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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Past, Present and Stick

Me, a year before the last photo I posted. Age 14. Vaguely worried that I had the world's biggest lips. 1975.

...

And today it was cold but sunny and clear, and I went for a walk with my dog and Bill Stiteler.






And my dog found a stick, which was the best stick any dog had ever found in the whole of history. There never was such a stick.










I gave it back.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

PEN and such miscellanea

Now people are asking for punk-time age 16 photos. The only photo out there that I know of is the one in the back of The Kindly Ones, although my friend Geoff Notkin, who was the drummer in the band, assures me that somewhere in a storage facility far from where he lives he has all the photos taken that day, and I think I will remind him of this. (Here is his website: http://notkin.net/. Go and buy meteorites from him so that he will feel well-disposed-enough towards the world to go to another city and and rummage.)

...

At the end of April it's the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. I'm honored to be taking part.

You can find me at http://www.pen.org/author.php/prmAID/36/prmID/1832 which tells you what panels I am doing in New York (and one at Washington College, Chestertown Maryland). If you are going to be in the area, there's an amazing list of participants, from Adrian Tomine to Lou Reed, Salman Rushdie to Paul Krugman. 


I was there a couple of years ago and loved it. Am sure I'll love it this time.

...

Jane Curtin (yes, that Jane Curtin) can be heard reading my story "Chivalry" as part of the PRI "Selected Shorts" series.
(For the curious, you can hear me reading it at http://www.last.fm/music/Neil+Gaiman/_/Chivalry and if I could find it online I'd link to the Christina Pickles reading of it too -- although it's in the Selected Shorts: Lots of Laughs audiobook.) It's funny, hearing other people read that story, because it's the story I've read aloud the most: I know what each word does for a live audience, and so keep wishing I could direct the reader  ("Use the word 'nice' like a weapon wherever it turns up. It means something different every time anyone uses it. Play Galaad utterly straight.  Domestic details always trump Arthurian details...")

...

There's a wonderfully (unintentionally) funny (if dim) bad review of Coraline at http://christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2009/coraline2009.html. It's the kind of review that makes you suspect the reviewer is reviewing the inside of his own head, and not the film at all.  When I linked to it on twitter several people wrote in to reassure me that this was not typical of all Christians, something I already knew: I've linked to a bunch of astonishingly sensible Christian reviews of Coraline earlier on this blog (and here's another sane one, as a makeweight: http://www.gospelandculture.org/2009/03/coraline/).
...

Daniel Pinkwater is one of my favourite authors. His new book, The Yggyssey, is up online, and you can read it at  http://www.theyggyssey.com/ .

And here's a marvellous interview with Lynda Barry.

Right. Off to talk to an English Honor Society.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hurrah for REALLY Embarrassing Photos

When I was in the UK for my father's funeral, I saw a few photos I had not seen for  many, many years. And I took a handful away with me. If you ever wondered what I looked like when I was fifteen, I looked like this:




Almost immediately afterwards, the hair got spiky and the clothes got a lot less big-scarfy and then I was a 16 year old punk. But this is a 15 year old Neil for you.

....

If you're in the UK and you don't know about this http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/graphic-artists-condemn-plans-to-ban-erotic-comics-1652270.html and http://uk.news.yahoo.com/blog/talking_politics/article/10080/3/#top-comments-nav you really should. I wish I could take UK government claims that obviously they know what the law says but it won't be used that way seriously, because obviously if they actually just used laws how they were written they could, I dunno, use anti-terrorism laws to freeze Icelandic bank accounts or something.... 
More information, and links to a petition at http://www.comicbookalliance.org.uk/

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The #100K Contest

THIS IS PHOTO A


I have a cold. In case you were wondering. I definitely have a cold. It's not just the sneezing.

But that's not what this blog is about. This is the Twitter Caption Competition blog.

Back in December I wound up signing up for Twitter. Enjoyed waving at friends. I remember being amazed in January when I realised 10,000 people were following me, and more amazed a few days later after swearing delightedly on Twitter when I won the Newbery to realise that newspapers were reporting twitterage as news.

I've been enjoying the speed and compression of Twitter, too. (It reminds me, as I said on Twitter once, of the R.A. lafferty story "Slow Tuesday Night".)

Sometime today I'll click on the Twitter screen and see that I've got 100,000 followers, and I thought it might be fun to do something for all involved to celebrate that rather unlikely fact.

So I've decided on a competition. I was going to do this over at Twitpic, but they're still having problems there, so I'm writing this blog entry and putting it all here.

It's open to anyone, but the entries have to be twittered.

It's a caption competition. I'm posting two photos. One of me and the dog being sinister in the rain (below), one of Coraline and the dog (above). You can caption either of them. If you want to put the caption on the photo, LOLcats style, or turn it into a 1970s LP cover, and link to it, you can. But you're in Twitter territory, so you still only get 140 characters (including the hashtag).

Post your caption (or the link to your captioned photo) on Twitter. Use the #100K hashtag.This is important. Don't send them to me or to Cat at twitter. Just post them with the hashtag in your tweet. We will find them. If they don't have the hashtag, we won't. Start it or finish it with #100K.

If you think there's likely to be any doubt as to which picture your caption goes to, put an A) for the Coraline one or a B) for the sinister umbrella one.

There's no entry limit, but don't go mad and send dozens. And you can do either picture or both. The overambitious could create a two-panel photo-comic. Your call.

You've got a few days -- let's say entries need to be in on Saturday at Midnight Pacific Time. And Cat will judge on Sunday. You can follow the entries as they're coming in at http://tweetgrid.com/search?q=%23100K.

I'm going to see all of them, but the judge is going to be Ms Cat Mihos, http://twitter.com/neverwear(that's @neverwear to you twitterfolk) and I get a vote in case of Cat needing a second opinion. Send all bribes to Cat, not to me. (That was a joke. You do not even need to buy anything from http://www.neverwear.net/store/ to enter.)

Prizes are: a signed-by-me copy of the new printing of A Walking Tour Of The Shambles by Gene Wolfe and me, a CORALINE movie Tee Shirt, a Coraline Movie Soundtrack CD, and Cat tells me she has several signed-by-me Graveyard Book posters she wants to give out.

I don't mind where in the world you are twittering from, but even the funniest caption in Estonian will not win because Cat does not speak Estonian, and neither do I, so I would stick to English if I were you.

The judge's decision is final. And this is for fun. If there's anything you're not sure of, look this over again, and if it really isn't answered here, feel free to twitter at me and ask.
Have fun.



THIS IS PHOTO B

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Anatomy of Melancholy


Hello world.

I'm home. It's raining, as it's been raining for two days, which is a good thing as it's taking care of the remaining piles of snow or the shadowy places where paths are still covered with ice. Looked out of the window yesterday and realised the first snowdrop was out, which made me ridiculously, momentarily happy. Snowdrops were the first flowers I remember being able to identify - I learned about them age 3 or 4 from a book with a title like "A story a week" - and they come with the knowledge that it really is spring.

I'm scribbling away on a Secret Project right now. I don't want to talk about it because that might jinx it. But, at least until about 2.00am last night, when I knocked off and went to bed, it was going pretty well. There were a couple of places where I got frustrated with myself -- sometimes I love writing dialogue too much, and I would write scenes where people talk but nothing happens. And I know I have to write the Stuff Happens bits too.

Maddy and I had, after all the travelling and madness, one day of Spring Break Adventure. It was a really lovely day of it, too.

And I sat down last night and turned on the TV, to see myself talking back from the screen, as they were repeating last week's COLBERT REPORT, which is, I discovered, exactly the same feeling you get when you listen to voicemail and the first message is from you -- a sort of strange embarrassment.  

And on the subject of TV, I thought this ONION video was almost perfect (I would have made the airport official a suited bureaucrat, or even a tribunal of suited bureacrats, rather than the comic-opera type):



Prague's Franz Kafka International Named World's Most Alienating Airport

...

I have a question about journaling - offline. Do you maintain a print journal? Is it "I did this today," or more of an idea bank where you jot down thoughts throughout the day?

Add on, do you type your blog entries mainly spur of the moment, or do you outline them a little? Don't know that it matters, but I was curious.


I don't have a journal. I sometimes think the reason that this blog has lasted so much longer than I ever expected to be writing it is because it really is useful as a journal. If I need to find out when I was last in Sao Paolo, or something, I just search the website.

And if I had to outline before writing a blog entry, I'd never do it. It tends to be a warm-up exercise for my fingers before I start the real writing.

Hey Neil,

Your Chivalry read by Jane Curtin is available for a week or so at http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_detail.php?siteId=9911210 from the folks at Selected Shorts.

Thought you might want to share.

Cheers!

Chris


Thank you!

It's been ages since I read "Chivalry" in front of an audience. I keep thinking that it might be nice to do another reading tour for the CBLDF (the last tour, which was meant to be the last one ever, was in 2000... long enough ago, that anyone who went because it was the Last one, probably wouldn't mind if it wasn't). (Look! A LAST ANGEL TOUR interview with me from back then.)

Thanks so much for piquing my interest in Amanda Palmer, I went to see her concert last night and she's absolutely splendid. She mentioned you and everyone cheered. Then she asked if you ever came to do your "author things" like book signings or conventions etc here in New Orleans. The crowd was silent, she shrugged it off and said that it was strange because this seemed like your type of city. So I got to thinking...how come you don't come here to do "author stuff"? I know you've been here before but Amanda is right it does seem like your type of city! We'd love to have you. Just curious.

Regards,
Jackie Monteilh


It is odd. I mean, I love New Orleans, and have twice come to New Orleans over the last 18 years for conventions, and many times just wandered down to see friends or walk graveyards and haunt old bookshops, but I've never done a book-signing there. Or a reading.

Hmm. Okay. If I do another CBLDF reading tour, I'll see if we can do a proper New Orleans stop.

ı wonder do you write accept stories from amateur writers and do you accept to complete their stories...

regards


I do not, I'm afraid.

Hello Neil,

I found this beautiful quote from you on www.goodreads.com, and I was wondering which one of your books/comic books it is from because the source was not cited. I'm just beginning to read through you canon, and I can't place it.

Thank you,
Meredith

Here is the quote: "When we hold each other, in the darkness, it doesn't make the darkness go away. The bad things are still out there. The nightmares still walking. When we hold each other we feel not safe, but better. "It's all right" we whisper, "I'm here, I love you." and we lie: "I'll never leave you." For just a moment or two the darkness doesn't seem so bad."


It's from Hellblazer #27, "Hold Me". Collected in DC Comics' Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days collection.

...

Pictures of the Dave McKean Mythical Creatures UK postage stamps have hit the web:


Keep an eye on the Royal Mail Future Stamps website for info. The stamps will also come in a presentation pack, with VERY short stories by me on the pack, one for each order of creatures. And yes, you will be able to buy them from outside the UK.

...

For any of your fans trying to find a first printing of Blueberry Girl, you may want to suggest they try the comic shops. I live in LA and went to four major book stores last week looking for BG. Three stores hadn't even ordered it and didn't know what I was talking about until they looked it up in their computers. Then I went to Meltdown Comics in Hollywood on Sunday and they had a stack of the books (yes, that's where I purchased mine). I also just got back from a trip to Comics Factory in Pasadena (it's Friday, March 20th) and they also had some first printings on the shelf. By the way, it's a terrific book, Neil. Charles Vess did a stellar job with the artwork and your words... well, they made my soul smile, as usual.

Great suggestion. (Yes! Support your local comic shop!)



Neil,

You have a point about the New Scientist article. Hasn't animal superstition been proven to exist for quite a while? http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Skinner/Pigeon/

One can of course argue the difference between faith and superstition, but surely the very fact that it is arguable suggests that you'd start from the assumption they CAN have religion rather than the opposite.

-MK


My point exactly. (Well, my point was they seemed to be taking an awful lot for granted.)

Dear Mr. Gaiman,

I saw your recent appearance on the Colbert Report, and it was absolutely brilliant. Made my week. Would you marry me?


I don't think so, but thank you for asking.

...

Audible just dropped me a line to say that The Graveyard Book has just reached the semifinals in their Audiobook Tournament: Here's the link. (If you're an Audible listener and you think it should beat Vince Flynn's Extreme Measures, now is your chance to vote.)

And finally (as a small reward if you've made it this far down) Over at the MCCtheatre website you can learn about the Stephin Merritt original CORALINE musical which debuts this May in New York. Tickets are not cheap. However, if you use the code CLNG when you buy tickets, they drop to $39 each. The code will work until the 12th of April.

Okay. Back to work.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hugo Thoughts

The Hugo nominations are in

It's a great nomination list. I hesitated when I was told that The Graveyard Book was nominated -- I turned down a Hugo nomination for Anansi Boys a few years ago. But this time, after a few days to think, I accepted, and I'm glad I did, mostly because it's really astonishingly nice company to be in. The kind of company where I don't feel like I'm in competition: Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross are friends (I've known Charles since, what, 1984? 1985?) and John Scalzi and I have boatloads of mutual friends, and I love his blogging, and, they're all great writers and damn, the award could go to any book on the list and I'd feel happy.


As Mr Scalzi says, "I am extremely happy with this category, and I feel pity for you Hugo voters, because this is a hell of a slate to choose from."

It's traditional to put nominated work online -- I've always made sure that short stories were up for free for voters (and everyone else) to read. Not sure yet if that'll happen with the text version of The Graveyard Book yet (I have to talk to my publisher), but in the meantime voters (and anyone else) can watch (or listen to) the whole book at http://www.mousecircus.com/videotour.aspx for nothing at all.

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The Religion of Dolphins...

I slept for the better part of 13 hours last night, and now feel remarkably human compared to any other point in the last ten days. Actually-rested is good. Maddy and I cancelled one leg of Maddy's Spring Break Adventure, although we still plan to go off tomorrow for a couple of days in the sun for the second leg.

Picked up my copy of New Scientist over breakfast this morning (which, along with Fortean Times, is my favourite publication) and found myself puzzling over an article that began

That a complex mind is required for religion may explain why faith is unique to humans.

Which left me amazed and potentially delighted that journalists at New Scientist had succeeded in interspecies communication to the point of being certain that dolphins and whales have no belief in things deeper than themselves, that ants do not imagine a supreme colony at the centre of everything, and that my cats only believe in what they can see, smell, hunt and rub up against (except for Pod, of course, who when much younger would react in horror, with full fur-up, to invisible things), and that there are no Buddhist Pigs, Monkeys or whatever-the-hell Sandy was.


If you've already answered this and I've somehow missed it, please accept my apologies for being boring and repetive. However, I read your blog daily and don't remember it being addressed.

Why oh why is it impossible to find a copy of Blueberry Girl?

Our local independent got ONE copy in and it came damaged. Their distributor says it will be 3 weeks until they can send more. Our brick and mortar Barnes & Noble took our order and then e-mailed us back that they cannot fill it. Amazon says the book's shipping time is 2-3 weeks.

I finally found a copy at Powell's which claims it will ship in 1-3 days, but I imagine other folks are running into this problem. Normally, I'd just have my independent order it and wait, but I have a tiny girl's 4 week birthday to celebrate.

Thanks for any light you can shed!

-KNK


I spoke to Elise Howard, my editor at HarperChildrens, who apologises to everyone who found Blueberry Girl hard to get. The demand for the book caught everyone slightly by surprise (it came in at #3 on the New York Times list on its first week out), and all-colour books take longer to reprint than simple black and white printing books, so even though they knew well in advance of publication that they had underprinted, they still had to wait for the books to be printed and come in. 

(They overprint colour covers, as they take longer, which is why The Graveyard Books out there have stick-on Newbery Medals, not pre-printed ones).

Harpers speeded up the reprint process though, and they got reprints in today and have already shipped them out to Amazon and elsewhere, and have a third printing due in on the 30th. Amazon have it up right now as ready to ship (along with some very baffled reviews).

Books of Wonder have copies of Blueberry Girl for sale signed by Charles Vess (they would have been signed by both of us, but that didn't happen for obvious reasons).

Neil,
First, my condolences on the passing of your father. Having lost my mother about four years ago, I uderstand your loss. Sorry you won't be in San Diego in July. Loed your appearance on the Colbert Report. The main reason for this post has nothing to do with your work. I am currently rereading the Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. As I'm reading the book, I am not hear Alan Arkin as the voice of Schemdrick the Magician as he did in the movie, Yesterday, I realized I was hearing you as Schemdrick. Just thought you'd like to know.
Eduard


And in my head, Schmendrick sounds a lot like Peter S. Beagle. Which reminds me: There is a new Peter Beagle short story collection out. I've twittered about it, but forgot to mention it on the blog. Peter is one of those writers who just seems to be getting better and better, and his short stories are delights. Here's the link to buy a copy, get it personalised etc.

...

I had promised HarperChildrens that if The Graveyard Book made five weeks back at #1 on the NYT list, I would get them all cupcakes. It was there for 6 weeks, and last week they were seriously cupcaked. This week it dropped to #2, which means I don't have to come up with something Better Than Cupcakes for a while.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monday, Colbert, and tabs galore

This is what I wrote yesterday, but didn't post. (I went to sleep instead.)

I'm on the plane home from New York right now, with Maddy. (Mike flew back to San Francisco at the crack of dawn this morning.)

The New York stop on the way home was to appear on
The Colbert Report - they had asked me to a couple of weeks ago, and we'd set this date. I came close to cancelling last week, but thought it was the kind of thing that my dad would have liked me to do -- and, perhaps more importantly, it was something I'd agreed to do for my own son. So I did it. (Having said that, that's pretty much it for interviews and such for a while. Also pretty much it for introductions, blurbs, and appearances at children's parties. Some bloggage, some twitterage, and probably not an awful lot of either until I'm rested, caught up on work, and feeling a bit less, well, tender.)

I love
The Colbert Report. It gets Tivoed in my house and it gets watched.

Originally, I didn't. Caught the first few when it spun off from the
Daily Show, and wasn't impressed - didn't like it, didn't get it. It was the fact it became my son Mike's favourite TV programme that drew me back. And when I came back, I loved it.

I found myself fascinated by the multiple layers of the Colbert persona (the character of Colbert is an idiot, but a really smart idiot, played by a very clever man) and the way that the persona is allowed to say the unsayable. (The "rearranging the deckchairs on the Hindenberg" line, for example.)

Had no idea whether I'd work on it, or enjoy it when I was actually on it, mind you.

I think I worked and I really did enjoy it -- I loved having no idea where things were going to go (no, it was not rehearsed, no, I had no idea that mentioning Tom Bombadil would produce that result).

Before the show, Stephen Colbert said hello, shook hands and told me what I am sure he tells every guest, that his character is an idiot, and to be passionate and make my points regardless.

Because I hadn't been home in a while, and didn't have that many clothes with me, I found myself doing the interview in the suit I'd taken to the UK and used through the whole of the funeral stuff. Which was strange. I'm never quite sure if I'm me when I'm dressed up.

Afterwards, I was taking my family to have dinner with Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly and their family, so at the end of the interview, when Colbert asked for an illustrator to make people lose all hope, I suggested Art, to make Art smile. And it did. Have now suggested that Art actually does do "Fuck It, We're all going to die". (I read art's latest book (or rather, a newly introduced, newly afterworded, book from 1977) BREAKDOWNS on the plane home -- astonishing, beautiful work.)

...

I watched you on the Colbert Report. In all seriousness, might I suggest smart casual instead of a suit the next time?


Sure you can. But the suit was what was in the funeral luggage, and I had neither the time that Monday nor the inclination to go clothes-shopping, so (shrugs).

...

Let's close some Tabs:

This is an amazing interview with Dave McKean, filled with glorious art. http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1599

This is me a bit late in March, but Joe Hill is doing a support your Indie Bookstore giveaway. http://joehillfiction.com/?p=714

BUST magazine has a buy cheap Coraline-the-Musical tickets offer up at http://www.bust.com/component/option,com_mojo/Itemid,31/p,1761/.

And over here's the info on Coraline-the-Musical: http://www.mcctheater.org/currentseason.html. Tickets will go on-sale on Monday and I will probably have a code of my own to offer then, either here or on twitter. In the meanwhile over at http://www.mcctheater.org/shows/08-09_season/coraline/music.html they have samples of three of Stephin Merrit's songs up.

Blueberry Girl interviews that wander a little: Newsday and New York Daily News.

After the last trip to Toronto for Coraline I felt guilty enough whenever people pointed out that I hadn't gone to Toronto on the Graveyard Book tour, that when I was asked, I said yes to appearing at the Luminato Festival in June:

An Evening with Neil Gaiman
Celebrated for novels such as American Gods, graphic novels including The Sandman
series, and this year’s Hollywood blockbuster Coraline, Neil Gaiman graces Luminato
at An Evening with Neil Gaiman. In conversation with his fans at the Jane Mallett
Theatre, Gaiman presents the Canadian premiere of his latest novel, The Graveyard
Book, an innocently sweet yet dark tale about a young boy raised in a cemetery by
ghosts and spirits. Gaiman was awarded the 2009 Newbery Medal for the work.
Moderator Mark Askwith (Producer, SPACE) leads a dialogue between audience
members and Gaiman as fans are encouraged to ask questions of the modern-day
master of fright before a book signing. An Evening with Neil Gaiman is presented
by Scotiabank.
Monday, June 8 at the Jane Mallett Theatre
$15


Who sent me this link to a Coraline book review I really enjoyed? At this point I will probably never know. Several people sent me this link to P Craig Russell being interviewed about the Coraline graphic novel, and the house he based the house in the book on.

Audrey Niffenegger is one of my favourite people, and gave me a guided tour of Highgate Cemetery West, when I was working on The Graveyard Book and had got myself stuck. She was researching a novel herself, and had got so deeply into it she was working as a guide. Was thrilled to see the book is now finished, and sold.

And finally, on this page, there's a three minute video of me talking about audio books.

There. I got through a whole tabclosing without ever mentiong the PaulandStormaline teaser.

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Before and After Science

Presenting Maddy Gaiman at 7:30 this morning...



and Maddy Gaiman at 9:30. Braces off. Proud parental smile as well as the happy Maddy smile...



Here's The Colbert Report interview: it will play in some countries, and not in others. Full blog report of New York trip to follow...



No, it wasn't rehearsed or scripted (people keep asking me), and it was much too much fun. I'm wearing a suit because that was what I had in the bag, post-funeral.

(And in re: Tom Bombadil, I suppose I feel about him the way that Lord Dunsany spoke of drains:
...the caretaker used to praise the house in the words that Nuth had suggested. "If it wasn't for the drains," she would say, "it's the finest house in London," and when they pounced on this remark and asked questions about the drains, she would answer them that the drains also were good, but not so good as the house.
I certainly don't hate him, but am of the opinion that he is not as good as the rest of the house.)

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Colbert and me...

Hullo from a hotel room in which Mike Gaiman is reading Lance Armstrong's autobiography, Maddy Gaiman is reading Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle ("Dad! You're in this!") and I am not reading anything but am instead getting on the computer to say that I will be interviewed on The Colbert Report tonight, for those of you who want to set your TIVOs and also that I am wondering whether or not I should shave.

I guess I will.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Long weekend

So it's been a week. Saturday I found out, this week was spent in the UK, with relatives, giving eulogies and hugging people and seeing old friends and relations... My parents' actual 50th wedding anniversary was the 1st of March, but the whole family had been meant to get together at the end of the month. And now we were all seeing each other too soon, and in the wrong way.

Every day felt like a Sunday. So odd. A week long weekend.

The easiest thing was standing up at the service and talking about him. The hardest was saying the kaddish at the evening service. The rest of it was a strange blur of people and of realising that the best thing about all the soap operas and tiny problems is that they are a wonderful distraction from the big things.

Maddy and I are now back in the US. We had had a week long spring break father-daughter adventure planned, and we are going to do it, although it may be rather more subdued than we had initially planned.

And the plane doors are closed...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

intermission

I'm in the UK for a few days with the family for funeral stuff. I think I'm not going to blog for a bit: I'm reading all the condolences, and am touched and grateful. But it's all a bit immediate, and the world can carry on for a week without me.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

another day

"Why didn't you say it was your dad?" asked a friend, after reading the last blog post.

Because when I wrote it, I didn't know if my mum had told the rest of the family, if the cousins and the aunts knew yet. And so many people read my blog, I did not want family learning it from here. But yes, it was my dad.

While it may not be true to say that he was never ill a day in his life, it would certainly be true to say that he was never ill as long as I knew him: yesterday he was in the middle of a business meeting, had (I guess) a heart attack and was dead by the time he got to hospital. He was brilliant, charismatic, affable, funny (funnier than me) and, by and large, a wonderful father.

My agent, Merrilee, told me last night that the first time she met him, at a signing in New York, she said to him, "Neil is doing so well. I bet you must always have known he'd be a success."

"Actually," he told her, "I thought I'd probably be supporting him for the rest of his life. Well... he wanted to be a writer."

And I thought, the best thing about that is I never knew.

...

Home from NY (writing this in the car on the way home. No I am not driving) and to the UK tomorrow with the family for the funeral. My assistant Lorraine has worked miracles making the airlines bend to her will in order to make this happen. (We were all meant to go over for my parents' golden wedding anniversary celebration at the end of the month.)



(1967: My grandfather, my father and me, in front of the azaleas.)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Day.

A long, strange day. In the taxi downtown this morning I learned that there had been a sudden death in the family, and I went down to the sunshine of Union Square to phone people, and sort logistical things out, and breathe. Several people suggested that I cancel the signing, and I even thought about it for a moment, and realised that I couldn't: there were hundreds of people lined up outside Books of Wonder, and it gave me something to focus on. So I went and did the reading and Q&A, and Charles did his slide show, and apart from reading Blueberry Girl itself, where I found myself getting a bit shaky, everything was wonderful, and for the next six or seven hours I found that the rhythms of the signing, and the incredible niceness of the flow of people, made everything proper and bearable and good.

So this is a thank you, to everyone at the New York signing, all the people in the lines, all the staff, even the ones who gave up and went home. All of you, from me. You helped a lot. You probably didn't know it. But you did.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

The Dark Truth of Bees

There. Up much too early, to accompany Stephin Merritt to the airport, so we only had to do one airport run and so I could use my magic flies-too-much powers to whisk Stephin through the special short lines.

Am now holed up in the Northwest Lounge, catching up on email and getting work done. The danger of doing this is that I can completely go into the Writing Stuff  headspace, and in two hours and 15 minutes from now utterly forget that I should be leaving the lounge and finding a gate and getting onto a plane. (So I wrote the last sentence as the equivalent of tying a knot in my handkerchief.) 

Let's see...

Wish I could go to the South By Southwest festival next week (I can't, because it is Maddy's spring break, and we have adventures planned). It seems like everyone I talk to is going to be there. Amanda Palmer is playing, Tori Amos is playing (an hour apart, in a vicious wossname for fans of both, or just people who want to see my friends in concert), and Duncan Jones's film MOON will be showing.

He was kind enough to slip me a DVD to watch the last time I was in London, and I really loved it. It was a hard science fiction film, like, say, Outland, the sort of film they seemed to stop making when Star Wars happened and movie SF became space opera and fantasy: MOON is hard SF, set on the far side of the moon, with Sam Rockwell as an astronaut who is looking forward to going home after three years and is about to get some nasty surprises. It's hard to be too enthusiastic about specific things without giving plot surprises away (Sam Rockwell's performance --performances-- is astonishing, but to explain why is already a spoiler). It feels real -- a good, solid, smart, hard SF movie of the kind they don't make any more.

Who made that wonderful chest of drawers for you? The one in the picture of Stephin Merrit getting dog affection. My first thought when I saw the picture was, "Wow, I've never seen that kind of lens distortion before." Then I saw all the other straight lines and realized the chest was built that way. What fun

I saw it in a furniture factory in Xi'an, in China, when I was there last year, and decided it was needed. They shipped it over. Neither the chest of drawers nor the shipping were particularly expensive, and if they had a website I'd happily point you to it. (I'll investigate.)


Do you know when the new printings of the Graveyard Book with the Newbery stamp will be out? Even though I have the American and English printings, I look forward to the new one.

Peter Esztelecky
Waterloo, On. Canada


It's out.

Hi Neil

Is there any updated information on Hill House? I found out today that the "definitive" Martian Chronicles (formerly due from Hill House) is now being published by Subterranean Press, so I wondered if you knew whether something similar might be likely to happen with "Neverwhere".

Thank you

Tom


We're certainly hoping so, although it's taking a lot longer than I had dreamed to sort this out. Right now, the best I can do is,

"For those of you who are wondering what's going on with the Hill House limited edition of NEVERWHERE, please direct your inquiries to Jennifer Brehl, Neil's editor at William Morrow. She may be contacted at jennifer.brehl (at) harpercollins.com."


...

The French Graveyard Book is not called The Graveyard Book.

...

Finally, this, from James Kennedy's blog, made me smile. (And also, made me want to read his book, The Order of Odd-Fish.) Did I write all that stuff they say I did? O but I did not. It was the bees.

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The perfect job

Sometimes people ask me what I would like to do, if I wasn't a writer. Normally, I do not know. There's not much that I'm good at apart from making things up. But today, I read about the other job I could do.
No one thought that Icelanders might have some natural gift for smelting aluminum, and, if anything, the opposite proved true. Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the country, encountered two problems peculiar to Iceland when, in 2004, it set about erecting its giant smelting plant. The first was the so-called “hidden people”—or, to put it more plainly, elves—in whom some large number of Icelanders, steeped long and thoroughly in their rich folkloric culture, sincerely believe. Before Alcoa could build its smelter it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it. It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free but, as he put it, “we couldn’t as a company be in a position of acknowledging the existence of hidden people.”
I want to certify places as elf-free. Or, sometimes, not elf-free, just because I can.

...

And while I have you here, a reminder about the pre-show for those of you coming to the signing at Books of Wonder on Saturday, here cut and pasted for your delight in all its multicoloured glory from http://www.booksofwonder.com/events030709.asp:

Blueberry Girl Art Show

Private Preview Saturday 11:00 am - noon
Public Viewing Saturday  noon  -  Sunday March 29th 

To celebrate the publication of Blueberry GirlBooks of Wonder will also be hosting a show and sale of the stunning original art from this new book, as well as several signed prints of the art byCHARLES VESS. The art show will run from Saturday, March 7th through Sunday, March 29th. 10% from the sale of each painting will be donated to RAINN

PRIVATE PREVIEW of the art show with the artist will be available to the first 100 people who make a $10 donation to RAINN. This PRIVATE PREVIEW will be from 11am to 12 noon on Saturday, March 7th and those attending will have the exclusive opportunity to purchase the artwork before anyone else has seen it. The show will then be open to the general public from 12 noon on. If you wish to make a donation and attend the PRIVATE PREVIEW, please contact the store at (212) 989-3270.


Rainn, incidentally is at http://rainn.org/

& so to bed. 

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Head Wounds for Men

As of 7:30 tonight, Stephin Merritt has luggage and a Bouzhouki, and is a happy, happy man.

(Picture of Mr Merritt shortly before his luggage arrived. He was pretty happy then, too.)


I don't really want to talk about the thing Stephin and I are working on yet -- it's early days. A strange sort of thing that's all our own little private project. When it's ready, I'll talk about it. Today was mostly spent filling out little cards of different colours with words like "Decapitation" and phrases like "Strangling is Cheap" . Tomorrow, Stephin starts writing songs...

The Graveyard Book is up for an LA Times Book Award and an ABA Indie World Award. I am up against friends in each case, and don't mind if I win or not but am happy just to be nominated, as any extra awards and nominations after the Newbery are just icing on a wonderful cake.

Hi Neil, I've seen so many of your posts lately showering your beautiful big white dog with love! Not that there's anything wrong with that, but with stories you've written like "A Dream of a Thousand Cats" and "The Price" I've always figured you for a cat person. I myself have a fondness for dogs but ultimately I'd consider myself a cat person, and whenever reading your "cat" stories I find myself thinking "Yes, he gets it! He understands cats!" (not that we humans can really ever understand cats). So, I must ask, do you consider yourself a cat person or dog person? And, by the way, your dog is very beautiful and looks to be quite a nice doggy according to your pictures. Thanks for your time on a silly question.

-Andy Christensen



I'm a cat person who got adopted by a dog. Resistance is useless. I definitely didn't pick him. We just sort of found each other when we needed each other. And I carry on being a cat person.
I wish the cats and dog liked each other -- instead the house is now divided into Cat and Dog territory, by a dividing door:



Fred the Black Cat, who had been living out in the garage, abandoned the garage and moved grumpily further and further out into the woods. The rest of the cats just shrugged and got on with their lives. (It's actually easier during the Winter, when the cats tend to stay indoors. In summer Cabal will still tree a cat every few weeks.)

Neil, you say your only convention plans are for something in August. Does this mean you won't be at the ALA in Chicago to collect your Newbery Award in person? We librarians will be crushed if you aren't at the gala (and expensive!) dinner where all youth awards are presented.

Sorry -- I wasn't thinking of the ALA as a convention. Yes, I'll be there -- I'll be giving a Newbery Medal speech (which I have to write by the end of the month argh) and I will also be doing something on behalf of the CBLDF.

Hi, Neil,
A friend of ours just opened a comic book coffeeshop in San Francisco - Caffinated Comics (
www.caffcom.com) and I was wondering if you might be willing to give this new venue a plug in the blog. Their grand opening was March 1st and we came home with a Sandman I didn't previously own and Charles Vess' illustrated version of Stardust. It'd be great if you could help them out with a shout out - San Francisco's first green comic book coffeeshop!
Thanks,Mira


Consider it plugged.

Which reminds me, at http://time-shark.livejournal.com/237449.html  and at http://www.mythicdelirium.com/#anniversary you will learn about the next issue of Mythic Delirium. Mike has been asking me for a poem for years, and finally he asked me when I'd written one. In this case, one about a trout heart.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Waiting for Stephin

I'm working on something I can't talk about, while awaiting the arrival of Stephin Merritt, out to work on a project that I can't talk about (a different one). I feel like I should start putting my collar up and talking in code phrases.


Neil,

I read your post today regarding "cashing in" on Blueberry Girl and Crazy Hair. It totally pisses me off when people can't be happy for the success of others when it's righfully due. I have seen this phenomenon on message boards of popular bands. You'll have people that will love a band until said band starts getting out in the mainstream and starts selling CDs, then suddenly the band has "sold out" or "sucks." Anyways, glad you haven't let it get you down.

Quick question: Will you be attending San Diego Comic-Con this year? It will be my first "con" and it would rock to meet ya!

Peace,

Jonesy


You're too kind. I think I've sort of made that crossing over the last month, and it's okay. I liked it best when I felt like anyone who liked my stuff had me as a private thing the world didn't know about, and I'm not sure, post Newbery and Coraline film, that that'll be true again, or if it is it may take a little while to happen. It's always nice to discover someone and feel that, in some way, you own them, or a little bit of them, because they aren't public.

No plans to be at Comic-Con this year. My only real convention plans are to be Guest of Honour at WorldCon in Montreal in August. Here's the English website: http://www.anticipationsf.ca/English/Home. Worldcons are wonderful things, and I have the fondest memories of my first one, 21 years ago -- meeting Julie Schwartz for the first time, being the last person left in the bar with William Gibson at 5.00 am, pitching George R R Martin on an idea for a Wild Cards character who like, lived in dreams...

Hiya, Neil!

My husband and I are both in the field of advertising here in Portland, OR (he's a motion graphics designer; I'm an interactive producer) so imagine my glee when I read in today's Oregonian that a little movie called "Coraline" was going to save Oregon's economy! I knew your books had changed my life metaphorically-speaking, but who'dathunk that one of your books would literally change my world?

http://blog.oregonlive.com/portlandarts/2009/03/in_the_coraline_economy_we_tru.html

Thanks from the bottom of the heart of the creative world here in Portland!

Mikki


That's rather marvellous. Thank you Mikki.

I, like a thousands of others, have been a fan of yours for a long time. It started with American Gods back in 2003 at a B&N and it sort of spiraled from there. Anyway, I was curious if you would ever be returning to the Adult Fiction side literature? I am a fan of your young readers books, but there is something even more fantastical to your novels.

Also, please find a place in comics and stay there, I miss you.

Best,

Jacob Kohl


As long as I'm alive and writing I expect I'll continue to do this peripatetic sort of dance, in which I wander from children's books to adult novels, from picture books to big non-fiction things, from TV to radio to short stories to movies, and sometimes take in things that happen on the stage on the way. So yes, I'll do more adult novels. And I'll do more comics. But I won't stay there.

...and Stephin Merritt just arrived. His luggage, however, did not arrive. Also not with him is his gate-checked bouzouki. I can set him up with spare pajamas and toothbrush and such, but I do not have a bouzouki here.

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