Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, the… whatever

Guinea pig?! I felt more like a cow. (No, don’t say it.)

Unfortunately I had been reading about cows on my way in to Manchester, on a most unwitch-like train, i.e. one that didn’t leave hours in advance. I felt so little inclination to go and hear Neil Gaiman yesterday afternoon, that I cut it finer than one should with British style rail travel.

Unfortunately, that was totally fine. I arrived at the Dancehouse theatre with 15 minutes to spare and thought it was going swimmingly. After which thought we ended up penned in rather like cattle, waiting forever to be allowed in. Stairs and reception and café filled up with eager Gaiman fans, plus a few small children (whose event this really was).

I decided that if things got any worse I’d just go home again, wondering why I’d come in the first place. I like Neil Gaiman. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like crowds, and he collects them. But I can put up with crowds if treated humanely. I wasn’t alone in waiting it out on the other side of the doors, near the toilets. Fortunately, once we were allowed up the stairs, my number seat was the right number seat and so I was allowed in. (But we still had to wait for everyone to be seated, and the whole event was train-like in running half an hour late.)

Why was I not keen? Everything about this book has gone not to plan. Publisher didn’t send me a copy. I had to buy my own when that became evident. The complimentary ticket for the event didn’t materialise, so I had to buy my own at the 11th hour. The crowds, as I said. The fact that there is no way I’ll stand in a queue for three hours to have a book signed. The fact that I’m old and grumpy. And a cow.

You could say that the whole thing was threatening to curdle. I decided not to get my camera out. I’d just sit there and ‘not be on duty.’

But, you know, once Neil came on stage he worked his usual magic. He is a born entertainer, and he does events so effortlessly that even I started to feel all calm and relaxed and almost happy. His voice is nice to listen to.

Neil Gaiman

(This is a photo of Neil. Try to imagine a red curtain in the background, and that his hair doesn’t hang down across his eyes quite so much. In which case he almost looked like this.)

He said we’d be guinea pigs. He wanted to test read a longer piece from Fortunately, the Milk… than he usually does. Lying in training for Westminster on Tuesday, when he has to read it all.

As for himself he is obviously a goldfish. Or two. He’s the dad who was exchanged for two goldfish. In a way the milk book is simply a continuation of the goldfish book, and an attempt to come up with a positive book for dads.

Neil talked about his very young book, Chu’s Day. Cute pandas who sneeze, apparently. Only, I didn’t hear – didn’t know – the title, so when he asked what we thought the next book would be called, I felt Wednesday seemed appropriate.

Btw, I didn’t take notes.

He recounted how it came about that Chris Riddell would illustrate Fortunately, the Milk…, this the shiniest book in history. And Neil is about the only one who doesn’t find the charicature of himself all that amusing.

Then it was question time. Say what you want about his fans, but they ask good questions. Not all of them were fans, however, so a pattern developed where the person doing the asking qualified how fan-like they considered themselves to be.

One question was about Terry Pratchett, and in the end we all felt we were privy to some personal secret (and I don’t mean ‘when Terry slept with Neil,’ which he did, when they were both younger and poorer and didn’t buy the hotel first if they had to stay somewhere), and that’s a great skill to have. Neil even made the last rather pedestrian question sound exciting, because he was able to make the answer really special.

At the end of all that, ‘we will do some signing.’ Though Neil reckoned it would be best if he signed, until his head fell off, and the rest of us waited patiently in line.

Well, I didn’t do that, so I have no idea how long his head stayed put. Here is a photo someone took earlier, showing what Neil looks like when signing.

Neil Gaiman

‘Did you enjoy that?’ said the adult to the small child behind me. Small child said nothing. This was not a small child event, whatever the organisers say.

Now me, I did enjoy it. In the end. Neil always delivers. But I’d be happier without the crowds.

Fortunately, the Milk…

Well, I liked it. Having heard conflicting opinions on Neil Gaiman’s latest offering for children, beautifully illustrated by Chris Riddell, meant I couldn’t work out if it was supposed to be good or merely a bit meh.

Fortunately, the Milk… is a tall story about an inept dad who takes an absolute age to go out for milk so his poor children don’t have to have their cereal with orange juice. (Though it beats having it with coffee.) On the other hand, the dad has a lot happen to him while he’s bringing the milk home, so maybe he couldn’t help the delay. (Except, he was wanting his tea, with milk, so should have been fairly keen to get home.)

Aliens, pirates and time-travel with a dinosaur are among the things he claims happened. His children have possibly heard tall tales before, so take it with a pinch of salt. Although, who knows?

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell, Fortunately, the Milk...

Thanks to Chris Riddell’s many, detailed pictures we find that the dad is a young Neil Gaiman look-alike, which actually makes it more fun. (I don’t know why it does, but it does.)

It’s a silly plot, so I won’t try to tell you more about it. Just read the book, and make sure you look at all the pictures (which might take quite a while). Fortunately, the Milk… wouldn’t be the same without them.

The EIBF 2013 programme

It’s not exactly a bad programme this year. It’s not exactly short on authors, either. I’ve probably missed a few, seeing as I have only browsed the pdf  in a hasty fashion, but even so, were it not for the fact that I actually know I am unable to cover the full two and a half weeks of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’d sign up for the complete works. Again.

I’d been thinking a weekend. Maybe a longish weekend, but no more than four days. But which longish weekend? And what about the fantastic midweek offerings?

This is going to be an easy post to write! I could simply list authors, one after the other. But that would be boring.

For the time being I will not cover the adult writers, although I noticed Salman Rushdie is coming. Roddy Doyle. And Patrick Ness is an adult this time.

So, first weekend ‘as usual’ we have Meg Rosoff, as well as her stable (yeah, right…) mates Eoin Colfer and Cathy Cassidy. Anne Fine, Tommy Donbavand, Helena Pielichaty, Linda Strachan, Andy Mulligan. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner. Obvious choice. First weekend it will be.

Meg Rosoff

On the other hand, during the week when it grows a little quieter we have Elizabeth Wein. Hmm. Debi Gliori with Tobermory Cat. Nicola Morgan. Lari Don and Vivian French. Damien M Love. Well, that would be good!

But Elen Caldecott is someone I’ve always missed. She’s there the second weekend. It will have to be the middle weekend. Charlie Fletcher, Teresa Breslin and Eleanor Updale, Jon Mayhew and Darren Shan. Need I say more? OK, Tom Palmer, Chae Strathie. Melvin Burgess. Keith Gray.

Jonathan Stroud has a new book coming, which I like the look of. And he’s there the second week. So are Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry, and Daniel Hahn is talking translation. That is interesting.

Having said that, the last, extra long weekend looks by far the best. Doesn’t it? Judit Kerr. Neil Gaiman. Our new children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman. Our own Liz Kessler, and Tim Bowler. Philip Caveney from ‘home’ and Derek Landy, whom I’ve not seen for a long time… Jo Nadin and Spideyman himself, Steve Cole.

Yes. No competition there. Except maybe all the other days.

What do the rest of you think?

(Sorry. I see I have done a list after all.)

Bookwitch bites #106

It is – dare I say it? – getting warmer. Let’s throw the covers off. (For me personally that means one layer less. Maybe.)

Neil Gaiman has unveiled his cover for later this year. Fortunately the Milk will look like this:

Neil Gaiman, Fortunately the Milk - cover by Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell made that cover. He also did these illustrations – and presumably many more – for the book.

Neil Gaiman, Fortunately the Milk - ill. by Chris Riddell

Neil Gaiman, Fortunately the Milk - ill. by Chris Riddell

I was going to say I can’t wait. But I will have to. Fortunately the Milk will appear roundabout the time when I put another layer back on again.

And you know those other kinds of covers? The ones of girls, that scare me a little. Teri Terry’s Slated and Fractured both feature a girl on the cover, and oddly enough earlier this week I had wondered if they were the same girl. They look the same. And they don’t. A couple of days later Teri  blogged about her covers and the model (who is only the one girl). Now that I’ve seen what ‘Kyla’ looks like privately I am less scared. There is something about ‘the cover look,’ though.

Teri Terry, Slated

Teri Terry, Fractured

I think – because I am quite forgetful – that this last cover comes from my ‘facebook friend’ Arga Bibliotekstanten. That’s Angry Library Lady to you. She used to blog, but got fed up, and now has a large following on fb. Hardly surprising, as she’s forever giving us pictures of handsome men (posing with a book, naturally) to drool over or amusing ones to laugh at, and her acerbic comments about the users of her Swedish library are quite something. I hope I am never one of her customers!

Book cover

Bookwitch bites #101

Who wants books when they can have videos? You do?

OK, I will let you have book related video clips, then. With real live authors. Who to start with? I know it’s usually ladies first, but let’s get the boys out of the way. Just to get them out of the way.

That Lemony Snicket chap hasn’t given up yet. He has more weird books coming our way, and someone is about to tell you as little as possible about the next one. It’s what’s known as a leak. (No, not that kind of leak!)


Our second boy is less secretive. We can actually see what Neil Gaiman looks like as he talks about his new book (October in this case) Fortunately, The Milk… which is a book about milk, as well as many other silly things. Third boy, Chris Riddell, is doing wonderful illustrations of interstellar dinosaurs to go with the milk.

Moving on to the girls, we have Julia Skott, who will have her first book published later this year (and it has just struck me I don’t know in what language…). It’s non-fiction and it’s about bodies and health. Julia is the daughter of a Swedish journalist and a Russian academic, which is why she sounds like this when she speaks:


Someone who sounds pretty English and also pretty involved with saving libraries, is Fiona Dunbar, being grilled by someone on Sky News (who seems a little anti-library). Very brave of Fiona to venture into a television studio like this. Some of us would have seized up completely…

Finally to our last girls, who are not on video. There is a brand new blog featuring the life and works of Joan Aiken, run by her daughter Lizza. I wasn’t surprised to find a very early story by Joan on there, in facsimile. She clearly had the story-telling gene working right from the start. It’s about a teapot, and Satan. Obvious choice, really.

Joan also has a facebook page now. Please like!


Neil Gaiman’s dog has died. I would have treated this as private, had he not blogged about it so beautifully, thereby making it public. But it makes sense. If you talk about your beloved dog when it’s fine, you need to warn us when things are no longer so fine, or we will put our foot in it.

Lurcher with broken pottery

One thing I often use to illustrate the beauty of blogging, is getting to know the dogs of so many authors. Not necessarily in person, although that has happened a lot more than I had bargained for when I set out six years ago.

But even the dogs I’ve never met, I somehow feel I know well. I’m not an animal person, but if I were I’d be a dog person. I suppose it goes with being a writer, that you can express things well, and that goes for making your dog come alive in other people’s minds.

Except, there comes the day when the dog isn’t there anymore. I have made more than one author cry when asking about their dead dog, and I never meant to! Neil Gaiman won’t be avoiding all such questions, but he will miss many of them now. Even I, who is not a regular reader of his journal, feel I’ve heard a lot about his ‘white wolf.’

Liz Kessler and Poppy working in the garden

Some put their dogs in their books, like Poppy the pirate dog, who Liz Kessler belongs to.

How can we not love them?

The Gaiman effect

WordPress sent me their cheery stats for 2012. There really does not seem to be much one can do about Neil Gaiman. His fans create havoc when they land here, and very welcome havoc it is too.

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

At least the post about Neil – and Chris Riddell, actually – was written during 2012. As WordPress pointed out, some of my most popular ones are oldies, which means my writing has staying power. Apparently. They suggest I should write more about these topics. Which, apart from Mr Gaiman, seem to have been me (cough), Terry Pratchett, the Barrowmans and Cats with Asperger Syndrome.

Sort of a varied selection, then?

You came here from 162 countries, and Twitter sent you. Or Eoin Colfer, or John Barrowman. But funnily enough you were mostly interested in me (again), Oliver Jeffers, Liz Kessler, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Faraday.

Stats are weird, but then, so am I.

Here’s to 2013 when I will not be taking things quite as easy as I ought to. You can see how the W – for witch – wobbles above the fireworks. Tired already.

Wordpress 2012 blogging report

Oh Christmas tree

Christmas tree

Here we go again. The Bookwitch Christmas tree is up, but not dressed. Has probably not even had breakfast yet. We’ll throw some lights on it, maybe tomorrow, and then goodness knows when there will be time to add baubles and stuff. 2012 is a blue year. That means we leave the red baubles in the box and put the blue ones on the tree. One year I found we had too many decorations, so split them up according to colour.

Less is more.

I have blogged about similar topics on here before. But I must state that I do not have a religious tree. It has the word Christmas in it because that’s what this time of December is called. ‘Back home’ I would have a julgran, and according to Wikipedia Yule tree is half acceptable here. Many languages have secular words for their trees. Tannenbaum only means tree with needles, I think. The Danes and the Norwegians have their version of Yule and so do the Finns. Not sure who Noel is, but the Spanish speak of birth. Esperanto seems to have a Christ related tree-word, however.

But that’s beside the point. I feel anyone can have a tree if they want to, no matter what their religion, or lack of. And Christians don’t have to have one. It’s a seasonal decoration. (Mine consists of 56 branches and one top, all attached to a ‘trunk’ which divides in two. I know, because I was sad enough to count this time.)

Anyway, what got me started was this piece by Neil Gaiman from a few years ago. It was the first time I’d considered that non-Christians might have to go without trees. That they might even choose to. And that children will nearly always want what their friends have. Neil’s parents sound all right.

Mother-of-witch was a busy woman. She must have decided early on what she could cope with to make life Christmassy (juligt), and what we might as well be without. She chose tree and ginger biscuits.

That’s why I can do without most things, but not the tree and not the biscuits. And contrary to my gluttonous remark yesterday, if one thing has to go, it would be the biscuits.

Bookwitch bites #89

Anyone wants to hire an author? There is a new company called Authors Aloud UK who can put you in touch with one. I suspect they will only do author type stuff, no singing or washing up. It makes sense to have lots of authors under one organisational roof, and it will hopefully prove useful for schools, etc, as well as for authors who don’t mind getting out there.

The capable hands behind this venture are those of Jacqueline Wilson’s lovely publicist Naomi Cooper, along with super librarians Anne Marley and Annie Everall.

2013 will be a Neil Gaiman-y sort of year by the sound of it. He has an adult novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, coming our way, and quoting from Headline’s press release: ‘a new picture book Chu’s Day will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing at the start of 2013, followed by a children’s book for older readers later in the year. There is the eagerly anticipated prequel mini-series to his seminal comic book series The Sandman.  Neil is also scripting a new episode of Doctor Who to be screened in 2013, having written the multi-award winning 2011 episode ‘The Doctor’s Wife’.  Neverwhere is to be dramatised across two platforms on BBC Radio Four and BBC Radio Four Extra in the spring. HBO is developing six seasons of a television version of Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel American Gods.’

Phew. I wonder if some of these are things Neil ‘wrote earlier?’ Even he must sleep occasionally.

You might have noticed that J K Rowling has been in the news recently. What you might not have come across is a webcast about Potter-y stuff. It’s rather American, but never mind. They like their romantic Scotland.

One way of – almost – ending up with as lovely a bank balance as Neil’s or J K’s would be to win the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. The longlist (which as far as I know never turns into an official shortlist) was published this week. It’s longer than ever.

Meg Rosoff is on it, and so are 206 others. Many are ‘always’ on the list, and most would be very worthy winners. What I find odd is that along with the well known British names, there are people I’ve never heard of. British ones, I mean. I suppose it’s the judges’ way of doing a mini-Nobel, picking obscure writers.

Sara Paretsky

And if you fancy a more normal competition, there is one on Sara Paretsky’s blog; Where in Chicago Is V I Warshawski? ‘Every Tuesday for the next seven weeks we’ll post a picture on my blog of V I in a different part of Chicago. Guess the right location, and you’ll be entered into a drawing. The winner will get an early copy of the paperback edition of Breakdown, in bookstores on December 4th. The final week, November 20th, will have a grand prize drawing from all of the entries to the quiz (note: there will be no quiz on November 6th, election day. V I expects all Americans to be going to the polls).’

Get guessing, and don’t forget to vote.

The Book Job

Not being a regular Simpsons fan, I needed nudging to watch The Book Job. It was Son – via Dodo – who suggested it, and since he did so in the midst of a week when he had his own masterpiece (I’m so witty) to write, I took that as a sign that it really was a worthwhile episode, even for me.

The Simpsons - The Book Job, by Matt Groening, Gracie Films and  20th Century Fox

The Simpsons - The Book Job, by Matt Groening, Gracie Films and  20th Century Fox

The Simpsons - The Book Job, by Matt Groening, Gracie Films and  20th Century Fox

The Simpsons - The Book Job, by Matt Groening, Gracie Films and  20th Century Fox

It was. It didn’t take us long to work out why it was deemed suitable for a Bookwitch. I can’t sit here and quote the whole twenty minutes at you, but it really is full of the most quotable material. The bestseller that is full of ‘chapters.’ Aren’t they all?

And Lisa who was just going to ‘bang out 2000 words.’ It’s so easily done. Sitting ‘in a coffeeshop’ she ‘couldn’t feel more like a real writer.’ We know. It’s what authors do.

Except for the ones who are asked to be on the Simpsons. The poor Resident IT Consultant didn’t understand why Daughter and I burst out laughing, because he doesn’t recognise Neil Gaiman in cartoon form. Possibly not even in real life.

Bart and his crew decide to make big money by writing a bestseller. It’s a well known fact that books are written in book factories, where workers write until they drop. With the ‘vampire genre sucked out,’ they go for trolls. Wise move. (Even I haven’t read all that many troll books yet.)

While Lisa procrastinates over her music and her drink, the others write their book. But they need a ‘fake author’ so Lisa comes in handy after all. She also saves the bacon, with an ‘idea from every movie ever made.’ Good girl.

However, that Gaiman character is a tricky one. He heists his ‘way to the bestseller list once again.’ But at least Bart’s crew have realised they actually care more about what they created, than the money.

We needed a laugh. Thank you, Bart.

(Pictures ©  Matt Groening, Gracie Films and 20th Century Fox)