Saturday, May 01, 2004

Considering the odds...

On the one hand, I'm completely thrilled on Dave McKean's behalf that The Wolves in the Walls has been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal for best illustrated book. It's wonderful news, after all. (The Greenaway Medal is the UK equivalent of the American Caldecott, and was named after Kate Greenaway, the illustrator whose work was once turned into a pornographic biscuit tin lid.)

On the other hand... I just read the Greenaway shortlist at and while all the other books get described in glowing, heartwarming and entirely positive terms, The Wolves in the Walls seems to have troubled the person writing the descriptions no end. It is, we learn, "a scary, strange but highly imaginative picture book .... highly unsettling". Oh well. I don't know what the UK bookies odds on the Greenaway are (although I found the odds on the Orange with no problems), but I suspect that Dave will not be the odds-on favourite.


So last summer, there came a point where we couldn't go outside for the mosquitoes. They would descend in clouds, point first, like in the cartoons, and hit you and twang gently as they stabbed you. Something Would Have To Be Done. Eventually, won over by the various online reviews, I got a Mosquito Magnet Pro. (Thinking, well, yes it's expensive. But right now I have an outside-of-my-house I can't go out in. So if it works, I'm paying to get my garden back....) It worked. It worked incredibly well. Basically, if you've not run across one of these things, it wafts out a plume of warm wet carbon dioxide, mosquitoes think it's something large and blood-filled, they head over to it, get vacuumed up inside it and into a net, and rapidly expire. After a few weeks I found myself emptying out thousands of dessicated mosquito and midge corpses from the net inside, and I had my outdoors back.

I started the Mosqito Magnet again last week, as soon as the weather warmed up, and there are already mosquitoes in the net. My hope is that if I run it now, and catch enough early in the year, they may not actually ever get to breed in last year's numbers. (Given the zillions of eggs a female mosquito can lay, and the fact that the local species will apparently fly for twenty miles in search of a good meal, this may be a doomed hope. But I can dream.)

Lots and lots of people sent in links to expensive pens -- for example, Should someone decide to visit and click on the Limited Editions tab, they'll find pens worth far far more than $400. A random choice showed me the Caran D'Arche - La Gotica for $2,800 - on sale. A worthy site if you feel like spending a couple hours weeping.

(pen addicted and proud of it)

And among the other links people sent me (and I was grateful for all of them), I discovered a Silver Dragon fountain pen with a Ruby Eye for similar money.

Which leave me faintly puzzled: I tend to look at the extremely expensive ones and think "That doesn't look much fun to write with". They're pretty, I suppose, but have all the allure for me of a diamond-encrusted casserole dish, or gold-and-ruby bootlaces. The expensiveness indicates to me simply that this object probably won't actually be used for the purpose it was made. So jade-and-emerald limited edition Pens may be investment items, but I suspect won't be used as a pen, to write with. Or at least, not by me. At which point I'd lose interest.

I'm a writer. All I'm really interested in is how the pen fits into my hand, whether it's weighted in a way that allows me to write for a long time, and what kind of marks the nib makes when I start writing, which may mean I'm probably not a proper pen-junkie at all.

OK, I'll bite. What are the characteristics of a "writing-a-novel sort of pen" as opposed to a "signing-your-name pen"?

I didn't think anyone would be interested. Signing pens need to flow easily, and they need not to mind that your hand is moving across the paper at high speed, over and over and over and over. They need to be comfortable, and a bit heavier than writing-a-book-pens. No skips, no blobs. The Lamy 2000 is a poor signing pen, it skips and scratches when you go fast, but it's fine if I've slowed up enough to write words rather than to do a signature.

One reason I like writing by hand is it slows me down a little, but it also forces me to keep going: I'm never going to spend half a day noodling with a sentence to try and get it just right, if I'm using a pen. I'll do all that when I start typing.

(The main reason I like doing first drafts on paper though is it's somehow fooling myself into thinking it's not real, and I don't mean it, until it starts getting typed. On the other hand, all screenplays happen directly on the screen, and I'd feel almost silly trying to handwrite them first. It's why I'll use Final Draft -- I like to be able to get screenplay dialogue down without thinking or pausing, and then fix it later.)


Hope this is OK.
Someone asked about a Greek edition of 'Coraline' so that she can translate it, she might find this link helpful; it's an online Greek bookstore although I'm not sure if they take international orders. The link is:

Now why they translate it as 'The House in the Fog', instead of leaving the title unharmed is some sort of a mystery.

And a mystery for me as well.

Over at IGN filmforce, Peter Sanderson has been doing a study of 1602 since it started. His two-part examination of #8 is at and at It's a fascinating analysis of the project, even for me. And I forgot to put up a link to Jason Pomerantz's Q&A with me on 1602, which is at