Thursday, January 31, 2008

The days that pay for the bad ones...

There's an odd point in writing, when you reach a bit that you've known was going to happen for years. Years and years. And then it doesn't happen like you thought it would...

It's as if there's a ghost-story behind the text and nobody knows it's there but me.

Still on Chapter Seven of The Graveyard Book, but I'm well into the last half of the chapter, and it no longer feels like I'm walking towards the horizon, with the horizon retreating as I advance... I've written about eleven easy pages today, and cannot wait to get back to it. If I'm still awake and writing I may pull an all-nighter.

It barely feels like I'm writing it. Mostly it feels like I'm the first one reading it.

Pretty soon now, Mr Ketch will fall down a hole. Mr Dandy, Mr Nimble and Mr Tar will have a gate opened for them, and the man Jack will get just what he always wanted...


And look, Bill Hader is selling Lafferty to the world, via the New York Times.

(And hurrah, he's also plugging Joe Hill, Clive Barker and John Wyndham. But it's the Lafferty that put the smile on my face. I'm going to give a talk in Tulsa this summer, mostly because I want to visit the Lafferty manuscripts...) (And here is Lafferty's own short story, "Nine Hundred Grandmothers", for those of you who want something to read.)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

For Patry Francis...

Promoting a new book is hard, especially when you're a first time author. It doesn't matter how good the book is or how nice you are, you'll still wind up doing signings for empty rooms, if you're lucky enough to persuade someone to let you do the signings.

Still, all of that has to be easier than finding yourself in a world where your first novel is coming out and you are not in a position to promote it.

Sometimes the entire literary blogging community will gather around and make sure that, if you can't be out there promoting your book, they'll do whatever they can to help and point people to it.

And sometimes an author in the middle of a book will look up and go "Hang on. The 28th. That was yesterday? I thought it was.... oh bugger."

The book is called The Liar's Diary. The author is very apologetic.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

bad blogger. no liver stories.

I am a dreadful blogger right now.

This is because

a) I'm writing.

I just reread the pep talk I wrote for National Novel Writing Month, for authors who were at that point three-quarters of the way through the book when you just have to keep going, and it helped a bit. ("Hah!" I thought. "What do you know, foolish author-man?" But secretly I knew he had a point.)

I'm still in Chapter Seven. Yesterday was very talky. Today stuff may happen.

b) I'm writing. So when I find interesting links, or people send me things to post, I go, "Yes, I should post that" and then forget to.

and of course the main reason I'm a dreadful blogger is that,

c) I'm writing.

When I'm not writing the novel I feel guilty. And even though blogworthy things turn up (I could write about the thaw right now, and the sunshine and the bees; three days ago a really funny entry on what to do when your assistant hands you twenty pounds of whole and uncut cow liver for your dog that she was given at the local meat packing plant didn't get written, and yesterday I composed an entire thing in my head I didn't write down about Why The People in Torchwood Season One Are All Too Stupid To Live -- including the astonishingly puzzling incident where someone in 1941 has written something down on paper with black ink (a medium that will last legibly for centuries if kept out of the sun), and, unaccountably worried that ink on paper will fade and become unreadable in time, first she takes a prototype Polaroid photo of it, and then writes some of it in blood and puts it in a coffee can in a damp cellar, because these media will still be readable seventy years later. Why she didn't make a model of it out of chocolate as well, I will never know.)

Oh, and despite having predicted that Blink would get the Hugo for best Dramatic wossname, this blog is now officially supporting Paul Cornell's Family of Blood/Human Nature two-parter for a Hugo. This is, obviously, because I have been gotten to.

Bugger. This was just meant to be a wave, and now I've started writing.

I'll answer a question. Just one. Then to work.

Good morning, Neil!

Since you've used fountain pens for so long, I was wondering if you could recommend a good fountain pen ink.

I just got my first fountain pen last night. I mentioned to a friend that I write all my rough drafts longhand because it's the best way to shut up my internal editor, but that I wanted to get a fountain pen so I could stop throwing so much plastic into landfills by burning through so many disposable pens. He disappeared into a back room of his house for a few minutes, and when he came back he handed me a fountain pen, complete with converter.

So, now I have the pen, but I need to get some ink. And I want to make sure that I get a good quality bottled ink -- preferrably something that won't smear since I prefer to write in spiral-bound notebooks, usually curled up on the couch with the notebook on my lap.

Based on what you just posted about the Noodler Polar Black, I probably won't be getting it. (I live in the South anyway, so I don't really have to worry about ink freezing.) What type of ink do you normally use or would recommend for a fountain pen neophyte like myself?

Thanks much!


In all fairness, I should say I got a note from someone who uses the Noodler Polar Blue to say that they hadn't had any smudging trouble with it.

There used to be a lot of information about ink (including what everything looked like) up at
but alas, most of that has gone. Still, this is the internet, and there are people out there writing well and exhaustively about fountain pen ink and showing off their favourites.

Find a colour you like, and an ink you like. Try a few out. Parker's Quink is an old dependable. Private Reserve have some lovely colours (I like their Black Cherry and their Copper Burst). Waterman inks are always pretty good. Bottle design is also useful to consider -- Mont Blanc (I don't like their pens, and the ink isn't up to much but I love the bottle design) and Levenger have great bottles that allow for easy filling even when the level in the bottle is low.

Never use India inks, drafting inks or drawing inks inside a fountain pen. You will gum up the insides and worse. But if you're interested, there are places on the web that will tell you, for example, how to make your own ink to ancient recipes...


And finally, thank you to Dan Goodsell, who noticed his Mr Toast toy in the video of Maddy at Comic-Con, and sent her oodles of Mr Toast stuff. Hurrah for Mr Toast.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

electric blue

Sorry. Writing Chapter Seven, still, and doing almost nothing else. (In the book, Scarlett Perkins has just arrived at the library to look at the microfiche files of old newspapers.) It's a bit of a wrench to go back from the fountain pen to the keyboard. Just received the sad news that the writing cabin in the woods I use sometimes -- mostly to type or proofread undisturbed -- now has wireless... (damn!)

This came in a couple of weeks ago, but I've held off on answering it until I knew what was happening...

Whatever became of the annual Dave Sim/Neil Gaiman lithograph auction mentioned here: ? I was one of many who didn't win the first one, and I was hoping to have another crack at it...

What happened was the US Post Office.

I got the second one in a year ago, painted and collaged on it, sent it off (insured) to the CBLDF. Then we waited. It didn't arrive. And then we discovered that simply insuring something for a value doesn't really matter if the Post Office doesn't want to pay... A saga that went on for a year.

Dave Sim just sent me a new 2007 lithograph -- I think this may be my personal one -- which I plan to art all over and give to the CBLDF to auction, to make up for the one the Post Office lost. And I think we'll send it FedEx, as well, just to be on the safe side. And the 2008 one should happen fairly soon -- possibly to coincide with the New York Comic-Con. We'll see.

Look, Neil!

I just thought that would be the kind of site you would like...


It is! How wonderful.

Hi Neil

I've noticed on your blog that you often say the stories you write have been in your head for years. I was wondering, do you deliberately leave ideas gestating for years before doing anything with them, or is it simply because you have a large backlog of ideas? I've noticed with my own writing that for some reason, the older the idea, the more comfortable it feels to write. Do you find that?


A bit of both. Sometimes it's nice to have an idea for a book or a story in the back of your head for years, accreting bits to it, growing and becoming bigger and more interesting, sometimes it's a worrying thing having a story you'd like to write and aren't getting to, for very occasionally, alone in the darkness, they die and rot and turn to mould and slime.

It tends to be less intentional (except for The Graveyard Book, which was a better idea than I was a writer twenty years ago) than to do with how much I write and who's waiting for what.

Sometimes an old idea gets relegated to the back of the line in the mad delight of a new idea, one you've never had before, and that you write fast in the thrill of the new. No rules. Just stories, and you tell as many of them as you can.

Hello Neil,Is there any significant difference between Anansi Boys and Anansi Boys: a novel (P.S)? I have read Anansi Boys and want to buy my own copy, and Amazon has both editions/versions. When I was nine or ten my teacher read Anansi stories to the class. I've had a soft spot for him ever since.Thank you
Morag Gray

The (P.S.) editions of the books on are the large format "trade paperback" editions, with interviews in the back (and, in the case of Anansi Boys, an extract from American Gods) published by Harper Perennial. The (P.S.) edition of Anansi Boys has a cover that's electric blue and eye-burning yellow, and is unmissable. It's bigger than the "mass-market paperback", printed on better paper, but contains the same novel.

I can't find a good image of it online, so here's the new cover of the P.S. trade paperback of Smoke and Mirrors, which comes out later this week, a vision in purple and green.

Why are you writing just kid's books? Why don't you write another adult novel?

Everything in its time. Truth to tell, I don't honestly think of The Graveyard Book as a children's book. It's a novel, and the protagonist grows from about 18 months to about 16 years during the course of it. I think some young readers will like it and I think that some older readers will like it (and some young readers, and some adults, will find it too scary or too morbid or too odd). It's not like anything else I've done, anyway...

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

For the curious

I just got sent the first version of the Dave McKean cover of the Harper edition of The Graveyard Book.

A book that is now three weeks late, and inside of which I'm somewhere hacking my way through the jungle of Chapter Seven.

There's nothing like being sent a book cover for the book you're currently writing to concentrate the mind wonderfully.

Click on it to see it larger. The spectral figures will be done in varnish, like the original hardback of Coraline...

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Brass Monkeys and me

It's too bloody cold out there. It's going to be 29 below zero (F) tonight -- 35 below with windchill (which is minus 37 C). It hurts to walk down to the bottom of the garden to write, and it hurts to walk back.

I don't think I'm going to walk the dog much tonight.

(The Noodler Polar Black ink was a disappointment, BTW -- I didn't mind the odd smell, or the tendency to spider, but I do mind ink that seems to have dried that still smudges when you rest your hand on it a couple of hours later.)

Right. Back to Chapter Seven.


Monday, January 21, 2008

i bet you thought i was dead

Sorry about that -- I got so irritated with trying to blog by email that I stopped. Now all is well technically, and I thought the world deserved a proper blog entry, albeit a short one.

The Graveyard Book is back on track, I think, and the thorny and evil thicket that was Chapter Six has been traversed and, I am told, does not sound like I was making it up as I went along, but sounds as if I knew what it was about the whole time. This makes me happy, because it was miserable writing it.

Chapter Seven is being written right now, I'm enjoying writing it and I do sort of know where it's going (I have for years) but it seems to be willing to surprise me anyway. A dead poet that I wasn't expecting just showed up, named Nehemiah Trot, who has "Swans Sing Before They Die" on his tombstone, and, I hope, will never know why.

(It won't be explained in the text, so it's from a quote I'd heard attributed to Pope, but is actually from Coleridge, alluding to the belief that swans sing most loudly and beautifully just before they die, which goes,

Swans sing before they die - 'twere no bad thing
Should certain persons die before they sing.

And leads me to believe that Nehemiah Trot was not considered much of a poet by the people who buried him.)

I am, as I said, really enjoying it.

Having said that, there are a bunch of introductions to things I agreed to write with end of January deadlines (as I was certain that I'd be done the The Graveyard Book by then) that are a bit of a distraction.

The Writer's Strike continues. I was delighted that the Weinstein Company has just made a deal with the WGA, agreeing to all the terms, as that means I can now go back to work on the Neverwhere movie. (A short history -- I wrote about eight drafts of Neverwhere-the-movie between 1997 and 2000, and then retired. Other people came in and wrote scripts, some of which were hated and some of which weren't, but it died. Last year my agents sent someone who asked about it the version of the script they had, which was the last draft script I did in 2000, and people read it, got excited and suddenly it came back to life, with the Hensons producing and doing it with the Weinstein Company. It needs to find a director, but at least I can work on it now.)


One very frequently asked question here is Can I Recommend a Book For A Young Reader? And the answer really is, no, I can't, not without knowing the Young Reader in question. Different people like different books, and age isn't much of a guide to that. But what I can now do is point anyone at this rather wonderful Daily Telegraph list of 100 books every child should read, broken into three sections (young, middle and older readers). It's a terrific list, and I say that as someone who's read to myself, or read aloud, many of the books they suggest, and not just because they've got Coraline on there.


There's an article on Stephin Merritt in the New York Times.


People have asked if I want to get one of the new lightweight Macbook Airs. And I shall, I expect, but I'll wait for them to have been around for a generation before I do. (It always seems the wisest course of action not to nip out and buy Mac stuff when they first release it. The travails of Holly's first generation MacBook is the most recent example in my family of ignoring that rule.)

Also, I'd like it to be a bit lighter still. I wish my new Panasonic W7 was lighter, and it's about 8 ounces less than the new Macs (edited to add: and it comes with a DVD drive and a hard drive that's double the size of the current Mac air. On the down side it came with Vista, which is, so far, like Windows XP only slower).


Neil, on 27 December, you said, There would be a lot more White German Shepherds around if the Nazis hadn't decided they were racially inferior and needed to be cleansed from the gene pool. Of course, the same could be said of my family. Howcome you don't talk about that side of your family?

Normally because it's not something I think about, nor something I'm comfortable with, and it rarely works its way into conversation.

I remember the first time I really became aware of what happened to my family in World War Two. It was when, aged about 11, I had to do a family tree as a school project. This was only twenty five years after the end of the war -- not a long time, not really, although to me it was an age, and WW2 was ancient history. I discovered as I drew the family tree and talked to relatives that, for the most part, my family, in Poland and Germany and all over Eastern Europe, went into concentration camps and didn't come out. On my paternal grandfather's side alone, a huge extended family was pretty much reduced to my great-grandfather and his children, who had come to England, and three sisters from Radomsko in Poland, who survived by fortune and their wits.

One of those sisters was my cousin, the remarkable Dr Helen Fagin, [she was my grandfather's first cousin -- my great-grandfather was her uncle], and has just been honoured by New College of Florida in Sarasota for her work in Holocaust Education.

Like Fagin's writings and teachings, the 1,000-volume collection emphasizes what she calls "the moral lessons" of the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews.

"While it is important to learn about the Holocaust," she says, "it is even more important that we learn from the Holocaust."
The most chilling of those lessons, to her, is that extermination, civilization's ultimate betrayal of its own humanity, was the work of highly civilized people.

"These were educated, erudite individuals, thinkers, who came to the conclusion that the final solution was perfectly plausible.

"And then they were able to enlist the help of chemists to devise an efficient gas for extermination, and architects to design an efficient death house, and industrialists to create the machinery of annihilation."

The lesson of the Holocaust is not that human beings are "somehow capable of resigning from their human obligations to one another," she says, but that "they do so out of conscious moral choice."
And she's right. The worst part, for me as I said in American Gods, is that some, perhaps many of the people who killed my family and six million others had, I have no doubt, convinced themselves that they were good people doing the right thing.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Coraline Preview

I don't know how long this will be up -- probably not very long, but someone has put up the Coraline 3D preview on YouTube at It's filmed from the audience, it's very blurry (because filming 3D is a bad idea) and is probably most interesting to me because every time something 3D happens you can hear the audience go "Whoa" and suchlike noises. But I said I'd link to it if it turned up. Do not blame me if it isn't there any longer.

Bad News

I just read the news about Roger Avary, and am mostly posting this because people have already started writing to let me know about it, and to stop that turning into a flood. (I still can't access Blogger except via a sort of email work-around right now.)
According to the news reports (and I have no other information), Roger crashed his car yesterday. His wife Gretchen was thrown out of the car and is in hospital with serious injuries, and the passenger, an Italian friend of Roger's called Andreas Zini, was killed. Roger has been arrested for suspicion of manslaughter and DUI, and released on bail.
And I'm worried about all of them. Worried about Gretchen and their kids, worried about the family of their poor friend, and worried about Roger (who, it's probably worth mentioning, I've known well for over a decade, and who barely drinks).

Friday, January 11, 2008

The New York Times

is a really lovely New York Times article about Beowulf, and what Roger Avary and I were trying to do, that makes me very happy.
Meanwhile, I'm having real problems logging in to things, like Blogger. But am writing, so that's all right.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

fog warning

I just got an email from Teller pointing me to
which is the part of the website which is just Macbeth. It also includes NPR interviews and details on the whens and wheres (Red Bank NJ and then Washington DC).

I'm more or less happily writing Chapter Six of The Graveyard Book. I say more or less as I'm at that place where I hope that the book knows what it's doing because right now I don't have a clue -- I'm writing one scene after another like a man walking through a valley in thick fog, just able to see the path a little way ahead, but with no idea where it's actually going to lead him.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

A good morning's mail...

On any normal day, the most exciting thing in the morning's mail would have been the limited editions of CORALINE, or the second volume of the collected Moomin comics, or even the new Lamy 2000 Fountain pen (to replace one that I must have lost somewhere along the way. I'm writing The Graveyard Book with a very antique Waterman flexnib, which makes it very pleasant to write but not the most legible manuscript you've ever seen). Not to mention the DVD screener of Sweeney Todd. And even on a slightly abnormal day, filled with amazing postal gifts and such, the most exciting thing in the mail would have been the DREAM OF
THE RAREBIT FIEND, a book of amazing hugeness and beauty that I had ordered from (and had been waiting for with suppressed excitement for about ten days). I put it down on the post-covered kitchen table and stood on a chair to take a photo of it. The book is enormous (that's a full-sized phone beside it) and I cannot wait to read it...

But the surprise of the postbag was this: The Art of P. Craig Russell, a Retrospective -- a lovely surprise. Introduction by Dave Sim, put together by Craig and Joe Pruett. It's a look at Craig's art and work from boyhood until today that is complete, illuminating and beautiful.

There's one chapter that's just Craig talking about Murder Mysteries, how he adapted it, what choices he made, how he broke it down, the design of the word balloons, the use of colour, and so on, that should be compulsory reading for anyone who wants to write, draw or edit comics.

If Craig had told me he was doing it (and I'm sure he did) I had managed to forget completely. Which made it the perfect surprise. (Craig's website is )

And that was followed by a phone call from my agent letting me know that United Artists was the first studio to sign a deal with the Writer's Guild, and that if I wanted to write a film for them, or sell them the rights to a book, I could. Here's hoping that a lot of other studios follow.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Teller and the Scottish Play

Want to read something really cool? Something beautifully written that's all about art and blood and magic and horror? And Shakespeare? And the theatre? Something that's about the enthusiasm of art? The joy of putting talented people together and building something that hasn't been done before? About making people see things that aren't there? About lying in the service of art?

Honestly, you do, even if you think you don't.

Trust me.

Go to

Read it.

Then click on Back at the bottom , which takes you to
and read forward, an entry at a time, as Teller blogs the year of creation of a magical, bloody production of Macbeth. Take your time. It's like reading a good book.

(Teller, who is an astonishing magician, and a remarkable magical thinker, is also one of my favourite writers, and he is chronicling what he describes as, "one of the most joyful times of my life." I really want to see the production.)

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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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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

From the bat-sdrmg hWphor of Mnorkan rods

One of my favourite authors, George MacDonald Fraser, is dead (and I've replaced the not very good Independent Obit with the now up online Telegraph Obituary). It's not really surprising -- the last book of his that I read, The Light's On At Signpost, takes its title from his knowledge that he'll soon be dead (it's an odd book -- half memoirs of writing films, half grumbles about the state of the world, some of them brilliantly spot on, some, at least to my mind, repulsive or silly or both). He was a marvellous writer -- clear, sharp and, when he wanted to be, really funny. His most famous books are the Flashman series, of which I like the first half dozen very much, and like the later books less (not because they're less well-written or researched, but I think because Flashman softens, and I liked him best when he was at his most appalling), but I love the McAuslan stories and The Pyrates every bit as much in very different ways. He wrote some excellently crafted film scripts. I borrowed a historical story he told of murder and desire for Endless Nights.

I just did a search of this website, and found back in August 2001 I wrote,

And I am currently reading -- again, doling out a story a night before sleep -- McAuslan Entire. You can find the publisher's blurb on it here.
It's by George MacDonald Fraser, and is a delightful, sensible, world-affirming,
beautifully crafted bunch of stories. (And it's the sort of thing you need to
read after working your way through another chunk of the two volume Collected
Strange Stories
of Robert Aickman.)

As a young man I preferred Fraser's Flashman stories to his McAuslan/Dand MacNeill stories; now I'm not so sure. (Possibly because I'm still out of sorts with a story in the last Flashman collection. Dammit, Flashman can't meet Sherlock Holmes. There was a compact with the reader about Flashman, and that breaks it -- it says, unequivocably, that Flashman is a fictional character, not a historical one, whereas up until that point the only fictional characters were from Tom Brown's Schooldays. In Royal Flash Flashman doesn't meet Rupert of Hentzau, he meets the inspiration for Rupert of Hentzau, and so on.) Sorry, I'm wittering.

I changed the link to a dead publisher's website to the Amazon link for the (out of print) book.

Incidentally, I think Amazon are using more Optical Character Recognition these days. At least, according to this description I just cut and pasted from their description of Sandman: The Doll's House, where I learned,

Excerpt - Back Cover: "... . ~~- ~. ~ . _ .. " N Neil Gaiman is the New Yak Times bat-sdrmg hWphor of Mnorkan rods ..."

And, of course, I am.

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Solid ink

It's cold here.

How cold is it?

It's so cold that when I went to refill my pen yesterday I discovered that the ink had gone solid. (It's dried out, I thought irrationally, before I realised, it's ice) and it took me half an hour to defrost it on a radiator.

It's so cold that when people (or large dogs) come inside from the outside, they radiate cold across the room. It's like opening a fridge door.

On the other hand, as of yesterday, the book is being written again, and this makes me happy.

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