LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON. I frown and plead and hope. 

July 2014: The cover for CATALYST is revealed! AND YAY, I get to keep my title!!!

January 2015: Reviews start rolling in for CATALYST. And they are good, hooray! Kirkus, VOYA, and Booklist are all glowing!

March 24, 2015. Here is it---CATALYST! 

Zelia Benten has lost her father, the love of her life, and any future she might have imagined for herself. Now she, her sister, and the band of illegal genetic outcasts they’ve come to call their family are forced to run when the safety of their foster home is compromised. But on the way to a rumored haven in Chicago, Zel hears something impossible: Somehow Cy—the boy she loves, the boy who traded himself for his sister’s safety—is whispering insider her head. She has no idea what it means, but she veers off plan in order to search for him.
What she finds is not what she expected. They’ve been protecting themselves so long against the rest of the world, it’s never occurred to them that the real enemy could be much closer than they realize.
Catalyst is a thrilling ride through a dangerous future that will have you racing through the pages, falling in love, and questioning exactly what it means to be human.
Praise for CATALYST:
“Engrossing sequel…Kang spins an evenly paced and thought-provoking story, employing symbolism deftly…[and] wraps up her duology neatly and satisfyingly.”                         —KIRKUS REVIEWS
“Kang packs her plot with suspense and surprises as she explores good, evil, self-sacrifice, ambition, and what it means to be human. The remarkable mix of science, technology, and fantasy—the novel’s centerpiece—will draw a high-tech audience of young people and adults.” —VOYA
“Sci-fi fans with a taste for Orwellian tales of government control will enjoy this solidly written sequel.” —BOOKLIST

Thank you guys for all your support through the years. 
I hope you enjoy CATALYST!

Love, Lydia

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bonus Scene from CONTROL!

Hi all!

Last fall, the YA Scavenger Hunt was a blast. I posted an exclusive bonus scene from CONTROL from Cy's perspective.  A new, exclusive scene is arriving soon for the Spring Scavenger Hunt...but in the meantime, if you missed it, here is the bonus content from Cy's perspective. Enjoy!

The hundred needles pierce the skin of my neck with lightening speed. The metal tattoo machine hovers over my body, lying flat on the table. A hundred years ago, this design would have taken days to finish; in my room, it’s taken twenty excruciating minutes. I squeeze my eyes shut and grip the table edges, grinding my teeth. Every inked flame of hellfire, every scythe and screaming body, is driven into me. It hurts so goddamn much.
This is good.
“Cy. It’s time. Marka will be here any minute.” The voice of Hex, my foster brother, penetrates the room via the wall-com. I don’t have time for this.
“Not coming,” I growl. The tattoo machine quiets to a purr, its job complete. I push it away, sitting up to feel my tender, newly-marked skin. Half my body throbs with exquisite pain, but already the swelling is receding. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t heal so fast. I wipe the droplets of blood away with a towel.
“But I’ve got cookies.”
I grimace. “I said, no.” I can’t waste my time on meeting the pathetic new member of Carus House. I hear she has no trait, even though she’s Dr. Benten’s daughter. It’ll go something like this: She’ll judge us. Then she’ll freak out. Then she’ll judge us some more.
Yeah. Not going.
“Cy. It’s Vera.” She pauses, and the silent few seconds are menacing. “Don’t make me come up there.”
Hex may have four arms and two legs, but he’s sloppy and unfocused when it comes to everything, including fights. Vera, on the other hand, pulls no punches and is a dirty fighter. Not that we’ve fought, but I saw her and Hex go at it recently when he made fun of her striped yoga pants. Hex couldn’t walk straight for days after that one.
“Fine,” I groan. After tugging on an old t-shirt, I take the transport to the common room. Inside, Wilbert is primping, if you can call it that. He’s flattening the hair on top of his normal head with careful strokes of his fingertips.
 “I want to make a good impression,” he says defensively, when he finds me staring with derision.
Should I tell him it’s a lost cause? He has an extra freaking head. But I don’t care. There’s only one thing I care about. The work. Already, the throbbing pain of the tattoo is fading and guilt settles into its absence.
I need to get back to the lab. I can’t wait until this show is over.
“They’ll be here any minute,” Vera says, sweeping into the room. Her green skin is lush and vibrant, even in this dim light. Hex quietly tiptoes in soon after. He stalks behind Vera and stretches out his four arms, until he resembles a mantis about to murder its katydid-like victim. Menacing, except for the one hand clutching a chocolate-macadamia nut cookie.
Vera calmly stares ahead, unflinching. “If you touch me, Hex, you’ll need tweezers to remove your nuts from your eye sockets.”
Hex freezes, and his smile disappears. He coughs, backs away, and stares innocently at the ceiling, all four hands hidden behind his back.
I give them a sidelong glance. Sometimes I desperately crave what they have, wishing I could immerse myself in that casual happiness, even when disguised as annoyance. But I don’t deserve it. I don’t belong in that world. They know it, and keep their distance. I give them both murderous looks, wishing for silence.
An alarm beeps from the door. Wilbert peers into the screen next to it. “They’re on their way up. Wow. The new girl is really scrawny.”
“I’ve got cookies,” Hex offers.
“Shut up!” Vera hisses.
We wait. Marka must be telling her about us. I’m the least shocking of the four of us, physically. A tiny clink by my feet tells me that one of my ear studs has fallen out. There are several left, including the large black one in my lip. I forgot—I pierced myself at least seven times this morning. Soon, my body will heal and push them all out, one by one, and it’ll just be me again. Which is another brand of torture.
The room becomes still with anticipation. The door beeps once again, then slides quickly open.
Marka stands there, her close-cropped hair framing a steady but apprehensive face. You can hardly see it, but she’s biting her lip. Next to her, a petite teen girl stands, frozen.
She’s cornered the market on frizzy brown hair. There are dark circles beneath large eyes, and pale lips puckered by anxiety. A heart-shaped face, with an irregular prettiness camouflaged by plainness. Behind the fear in her eyes lurks a sharp intelligence that makes me catch my breath. My pulse starts to race.
She looks just like Professor Weisberger, the holo professor I work with almost every day. A doppelgänger, except wearing untidy, oversized clothes and a thick layer of distrust.
She’s so familiar, but not. I want to gaze at her longer, want to hear her speak. But wanting these things? I hate it. I stare her down, daring her to be disgusted by us. Her cinnamon brown eyes travel over my neck, my face, my piercings. Against my will, my face flushes warmly, hopefully hidden beneath my tattoos. I frown even more, but feigning anger doesn’t calm my body down.
Soon, the girl’s eyes find Vera, and she actually stops breathing. Then they see Hex who crosses one pair of arms before waving with his second pair.
“Hi,” he says, all friendly-like.
Wilbert, hiding behind Hex, presses his cowlick down one more time before emerging at last. When the girl sees Wilbert, any color she had left in her face drains completely away.
“Here we go. Three, two, one...” Wilbert says.

On zero, the girl whirls around and bolts back through the door.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Lenny Lee!

To one of the most wonderful kid bloggers in the world!
Lenny is one of the first bloggers I met when I started blogging five years ago. He's got a big, warm heart, loves animals, and has been battling an illness on and off with grace, maturity and bravery.

And now...

Lenny Lee is turning FIFTEEN! WOOHOO!

We love you, Lenny!

I hope you get to enjoy birthday cake like this guy enjoys his carrots. :)

A Sloth eating carrots