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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

If this is Wednesday I must be in New York

A very quick "where I am now" sort of post.

I went to Washington College in Chestertown as part of the PEN World Voices Festival and I spoke to an audience of students and people who had come a long way. Had a tea with English students, then did a reading and was interviewed and Q&Aed and read again in the open air, on a perfect spring evening, as the bats came out. Then I did a one-item-per-person signing (having already pre-signed piles of stuff, so people could also buy pre-signed books and run home). It was wonderful, Joshua Wolf Shenk and Kate Bursick and their people were perfect hosts, and if you look at the pictures at http://news.washcoll.edu/events/2009/04/neilgaiman/ (go down column one then to the top of column two and down again to get a chronological feel of the evening as it darkened)you will get a sense of what it was like.

I got up early, got the train into New York, was interviewed for China, agreed to be part of a cool thing that I can't talk about until it's announced in October, then Claudia Gonson took me to a rehearsal for the CORALINE musical.

The problem I've had with the Coraline Musical so far is that, apart from hearing a CD of the first draft of the songs, all of the parts sung by Stephin, a couple of years ago, I don't know anything about it. More by accident than design, I'd not been around while they were workshopping it or working on it, so it was a complete mystery to me. I thought and hoped it would be good, but I didn't know.

Stephin Merritt's songs? Amazing. Acting and performance? Wonderful. Seven performers and I don't think I could pick who impressed me most. David Greenspan (who also plays the Other Mother)'s adaptation? Really good and smart. Leigh Silverman was directing, and she was really good and really smart. Phyllis Chen plays the piano, children's pianos and the strangely-treated piano with the forks and toys and playing cards in the strings that makes the sounds of the Other house, and it's astonishing...

Sound of nervous author breathing huge sigh of relief.

If you were on the fence about going, get tickets now. I think it's going to be the sort of thing that a) sells out very fast (The Lortel theatre is about a 200 seater) and b) given that it's going to have a limited run, it's something that you will want to have seen first run. Previews start on May 7th, first night is June 1st, and it runs until June 20th.

If you like my stuff, or the music of Stephin Merritt or the Magnetic Fields, or the story of Coraline, or disturbing musical theatre, you will love this.

I've got photos from the rehearsal in the camera, but won't post them here without having the people in them sign off on them.

And thence to put on a jacket and tie and head off into the world of the PEN Gala. I was at the Grove/Atlantic table, and we ate beneath the blue whale in the Natural History Museum and speeches were made and Pen awards were given to writers and printers imprisoned for writing things, and money was raised by the dinner to allow PEN to do its work. Salman Rushdie gave me a ride back to the hotel, and so to bed.

The Pen World Voices Festival website is here. 160 writers in conversation, not all at the same time.

I'll be talking on Thursday evening, and on Saturday. (The Saturday event is a $10 ticket, and they have not sold out yet.)

Goodday Neil,

As a young writer who wants to 'get myself out there', I've heard beginning a blog is a good start. Since you've been at the game (of blogging that is) for some time, I was wondering where you thought a good place to start? Free or paid domain? Software choice? Any words from a veteran would be helpful!

Always looking forward to your newest work,
Brent.


My words of wisdom: don't blog because it could "get you out there". Blog because you want to blog. There are too many people blogging out there already and too few with anything to say. If you have something you want to say then do it, otherwise go and write books instead. Ditto Twitter: do it if you enjoy it, not because it's a professional thing. Honestly, there's no point otherwise. (I use Blogger, and have done for eight years, and it's pretty reliable.)


Right. On with the day (shall I feel guilty about having a few hundred unread emails? I shall not, and will simply hope that nothing bad is happening in the world...)

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

London, Paris, New York. Also Lexington High School.

Good morning world. It's thundery wet Sunday morning here, which is rather wonderful.

I had a few days of all my children at home -- Mike is back with a broken leg, Holly came home to work on her dissertation, and Maddy, well she's always here anyway although actually she's in Chicago right now with her school orchestra -- but it ends today as Mike goes back to work in San Francisco(he's doing really well, has been doing all his exercises, is at the point where he can drive, even with a broken-leg-boot), Holly goes back to the UK, and I go off to Maryland to give a Monday Night talk, reading, etc. 

(Details of Monday Night Talk reading etc  at http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/3190/prmID/1376)

From there I go to New York (events on Thursday night and Saturday). Then on Monday the 4th of May I will spend a Coraline day in Paris (where there will be some kind of a signing, which I will announce here the moment they tell me when and where it is) and then to do a couple of days of Coraline press in London (where there won't be a signing, because nobody thought to check with me when one was being organised, so I was inadvertently double-booked and it had to be cancelled just before it was announced).

So from Tuesday for ten days I'll be New York, Paris, London. Like on the perfume bottles.

...

As a consequence of being in London, I will miss The Lexington High School school play.

I don't actually make a habit of going to school plays. In fact, I suspect at pretty much any given moment I am missing a school play somewhere in the world without feeling in any way regretful about it.

This one, however, I am missing with regret.  This is because Amanda Palmer (seen below, in a  photograph taken last week probably while she was learning how to fly, by Lindsey Byrnes, girlfriend of Tegan from Tegan and Sara, whose music I really like) is part of the creative team, so I got to stop in and watch a little of the rehearsal, and really wanted to come back and see the whole thing.




When my friend Lisa Snellings came out to install the statue in the nook, she brought me Neutral Milk Hotel's CD "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea", which she told me I would like. And, eventually, I did: it's not the kind of music you fall in love with bumping into a song here or there on the iPod. It's the kind of music you love when you hear the whole CD over and over again, and then suddenly you can't decide what your favourite song is so you have to play it all through again. And again.

Amanda and director Steve Bogart and the Lexington High Schoolers have taken "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" and the story of Anne Frank, and crafted a play out of it, and the students and Amanda will be performing. You can read an article about it here and over at Amanda's Blog - http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/94421973/the-lexington-play-and-a-short-history- and it'll be happening on the 7th 8th and 9th of May. Details and how to order tickets are all up at http://jsrdirect.com/bands/amandapalmer/

There.





Me, watching the warm-up. Photo by Leo Gaskell.
...

Got a lovely call from Dan DiDio at DC Comics to say thanks for Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader -- it's getting enthusiastic reviews (review meta sites here and here) and DC is getting feedback on it from readers and retailers, it's selling astonishingly well.  Which I mention because what left me with a huge smile on my face was the "Thank you", much more than the sales or the articles or anything. So easy to forget to say (I forget all the time) and the best bit of it all.

...



Dear Neil,
I'm mid-way through The Graveyard Book, and have 1) a monster girl-crush on Miss Lupescu, and 2) a lycanthropic question. Does the idea of werewolves as the Hounds of God have a precedent anywhere? (Because it is a most awesome idea, and further reading is always exciting. And if the idea originates with you, can I start spreading it around until it becomes folklore...?)
Thanks for your time (not to mention your writing.)
Yours sincerely,
Sally


I'm pretty sure it came from a sentence in Carlo Ginzberg's The Night Battles (Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries). (Amazon link.) A book I learned about from John Crowley (I wrote about his suggested reading list for fantasy writers here -- and that book was on it).




Can you please send me (or direct me to) the *full* lyrics for your "Ballade of the _Fantastick_" which _1602_ provides large excerpts from? I would like to learn it -- and sing it to fellow filkers and other friends. (I have already found a tune to fit it, both as to meter and as to mood.)


I don't even know which notebook it was in. Argh. I think you should engage with the folk tradition here, and make it up.

...

And finally, I linked to this on Twitter when it first went up, but now people are stumbling across it, and sending it to me: http://www.postmodernbarney.com/2009/04/uncomfortable-plot-summaries
It is funny, and has an additional gag aimed in my direction.

Right. The day waits.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How to Order WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER and why outer space tastes of raspberries

Click on this now:


Bohemian Rhapsody played on old computer beeps. Found on http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/20/hp_scanjet_3c_bohemian_rhaposdy/, with thanks to Mistress Mousey for the tip-off. Have you clicked on it yet? You know you want to.

I said that everything turned into the Best of Queen...

...

Andrew Sullivan comments on Bush policy with an apt matching quote from the Sandman book Season of Mists at http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/04/the-sentence-i-cant-get-out-of-my-mind.html

I'll let you go and read it for yourself.

Over the years I've got very used to being asked in interviews about Why Sandman Wasn't Political. Normally journalists would point out how very filled with politics all the other British writers of the school of eighty-something were, and that Sandman wasn't. And why is that? And I would hesitantly suggest that I thought that Sandman might have been a bit more political than they thought, and they would say no, it definitely wasn't; where was Margaret Thatcher, after all, and why hadn't I shown her eating babies with her vampire teeth?

So ever since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when journalists started talking about Sandman #50, I've felt, well, not vindicated, because I never thought I had anything to vindicate, but sort of like, yes, the personal really is political. I thought it was.

(Also, if memory serves, the line from the victim in Season of Mists, after the line that Andrew quotes is, "But that makes it so much worse...")

...

Right. So last August I went out to Boston for a few days to meet musical phenomenon Amanda Palmer. I'd loved her Dresden Dolls work, had been introduced to her in email by Jason Webley, had met her for an hour in March 2008 at the New York Comic Con just before my CBLDF event, where I introduced her to Bill Hader and Stan Lee, because they were int he green room too.

She had sent me her then-forthcoming CD WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER, which I'd loved, and I'd agreed to write the back cover "liner notes". And then Amanda sent me an email telling me that she had been taking photographs of herself dead for about 14 years, that the original idea had been to use some of those photos for the CD sleeve, but that would not happen, and she was making it into a book, and asking if I'd be interested in writing some words to go along with them.

She sent me many of the photos. I was intrigued. Nobody had ever asked me to do anything like that before, and the photos were small frozen stories, so I said yes. I went out to Boston in August and spent a few long-but-good days with Amanda and with photographer Kyle Cassidy, who is astonishing, with Amanda's then-boyfriend Michael and with Beth Hommel, her assistant. It was like a combination of mad improv theatre and instant film-making as we created scenarios and Kyle shot them. Mostly I was somewhere off to the side, scribbling in a notebook while everything happened around me, but occasionally I was dragooned into helping, or even being part of a shot. (There was one night where I staggered back and forth down an alley at 2.00am, with a dead Amanda over my shoulder, while nearby my friend Kira made imaginary cell-phone calls, and I waited for a squad car to pull up and find out what was going on. No squad cars turned up. People in Boston are very blase about dead people in alleys. The photo made it into the book, I think.)

I loved trying to turn the photos into stories. Some big stories, some very small stories, even a new-old fairy tale, each story odd, each story fun to write, and each story, invariably, fatal.

The most fun I think were the ones where the photo created more questions than it answered (a dead woman on some waste ground, her head crushed by a manual typewriter, apparently dropped from a very high place just left me going WHY? and produced one of my favourite stories as I got to explain...)

I've said it before on this blog: Writing is (like death) a lonely business, and it was enormously fun for me writing surrounded by creative people busy creating. I wrote several of the stories sitting in a corner of a room while Amanda practiced for her upcoming tour, tuning in and out of reality while songs were being played. It was fun.

There are about a dozen stories altogether, and a few shorter things by me in there. And there are lyrics by Amanda. And photographs. So many photographs.

The book was designed by designers in association with Beth Hommell, Amanda's assistant (I've been assured by the designers that my previous statements here about how good or timely a job they did were erroneous, and that I was misinformed, which I'm happy to correct here.)

The book is being printed right now, in Hong Kong. This is a good thing. There will be 10,000 copies. People have asked if any of the stories will be reprinted in any short story collections in days to come -- possibly, but some of my favourites are dependent on the juxtapostion of the image and the words, and my short story collections tend to be almost a decade apart.

I should probably warn people about the nudity. There are lots of photos where Amanda is fully dressed, but she doesn't seem to have anything resembling a nudity taboo, and is fearless when it comes to getting the photo she wanted, so is fully or partly naked in some of the strangest places (my favourite nude Amanda shot, taken way before I got there, was her naked and apparently dead on a golf course, early one morning, as the golfers, unconcerned, played on and around her). It's definitely art, not porn, but there, such warnings are useful.

And there are many photographers in the book, but Kyle Cassidy is The Man.

So the book can now be ordered. It actually went live for orders a couple of days ago, and promptly was crashed by the number of people trying to order immediately. Seeing that this blog has the power to crush websites (what they've taken to calling a #NeilWebFail on Twitter) I wasn't going to link to it until the site was robust enough, but they've now beefed it up and added phone lines, so if you want to order a copy, you can.

It's a big, full colour, coffee table Who Killed Amanda Palmer Book. Copies arrive from the Hong Kong printer in July and will go straight out to people who have preordered them.

A few bookshops around the world that are friends of mine or friends of Amanda have enquired about selling the books. My understanding is that Amanda is waiting until the preorders are done, and everyone who has had a chance to preorder has ordered, before seeing a) if any are left and b) if any are left, how many of them will go to places like Chapters in Dublin or DreamHaven or Newbury Comics, or further afield than that.

I still wish I'd been able to come up with a story for the one of her dead among the wallabies, mind.

It was a fun project. I made some fine friends out of it, with Amanda foremost among them as we discovered that we agreed about pretty much everything to do with making art and the way you treat your fans and readers, and such (although not, oddly enough, about getting naked and pretending to be dead on golf courses, which is definitely Her Thing). I already knew she made good music, and I learned that she's really nice, and fearless, and very, very funny, and the sort of person who, at the end of an exhausting seven month world tour, would spend a month working for free with the kids at her old High School to help them put on a show.

And after all that preamble: you should pre-order the book from http://jsrdirect.com/bands/amandapalmer/wkap.html



Picture of Kyle eating Amanda's brains while I, er, hold a pen not very menacingly, above borrowed from Kyle's excellent Livejournal, where I also discovered there's a win a copy of the Who Killed Amanda Palmer book or something cooler competition on the go, and a photo of Chip Delany Where He Works.

....

I learned the other day that the galactic centre tastes like raspberries and smells of rum.

Oh, right, I thought, Space: the Final Cocktail.


...

And almost forgot to say there's a good article in Wired about my final Batman, but it's a bit too spoiler-filled for me to comfortably link to on the day Detective 853 comes out. Read that first.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

J.G. Ballard and the way the future was


When I was a boy, I loved J. G. Ballard.  And when I was a teenager I loved J.G. Ballard. And as an adult I loved J.G. Ballard.   Different books, though, in each time -- as a boy I read and loved his disaster books, in which the world drowned or was blown away or slowly turned into crystal, and his Vermilion Sands short stories (particularly one called "The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D"). As a teen I took weird cool challenging Ballard out of the library (I loved Concrete Island most of all, a Robinsonade about a man in a road accident stranded on the centre island in a busy motorway). As a young man I loved Empire of the Sun -- but I never stopped loving the old books, even as I discovered the new.

And somewhere around 1985, my friend Kathy Acker took me to a party/book launch/some kind of event somewhere in London and I met William Burroughs and Jim Ballard, stood there and chatted  as they reminisced about London in the 1960s. I don't know what or who I had been expecting, but Jim Ballard, then, and whenever I met him after that, was terrifying in his ordinariness, like the protagonists of his high-rises and drowned worlds, like the man on the motorway island. 

As the years continued, I remained fascinated with Ballard, and with the strange way that Ballard's most outre work from the late 60s and early 70s, odd un-stories with titles like "Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan", or books like Crash, on the sexual fetishism of car crashes and beautiful women who die in them, seemed to have somehow predicted the future that we were in, the world of postReagan image control and the psychofallout of a dead Diana, better than any of the SF writers who thought they really were predicting the future.

And I found myself hesitating on writing this one, as if, if I didn't write something for my blog, I would keep him alive just a little bit longer.

The photo is by Miriam Berkley, from about 1991.

...


Over at Cat Mihos's Neverwear she threw open a competition for people to suggest t-shirts, and the results she got back are, frankly, amazing, and not easy to judge. If you would like to weigh in or vote for anything you would like to wear, head over to http://kittysneverwear.blogspot.com/2009/04/in-which-we-judge-another-contest.html. (And if you ever wondered what my mail looks like, she's started photographing it.)

And a quick one: Just heard from HarperChildrens that my audiobook of The Graveyard Book has been chosen as one of the three nominees for Audiobook of the year. It's already been nominated for two Audio Awards -- you can read the full list at http://www.audiopub.org/2009Finalistspressrelease.pdf and to have it picked as a potential audio book of the year put a smile on my face nothing could shift. http://www.audiopub.org/2009ABOTY_DAPfinalistsrelease_final.pdf

This is what they said about it:

The Graveyard Book
By Neil Gaiman
Read by the author
Published by HarperAudio
Also a Finalist in the Thriller/Suspense and Children’s Titles for Ages 8-12 categories.

The Graveyard Book leaped into immortality with its Newbery Medal win, but the audiobook adds the author’s haunting performance, which strikes the perfect balance between a professional reader and the heart and soul of the author. Bela Fleck’s eerie and whimsical original musical composition for the audiobook sets the tone and punctuates the production. Gaiman’s unabashed enthusiasm for the audiobook format found expression throughout his book tour and on his website. Gaiman’s and HarperAudio’s efforts have clearly won new fans through these recorded readings and effective social media marketing.


Which is astonishingly nice. I've said it before, but it remains true, I feel happier when people like the audiobooks I've recorded than I think I am about anything else. It's one of the few awards I take personally.

And, truth to tell, and while it's-always-nice-to-be-nominated-and-all-that, I would love to win an Audie award. I won one for SNOW GLASS APPLES/MURDER MYSTERIES (which was packaged as TWO PLAYS FOR VOICES) but that wasn't me reading, just my adaptations of my stories. I have many pewter nomination medals, and would like to get one big glass slab for reading. Probably, in truth, because I feel much more vulnerable about the readings than I ever do with the written words. And because Audiobooks have a special place in my heart - like an endangered species that's come back from the brink and is now thriving. 

...


And a reminder that Detective Comics #853 is coming out to comic shops this Wednesday, the second part of my two part last Batman story. The first six pages (and the two different covers) can be seen at http://comics.ign.com/articles/973/973059p1.html .Here's page 1...



And no. It's not Death.

...

The Who Killed Amanda Palmer Book went on sale this morning, but it sounds like there were some problems with the robustness of the website you could order it from, so I'm going to hold off on tweeting or blogging it until tomorrow, by which time I should be able to send people there without it immediately crashing and wasting everyone's time. If you wish to find the link yourself in the meantime, you are very welcome to.

But for now, here's a link to the anniversary issue of Mythic Delirium, a poetry publication in which I have a poem. It was inspired by the same strange event that made Amanda write her "Trout Heart Replica" song. I was going to call my poem "Trout Heart Replica" but when I told her that she said, "You can't. That's what I called my song, and I got there first." And she had. (The illustration in the first 350 issues is hand-coloured.)

...

And finally, we went into the basement today and pulled out a bunch of comics for Len Wein. Len is a) one of the nicest people in comics and b) one of the writers who inspired me and made me want to write comics when I was a bit younger than I am now. Len's house was destroyed by fire, and while much of what he owned was irreplaceable, he's trying to replace his comics -- his copies of the ones he owned: If you have duplicates or, like me, just think your copies of those comics would be happier with Len, you can find details at:  http://www.povonline.com/weinproject.htm

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

All the Colours of Hell

For reasons I'm not entirely clear on, emails from my agent that forward jpgs from Germany always turn up with the colours inverted. This one -- an inversion of the upcoming German Paperback cover -- made me smile:

...ah yes, I thought. That's the sequel, all right. CORALINE APOCALYPSE.

And I just got a note from a happy Henry Selick to say that Coraline is now the second highest grossing stop-motion film ever (Chicken Run is the first), and I am proud of him.

...
Why are the Absolute Sandman volumes so expensive? I can't even afford half of one!

They aren't that expensive. Well, they are, but that's because you pay for what you get: you're getting 600+ pages of full colour comics, newly coloured, and new material, bound to last, on good quality paper, hardback and cased. They're a hundred dollars each (they were half that through Amazon on release, and can still be found for around $60 if you poke around online.) Paying full price it'll cost you $400 for the set. (That's about $240 on Amazon "new and used"). They weigh about seven and a half pounds each.

(Absolute Death is $62 from Amazon on preorder right now.)

There are ten Sandman Books out in paperback, which will cost you, at full price, a hair under $200 -- and which are still in print, and can be found much more cheaply. The printing, paper and colour isn't as good, and they tend to discolour with the years. But it's the same story. 

(To put the Absolute Sandman's into context, Dave McKean and Heston Blumenthal's Big Fat Duck Cookbook is a hair under $200.)

Hi Neil,

Is your Luminato reading already sold out? I wanted to take my son, but every time I try to buy tickets through ticketmaster, it tells me that the seats I want aren't available.

Thanks. Howard


I haven't heard anything from Luminato, but got this just before yours:

Hi Neil,

I tried and tried to got tickets to your reading at Luminato in Toronto. The presale code didn't work, calling in with the code got me nowhere. So, like an idiot, I figured it must not work for anybody and that I would be safe.
I wasn't. They were sold out by 10:02 yesterday, according to Ticketmaster.
Will you be doing a reading or even a signing anywhere else while you're here? Or, is there anyway to get Luminato tickets elsewhere, or even attend the signing without a ticket (I'd love to see the reading, but that doesn't seem possible)?

Thanks,
Amanda


..so it looks like the 500 seats sold out in two minutes, I'm afraid. I don't know if I'm doing any other public events at Luminato. (I think I'm doing some school events.) I'll post what I find out.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

News! I mean real news, honest.

It's SPRING! I mean, it's warm and the trees are budding, the crocuses are blooming and the birds are probably singing although they cannot be heard over the howling and grumbly barking of a large white dog who has just been given his Spring Bath and put out into his pen in the garden to dry, and wishes to alert the appropriate authorities. Definitely spring.

So on Monday the 27th I'm doing a Maryland Event at Washington College, Chestertown, for PEN World Voices. And there was obviously a bit of confusion about the event, and suddenly it was listed as SOLD OUT which upset and puzzled those people who had been going to go there and had just seen it listed as a free event on the internet with no information about reservations, and people started writing in to complain to me by the score, and I asked the fabulous Caro Llewellyn if there was anything that could be done, because it was looking like the number of upset people was going to outnumber the happy people.

And things have now changed: the venue is now in a 1000 seat location. Those of you who already have tickets will get to sit in the front few rows. Now new tickets will go out -- just turn up.

This is the link to the current sold out event, but it may have been fixed by the time you read this: http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/3190/prmID/1831

The email from Josh, who is running the event, says:

The event will now be held in the Cain Gymnasium, Washington College,
Chestertown, MD.

Same time and place. Reservations are not required.


I hope this makes people happier.

Please come, because if I'm now talking to a mostly empty hall I'll feel silly for having made them change it.

There -- they just blogged it: Details at http://bitlit.typepad.com/bitlit/2009/04/attention-changes-to-417-night-with-neil-gaiman-event.html

And there will be a free event in New York at 6:30 on Thursday Night April 30th called Leaps and Bounds, Fits and Starts: The Evolution of a Children’s Book Writer with Mariken Jongman, Shaun Tan and me on the panel, moderated by Andrea Davis Pinkney, in the Scholastic Auditorium, 557 Broadway; and a $10 ticket event on Saturday May 2nd Coraline, Sandman: Books and Imagination: A Conversation with Neil Gaiman at The Great Hall at Cooper Union: 7 East 7th Street (and tickets to all three events that afternoon can be had for cheap -- Shaun Tan, Emmanuel Guibert, David Polonsky with Jonathan Ames on one panel, and Adrian Tomine in conversation with Yoshihiro Tatsumi on the other.)

,,,

And the second-biggest piece of news is this:

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK won the 2009 Indies Choice Award as Best YA book. This is the Award that used to be called the BookSense Award, and it's given by the members of the American Booksellers Association.

I was thrilled -- even more thrilled when I realised that I would be in New York around then anyway then for the CORALINE Musical Opening Night, so I'll just head out a couple of days earlier.

http://news.bookweb.org/6759.html

The last time I was nominated, they did not tell you who had won ahead of time, and Michael Chabon and I lost to Cornelia Funke, and were all three of us very happy about it, particularly as we were given huge bags of Levenger swag (you can read about it here but ignore everything in the first paragraph).

...

Right. Now, I have to reread and send off my Newbery Speech, then get back to writing Metamorpho for Mike Allred and Wednesday Comics. The first page of which looks like this:

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sir Clement Freud

I never met Sir Clement Freud, who died yesterday (here's the Telegraph obituary) but his daughter Emma is a friend of mine, and she put us in touch in email. And I mention this because, while his obituaries talk about his political career, or his broadcasting career, and his time as a gourmet, none of them talk about his short-lived but wonderful career as a children's author.

Clement Freud wrote Grimble. The story of a boy of "about ten" whose parents go off to Peru and leave him notes. He cooks a lot in it.

As with several of my favourite books I encountered it first on the BBC series Jackanory, in which actors like Kenneth Williams or Martin Jarvis (who is going to be doing the upcoming HarperCollins Good Omens Audiobook) would simply read books on the TV, fifteen minutes of storytelling each day, while the cameras sat on them or panned across illustrations. Sir Clement read Grimble in that wonderful, slightly lugubrious, voice, deadpanning every joke, and it was wonderful.

Now, J. K. Rowling loves Grimble and said so, and so did I. And Grimble -- the tone of voice, the deadpan way he put the sentences together -- was a huge influence on Coraline, which was something I discovered when I read the book to Maddy.

I talked about it in this blog from May 2002, before Coraline was published --
So I went and prowled the bookshelves in the basement, looking for my old books from when I was a boy, feeling like something odd and funny and stylish.

I found my battered-but-beloved copy of Grimble and Grimble at Christmas, Clement Freud's marvellous story of a boy who is about ten (his parents are a bit vague) notes and telegrams and cookery, a book I've probably not read since I was thirteen, and read Maddy the first two chapters. She laughed a lot. I was surprised how much of the gentle deadpan of Grimble had crept into Coraline.

And it was one of those books just as good as you remember, from the first page on, in which we learn that Grimble did not have his birthday on a fixed day like other children: every now and then his father and mother would buy a cake, put some candles on top of it and say, 'Congratulations Grimble. Today you are about seven', or, "Yesterday you were about eight and a half but the cake shop was closed'. Of course there were disadvantages to having parents like that -- like being called Grimble which made everyone say 'What is your real name?' and he had to say 'My real name is Grimble.'

It's sadly out of print (although there are a few copies out there). I did a Google search to see if it was mentioned anywhere and discovered it was one of J.K. Rowling's favourite books, which left me very puzzled that someone hadn't recently brought it back into print with "GRIMBLE is one of funniest books I've ever read" J. K. Rowling author of HARRY POTTER on it and thus sell, I hope, many truckloads.

(When I first met Emma Freud, many years ago, in the Comic Relief offices, I said "Your Dad wrote Grimble!" and she glowed. She later married my friend Richard Curtis, who wrote Blackadder, and thus provides the illusion that this was somehow a thematically consistent journal entry.)


Some months later I spoke to Emma about it and blogged it in December 2002

Forgot to say that I told Emma Freud, when was in the UK, how much I loved her dad's book GRIMBLE (as mentioned earlier on this journal), and she told me there were about six Grimble stories in all, written to be read aloud on the UK children's TV show Jackanory, four that had never been collected and published at all. We chatted about the J.K. Rowling quote on Grimble, listing her three favourite children's books ("The third is Grimble, by Clement Freud. Grimble is one of funniest books I've ever read, and Grimble himself, who is a small boy, is a fabulous character. I'd love to see a Grimble film. As far as I know, these last two fine pieces of literature are out of print, so if any publishers ever read this, could you please dust them off and put them back in print so other people can read them?") I told Emma I'd add getting Grimble into print to my list of things That Need To Be Done.

So I resolved to bring Grimble back into print.

Emma put Sir Clement and me together, as I said, and we corresponded. I figured a J.K. Rowling quote would be enough to make it happen, but I was wrong - publishers just didn't want to bring Grimble back into print, or not the ones I spoke to.

Eventually I sort of cheated, and suggested it to the editors of a book called Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things That Aren't as Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf, and One Other Story We Couldn't Quite Finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out and, with Sir Clement's permission, they reprinted it there. It was many people's favourite story.

More recently, Grimble at Christmas was republished by Jonathan Cape in the UK.

I never met him. I loved corresponding with him -- he was funny and dry, and he loved Coraline, although he didn't like the bit where she cried in the night in the empty bed. He thought that, as hero and a brave girl, she should not have cried. And I thought that she was a hero and a brave girl because she cried in the night and kept going anyway.


I'd always looked forward actually to meeting him. I'm sad it won't happen. But I thought I'd write this, just to remind people that Sir Clement Freud, journalist, chef, politician, broadcaster etc, also wrote Grimble. And that there are four unpublished stories still out there somewhere.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To the Bat Hive, Bee Wonder! and other stories

Hans works for me doing mysterious things in the woods. He built a bridge, for example, and a few days ago he painted the beehives.

When I went into the garage, I noticed one hive-box that Hans had taken extra care with...



...

You know, Twitter can be really efficient sometimes. I learned this morning from someone on Twitter that there would be a BFI showing of CORALINE in London on Wednesday the 6th of May, and that Henry Selick and I would be talking there, and that you could get tickets to it. I've not heard any of this officially from Universal in London yet, but it seems to be true as there is a website up at http://www.bfi.org.uk/whatson/coraline_3d_henry_selick_and_neil_gaiman and tickets are apparently going extremely fast, so I am posting the info here as well for UK readers.

...

My 10 year old daughter and I are avid readers and big fans of your work. She's read all most of your children's books and is reading Graveyard now. American Gods is one of my all time favorites.

When the movie Coraline opened, we both watched it and stuck around, after the credits, to get the password for the Coraline Nike Dunks drawing. To both of our surprises her pair arrived in the mail today! Check out the pics of her excitement as well as her using them as they were intended:

http://picasaweb.google.com/wsheely/CoralineNikeDunks#

I can't believe people are selling them on ebay for $750! The smile they put on my daughter's face show just how priceless those shoes are. THANK YOU! (And please extend those thanks to Phil Knight) ;-)


Those are absolutely priceless photos, yes -- they put a huge smile on my face. I'll send a link to the folk at Laika...

Hi Neil!

I've been following the WKAP pre-order forum on theshadowbox.net. i've been hearing some slightly nasty things from Amanda's followers regarding NG and KC fans and pre-ordering.

I was hoping if you could possibly put a shout out on your blog letting folks know that Pre-sale for the WKAP Book will open on 4/20/09 at 12pm EST. Only 10K will be available.

Thank you for being you.

audra

p.s. Beth of All Trades has a truly adorable picture of you up on page 8.


I don't think they were saying nasty things at all; I think they were just concerned that all ten thousand copies would be snapped up by people who like my stories (or who like Kyle Cassidy's photos) before they got a chance to get their hands on them. And I'm not sure I entirely blame them.

Anyway... from that thread, this is the author photo from the Who Killed Amanda Palmer book. Many photos of Miss Amanda Palmer very dead, and about a dozen stories by me. Some short, some not-so-short.

Anyway, I've now mentioned the book and the pre-order thread here. But I won't remind anyone about it here or post the actual ordering details here or on Twitter until late in the day on the 20th. Which should let at least some of Amanda's fans get first crack at preordering the book. How's that?

...

You may like the following musing brought on by The Graveyard Book:

http://prettydumbthings.typepad.com/chelseagirl/2009/04/play-out-your-dead.html#more


I did.

...

Okay, short and to the point. American Gods Movie. Is it on, is it off, is it stuck between on and off, did the toggle switch go bad?

I think someone who I would want to make it has to buy the rights first, and that hasn't happened. Lots of film-makers have expressed interest, some of them very seriously, but none of them have been able to figure out how it would be a film, and I don't really blame them. It wasn't written to be film-shaped, after all.

I'm currently working on the ANANSI BOYS film script, though.

...


Over at Cat Mihos's site, she's posted about the mail that she gets to forward to me...
http://kittysneverwear.blogspot.com/2009/04/neils-mailbox-part-one.html

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It Was A Dark And Silly Night and stuff

Over at http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2009/04/wilson-and-gaiman-at-work-and-play.html You can learn about this cartoon, which I have embedded here because, well, it said I could on the New Yorker site and I thought I'd see what would happen...



As the New Yorker says,

This Friday night at 7, the Morgan Library & Museum will hold a special screening of “Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird,” a documentary, directed by Steven-Charles Jaffe, about the life and work of the New Yorker cartoonist of the gleefully macabre bent. Wilson and the director will be on hand for a Q. & A. after the screening (which is being presented in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition “On The Money: Cartoons for The New Yorker”). Meanwhile, we have some new work by Wilson: he illustrated this short animated adaptation (also directed by Jaffe) of “It Was a Dark and Silly Night,” a story by Neil Gaiman, the author of (among many, many other works) “Coraline,” a movie which was recently celebrated in these pages by David Denby.


It should probably say that the story was actually written for the Mouly/Spiegelman edited book "It Was A Dark And Silly Night" and was the second of my five-finger exercises before I started The Graveyard Book (the first was the short story "October in the Chair"). And that I loved working with Gahan, and talking about him in the documentary.

(You can hear Art Spiegelman talking about the book here http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1435446)

...

Beautiful Graveyard Book-inspired photos at
http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2009/04/jazjaz-40-hauntingly-beautiful.html

Vanessa at Fidra Books writes about Blueberry Girl, as does Mama's Cup.

Jon Scieszka made the Battle of the Books more interesting by knocking The Graveyard Book out in the first round. Which I thought was a wonderful thing to do, and it makes things much more fun.
...

An explanation for what actually happened at Amazon is at http://blog.seattlepi.com/amazon/archives/166329.asp?source=mypi
(As The English all probably suspected, it was the fault of The French.)

Cheryl Morgan does a good summing up of the upshot of AmazonFail at http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/?p=4528

(I would add, the best, and also the most dangerous thing about Twitter is the speed with which things happen. If you're a big company and something like this explodes, just having someone who can simply say "Yeah, we know. Thanks for alerting us. It's not malicious, we're trying to fix it by working through our Easter Sunday" on Twitter would probably have been enough to pour oil on twitter-troubled waters.)

(And the thing that is best, and thus most problematic about Amazon, is that we do use it as a resource. I'll normally link to Amazon for a book rather than to, say Indiebound, only because there's more raw information at Amazon than at Indiebound, and it's normally easier to access than Barnes and Noble. (Each of the links are to The Graveyard Book, on Amazon, Indiebound and B&N respectively.) And in twelve years, no-one has replaced that thing.)

...

Moby has a new CD coming out. He gave an instrumental track "Shot in the Back of the Head" to David Lynch, with instructions to do whatever he wanted. David Lynch made a haunting little mostly hand-drawn animation. I made a shrunken URL for it at Http://bit.ly/lynchmob, because it made me smile. (It's actually at http://pitchfork.com/tv/#/musicvideo/966-moby-shot-in-the-back-of-the-head-mute).

...

And finally congratulations to the Wieden+Kennedy folk, whose awesomelytriffical Coraline website has been nominated for two Webby Awards, at http://www.webbyawards.com/webbys/current.php?season=13

(Also, you can nominate and vote for the websites you think are the best of the web at http://pv.webbyawards.com/)

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazonfail Sunday

Argh. My trainer just came over and I worked out for the first time since January. It kind of sort of feels good, but mostly it feels like I was on the road for three months and I need to get back into some kind of shape.

I shall break out the Wiii fit tonight I think. And trampoline a lot.

...

Yesterday morning someone called @Zanzando twittered me, saying,
@neilhimself Neil, if you could tweet re: Amazon removing GLBTQ titles from searches & rankings (# amazonfail), that'd be great. Thanks!
I asked for links, expecting it not to be a real problem, and found myself discovering that, yes, Amazon were indeed doing this -- deleting books from the Amazon Rank database. And to books like Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. It was a very real problem. (A list of affected books is up at http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/11992.html) (The removal of a book's Amazon rank is, among other things, going to make it much harder to find on an Amazon search.) So I twittered about it, using the #amazonfail tag, and people read it and retweeted it and spread it around. And it rapidly became the top topic on Twitter. (Er, I'm not saying this was because of me. I probably speeded things up by a few minutes.)

Soon wonderful things like this were appearing, and I was retweeting them.  People within and without the GLBT communities saw the utter stupidity of this (along with the dangers of a more or less monopolistic retailer that was used as much for information as it was for sales deciding that only information it approved of could go out there).

Several hours later people were asking me about why I wasn't boycotting Amazon because Amazon hadn't fixed it yet, and I found myself pointing out that it was Easter Sunday, and honestly, you were going to have to give them a chance to fix it... 

(I mean, a week ago, a search for "Girl Scout Cookie" on Amazon.com produced sexy costumes, speculums, wolf urine and a Morgan Freeman biography as a result. Now the speculums and Morgan Freeman biography have vanished (although the wolf urine is still there). Obviously, Amazon listings are always in flux...)

Having said that, Amazon describing it to the AP as "a glitch" isn't as reassuring as they might perhaps have hoped. Something's obviously wrong, and it's something that Amazon should not ever have touched with a ten-foot bargepole. But who made it happen, and whether it was stupid or evil, and how long it's going to take to fix, and whether they're going to apologise, all remain to be seen. (NB. If you're an Amazon spokesentity and you're reading this, trust me, the whole apology thing would be a really smart idea.)

Here's a piece on why it may not be fixed overnight http://sbisson.livejournal.com/927640.html
...

Meanwhile, Cat Mihos is about to launch the redesign of the Neverwear Site, and she's holding a contest to celebrate:

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

All Questions, All the Time

The excitement at this end, if that's the right word for it, is all about my son Mike, who was on his bike when a car decided to occupy the same space he was in, and who now has a cleanly broken leg and a destroyed bike (and semi-destroyed bike helmet, and glad I am it was his helmet and not his head). His mum has gone to San Francisco to help him and bring him back. Seeing that he's going to have to work from home, we figured it would be easier for that home to be here, rather than an apartment up many stairs. He'll arrive on Monday, and I've made up a bed for him on the ground floor.

(Wear your bike helmet, he said to the world, making a mental note to buy himself a bike helmet.)

...
Loved this Wired review of Blueberry Girl, mostly for the opening:
The only weird thing about Blueberry Girl is that it's really not weird.
...

One of the best things about supporting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and having this blog and the Twitter account is that occasionally things spontaneously pop into existence. (The connection with Black Phoenix Alchemy is one of them.) Back in January a blog entry someone sent me about a coffee shop in Indonesia selling Author Coffee suddenly turned into several different versions of Neil Gaiman novelty coffee.

Joan of Dark from Strange Brew Coffee in Indiana did one (details, and recipe and pictures at http://joanofdarkknits.blogspot.com/2009/01/neil-gaiman-needs-coffee.html), the Man They Call Widgett came up with another, and Erica from ZubZubicecream came up with a third. Which she has kept on the menu and had pledged to donate the revenue from it to the CBLDF. So I was thrilled when this came in...


Dear Mr. Gaiman,

Sent off a donation to the CBLDF today! I think the best part of hosting your coffee drink is the conversations it sparks, you have some very interesting, intelligent, and well read fans. Honestly though, watching people's eyes light up and hearing them squeal "Omigod, you have a NEIL GAIMAN COFFEE?" is pretty rewarding too! One of the best reactions was having someone order one, drive away, and minutes later pull back in to tell me with slightly glazed eyes that it was the most incredible thing ever. *grin*

Thanks again, and best wishes,
Erica

ZubZub!


Which reminded me that I had never posted the recipe for Erica's Neil Gaiman coffee (with all profits to the CBLDF hurrah) here. It is:

Recipe for one Neil Gaiman Coffee

1 scoop Ghirardelli dark ground chocolate
1/2 shot bitter almond syrup such as Orgeat
2-3 shots of rich espresso
steamed milk
black cherry Italian syrup (I used Torrani)

Put the dark chocolate in the bottom of a glass, add the almond syrup and coffee, then stir.
Cover with steamed milk and foam, then drizzle with dark cherry syrup.


And it looks like this. You can buy it at ZubZub, in Boonville, California.

I was wondering if I might get a book signed by you. Yes, I am aware that I should send it to you with all postage paid, but I have a problem - I don't actually have the book yet. I am looking into buying it off the site and wondering if it might not be too much trouble to pay the extra, or however it might work out, and get it a little sooner than it would take to get it and send it there and back. I was hoping to get it back in time for a present to someone.
-Tanya


You know, I need to update the FAQs on getting stuff signed. The best shot at buying something signed by me is still going to Greg Ketter at Dreamhaven Books. Greg owns and runs the neilgaiman.net website.

Do not send him books in the hopes he will get them signed and returned. The volume of books coming in was such that he had to stop doing that, especially since he downsized DreamHaven to a one-man operation. The books you send just get returned. If you buy a book from Greg, he can get it signed for you, as long as you understand that he has no control over when I will stop by to sign, and as each time I go there to sign it takes longer and there are more books, and because I am on the road a lot, it can often take several months for me to find an afternoon to get back to DreamHaven and just sign books for an afternoon.

Greg cannot guarantee that I will get books signed and personalised in time for birthdays and suchlike. He just can't. I do not live in the DreamHaven basement, and time is always at a premium.

So DreamHaven is always your best bet for getting anything signed, but please, read http://neilgaiman.net/ship-sign.php first. That's Greg telling you what he can and cannot manage:
If you want to have an item signed or personalized, be sure to say so in the 'Signing Information' section of the checkout form. For personalized books, please doublecheck to make sure that all names are correctly spelled before you send the order. If there is a special occasion involved - birthday, wedding, holiday, etc. - you can mention that too. (Please do not request elaborate messages or quotes - they won't happen. Also, Neil is not going to write that you are his best friend, or his biggest fan, or the love of his life.)

Sorry, but we don't take requests for doodles or drawings. They either happen or they don't, depending Neil's schedule and whim.

If you don't need personalizations, and all the items you are ordering say 'Signed Copies in Stock' or 'Signed Edition', they will ship right away just like unsigned items.

For items that need to be signed or personalized, expect a delay of 2-3 months, depending on Neil's schedule. We don't know when Neil will be stopping by. Really. We usually find out less than 24 hours before it actually happens. So please be patient. You can check the news page to see when Neil last stopped by, and approximately when your order was shipped.


Dear Neil,

I have just got my first book published but I do not have an agent and I want to do a book tour. Do you have any idea how I could go about this? Do I need an agent to do a book tour?

George


You don't need an agent for a book tour, but you do need a real sense that there are people who would like to see you and listen to you read from your book and have you sign books for them. Otherwise you're wasting everyone's time, especially your own. (You could be writing another book, for a start.) Spend the money you would have spent on fuel and hotel rooms sending copies of your book with a press release to local newspapers, or drumming up interest on the web, or doing anything that isn't:

1) somehow convince a store that doesn't know who you are or want you that you need to sign there and
2) then try to get people to show up.

Which is no fun. Almost as little fun as staring out at an empty space for an hour, occasionally telling people that you do not work there and you cannot direct them to the toilets.

I'm not saying don't do a tour. I am saying that you had better know why you're doing it, and have people who would very much like you to come and make an appearance in their shops, or who would like a signed copy of your book, before you go.

(I was going to point you at an essay I did on signings and what they are for and how to do them, in a collection of speeches called Gods and Tulips, but I just checked the CBLDF website at http://www.cbldf.com/Neil_Gaiman_s/30.htm and couldn't find it, so it may be out of print.)


Hey Mr. Gaiman,
Do you ever think you'll try writing a comic series again? Rather then just writing the occasional issue of something here or there. Just wondering because I really loved Sandman and would like to see what you could do with another series, given the time.


I very much doubt it. Writing the 75 issues of Sandman (and the follow-ups) took the better part of a decade, and I'd rather take a decade to do something I own and control and that feels like it's mine

And that's so much easier to do with prose than it is with comics.

Neil,

how consciously do you think Thief of Always influenced you in writing Coraline? (I know how much of the creative process is a subconscious whirlwind that takes in everything you experience and then surfaces whatever amalgamation of them it decides to at the unsuspecting conscious self from time to time, so the question is impossible to answer precisely, but still, I'd be delighted to hear your own opinion, subjective as it can be.

Yours truly (who made sure to read Coraline to his kids a week earlier than letting them see it in the movie theatre in order for them to first see it in their own imagination).


Well, I was halfway through writing Coraline when Clive Barker's book The Thief of Always came out. I looked at the back cover, thought "Mm. Could be a little Coraline-y" and so didn't buy it. That was how much it influenced me during the writing process. (It also made me sigh, and regretfully let go of an adult book title I'd been treasuring, The Thief of Night.)

About a decade later, some years after Coraline had been published, I was sent a copy of The Thief of Always and a Bernard Rose film script of the book, and asked if I wanted to work on a film adaptation, and I read and enjoyed them both, and thought that really, the book wasn't anywhere near as Coraline-y as I had feared, but thought the Bernard Rose script was really good and there wasn't anything I could add to it, so I passed.

Hey hello Neil
howyou go?
Hey that I spend with the page of coraline
Good of it I do not believe that it is a problem
but what to it my me worries it is that due to the fact that there were no many Mexican they have not liked your movie not many saw her
well alone those of the urban castes your you know: Gothic, darks, gloomers, emos, blablablablba.

But I on the other hand of not being for my sister had not known anything of Coraline and about it I am glad pense that the dirigio such a tim Burton

And it that did not know nothing of you talvez could read your book of coraline
If I could go exposicionde coraline, but not, esat of another side ....... jejejeje is funny of another side as Coraline but I do not have the key to enter

So I have to go
but and of knowing you get my commentary
If itis like that
It will tell you the dream that I had it brings over of the world of coraline
.....
...
..
I ..... I could be in the world of coraline with everything and the village in which she was


There really is a magic that translation websites add to our lives, isn't there? I don't really know what you wanted, but if I had I doubt I would have enjoyed it anywhere near as much.

Hear they're doing Addams Family on Broadway. Based more on Chuck's stuff than tv/movies. Do you opine?


My friend Julian Crouch, who designed and co-directed the Improbable/National Theatre of Scotland The Wolves In The Walls, is working on it. Honestly, anything that casts Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia is all right in my book. I hope it's good, and I'm looking forward to seeing it.

(And, um, "Chuck" Addams. Really? Are you sure Charles Addams was crying out for a posthumous nickname? I mean, really sure?)

Dear Neil,

I'm Seventeen and would like to start writing. I was just wondering if you had any advice on structuring a plot for a story. What should I consider before I begin writing


I can't think of anything that doesn't sound facetious or silly. Mostly you should consider whether you've actually got a story to tell, I suspect. Beyond that, just write the stories. You're seventeen. Write some stories. Start them somewhere, finish them somewhere. Give them to friends to read over. Write some more. Structuring a plot is something to worry about once you feel comfortable writing and finishing things and getting to the end; and it's often something that you do in the second draft anyway, or the fifth, where you reread what you've written and realise that perhaps it will be more effective if you start it at the end or in the middle, or from the point of view of the invisible cow. Just write your stories, as best you can.

Neil, I just wanted to let you know that not only does my 4-year-old love "Blueberry Girl," but all on her own she decided that she wanted me to read it aloud to her -- while she danced. The cadences and beautiful illustrations have inspired her that much.

Thank you for sharing it with us.


Best letter of the day. Thank you back.

i need to learn more about you pleas I need this for a reading report BTW I LOVE GRAVE YARD BOOK

I suspect that you aren't reading the blog, and are waiting for me to reply. But just in case you are reading this, and while I won't do your homework, you should find most of what you need in http://www.neilgaiman.com/p/About_Neil or http://www.mousecircus.com/MeetNeilGaiman.aspx.

What will limit be on the number of items that can be signed at Luminato in Toronto and WorldCon in Montreal? Also I love all of your work, you are awesome.

I don't know. It'll depend on the number of people who need things signed, and how much time there is to sign them. I can hazard now that it won't be more than three.

Hi Neil,
Hope I win the randomly answered questions contest...
My wife just bought tickets for the Coraline musical as well as a trip to NYC for my birthday (June 11) and I am thrilled. Two questions.. 1. as you are a Sushi connoisseur, any tips for great but affordable (in other words, not NOBU) NYC sushi? 2. OK if I send my Playbill to Dreamhaven to be autographed? Thanks.


I love the various Nobu restaurants I've been to, but am never mad keen on their sushi. (The miso cod, on the other hand...) My favourite place to eat Sushi at in NY is still Sushi Sasabune. (Here's info on it.) Not cheap, but not crazy expensive, and memorable.

And no, I'm afraid not. Best bet is to find me at a signing of some kind.

Is the information on this link (about you) true?

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Is_Neil_Gaiman_divorced

Or is the internet spreading rumors? Apologies for the nosiness - it just seems silly for people to spread rumors like this.


Oh, there are creepier people spreading worse rumours. And at least this one is true (and you'll find Mary described as my ex-wife in most of the recent interviews).

It's very odd being the subject of Internet Gossip. I mean, it's not what I thought I was signing up for when I started writing stories (and definitely not what Mary thought she was signing up for). Mostly I try and keep this stuff way off the blog, partly because I figure that the moment you do start talking about it, you lose any right to try and say "No, that's actually part of my private life, and is honestly none of your business," about anything, and partly because Mary is much more private than I am about all of this, and opted out of the blog many years ago, of her own volition, like the single Osborne sibling who elected not to be in the show. And besides, anyone whose business it is to know, knows.

But at the point where it's turning up on Wiki-Answers... (shakes head).

So let's see: for the record, we separated well over five years ago, did the paperwork on the divorce over a year ago, remain close and supportive, love being parents together and enjoy being friends (and, like in some early seventies sit-com, next door neighbours) more than we did being a married couple. She's terrific -- and is, as I said at the top of this, currently off looking after and bringing home a broken-legged son.

There.  

Hiya,

So, you clearly have novels in you. But do you have something longer in you?

I've recently become a fan of sorts of heptalogies (seven book works). Harry Potter is the most obvious example but the two I've recently read that struck me as pure masterpieces are King's Dark Tower series and Weiss and Hickman's Death Gate Cycle.

I have a sinking suspicion that the best work from you will come after wrestling with stories and themes that might only fit in a longer work.


Something like the ten volume (or twelve, or fifteen volume, depending on which spin-off books you count), 2,500-plus-page-vastness of Sandman, you mean?

Yep, I can do that.

No,  no real plans ever to do it again. But you never know: if I wind up starting a story that I realise demands that kind of length, I'll write it at that length.  Certainly, in the decade since I finished Sandman I've really enjoyed not writing multi-volume epics.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Unsorted Mailbag

Okay. Nothing exciting happening -- I'm writing lots of little things right now. A small host of overdue introductions, speeches and the like. Truly, it doesn't feel very creative -- more like work -- but it's good to get out of the way, and then I can get back to making things up.

And I quite enjoyed the thing of simply picking a bunch of questions in order without trying to select them to be interesting or informative or typical or whatever. So I am going to do it again. Let's see what happens.


Neil, I was listening to the Moth podcast the other day and remembering that you recommended it on your blog. After first wondering if you had been on the Moth (have you?), I was wondering if you would find it difficult to retell a entirely truthful autobiographical story in the fashion of the stories on the Moth? I ask this as I would guess that the creative instinct would perhaps want to take over and embellish or adapt the story to make it 'better', possibly particularly writers who write 'fantasy' or something of a smilarly inventive genre.

Actually, I find it pretty easy to write what happened. I have a blog, on which many of the interesting things that have happened over the last eight years are recounted, unembellished.

Being a writer of fiction isn't like being a compulsive liar, honestly. It takes craft and care, and it's much easier not to do it.

You can support The Moth by buying the CD with my story on it here, or a quick Google found it at this site, currently second from bottom on the first page.

I'll make this as straight forward as i can. Is there going to be a sequel to "The Graveyard Book"?

I'll make this as straightforward as I can back: that would be nice, wouldn't it?

Neil,

What's going on with those bees of yours? You haven't said much about them. Are you still bee-keeping?


I am still beekeeping, but I haven't been doing a lot of bee-blogging. Luckily my assistant Lorraine has a big honey blog up, about extracting honey with Jason Webley:http://fabulouslorraine.com/blog/2009/04/unexpected-extraction.html I got a follow-up email from her to say that they had extracted four and a half gallons of honey, slightly to their surprise, while Sharon "Birdchick" Stiteler tirelessly documents the bees at http://www.birdchick.com/wp/category/bees/.

Right now, we have no hives - the last two succumbed to winter. But this year we will have seven hives -- four Italian and three Russian hives...

Every so often, the tv show Criminal Minds will quote certain authors and works of literature during the course of an episode when it pertains to the story they are telling. In the most recent episode, they shocked me by quoting Terry Pratchett, specifically a line from Reaper Man: "Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."

My question to you, Mr. Neil (and please forgive me if it seems deeply stupid), is: What do you think would be the most unlikely place to find yourself being referenced? Newspaper reviews and Newbery-related outbursts on the Colbert Report are one thing, but would you be very weirded out if, for instance, Hugh Laurie was spotted with a copy of Odd and the Frost Giants in a future episode of House?


Actually I got very used to it a long time ago, when a young Joss Whedon was working on Roseanne, and made sure that Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and her boyfriend always had Sandman posters and teeshirts...

It happens, from time to time. People write in to tell me that there was a mention of me or something I've written on some show, but it's all in one head and out the other where I am concerned, and I do not remember it for longer than it takes to go "Oh, that's nice."

Dear Neil,

You've probably answered this question, but why are acknowledged at the beginning of the "Watchmen"? I tried looking for a cameo of some sorts of you in there, but could you explain. I'm a new fan, so cut me some slack.

Best regards,

Giovanni


I'm not cutting you any slack for being a new fan, but there are probably other people who haven't noticed the SEARCH function at http://www.neilgaiman.com/p/Search, and it's probably good to remind people it exists. If you used it you'd find an immediate link to:
http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/08/please-stop-my-assistant-becoming-mad.html
and half-way down the page your question will be answered.

Hi there Neil,

I'm a huge fan. I'm sixteen, and my career aspirations are basically to do what you do. I'm interested in doing a whole bunch of creative writing; but I'd also love to work on screenplays, or perhaps in television. Looking back as a successful writer of all sorts of lovely things, if you could give your younger self any advice - or just advice to anyone in my situation - what would it be?

Thanks,
Zach


Enjoy it. Don't worry. Enjoy it.

And at the start of your career, you don't have much money, and you don't have any work, but you have an awful lot of time. Use it. Because if you're successful, you will have lots of everything except time.

Dear Mr Gaiman,

I hope someone already let you know how really cool the German edition of the Graveyard book looks, in a tombstone-shaped metal case?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lichtkrieger/sets/72157613543046887/ (The flickr album is not mine; I googled it. Don't have the German edition to photograph it myself, as I don't like reading translations.)

The publisher probably has notified you of this; if not, they should have.

Regards,
Wibke Sawatzki


They have, and I love it. I've never had a book sold in a tin box before.

Hi Neil,

My Dad needs new black jeans and he was wondering what brand you like best. Any preferences?

Thanks,
Molly


I wear R.M.Williams black jeans. Have done for about eight years now. Love them. They're an Australian company, but have shops in New York and London, and probably other places as well.

Hello,
Sorry to bother you.
I would love to buy a signed first edition of Coraline from a seller on ABEBooks.com.
My problem is I can't figure out whether it's the english or american that is the true first.
Can you help please?

Thank you for your time.

Keith


Acording to the bibliography at http://www.neilgaimanbibliography.com the true first is the US Audio Book. Followed by the US printed book.

What do you think is the best way to start writing a novel?

I think the best way to start writing a novel is to start writing a novel.

Hi Neil,
I have been following you (a bit) on-line and have noticed that you are very generous in terms of freebies. (i.e. readings of the entire Graveyard Book, of Blueberry Girl, of "Chivalry," etc.) It seems to me that you more willing to share these types of things more so than other popular authors. Why are you able to do so? Is it because you are a more prolific writer, more generous than others, or perhaps you have nicer publishers and agents. . .?

I love the freebies (I buy your books, too.) They give one the feeling that you are more interested in having people listening to and enjoying your work than you are in maximizing profits. Thank you and keep 'em coming.
Marie


Well, if you put it like that, I am more interested in people listening to or enjoying the work than I am in "maximising profits". I do just fine, and I sell lots of books around the world, and, as a friend of mine used to like saying, "It's all good". And there are lots of writers who do it as much as I do, or more -- Cory Doctorow, or John Scalzi, for example.

And I do have nice publishers and agents, and they do indulge me on this stuff, as much as they can, anyway.

(Also, as I have said many times, the enemy of writers is not piracy or letting your stuff out for nothing, it's obscurity.) 

There. That was fun. Okay, back to work...

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

In the wee small hours of the morning

I think it's time to see what's in the mailbox. I think I'll just grab the last half dozen or so messages that came in and answer, rather than pick them out and select, and see what happens:

I am running under XP Professional SP3. I have three internal drives and two external USB drives. Occasionally the drive letters of one of the internal drives and one of the external drives are exchanged. I have unable to determine the cause. Can you help?

I'm afraid not.

Hello

My question is in regards to the upcoming book tour. At the signing sessions will I be able to bring my Sandman book to get signed? or is it only the new book that Neil will be signing?

Thank you for your time Darrell Moher.


When I do book signing tours you're normally welcome to bring anything along to be signed, but I don't think I'm doing a signing tour currently.

Hi Neil,

Kind of a circuitous question, but here we go. Recently, I came across a character in a book whose name was Grace-of-God Milacar, who in turn made me think of your assortment of Witchfinder Army recruits with similar hyphenated religious names. Then I found out that there was a 17th century English economist named Nicholas Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barbon, apparently the son of one Praise-God Barbon. I was wondering if Mr. Barbon was an inspiration for the names in Good Omens? Or did you have a different source?

~Kathryn


There were lots of great Puritan names like that. I don't think any specific one was our inspiration. A quick google showed a bunch of them at http://gaminggeeks.org/Resources/KateMonk/England-Medieval/Puritan.htm (Here's Nicholas "Damned" Barbon's Wikipedia entry.)

I was wondering who contributed to the image of Robin Goodfellow in The Kindly Ones. Was it yours or the artist's? And what was the inspiration for him?

I've never seen a representation of him like that and I was intrigued


Charles Vess originally designed that version of Robin Goodfellow in Sandman #19, based on my script. ABSOLUTE SANDMAN Volume 1 has the original script and design work for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in it, and if you read that, all will be made clear.

Good Evening!

I am such a big fan (right, like you've never heard that before)! Imagine my surprise to see you walk into Amazing Thailand in Uptown on April 5 (I was with the large group in front of the window). I have to admit, I had to force myself to stay in my seat and not run all fan-girly up to you and ask for your autograph. At any rate, I just wanted to say that I love your work, especially the movie "Coraline". I am trying to convince my husband that it's the perfect name for a future baby girl. Hope you enjoyed your food as much as I did (it really is "amazing"). ~Mary


Thank you. I would probably have been very nice, if slightly taken aback, if you had run over and asked for me to scribble on something, and I am sure I would have scribbled very cheerfully. And yes, the food was lovely.

Many people, which includes my parents, are doubtful of my choice of career of being a writer and artist, for both comics and novels. Before you had the job you have now, how often (if at all) were people doubtful that you would become the successful writer you are today?

Max


I don't think it ever occurred to anyone that I would be the successful writer I am today, not even me. I'm not quite sure how it happened. I liked the idea of a world in which I could feed my family by making things up and writing them down, and even that seemed pretty unlikely for the first few years.

Neil:

I've noticed that since you've been accessing Twitter that you don't blog daily. I guess twittering is best for your friends and keeps them in touch with your daily life, but why should we humble fans suffer?


I didn't realise that humble fans were actually suffering. Sorry.

Um, the main reason I'm blogging less is that I was blogging less anyway. I've been blogging here for over eight years now, for a total of a bit over one and a quarter million words (per the stats) and I'm tending to blog less right now partly because I keep thinking "Well, I've already blogged about that..." and partly because the most fun project I'm doing right now is confidential and I can't talk about it yet, and mostly because there's just less time for everything right now - the volume of email's higher than it's ever been, the number of invitations to be places, requests to do things, all that, is just higher than it's ever been, and this year promoting the CORALINE movie, winning the Newbery (which also means that more people want me to do more things) and trying to have a personal life in which I do more than write and sleep means that there's even less time than there is normally.

My deal with myself is that I'll blog here until the day that blogging feels like work, and on that day I'll stop. We're not there yet, but we're closer than we've ever been, just because time is tighter than it's ever been.

(This blog entry is being written because I just woke up after three or four hours sleep, realised I was wide awake, and opened the computer to reply to some backlogged emails.)

Twitter's interesting and relatively new, and I'm fascinated right now by where it's going. It's definitely not blogging, but by the same token, I'm amused that three or four 140 character (um, that's about 25 words) twitter posts cause people to start asking how I find the time for all that twittering. It's also not a reliable communication tool: I can be offline for a day -- or even for a few hours -- and completely miss 1500 twitters from people directed at me.

...

A few links: The Onion reviews A Walking Tour of the Shambles.

Science fiction great Fred Pohl is blogging.

It looks like Coraline is being released in Australia in August now, not May (a bad thing), although it's no longer being called Coraline and the Secret Door (a good thing).




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