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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All my yesterday. Also a mouse.

Almost 25 years ago, researching the Sandman story that would become A Game Of You, I read up on New York and Hurricanes, and how very ill-prepared Manhattan is, and how vulnerable.

I worry about my East Coast friends, and I'm glad that Sandy isn't a full hurricane. Stay safe.

Yesterday morning started early with the Today Show on BBC Radio 4.  You can read about it and hear about it at http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9764000/9764349.stm. Philip Pullman and I talked about fairy tales, as a warm up to talking about them onstage at the Cambridge Theatre last night.

I went out to lunch with my editor and publisher at Bloomsbury books, talking about next year's FORTUNATELY, THE MILK (the silliest book I've ever written. Also the timey-wimiest. Also it has a bit with dinosaurs on a space ship, although was written long long before Doctor Who put dinosaurs on a space ship, and was actually vaguely inspired by a line about dinosaurs in a space ship I put in Good Omens, long long long ago). The English edition will be illustrated by an English illustrator, the American by an American. I vaguely hope this will continue to hold true all around the world....

After lunch I looked at my phone, and learned that Philip Pullman had gone to hospital, and that the Cambridge Theatre would now be me and someone else.

In the end the part of Philip Pullman was played by three other people: author Meg Rosoff, interviewer and moderator Rosie Boycott, and (special guest Philip Pullman) Audrey Niffenegger, who read The Three Snake Leaves from Philip's Grimm Tales.

I finished the evening by reading "Click-Clack the Rattlebag" to everyone, and telling them they could get it free from Audible. Then I did a signing, which was one of the mad kind, because there were many hundreds of people to sign for before the theatre closed. Did it all, stumbled away, hugged friends, ate dinner, bumped into more friends (including special surprise what-the-hell-are-you-doing-here friends Margaret Cho and Andrew O'Neill), and got home knackered but happy, throat sore from talking too much.

The housemouse that's living in the place I'm staying has ignored all the humane traps I put down and instead ate most of a probar and an entire packet of airplane peanuts from inside my jacket pockets. It is wiser than I am, at least in the ways of mice and men.

I went to see Arthur Darvill and a wonderful cast in Our Boys at the Duchess Theatre. Funny, sad, moving, relevant -- and playing to a house that seemed about half full, which seemed wrong. (Arthur has promised me music.) If you're in London, go and see it.

Public Radio's Selected Shorts has done a Poe Special, and they interviewed me about Poe when I was in Charlotte N.C. last month on the Unchained Tour. You can read about it at http://www.wnyc.org/shows/shorts/2012/oct/28/

(I wonder why I can't easily embed audio into Blogger any longer. I spend too much time on Tumblr, and then I come back to Blogger, and miss the simple easy Tumblr functionality.)

SO FAR "Click-Clack The Rattlebag", the free audible download, has raised about $31,000 via the US website for Donor's Choose, and about £5,700 via the UK website for Booktrust.

There's been a fair amount of confusion and problems with people signing into or signing up for Audible or getting it to play, for which apologies: I think the biggest problem with something like this is the speed with which it was put together, and I appreciate those of you who have made it work.

The story is up and free for another 36 hours. If you are in the UK it's http://www.audible.co.uk/scareus, for most of the rest of the world it's http://www.audible.com/scareus. (Germany is http://www.audible.de/pd/B009VHP3TG).






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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Post Koko Ruminations


I was going to post this as part of another announcement, about something that's really cool and fun. but it looks like that's going to be much later tonight my time. So in the meantime...

Amanda played Koko's in Camden Town the other night. It was important to me because

a)  it was before and after her performance at Koko's four years and two weeks ago that I realised that   I was actually in love with her, and decided that my life was probably going to have to change a lot.

b) That performance four years ago was the first time I'd ever found myself on a stage with her, or on a real rock stage since I was a teenager. She had me play the tambourine. I was terrified. (Tiny blog from back then actually written backstage at Koko's as I came offstage here.)

I realised how far I'd come and how much I'd changed on Tuesday night, as I sang "Psycho" on a stage with an orchestra of four magical musical saws (and Amanda on ukulele, and Jherek on banjo) and I wasn't really scared at all. And I was singing.



I was the least unexpected of three guest stars (the other two were the awesome Scroobius Pip, and the ageless and legendary Richard O'Brien, who sang the Time Warp).



The evening had an overlay of sorrow. Just before Amanda went on we learned that Becca Rosenthal (aka Becca Darling) had passed away. Becca was a friend of Amanda's in Boston with impeccable taste. She and I became friends when she performed in my short film Statuesque (she was the airman human statue who gets hugged by young Liam McKean). She was too young, too smart and too funny to be gone. I'll miss her very much.

After the gig was done Amanda walked me home from Koko's to the place I'm staying. We sat out on the roof and talked about life and love and time and death, and then I walked her back to the bus. And she went back on tour, and I walked home again and went to sleep.

Now I won't see her until we meet in Vienna in ten days. (She has her last European gig there. I need to go and see Lomo about a Mysterious Project I can't talk about yet.)

And then I go to Nantes for the Utopiales Festival, where I will get to spend time with Dave McKean, and see Michael Moorcock and Nancy Kress and Norman Spinrad and other old friends.

From there I will go to Pittsburgh for November 14th (come and see me! The evening will be Stardust themed, but I will undoubtedly talk about other things, especially The Ocean At The End of the Lane.)

And then I don't do anything publically until Dec 1st in Hartford Ct, at the Connecticut Forum, where I will be sharing a stage with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neri Oxman (perhaps because Neri sort of sounds a bit like Neil... no, no it really doesn't. But it starts with the same two letters.)

Also, if you are listening to the TODAY Show on BBC Radio 4 on Monday the 29th, you might happen to hear Philip Pullman and me talking about Grimm's Tales, and what fairy tales are for...

...

The Tenth Anniversary reading of CORALINE is underway over at the Mousecircus.com website.

A strange and mysterious and motley bunch of authors and suchlike folk can be seen and listened to reading a chapter each. I read the first chapter. Lemony Snicket reads the second chapter (haven't you always wanted to know what he actually looks like?). My beautiful and talented fairy god-daughter Natashya Hawley reads chapter three... And it continues. (Melissa Marr. R! L! Stine! John Hodgman! Fairuza Balk! go and look!)

http://mousecircus.com/coraline-videos.aspx?VideoID=24

...

Also, in case you are wondering: I'm really a bit nervous: the table read of my episode of Doctor Who is next week. Think good thoughts at us. I'll try and post some photographs afterwards.

Oh, and for the curious, the episode will be called █ █  . Only with letters instead of Ascii Blocks. Unless we change the title again before it's broadcast. Which might well happen, actually. I mean, it was originally called █ █ █ █.

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SOMETHING REALLY COOL IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN

"What kind of story would you like me to tell you?"

I was on the phone on Friday afternoon, in the car on the way to the airport, with the folk from Audible.com. They had the idea of doing something really, really fun for Hallowe'en, as an All Hallows Read celebration, something from Audible and from me to the world.

Perhaps, they suggested, I could read a story, and they would put it up for free. Would I like to do a classic horror story?

No, I said. I'd like to read a story I'd written recently, that I'd read at the George Mason Award evening, a story that had scared people.

Even better, they said.

I asked if they could make a "Pay what you want" button that would go to charity. They looked into it, said no, they weren't set up to do that...

...but for every time a new person downloaded the story they would make a donation to charity. So if we reached a hundred thousand downloads by Hallowe'en, Audible would donate a hundred thousand dollars to the charity of my choice...

And Audible.co.uk got in on the act as well. They'll make their own donations to a UK charity.

I got on the plane. I flew to London. As soon as the recording studios were open on Monday, I went into a studio in Wardour Street and recorded my story (and another extra bonus story that we'll put out as a mad gift if enough people download the first one). The Audible people have worked through the nights to get everything together for the roll-out.

Usually there's a little bit longer time between having the idea and getting it out for sale than a week...

We chose our charities with pride and with care: we picked Donors Choose -- http://www.donorschoose.org/ *  --for the US; we picked Booktrust  - http://www.booktrust.org.uk/ ** -- as our charity for the UK.

So. That's preamble.

Go and download the story NOW. Please.

This is only going to run until Hallowe'en. The story's only going to be downloadable until Hallowe'en. The donations per download are only going to happen until Hallowe'en.

And please -- for now -- don't spread the story too much, or at least, encourage people to go and download it themselves. Each free download is money for Donors Choose or for BookTrust.

So spread the word. Use the hashtag #ScareUs on Twitter or as a label on Tumblr to tell us that you liked it, to tell people about it -- or to talk about what scares YOU.

The story is unpublished (it will be published in a forthcoming anthology called Impossible Monsters, edited by Kasey Lansdale and coming out from Subterranean Press). It's funny, a little bit, and it's scary, just enough for Hallowe'en, I hope, and it has a silly title. It's called Click-Clack the Rattle Bag.

Please. Go to www.Audible.com/ScareUs to download it if you're in the US or the rest of the world except the UK and www.Audible.co.uk/ScareUs to download it if you're in the UK/Commonwealth. And then download the story. As I may have told you already, it's free -- absolutely, utterly, perfectly free.

It's a short story, only about ten minutes long.

I'm the voice telling the story.

And in case you're concerned, I've been assured that you don't have to become an Audible.com member if you don't want to.  You will have to give them an email address so they know you aren't some kind of downloading 'bot.

And all I ask of you is that you wait to listen to it until after dark...



Again, go to www.Audible.com/ScareUs
Or if you're in the UK, www.Audible.co.uk/ScareUs


*DonorsChoose.org engages the public in public schools by giving people a simple, accountable and personal way to address educational inequity. We envision a nation where children in every community have the tools and experiences needed for an excellent education.
**Booktrust is an independent reading and writing charity that makes a nationwide impact on individuals, families and communities, and culture in the UK. We make a significant positive contribution to the educational outcomes of children from the earliest age. We work to empower people of all ages and abilities by giving them confidence and choices about reading. And we want individuals of all backgrounds to benefit from the wellbeing that a rich and positive engagement in reading and writing can bring. Our work supports children and young people, parents and carers and indeed anyone who would benefit from the positive impact that books, reading and writing can have on their lives.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Ocean at the End of the Lane & other bits of publishery news

I had a meeting at Harper Collins. They showed me the mock-ups of covers for THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, my next novel for adults, which comes out in the US and the UK on June the 18th 2013. I really like the direction they are going in. I have no image to show you, though, not yet.


Here's a 1947 Life magazine (I think) photo taken in Weeki Wachi that I love, and that I sent to the publishers when we first started talking about cover designs, for you to look at while you're waiting for the real cover.

And here's a photograph of me climbing down a drainpipe in the spring of 1968.



The publishers' description of the book:


The Ocean At The End of the Lane is a novel about memory and magic and survival, about the power of stories and the darkness inside each of us.

It began for our narrator forty years ago when he was seven: the lodger stole the family's car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed.  Creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and a menace unleashed -- within his family, and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. 

His only defense is three women, on a ramshackle farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac -- as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark.


And I'm really nervous. It's an astonishingly personal sort of a novel. (And, although it has a very young protagonist, it really isn't a book for children.)

I got a note from my Polish translator the other day saying that it made her cry, and I know it was just bought in Brazil, so I hope it will be coming out in other countries relatively close to to US & UK publication date.

...




There will be a uniform set of paperback covers for the first time in the US coming out over the next year -- different colours and images, but they'll look and feel a lot like this.

Harpers asked me to mention that they have a sale on right now on the Enhanced ebook of American Gods. It comes with some audio-visual content (although some people with regular Kindles have said on Twitter that they got the regular version when they bought it).


The sale runs until election day - November the 6th. The links probably won't work if you're outside the US. Sorry about that.

...

Last night I saw Helen and Edgar, Edgar Oliver's one man play/ performance/virtuoso piece of first person storytelling. It's in a small theatre, Theatre 80, at 80 St Mark's, and it runs until October the 27th.  

It was funny and it was heartbreaking, something both at the same time. It was a triumph, got a standing ovation, and as I listened to the people in the audience talking about coming back and bringing their friends, I thought I should blog about it now, because otherwise there will not be any tickets available if someone out there wants one.

And if you are in New York, you should want one. There is nothing like Edgar's voice, and his stories (all true, all personal) about growing up in Savannah as part of a family of three - his sister Helen, a year older than he was, himself, and is mother, who was quite mad, and a painter, and was thought locally to be a witch because when she was too troubled she would climb onto the roof and rant at the heavens -- are like no-one else's stories. 

When he did his last one man story, Edgar was reviewed in the New York Times thus:
Mr. Oliver is a living work of theater all by himself, and the gestures of his pale, long-fingered hands and the restless expressiveness of his hollowed-out eyes seem completely of a piece with his benevolent horror-movie voice.
But there's nothing horror-movie about Helen and Edgar (except for the story about the swimming pool and the watermelons, of course). It's really gentle. It's a love story about family, and how families buoy you up, and shape you, and how you escape them.

...

Finally, the Humble Bundle. Would you like a ebook of the graphic novel SIGNAL TO NOISE, by me and Dave Mckean? How about books by John Scalzi or Corey Doctorow, or Kelly Link? And would you like to be able to get most of them on a PAY WHAT YOU WANT basis? With money going to three excellent charities? And with you able to decide how much money goes to whom?

And it's DRM free?

Well, for the next two weeks only, you can. Just head over to http://www.humblebundle.com/

 It was launched yesterday and already over 31,000 have been downloaded. People have paid an average price of about $12 for their bundles so far.

(You have to pay above the average donation to get The Old Man's War and Signal to Noise. That amount has crept up over the last 24 hours.)

Head over and look at the Humble Bundle website, where you will learn that Mac users are more generous than Windows users, and that Linux users are the most generous people of all.

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Hat Chronicles...


I am not a very good hat person. My hair is wrong, and it defaults to Harpo Marx when a hat goes onto it -- and Harpo needed a wig to get that look. But I am determined not to lose this one.

Hence this twitter exchange from the other day.

...

Today William Morrow and Headline books will both announce that they are publishing THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE next year. 

It's also being published in other countries - I know because I've started getting notes from foreign translators saying it's their favourite of my books, and it made them cry. I have never got notes like this before. It is very nice, and very odd.

...

I'll be in Tasmania, at the Mona Foma festival, on January the 20th. I'm at the Theatre Royal in Hobart (which Tim Minchin assures me is a perfect theatre), and I'm doing an Evening With Neil Gaiman.  Stories and suchlike. Jherek Bischoff and I are planning the music to accompany at least one of the readings. 

This is how they describe it in their catalogue:

An evening with Neil Gaiman
All ages event
We love Neil, which is why we keep asking him back: to transfix us with his stories, which are spooky and funny, and have won shitloads of awards, too many to mention. There’ll be music, too, by Jherek Bischoff and local musicians, and a special guest…hint: Neil’s got the hots for her, massively, and she has a ukulele.


(There may be other surprise guests too.) (The Mona Foma Festival itself is a wonderful thing. One of the coolest in the world.)

Ticket details at http://mofo.net.au/shop/mofo.

I'm looking forward to going back to Tasmania for a lot of reasons, not least of which is I get to see the good people at the Book End Trust, and help with their educational mission. Also I may get to feed Tasmanian Devils again.



...

I'm waiting for someone to send me some photos before I put up my YouHaveNoIdeaHowProudAFatherIAm post about my son Michael's wedding to the very lovely Courtney. I put away my phone for the whole of it, and decided to just be there, and not record it, and I am glad that I did. Some moments you keep in your heart.

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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Conjunctions.

It's National Poetry Day today. The theme is stars. Here's one by me, for you...




Conjunctions

Jupiter and Venus hung like grapes in the evening sky,
frozen and untwinkling,
You could have reached and up and picked them.

And the trout swam.

Snow muffled the world, silenced the dog,
silenced the wind...

The man said, I can show you the trout. He was
glad of the company. 
He reached into their tiny pool, rescued a dozen, one by one, 
sorting and choosing,
dividing the sheep from the goats of them.

And this was the miracle of the fishes,
that they were beautiful. Even when clubbed and gutted,
insides glittering like jewels. See this? he said, the trout heart
pulsed like a ruby in his hand. The kids love this. 
He put it down, and it kept beating.
The kids, they go wild for it.

He said, we feed the guts to the pigs. They're pets now,
They won't be killed. See? We saw,
huge as horses they loomed on the side of the hill.

And we walk through the world trailing trout hearts like dreams,
wondering if they imagine rivers, quiet summer days, 
fat foolish flies that hover or sit for a moment too long.
We should set them free, our trout and our metaphors:

You don't have to hit me over the head with it.
This is where you get to spill your guts.
You killed in there, tonight. 
He pulled her heart out. Look, you can see it there, still beating. He said,
See this? This is the bit the kids like best. This is what they come to see.

Just her heart, pulsing, on and on. It was so cold that night,
and the stars were all alone.
Just them and the moon in a luminous bruise of sky.

And this was the miracle of the fishes.




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