When last heard from I was in Wales, for the Doctor Who table read. And then I was off the world picking plums.
I'm still off the edge of the world right now. I was exhausted when I got here -- more exhausted than even I knew, I think. Too much travel, too much nothing ever quite stopping, too many meals on the road. I felt old and creaky and tired.
I spent my first week catching up on my sleep, eating sensible meals that I made myself, mostly veggies and fruits and fresh-caught fish (courtesy of the neighbours, who would walk up the hill and tap on the window, and give me fresh-caught mackerel and such. I gave them bags of plums). I did a lot of walking. Then I got a bicycle, and started going on daily bike rides, two miles to start with, which turned into six to ten miles each day as soon as I started to get into it. I'd take photos of things I'd pass while bike-riding using my little Nexus 1 phone camera and then knit them together with a stitcher program called Hugin.
An interesting rock.
During the first of the ten mile bike rides, I realised I knew what the next big fictional prose story I wanted to tell is. And that I know the story, or enough of it, but not who tells it, who sees it, how it's told. It may have to go back and forth with different people telling different chapters, and bits in diaries and such. It's tremendously reassuring when that happens - an idea turns up and you know it's big and it has legs and nobody's told that story before. And that if you just get all the pieces into position before you start, the plot will take care of itself. Getting the pieces into place is going to be the hard bit.
It may be a while before I'm ready to start writing it. Lots of thinking to do first. But it's the next big story, I think.
And somewhere in there I lost about 8 pounds, stopped creaking and feeling old and travel-weary and started smiling, and wrote a couple of things that people were waiting for. Didn't write many more things people were waiting for, but I don't feel too bad about it: everything will get written eventually.
On Saturday I stop being a hermit and hit the road. Later in the week I'll arrive in Wales, to see the first couple of days of filming of my episode and be interviewed by Doctor Who Confidential.
News from home:
1) Cabal had an operation to uncompress parts of his spine, as he was having trouble walking. He's recovering. I am still worried. We chat on Skype. Or at least, I talk to him and he tries to figure out where my voice is coming from. Lorraine has done an amazing job of being there and keeping everything going, as has Woodsman Hans, and I am grateful. Now we wait. Lorraine's been keeping things updated on her blog, at http://blog.fabulouslorraine.com.
2) On October the 25th, I'll be on PBS's Arthur. I play a writer called Neil Gaiman.
I'm a writer who's a cat. You can be both.
You can read about it at http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2010/09/neil-gaiman-gets-animated-on-arthur/.
3) Maddy Gaiman passed her driving test. All of my children can now drive. Ulp.
4) There's an eBay auction going on through http://www.twitchange.com/, to raise money for a Haitian orphanage. Lots of people taking part who will mention/retweet/follow you on Twitter if you win the auction. I've also said I'll call the winner of the "megapack" auction for me and read them a poem or a short story. It seems an easy, sensible way to help raise money for a good cause. The complete list of people offering their services (including Stephen Fry and Nathan Fillion and Rainn Wilson) is up at http://bit.ly/twitchanges....
And you can bid on me, or see where bidding is at, at http://bit.ly/ebayneil
5) Matthew Cheney's been writing about Sandman, chapter by chapter, each week. Here are the links to the first 8 episodes - the whole of Preludes and Nocturnes: http://gestaltmash.com/2010/09/sandman-meditations-preludes-and-nocturnes-cheat-sheet/ while The Doll's House begins with http://gestaltmash.com/2010/09/sandman-meditations-tales-in-the-sand/
6) Over at the TOR website, they've reprinted my story "Bitter Grounds", originally from Nalo Hopkinson's Mojo: Conjure Stories, and later in Fragile Things: http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/09/bitter-grounds.
The illustration is a painting by Rick Berry, working into a painting that he, and I, and my friend SuperKate, were doing in his studio one night (he writes about it here, photos by me).
(And look! Here is that man Matthew Cheney talking about "Bitter Grounds" at the Mumpsimus.)
7) No, that was all. Just six things. There isn't a seventh. It's like the rainbow, where they changed Purple to Indigo and Violet just to make it more interesting.