Friday, December 31, 2010

Another Year

Every Three Years, I said, in 2007. And it's three years on. So:

I wrote this in 2004, quoting myself in 2001. And it feels like a good time to repeat myself one more time. Every three years...

I know it's bad form to repeat yourself, but I was about to list all the things I hope for the readers of this blog in 2005, and I realised I'd already written it back in 2001, when I said...

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

And I really still do.

Last year, I did a mash-up of that and another New Year's Benediction, and got to tell 2,000 people in Boston what I hoped for, for them and for me, in 2011. There's a video of it, here:

And I've nothing more to say. Except thank you, to my family, to my friends, to Amanda, to all of you. It's been a wonderful year, and I am a fortunate man.

And also, please wish me luck with this short story I'm writing. I'm up to page 19 and nothing's happened yet. Right now, they're eating porridge. In my head, by this point in the story everyone was going to be terrified, and strange oogly things would be happening to all the villagers. Porridge!

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Nicholas Was Redux and a small public service announcement

I'm writing a short story right now, using the lap-desk that Maddy got me for Xmas. I'm getting older, and while, mostly, I really like getting older -- life is easier and lighter and more fun -- for the first time ever I'm finding it easier to wear reading glasses when I write by hand, and it feels wrong.

But the writing is good, I think.


(The "Nicholas Was" art above is from

"Nicholas Was..." is a hundred-word short story that began life as a Christmas Card, which Dave McKean calligraphed for me and I sent out to friends and family in 1989. I still wonder how many of them actually read it.

Hello Neil,

This may be an extremely naive question since I am not a collector, only an avid reader of your work. Do the original Christmas cards of "Nicholas Was" go for huge amounts of money? I'm very much taken with the simplicity and beauty of it and would love to get hold of one, but can't seem to find one at any price on the internet. Any chance you have one lying around that you would like to send me? I know this is a longshot but hey you never know...

Thank you,

The original Dave McKean handwritten Christmas cards -- as far as I know only one has ever been sold. (The people who got them in 1989 are either still holding on to them, or threw them away once Xmas was done, I expect.)

The one that was sold went to auction this year -- I found a handful of the originals in the attic, and donated one to the Low Key Gathering auction, helping to bring fans in from all over the world who could never have made it otherwise to the House on the Rock Hallowe'en party. The "Nicholas Was" card went for over $1200.

Back in 2002 Dark Horse did some Nicholas Was cards with a Michael Zulli illustration. They'll set you back about $15 for an unopened pack of 5 (according to


So, last week, when this "Nicholas Was..." video came out...

39 Degrees North: Christmas Card 2010 from 39 Degrees North on Vimeo.

...I suggested that people might like to make videos of their own (with a deadline of this Xmas), and a few of you rose to the challenge.

David Goecke put this together in his basement:

James Bolan made this...

This one, by Alexander Sovronsky, is beautiful, less illustrative and more meditative.

And this one was not done this week -- it's two years old, by Trine Malde, but I thought it deserved its day in the sun as well.


Dave McKean is putting up YouTube of songs he's recorded: an illustration and a song in each case. Lyrics by me (for one of them, tune by me /chords by Amanda) music by Dave McKean. Yes, he can sing, and he can play keyboards and drums as well... Listen to them at:


This is the Public Service bit of the blog:

Over at Kitty Mihos's NEVERWEAR website, she does T-shirts and limited edition prints and suchlike. She gives the money that would be my share of what she sells, to the CBLDF, and an extra chunk besides.

As the numbers on the prints go down, she raises the prices. They tend to keep going up (the last few THE DAY THE SAUCERS CAME prints sold for $200 each). This is to encourage people to buy early, at the beginning of the print run, and also because, in the past, as the numbers remaining got lower, Kitty started seeing the same prints she was still selling at for face value selling for many times what she was still selling them for on eBay.

Numbers are starting to get low on Jim Lee's A HUNDRED WORDS print. In 24 hours -- at midnight on the 27th of December PST -- the price goes up on each print from $38 to $50 a print. Right now you can still order a print for $38:

And that link is also where you can also go and read the poem for free...

Jim Lee Neil Gaiman neverwear

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

The view from Lantern Waste

Snow dogs. Cabal is on the left, Lola over on the right.

Lola and the lamppost.

It's up with a temporary base. We'll concrete it in in the Spring. And by we I mean Hans, who looks after the land and the woods and knows his way around a wrench and a bucket of concrete.



Photo by Mike. Present from My Family.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the blog...

...not a creature was stirring, not even a dog.

My children are all here (are they children when they're adults? I suppose they must be...) and I'm enjoying it no end, having all three of them here. They're all asleep here right now, or, more likely, trying to get to sleep somewhere upstairs. Holly and Maddy were last seen in the same bed, playing cards. Mike is up in his attic bedroom.

I'm downstairs with the sleeping dogs, I'm typing this, and everything's quiet.

Cabal's been having trouble walking on his back legs. He went back to the U of M animal hospital, and they gave him an MRI and told us he doesn't need another operation -- they'd thought he had a growth on his spine and that removing it would mean two months of minimal movement (all Good News) but they don't know what's causing it (Bad News). Right now, I'll take the good news. Lola is bounding and happy.

I've promised the girls I'll have a more or less early night. We'll go next door tomorrow morning and spend the day with their mum. Open presents, all that.

I am, of course, hoping for a lamppost.


Dear Mr. Gaiman,

Last year, during Christmas, you posted a link to Tim Minchin's "White Wine in the Sun" Christmas song. Even though I'm Jewish, I still very much enjoy Christmastime and this song really was the best part of last Christmas.

I was secretly hoping you'd post it again, so that this Christmas would kind of be like last Christmas, but then I realized you probably wouldn't intentionally repeat yourself.

Unless someone asked.


You're right. I wouldn't.

Well, unless someone asked.


Dear Mr Gaiman,
Thank you so much for “Blueberry Girl” Jasmine (two and a half) and I love it. It is so much what I wish for her that no matter how many times I have to read it I am still moved (not true of Thomas the tank engine)!
Jasmine asks for the “Fish book” (I think Blueberry is still a bit of a mouth full) all the time and I am always willing to be reminded to look to her future and take joy in her, instead of getting bogged down in making her wear winter coats and nappies and the stupid things you neglect or annoy your kids for.
What magic to have a little children’s book I know well enough to quote and yet don’t hate! Thank you.
Best, Kirsteen

You're very welcome. Also, you live about a hundred feet from where I went to school when I was eight. (It was a school called Aston House, and was demolished 40 years ago.)


Happy things, and time to close a few tabs:

IGN did their top 25 Albums of the Year, and Evelyn Evelyn was on it.

This Baby It's Cold Outside sock puppet video:

(More information, and downloadable sock puppet costumes at

Mitch Benn's website still has his "Happy Birthday Neil" song up. If you haven't heard it... well, it was a happy thing for me this year.

Which reminds me: I never said thank you here to the CBLDF, for their Birthday Wishes page. They do a tireless job, and I love being able to help.

Wisconsin Public Radio has a wonderful show called To The Best of Our Knowledge. They just did an excellent show about Fairy Tales, where they interview Salman Rushdie and A.S. Byatt and -- at the House on the Rock last Hallowe'en -- me. You can listen to it at or download it to listen to later.

New Scientist, to which I've had a subscription for about a decade now, got me in to judge the ultimate winners of their Fast Fiction competition. 350 word stories set in futures that never happened. Here's the announcement of the winners... They gave me ten stories and I had to pick a winner (It's this) and two runners up (here's one and here's the other). The standard was amazingly high and all ten winners are going up on their blog, a new one each day.

I wanted to remind people that there are five free short stories up at Two of them aren't available anywhere else.

I missed putting this up when it came out: a wonderful little Mervyn Peake gallery from The Guardian. I love Peake's art, and love his writing.


Right. I'm knocking off for the night... there are some more cool things to post, but they can wait a little longer.

Here's a photo taken this evening by Maddy Gaiman. The Santa hat is, I think Holly's. (See the huge red box with the bow behind me? I am half-convinced it contains a lamppost.)

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nicholas really really Was, wasn't he?

I was about to drive off and find an all-night supermarket to buy rawhide dog-chews because a dog appears to be teething, and you would not believe the things she's chewed, but something fun just came through, and I thought, I had better post it...

But before I do, a moment of introduction, backfill if you will:

A few weeks ago I noticed on YouTube some wonderful little films people had made to accompany my poem THE DAY THE SAUCERS CAME.

You do not need to play them now, but I'll put them up here in case you get the urge later.

Here's one that uses me as the narrator...

and a couple that have other people reading it...

And I thought, those are really fun. I should suggest on the blog that people do something like that with NICHOLAS WAS... for Xmas.

And then I forgot. I thought of it when I was out walking and I probably got distracted by something like wondering if I should put a lamppost out in the woods, and it fell out of my head.

And then this came in. It was done by a motion/graphics design studio in Beijing as their video Christmas Card.

This is the one you really do have to watch now. Go on.

39 Degrees North: Christmas Card 2010 from 39 Degrees North on Vimeo.

It's wonderful. And it's Nicholas Was, all right.

And if any of you are feeling inspired and want to make your own little Nicholas Wases, you've got a week. Send me links through the FAQ line (NOT Twitter. I am never guaranteed to see everything or even most things on Twitter.)

And a photograph, care of Jonathan Carroll, that also made me feel very Christmassy indeed:

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Banana, Tomato, Schedule.

From mobile

It was beautiful, today. I took the dogs into the depths of the woods and found myself, at one point, half-expecting to see an old Victorian style London lamppost, there in the snow. Always Winter, and never Christmas I thought, looking at the frozen creek...

And then I started wondering whether I should find a real lamppost and install it down there. Not sure if I will or not. It may be an amazingly silly idea. And it would be a lot of work. And almost nobody would ever see it...

I'm talking myself into it, aren't I?


March 6th 2009 was a hard day.

(I talk about it in this journal here and

I was in a taxi heading for the Blueberry Girl signing when I learned that my father had died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack. I went to Union Square in a stunned sort of a daze and walked around, spoke to my sister, my children... then I phoned Amanda, who was in a van in Perth, Australia. That I called her immediately told me a lot about how I felt about her, and that she offered to cancel the rest of her tour and come and be with me told me a lot about how she felt about me.

I said no, just as I said no to the people who asked me to cancel the signing. I did the signing with Charles Vess for well over a thousand people, and nine hours later, we were done, and Beth Hommel, Amanda's assistant, was waiting with three gifts for me.

And I mention this to give context to Amanda talks about that day, and what she did, and why, and she posts a photograph of me that Beth took, when she gave me the gifts. It was the only smile I remember that long day, when smiles were hard to find.

And that photograph, which I'd never seen before today, brought it all back...


Over at Kitty's Neverwear site, she has her own way of pricing the limited edition prints. Which is, as the numbers get low, she raises the price. She's sold over half of the print run of the Jim Lee "100 Words" print - Jim illustrated a poem of mine, beautifully. She's going to raise the price to $50 each, but it's Xmas, so she's holding off until December 27th. If you buy one before then, the price is still $38.

Read all about it -

Kitty's got some wonderful stuff planned for next year. This year's tee shirts are up at, prints at and you can explore the rest of the site yourself. Big happy healthy chunks of everything you buy there goes to the CBLDF, and the rest goes to feeding Kitty's cats.

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I have Mythological Dimensions. You cannot see them, but they are there.

The lump on Princess's face turns out to have been the equivalent of a giant cat-pimple. It's been drained. She's home again, and a bit grumpy about having had to go to the vets. She'll be around to be grumpy for a long time to come, I hope.

Just thought you'd want to know.

I'm writing a story and enjoying it. It's one of those odd stories that's almost true, in which the narrator is me, or almost, and I don't want to say anything more about it for fear of it going away.


The smodcast interview with Kevin Smith was awesome!

What is the title of that new song that Amanda sang? It's very emotional and amazing.

It's called "The Bed Song". Breaks my heart every time.

While enjoying the new anthology STORIES that you co-edited with Al Sarrantonio, I noted with interest that the “Also by Neil Gaiman” page lists your works in two categories: “For Adults” and “For All Ages.” No category “For Children”—the picture book The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish is listed as for all ages. More notable is that both Coraline and The Graveyard Book are listed under “For Adults,” though they are marketed as YA (The Graveyard Book even winning the Newbery Medal for “distinguished contribution to American literature for children”). So, my question: Was this subversion of the usual labels intentional, a sort of thumbing of your nose at artificial and overly-constricting booksellers’ categories?

I would love to say yes, hah! we are wild, but honesty compels me not to. I'm not sure who put the bibliography together, but I didn't see it before Stories came out, so didn't get a chance to correct it.

Hi there Neil! First off, I'm a fan (naturally), and I'd like to be a writer as well. I wanted to write a story about a house and all the people who've lived there, and I've always been inspired by Gothic-style houses. I saw your house on the website this week, and I thought, "Wow! Perfect!" I was wondering if had you any information on when your house was built, or if you designed your house and had someone build it. Basically, I'd love to know more about your home, but I completely understand if you decline to answer, as houses can be private things. Congrats on having such a gorgeous house, by the way! Thanks again for all that you do, your fans appreciate it.
Jennifer Smith

The House was built somewhere between 1885 and 1900, replacing a house that had burned down (which may well be why this house is brick). It was built by an artist and cartographer (and town clerk, and photographer and I am sure many other things) who came to America from Germany before the Civil War. And it's a wonderful house.

(According to a clipping from the local paper, the house was finished in 1885, but there are photographs of the house before the rear balcony and deck were finished dated 1900.)

The son of the man who built it was moderately famous in his field, and we used to get occasional visitors who wanted to see the house for that reason, although he was born in the house that burned down.

Hi, im from Brazil and me and a lot of ppl want to read American Gods (Deuses americanos in Brasil).
I'm here to ask Gaiman to twitt a message or a tag for ppl give RT and some publishing house publish that for us!

Please, dont ignore that message!
Thank you and sorry for my english.

You aren't the first person in Brazil to grumble about books having gone out of print (or about paying high prices for second-hand copies). I've asked my agent to investigate and to work to get the various books that have been published in Brazil back into print there.


Following on from "The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who", a call for academic papers for "The Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman" :

Jessica and Anthony, who are doing it, say: The volume is intended to be a critical work, but primarily a text written by fans for fans. The first volume in the series, The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who set the stage for the general approach & tone.... While we are academics by nature, this series is our attempt to break the so-called 'academic' mold & approach things that we find fascinating. The concept came out of Mythcon 39, which my husband chaired & which the other editor Kristine & I also organized.


Dear Mr.Gaiman,

I read in A Conversation with Bill Baker, that as a child you always daydreamed about being a writer. On your website I saw that when you were fifteen you told a career counselor that you wanted to write American comic books. The counselor told you to consider accountancy.

Did you ever have a teacher that thought you were a creative writer and encouraged you to write?

(I love the video of your dogs in the blizzard.)

Stay Warm,
Shayna Sadow
New Jersey

I had a few excellent English teachers -- Bill Hayes at Ardingly, Dick Glynne-Jones and a very smart American teacher, a Mr Wright, at Whitgift, but I don't remember any of them encouraging me to write, although they were often enthusiastic about what I had written.

I loved to write as a boy. But I don't think anyone except me, secretly, thought I was going to grow up to be a writer. (I may be wrong. I should ask Geoff Notkin.)

Dear Neil,

A few days ago, I had to give my first public reading as part of the graduation requirements for Creative Writing Majors at Warren Wilson College in the currently-not-too-snowy mountains of western North Carolina. It was terrifying. I had about ten minutes in front of a crowd of about one hundred students, faculty, friends, and family. As someone who stands up in front of much bigger crowds and reads for much longer periods of time, can you tell me, who hopes to be a well-known writer someday, if it becomes more routine and less terrifying?

Kindest regards,
Hilary B. Bisenieks

Sort of. After you've done it a few times, and they haven't stoned you, or made you leave the stage by throwing bottles at you, it becomes significantly less terrifying. And it can help to think of them as individulas (not scary) as opposed to crowds (scary).

But for me, the terror never really goes away. And I've learned to treasure that, the adrenaline rush before I go on. It keeps me awake, and interested, and helps me think slightly faster, and slows down time just a hair.

And finally, this made me smile:

I just read your December 9th Ask Neil responses about writing and college, and I had to add in my own experience with writing, college, and (of course) Neil Gaiman. Your part in this was pretty small, and you probably don't remember it, but it was oddly monumental for me.

Throughout high school, I was determined not to go to college. My grades were never the best, and I'd seen the stress my friends went through during the application process. Since I was seventeen and therefore knew everything, I was going to graduate and work at a diner or something until I shattered the world with my epic writing. Because, you know, that always works. This was a big source of friction between my mother, who desperately wanted me to continue my education, and myself.

I think it was in 2008 when you were an author at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC--maybe 2009, whichever was the year after Pratchett showed up. The Book Festival's somewhat of a tradition for my family, and when I heard you were going to be talking-- Well, I'm a big fan. Words fail to convey the fangirl spaz-attack of a high-schooler, but I'm sure you're not without experience in that department. It was enough, anyway, that my mother apparently concocted a plan.

We waited in line for hours upon hours, and she snuck in front of me to get a book signed for a friend. In the few precious moments she had before I shoved my way to the front, she apparently asked you to tell me to go to college. I don't know what, exactly, she said, because I didn't hear it. I just heard your response, which was something along the lines of "You want me to tell her to go to college? I'm not going to tell her to go to college. I didn't even go to college, I just wanted to write!"

I then proceeded to loudly and awkwardly declare her burn'd, giggle uncontrollably, and ask you some mundane and probably stupid question about Neverwhere that had been bugging me. Now, two-or-one-or-maybe-three years later, I'm writing this from my dorm room in Coe College, IA, which is rather unfortunate for that temporary victory. Don't get me wrong--I love my school, and I'm actually really happy I didn't take your advice, but I'm glad you gave it. It got her off my case long enough for me to make up my own mind.

Anecdote over, though, Coe's pretty renowned for its writing program. We've got professors from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, they've got lots of pretty degrees, and on a one-on-one sense they're all great people. I've taken one Creative Writing class here, a writer's workshop on fiction. It's been enough to make me drop the major. In the beginning of the class, nearly every writer was submitting fantasy or science fiction. By the end, hardly anyone was submitting anything, and those who did submit were submitting non-genre works. Sure, they were well-written. And I know a few people who've gotten through the program genre-intact. But I can't imagine that this method works for everyone; I know it doesn't work for me.

I guess my point here was to say thanks again for good advice, or at least for posting the advice/questions of others and agreeing. I'm now enrolled as a major in Gender Studies and English, hopefully going to minor in Anthropology if the school gets that squared away, and hoping to continue to law school. None of this has anything to do with writing a novel at all, technically, but it's helped my writing so much more than the classes ever did.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cats in the Sauna and Boiling Water Tricks

The dogs are enjoying the cold. (Except for last night, when the thermometer in the kitchen that measures the temperature outside dropped as far as minus 20.6F, which is minus 29C, before announcing that it had taken itself offline.)

I tried the magic boiling water trick late last night: boil a kettle, pour the water into a cup, walk outside at minus 20F and throw the boiling water into the air, where it turns instantly to powdery snowy dust. I did it. It worked. I'd pressed the wrong button on the phone and had failed to record it for posterity. I decided I wasn't going to do it again, because there are lots of people doing it on YouTube already (and even some respected institutions). Nor was I going to sit outside in the cold looking at meteors. Instead I went back down to the bottom of the garden and wrote.)

The weird thing is that, once we get into the depths of winter, -20 will be a temperature I look forward to. It's -40 I don't like. (And once we get to -40, which is the same in F or C, I do not care about things like windchill.)

I read once that at minus 70 F, there is a gentle tinkling noise that your breath makes as it freezes and falls to the ground, but I am happy not to put this to the test.


The Dogs are enjoying the weather.

The Cats are not. The cats have more or less taken up residence in the sauna...

There used to be seven cats in this house. There were always seven cats. As one died off or went walkabout, never to return, another would turn up at the back door. But two large white dogs sort of put an end to that, alas. So as the older cats have died off, the house cat numbers have diminished.

Coconut, who was once Maddy's kitten, is the youngest. He's a very amiable, easygoing sort of a cat.

And then there's Princess, who is not amiable, and is only easygoing in the sense that the mad old lady who lives down the road and glares at you when you walk past her house is easygoing if you don't disturb her. Princess is the oldest cat we have. She arrived here on June the 26th 1994, Holly's 9th birthday, but I'd glimpsed her at a distance, a feral ghost living wild in the woods for a good year before that. She's feisty and grumpy and likes making people do their trick for her, which is turning on the tap so a trickle of water comes out, and then waiting while she drinks a little.

She glares at you if you turn the tap off before she's done.

She also likes making visitors pet her. In the old days she would let you know she was done with being stroked by viciously sinking her teeth into you, deep and hard, but she's too old for that nonsense now. I used to have to muzzle her before I could trim her nails or remove knotted balls of fur. Now she'll submit to anything. Beneath the fur she weighs nothing at all...

And I just discovered that she has a lump on her left cheek. I'll get her to the vet... I hope it's not something big and bad. I've grown so used to having a bad-tempered but beautiful cat that I need to warn visitors about. She's outlasted all the cats I loved and all the cats I bonded with.

And I think she's grown very used to me.

When Zoe died, it was really easy to explain to people how much you could miss a sweet, gentle cat who was nothing but a ball of utter love. I'm going to have a much harder time one day, months or even years from now, explaining why I miss the meanest, grumpiest and most dangerous cat I've ever encountered.



Back to work. Let me point you at this eBay auction for the CBLDF.

You can buy Frank Miller's drawing chair, the one he did Dark Knight and Sin City and 300 at (careful! if you buy it you may find yourself with drawing abilities you did not previously possess, but you may also start covering your face with bandaids after being beaten up by problematic dames and crooked cops, and the next thing you know you'll be coming out of retirement and fighting crime grittily in a wrinkled costume*).

Or buy someone the final copies of the Tony Harris illustrated "In Reilig Oran", a poem I wrote that we did a limited edition of earlier this year for the Chicago Comic Con. It's signed by me and Tony. (These are BUY NOW, so you can buy one and still get it in time for Xmas. Hurrah.)

And if you're wondering why to support the CBLDF or take out a membership... well, they are currently actively fighting things like this. (I know. It's very vague. At the point where things move on a bit it will be less vague and announcements will be made..)

*This statement is not approved by the CBLDF. Or the FDA. Or anybody who approves statements.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snow and Smodcasts

Since you asked, yes, it's still snowing. Judging by the howling noises the winds are making around the house, I believe it's blizzarding. And it's the most serious snowstorm in these parts for 19 years.

I moved here 18 years ago, which means it's definitely the snowiest snowstorm I've ever experienced.

So they're all together in one place, here are the three Kevin Smith Smodcastle Smodcasts: The interview is almost two hours of Amanda and me answering questions.

Then you get 50 minutes of Amanda. And then (mostly because it was getting really late) you get me reading for about 30 minutes.

You can play them here for free, or you can buy and download them. It's only 90 cents a podcast, but you can donate as much as you like, and it's for a really good cause.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

They are calling it Snowmageddon

And I'm loving it. Mostly because I seem to miss the worst of the weather here - I'm always stranded in some airport hotel unable to get home because they've closed Minneapolis airport.

And now I'm not in an airport hotel at all. I'm home. And it looks like this. Over 18 inches since midnight, and it's still snowing...

The dogs are more or less loving it. Well, half-loving it.

Which is to say, Lola bounces through the snow and enjoys it, and Cabal walks through the snow and doesn't really. Which puzzles Lola because can't he see that this is the best thing there ever was? And he won't even play-fight with her. So she bounces off and vanishes into snowdrifts, then pounces and bounces and bounds and explores, and he walks along like a respectable gentleman who can't wait to be home again, where it is warm, and tries to persuade her to settle down.

Still photographs of dogs do not give you the full effect.

Hang on. I will see what I have on my phone. It's a bit fuzzy, mostly because of snow on the lens but this may give you an idea...

Music is by the Puppini Sisters - - from their yummy new Christmas With the Puppini Sisters CD. (The YouTube link is if anyone can't see the embedded video.)

There. Bouncing Lola in the snow.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

In Which John Cameron Mitchell Meets Girls At Parties...

(Left: John Cameron Mitchell. Right: Amanda Palmer. Middle: Two Ladies checking out the menu of the place we were having lunch last summer who probably have no idea they were even in this photograph).

Life is weird and wonderful and filled with strange coincidences. Exactly two years ago to the day I blogged about watching, and really liking, John Cameron Mitchell's film Shortbus (at

Mitchell then volunteered details about another project he’s been developing. “I’m also working on something with Neil Gaiman. It’s an adaptation of a short story called ‘How to Talk to Girls At Parties.’ It’s a sort of British, punk-era story that involves an alien girl on her spring break. I’m going to supervise an adaptation with a British writer and eventually direct.”

You can read the short story, which was nominated for all sorts of awards when it was released in 2006, at Neil Gaiman’s website. If “Rabbit Hole” proved anything it is Mitchell’s amazing versatility and range and seeing him dip into the world of Lovecraftian science fiction, wrapped around a period comedy set in 1970s England has us positively giddy. Certainly, plenty of exciting stuff on the way from a director who refuses to be pinned down to any one style.

And it is all true. He is going to be making it, and I'm really happy about this.

I've not said anything up until now, but I think the deals are all pretty much done, and seeing he's talked about it, I'm happy to confirm it. I'm not going to be writing the script, but I've been sent treatments and outlines, and watched it start to look like a movie. I love his work (I think I learned about him from my daughter Holly, who loved Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and think he's one of the nicest, smartest people I've met in the film world.

Here's a cool, almost abstract short film he made recently, starring Russell Tovey and Sir Ian McKellen and Marion Cotillard, which I love for several reasons. David Essex singing 'Rock On' is only one of them.

Those of you wondering about the story of How To Talk To Girls At Parties can read it, or download it and listen to me reading it, at (The film that John plans to make begins with the short story, and then goes on from there.)

(Oops. Nearly forgot. The last part of the Kevin Smith Smodcastle Evening is now up and live:
It contains me reading "BEING AN EXPERIMENT ON STRICTLY SCIENTIFIC LINES..." and is followed by a reading of a chunk of American Gods, which I read the narrator's part, and get Kevin and Amanda to do the other parts. And which made me wonder about doing a full-cast audio book of American Gods... You can listen to it for free, but it's a donation if you want to download it. And for whatever it's worth, I think this podcast is for "mature listeners" only...)

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Things that go Bump in the Night and other dangerous nighttime problems

Remember the power outage I talked about in my last blog? The one that made the power go on and off (and lost me a small chunk of bloggage) (and taught me that the black bricklike BLACKOUT BUSTER that the computer is plugged into is about as useful as plugging it into a brick when the power actually goes out). It turns out it was caused by a driver about a mile away crashing into a telephone pole and taking out a power line, which blew out a local transformer with a bang so loud that my assistant Lorraine, fast asleep in her house a couple of miles away, woke up to the explosion and banged her head on the bedpost.

I mention this mostly because Lorraine came in to work this morning, made sure I was awake, made me tea and porridge, got me off to the Twin Cities to spend a day in the radio studio, and only when I was actually driving to KNOW in St Paul did she nip off to a medic to find that her scalp needed to be glued back together and that she had concussion.

I do not expect her at work tomorrow (and if you're trying to get hold of me or you need me for something, and you're wondering why nobody's answering the phone, that's why). (And Lorraine, if you're reading this, go back to bed. I will make my own tea, and there's nothing that won't keep until Monday.)

Anyway. I went and did Talk of the Nation. You can read about it and listen to the interview at

and to find your local comic shop:

TALK OF THE NATION was followed by an abrupt change of gear, as I stayed in the same studio (News Studio 3) but instead of being interviewed, I... well, I acted.

Simon Jones (whose work I have loved since he was Arthur Dent in the original The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, and who is, as I am, an Honorary Lifetime Member of Hitchhker's Appreciation Society ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha - plays my father in the play, co-written by the wonderful Ellen Kushner, and he and I got to act. He was in New York, with the director and Ellen, and I was in St Paul, but still, we were acting together. Simon was the absolute master of the accent we'd been asked to do -- a sort of 1940s mid-Atlantic accent you used to hear on American Radio and in movies. I was a lot less masterly.

There's a bit of cellphone of me recording my lines (taken through the glass of the studio, so you can't really hear what I'm saying, but you can hear Simon at the end) at and it was only when I saw it that I discovered the shocking truth: I act with my hands.

I wonder if that happens when I do audio books.

Ellen writes about the afternoon (and the project, The Witches of Lublin, here:


Hi Neil,

You've said in the past that you wouldn't want to self-publish. Considering your established sales, I absolutely get that. But I wonder, if you were just starting out today, would you consider it? Or would the answer still be, "I like writing," and let someone else figure out the business aspect. It seems like more and more people are only succeeding if they wear many different hats. (or get extremely lucky and get a behemoth behind them).

Just wondered if you'd mind considering that for a minute. And then, maybe consider what you'd do in this era, with a number of rejections behind you. Would it become more appealing at that point?

It depends how you define self-publishing. If I wanted physical books to be sold in your local bookshop, no, I wouldn't self-publish. But given the rapid rise of e-books, the existence of the web, the rise of things like, there are lots of ways of self-publishing that don't actually involve printing books, storing them in your basement, advertising them and somehow getting them to people who want them.

I'm sure it's possible to make money self-publishing physical books, if you're willing to be all the different things that a publishing house contains, from sales and marketing to editorial and design to shipping and receiving. But I still don't think I'd want to do it.

I read your latest blog today (9.12.-10) about cold weather. Living at the arctic circle (though, thankfully in Finland, so it is not that extreme) means that I fully get how one gets fed up with the, say, two weeks of -25 C, 5 layers of clothing, only going out of necessity and so on. I walk 25 minutes to the university.

However, freezing at -18 C means that you're doing something wrong. Curiously, that does fit within a stereotype we Finns have with English people but that's a story for another day.

a) As I presume money is not an issue, you should consider a down jacket. Canada Goose is an excellent choice. Essentially, -18 C means a jacket and a t-shirt then. The thicker down jackets of many brands start being usable at around -30C.

b) Merino wool underwear, synthetic fleece or wool over it too.
For example Patagonia has rather environment aware clothes line.

Essentially, if you're freezing at -18 C you're doing it wrong. If you're uncomfortable at -18, you've bought the wrong clothes.

Snow is so much fun too, sometimes I do need reminding of in the dark moments, try buying cross country skis. ( Well, that was probably a too Finnish advice. )

Thank you for all you books and letting us see the worlds you create.

Tuomas Tähtinen.

Fireplace is the best insurance for electricity blackouts during winter...

I didn't say I was freezing at -18C. I didn't even say I was uncomfortable. What I said was, I get really really sick of having to dress in layers and dress up and undress in order to walk the dogs. It gets old.

And as I said in the post, or thought I had, the temperature as it gets colder is very different to the one you get on the way back up. After a few weeks at -30 and -40, I get all cheerful and cocky when it rises to levels that don't actually threaten your life, and I understand the people who, when it gets to freezing in the spring, walk around with just tee shirts, or even bare chested (I understand them. I do not join them).

But there is a reason why so many Finns and Scandinavians came to the American Midwest. It's because nothing would make you people think about moving to Australia...

I just wanted to thank you about your resent journal post "The anatomy of Snowbirds". It really cheered up my day. Someone else is also out there in snow and cold, thinking of Caribbean.

I live in Finland and this year we have this nice Siberia-style winter with 0,5 meters of snow fall each week. My husband has been whining about the weather for the six years we have been together and now we are planning to move to Australia, for real this time :D I just found myself one night wondering how I'm going to pack my Sandman-collection and all the other books with me... Oh well. Maybe I come up with some brilliant idea before next year.

Best regards,
Anna the Snowqueen from Helsinki

...well, practically nothing.


Lots of Letters to Levi, but I think I will save them for tomorrow. I mean later today.

And finally, this just came in from David Lenander - if you're in the Twin Cities Area today (Friday the 10th) and fancy a free C.S. Lewis conference before the blizzard hits, then you're in luck:

Just wanted to tell you that we're having a little C.S, Lewis conference at the U of MN Children's Literature Collections later today, and your Mythcon 35 address and "The Problem of Susan" are important inspirations, along with Laura Miller's book, The Magician's Book. I'd had good intentions of writing and asking you to mention us in your blog, but things got done too late. Still, Thanks for your writing. And I'm about to bundle up and take the dog out for her walk, and I really have understood why people like Will & Emma probably moved south.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

The anatomy of snowbirds

It's not the walking the dogs I mind. I like walking the dogs.

What I mind, when the temperature is, as it is now, a hair below 0F (minus 18 C) is what I have to do in order to walk the dogs. The long underwear and the two sweaters I'm wearing anyway. The gloves and the ski suit and the big green clompy boots. The facemask and the big warm Uigur hat... I look like an incompetent Jewish Ninja.

Even working, down in my gazebo, when the temperature drops like this, with all the heaters on, I'll still be wearing a battered down jacket and a huge Doctor Who style scarf...

When I moved out to this part of the world, about 18 years ago, I noticed an odd phenomenon. Friends who were from here, who loved it, who were part of the life and scene and soul of Minneapolis would just announce, out of nowhere, that they were leaving, and they were done now. And they'd sell up and Go South. They'd always Go South.

That's odd, I thought. They're so happy here.

It seemed a bit sinister.

Today, walking the dogs, I sort of got it. Suddenly the oncoming cold, the idea that every time I would need to walk the dogs for the next three, perhaps the next five months, during the daylight...

or at night...

...that I'm going to have to suit up like a spaceman on a planet inimical to human life. Every single time. And I'm going to get to the point where I look forward to the temperature getting up to 0F, because you can breathe without it hurting, and you don't have to put on crazy protection to go outside, and the dogs still enjoy it outside at this temperature.

I thought, I bet the Caribbean's really nice this time of year.

And I shivered, under the snow-suit, in a way that had nothing to do with the cold, and I thought, I bet that's what they all thought. The people who Went South.

I do not believe that I am joining them. Not yet. But I definitely understood them.


The FAQ line is backed up. I've got several hundred questions marked. Let us try and get a few answered:

My wife Kestrell (she of the Delerium eyes) and I are going to visit New Orleans in a few months. She wants to visit the hat shop where you got your birthday/wedding top hat. Could you tell me the name?

It was Fleur de Paris ( Terrific hats, lovely people, and Holly got a beautiful dress there, too. Amanda also bought dresses and such at Trashy Diva, which is much classier than the name sounds.

My top hat (and many of the other hats people bought while there, until by the end it looked like some kind of hat convention) came from Meyer the Hatter - I really liked them -- not just good service, but after buying my hat (which they padded slightly to fit me) I went back with friends, and Sam Meyer, the owner took my hat back and replaced it with one that fit me exactly, as they'd had a delivery that day, and it was a matter of pride to him that my hat fit properly.


I have found a post in your archives addressing whether or not college is a necessary pre-req for aspiring authors, but I wanted to ask something a bit deeper than that. During high school I was widely known for my writing. I was granted a number of rewards (although insignificant; it was high school after all) and was voted Most Intellectual out of my +650 person senior class with a C average.

I am currently an unsatisfied student at Middle Tennessee State University considering dropping out after this semester. In college I have found myself completely withdrawn from my love of writing and, perhaps far worse, that of reading. I've not finished reading a book in nearly two months, I haven't learned a word or written anything I felt I liked in just as long and I've been dropped from my Expository Writing class after my professor, who supposedly favored me, sent me an email about my truancy. I am nearly twenty years old, I've never been published, I can't find a job and after seeing what it means to be a college professor, I no longer want to be that.

Out of my considering leaving school, I've lost much. Many of my friends and family members (including my mother) and my former mentor (a Latin and Mythology teacher from H.S.) have practically shunned me from their lives. My girlfriend dumped me because of it (though honestly I'm not very upset, but it's relevant) and I'll possibly be kicked out of my house if I go through with my decision.

My salvation from this is, and always has been, a story I have spent most of five years working on that I've fallen in love with, and I am confident it will do well as long as it is that love that continues to facilitate its manifestation.

I'm well-aware life will be more difficult without a degree, and I know you mentioned "if an editor likes page one, they will turn to page two" degree or not, but my question is. . .

Given those circumstances, would this decision be a wise one? Am I the lazy, presumptuous child who thinks he knows best? Or a misunderstood author walking his own path? Or even better, someone who knows he can sing his song with a voice (or pen) that will do it justice? (I've been re-reading Anansi Boys)

I've asked my professors; they remain objective to my situation. Since you're always kind enough to answer questions on this blog, and do the same to those who ask you questions in person, and because much of what I write involves using gods and mythology as metaphor, I thought I should ask you. I know full well you haven't all the answers, but I would be forever grateful for your opinion.

Regardless of whether you answer or not, you have my thanks for your time and I look forward to seeing American Gods on the silver screen.


Should you drop out, or delay university? It sounds like you've already made your decision.

I find the idea of a writer losing interest in both writing and reading really sad. And beyond that, I think two things. One is that, as you say (and I've pointed out in the past) nobody's going to ask for your qualifications before they read your book.

Maybe you should do other things, or study other things, for a while. Go and be a journalist, or work your way around the world. Accumulate experiences that one day you'll write about. (There are few 20 year olds I'd advise to drop everything and become novelists.)

The other is that I'm glad this letter came in a couple of days after yours. It is, as Diane says, long. It's also fascinating.

Hi, Neil,

I’m sorry that this is going to be long, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

From time to time you get letters from young writers wondering if they should go to college to study creative writing. You give them good advice about what it really takes to become a writer, but offer the caveat that, since you didn’t study creative writing, you can’t really tell them what a creative writing program will offer them. I’d like to offer my two cents and 20+ years of experience. I got my BA in creative writing in 1987 and just finished up an MFA in fiction this past year. I’m currently a teaching assistant for the class all undergrad writing majors have to take in order to graduate with a degree in creative writing.

First off, a lot of the instructors teaching creative writing in colleges and universities are doing so because they cannot support themselves as writers in any other way. Poets almost universally need to teach in order to practice their craft because there are no paying markets for poetry anymore. But a lot of other writers/professors in fiction are there because their work will not have a wide-spread audience. There are exceptions – Zadie Smith and Jane Smiley are two notable ones. Writing programs can sometimes attract established (ie; financially viable) writers to teach for a semester or two, but keeping them on as tenured (permanent) faculty is difficult because of the demands of teaching classes, reading applications, sitting on review panels, etc. It takes seven years to become a tenured faculty member. One of my own professors has just left teaching at the university because she signed a six-figure deal for her first novel. I don’t expect her to come back because
she doesn’t need to at this point, even though she is a phenomenal professor and liked teaching.

So, you have a teaching staff interested, above all, in the artistic integrity of the work they are producing. This is what they know, this is what they teach. One of the primary products of a creative writing program is not financially viable writers but creative writing teachers – for elementary and high schools, community colleges, and universities. There are exceptions! Lots of writers who graduate from Iowa and Texas or the Stegner Fellowship at Stanford and other revered programs (but usually the graduate programs, not the undergraduate ones) can use these credentials as selling points when they are looking for agents and publishers. The rest of us don't get a lot of street cred for having gone to school for creative writing and an undergrad degree doesn't get you very far because most don't require you to be accepted into a program of study. You take the classes, you get the degree, regardless of the quality of your work.

You can expect to learn a lot about craft in a creative writing program – how to develop characters, work on elements of narration, and, possibly, get some good feedback from other writers about your work. The dominant model for a writing program is the workshop where you distribute your story to everyone in your class, they read it, and come back the next week to critique it. Depending on the professor, this can be a valuable experience or it can be devastating. If you get class members who want to destroy any writer they see as competition for the title of “best in class,” the workshop can be quite destructive to a young writer who is just beginning to develop a sense of him or herself. Regardless of whether it’s a good workshop or not, you will be in a class with a lot of other writers who want to create ART and will scoff at anything that doesn’t have literary aspirations.

Creative writing programs will not teach you how to be a published writer. Talking about the business aspects of writing seems to be taboo in most programs. You will not learn how to assess writers’ guidelines, find publications that are looking for what you write, find an agent or, in anyway, make money from your writing. Though most writers do not make a living by writing, creative writing programs don't see themselves as needing to teach job skills. I think it’s because of this taboo most creative writing programs have a very strong bias against genre writing. Science fiction, fantasy, historical, romance, young adult (although there are starting to be programs specifically geared toward YA now) any writing you would not find in the “literature” section of the bookstore will be actively discouraged and, in some cases, forbidden in your classes.

I don’t understand the bias because there are so many fabulous “genre” stories that have become part of the literary canon – Brave New World, 1984, 100 Years of Solitude, just about anything written by Ursula LeGuin. Your work, too, Neil, is rapidly becoming part of the canon, as well. So I’m not sure why the bias exists in creative writing programs. There are exceptions, programs that support writers no matter what they write, but you have to search for them and ask the question, "Do you accept genre writing in your classes?"

As a young writer, I wrote a lot of science fiction and fantasy. I wrote a 200+ page fantasy novel when I was 13, and submitted stories to Asimov’s and other magazines before I stepped foot on a college campus. I had no question that I was going to study creative writing when I went to school, but, in my very first class, my professor laid down the law. She only wanted straight, literary fiction, no genre at all. This bias continued throughout my undergrad program, and, I think, resulted in my losing myself as a writer for several years after graduation. I had lost what I wanted to write and didn’t want to write what my professors had been looking for and praising.

I’m writing this because of an experience I’ve had with a professor for the past couple of months. I finished my MFA in fiction in May, but am a teaching assistant for an undergrad class for the fall semester. One of the students in the class has been writing a fantasy novel – quite good, in my opinion. About half-way through the semester, the professor started talking to the TA’s about “didn’t I say no genre in this class?” and how awful this student’s writing is. Myself and another TA have defended his work. We like it a lot. Last night, in our pre-class meeting, this professor told us she was thinking about having the students sign a contract at our last class meeting pledging not to write genre. One of her reasons: they’re too young to be writing genre. My internal response was: ‘Too young? Neil Gaiman was writing the Sandman stories in his 20’s and changed an entire industry. How are these students ‘too young’ to be writing genre?’ I talked to
this student after class, writer to writer, and told him, if she does this, to ignore her and not to take it to heart, no one has the right to tell a writer what to write.

I’m writing this because of the questions you get from young writers looking for advice about creative writing programs, and want to say, this is the kind of bias you will find in creative writing programs. If you can tuck your fantasy story away, work on it for yourself, and write realistic fiction for your classes, great, head to college for a degree in creative writing. It will be difficult for you to get any positive feedback on your work from your professors and your classmates, recognizing the way the wind blows, will soon hop on the critical bandwagon. In my experience, if you are looking for help to become a better writer, especially for genre fiction, the best thing you can do for yourself is to read a lot and write a lot. If you still want outside help, find writing workshops or a writers’ group and go to conferences and attend sessions by writers who talk about their craft. Save the college degree for an area that interests you, like history or psychology, that
will feed your writing with material you can use.

Thanks for listening,
Diane Glazman

Thank you for writing, and so exhaustively.

I think that if you want to write SF or Fantasy, you could do a hell of a lot worse than apply for Clarion. ( I taught there a few years ago, and John Scalzi, who will be one of the instructors this year writes about it at Kat Howard, who was in my Clarion Year, blogged about it at and if anyone's interested, they should read her blog.

I've not taught at Clarion West - - but the instructor line up this year is amazing.

And here's a terrific round-up of all the SF/Fantasy writers' boot-camps and courses and such:


The power just went out. Came back. Went off, came back, went off. And then came back.

When the power goes off in warm places, people do not worry about freezing, do they?


I'll be talking about Comics on TALK OF THE NATION tomorrow. Well, later today.

The Kevin Smith Smodcastle interview is 2/3 up right now; The first part is at
(That's the interview).

Any moment now, the last part will go up. That'll consist of me reading "Being an Experiment..." and enlisting Kevin and Amanda to help me read the Bilquis section of the first chapter of American Gods.

And finally, an article on Boing Boing about Cairo, not the one in Egypt but the one in Illinois, which has been on my mind a little recently from having been doing the Tenth Anniversary American Gods copy-editing. While I think Cory's description of it as a Ghost Town is exaggeration, things don't look good. And from this informative post I learned of the trouble people who wanted to start a punk coffee house there have had (it's now for sale).

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Dog Ate My Homework.

Actually my homework is pretty much all that the dog* hasn't eaten. Shoelaces and shoes are her favourites. The blog was swallowed by a failed attempt to blog from my phone (I wrote a great long blog on the phone today on a blogging app while at the dentist's, and then tried to attach a picture, did it wrong and sent the blog off into the netherworld instead. Probably my own fault for talking about the second book in the American Gods sequence.)

But I'm still doing the giant American Gods Tenth Anniversary Edition proofread and copy-edit. (It'll be out in June.)

I'm going to finish that before I reconstruct the blog entry. So, for your enjoyment and curiousity, I'm reposting the Prisoners of Gravity episode on Sandman from 1993...

If you've ever wondered what Charles Vess or Jill Thompson or Craig Russell or Karen Berger or Dave Mckean looked like 17 years ago (or longer -- Mark Askwith was collecting the interviews for a while), or what baby Neil was like, now's your chance.

PS: Oh, okay. That's not really baby Neil. I was probably 32.

is Baby Neil.

PPS: the CBLDF has a bunch of original artwork and suchlike up for auction on eBay. Great holiday gifts for other people, or yourself.

* Lola. Cabal does not eat anything he is not meant to. Sometimes he doesn't eat things he is actually meant to eat either.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

There's a Weeping Angel In My Honey and Other True Things

I went to LA to spend Thanksgiving with Amanda's family, but before Thanksgiving Amanda and I were guests on Kevin Smith's inaugural "Starf*cking" interview, at his Smodcastle, a fifty-seat theatre in Hollywood, in front of a live audience. It was a three hour show, or longer - Kevin interviewed me and Amanda, then Amanda played, then I read "Being An Experiment...", after which I inveigled Kevin and Amanda into helping me do a scene from AMERICAN GODS as a three-hander.

You can listen to it soon: is where it'll go live (for a 90 cent donation for all of the three chunks - or more, if you are feeling affluent, all of which goes to The Wayne Foundation) (this is The Wayne Foundation's Mission Statement).

(Photos by Allan Amato)

This is Amanda at soundcheck.

And once that was done I felt like I was off-duty and stopped taking photographs, so the adventures that followed are pretty much unrecorded, photographically. I saw lots of friends, travelled by train (Christopher Salmon's film of The Price got its kickstarter funding as I was having breakfast on the train from Los Angeles to Santa Fe. 2001 of us funded it. You are all awesome), played the melodica with Amanda's three-year old nephew Ronan, rewrote a film script, and copy-edited the American Gods Tenth Anniversary edition.
I meant to blog about NPR's Science Friday Broadcast of the 2010 Ig-Nobel Awards, (as described at at (you can download the evening in podcast form here).
Then I got home, in a snowstorm, to find a Weeping Angel in a jar of honey. (A photograph and explanation of sorts can be read in

I've spent most of the last day on deadlines. But sometimes I've walked the dogs. (I love this photo. It's so hard to get them both looking in the right place.)

Cabal is walking better each day.

The whole Snow thing is completely new to Lola, who tends to walk with her tongue out, licking as she goes.
The white dogs tend to vanish in the snow when I'm walking them, especially at dusk. Really vanish. From the front you have noses and eyes. From the rear, they're invisible...

These photos above were all taken with my Nexus 1 phone, using the Vignette camera app. (I talked about it on NPR at

The one below was taken with a real film camera - a Lomo LC-A+. The Lomo people have just done an interview with me (you can read the questions here at and offered any of my blog/Facebook/Twitter followers a 15% discount on anything from the Lomo shop (here's the US one) if you put in NEILHIMSELF as your checkout code.

Right. Tomorrow, more bloggage. And not just a list of stuff I meant to tell you...

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