talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Wow. How did it get to be Sunday? I spent the entirety of Friday writing a new story, and am pleased as punch to say the wordcount for the day stands at 9,221 words. That’s a personal best. It also explains why the last two days passed in a haze of pain and recovery. (Chronic illness does not forgive marathon writing sessions, just FYI.)

Things that I wrote:

Neil Gaiman’s “Troll Bridge,” illustrated by Colleen Doran, over at Nerdspan.

Things that I read:

These 100-Year-Old Colour Portraits of New York Immigrants Reveal Incredible Outfits,” by Matthew Tucker over at BuzzFeed, contains some insightful photographs and great cultural clothing information.
Photographers Upset by ‘Ask First’ Stickers at BDSM Folsom Street Fair” by DL Cade at PetaPixel, in which photographers behave badly and are rightly advised to rethink their jerkery.
What Nobody Tells You About Self-Care“, by Mawiyah Patten over at The Mighty, being full of some good points (mostly about self-care in the face of depression and anxiety, but some points also work for people with chronic illness).

Things that look like me:

I didn’t do a new drawing for Whiteboard Weirdness this week because I’m enjoying having Deadpool on my fridge way too much. Instead, I’m celebrating the advent of October with the return of the Other Deborah over at Twitter. This portrait of the Other Me was done by the excellent Alexa Bosy!


Also, check out the GeekDame banner above! It’s been tricked out for the season by the always delightful Lorraine Schleter!

Things that I’m excited about:







Click the pics if you fancy purchasing any of the above! I get a modest kickback from Amazon if you do.

Mirrored from Please comment there.

talkstowolves: (all the poets know)
Apparently this story has been available on Neil Gaiman's website for some time, but I just became aware of it when he twittered a link just a few moments ago.

Which story? Why, "Cinnamon" - a luscious and exhilarating piece of his that has never been collected. I first encountered it on the Neil Gaiman Audio Collection; it snuck up on me, a shiver-inducing surprise after I listened to "The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish" and "The Wolves in the Walls."

A fond memory: laying in the darkness of a humid Tokyo evening, drowsing on my futon while Neil Gaiman read "Cinnamon" to me from my laptop's speakers. A jungle painted in my mind, a tiger's fur roughsoft under my palms, and a strong Indian girl flashing a confident and adventurous smile at me.

It's rather short, beautifully illustrated, and available for free right here. Do read it!

Also, if you've a mind to listen his gorgeous reading of it, it's available rather cheaply at Audible.

This entry was originally posted at Livejournal on February 28th, 2010. You can comment here or there.
talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (Default)
Last Monday (by which I mean December 14th, not yesterday), I saw Neil Gaiman in Decatur, Georgia. He was there because the Little Shop of Stories put on one of the best Graveyard Book Halloween parties in the nation (alongside Winnipeg's McNallly Robinson) so he came to do a reading, and a signing, and a bit of Q&A. Not in that order. We were at Presser Hall at Agnes Scott college, and the 500 seats in that auditorium were not nearly enough. The joint forces of Agnes Scott and Little Shop had set up an overflow room with a screen for the event, allowing the number of attendees to swell to approximately 1050 people.

And Neil Gaiman had promised to sign for every one of us, before an early morning flight to Winnipeg the next day. The event began at 6:00 PM. How long until this man is dubbed the Saint of Readers?

Brilliant photo of Neil reading from Odd and the Frost Giants is by brilliant [personal profile] photognome.

It was definitely weird, realizing that I was only, in 2009, in the same room with Neil Gaiman for the first time. I've been reading his works since I was 16 and randomly picked up Good Omens in the bookshop because I was Apocalypse-obsessed and it had a humorous cover. Around the same time, I independently came to be introduced to The Sandman through Death (not quite realizing the chap who co-wrote Good Omens with Terry Pratchett also wrote those Endless graphic novels I was reading) and, a bit later, The Dream Hunters. I came to his blog as everyone did in the beginning, through American Gods, and have been reading his assorted thoughts, quips, and cat-and-dog picture-spam posts since mid-2001. That's about eight and a half years now. Bizarre.

The day dawned in an incredibly dense fog: visibility was less than a mile and flights were severely delayed at Hartsfield for quite some time. For a while there, it was questionable whether Neil's flight would make it in from Orlando. Luckily, it did. Later that night, we also had a thunderstorm roll through. Creepy fog and a wild thunderstorm: what more perfect weather for Neil Gaiman?

My husband and I met up with my friend Teresa about lunch-time in Decatur. Teresa, aka [personal profile] blueinsideout, happens to be a brilliant crocheter and had made a fantastic Nobody Owens in no time at all. He was to be a gift for Neil that night and I was sure he'd love him (I was right: he pronounced the Bod-doll "glorious" and asked Teresa for a hug). After admiring him from his perfect yarn hair (a wild halo, eerily similar to Neil's) down to his precisely-torn pants, we adjourned to the Matador Cantina for Mexican food goodness.

If you're ever in Decatur for lunch, don't go to the Matador Cantina. I'm just saying, the food was mediocre and not worth its price tag. You're paying more for the neighborhood than quality.

Subpar lunch done, we arrived at Agnes Scott in enough time to stand in line for approximately twenty minutes or so. The line wasn't too bad: it only stretched the equivalent length of a block, snaking around the sidewalks in front of Presser Hall. Andy and I managed to snag sets in the center of the auditorium, so that I hardly had to squint at all to see Neil's face. (And I think the majority of my squinting was more due to a slightly out-of-date glasses prescription.)

Even though the seats of the auditorium were a bit cramped and so many people had been waiting for some time, the audience was one of the most polite I've ever been in. It was marvelous: all around me, people were reading books or knitting scarves or even playing on their laptops. Most of us had our smart phones out more than once. My immediate seatmates were reading Terry Pratchett's Hogfather and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, while the ladies behind me had a spirited discussion about young adult dragon-raising fiction and the lads in front of me discussed plots to catch Charles Vess' signature (for an illustrated Stardust) next.

Before he came out on stage, Neil signed for some children back stage. It was a nice touch, and later he borrowed from the same group of kids to perform his readings. He snagged a copy of Odd and the Frost Giants from one boy, and then a copy of The Graveyard Book from another. The child-oriented readings remind me of an amusing quip the chair of the Decatur Book Festival - who introduced Neil Gaiman - threw out at us at the beginning of the evening: "You all know you're here for a children's reading, right? Because this group looks nothing like any children's reading I've ever attended." Ha! Neil Gaiman oeuvre is, indeed, mult-faceted.

Neil Gaiman came on with the wildest halo of hair I've yet seen him with, and I was momentarily startled that his locks didn't get a separate introduction. He immediately launched into an amusing explanation of how the Halloween party idea was born, which was basically that he sometimes finds words coming out of his mouth that he didn't intend, while his brain goes "...oops." ("Oops" sounds stupidly charming in his particular British accent, by the way.) After a nice bit of chatter, he read the second and third chapters from Odd and the Frost Giants.

During the later Q&A, he answered questions posed by people through the Little Shop's blog and which he hadn't had a chance to look at before coming on stage. He was asked about the origins of Coraline and The Graveyard Book, the answers to which I've heard more than once. (You can read about them, in brief, at this article on the Decatur event.) Someone asked him about his process of writing women, to which he replied that he writes women like he writes anyone else: as people, because they are. (He also mocked some comic book writers, saying he's read a great many titles where he's just stymied that the writers never seem to have met a real woman, even though they doubtlessly were given birth by one.) He was asked how social sites such as Twitter and Facebook have affected the writing life, to which he said he liked the immediacy of his readers in this Twitter world. He was also asked, randomly, what he thought of the works of T.S. Eliot. I don't know either.

The final question he took was, "Could you please tell us the meaning of life?"
His reply: "Eh, no. There are three rules here: never disclose the meaning of life, never name people's pets, and almost never name bands. It's just inviting trouble, otherwise."

After the second reading (the Nehemiah Trot advice scene from The Graveyard Book), the signing began, which was naturally long and tedious. The proceedings suffered from some poor organizational tactics on the part of the Little Shop staff, but most everyone was polite and patient during the wait. In fact, the only trouble I saw all evening was the woman who cut in front of Andy and me in line. We chose not to say anything to her, though. I ignored her rudeness in favor of discussing Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison and the like with the energetic fellow in front of her.

He began signing for people sometime just before 8 PM; it was nearly 11 before Andy and I made it to the table. After thanking him for supporting the Interstitial Arts Foundation and a good measure of embarrassing effusion, I walked away with two personalized books (my hardback, illustrated Stardust and anniversary edition of Good Omens) and a quick snapshot.

He didn't finish signing for people until after 1:00 AM, upon which point he only got a few hours of rest before having to hare off to Winnipeg. He signed at least one item for all 1050 people and, most often, two items. In the first three hours, the man only took one break. He is, seriously, an incredibly dedicated and gracious man. I really respect his consummate professionalism in relating to his fans.

I'm glad that I heard him speak, and I'm happy to have stood in line for him to sign some of my best-loved books. However, I don't think I'd ever do the signing business again: it's just too much madness, and I don't need all my Gaiman books signed. Still, I would definitely like to hear him speak and read again, and I definitely recommend attending such an event for any appreciator of his works.

Also, mad sincere thanks to the Little Shop of Stories, the staff at Agnes Scott, the Decatur Book Festival involved parties, and, of course, Elyse Marshall and those who made this happen at HarperCollins.
talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (Default)
This week at Green Man Review, the Neil Gaiman special edition is live! It features an essay by Deborah Grabien on her first meeting with Neil; a section full of recommendations on which work in Neil's oeuvre to start with, by greats such as Holly Black, Ellen Datlow, Delia Sherman, Charles de Lint, and Terri Windling; and two reviews by yours truly.

One of those reviews was published on September 9th, 2007: that would be the review of his young adult collection, M Is for Magic. However, my review of the Coraline film is new:

"The better part of a decade ago now, Neil Gaiman wrote a fantastically disturbing novel called Coraline. The titular heroine is a young girl, a smart and clever explorer languishing from the unfortunate condition of boredom. Luckily, this is a condition not fated to last, for her neighbors are oddballs and there's a creepy inverted world on the other side of a mysterious door. There are primordial rats who sing a terrifying song (we were here before you fell / you will be here when we rise) and an Other Mother with shiny black buttons for eyes. There are Lovecraftian horrors lurking in dark spaces between realities, and there are eerily evocative Dave McKean drawings. There's even a talking cat who chooses to use his powers for good.

How exciting it was, with such a novel, to discover that Henry Selick of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame would be doing a Coraline film adaptation! With Gaiman's wicked perfect tale and Selick's imaginative palette, how could anyone possibly be disappointed?

The answer is that we pretty much couldn't be." [Read the rest of this review by following the link.]
talkstowolves: Dayan, a cat born from an egg, takes his coffee with cream and dares you to say something. Punk.  (dayan takes his coffee with cream)
It never fails: George R. R. Martin makes a commenting-enabled post about his life over at [personal profile] grrm and the creeps come out. By creeps, I mean those individuals who think that George's only viable commitment is that he finish A Dance with Dragons, the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series NOW. In fact, preferably yesterday. Or, more accurately, TWO YEARS AGO.

It doesn't matter if George is posting about other writing (which he's perfectly entitled to do, being a writer). It doesn't matter if he posts about football (which is also fine, because he is a living being with multiple interests). It doesn't matter if he posts about taking a vacation or attending conventions to promote his writing. It honestly doesn't even matter if he posts about writing A Dance with Dragons. If he's not done, he's done these people wrong.

This line of thinking actually offends me. It's a huge breach in the fundamental respect one should afford another human being, not to mention being remarkably self-centered and crawling with entitlement-crazy.

Luckily for us, one of these creeps e-mailed Neil Gaiman to demand his opinion on George R. R. Martin's "slackness" in "letting [fans] down" by not delivering on his commitment to the fans to finish A Song of Ice and Fire (no, really). Neil Gaiman took the case and he did us proud:

I love Neil. And I really love George's A Song of Ice and Fire, but I never have and never will think of him as my bitch. Nor will I reprimand him like one. I'm interested in A Dance with Dragons being the best it can be; not churned out in a paroxysm of guilty workaholism the creeps would inflict on the man if they could.
talkstowolves: (all the poets know)
Although the tenth anniversary edition is the first Mythic Delirium volume I've ever read, I've long been aware of the publication by reputation: many poems have appeared in Mythic Delirium (or related titles edited also by Mike Allen) that have later been nominated for the SFWA's Rhysling Awards or been honored in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (2007), such as "The Descent of the Corn-Queen of the Midwest" by Catherynne M. Valente, "Songs for an Ancient City" by Amal El-Mohtar, and "To the River" by Jessica Paige Wick. One poem even recently won a Rhysling: "Eating Light" by F.J. Bergmann in 2008 (short poem category). (By clicking on those links, you can hear the poems read, often by the poet. Amal El-Mohtar's poetry is an especially sensuous delight when read by herself.)

Besides Mythic Delirium having such a solid pedigree, I've been intrigued by the poetry journal due to its ideological conceit: while the submission guidelines advertise that the journal publishes "science fiction, fantasy, horror, surreal, and cross-genre poetry," if the featured poems I've read on the website and the contents of Mythic Delirium #20 are anything to go by, all poems published therein exhibit some kind of world- or myth-building. All of these poems are about the way we create the larger world or the nuances of our inner worlds or the intersection of multiple personal worldviews.

I had been meaning to order an issue of Mythic Delirium for some time before #20 came out, but never found the right moment when memory and finances were properly aligned in order to do so (for the quality, it's really not expensive-- a one year subscription is $9). Of course, then Mike Allen excitedly announced that Neil Gaiman had sold Mythic Delirium a poem and would be appearing in the tenth anniversary issue. Being the unrepentant fan of Neil Gaiman's work that I am, this event rather galvanized me into securing a copy.

What I discovered was an unmitigatedly solid poetry collection; I also discovered that Neil's poem is not at all one of the best pieces in there, which led me to discover a vague sense of shame in relying on a Big Favorite Name to prompt me into securing a poetry journal I knew would more than likely be good. Of course, then I decided that if it took a Big Favorite Name with an Average Poem to draw in a vaster audience who would then discover a repository of good "off-beat and speculative poetry"--well, then, no harm done. In fact, plenty of good done! 

I wasn't totally blown away by any of the poems in Mythic Delirium #20, but I was rather delighted and pleasantly surprised by more than half the table of contents: not a bad ratio when you're talking about 25 disparate poems. To hit a few high points: I found Erin Hoffman's "Beauty Sleep" to be a compelling recreation of the "Sleeping Beauty" fairy tale, although a jarring word or two kept me from completely falling into her vision. "Hoyle's Baking Instructions" by F.J. Bergman was an intoxicating mess: either baking instructions, or instructions on how to gamble, or instructions on how to seduce a man... I'm not sure, which is both its winning and its losing card. It's just slightly too schizophrenic to be completely cohesive. Catherine Knutsson's "swansong" captivated me with its wing-beating lines, and "Millenial Mass" by G.O. Clark comes with a truly transfixing image at the end. David T. Manning both pleased and frustrated me with his "The Next Station": there's too much story there to stop with one poem! And while I found the characters intriguing and the accompanying illustration by Paula Friedlander evocative, I wasn't as engrossed by Amal El-Mohtar and Jessica Paige Wick's "Apple Jack Tangles the Maidy Lac with a Red, Red Ribbon" as I hoped to be. I think this is one poem that would be most impressive when read aloud, in character.

The rest of my list of favorites from Mythic Delirium #20 encompasses "Journeying" by Adrienne J. Odasso, "Hellawes" by Georgette Perry, "Klabautermann" by J.C. Runolfson, "From Dr. Owen's Obit" by Rolli, "From Dr. Owen's Journal (Unpublished)" by Rolli, "Last Gift from the Eldest" by Danny Adams, and "Myth" by Kim Malinowski. 

I found the remainder of the collection to be solidly average, with two exceptions: Sonya Taaffe's "Zeitgeber" was disappointing in its inability to achieve any sort of poetic resonance, the densely-rendered lines crouching on the page. And Darrell Schweitzer's "What If I Were Secretly the Phoenix?" fails to transcend the suggested mediocrity of its cinder-characterized main subject.

Another aspect of Mythic Delirium #20 that impressed me was its engagement with interior art: it featured seven illustrations specifically commissioned to accompany the poems. One of these illustrations - a star-inflicted, anatomically-correct heart - was even hand-colored by the artist Tim Mullins. Mullins' other illustration (see link below) and cover art for the issue are equally well done. I've already commented above on the powerful silhouette work of Paula Friedlander, and how one of her illustrations perfectly captured the tone of "Apple Jack Tangles the Maidy Lac with a Red, Red Ribbon."  Daniel Trout nicely depicted a forlorn sorceress of perilous ease in one of his illustrations, while Don Eaves and Terrence Mollendor disturbingly communicated the true insanity of the Astronaut Asylum in theirs (oh, "In the Astronaut Asylum" was a long poem by Kendall Evans and Samantha Henderson I so very much wanted to like more than I did).

In the end, I find myself most certainly sold on Mythic Delirium. Time to count up my pennies and purchase a proper subscription!

Relevant links:
Mythic Delirium website.
How a Mythic Delirium is assembled.
Listen to "Genesis" by Holly Dworken Cooley from Mythic Delirium #20 and see accompanying art by Daniel Trout.
Tim Mullins' illustration for Neil Gaiman's "Conjunctions."
[profile] selfavowedgeek's Rambling Not-Review of Mythic Delirium #20.
Cabinet des Fées' review of Mythic Delirium #20.
Charles Tan's review of Mythic Delirium #20 at Bibliophile Stalker.

Note to Neil Gaiman fans:
I know you want to know what Neil's poem is about. Here's an excerpt from Mike Allen's editorial that explains a bit:
"[Neil Gaiman's] poem 'Conjunctions' is, intriguingly, a companion piece to alternapunk singer Amanda Palmer's musical composition 'Trout Heart Replica,' both items apparently inspired by an extremely memorable visit to a trout farm."

Also, trivia about the title, from Neil's journal: "I was going to call my poem 'Trout Heart Replica' but when I told her that she said, 'You can't. That's what I called my song, and I got there first.' And she had."

Illustration by Paula Friedlander of "Apple Jack Tangles the Maidy Lac with a Red, Red Ribbon" above used with permission by the artist.

talkstowolves: "The beldam swore by her good right hand, but she lied." - Coraline, by Neil Gaiman.  (other mother's hand)
I have always been very fond of Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I remember awaiting it eagerly and being totally psyched when my pre-order with Amazon brought it to my door a day or two before the official release. I remember the self-discipline I marshaled to prevent myself from reading it before I went on a roadtrip up the East coast (it was supposed to be my road reading).

I first read it in a hotel room somewhere between Savannah and Charleston. It took me only a couple of hours, and I was completely creeped out. I've gone back to it several times, and I've never failed to love it or find myself spooked. I even bought the graphic novel adaptation that P. Craig Russell did and, even though I didn't like some of the ways Mr. Russell did things, I still found much to love.

Coraline is smart and clever. Her neighbors are oddball and there's a creepy inverted world on the other side of a mysterious door. There are primordial rats who sing a terrifying song (we were here before you fell/ you will be here when we rise) and an Other Mother with shiny black buttons for eyes. There are Lovecraftian horrors lurking in dark spaces between realities.

So, of course, I was totally stoked to discover that Henry Selick of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame would be doing the Coraline film adaptation.

Well, I saw it on Sunday. And it is truly wonderful: the opening scene is one of the most fantastically creepy scenes I've seen in a film in quite some time. The opulent settings are absorbing, engaging, and delightful. The story is well-paced and the creepiness of the novel just saturates the films (sans Lovecraftian horrors, though, sadly). The cat? Perfect. The film is edgy and lush and eerie. I can't wait to own it in Blu-ray.

But. You knew there was a but, didn't you?

Somehow, my Coraline didn't make it into the film. She's there in name and she's there in sass. But her cleverness has been lobotomized. Spoilers. )

I really like the film and I'm glad it got made. I hope it is popular so that more people will read the book and come to love the "real" story as much as I do. I can deal with the flaws as long as that's the case.

P.S. And they didn't have the line "Daddy, you've made recipe again" in! I mean, c'mon. GOLD.

P.P.S. As [ profile] sirandrew pointed out, this film is actually scarier than The Nightmare Before Christmas. After all, the majority of Halloweentown is jolly. The Other Mother is anything but: she is a real terror threatening real harm. And let's not forget what's behind the mirror. So Neil's assessment of children being able to handle this film depending on their response to Nightmare-- no, not the most accurate barometer, I'm afraid.
talkstowolves: Writing papers, writing papers, quoting Pratchett, writing papers. (Quote on the icon is from Pyramids.)  (ibid knows everything)
I meant to post this when I first saw it, five days ago, on Neil's journal, but it's only now when I should be tucking myself into bed to yawn sleepily (but with great delight) at Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin that I think to do so:

"The second draft is where the fun is. In a first draft, you get to explode. The objective (at least for me) is to get it down on paper, somehow. Battle through the laziness and the not-enough-time and the this-is-rubbish and everything else, and just get it written. Whatever it takes. The second draft is where you go and gather together the fragments of the explosion and figure out what it is you did, and make it look like that was what you always meant to do."

It's incredibly inspiring to know that Mr. Gaiman goes through the exact same things I do when we sit down in front of that blank, virgin page. To hear him say this frees me in some ways.
talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (Default)
So, Neil won the Hugo at WorldCon. (American Gods got it.) And he really didn't think he was going to win, so he had no speech prepared. And because he didn't have a speech prepared, the following ended up being part of his impromptu acceptance:

"There are three things I always wanted since I was fourteen: heat vision, the names of the twins who sat across from me on the bus at school, and later, as a writer, the Hugo."

He finished with: "Fuck, I got a Hugo."
And Tad Williams asked, "Wait, can he say heat vision?"

Ah, my beloved authors.

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