Friday, December 10, 2010

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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