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Monday, May 31, 2004

In Which the author finally has The Conversation with his daughter...

Pretty good day.

Woke up, grabbed notebook before I got out of bed and wrote several lyrics for the Wolves in the Walls opera, including one that made me laugh called "Smash Something Breakable". Exercised, said hullo to the garden. Then spent the afternoon writing the novel, which went from completely despondent "this is awful the whole thing is unusable I have no idea what I'm doing" to, a thousand words later, "I suppose it's not that bad really and I think I know what happens next," and there are worse places to be.

This evening I had a very pleasant time with Holly, which began with her mentioning how much she liked the song "Across the Universe" and me playing her the version of the song by Laibach, which has always been my favourite. "Dad," she said, happily, "This was the version of the song I knew as a little girl. You used to play it. I always wondered why the Beatles one sounded different from the way I expected. I mean you could understand the words for a start." Then we sat in front of the computer for a few hours and I made her a playlist of more songs she had loved as a small girl, the ones she'd remembered and the ones she'd forgotten, which led to our having The Conversation. You know, the one I've known was coming for the last almost-nineteen years.

I dragged songs from her childhood over to the playlist -- "Barcelona" and "Nothing Compares 2 U" and "I Don't Like Mondays" and "These Foolish Things" and then came Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side". "You named me from this song, didn't you?" said Holly as the first bass notes sang. "Yup," I said.

Lou started singing.

Holly listened to the first verse, and for the first time, actually heard the words.

"Shaved her legs and then he was a she...? He?"

"That's right," I said, and bit the bullet. We were having The Conversation. "You were named after a drag queen in a Lou Reed song."

She grinned like a light going on. "Oh dad. I do love you," she said. Then she picked up an envelope and wrote what I'd just said down on the back, in case she forgot it.

I'm not sure that I'd ever expected The Conversation to go quite like that.


....

Ehrm, maybe it's me, but did you mean low gravity?

Nope, I meant high gravity. Like in the old SF books and comics where super-strength and giantism were a result of growing up on high gravity planets. Honest.

Hi Neil. So sorry to ask but a while ago you mentioned a book to be published (in the fall?) by a new british author about 2 wizards who are enemies and all I can remember is the word Mr. is in the title and that the book is quite long. Shameful considering I work in a bookstore and loathe questions like this. Anyhow if you remember, I would greatly appreciate the title again and I promise to write it down this time Thanks so much.
Sulyn
P.S. Love the pic of you in the coffin. It's creepy good!


Not a problem. The book is "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" (it rhymes with sorrel) by Susanna Clarke, which you can read a little about (including the blurb by me, which was a fancy of way of saying what I'd said here) at http://bloomsbury.com/susannaclarke/ and you can learn a little about how it is being promoted at http://www.thebookseller.com/?pid=84&did=12087.

Dear Neil,

Just to say that, of the five of us at the bookshop where I work, four of us are now Thea Gilmore fans. For this I blame you for your pernicious influence on the two of us who are Neil Gaiman fans & avid readers of your blog, and multiple playings of 'Avalanche' on the shop stereo.

Here's a link to a bizarre news item that I don't think can be genuine, except for the fact that it is from the Daily Telegraph, and surely they wouldn't want to make out that the pro-hunting lobby is rather nuts?

'Notices calling for people to join the new church are
being placed in shooting shops and distributed at country fairs. They
state: "The proposition is that field sports can and do qualify as a
religion.

"We have been going into the legal
requirements of having the Free Church of Country Sports registered as
a church. As a church, we could not be attacked by a government. There
would, of course, be a court case, which is what we want."

Mr Brammer, who runs a shooting school at Shillingford, Devon, said:
"There are so many parallels between country sports and established
religions: we also have regalias, we have our own language and our own
art.

"Those in the Jewish faith blow a horn, the shofar, and so do we.

"Hunting is a form of ritualised killing - in our case the odds of actual killing are stacked in favour of the animal to escape.

"We baptise our children by blooding them with the blood of that which we
kill. Is this any more strange than dressing them in white and totally
submerging them in water?"'

Daily Telegraph: 23/05/04 - Hunt enthusiasts call faithful to Free Church of Country Sports
best wishes,

Maria Ng


For some reason my favourite line from the article was Mr Milne, an agronomist from Winchester, said: "Rod came up with the idea for the church. He is the thinker. We think it is valid. We have plenty of headed notepaper." I like the idea that headed notepaper confers validity on things.

And I never posted the NPR page on Thea Gilmore did I? It has an interview and several songs: http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=1830286 and here's Avalanche - http://www.npr.org/programs/asc/archives/asc42/index.html#gilmore

Hi Neil,
American fan of yours writing from Germany here. Last year you posted so many great dates for events at which you would be present. Is the "Where's Neil" section simply not being updated, or is Neil just staying in the Midwest US for the rest of eternity?
Through my own fault, I missed you at every single event in Europe. I was in Germany while you were in England; then I was in England while you were on the continent. I had plans to come the Elf Fantasy Fair in Utrecht, but my car exploded (1 big explosion and 4 little ones, actually). I even bought tickets to the Novello: Festival of Reading, "An Evening with Neil Gaiman" in Charlotte, NC (Charlotte being my Alma Mater), but was forced to end my hometown leave a week early to come back to Germany for "business". I gave the ticket to my cousins, I don't know if they actually went or not. Needless to say I gave up on seeing you last year.
If you need the rest, I am sure that I understand, but I was so looking forward to seeing you sometime this Summer in Europe.
I realize that you can't respond to all of these, but I hold to the idea that you at least look at all of them.

Thanks much,

Claude V. Smith


I don't think you'll see me in Europe this summer, I'm afraid. (It doesn't even look as if I'll be doing the Edinburgh Festival now.) I spent over two months last year signing and talking my way across about fifteen European countries. That sort of used up my get-on-the-road-and-promote-things time.

This year is mostly being spent writing. I have to finish the novel, after all. Next year I'll go to Australia for a convention, and will probably spend a week or two doing the signings in countries I've never been to, but where publishers and people are patiently waiting. So it'll be a while, I'm afraid. Sorry.

...

Time to close a few windows: I snagged this from Mark Evanier -- it's a map of America arranged according to what the generic term for fizzy drinks in cans is in each county: http://www.popvssoda.com/countystats/total-county.html

I've mislaid the news story about the county that collected over a hundred thousand dollars to fight the menace of goths having to give it all back because it couldn't find any and the ones it found weren't menacing, so instead here's an article about how the US Government is fighting flavoured cigarettes (except for menthol, of course).

[Tom Galloway just sent me the lost story: http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/8728519.htm?1c -- and remember, http://www.bugmenot.com/ will give you a working log-in ID, if you don't feel like registering.]

Mark Bode is finishing his father's incomplete story The Lizard of Oz, according to the New York Times. It seems to be stretching the definition of "finishing" and "incomplete" a bit (Vaughn Bode drew a cover for it, and told 12 year old Mark the plot, but that's all) but it's good to see an article about Vaughn Bode (and Mark) in the Times. (You need to click on the bit of an illustration to actually see Cheech Wizard and the Oz kids.)

I discovered from the Scotsman that a couple of crap blogs out there mean that The Blog Is Now Dead, It Has Ceased To Be etc.: http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=598642004. That's an enormous relief, of course.

This collection of parodic children's book covers and ads is in terrible taste, and is occasionally very funny.

And finally, presenting... the low carb potato.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Brains, books, murder, Kirby...

The phone rang this afternoon, and it was someone offering us morels.
I said yes immediately, of course. It was quite pitiful how extremely and immediately I yessed, but when people offer you morels, you say yes. They may look like tiny alien brain-fungus, but they taste amazing...

And then the just-picked morels arrived. These weren't your normal morels (smallish, ugly brain-fungi which taste like heaven). They were the best, hugest, most impressive morels I'd ever seen: like tiny alien brain-fungus from some really high-gravity planet where the tiny aliens grew extraordinarily big, for tiny aliens, and have incredibly tasty and good-looking brains. Enough for whatever I wanted to do in the way of cooking this evening, and still have some left over to sautee with scrambled eggs for breakfast tomorrow morning.

So I started cooking with morels...

The world desperately needs your wisdom regarding the Giant Mushroom that has Baffled Experts in Congo!


Here's the Giant Congo Mushroom story on Yahoo news.


Well, for a start, you could slice it up really small, fry it in butter with a handful of sliced chives, add some white wine and let it simmer, and you've got some really nice Giant Congo Mushroom Sauce... then there's Giant Congo Mushroom risotto, sauteed Giant Congo Mushroom, roast Giant Congo Mushroom and chicken with Giant Congo Mushroom...


You have at several points and quite recently, discussed the idea of books being made freely available on the web, as probably not a good thing.

I am a little surprised that no one has mentioned this to you, but it has been done and now we know what happens when you do it -- your print sales for that free book go suddenly up, and so do print sales of your entire in-print backlist, even if it's from another publisher.
This is the Baen Free Library http://www.baen.com/library/ from Jim Baen books. Quite a few titles are available absolutely free for download in multiple formats including HTML and RTF, and are also included on a free CD with Baen hardback books. (Free to copy and give away too, but not sell.) This includes lots of novels from well-known and lesser-known writers. David Weber, Larry Niven, Eric Flint, David Drake and Mercedes Lackey to name a few. Other books are also available for download for a small monthly fee.There is also a sometime newsletter for the library, called "Prime Palaver", usually written by Eric Flint, but the last issue was written by Janis Ian, so I thought she would have told you about it.

Two of the recent books I purchased were a direct result of encountering their authors at BFL. There will be more, because I want the books in my hand. (A computer screen is not a comfortable place to read a book.) A lot of people have been writing in to Mr. Flint and saying similar things.

He has watched his own, Mr. Weber's and Ms. Lackey's sales increase across the board, the month when one of them adds a novel to the BFL.Ms. Ian's letter is also of great interest. She observes that despite many albums and many sales, she has never received a royalty check from her music publishers saying that they owed her any money. Ever.

Oh, and I found "Coraline" in my local bookstore, but not "The Wolves in the Walls". I comfort myself with the idea that this is because my walls are made of adobe, and are therefore much too think and sturdy to have any wolves in them. I called a local contractor with the idea of having them check, but was angrily hung-up on with a muttered comment, barely heard, about "wasting his time". Thus, I feel doubly reassured. No wolves in my walls.

David Leikam


I didn't say that books being freely available on the web was probably not a good thing. I said that it should be up to the copyright holder what gets posted and where, and that I think that people who post my novels on their sites without my permission are being tremendously ill-mannered.

I think it's great that books get posted on-line. I think that for example Cory Doctorow posting his books online is an excellent marketing idea (here's Cory's site). I'm all in favour of creative commons. I like putting my own work up on-line: I think it's a marvellous way for people to find stuff. The last post has a link to several sites which contain short stories and poems by me. There's free stuff to read all over neilgaiman.com. (And I'm happy to post links to places you can hear some of the audio books without paying for them, like this: http://www.scifi.com/set/playhouse/snowglassapples/ and also this, http://www.scifi.com/set/playhouse/murder/)

But part of the concept of copyright is that you can decide how and where your work is -- or isn't -- reproduced. I don't want people putting my novels up on their sites; I don't care whether they feel they're doing me some kind of favour by promoting my work or not. If I wanted the books up online, I'd post them myself.

(I'm not sure I understand your point on royalties. Authors mostly do get royalties. Well, I do, and so do most working authors I know. Some royalties arrive quarterly, some twice a year, some annually. They're what authors buy groceries with, pay the mortgage, all that stuff. They're what the Baen Books site is trying to increase for its authors by, as it explains on the front page, explicitly only putting the early books in a series on the web.)

You don't only have to worry about wolves in walls, of course; there's also wolves in computers to worry about. Luckily you can get a destop wossname proclaiming your computer free of wolves (although there is small print). Head for wolvesinthewalls.com and click on downloads. (There's also a screensaver for PCs and Macs --OS 8/9 and OS X - here.)

...

This is the most peculiar internet story I've seen in ages: a boy who plotted the strangest suicide -- by convincing an older boy to murder him. http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,2763,1227362,00.html

...

I was pleased to get a copy of Roger Zelazny's novel Lord of Light the other day. It's one of my favourite books (I think the first thing author Steve Brust ever said to me was "Let's have an argument. Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light is the best book anyone's ever written." "Ah," I said, "If you make it best SF book of the 1960s, I'll go along with it." "Oh. Fair enough." It was the first of a long line of failed arguments.) It's got a blurb from me on it, which I hope sells many copies.

I googled Lord of Light, looking for the new cover, and found myself instead reading the story of the Lord of Light movie, the Jack Kirby-designed Sciencefictionland theme park, and how the CIA pretended to be making the film themselves and scuttled the deal. http://www.lordoflight.com/cia.html

Friday, May 28, 2004

From the Mailbag...

Fred the Unlucky Black Cat went to the vet today, as he was obviously in severe stomach pain. Lots of people had helpfully written to me to tell me all the potential medical awfulnesses that his throwing up could have been a symptom of, until I was convinced that his problem was some kind of intestinal cancer or something, but it turned out to be puncture wounds -- some animal had bitten him, deeply, on the stomach. He's back from the vet now, with a shaved tummy, and on painkillers and antibiotics. Sigh. At least we caught it before it abscessed this time.

As you can see from the previous two posts, I've started playing with Hello's bloggerbot, to stick up a couple of the 13 Nights photos. It's okay, but I managed to attach the wrong label to the first photo, and then had to go in and fix it, by which time it had already gone out to the RSS feeds. Sorry if you got it twice.

Hi Neil,

My wife is about to take a trip to Britain to study, is close enough to the trip that she can't start anything real, not close enough that she can start packing, and so is lounging around the house being stressed. Since she's in a "read something to distract me" mood, I finally got her to begin reading _Good Omens_ for the first time (she's mostly a mystery novel reader).

She just read through the "Archbishop James Usher calculated..." bit at the beginning about the world being created in October, 4004 BC. She then was telling me about him, what sort of things he'd done, and what important manuscripts he'd owned, by which I was very amused. She also informed me that his last name is actually spelled "Ussher".

Just thought you might want to know.

Sorry about your having to clean up after the cat. We have a cat here who doesn't understand that having all four paws in the litter box is not sufficient, and so we often end up with urine under the litter box rather than in it. Sigh.

Looking forward to the "13 Nights of Fright" this October. Please put a reminder in the blog so that people remember.

Sincerely,

Craig Steffen
[In the Penguicon panel on "blogging as literature", I was the person who stood up and responded by channeling my wife to the effect of "Remember that standardized spelling is an invention of the last 300 years". Same wife.]


She sounds very wise. Standardised spelling is certainly an invention of the last 300 years, and James Usher spelled his name Ussher and Usher. I think if Terry and I were writing Good Omens all over again, I'd listen to Dave Langford at the final editing stage when he said that Ussher is the more usual spelling. (That was my bit, so it was my call.) It's not really the more usual spelling -- a google check shows them as fairly well matched -- but the two-S Ussher people tend to be very proud of themselves for knowing about the two S's, and are sure you've got it wrong, whereas one-S Usher people have normally noticed it's spelled both ways, or don't care. I deferred to the Encyclopedia Britannica, which is a one-s Usher book, and sort of wish I hadn't.


Neil, I was just flipping through the new Previews earlier today and I noticed the solicitation for the "1602" hardcover. It says "1602 Vol. 1 HC."

Volume 1? Is there something you're not telling us?

more-than-mildly curious,
dave golbitz


Nope. Nothing to do with me, guv. I think it's a goof, as the collected 1602 is the whole thing. It's no secret that Marvel are talking to writers about spin-offs (it was, after all, probably the best-selling comic of last year) but there's nothing solid yet, and I don't think any spin-off would be 1602 Volume 2 in any case.

What relationship do you have with Daniel Lazar? I read somewhere that he is your literary agent. Did he take over for Merrilee?

Who? I thought, when I read this, and I googled, and found this -- http://www.writingclasses.com/bios/facultyBioByInstructor.php?instructor=345 -- and while my name is there, beside Nora Roberts and Stephen Hawking, it's as a Writer's House author, and Daniel's a Writer's House agent. Merrilee Heifetz is, I'm glad to say, still my literary agent, just as she has been for the last 16 years, and I'm very fortunate to have her.

Several of you have written in asking a question about who's who in A Study In Emerald, and yes, you're right in your suppositions, and it would be a spoiler to say any more.

There is an interview with Stephin Merritt on the Onion A.V. Club website. http://www.theonionavclub.com/feature/index.php?issue=4021

There is, and it's a good one, isn't it?

Hey Neil,

I was reading the Orkut community dedicated to your work and and the piracy issue came up. How do you feel about, say, having the whole of Sandman available for free download on p2p networks? Or any (all) other works you've done? Do you think it impacts your sales? Would you like it to go away?

Regards,

HelenaN


I'd love it to go away, but it's not a genie that's ever going to go back into the bottle. Let's see, what do I think? I was delighted recently when I heard that the guy who'd been selling CDs with PDF files of the complete runs of Sandman, Preacher and so on on eBay is currently having close encounters with comics companies' lawyers. The stories weren't his to sell, after all.

Frankly, I think that the important thing is the wishes of the copyright holder in these things. Does it impact my sales when people post my stuff on the web? I've no idea. Probably not. I'm perfectly happy to put stuff up -- you'll find a number of short stories on Neilgaiman.com, and links to places which have put things I've written up with my blessing (the short story Snow, Glass, Apples is up at The Dreaming -- click on "Stories" for a number of links. There's poetry of mine up at Terri Windlng's Endicott Site. Cinnamon is up at DreamHaven's Neilgaiman.net -- click on Extras.) But I think that, for example, posting the text of American Gods or Neverwhere on your website, as several people have attempted to do, is, apart from anything, astonishingly bad manners.

As for Sandman and the other comics being out there on the web, well, mostly I'm not the copyright holder. I tend to think of it as being slightly more of a grey area -- I'm more sympathetic to people in countries where the work isn't available otherwise, for example. And I'm very aware that what's on screen is not the comic, not in the same way that an MP3 really is the song. (Anyone who's going to read all 2000 pages of Sandman on a monitor has my sympathy.) But I tend to lose all sympathy at the point where the "but it would cost money to buy the real thing" argument gets invoked.

I don't know if you've seen (heard?) this yet, but it is very funny: http://www.pythonline.com/plugs/idle/FCCSong.mp3
crystal


It is funny, yes, and is currently my daughter Holly's favourite song.

This Guardian article talking about the contents of a leaked report, invokes Joseph Heller's Catch 22 :

What is one to make, for example, of the way Captain Leo Merck is said to have behaved? Captain Merck, in charge of a military police unit, is alleged to have spent his time in Iraq taking "nude pictures of female soldiers without their knowledge".

His colleague, Captain Damaris Morales, is ticked off for failing to train his troops. One of them proved unable, it is alleged, to get out of his vehicle without accidentally letting off his M-16 rifle. Taguba drily notes: "Round went into fuel tank."



Hi Neil!

My name is Marlon, and I certanly am your best fan in Brazil. I would like to know if you'll come here sometime...
And I want to do a question: What do you think about Brazil?

Please, answer my mensage, do this boy happy...

Sorry for my english errors, I'm learning...

Thank You, Marlon.


I love Brazil and the Brazilians, and would love to come back to Brazil. I think there are a bunch of places I ought to go first, because I've never been there and I know people are waiting, like the Philipines or Singapore, before I go back to Brazil (where I was last in 2001). But Brazil is special.


Neil--
I'm a big fan, and just wanted to say congrats on the Hugo nomination. "A Study in Emerald" is wonderful; I enjoyed it immensely.
And I was wondering, if you win the Hugo this year, will you say, "Fuck, I got another Hugo!"?
I think it would be rather brilliant if you did.

Lots of love,
Jessica


Many months ago, I agreed to be the Master of Ceremonies for the Hugo Awards this year (at Noreascon, in Boston), secure in the knowledge that I had neither a novel nor a novella out this year, so wouldn't have to worry about being up for an award (and if you'd told me that a story from a Sherlock Holmes meets Chthulu anthology would be nominated for the Hugo, I would have told you not to be silly). I have no idea whether or not "A Study In Emerald" has a chance, but I'm pretty sure that I'll have been up on that stage for about an hour by that point, and will have talked a lot already, and whatever happens I won't find myself standing blinking in the spotlight, quite astonished and taken aback, with no speech prepared, listening to my mouth telling 4,000 people exactly what I'm thinking, as I did when American Gods won...

And it's time to stop writing this and go to bed. Goodnight.

The why I can't die before Hallowe'en photo...


Me, in my extremely comfortable coffin, about to introduce the Amicus "Tales From the Crypt" at the start of Fox Movie Channel's 13 Nights of Fright. (Photo by Jude Prest.) I think it will start broadcasting on the 19th of October 2004, and go nightly through to Hallowe'en, when they'll air a seven-film marathon, with slightly different intros and outros, along with the final film of the sequence.

It looked moodier once the candles burned down a bit


Me, bearded, in horror-host mode, learning how to read a teleprompter for Fox Movie Channel's 13 Nights of Fright. (Photo by Jude Prest.)

Disconcertingly, the rug was once a real zebra.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Things that Make you Blog part One: Avoidance...

Fred the Unlucky Black Cat has been doing fairly well recently. About ten minutes ago, he inspired a small poem, for a start.

Ahem.

A Cat in the Ointment

For some, life's one long fine surprise
the ointment's pure: there are no flies.

For some, life's one long disappointment
there's only flies: there is no ointment.

The rest of us live in the middle.
You own the cat -- clean up the widdle.


Although actually it's not widdle, but cat vomit in astonishing quantities. (None of the rhymes for vomit or puke seemed to fit though. No, don't take it as a challenge, please.) No cat can have eaten that much cat food, I thought, as I got out of bed and looked at the bedroom carpet. Then Fred staggered back over to it and began retching and hiccupping and gurgling again, and deposited yet more undigested catfood onto a fairly white bedroom carpet.

Excuse me. I really only came downstairs for more paper towels. I have some late night carpet cleaning I should be getting back to.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Wreckless Entry

�In the early days of Stiff Records, Jake Riviera asked everybody what they wanted to be: rich or famous. I thought the answer was easy � I wanted to be famous because that was what was expected of me and, surely, if I had some hits, I�d be rich anyway. But �famous� was the wrong answer � Elvis Costello, for instance, said �rich�."
(Eric Goulden -- Wreckless Eric, in this article.)

I've been a Wreckless Eric fan for some unlikely amount of time, like twenty-six years. For a long time it was really hard being a Wreckless Eric fan, because I had no idea what he was doing, and suspected he had probably been eaten by weasels. Then the Internet happened, and I started discovering the various identies he'd been making music under, and buying CDs made by such Eric Goulden AKAs as The Hitsville House Band. (When she was smaller Maddy was a fan of the children's music-story Eric did with Ian Dury, Moe Tucker and others, The Slippery Ballerina, and I still like it.)

Anyway, about six months ago I bought Eric Goulden's biography "A Dysfunctional Success: The Wreckless Eric Manual (written by the author)", published by the Do Not Press, and then, because the pile of stuff to read is very high and teetering, didn't read it until yesterday, impelled by the arrival of a sort of a best-of Wreckless Eric made up from BBC sessions, Almost a Jubilee, and a conversation with a friend who interviews Eric on several of the tracks. I think I was hoping for insight into the early Stiff records days, which I didn't get. What I got was much better, and a great deal more interesting: a shambling, acutely observed, very funny-sad-true-sharp autobiography by someone who thought that music ought to be fun, and was sometimes even sober.

As the author explains, "...mostly it's about growing up - life in the sixties and seventies in suburban South East England, being an art student in the frozen North East, renting flats, forming bands, falling over and getting up again. And it isn't the story of Stiff Records though they do get a mention."

Here's an extract, from the publisher's site, for the flavour of the book: http://www.thedonotpress.com/extracts/ericex.html

And seeing that there's a Wrecklesseric.com I went and had a look around -- lots of good stuff, including occasional journal entries. So there you go. A Sunday morning book and website recommendation.

Friday, May 21, 2004

A fraud exposed, and a true thing...

This one left me blinking. Not so much because it was a fraud, as why anyone would bother to create such a fraud...

Found this on the infiltrate.org forum - thought you might find it interesting. You'd wonder why somebody would go to the lengths to fake something like this.
dee

Chornobyl "Ghost Town" story is a fabrication TOP
e-POSHTA subscriber Mary Mycio writes:

I am based in Kyiv and writing a book about Chornobyl for the Joseph Henry Press. Several sources have sent me links to the "Ghost Town" photo essay included in the last e-POSHTA mailing. Though it was full of factual errors, I did find the notion of lone young woman riding her motorcycle through the evacuated Zone of Alienation to be intriguing and asked about it when I visited there two days ago.

I am sorry to report that much of Elena's story is not true. She did not travel around the zone by herself on a motorcycle. Motorcycles are banned in the zone, as is wandering around alone, without an escort from the zone administration. She made one trip there with her husband and a friend. They traveled in a Chornobyl car that picked them up in Kyiv.

She did, however, bring a motorcycle helmet. They organized their trip through a Kyiv travel agency and the administration of the Chornobyl zone (and not her father). They were given the same standard excursion that most Chernobyl tourists receive. When the Web site appeared, Zone Administration personnel were in an uproar over who approved a motorcycle trip in the zone. When it turned out that the motorcycle story was an invention, they were even less pleased about this fantasy Web site.

Because of those problems, Elena and her husband have changed the Web site and the story considerably in the last few days. Earlier versions of the narrative lied more blatantly about Elena taking lone motorcycle trips in the zone. That has been changed to merely suggest that she does so, which is still misleading.

I would not normally bother to correct someone's silly Chornobyl fantasy. Indeed, correcting all the factual errors and falsehoods in "Ghost Town" would consume as much space as the Web site itself. But the motorcycle story was such an outrageous fiction that I thought the readers of e-Poshta should know.

Mary Mycio, J.D.

Legal Program Director
IREX U-Media
Shota Rustaveli St. 38b, No. 16
Kyiv 01023, Ukraine
Tel: (380-44) 220-6374, 228-6147
Fax: 227-7543


See also http://www.uer.ca/forum_showthread.asp?fid=1&threadid=8951 which includes more information from people who actually did go to Chernobyl...

Meanwhile lots of you pointed out that SNOPES.COM has just weighed in on the "Childless married couple told to have sex" story (http://www.snopes.com/pregnant/nosex.asp)and they think it's an urban legend. I wasn't very clear when I posted yesterday -- I think what I meant was that that story looked like an Urban Legend (due to being written like an urban legend -- the no spokesperson being named for a start), and I expect that this version of it is, but that I was assured that this has happened by Jack Cohen and thus I believe it.

And lots of you also wrote in to assure me that lizards have two penises, which was nice of you, but I already believed it because Jack Cohen told me. I even believe the thing about the mill-foreman.

Hi Neil,

In case you hadn't heard, Wil Wheaton'ss second book "Just a Geek" a story based partly on some of his blogging is coming out in early July. Wil showed a cover shot on his site with a link to the Amazon pre-order page, and JAG is now #23 on Amazon's orders page. As a huge fan of yours, I think he would find it too cool to get a congratulatory note from you, an established author and someone he admires greatly.

Sincerely,

Craig Steffen


Well, yes, he'd probably like a congratulatory note, but I think he'll be a lot happier if I finish and send him the introduction instead. (I told him that a Patrick Stewart introduction would probably sell more copies.) It's an eminently readable book, anyway, honest and good-natured. When I post this journal entry (which has sat here unfinished for two days now) I shall go upstairs, bang on one of the recent DVD arrivals, the kind that I can watch with half an eye, and I shall write an introduction.

(Yesterday I wrote an 800 word introduction to a 200 word Harlan Ellison short story. And I got 1000 words of novel done too. Then again, so far today I've done nothing noteworthy, except survive a test-drive of my son's new car-to-be.)

Hey Neil, have you seen Reed Waller's new blog at http://rwaller.blogspot.com/?

I hadn't but I was pleased you sent this in.

Kate Worley (who wrote, among other things, the very wonderful graphic novel/comics sequence Omaha the Cat Dancer, which Reed Waller drew) is married to Jim Vance (who wrote, among other things Kings in Disguise). They have two young children. As Reed mentions in his blog, Kate, who is working on Omaha again for the first time in many years, has cancer. It's not good. You can read some more details at this thread.

The news that she had there's going to be a collection in French, of the complete story, and, seeing the the story was left incomplete, Kate and Reed are going to finish it

Jim and Kate are pretty much up against the wall right now, with wolves baying at the door. If they can keep going for a few more months, the wolves may calm down -- the new Omaha material will start coming out and so on. But right now she's fighting cancer and fighting to stay in the place they're living, and they're out at the edges of losing their home while Kate's working very hard to write and to get through this. (It can't be much fun for Jim or the kids, for that matter.)

I spoke to Kate, who confirmed just how bad things are right now, and said, yes, they need help, badly. Donations can be paypalled to Jim at jim1vance@aol.com. Donations, get well-cards, or nice things of any kind can be sent to Jim and Kate at 323 S Yorktown, Tulsa OK, 74104. Kate's e-mail is scriptist@aol.com. And if some well-intentioned person with more time and ability than I have decided to do a benefit comic or something to help them, I think that would be an excellent idea.

(And feel very free to pass the word along.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Toad Mating Balls. Who knew?

I got an enforced day off from blogging yesterday, while little gnomey men with long whiskery beards and hammers and crowbars and serious swiss army knives clambered about behind the scenes here at neilgaiman.com hammering and banging and taking blogger archive URLs apart and inspecting them with pursed lips and shaken heads and the occasional muttered "'oo put this together then, eh? some cowboy? cor struth. It's a wonder it's lasted this long," before putting them back together again with all their grommets refitted and their wicket-hasps rebored.

But now it's all working again, without having dumped another fifty thousand words of me-burble into people's friends lists and RSS feeds, and I should thank Sunil and Julia, gnomewranglers, for making it all happen. (And I just checked, and now the old-style long numbery archive entries still work, as do the new Blogger format ones. So all's well. I hope.)

I'll just post stuff for now so I can close some windows, and tomorrow I'll try and answer some questions, and put up several things I've been waiting to post until I had a quiet few minutes.

http://www.bwibooks.com/news1/item160 is the front page of BWI books, who have a long interview done with me at the ALA convention in Atlanta in 2002, mostly about Coraline. (link via the Dreaming.)

I wonder whether this news story about a couple's failure to conceive is an urban legend or not, and suspect not -- I think Professor Jack Cohen once told me the same thing. But then, he also told me that the foreman of a cotton mill in the early eighteenth century was expected to have sex with the senior female millworkers, and would be demoted when he could no longer perform. And that lizards have two penises. And the thing about seagulls being able to mate with the breed to the east (or the west, I forget).

While I wasn't looking, Jill Karla Schwarz added another three adventures of Attention Deficit Girl over at http://www.attentiondeficitgirl.com/index.html -- they're on the interface of comics and cartoons, with Jill playing ADDgirl herself.

As far as Sandman fanfiction tributes that are also excellent kids' comics go, this is the bees knees.

Now that Spring is here, parents among you should keep in mind the numerous Spring Dangers that abound -- otherwise you too may be bereaved of your little bundle of joy. (Indirectly from Shanmonster I expect.)

Waiting for me when I got home were my copies of the Literary Life collection and of Gemma Bovery both by Posy Simmonds (interviewed here), and London Orbital by Iain Sinclair (profiled here). Faintly (pleasantly) surprised to find a lovely sequence in London Orbital about my Sweeney Todd prologue with Michael Zulli, of Mike Lake and I finding Wren's Temple Bar in the woods in Cheshunt. Beware Falling Masonry indeed.

If you can't be bothered to register at news sites that want you to, then http://www.bugmenot.com/ is the website for you -- and probably already has an ID and password for the newspaper you want.

There may be people who haven't read the Lileks article on BIG LITTLE BOOKS. It made me laugh out loud, partly because several of the books in question were dreadfully familiar. Or familiarly dreadful. Well, one: as a small boy I owned the Fantastic Four book. I have no idea how I got it -- did they sell Big Little Books in the UK?

You know that thing you do where people tell you not to click on things and you do anyway and then you have an image that you can't get out of your head, not even if you scrub it with wire wool until it bleeds? Well, this will be, for some people anyway, one of those images: it's a toad mating ball. If you think you might want not to have seen it, then just don't click on it. Instead read all about frog amplexus and why those two- and three-headed frogs they find always seem to turn out to be two or three frogs getting friendly.

I bet Jack Cohen knows all about toad mating balls...

I don't remember if I ever posted a link to these photos (I meant to, months ago) by Loretta Lux. They're of children, posed in a studio then digitally given backgrounds and worked into. Creepy, beautiful images. They might also help if the toad mating ball got to you.

Currently listening to three CDs by Hera, who sent them to me (thank you Hera). She's good -- the Icelandic one is getting an awful lot of play around here.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Free stuff

Quick helpful one: Over at http://www.bookslut.com/blog they're giving away five free ALA Sandman posters and five free ALA Neil Gaiman posters to people who sign up for their mailing list (send a blank email to list@bookslut.com). The draw is tomorrow, so sign up fast... (I only just noticed this or I would have mentioned it before.)

(My copies of the poster arrived today. I'm normally embarrassed by photos of myself, but I like this one -- Kimberly Butler did a great job. And that was the normal photo from the session...)

three things

Let's see...

1) I'm home again. Typing this on a new computer I'm just starting to get used to.

2) Seeing that the Fox Movie Channel thing is all over and done with (although it won't be broadcast until the thirteen days before Hallowe'en 2004), I shaved off the beard last night. I think it'll stay off for a while now. (Under the Stephen King Rules, authors are allowed to grow beards and then shave them off again, though.)

3) Er, that's it.

All the e-mail and notes and things are on another computer, one I'm not typing on this minute, so before I go to bed I shall simply point out that there's now a Sandman script up over in Exclusives. It's the script for Sandman 24 -- the third part of SEASON OF MISTS. Very shortly after it was written, I posted it to Compuserve's comics forum library, because people were asking what Sandman scripts looked like (I'm pretty sure that DREAM COUNTRY hadn't come out yet), and had, in the thirteen years since then, I'd pretty much forgotten it was up there. Recently I was alerted to the fact that some people had started selling the printout of the script on eBay for lots of money. This seemed wrong, so I asked Julia Bannon if she'd put it up here at neilgaiman.com, and she has: http://www.neilgaiman.com/exclusive/SandmanEpisode24.asp

good night.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

If this is Saturday it must be... where the hell am I anyway?

I was on the West Coast yesterday, am on the East Coast today and will be home again tomorrow. Yes, I travel too much.

There are links to all the Hugo Award nominated fiction that's on-line up at http://is.rice.edu/~pound/hugo.html. Lots of really good reading there.

The site of the Library of Alexandria has been found: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3707641.stm

Jason Ahlquist has an interview which he wanted to do just before Penguicon, only nobody told me about it, so I wasn't there yet, which meant that he did it at the very end of Penguicon, when I was exhausted. He did an excellent job, though: it's at http://www.marsdust.com/neilgaiman.htm. The beard is still on -- I wanted to keep it until the horror-hosting thingie was done with. I think it probably comes off today or tomorrow...

Hey Neil. I just read something about directors being found for the film adaptation of "The Books of Magic," and I was wondering if you had any information about the project.

Also, and I'm not sure if you'd know this, but the article I read mentioned two guys as directing the movie, and I thought the Director's Guild has a rule stating that only one person can get the "Directed By" credit, which is why, if I remember correctly, Robert Rodriguez dropped out of the Director's Guild, because they wouldn't allow Frank Miller to share a "Directed By" credit for the upcoming "Sin City" movie...or maybe they wouldn't allow Frank to have a credit because he's not a member of the Guild...I might have just answered my own question.

Still curious about "The Books of Magic," though.

dave golbitz


As far as I know, the Director's Guild lets you co-direct films if you started out as a directorial team -- like the Wachowski brothers. Here's an article about the Sin City Film -- no idea how accurate it is.

I signed on as Executive Producer of the Books of Magic film about five years ago, which meant I got to read the scripts, and offer opinions. It didn't mean they had to listen to my opinions.

My current opinion is that I hope that they make the Books of Magic movie closer in spirit to the comic than it currently is, otherwise they'll have a lot of very grumpy comics fans and me. But it's still in the development process, and now they have directors on board we'll see what happens.

Hey Neil, just a note: The feed you recommend in the RSS link at the top of your journal (http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/blogger_rss.xml) is now offering bizarre URLs for all of your entries (the latest is http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2004/05/sorry-again-i-hope-thats-last-sorry.asp) which results in an Internal Server Error:

The include file '../asp/css.asp' was not found.
/journal/2004/05/sorry-again-i-hope-thats-last-sorry.asp, line 5

Since you claimed in this latest entry that everything was now worked out, I figured I should let you know about this problem. Good luck!


Oh dear. Well, I'm sure that Blogger will fix it -- they're incredibly helpful -- and I'll try and get them to do it without dumping another dozen posts into people's livejournal friends list.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Sorry again (I hope that's the last sorry for a bit)

Argh. Well, Blogger needed to fix some changes in the way that it did URLS, so that my permalinks would work again, and they did, but it meant republishing the blog with the correct URLS, which dumped another slew of old entries into people's Livejournal feeds. That should be the last time that happens for another year or so. I'm really sorry, but it should be safe to keep (or put) OfficalGaiman on your livejournal friends list, at least for the time being.

So I did another long, long day, and Fox Movie Channel's 13 Nights of Fright is all in the can. It'll be shown on Fox Movie Channel for the 13 days before Halloween. And while I don't know how people who a) don't get Fox Movie Channel or b) live in countries where they don't have Fox Movie Channel will be able to watch it, I do know that Fox Movie Channel are planning to put up lots of outtakes, trailers and bits, not to mention screensavers and god-knows what else on their website. Some of it will be guarded by passwords, which they don't seem to mind me giving away or linking to from my journal. So I'll try and give you information as I get it.

So I read my autocue today, and Malena continued to be very funny. She's silent through the whole thing, and a terrific silent comedian, which means she got to steal every scene she's in, which was pretty much all of them. Spent more time in the coffin today, as did she. (Not at the same time, though.) Also appeared magically in a crystal ball, produced something from a top hat during a silent black and white sequence, and did lots of other extremely silly things.

And now I'm really tired. It's the whole second twelve-hour days without any real breaks, in front of the cameras, I think. It was fun, though. And very silly. And I'm glad I did it.

Do you ever worry that future generations will remember you only for some utterly irrelevant act of yours instead of your writing? Does the thought of your obituary reading "Neil Gaiman, noted horror show host, died October 11th, 2037. He was also a writer." send shivers down your spine?

This is Dylan.


No. But I think I should probably avoid dying for the next six months, otherwise the photos of me in the coffin that I hope to post here next week will be widely perceived as being in absolutely terrible taste.

...

Good news in from Julia Bannon, the neilgaiman.com webmaster: by kind permission of Del Ray books, my short story "A Study In Emerald", from the book "Shadows over Baker Street", is now posted at http://www.neilgaiman.com/exclusive/StudyinEmerald.asp. It's up on line because it's nominated for a Hugo Award, which allows the people voting to read it, and everyone else besides. (I'll post the URLS for the other Hugo-nominated stories that are up online, if I can find them.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

An apologetic horror host writes...

Apologies for all of you who subscribe to the LiveJournal OFFICIALGAIMAN Rss feed. It looks like the Magic New Version of Blogger assigned new URLS to the RSS feeds of the last dozen posts, and flooded your friends lists with them.

Long, long day. Tomorrow will be longer.

The biggest problem with blogging is that when things get really interesting I'm too exhausted to write about it.

Suffice it to say that I got to lie in a coffin today, that my "assistant", Malena, is hilarious, and that I now understand exactly why Barry Norman sounded like that. I suspect the funniest line of the day, a half-puzzled, half-disgusted "I can't believe she ate that fly" probably won't be used, 'cos it was in a take that didn't work.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Coffin, candles and skulls

I turned up at the studio today to learn how to read an autocue (turns out it's not hard. What's hard is reading an autocue while not sounding like Barry Norman, or even Alan Partridge) (british references I'm afraid).

The set is gorgeous: ancient abbey walls, a bank of television screens, a desk covered with candles and skulls, a mouldering bookcase, and a really nice looking brown coffin, which I'm rather looking forward to getting out of. (Getting out of coffins is why I said yes, after all.) Oh, and a chandelier.

There's all sorts of odd stuff that Fox are going to be doing for the 13 Nights of Fright thing, which include a daily giveaway of signed stuff, and an exclusive web-interview (which they did this afternoon). But you'll have to wait until October...

Tomorrow I get to meet my mysterious, silent assistant.

And I have to get an early night as I have to be in make-up at 8:00am.
(According to New Improved Blogger I've made over 1300 posts in this journal. Good lord.)

night

Several of you have written to ask if I'll be around at the Rio tomorrow. Nope, I'll be checking out much too early and flying on to the next city. I'm sorry.

Just spent the last many hours talking to Teller, who is astonishingly wise. He's writing a book about magician David P. Abbott, and I look forward to reading it. I've plugged Teller's writing on this blog over the years. Why don't you read about his search for Donna Delbert? Or about his meeting with the man who cannot be hung?

...

You stated in a message that:
(...)the international movie data base at www.imdb.com (...)lists a 1997 film version of Signal to Noise directed by a "Boris Le Bouffe" that never actually existed).

I've got news. That film does exist. I made it. Got nothing to do with your comic book though...

! boris.


That's good to know.

Goodnight.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Quick Post and Run

I've got about 35 minutes till the end of tonight's Penn and Teller show, so I thought I'd blog for a bit. I'm not actually at the show -- I saw it last night, for a start, and I saw it twice when I was out here in February for the CBLDF meeting. You'd think I'd be sick of it by now, but seeing it last night was fascinating. If ever you're in Las Vegas you should check it out.

They're putting me up at the Rio, where the show is, and for the second day running Penn and I sat in the Mexican Restaurant and had lunch and chatted about the project and everything else in the world as well, and then when the music of the Rio's free entertainment started getting a bit loud, we went down to the Monkey Room, which is the duo's eccentrically decorated Green Room and carried on talking about stuff, until it was time for Penn to change for the show. (He starts playing bass at 8:00pm, accompanying Mike Jones, who plays amazing jazz piano. You can read about it here, and don't tell anyone that I told you it was him.)

And now we know what we're doing on our Project We Don't Have Time For. And I think it's going to be really fun.

I may have to nip back to the UK soon though; there were some questions I needed to get answered anyway, for the novel, and now there are a bunch of things I need to know on the Penn Project for which the answers are probably at the Imperial War Museum.

Then I went back to my room, and got back onto the phone with Jude Prest, who wrote the scripts for my 13 Nights of Fright. We'd started doing the scripts in the morning, and were already half-done. I'd read each script aloud, and we'd go over them, and I'd suggest ways of saying things that were closer to the way I'd actually say something, and we'd chew over gag ideas and things, bouncing me back and forth between being me, being a character sort of like me, and being a manically alliterative Horror Host. Occasionally the answer to "why is it worded like that?" was because "that's the way the network wants it" but most of the time we could find the happy medium. Thirteen scripts. All done.

Then I went down to the overpriced Japanese restaurant and ate Sushi, and wrote my novel while eating, and did a couple of pages, finally getting to the Bird Lady, although she hasn't said anything yet. Then I came up here and wrote this.

I've heard that your "dream" project was to do a stint on a Hal Jordan Green Lantern series.
#1 Have your heard that Hal was returning?
#2 What attracts you to the character?


I'd not heard that one (the "dream project" bit that is). I do like Hal Jordan -- I wouldn't have written the Action Comics story published as "Legends of the Green Flame" if I didn't. And I was asked if I'd like to help bring the character back, but I really only have so much time.

Not a FAQ, just a well done.
I'm opening a shop this weekend, which obviously would have me considerably excited. This excitement was considerably overshadowed by the Neil/Penn collaboration. Secret schmecret give up the info I'm bouncing on my chair and can't wait! :)
Holly


Congratulations. And no, not yet. I bet if you ask Penn, after one of the shows, he'll tell you about it. Or possibly not yet either.

Just saw (thank you Bookslut) this wonderful interview with Madeleine L'Engle.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Happy Mother's Day

Spent the day with Penn talking about the project we're working on. It's something we've been talking about doing for six years, and it's finally happening. Not that either of us now has the time to do it, but if we don't start it, it'll be another six years. Really enjoyable. And I just did one of those googles this evening on something Penn and I needed to know where you put the right two words together in the google and suddenly the information you needed falls out, and I Learned Something To My Advantage.

I am certain that this TV commercial for Soy sauce would be much less interesting if I could make sense out of it (cat-headed shrimps: why? the cat who hangs itself: why? the little girl who goes to bed with him at the end: why?) As it is, it becomes a zen cohen: what is the sound of one fish-headed soy-superhero clapping...?

...

Over at Strange Horizons they've got a Fiction Submission Guidelines, Stories We See Too Often page up, which is fascinating -- lots of plots they get in all the time and don't want to see again. I found myself pondering one of them, though... It's their Plot 2e, which is:

Creative person meets a muse (either one of the nine classical Muses or a more individual muse) and interacts with them, usually by keeping them captive.

Which as many of you reading will know, was the story of Sandman #17, Calliope (May 1990)(It's collected in a book called DREAM COUNTRY). Now, I have a fairly good memory, and don't recall ever reading any captive-muse-for-someone-with-writer's-block stories before I wrote mine. (I'm not saying there couldn't have been any, just that it certainly wasn't around enough to have been any kind of meme, as far as I know.) So I wonder if it's a) Calliope just sort of edged out into popular consciousness, or, more likely, b) In Steam Engine Time People Build Steam Engines, and I just happened to build my particular steam engine first (I knew that if I didn't write a Serial Killer's Convention story someone would, for example; it was an idea whose time had come.)

From the Road...

So this afternoon, I showed Maddy Tim Hunkin's experiments website, and we did a number of them. The most successful were Changing the Queen's Expression (luckily I had a 5 pound note to hand, although it works on some US denominations, like the $20, as well, if less impressively), Russian Multiplication, how to Join Paperclips without touching them (one of those I kind of remembered from my boyhood), and the tremendously popular How to Get Someone's Feet Wet, which is one I wish I'd known when I was nine. I would have been handing people bottles with an innocent "can you open this?" all the time. Pulling a string through your neck looks quite impressive as well, but takes a little practice in front of a mirror to get smooth. It's undoubtedly worth it, though. I think Maddy's favourite was How to Make a Pencil jump, although once she had discovered the power of jumping pencils, I had to persuade her not to shoot pencils at people, which I did by uttering the time-worn phrase "you could put someone's eye out", and felt most grown-up.

Having said that, there was one sad message:

Neil,

I'm sorry to say that the onion experiment did not work in my case. I
placed an unpeeled onion in my microwave and waited and waited. I even
shut the lights off in the kitchen to make sure I wasn't missing anything,
though I couldn't do anything about the microwave light.

Anyway, the onion sat there until finally it boiled and spewed onion juice
all over my microwave. But it sadly did not glow. Your mileage may vary.

Cheers,
Kit


Which, on the basis that the web site mentions that every experiment except one works, makes me suspect the whole onion-in-a-microwave thing as being particularly dodgy. (later on edit: someone has pointed out the one that won't work to me, and it's not the onion. How mysterious.)

And now I am off on my travels for the next eleven days or thereabouts. For the next two days I'm working with Penn Jillette on a Secret Project. Then it's on to the next city to tape the Fox Movies 13 Nights of Fright stuff. It's all fun and interesting, but I'll miss the blossoming things, and the first asparagus of the year will be tall enough to eat tomorrow or Monday and I won't be there...

This just came in from someone who's been reading what I've been saying about writing, and she says it all -- and sums it up -- as well as I ever could, or better:


As someone who's been making things up since witches in the closet as a kid, and then writing them down since she...well since learned to write, and also as someone who's gotten a BA and almost has an MFA in creative writing (which was mostly good for having to consistently write and finish things, as well as develop a thick skin for criticism) reading the notes and questions sent by many of the writers who are readers of your journal makes me a little sad.
I think most of the problems beginning writers have are really about fear, self doubt. Everyone wants assurance, to know that they're doing the right thing with what they're writing and how they're writing it, but I don't know how you can ever know that for sure. If you have eight different people read one short story, a couple of them will like it, a couple of them won't, someone will want more about the mother, some won't like it because they don't like that kind of story, some will want you to write it how they'd write it if they were writing it. You're never going to make everyone happy. You have to write what you want to write. When you begin working on a story you have to write without worrying about if it's "good" or not, especially at first, it'll get better, you'll get better. Just keep at it. Just write it, get it out, and you can always play around with it later.
There was a time when every couple of weeks or so I'd go to the bookstore and basically ransack the books on writing, looking for something, I didn't know what, I stopped going when I realized what I was looking for was "the answer" - the book that was going to make me a wonderful writer who wrote wonderful books everybody loved and bought. Of course there is no such book. And anyway how much fun would it be if there were?

The best advice I've ever gotten on writing has been the simple "write" and "finish things" that you've said many times in your blog. And the most useful book I've ever read on writing, is Stephen King's. Full of simple, practical, and encouraging advice. The thing is there is no secret. There's work, sometimes agonizing, but there is nothing like finally finishing a short story or a novel, holding it in your hands, and for awhile being completely satisfied, enchanted, and euphoric.
The last thing I want to say, is that in reading books on writing and in writing classes and workshops you'll hear a lot of "things you shouldn't do" such as switching between different characters points of views, it's more important instead to listen to your story. Some techiques are tricky, but if you understand why they're tricky, and why your story needs them, then use them. There are so many books out there that are considered masterpieces or classics that would be ripped apart in a writing workshop, because of the risks they take, the conventions they break. You have to write like you, (because no one else does) and you have to find a way to be less afraid. Worry keeps you from writing. Stop thinking, start writing :-)

Carol

Friday, May 07, 2004

The Rudiments of Wisdom

A quick post from a me who read Anansi Boys for three and a half hours today, the whole of the book so far, over the phone, and discovered a) it does actually seem to be a book, and b) my editor likes it. Her editorial suggestions consisted of suggesting that I finish it, which frankly is the best editorial suggestion anyone can make.

My gut suspicion at this point -- half way through it, I hope -- is that people who liked American Gods, but didn't like Stardust or Neverwhere probably won't like it, while people who liked Neverwhere but didn't care for American Gods will like it a great deal. (People who liked Neverwhere and American Gods are on their own.) I don't think it will be one of the books that wins awards, but it may be one of those things that some people love more than anything. I could be wrong about all of this, mind you. I set out to write a Thorne Smith novel, and I have no idea how close I'll actually come. My editor, Jennifer, laughed at the funny bits, and that felt good.

My throat is a bit raw (probably from having read for 210 minutes) so I shall get an early night, and not answer any of the many waiting questions, or post any of the many waiting comments. Instead, I shall simply put in a plug for http://beautifulstuff.org/ -- without which I would never have known that I could watch Krazy Kat cartoons at the Library of Congress "Origins of Animation" site -- http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/oahtml/animatTitles01.html; read an hilarious account of what happened in Barnes and Noble a couple of months ago when Anton Chekov did a book signing, a hundred years after his death -- http://improveverywhere.csbl.net/chekov/; look at Heath Robinson's Uncle Lubin illustrations -- http://bugpowder.com/andy/k.robinson.heath_lubin.html; or spend much too much time learning from Tim Hunkin how to, for example, tell whether a piece of cutlery is real silver or not -- http://www.hunkinsexperiments.com/pages/fakes.htm : http://www.hunkinsexperiments.com/ is the most delightful website for inquisitive and tricky 12 year olds of pretty much any age (my inner 12 year old wants very much to go and put an unpeeled onion in the microwave to see if it will glow).

...

Quick plug for this ebay auction, because it's for a good cause (and ends soon). (And it's not just the signed and drawn on Coraline proof. It's the Vogelein too.)

regaining my marbles

The good news: I got a great haircut at Hair Police, then stopped in at DreamHaven, scribbled on stuff people had ordered from DreamHaven's neilgaiman.net site, and picked up a remarkably beautiful Nebula Award for Coraline. The Nebulas are lucite blocks with Nebulas in them, often made of copper filings, and other things, often appropriate to the book in question. Coraline's Nebula seems to have marbles in there, which made me really, really happy.

The bad news: traffic and interminable roadworks were bad enough that by the time I got home, I only had enough time to get about 800 words written on the novel. I may write a bit more in bed tonight though, if only because I want to meet the Bird Lady, in her cave. I've been waiting a very long time to write her. I wrote Lion today though. Lion was cool. I didn't expect Lion to be cool.

I think I'm now about half-way through the zeroth draft of Anansi Boys, so tomorrow morning I'm going to read the Story So Far over the phone to my editor at Morrow. Which is really weird (although she doesn't seem to mind) but I'm not going to inflict my handwriting on anyone, and I'm not quite ready to go to the keyboard on it yet. I'll report back.

Greg Ketter at Dreamhaven, who brought me back my Nebula, was sighing over the problems they have, as a small bookstore, getting the spoken word CDs I've done for them distributed and into the hands of customers (that's the double CD WARNING:CONTAINS LANGUAGE and the single one TELLING TALES). It's difficult for DreamHaven to get them into record shops and the book chains. I suggested that we try and get the CDs up and available, track by track, on services like iTunes and Audible.com, and went to the Audible.com website to show Greg Ketter American Gods and Coraline, to demonstrate how it works, only to discover that they've once more mysteriously vanished. Two Plays for Voices is still up on iTunes, though.

Let's see -- Time Magazine profiles Stephin Merritt and "i" at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/
0,9171,1101040510-632111,00.html
.

Bounce, the new Sondheim, arrived on CD in the mail today, and I'm playing it right now. I don't dislike it, not even a little bit, which is a relief. I was worried I'd react to it as I did to Passion (which I disliked enormously on Broadway and then, just in case it was the production or the direction or something, I went to the London first night of, and heartily loathed. I just wanted to give everyone on the stage A Good Talking To, or possibly just gently push Fosca off a cliff at midnight somewhere early in act one) although I've not yet played it enough to have a favourite track or anything like that. Bounce reminds me oddly of Gypsy, and I do know Sondheim only wrote the lyrics of Gypsy. But it also sounds like it's somehow missing a song or two...

(Yes, I know there are people who like Passion. My wife is one of them. I'm perfectly happy being one of the people who Do Not Get Passion.)

I squirted the plum trees with Bee-Scent, fairly early this morning, on the basis that over the last couple of years we've had plenty of plum blossom, and practically no plums. It's a bee-pheremone that's meant to increase plum-production by 90%. I'll report back on whether or not it worked.

Okay, I've heard you're into (collecting) pens, and that sometimes folks send you website info they think you might be interested in. Well, a coworker clued me in to a site today, and I thought you might find the Anubis pen of interest. www.pushindaisies.com
Thanks,
Donna


The Anubis pen at http://www.pushindaisies.com/candypress/scripts/prodView.asp?idproduct=263. It's lovely. I bought one at the World Horror Convention in Chicago, a couple of years ago, and gave it to Gene Wolfe, who started writing a horror novel set in ancient Egypt. Obviously these are very powerful pens.

I love the look of their chocolate hearts...

And I don't laugh out loud very often at things I read on the web. I laughed at this, though, Saddam's interrogation logs...

Dear Mr. Gaiman/Neil/man whose work I love reading

So being a self confessed theatre geek, when I saw that the new Magnetic Fields album is called "i" I was greatly amused. This may more sense if I tell you that I recently finished a run of "Proof" by David Auburn, and the show happens to include an imaginary number joke about a song called "i". The show strikes me as something you might enjoy, considering the numerous references I've seen to theatre in your blog and considering how well written it is. This of course brought me to my next thought, which is really more of a question. Do you have a favorite play or show, and if so, what is it? I apologize if this has already been asked, and if it hasn't, then it has now. Thanks muchly, and I'm glad your new novel is starting to take shape, I'm looking forward to it!

Tara


The best thing I've ever seen in the theatre was Sondheim's Sweeney Todd at the National Theatre's tiny Cottesloe Theatre, in the summer of 1993, with Adrian Lester as Anthony, Alun Armstrong as Sweeney, Julia McKenzie as Mrs Lovett.


A Midsummer Night's Dream
is probably my favourite play that I've seen. It makes me happy. My favourite play that I've never actually seen performed is probably Farquar's The Beaux' Stratagem.

Favourite "did I really just see that?" piece of perfectly funny live theatre would be the National Theatre of Brent's epic Complete Guide to Sex, in around 1984, with Patrick Barlow as impresario Desmond Olivier Dingle and Jim Broadbent as Wallace playing, well, everyone. Although Wallace had to play all the girls.

...

Nearly forgot: if you're in the Minneapolis area in August, Scott McCloud is reprising his amazing comics theory and practice workshop seminar. If you want to make comics (or if you already make comics and want to do better comics), you should seriously think about doing Scott's seminar.

You can sign up for the course at http://mcadart.com/mcart/index.cgi?task=show&cat=Scott+McCloud and read about what the course consists of at http://www.scottmccloud.com/home/speaking/teaching.html. Scott is a national treasure, he doesn't teach the course often. Personally, I'm hoping that enough people sign up that they make Scott do an extra week, as they did in 2002.

Scott also promises that I will really really like Flight Comics, and I believe him. I just need the time to browse, and prove it to myself...

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

No distinguishing marks or features

Let's see...

if you go to the ALA store for the poster at http://www.alastore.ala.org/SiteSolution.taf?_sn=catalog&_pn=product_detail&_op=1358 they've now posted the small print down the side in readable format. Click on recommendations to read it.

Talking about which, Libraries beat Google (mostly) in a recent Guardian test...

THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS was just awarded the English Association's award as one of the four best Children's Illustrated Books 2003. According to their website: the awards are presented to the best children's picture books of the year. The winning books are chosen by the editorial board of the English Association's journal for primary teachers, English 4-11, from a shortlist of 12-18 books selected by a panel of teachers.

Which reminds me: the US Wolves in the Walls website is here: http://www.mousecircus.com/witw/flash/witw_flash.html and has several posters and the "this computer guaranteed free of wolves" wallpaper.

While across the ocean (but still only a click away), Bloomsbury's website has the gorgeous Wolves in the Walls screensaver and ecards at http://www.bloomsbury.com/wolvesinthewalls/wolves.htm. I'd suggest giving it as Mother's Day present, except it probably isn't a very good one. Nor is Coraline, unless they start having Other Mother's Day.

Incidentally, you can see the new cover for THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH at Bloomsbury's http://www.bloomsbury.com/neilgaiman/. It comes out in August, in hardcover in the US (from harperchildrens) and the UK (from Bloomsbury). The US edition will come with a free CD of me reading the story on it, which I was sent to approve this afternoon, and it sounds pretty good, although I'm not sure about the music.

(And there are a bunch of odd questions and answers from me up at http://www.bloomsburymagazine.com/Childrens/qanda.asp?id=81.)

Now that's not fair Mr Gaiman. You tempt us with morsels of 'Mirrormask' but so far we, the adoring public, have seen not a snippet. How about posting a frame or two online? Mr McKean wouldn't mind, would he?

I don't know. But I wouldn't do it without permission from him and from Henson's -- it'd be like me emailing him a few pages from a book in progress to find he'd put them up on his blog. (Not that he has one.)

I know there are plans to create a real mirrormask.com -- currently it just takes you to a sort of bookmark page -- and to put some images and material there. The only trouble is, right now, all the people who would be doing it are busy trying to finish the film.


Mr. Gaiman,
Thank you for a wonderful journal and for all of your fabulous writing. Your comments about MirrorMask, describing the 8 minutes of footage, have got me very excited for its eventual release. To think, a Gaiman/McKean comic come to life! Which leads me to my question: what kind of release will MirrorMask receive? Will it go the festival circuit route, or will it have one nationwide release date? Thanks a lot.
Kelly Shaw, Milwaukee, WI


Current plans are for some film festivals, then a limited theatrical release, then, some months later, a DVD release. Personally, I'm hoping it gets a real theatrical release, but that will depend on what happens when the powers that be at Sony see the actual film, and possibly on what happens at the film festivals. It also depends when the film gets finished.

It's remarkable. I saw every take of this film that Dave shot, and I wrote the blasted thing, and I still never imagined it would be anything like what he's actually made. I want to be there for the cast and crew screening, when the actors find out what kind of film they were in.

I just checked out your author poster, and it scares me (the way clowns & ventriloquist dummies do). It's the part, combined with the goatee. I've always found facial hair vaguely menacing, and that paired with your unnaturally wrangled hair... just gives me the chills.
However, that's sort of a good thing. Maybe not what you were going for - but keep it in mind for the eventual horror hosting gig.
~Ann


You'll be pleased to hear then that I think I'll have something more or less like that look, only without the someone-else's hair, for the Horror Host gig -- which will shoot Very Soon -- and then once that's done I'll start looking like something else instead.
...

Wrote another 2000 words of Anansi Boys today. I've started Chapter 6, and suddenly the book isn't funny at all. It's become sort of disquieting. And I think it's going to get quite scary, which seems to be against the rules for something that is, fundamentally, at least for the first half of the book, a farce. Oh well. I shall not worry. I shall just keep writing it and see what happens.

I've got a writing and research question for you, if you have a moment. I know that most novels take a lot of research for various things, some of which are probably unexpected. I'm starting work on a story that might get to novel length (hopefully), and it is going to require a lot of time hitting the books. My question to you is if you use a lot of researched things in a novel do you have to cite them or make a sort of Bibliography page for them? I don't remember if I've seen that before, and I would hate to get neck high in this thing and not know the name of a book I took a chunk of imformation out of ten chapters ago.

Thanks for helping a hopeful future writer.
~Teresa


While it's not a bad idea to keep notes on what you found where for yourself -- mostly because you may want to check something -- no-one's going to make you keep a bibliography or cite your sources for a novel. That's why they call it fiction...

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

roll up for the ghost train, non-stop through the city

Yesterday brought a DVD from Hensons with eight and a half minutes of the Mirrormask film on it -- just footage, with Ian Ballamy's music in the background, but finished footage, as output from the render farm, and tweaked and played with by Dave. It's not like anything I've ever seen before. I don't think it's like anything anyone's seen before. Unbelievably beautiful, and magical.

Down at the back of the garden, the plum-trees are blossoming. They blossom first, before the apples or the cherries or the pear tree -- trees covered in white drifts of blossom that smell like honey. I put them in Endless Nights. They make me happy. Luckily, my what-makes-me-happy list is much longer than that of the lady in the Despair story.


When I was in Finland last year I read, and really enjoyed, Johanna Sinisalo's book TROLL (although when I read it it was called Not Before Sundown). It's a sharp, resonant, prickly book that exists on the slipstream of SF, fantasy, horror and gay fiction, set in a world exactly like our own, except for the trolls -- humanoid animals, almost extinct, found in places like northern Finland, and what happens when a gay photographer starts secretly looking after a baby troll, and becomes, himself, an object of lust. I was pleasantly surprised to see it reviewed in USA Today, this morning. The reviewer is fine on the plot summary, although she doesn't seem to know anything about fantasy, and appears to feel this is a virtue. The gratuitous mentions of Tolkien and the Hobbit seem like a good way to ensure that the people who would like the book don't read it, and that those who won't like it do. Sentences like Although it exploits the conventions of the (fantasy genre), it clearly transcends them I tend to view as lazy reviewer shorthand for I don't read (genre) because I don't think I like it but this is good.



Hey Neil,
I think i might have e-mailed you twice already and im desperate for a reply. i'm trying to write a scary story for children based around fairy tales and im stuck on how gruesome to actually make it. any tips? how much can children handle?
thanks
Julia x.


I don't know how much gruesomeness children can handle. I don't believe that "children", as a generality, has any more meaning than "people" would in the same sentence. Some can handle a lot, some can't handle any, just like adults. I think children are a bit better at enjoying the terrible and appropriate deaths of evildoers than adults are, though. Why don't you write the kind of book you would have liked to have read when younger, or write a book for a specific person you know who isn't very old yet? That tends to work for me.

...

I want to ride this ghost train: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1208758,00.html

And why did I never post the link to the story of the Monster Under the Old Church?

...

Quantum TV on New Scientist? How about a link? When I search on their site, I get nada

Thanks!

-peter


It's on page 24 of the 24 April 2004 copy of New Scientist. They don't put very much of the content of the magazine up on line.

(If you subscribe through their website you get the magazine at 80% off -- in the US it's $1 an issue. I cannot recommend it highly enough. And every so often, like this week, you get a Dave McKean cover image. End of unpaid New Scientist plug.)

...

Dear Mr Gaiman,

Not a question - sorry. So, long story short, time is money, etc: my friends made sock-puppets of the Endless.

Swing by the unwieldy URL http://neil.chrisfleming.org/personal/mt/archives/000119.html to my weblog if you fancy a gander.

With lashings of respect and May the fourth be with you,

- another Neil


Sock puppets. Of course they did.
...

Hi,
I just saw a copy of your author poster in ALA's newest catalog, but it's not on their on line catalog. Is there a place that a nonlibrarian can buy it?
Stacy


The poster is now online at http://www.alastore.ala.org/. The hair's a bit odd, as it was done by the hair-and-make-up man without me first getting to look in a mirror and then being able to say "but I don't have a parting. I just have a mop." But I like it, as it's got me both smiling and managing not to look really goofy, two things that, for me, normally go together in photos. And the text stuff (too small to read in the online one) is a lot of fun...

Monday, May 03, 2004

thought for today...

QUANTUM TV RIVALS PLASMA DISPLAYS said the headline in the New Scientist that I blinked at over my early morning cup of tea this morning. "Great," I thought sleepily. "A television you can either watch, or know where it is, but not both at once."

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Pens, Rules, Finishing Things and Why Stephin Merritt is not Grouchy.

Hi Neil,

You may have seen it already, but Salon's got an interview up with (the apparently grouchy) Stephin Merritt at http://www.salon.com/ent/feature/2004/05/01/
magnetic/index.html
.

(Now may also be a good time to remind people that the Magnetic Fields' "i" is out Tuesday. I seem to recall you deeming it a masterpiece.)

Warmest regards,
Eric


I do think it's a masterpiece, and having played it over and over I think that there are a number of songs on it as good as anything Stephin's done, and then there's "It's Only Time", which is probably the best song he's ever written, which probably means it's one of the best songs anyone's ever written, and is completely heart-breaking and wonderful at the same time.

While the Salon Interview is a competent, if perhaps somewhat defensive interview (dunno what that stuff about Bjork was in aid of -- perhaps the interviewer was trying to say the things while writing up the interview he wished he'd said during the interview itself), I'm starting to get really irritated with interviews of Stephin. Not that I think that the journalists are particularly doing a bad job. (I felt very sorry for the Scotsman reporter Andrew Eaton in this article -- you may have to register to read it, I'm afraid) Most of them are, one suspects, doing the best they can. I'm just irritated with the whole thing. I've been a fan of Stephin's work for about 8 years now, and we've been friends since 1998, and I never see the person I'm friends with (very funny, very brilliant, rather shy, rarely even faintly grouchy) in the interviews, although I'll see him in the answers to questions. Instead he's mostly portrayed as a prickly grump, possibly, I suspect, because he actually tries to answer interviewer questions, rather than just having the things he says in interviews and saying them over and over again, or perhaps because he disagrees with interviewers' opinions from time to time...

Ah well.

The new Magnetic Fields album's called "i", and all the songs begin with the letter "i", and Stephin sings on all of them. It's out on Tuesday. It's about 55 songs shorter than "69 Love Songs", and "It's Only Time" creeps up on you and breaks your heart.

...

Kathy Li is my pen-pusher. She'll turn up at signings, and blithely and almost absent-mindedly hand me a 60 year old fountain pen she's reconditioned and thought I'd probably like. She read my last post:

Neil, take it from someone who knows--you're definitely a pen-junkie. :-) It's like being the comic book junkie who only wants to read the stories, not board, bag, and box the suckers, and boast of Overstreet prices. You're just judging by a different set of standards. Oh, and the model of your Waterman is "52". (Ideal is part of the brand name, Waterman stamped the model number on the butt end of the pen, for easy reference. Although maybe yours is a 12PSF. Can't remember.)

IMNSHO, the best bang for your buck writing-a-novel fountain pen right now is the $10 Pelikano. But if you can go vintage, nothing beats an old Parker 51. Except maybe a Waterman with a flex nib. [grin]

--Kathy.


It's a "52", I just checked. Meanwhile theatrical impressario Bill Stiteler, who, in his day job, sells the things, confirms my fears about the expensive pens:

You're right. Most of the "collector pens" are absolute
monsters to try and write with. They're heavy, and the
ornamentation digs into the hands. But they're not meant to
be written with--in fact, you'd look a right idiot if you
pulled one out of your pocket (assuming you could get it IN
your pocket, without ripping it out of your jacket) to
write with.

They're meant to be collected. The weird thing is, few of
them go up in value. Mostly they just maintain. The only
limited edition pen I know of that went up was the
Montblanc Hemmingway, which was unique for two reasons: it
was the first MB limited edition "Writers Series" pen, and
it was absolutely hideous. Safety orange and big, big, big.

Why did it go up in value? For the same reason comic books
go up in value. Nobody wanted it at the time, so nobody
bought it, and now collectors are looking for it.

So, unless you find you desperately need a pen with the
crystallized DNA of Abraham Lincoln in it (true!), I'd
avoid the "limited editions" (many of which run into the
tens of thousands of pens, ["limited to the number we can
sell"]).


And a few writing questions have been coming in, so I thought I'd try and answer a few of the unanswerable ones:

Dear Neil,

I've been having a lot of trouble with the novel I'm working on, because I can't decide what the most appropriate viewpoint would be. Even though I am familiar with the several options available, I don't think I quite grasp where one ends and the other begins. Could you perhaps recommend me a good book on the subject that could answer my doubts?

Everywhere I look I find people saying that using several point of view characters and switching between them is bad and breaks the flow of the story. Is this always the case? What if it's a story that can only be told by showing different points of view?

And what of a story in which the world is shown through the characters' eyes, but where the narrator sometimes adds more information than what the characters have immediately available? Is that omniscient, or just badly handled third person?

Does omniscient mean that the events that happen in the story must always be told distantly, or can the characters eyes still be "borrowed"?

And what of a scene that is shown from the point of view of a group of characters instead of just one?

Best wishes,

Arianna


I really don't think that you need me to point you to any books. It sounds like you have much too much theory going on anyway, most of it just getting in the way of starting your book and telling the story.

There really aren't any rules. You can tell a story from one character's point of view. You can tell a story from the points of view of multiple characters. You can tell a story knowing everything. You can tell a story that's just dialogue, or just narrative, or that's journal entries, or anything you wish...

As for the rest of your questions, the easiest answer is just, yes, you can do all those things.

If you do it, you'll be able to answer most of your questions for yourself, anyway.

I'm not trying to make less of your questions. Who's telling this story and why? may be the most important question you can ask yourself before you start writing. Knowing where you're standing in each scene is a good thing to know. But beyond that, you're the one telling the story. You're God. You can tell an entire story from the point of view of the carpet that the people are standing on. You can zoom in and out of people's heads if you wish, or stand on the outside and tell what they do and what they say. (When I was writing Stardust, I decided it was being written in the 1920s. On the whole, if Tristran's awake, any scenes he's in are from his point of view. But there are lots of scenes he's not in, and if I didn't tell you them you'd have no idea what was going on in the story. Most of them are, I think, from the point of view of the person telling the story, unless they're not.) These are all tools, and toys. Play with them.

Don't get a book that tells you the rules. There aren't any rules. Why don't you pick up five favourite books by five favourite authors and see how they did it, instead?

(You might also want to try to write a few short stories playing with points of view, narrators, and suchlike, before you embark on a novel.)

Hi. My name is Jonny...
There is just one question for you, and if I dont receive a reply I'm not going to be all bent out of shape about it, but, how do I finish a story that I believe is going to be great? My problem is that I start what I belive is going to be a good story, and I can never finish it. I have dozens upon dozens of unfinished short stories that I know would be good reads, but I just cant seem to finish them. If you have any input for me, it would be greatly appreciated, and I would also be honored to hear back from you.

My best regards,
Jon Carpenter


How do you finish them? You finish them.

There's no magic answer, I'm afraid. This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard.

Read the stories over that you've left unfinished, pick out the one where you know what happens next, and write that down, and keep writing until the story's finished. Then finish the next one, or start a new one and finish that.

You may find that you need to have more of an ending in mind before you start.

I always used to know I was finishing something because instead of worrying about how it was going to end I was now worrying about how the next thing was going to start.

Most people can start a short story or a novel. If you're a writer, you can finish them. Finish enough of them, and you may be good enough to be publishable. Good luck.

...

I'm sure you know, but for all your readers who've been driven to distraction: at long last the Victoria Walker mystery has been solved thanks to Graeme Roberts at http://www.ibooknet.co.uk/archive/news_may04.htm

Sheila


It's much more exciting when you're getting the daily e-mails from Graeme, as he does the magic google, puts two and two together and e-mails someone who turns out to be Victoria's brother, and gets a reply, and then e-mails the lady herself.

I believe that Jayne Dearsley at SFX magazine will be doing a whole article about the rediscovery of Victoria Walker (who now writes for adults under her married name of Victoria Clayton, and was quite unaware that anyone was interested in her two children's books...)
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