Saturday, January 05, 2008

mostly mailbag

I'm mostly writing The Graveyard Book right now, and tending to let things like email, answering the phone and keeping up this blog slide. Apologies.

I was wondering, though considering the origins of your dog Cabal I might be incorrect in my thought, if you knew of anyone who breeds White German Shepherd Dogs, or Alsatians as you referred to them in your post? My specific inquire is because I am inclined towards a German Shepherd Dog, while my girlfriend would prefer a white dog of some kind. I didn't realize there was a white breed of the dog, nor that they were recognized enough to be bred purposely. In either case, I would be quite glad of your opinion on the matter as an owner of said breed, and if you do happen to have any knowledge as to where to find a Breeder, I would be most thankful.
Phillip Jason Celata

I can't recommend any breeders, because I didn't get my dog from one. A quick google shows that there are quite a few breeders out there though ( has some of them).

But before you head off to the breeders, let me point you to -- it lists rescued and homeless animals of every kind from animal sanctuaries all across the US and Canada. You want a goat? Or a Llama? They have goats and llamas that want to come and live with you. Not to mention pigs, horses, cats, iguanas... and dogs. (My assistant Lorraine has recently become obsessed with bengal cats, and I just pointed out to her that there are a lot of bengals out there who need good homes.) You want white german shepherds? Go to Petfinder, type white german shepherd as the breed, put in the age and gender of dog you're looking for (or leave them out if you don't mind), your zip code, and in moments you will be able to stare at a remarkably large number of cool white puppies and dogs who need someone to guard and adore.

(Also is a white german shepherd rescue orgnaisation. Since you asked...)

Hi Neil,
I wrote a while back inquiring about a few projects that have been mentioned, delayed, and not mentioned again for some time. Any word on "Crazy Hair" with Dave McKean (I have made my daughter a fan of the "children's" books) or comic version of "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Ms. Finch" from Dark Horse?

I just got the "Neverwhere" audio book for Christmas and am enraptured with it. Could you briefly tell me what the difference is between this text (the author's preferred text) and my first edition hardcover I bought back in the late '90's? As always, thanks for your time and
Greg Trax

Dave McKean finished Crazy Hair and handed it in early in 2007. I know it's on the publishing schedule at both Bloomsbury and HarperChildrens, but am not sure when it's on the schedule for.

...Miss Finch is all finished, and I believe has gone off to the printers, and should be in shops within the next few months.

The Neverwhere Audio book is, at a guess, about eight thousand words longer than the US hardcover and about fifteen thousand words longer than the original UK hardcover. It's the same text, more or less, as the current UK edition.

Dear Neil
Thanks for your little tribute to George Macdonald Fraser on your journal. I had a very sad day yesterday when I realised that I was never going to read the "Zulu Wars" Flashman which I have been waiting for for years. Is Fraser, like Kipling, one of those authors which you get a little bit of stick about from your young and trendy readership?
All the best

I don't think I've got stick for liking Kipling's work for a good twenty years now, and the people I got stick from back then hadn't read Kipling -- they just knew he was a Bad Thing. Nobody's ever written to me taking me to task for the points of view in the Flashman books not being those of today.

I do keep getting letters from people saying what a pity it is that they won't get the Flashman fighting on both sides of the Civil War, or Flashman in the Zulu Wars stories. Me, I'm just glad we have the Flashman books we've got. Authors die with books unwritten, and that's not the worst thing in the world. Always leave them wanting more.

Having said that, I also find the "Good old Flashman, what a great and lovable fellow he was," tone of some of the obituaries and blogs faintly perplexing. For me, the joy of Flashman as a character is that he wasn't a great fellow at all: he was a monster and a coward, shifty, untrustworthy, a bully and a toady and dangerous to boot. I'd first met him and loathed him in Tom Brown's Schooldays, which I'd read when I was eight or nine, as he toasted smaller boys in front of open fires, and then I discovered the book Flashman when I was twelve, which begins with him being expelled from Rugby for drunkenness and stumbling lecherously into a world in which, because he looks like a hero, he is often taken for one. I like the early books best, in which he does a lot of running away. In the later books, people expect him to act heroically, and, often to avoid losing face, he actually does, which I found a bit of a disappointment. It's more fun when events conspire to make his attempts to do something petty and self-serving, or at least his attempts to save his skin or get laid, appear to be heroic.

Flashman's attitudes are sometimes loathsome and sometimes practical. But I always expected (and got) good history from George MacDonald Fraser, along with a point of view. And Fraser's point of view was not Flashman's. Anyway, I like points of view that aren't mine. I learn things, even when I'm disagreeing.

I've skipped The Reavers after reading Peter Morwood's review. (And Peter Morwood loves the Uncle books, so he is to be listened to and respected.) (And look! the first Uncle book has just been reprinted.)


This is an extract from a letter that came in a few days ago, and one or two letters like this tend to come every week:

I know that on your site you discourage a lot of things like sending stories or "homework" and whatnot, and I can certainly see why. However, what I wish to send you (rather, to discuss with you) is not a story nor homework of any kind, but an idea. And most importantly, I don't want your help or your thoughts, but, and I know its a long shot, collaboration.

You see, I am not a writer - I neither have the passion for it nor any amount of experience - but I have an idea for a story that I think, if done properly, could be absolute gold (both artistically and financially)! I will work with someone someday and it will be done, for it is too good not to complete. However, I am asking you because I admire your work immensely, because I think if you ever by chance hear me out you'll like it, and most of all because it is clear you don't have enough to do already. (a joke...)

So, in all seriousness, it turns out I am asking you if you would ever be interested in collaborating with a nobody and co-writing a story that will (and certainly will if you write it) be brilliant? And, is there any way that I can send you a hand-written letter that you can read which might be longer than this message, but which can say a lot more? Would you be interested in reading such a letter? Please, I will understand any response in the end; I am only asking for a chance.

I'm sorry, but no. I have lots of ideas already. I don't have enough time to write my stuff.

If your idea is good, then you should write it. If you're not a good enough writer to do it justice, then get better. Write other things until you're good enough.

If you really want to collaborate with someone, then find a friend who writes, and wants to write with you.

There is a hunted expression you can see on the faces of writers. All you ever have to do, if you want to see it, is to walk over to a writer of fiction and say, "You know, I have an idea for a story. I'll tell it to you and you can write it and we'll split the money fifty-fifty." You will watch their smiles glaze over and watch them back away. Because no matter how good the idea, the execution is everything. And the real work is done at the keyboard or huddled over the notebook, putting one word down after another.

All of my collaborations have come about because at some point I was talking to a friend, and the phrase, "Why don't we do it together then?" was used. At its best it made for something cooler than either of us could have done individually, at its worst it made for something that tasted sort of like the authors, but not really...

The only reason I can think of for collaborating these days, is for fun. I loved collaborating with Gene Wolfe on A Walking Tour of the Shambles because I couldn't wait to get the next envelope with the next four pages in it from him.

Hi Neil. Aspiring young authoress here, who has recently become distracted from her own would-be works in progress to delve into the beautiful worlds of Sandman, Good Omens, Stardust, American Gods, and Mirrormask. I find great inspirations in your words as well as familiarity in your style and interests as shown through them. I just wanted to toss a few questions your way for my own amusement (and yours, I hope!):

1. Do you prefer tea or coffee? (If tea, what kind?)

2. What's your favorite sound?

3. Do you like pencil or pen better? (In general and for Writing purposes.)

4. What, if anything, do you usually do to settle in and work on something? Is there certain music or atmospheric elements that help you?

5. How long have you been writing?

6. Do you ever feel as if there are more things that flash in your mind or fly by your pen than will ever be captured or put down in some minutely concrete form? That is, do you find ideas and possibilities everywhere all the time or is it much more controlled than that?

Any answers would be great, but you're a damned busy guy. Things to think about. Just know that you rock. A lot.


1) Tea. Normally bog-standard UK tea bags, and I'm not very choosy. Ty-phoo or PG Tips or the Clipper Fairtrade, things like that.
2) Maddy laughing.
3) Pens. Fountain pens.
4) Not really. Getting away from the computer helps. Or at least, away from the internet. And not answering the phone.
5) Professionally? Twenty five years.
6)Are there more things in my mind than ever hit the paper? Of course. And are there ideas and possibilities everywhere? Sure.

Not a question, but a suggestion re: frozen ink. Perhaps you may want to try Noodler's Polar ink ( - scroll down to Polar Ink)- it claims to be freeze proof to -20 degrees F, and is also waterproof on cellulose paper when dry. Incidentally, the black light-reactive Invisible Ink is also fun, and all Noodler's inks are intended for fountain pen use.

best wishes,

Polar Ink ordered. I'll report back the next time it gets really cold.


Bryan Talbot has put the first chapter of the Luthor Arkwright Heart of Empire CD Rom (which he made with James Robertson) online, at I wish DC would release Sandman like this -- it's an amazing job. And it means that you can read the entirety of The Adventures of Luthor Arkwright, the prequel to Heart of Empire, on line at

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