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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Finally not a bridesmaid actually

They give you medallions if you're nominated for an Audie Award, big heavy ones on ribbons. I keep mine at home, draped on the Lisa Snellings Jack in a Box statue. I have lots of them. This is because when I go to the Audies, I do not win the award, but listen as they read off names other than mine to get their lumps of engraved crystal that are the thing you get when you win.

Last night, The Graveyard Book was nominated in three categories: Thriller/suspense, Children's age 8-12, and for Audiobook of the Year.

Thriller/Suspense came first, and when they read off the winner, and, yup. it wasn't me, I resigned myself to another evening of not winning Audies.

When it won Children's 8-12, I thought "I've won an Audie!" and was happy enough thatI instantly resigned myself to someone else winning Audiobook of the Year.

And then, the last award of the evening was for Audiobook of the Year.

The Graveyard Book Won.

I went up on stage and babbled a bit, and thanked Michael Conroy (my director) and Lance Neal (editor and production) and Ana Maria Alessi (awesome publisher of Audio and digital at Harpers) and should have thanked Bela Fleck, who read on this blog that I wanted a version of Danse Macabre with banjo in it and promptly did the amazing one that's on the Audiobook for us, and completely forgot to thank Merrilee my agent who was there in the audience glowing with agently pride.

Then stumbled off to dinner with friends and was delighted.

People ask whether winning awards means anything when you've already won some, and sometimes it means more and sometimes it means less. But The Graveyard Book winning Audiobook of the Year means more than I can say.

So here is the Magical Audio Widget that the curious may listen to Chapter One for nothing. (and of course, you can watch and hear me read the whole book at http://www.mousecircus.com/videotour.aspx)

Big happy smile.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Book Expo Day the first. And the last.

Very quick version: CORALINE musical (http://www.mcctheater.org/currentseason.html)was a wonderful use of Theatre, very haunting and strange. I liked the second-half better, as it felt more and more dreamlike (although CORALINE isn't a dream story). I wonder what someone who had never encountered the story in any form would think, especially during the end when the Other Mother's hand is defeated? I love the songs, the ones I had heard before and the ones I had not, and look forward to the cast album.

And am really looking forward to the first night on Monday.

Was given an award today at BEA and I announced that my publishers would be running a competition for independent bookshops to get me for a signing in December from the podium, which came as a bit of a surprise to my publishers who knew nothing about it. Luckily they liked the idea, and so I will announce here in a day or so how the independent bookshop Neil Signing Competition will happen (a hint: it will involve having a party) (at hallowe'en) (themed around the Graveyard Book) (and the winner will get me to come to their shop and sign books in December). Details to follow.

I did a signing -- I had an hour to sign for 100 people, and somehow managed to sign for over 170 people in the hour, personalising books for most of them. Not sure how I did it, and was braindead when it was done. Saw lots of old friends, too, who all thought that me-signing time would be a great time to chat, and all of them were sadly disappointed.

Off now to Audie Awards. Do not expect to win any, because historically I am always nominated and never win. Still, I shall wear my three nominee medallions with pride. 

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Scrapbook, and cats.

In five minutes I head for my gate to fly to NY. So some quick photographs, courtesy of Kyle Cassidy.


This is Coconut, yawning fiendishly.

 
Next are two photographs of me and Zoe, who is blind and lives in a bedroom in the attic.

 

 

Me. My dog. My house. My grey streak which is really kind of cool.

 
Pod and Hermione. They are 17, and sweet, but still mad.
Hermione likes me. Pod still hasn't made up her mind.


And finally, a couple of shots of my other houseguest of last week, the lovely Amanda Palmer. Off duty and off the web. (I can be seen in the background blogging.)


(I have to ask Kyle is he took any photos of Princess he didn't give me, as she slept in the spare room with him. We didn't see Fred.) Right. To the gate.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rhubarb rhubarb

This is being blogged while making rhubarb custard for Maddy, to make up for the inedible rhubarb crumble I did the other night. Worst crumble I've ever made. I didn't even know it was possible to mess up a crumble, but I did.

(Here is the Lorraine Bowen Crumble song.)

Several blogs back, I let people know that if they wanted tickets to the Stephen Merritt CORALINE musical they should buy them, as it was a very small theatre and a very limited run. The run has just added two weeks -- it's now going until July 5th. Which may make some people happy.

I get to see the preview tomorrow, and am a bit nervous and a bit excited. So far I've only seen the first 20 minutes in a rehearsal space. I loved it, but am aware that 20 minutes is not a show, and a rehearsal space is not a stage, and that numbers are going in and coming out. Here is a photograph of Stephin Merritt looking thrilled by this musical-making process.



you can see some video footage of the show as they interview an actor, the director and Stephin.

More photos of me and Cabal-the-Dog at http://kylecassidy.livejournal.com/513940.html
and for those of you who have asked repeatedly recently for more Cat photos, Kyle took some of me and Zoe-the-blind-cat-in-the-attic, and of Pod and Hermione, the mad sisters who live in the basement library and do not mingle, and who are now 17 years old, and Lorraine put them up in her blog, at http://blog.fabulouslorraine.com/2009/05/in-which-we-see-more-photos-by-mr-kyle.html.

I'll post some here too, soon.

...

Hi Neil,

I'm sure you have more pressing issues at hand; however, I'm quite late in perusing the Luminato listings and by god, just noticed you're doing a reading. Of course, it's sold out. Is it possible that extra tickets go on sale for your readings or am I out of luck?

If it's a no go, I may have to travel to Montreal for a reading if you're doing one. Do you know if you will at the science fiction event that's happening there in August? I don't remember what it's called.

Regards,

Theresa M.


I'm afraid the 500 Luminato tickets sold out about 5 minutes after they went on sale, and there won't be any for sale at the door (unless someone is trying to sell their extra tickets on). But yes, I will be doing readings at Anticipation, the Worldcon in Montreal.Also panels, interviews and probably making speeches too. Please come.

...

The rhubarb-custard was very nice, but it would have been better in a pie, and tasted nothing like the really good rhubarb custard pie I bought at the farmer's market. But I left it in the oven, after Maddy and I had eaten our fill, and although I turned the oven off when I went back to put it away I discovered it had caramelised into something amazing, but so terrifyingly sweet that one spoonful had me reaching for the unsweetend cranberry juice.

Right. More soon. Huge backlog of questions from the FAQ line to get to.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Golden breakfast things...

It's a beautiful day. Kyle my photographer houseguest is off down the creek taking photographs. 

you will see a photo that he took of me and my dog the evening before last, when the light was golden and it turned the dandelion clocks into sparkles. (Probably Bill Stiteler will turn it into another of his toe-curlingly evil "Hey Girl" pictures.)

(He is out to get art made, as you will learn from the caption.)

I think that this amateur Wolves In the Walls fanart is my favourite photograph of recent vintage though.

which begins,
You are inside Neil Gaiman's mind. (Hands and feet must stay within the car at all times. Management not responsible, etc.)

Please note -- now coming into view on your left -- a highly unusual conglomeration. The phrase "a jumbled, jammed-together mess" might be an apt way to describe it, as would the adjective "higgledy-piggledy." There are fantastic creatures of every size and shape and color; a flaming arch leading into 37 alternative dimensions; a button; a crumbling staircase; a battered-looking witch's hat; a row of brooding Doric columns; a headless doll; a few hounds of hell, snapping and straining at their leashes; a peanut butter sandwich; a talking cat; a disembodied bloodshot eye; and the occasional troll.Currently visible on your right, my friends, is an ancient scroll upon which is written the minute particulars of your destiny -- yet sadly, another line of it disappears each time you lean close and try to make out the words. (Sit down, please -- you have been warned!)

Which is a fine way to start a newspaper article, if you ask me. Possibly the best way.

...

And I am getting emails from people who have found copies of CRAZY HAIR in book shops, so I think it has started to trickle out into the world, although according to Amazon the official release date is Tuesday. 

...

Oops. They're all back from the creek. Gotta go.  (I've made bubble and squeak and poached local duck eggs for breakfast.)


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

drive-by blogging

Catching up on things, so this is just me nipping on to say that the sold-out SPIN Housing Works me&amandapalmer event on June 3rd has posted a handful of front row tickets that they are auctioning off, ten in all.

Housing Works is a good cause ( see http://www.housingworks.org/social-enterprise/).

You get a front row side table for two at the event, a signed poster and complementary drinks. You can bid for the five front row tables at http://www.shophousingworks.com/auction.cfm?storeID=7&windowImageID=1313. At least right now they haven't gone into the world of silly money.

Also, for those of you who were asking about the super-fancy and super-sold out Subterranean Press edition of The Graveyard Book, Bloomsbury Books has a final 50 copies for sale at their website. Yes, it's expensive, and is far and away the best of the Subterranean Press books, designed by Dave McKean.

And finally, this is disappointing: http://www.cbldf.org/pr/archives/000390.shtml

Personally, I wish the CBLDF had been running the case, and not Mr Handley's lawyers. I am sure they feel they did the right thing, keeping him out of prison for owning manga and not allowing it to go to trial, but it's a bad outcome all around: bad for him, bad for comics and bad for the First Amendment.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

The #StemCellResearch Post and Her Majesty's Armoured Novelists

This one is, I think, important:

Hello, Neil. I intern at a lab that deals with stem cell research, and recently was forwarded the following attached message from the head of our lab. The document linked will explain everything, but the gist of it is that there is currently some regulatory legislation in the works to replace the repealed guidelines on embryonic stem cell research from the Bush administration. The National Institutes of Health are currently running an online comment form which allows US citizens to have their opinions on the matter heard, and such opinions are being heavily considered. If you would prefer not to get involved in a controversial issue like this, I would completely understand. But if it is something that you would be willing to get behind, it would be greatly appreciated if someone of your influence could get this message out. Thank you so much for your time.

http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dd5vs2xt_0hkwp6xd8

-Joshua Turner


I think stem cell research is important. (You out there reading this in internet-land do not have to think as I do. You can actively want to ban it if you like.) But having learned that,
*"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) launched a new
"Oppose Destructive Stem Cell Research" campaign today, equipping citizens
to contact Congress and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to oppose
embryonic stem cell research ." -- WASHINGTON, May 6
/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ www.usccb.org/stemcellcampaign
and that
". ..of the 6000 plus comments that NIH
has received concerning the draft guidelines, 99% were from people who
opposed embryonic stem cell research."-Carecure Forum
http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/showpost.php?p=1039001&postcount=12
and given that I do not believe that 99% of the people out there believe that stem-cell research should be banned, I thought, well, my opinion is at least as valid as that of any Conference of Bishops. And I bet I can reach at least 6,000 people...

So, look over the document. If you have an opinion on stem cell research, and would like it expressed, go to:

http://nihoerextra.nih.gov/stem_cells/add.htm

and let them know what it is.

And please, if you care about this and if you have a blog or LJ or method of reaching other people, pass it along -- link to this blog post, or link to the googledoc above. You've got until May 26th to make your opinions heard.

How do you feel about the huge price being charged for "Absolute Death"? This book is only 360 pages long but retails at $99.99. All of the Absolute Sandman volumes each have a page count over 600 but are priced the exact same as this book. How is that supposed to be rationalized? Don't you think a retail price of between $39.99-$59.99 would be a lot more reasonable for a book of this length? I ask because you blog on Amazon a decent bit, and this is your creation.

I wonder if the product itself will get the same kinds of reviews that "Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier (Hardcover)" understandably got on Amazon: one star. Only one person gave it two stars, and 15 people gave it one star, due to this pricing issue.

What are your thoughts?


I'm a bit surprised -- I'd been told that it was going to be retailing for about $75, which with an Amazon discount would put it solidly into the area you suggest. but I also know there are a bunch of extra expenses that have turned up on this book, including having to reletter the whole of Death The High Cost of Living, which weren't originally planned or budgeted for.

The Amazon complaints on Black Dossier (which is over 150 pages shorter than Death will be) aren't about the 'pricing issue', but that it's a complete and utter rip off, as you aren't getting anything extra for your money above what you'd get if you just order the normal hardback of the Black Dossier -- the Absolute edition just has just slightly bigger pages and a slipcase. Absolute Death is filled with stuff that's never been seen, never been reprinted, or never been printed in the form it's going to be seen in, and has definitely never been collected anywhere before. Whetherpeople feel it's it's going to be value for money if you're paying the full $100 (as the Absolute Sandmans probably are) remains to be seen but I do know a ridiculous amount of work is going to making it as wonderful as we can.

Right now it's up on Amazon for $62.99 (the same price they're doing the Absolute Sandmans at, although they've gone up and down to full price a few times), with a guarantee that if they drop the price between now and publication you'll get it at the lowest price they offer, and you have from here to November. So it's $63 or less.

Dear Storyteller Gaiman,

I'm not sure your personal opinions on tattoos, but if I were compelled to get a piece of Sandman art on my body forever. What would you recommend? Haha I know dumb question right? But I'm sure you wish your story to be represented as awesomely as possible.

Sincerely,
Tanner Hunt


I think tattoos are personal enough that it should be your choice. Find a Sandman drawing that speaks to you, and that you'd want to live with for the rest of your life. Make it that one.

This next is, I assume, in reference to my comments on authors from a few days ago.

If you are writing (or doing anything else) for the sheer fun of it, and may sell it and may not, then you are on your own time, and can go throw popcorn at the TV all you want to.

If you have taken an advance or a contract, YOU ARE WORKING FOR SOMEONE ELSE, and you have the same obligation to produce quality work, ON TIME, as a soldier in Iraq does.

If you didn't know that all cats can levitate, and that it's already been studied exhaustively, then you are an idiot, and your cat thinks so too.


Mm. You were doing okay until you threw in the bit about Iraq. (I assume the flip side is, "Soldiering. Well, it's just a job. What are they complaining about? Why are they nipping off to hospitals and complaining about the facilities and treatment? Soldiers in Iraq have the same obligation not to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and not to put themselves in harm's way that a novelist in a rose-trellised cottage in Devon does.") (And I keep having fantasies about a trained platoon of Her Majesty's Armoured Novelists being put through their paces by an irascible RSM "... on the double - wait for it wait for it, what do you think you're doing, you horrible little man, contemplating litotes? -on the double, quiiiiiiiiick PLOT!")

Normally, I'm the one marching up and down trying to explain to the world that writing is a job, and it's not romantic and it's not clever and it's not special. For the most part, that's what this blog is about.

But writing fiction isn't the same as say, carpentry, patrolling a border or animal husbandry. You're making stuff up. It's a kind of weird confidence trick you play on yourself, like the Roadrunner running across the air between two peaks, where if you stop and look down you can plummet like Coyote. And getting stuff done on time isn't the same as getting it right.

I'm not sure when The Graveyard Book was meant to have been delivered, under the original contract. I do know that I had a $50,000 delivery bonus, if I handed it in by the end of December 2007, which I definitely didn't collect even a penny of, what with finishing it in March 2008. I'm pretty sure that I could have bashed something out in 2007 and got it in on time and collected the money; I am also certain that that book wouldn't have won the Newbery, and probably wouldn't have been very good. And I suspect that people who read the book would have complained that I was just churning it out for the money, and they would most definitely have been right.

But, yes. The person or organisation the writer has a contract with definitely has every right to complain, and trust me, they do. The writer is, after all, working for them, if there is a contract.

Often, with a long series, there isn't. I suspect that Stephen King's deal on the Dark Tower was that he did them as and when he was ready. It took him 34 years. Readers died, not knowing how it ended. If Steve had been killed by that minivan in 1999, nobody would have known how it ended. It would have been a tragedy, for many reasons, but contract violation would not be one of them.

Dear Mr. Gaiman,

I can't tell you how much I adored the movie Coraline, and the film's score is no exception.

Bruno Coulais' pieces were haunting and beautiful, and the TMBG's "Other Father Song" was terrific, but sadly, the song which stood out to me the most I can't find!

It's the tune played when Coraline and her mother (real of course) are shopping. It was also featured in one of the TV commercials for the film. (See it here http://twurl.cc/p7j )

In all my searching all I've found is that I think it's called “Nellie Jean”, by Kent Melton (who may also have been a sculptor for the movie as well).

I know it's a long shot, but I was wondering if you had any information to pass along about the song. I downloaded the movie soundtrack from iTunes, and it's not there. I guess at worst I'll keep listening to it on YouTube, though I'd really like to download it!

Thank's, and keep it up!

Jason B


I asked Henry Selick, who said,

It is not "Nellie Jean" by Kent Melton – that is the 5 to 7 seconds of ukulele played by the small character in front of the garden store where Dad is dropped off. I think we just called it "shopping music" and I'm surprised it's not on the soundtrack CD. I've asked Bruno Coulais if he'd mind sending me an MP3 to share with Jason.

And then, because Henry is a remarkable man, he sent me an MP3 of the track in question, and the mighty webgoblin has put it up at http://www.neilgaiman.com/mediafiles/exclusive/Audio/in_the_store_2.mp3

(The high voice singing is actually Bruno himself.)

...

The house internet died, and Sunday is a day when you learn that 24/7 Tech support means that someone agrees with you that, yes, the Internet certainly does sound broken, and that they'll let people know when they get in to work on Monday. So I am saving this to a flash drive and then walking off into the world to find a wireless connection and, with luck, posting it. But once that is done I may be offline until things get fixed.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

One Blustery Day With Stamps

Good morning. It's a bright, blustery, suprisingly chilly day out there, the view from the kitchen window is filled with cold, fluffed-up orioles and hummingbirds and indigo buntings, and I have been disappointed in the quantity of asparagus that has grown since I attacked the overgrown asparagus crop and made asparagus soup on my return home, and so I had rhubarb and yogurt and honey for breakfast instead. (I have a Maddy fast asleep upstairs because you Do Not Wake Teenagers Up On Saturday Unless They Ask To Be Woken. And there is rhubarb on the stove for her which she will not eat.)

It's still spring out here, just: the daffodils are finshing, the tulips are joyous, there is blossom aplenty on the cherry and the apple trees, but the plum-blossom is pretty much over.

I am already banned from agreeing to do any more blurbs and introductions by my agent. But please, please, please do not ask me, because, like it used to say on the signs you would see in pubs warning you not to ask for a credit, a refusal often offends. Right now, I seem to be doing nothing but introductions I've already agreed to do, and they always take longer, and need more thought than it occurred to me they would when I agreed, although it seemed strangely appropriate that the introduction to Douglas Adams' So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish was both late and peculiarly melancholic.

...

I mentioned here before that Dave McKean painted some Royal Mail stamps based around the myths of the British Isles. They look like this:

(Actually, they don't, due to the following request from Norvic Philatelics.


On your journal page http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/one-blustery-day-with-stamps.html you are currently hotlinking to one of our images. I would ask you to stop doing it, host the image on your own site, and post a link to where you got it from.

I also tweeted you about this yesterday, but I suspect it got lost in the morass of your 1.5m followers.

Let me know on the email above when you've sorted the entry out please.


You can see them at http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/06/more-on-stamps-and-bookburning.html


(The last one, of a Mab-like fairy, was originally going to be a banshee, but then someone realised that the first time someone got a letter telling them bad news, in an envelope with a banshee stamp on it, it would be seen as a Stamp of Ill-Omen.)

The Royal Mail asked me to do something to go along with them, and seeing that I get very requests from Royal organisations, I agreed: my job was to write VERY short stories, one for each stamp, for the presentation pack. And my self-assigned job while I did it was to try and make the stories, the images and the stamps peculiarly British -- why a fire-breathing Dragon rather than a good English Wyrm? And how do I get British with Unicorns?

The Royal Mail have just put the stamps (and the presentation pack, and the First Day Covers) on sale for pre-orders. Wherever you are in the world, you can order it from them directly: Lots of lovely Dave McKean art, some of it much bigger than stamp size.

This is the link to the presentation pack.

This is the link to the whole Mythical Creatures area of the website.

And on Twitter I learned from Leslie Turek that Royal Mail solution, if anyone asks, is to enter US phone # as follows: 01 0 617 1234567. (I assume that the 01 would be whatever your local country code would be if you are not in the US.)

The stamps are released on June 16th. I have no idea how limited the Presentation Packs will be, although the magic of Stamps is always collectability and limited numbers, so if you're on the fence, putting it off or anything, then you should probably order a set. (No, I do not get royalties or anything on them and neither does Dave. But it's worth mentioning here, because otherwise people will be coming up to me for the next few years complaining that they wanted them but that they were sold out.)

...

Another Stephin Merritt CORALINE The Musical interview, with my favourite quote at the very, very end.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Littlest Beekeeper

 

 

A beautiful Spring day. I worked on things that I'm late on, including an introduction that got away from me, and then went out with Lorraine and Maddy and checked the bees (four hives, all brightly coloured. Three hives still to go.) Then I took a few more photos, mostly of the gazebo and of bookshelves and, seeing she was there, Maddy.

Looking at the finished photos was of those odd, heart-stopping moments for a father, when you realise that your little girl has started to wear the face she'll wear as a teenager and beyond. And it seems like only yesterday she was a wee thing hiding in the leaf-pile next to you...


circa 2002

...and then, and it seems like no time has passed at all, and she's a very long way from the leaf-pile.

 


And I must stop blogging as I am falling asleep...

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ants and screencracks

Somehow in my sleep last night (fell asleep while working, on the sofa) I cracked my notebook computer's screen, and yesterday afternoon the new posh slick black internet router was discovered when I picked it up to try and work out why the internet was so very, very slow, to contain an ants' nest,  upsetting a very large number of little black ants in the process, most of whom ran off, carrying their eggs and probably grumbling about me in Ant.

What an odd world.

Let' s see: interview with yours truly up on BBC Radio 3's R3Arts podcast at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/r3arts/ and downloadable at http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio3/r3arts/r3arts_20090511-1800a.mp3
-- as with the Jonathan Ross one, it may only be up for a few more days, so if you want to hear me burbling, that's where.

Stephin Merritt is interviewed about the CORALINE musical in Vanity Fair, with a great selection of photographs from the stage production. http://www.vanityfair.com/online/culture/2009/05/13/stephin-merritts-new-musical-coraline.html

and these reviews came in from  the FAQ line:

Hi Neil,

I was able to get rush tickets to Coraline last night and it was simply...astonishing. There are no words to even describe the beauty that I witnessed on that stage. I was surprised at how well the story translated to the stage and how perfect the lighting, music, and disturbing, yet exciting, acting performed. I know you probably feel the same way as well. So thank you for writing the story that eventually made its way as a piece of fantastic, jaw dropping theater. Do you know if the show will be running again in the future. Or if the music will ever be released?

All my best,
Crystal


Neil,
I just got home from the Coraline musical- it was delightful, enchanting, and fantastic! It was even better than what I'd imagined and I dream lots. My fiancee and I talked about the show all the way home from New York (we live in Philadelphia) and we both are wondering if there will be a CD made of the wonderful music? We loved the alternative instrumentation and all the singing was pure perfection tonight. I don't know if we'll be able to swing a second pair of tickets for the show, but we'd love to hear those songs again! Please use your powers for good once again and make this happen!

kerplink, kerplunk, kerploonk,
Elizabeth Hahn


and (for reasons of fairness and balance)

Hi Neil,
Got to see the musical Coraline last night. LOVED the toy pianos! Not sure about bits of it: our lead requires a degree of suspension of disbelief that approaches stress! And not quite sure that everyone's laughing in the right places. Liked the Cat & Misses F & S. Always love Mr. Bobo! My daughter, a huge Stephin Merritt/Magnetic Fields fan, adored the music, and how delightful to see Stephin himself after the show! He signed a Playbill for my daughter & we went home v. happy.


...and the answer is, I don't know if there will be an original cast album or not. I know a lot of shows don't get them, for reasons too complex to go into here (ie it was all explained to me late one night some years ago but I have forgotten the details which had something to do with Actors Equity and suchlike)but, like you, I very much hope there will be.

The CORALINE musical has a VERY limited run, so if you want to see it, and you are in the New York area, book tickets now. I know I keep saying this, and it's mostly because the moment that all the tickets are sold out I will start getting the sad emails that ask why I didn't mention it.

Ticket details are at http://www.mcctheater.org/tickets.html and if you are under 30 or a student there are cheap seats available (if there are seats available) shortly before curtain-up.

And talking of limited ticketing, if you read http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/events/printersrow/ you will learn that

This year's Chicago Tribune Young Adult Book Prize will be awarded to Neil Gaiman. Join us in congratulating Neil at the Chicago Public Library at 12pm Saturday, June 6, 2009. This event will be free, but it is a ticketed event because space is limited. Check back May 18, 2009 for ticketing information.


Again, you may want to get into the website early on Monday to get a ticket. (Free tickets are the worst, as people do not feel obligated to use them once they have been bought, and it's a sad thing to talk to a three-quarters filled "sold out" room when you know there were people who wanted to come.) It looks like a wonderful festival, too.

My question is inspired by your answer to the question re George R R Martin. There, you mentioned a story whose deadline passed you by so spectacularly that you simply apologized and moved on to your next bit of writing (a script which I am quite curious to learn the name of). I got to wondering what the story was about, and I started wondering if it would ever reappear.

So my question is, do you ever feel like things you are working on go completely dead, and you more or less just bin them and forget about it, or do you feel more like stories go dormant, but still have the possibility to be finished/rewritten at a later time?


There are a handful of unfinished stories. And in my head none of them are really dead. Only sleeping.

...

Finally, a huge thank you to Adelle, from LUSH (the nice smelly bath-and-cosmetics-and-stuff-people), who decided that it would be a good thing, while I was in the UK last week, if I went to their King's Road spa and got a "synaesthesia" massage

I wanted to relax, and that was what I got.

It was both perfectly awesome and slightly silly (although nowhere near as silly as the YouTube video implies), and the silly somehow seemed to help the awesome along. An amazing massage from Morag, along with colours, scents, birdsong and suchlike. The sort of thing you'd do for a loved one on a special occasion.

[I should add, I don't think they gave me the spa thing because I was going to blog it - more that they are fans at LUSH (witness the Stardust bathbomb) and wanted to do something nice for me. But I was very happy to blog about it anyway.]

Right. Work.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Entitlement issues...

I am home. My dog is happy to see me. The world is a good place and I am behind on work because American Airlines doesn't have proper power points in International first class like, er, all the other airlines I've flown on in the last few years. (They offered to sell me an adapter for $150 to plug in the battery-dead computer, and I probably should have said yes to keep working, but was so outraged, and had decided not to fly American in future, so it would never have been used again, and said no.)

My assistant Lorraine popped in to check on me. She had decided to start an eat-right-and-exercise diet, and is shedding the pounds. I was impressed. (Ten days of restaurant meals and hotel food and I have only got tighter jeans to show for it.)

...


The SPIN HousingWorks Benefit Concert, with Amanda Palmer and me, is already Sold Out. They will be auctioning off the front row tickets, however, so keep an eye on http://www.housingworks.org/events/detail/spin-presents-liner-notes-with-amanda-palmer-and-neil-gaiman/ if you had hoped to go but do not have tickets.

The Jonathan Ross show podcast is up at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ross/ (and a direct link to the MP3 is at http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio2/ross/ross_20090511-1505a.mp3). That's the show, including our interview, without songs -- just chat. As with all BBC things, it probably won't be up there for long.
...

Hi Neil,

I've recently subscribed to George RR Martin's blog (http://grrm.livejournal.com/) in the hopes of getting some inside information regarding when the next "Song of Ice and Fire" book is due to be released. I love the series but since subscribing to the blog I've become increasingly frustrated with Martin's lack of communication on the next novel's publication date. In fact, it's almost as though he is doing everything in his power to avoid working on his latest novel. Which poses a few questions:

1. With blogs and twitter and other forms of social media do you think the audience has too much input when it comes to scrutinising the actions of an artist? If you had announced a new book two years ago and were yet to deliver do you think avoiding the topic on your blog would lead readers to believe you were being "slack"? By blogging about your work and life do you have more of a responsibility to deliver on your commitments?

2. When writing a series of books, like Martin is with "A Song of Ice and Fire" what responsibility does he have to finish the story? Is it unrealistic to think that by not writing the next chapter Martin is letting me down, even though if and when the book gets written is completely up to him?

Would be very interested in your insight.

Cheers
Gareth


My opinion....

1) No.

2) Yes, it's unrealistic of you to think George is "letting you down".

Look, this may not be palatable, Gareth, and I keep trying to come up with a better way to put it, but the simplicity of things, at least from my perspective is this:

George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.

This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now.

People are not machines. Writers and artists aren't machines.

You're complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.

No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.

It seems to me that the biggest problem with series books is that either readers complain that the books used to be good but that somewhere in the effort to get out a book every year the quality has fallen off, or they complain that the books, although maintaining quality, aren't coming out on time.

Both of these things make me glad that I am not currently writing a series, and make me even gladder that the decade that I did write series things, in Sandman, I was young, driven, a borderline workaholic, and very fortunate. (and even then, towards the end, I was taking five weeks to write a monthly comic, with all the knock-on problems in deadlines that you would expect from that).

For me, I would rather read a good book, from a contented author. I don't really care what it takes to produce that.

Some writers need a while to charge their batteries, and then write their books very rapidly. Some writers write a page or so every day, rain or shine. Some writers run out of steam, and need to do whatever it is they happen to do until they're ready to write again. Sometimes writers haven't quite got the next book in a series ready in their heads, but they have something else all ready instead, so they write the thing that's ready to go, prompting cries of outrage from people who want to know why the author could possibly write Book X while the fans were waiting for Book Y.

I remember hearing an upset comics editor telling a roomful of other editors about a comics artist who had taken a few weeks off to paint his house. The editor pointed out, repeatedly, that for the money the artist would have been paid for those weeks' work he could easily have afforded to hire someone to paint his house, and made money too. And I thought, but did not say, “But what if he wanted to paint his house?”

I blew a deadline recently. Terminally blew it. First time in 25 years I've sighed and said, “I can't do this, and you won't get your story.” It was already late, I was under a bunch of deadline pressure, my father died, and suddenly the story, too, was dead on the page. I liked the voice it was in, but it wasn't working, and eventually, rather than drive the editors and publishers mad waiting for a story that wasn't going to come, I gave up on it and apologised, worried that I could no longer write fiction.

I turned my attention to the next deadline waiting – a script. It flowed easily and delightfully, was the most fun I've had writing anything in ages, all the characters did exactly what I had hoped they would do, and the story was better than I had dared to hope.

Sometimes it happens like that. You don't choose what will work. You simply do the best you can each time. And you try to do what you can to increase the likelihood that good art will be created.

And sometimes, and it's as true of authors as it is of readers, you have a life. People in your world get sick or die. You fall in love, or out of love. You move house. Your aunt comes to stay. You agreed to give a talk half-way around the world five years ago, and suddenly you realise that that talk is due now. Your last book comes out and the critics vociferously hated it and now you simply don't feel like writing another. Your cat learns to levitate and the matter must be properly documented and investigated. There are deer in the apple orchard. A thunderstorm fries your hard disk and fries the backup drive as well...

And life is a good thing for a writer. It's where we get our raw material, for a start. We quite like to stop and watch it.

The economics of scale for a writer mean that very few of us can afford to write 5,000 page books and then break them up and publish them annually once they are done. So writers with huge stories, or ones that, as Sandman did, grow in the telling, are going to write them and have them published as they go along.

And if you are waiting for a new book in a long ongoing series, whether from George or from Pat Rothfuss or from someone else...

Wait. Read the original book again. Read something else. Get on with your life. Hope that the author is writing the book you want to read, and not dying, or something equally as dramatic. And if he paints the house, that's fine.

And Gareth, in the future, when you see other people complaining that George R.R. Martin has been spotted doing something other than writing the book they are waiting for, explain to them, more politely than I did the first time, the simple and unanswerable truth: George R. R. Martin is not working for you.

Hope that helps.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

347 years older...

So three generations of my family wandered down to Covent Garden to celebrate Mr Punch's birthday.

It's celebrated on the nearest Sunday to May 9th, because in 1662, Sam Pepys wrote in his diary that he went

into Covent Garden to an alehouse, to see a picture that hangs there, which is offered for 20s., and I offered fourteen—but it is worth much more money—but did not buy it, I having no mind to break my oath. Thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw, and great resort of gallants.
I left my camera battery-charger at home in the US, and it died, so these were taken on my Nokia N73.

I counted about 18 Punch and Judy Tents on the little green behind the church...

And a few more set up in odd places. This was taken through a very dirty pub window, because I liked the gravestones behind the stripy tent. It's like the Mister Punch/Graveyard Book crossover I never wrote.

And I was happy to catch one show that ended with Mr Punch taking on the Devil. Even if Punch didn't actually kill anyone in this particular version, not even the Scottish Banker who stole all his money.


Photo taken by daughter of an author in the pub next door to the churchyard on Mr Punch's Birthday. Note impressive streaks of grey in the hair to denote the aging process.
...
And a quick edit to add, you can listen to Saturday's Radio 2 Jonathan Ross show on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kbb6p for the next five days. iPlayer for TV doesn't work out of the UK, but the radio one ought to work fine. I turn up about 65 minutes in and talk about Coraline, The Graveyard Book, 3D breasts and the vexing questions of how many custard creams were consumed the previous day and by who. (I ate one. One! And that was just to be polite. Jonathan is like a whale devouring krill when faced with a plate of custard creams. I'm just saying.)

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Quick ones...

It's been a long week, and I keep waiting for down time to do a proper blog entry in, to catch up. I have photos and everything.

This is just a very short one to say that

1) I'll be on the Jonathan Ross radio show on Radio 2 this morning. In a couple of hours.

2) I'll be on Blue Peter on Tuesday (already filmed, me and Henry Selick on the sofa).

Spent yesterday catching up with old friends. Right now I look wild-haired and bleary-eyed, and I will be extremely pleased when all this is over, as it will be by lunchtime.

Some wonderful articles out there about the Stephin Merritt & Co CORALINE Musical. Like this one: http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-05-06/theater/stephin-merritt-and-david-greenspan-conjure-an-unusual-tuner-for-coraline/1 (in which I think Stephin misestimates whether or not children will like it. They will, it's about imagining.) And this one, just as good, with David Greenspan.

(Edit to add, the Lortel is a very small theatre, because Stephin wanted this unmiked and acoustic; tickets are going very fast, between the Magnetic Fields fans, the Coraline fans, and the theatre fans, and it's a very limited season. If you put off getting tickets and then find you can't get them not even for ready money, do not send me grumpy emails.)

And here's me in the Guardian doing their Celebrity Squares: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/may/08/neil-gaiman

And the front desk just called up to say that Mitch Benn is now downstairs so I am signing off in haste.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

City of amazing croissants and vanishing laundry

Dear Blog,

I still love you. I have not deserted you for Twitter, even if she does now have her own page at http://tweets.neilgaiman.com/. Yes, she is always there, but soon I will get tired of her hundred and forty characters and 335,000 followers, and I will return to you, my sweet patient good-natured blog.

Am in a lovely French hotel suite of the kind I only ever stay in when I am doing film junketty things, which means I am in Paris until this evening to be interviewed about and promote the CORALINE movie. This afternoon is the signing. This evening is Eurostar to London.

So far it's all wonderful -- dinner last night with Henry Selick and Bruno Coulais was a delight. (There were lots of other people there as well - local Universal folk, and Henry's wife Heather, and Maggie from Laika, and Amanda's friend Emilie who she had decided I should meet.) At one point they wanted to know about the Coraline musical, so I sang them some songs, and then realised I had drunk more red wine than I thought, because I do not normally sing Stephin Merritt songs outside of the shower.

Just had a haircut of the kind that does not leave you looking like you've had a haircut, and now down to my first interview.

Au revoir,

n

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Quick signing reminders, Paris and New York.

A quick one -- I'll be signing on Monday in Paris, at the Fnac in Saint-Lazare at 5:30pm. Or to put it another way,

Neil Gaiman sera à la Fnac Saint-Lazare, à Paris, le lundi 4 mai 2009, à partir de 17 h 30.

(And if you're in the New York area, I'm being interviewed on Saturday May 2 at 1:00pm...http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/3237/prmID/1832 -- tickets should be available at the location. Come for the day.)

Also, next week there will be strange appearances of me all over UK media thingummies. It is rumoured that Henry Selick and will be on breakfast TV for example. And on Blue Peter.

Herewith a lovely article from the Guardian about Coraline and scary kids' fiction, and why it is a good and healthy thing...http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/may/01/coraline-children-scary-movie

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