Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gaiman Gala Reminiscence

OK, I will admit it is odd to have a reminiscence about something that has JUST happened... but the thing is, this is my thank you not to Neil Gaiman but to all of you! When I first sent out my deluge of emails to friends, family, and acquaintances, I was inundated with enthusiastic responses. Not everyone had the time to write a toast or contribute, but most wished they did, and others were just excited to read the posts. I had a few toasts appear so quickly in my inbox I felt as if the words had been waiting years to be written and finally had found an outlet here on my blog. This response gave me such bookish glee. Yes, if there was a rock star of the literary community it would be Neil Gaiman, but to see all of you fangirling like me, well, it warmed the cockles of my heart. Now read that sentence back while looking at the above picture and you'll be oddly disturbed and I'm sure Neil would approve. Moving on... you guys seriously rock. You guys have also been asking (in some cases begging and pleading) for more. So who knows... perhaps in the near future another glass will be raised? Perhaps to another author? Perhaps to Neil from all those who wanted to but couldn't this time? But today. Right now. This one's for you.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Tuesday Tomorrow

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham
Published by: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: November 29th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 224 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can."

Yes, it feels a little bit too much of a tie-in to the show returning, but really, who cares? It's Gilmore Girls! 

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis by Anne Rice
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: November 29th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 480 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From Anne Rice, conjurer of the beloved best sellers Interview with the Vampire and Prince Lestat, an ambitious and exhilarating new novel of utopian vision and power.

"In my dreams, I saw a city fall into the sea. I heard the cries of thousands. I saw flames that outshone the lamps of heaven. And all the world was shaken . . ." --Anne Rice, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis

At the novel's center: the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt, hero, leader, inspirer, irresistible force, irrepressible spirit, battling (and ultimately reconciling with) a strange otherworldly form that has somehow taken possession of Lestat's undead body and soul. This ancient and mysterious power and unearthly spirit of vampire lore has all the force, history, and insidious reach of the unknowable Universe.

It is through this spirit, previously considered benign for thousands of vampire years and throughout the Vampire Chronicles, that we come to be told the hypnotic tale of a great sea power of ancient times; a mysterious heaven on earth situated on a boundless continent--and of how and why, and in what manner and with what far-reaching purpose, this force came to build and rule the great legendary empire of centuries ago that thrived in the Atlantic Ocean.

And as we learn of the mighty, far-reaching powers and perfections of this lost kingdom of Atalantaya, the lost realms of Atlantis, we come to understand its secrets, and how and why the vampire Lestat, indeed all the vampires, must reckon so many millennia later with the terrifying force of this ageless, all-powerful Atalantaya spirit."

Seriously, if you're laughing as hard as I am after reading this synopsis, let's be best friends! 

Friday, November 25, 2016

My Toast

"There was a time when reading had stopped giving me joy, and then you entered my life. Through the magic of your storytelling you reignited a flame in me and now it burns brighter then I ever thought possible, giving my life focus. Through your stories I have met and connected with some of my dearest friends both on and off the page, because even if some is "fictional" it doesn't make them any less real, something you have amply shown. Your work has become a part of my life's journey and made it have that shimmer, that something wonderful, that something magnificent. The knowledge that something unexpected could be around the next shadowy bend and I can meet it head-on. The fact that I met you still seems as if it was some sort of fever dream. But you sat there and indulged me while I told you how in reading Neverwhere I now have a cherished memory of my cat Spot. I cherish all the memories you have given me over the years. My little Gaiman Gala was just a small way to reach out, to say thank you, to let you know that what you've done matters to me, even if you never know. Thank you." - Elizabeth

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book Club Neil Reminiscence

As summer drew to a close in 2015 my book club took advantage of the fine weather for our meeting and sat in cafe chairs sharing a Caprese salad while the last warm breeze teased the air. It was a day where you could feel the shift of the seasons, summer was ephemeral, much as the impression left by The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Ironically the member of my book club who put Neil's book into the hat was unaware of the unofficial book club outing two years previously, but somehow, the book getting picked, despite the attempted rigging to get The Martian selected, seemed right. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was coming full circle. We got to talk about our previous adventure but having now read the book there was a deeper meaning to that journey. What struck me, and the rest of book club, was that while we all rated it highly we agreed that it was a hard book to discuss, because much like summer, the book was slipping away from our collective conscious.

Much like the unknown narrator's continual memory loss as to what exactly happened in those days with the Hempstocks, this is a book that you enjoy while reading yet somehow when you finish you don't quite remember what happened. Oddly enough I don't think that this is a deterrent for the book. I think often of A Wrinkle in Time and how many endless occasions have led to me re-reading that book since it was first read aloud to me in forth grade, and yet I can not for the life of me tell you what exactly happens in that book. Yet both these books leave behind this feeling of childhood and hopes and dreams and endless possibilities that are just there for the taking. They are both classics in that they capture something true. Something crucial to hope and life. Now The Ocean at the End of the Lane might not be my favorite book by Gaiman, but I connect it to hope, and these wonderful experiences I have had with my friends, and that is pure magic.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tuesday Tomorrow

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"I do not like the name Alexandrina. From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria. Melbourne nodded. Victoria.

Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world. Surely she must rely on her mother and her venal advisor, Sir John Conroy, or her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who are all too eager to relieve her of the burdens of power.

The young queen is no puppet, however. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.

Everyone keeps saying she is destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.

Drawing on Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen richly to life in this magnificent novel."

Even if I wasn't suffering from severe withdrawal since the end of the Victoria series ended this would be a must read for all the Lord M that apparently was cut for time from the series. More Rufus!

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Published by: Blue Rider Press
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience."

Royalty week continues with another of my favorite royals... Princess Leia! 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Michael's Toast

"I will leave it for others to hoist a pint to the literary influences Mr. Gaiman has had on them or on their own work. For me, it’s his inspiring lectures and tireless work on behalf of reading, literacy, and most importantly the centrality of libraries to a civilized society that command my gratitude.

His eloquence certainly speaks to me as a writer but I am also a grandparent who trusts that his own grandchildren find the joy in discovering that, as he once wrote, “libraries really are the gates to the future.” He has written of his own childhood in a wonderful local library that served as his point of departure into the broader world. A place where when he finished with the children’s section he dug right into the adult books. That mirrored my own experience, but I was doubtless thousands of miles away in a sleepy small town in central Illinois. (A difference, though, in that I had to have my parent’s written permission to check out those tempting adult books (it was the 1950s after all) which they readily gave.)

My own library discoveries included extraordinary singular travel tales by the likes of Richard Halliburton who died far too young while trying to sail a Chinese junk across the Pacific; outdoor adventures penned by Jim Kjelgaard, including one of the best dog stories ever, the beloved Big Red; and a long list of titles by the nearly forgotten Mika Waltari, particularly The Egyptian. So moved by his work was I that I asked my parents to call me “Mika” from then on and not Mike as everyone did. It was so much cooler. I sent away for some bubble gum wrapper thingamajig and wrote my return address as “Mika” Norman. I was thrilled the USPS delivered whatever it was I asked for directly to our door with no questions asked.

Who knew that fifty years later I would have an Egyptian daughter-in-law?

Nearly every writer, every library patron, every “civilized” person likely has a similar story, but these are some of my own. So I toast Neil Gaiman for his writings and speeches about and advocacy for libraries everywhere and all the magic each and every one of them has tucked away inside." - Michael

Michael has always been in my life. My parents were first his publishers for his "Haunted" books and now that we are no longer in publishing my Dad acts as his agent. But with Mike it's never been a business relationship, he is practically family. It's always a joy to see him when he comes through Madison, having taught journalism for years up in River Falls, where he still lives. Thanks to Facebook and emails we are constantly keeping each other updated on everything bookish, even though I still get most excited seeing him on old Travel Channel specials talking about ghostly haunts. Keep your eyes open because you never know when a new Michael Norman book might show up on the shelves.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Meeting Neil Reminiscence

On an April day in 2013 I received an email that Neil Gaiman would be coming to Chicago that summer to do an event for his forthcoming book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I didn't even bother to wait, instantly buying my ticket and spreading the word among my friends that they should do likewise so we could have a wonderful adventure together. I was beyond excited because I was finally going to meet Neil. What made it even more momentous was that Neil announced that this would be his last signing tour. He'd still be doing events, just not signings that went on into the wee hours of the morning and left his hand crippled.

Fast forward several months to Tuesday, July 9th. Four of my friends were going with me and we left damn early, arriving in Chicago a little before noon. I had already secured parking in advance, so now all we had to do was wait until the doors opened at 6PM. I think when my friends noticed that there was no line and we had about seven hours to wait they thought I was a little crazy for leaving so early, but by the end of the night they would see the genius of my plan. We ate a delicious lunch a few doors down from the Music Box Theatre, and then ambled into line. Or I should say, we started a line. A line that would soon stretch for blocks and blocks, weaving and snacking over the hot pavement as the rain we were promised didn't materialize and the umbrellas we had brought were soon being deployed to block the harsh rays of the sun as we tried to cling to whatever shelter the marquee of the theatre offered us.

We even started taking turns going to the CVS a few streets down, not to get anything, but to revel in the air conditioning. That sweet sweet air. Eventually the time the doors were to open got nearer. There were actual employees of Unabridged Bookstore on sight... one of which I might have in my heat induced mania yelled at saying they were a line cutter. And yes, I did apologize once I was let in saying it was a long wait and the heat of the day had taken it's toll. Despite being the first ones in line we weren't in the first row... because that was reserved for friends. So we had to content ourselves with the second row.

That's right. There was some floorspace and one row of seats of "special" guests between us and Neil, once he appeared that is. At this point the relief of the cool theatre and having seats started to assuage the doubts of our early arrival on the scene and the hours in the blistering sun. The next hour was spent writing questions down on pieces of paper for Neil to answer in his Q and A, as well as buying even more of his books because I can not pass up books at a book signing and neither can my friends. As for my question for Neil? I know at the time I felt it was very important and I had to know the answer, but it wasn't picked and seeing as I don't even remember what the question was, it couldn't have been that interesting.

When Neil finally took the stage I had a sense of unreality. The long day, the heat, and somehow, here at the end of it, was Neil standing before me reading in that melodious voice of his from The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Whenever I read the section where we are first introduced to the Hempstocks I hear his voice like a siren call and remember the chills I had when he first read them aloud to me. Chills on such a hot day, I didn't think it was possible! Neil also read from Fortunately, the Milk, and it instantly became my most anticipated book of the fall.

But let's get to what it was all about in the end, the signing. Those few seconds in which I could interact one on one with Neil. I had brought with me an old Marvel trading card that used to be my brother's and featured Neil, as well as my copies of The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere. They had said only one item could be brought from home but I brought everything just in case, and it paid off, because they said we could have two items signed besides our copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane and thanks to my friend and fellow toaster Aaron, I got everything signed. Neil was very polite when I pulled out the trading card giving me a little story about how they had airbrushed on his tan in a tale he's probably told many times before but which entranced me.

Yet it was my story that I wanted to tell him, about Neverwhere and a cat. About how the first time I read one of his books my kitty Spotty never left my lap, which was unheard of. Reading Neverwhere is a memory I will always cherish and it's thanks to Neil that I have it. He declared the appropriate thanks to Spot for his fortitude, knowing the fickleness of cats, and signed my copy of Neverwhere. That right there was all I had ever hoped. The chance to tell Neil how his book gave me a memory of my two favorite loves, my cat and reading, which, except for him, were always like water and oil.

My group was done with the signing line at around 9:30PM and right then is when my friends realized my cunning plan. That signing line was to go on until 3AM whereas we went back to that lovely restaurant, had amazing desserts, seriously, a coconut sorbet to die for, got back to the car by 10:30PM and were home in our beds before Neil had even had a chance to put his pen down. It was a day to remember for the rest of my life, much like a day two days later where I went on a walk and got so many mosquito bites that I went into shock. But that's a story for another day. Or a story for never. Yeah, let's never revisit that story.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tuesday Tomorrow

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
Published by: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: November 18th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"J.K. Rowling's screenwriting debut is captured in this exciting hardcover edition of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay.

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt's fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. Featuring a cast of remarkable characters, this is epic, adventure-packed storytelling at its very best.

Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition to any reader's bookshelf."

Perhaps the script earlier this year was a warm-up for the screenplay? Though I will NOT be reading or buying until I see the film and decide if it's worthy for my Harry Potter collection. A bit snobbish? Perhaps, but one must be discerning. 

A Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri
Published by: Penguin Books
Publication Date: November 15th, 2016
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Two deaths lead Inspector Montalbano into investigations of corruption and power in the twentieth installment of the New York Times bestselling series

Montalbano investigates a robbery at a supermarket, a standard case that takes a spin when manager Guido Borsellino is later found hanging in his office. Was it a suicide? The inspector and the coroner have their doubts, and further investigation leads to the director of a powerful local company.

Meanwhile, a girl is found brutally murdered in Giovanni Strangio’s apartment—Giovanni has a flawless alibi, and it’s no coincidence that Michele Strangio, president of the province, is his father. Weaving together these two crimes, Montalbano realizes that he’s in a difficult spot where political power is enmeshed with the mafia underworld."

One of my mom's favorite series. Personally, I'm in it for the cover art! 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Published by: Touchstone
Publication Date: November 15th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious)."

There are few celebrities whose memoirs and opinions I care about... Anna Kendrick is  an exception.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Courtney's Toast

"Mister Gaiman. You should hear this toast in my flat middle western, slightly southern accent. I speak quite quick. Perhaps even fast. But my first words, Missssssttttteeerrr Gaaaaaaaimannn are slow and deliberate.

Quite odd indeed.

I should, from the start, say that I met you in graphic novels. That I was a nerdy girl pretending to be a cool nerdy girl and I wanted a comic because I am a painter and yet nothing ever appealed to me. Until Sandman.

And many hundreds of hours and mugs of strong tea and thick lattes later, you became one of my top five.

But many more eloquent writers and readers than me will talk about Sandman.

I should say I’ve read and listened to both versions of American Gods, and while I enjoy Coraline and Neverworld and The Ocean at the End of the Lane better, American Gods is a perfect book. And yet I am sure one of my friends will toast you with some little known mead and the perfect synopsis of why the tenth anniversary is indeed a better choice.

Best leave it.

Instead I want to celebrate the fact that as I write this, it is not my own voice I hear in my head (as usually I do when I write) but yours. I should find this curious but I do not. While I have read practically everything you’ve written (with the exception of the sneezing Panda books that I am saving for my soon to be niece or nephew), I have also listened to everything you’ve written.

For example, at this moment, both “A Study in Emerald,” “Wolves in the Walls,” and “Coraline,” are all downloaded in my phone. For that matter, so is “The View from the Cheap Seats.” I pick a chapter when I want to think about a writer or an idea. I pick a story when I want to be scared or entertained or frankly soothed.

But most of all?

It’s the way you tell your stories aloud. Neither reading nor performing, but telling.

I feel small and unaccountable excited as you spin out anything - interviewing Stephen King, introducing me to Dianna Wynn Jones (for which I will be always grateful), the kittens! that appear like Capra’s crows in so many books, although I did cry when the Opal Miner killed the narrator’s kitten in Ocean - and it reminds my of why books are magic. Of how hearing something I love makes my chest tight and my breath fast. How there can always be new worlds, even in the most boring of places. How books can be stories and stories are told.

Still it is your voice in my head and I think of this idea of the story. A tale you can tell for the simple and complex enjoyment of hearing it. And then I hear you read Neverwhere, and I believe, absolutely believe, that possibly this story is at least a teensy bit real. “I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane.” I wanted to live in the London of two Londons. Of Ming China eating terrible scary men and bumbling heroes making it up as they go along. I never wanted it to end.

Except I definitely wanted to find out how it would end up.

So as I toast you, mug of hot chocolate in my hand, I imagine you sitting on a chair next to my bed or at the other end of the couch from me, and I know I need only wait for you to take a breath.

Then you will tell me a story.

And I will listen with a kitten on my lap.

Gaiman readers one and all, be upstanding, raise your mugs of cocoa and give thanks one and all to Mr. Gaiman’s telling of the story.

Which absolutely beats toasting the Haggis in Gaelic." - Courtney

Courtney and I have actually never met in person, but in this day and age what does that really mean? Like many of my book loving friends I first became aware of Courtney through The Rory Gilmore Book Club on Goodreads, but it wasn't until one of our mutual friends insisted we get to know each other better that we noticed a similar taste in books and television. In fact just in requesting this Gaiman toast from her I might have reignited her addiction to Helen Fielding which I also suffer from. But it is her love of the mystical and magical and Gothic that made me know my Gaiman Gala wouldn't be the same without her.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Corlaine Cover Redesign Reminiscence

In one of my last semesters of school working my way to my Associate Degree in Applied Arts, Graphic Design and Illustration, I was assigned a dream class project, to redesign a book cover. Seriously, if I could just make all my money doing book cover design I would, but sadly I am not Chip Kidd. I had two major problems that needed to be surmounted, one was the specifications of the assignment, which stated that the cover had to be a photoshoot I would art direct, but more importantly, what book to pick? After much thought I narrowed it down to two choices, Agatha Christie's Sparkling Cyanide and Neil Gaiman's Coraline. In the end I chose Coraline. It wasn't for lack of ideas on the Christie front, it's just that I have never really embraced any of the different official covers of Corlaine, which I think is a common feeling if you look at the number of people who have made their own covers. Seriously, the fan are out there is amazing. Of course, the irony of this project is that I ended up not even liking my own re-design. I had the basic idea down, but a few missteps threw the whole design out of balance.

My only issue I take with Coraline in general is Dave McKean. I seriously love his work but sometimes, in fact a lot of the times, his imagery doesn't match what you're reading. There's a disconnect, one I felt most while reading The Graveyard Book. Neil and Dave do work well together, but sometimes I feel like they're not on the same page and they're both so talented and respectful of each other they don't call one another out on something that might need fixing. So for my cover I wanted to go in a direction that wasn't an interpretation of what was written but of taking specific items that are important to the narrative and making them real. One of my favorite parts of Coraline is when she fools The Other Mother by creating a fake picnic as "protective coloration" so I started with a picnic cloth as my base. I then spent weeks finding the right props, a stone with a hole in it to see through, a needle that was wicked enough to replace eyes with buttons as well as the buttons, three luminous marbles to symbolize the trapped children's souls. After much searching I found all I was looking for and I still have a large bag of insects if anyone needs some.

Where I went wrong was in trying to sew the title onto the fabric. Through many episodes of How I Met Your Mother I sewed and sewed and ended up with an illegible mess that should have been done on the computer at a later time. But the actual photoshoot was fun, getting to eat the pie one of my classmates brought to do a cover re-design for The Help, seeing how others interpreted what they had read. And despite viewing this project as unsuccessful, it was still a wonderful experience, I won't say learning experience because I hate that phrase so much even if I did learn a lot. I had such fun in bringing imagery from the world Neil Gaiman created into this world. Finding just the balance of his magical realm and the reality that exists within it. Neil drove me to take his words and make something. This is the gift of a true writer. To inspire his readers to want to not only live in his world but to create something tangible. To express their own feelings and thoughts through other mediums. A good author tells a story that is memorable, a great author tells a story that inspires.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tuesday Tomorrow

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: November 8th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Long before she was the terror of Wonderland―the infamous Queen of Hearts―she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

For me, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is sacred and not to be messed with. However, Marissa Meyer has shown time and again that if there's someone who can create a new twist on an old tale and succeed it's her. Therefore this is THE MOST anticipated YA book of the fall.

The Jekyll Revelation by Robert Masello
Published by: 47North
Publication Date: November 8th, 2016
Format: Paperback, 492 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A spellbinding thriller from the bestselling author of The Einstein Prophecy.

A chilling curse is transported from 1880s London to present-day California, awakening a long-dormant fiend.

While on routine patrol in the tinder-dry Topanga Canyon, environmental scientist Rafael Salazar expects to find animal poachers, not a dilapidated antique steamer trunk. Inside the peculiar case, he discovers a journal, written by the renowned Robert Louis Stevenson, which divulges ominous particulars about his creation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It also promises to reveal a terrible secret—the identity of Jack the Ripper.

Unfortunately, the journal—whose macabre tale unfolds in an alternating narrative with Rafe’s—isn’t the only relic in the trunk, and Rafe isn’t the only one to purloin a souvenir. A mysterious flask containing the last drops of the grisly potion that inspired Jekyll and Hyde and spawned London’s most infamous killer has gone missing. And it has definitely fallen into the wrong hands."

Yes, it sounds a little cheesy, but seriously, to combine literary icon Robert Louis Stevenson with Jack the Ripper it's a no-brainer that I'm going to read it. 

Rhythm and Clues by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Published by: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: November 8th, 2016
Format: Paperback, 312 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Amateur sleuth Odelia Grey tries to get a band back together―and get her mother off the hook―in book eleven of the award-winning series.

It’s a rockin’ flashback for Odelia Grey when her mother asks her to look into the disappearance of her neighbor Bo Shank, the former lead singer for a band Odelia idolized in her youth. But when a body is found in Bo Shank’s house, everything quickly gets thrown out of tune."

Just looking at that cover I want to hang out with this sleuth!

The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation by Shannon and Dean Hale
Published by: Candlewick
Publication Date: November 8th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 96 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Even monster-battling princesses get tired sometimes! But a peaceful time away is hard to find as the humorous New York Times best-selling series continues.

After battling monsters all night, a sleepy Princess in Black decides that she needs a vacation. After all, the Goat Avenger, a new hero who looks oddly familiar, has offered to protect the goats while she takes a much needed break. The very next day Princess Magnolia rides her bicycle to the seaside, where the air is salty, the sun is shiny, and the sea is as blue as monster fur. But just as Princess Magnolia is about to take a nap on her hammock, she hears a "ROAR!" Seriously? A monster? On the perfect beach? Impossible! Could a sea monster really ruin this vacation for the Princess in Black?"

New Shannon Hale book, it's a mandatory purchase. 

Jim Henson's Labyrinth Artist Tribute by Various
Published by: Archaia
Publication Date: November 8th, 2016
Format: Paperback, 112 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Get Lost in the Labyrinth as You’ve Never Seen it Before!

In the thirty years since its original release in 1986, Jim Henson’s timeless fantasy film Labyrinth has captured the minds and imaginations of authors, artists, filmmakers, and fans across the world. In honor of the film’s 30th anniversary, return to the world of Labyrinth and see the beloved characters, imaginative locations, and unforgettable moments as realized by a collection of uniquely original artistic voices in an unprecedented celebration of the cult classic thirty years in the making.

Labyrinth: Artist Gallery features illustrations and testimonials from comics luminaries and newcomers alike, including: Mike Allred, Joëlle Jones, David Mack, Rebekah Isaacs, Eric Powell, Gustavo Duarte, Jill Thompson, Mark Buckingham, Tula Lotay, Faith Erin Hicks, Ramón Perez, Dustin Nguyen, Mike Huddleston, Jeff Stokely, and many more of your favorite artists!"

Seriously, I pre-ordered this book as soon as I could. That cover alone people!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Aaron's Toast

"Neil Gaiman is such a cultural badass that an entire race on Babylon 5 was named after him. The Gaim Intelligence* was the collective name for the monarchy made up of the six Gaim Queens, each of which control their own specific territories on their homeworld of N'chak'fah. I think we can all read between the lines on that one! Well played, Neil." - Aaron

*The masks of The Gaim Intelligence were designed to strongly resemble the mask of Dream, the titular character in Gaiman's graphic novel The Sandman

I met Aaron outside that same Paul Magrs reading as I did his lovely wife Janice. They are staples of our book club, The Last Word, but Aaron always brings something extra: he is the king ultracrepidarian. But he doesn't just contain his acerbic wit and comments only to things outside his ken, he is probably the most informed person I know on all things science fiction and paranormal. Need to know about MKUltra? He's your man. Need to know about all the hidden symbolism in the works of Kubrick? Again, turn to Aaron. He will have a color chart breakdown of 2001 ready and waiting. What's more Aaron is finally go to be a published author! Aaron's story, "The Woman Who Sold the Moon" will appear shortly in Obverse Books' A Clockwork Iris, edited by George Mann, Paul Magrs and Stuart Douglas.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Discworld Reminiscence

I love to think back to the North American Discworld Convention in 2011 as the short time I physically lived in Discworld. Terry Pratchett's books have transported me there many times, but to have a physical passport and walk among people who were living the same immersion experience I was, well, that was truly unique. As an added bonus a few of my other favorite authors were along for the journey. There was Esther Friesner, Patrick Rothfuss, Stephen Baxter, and the rumors of Neil Gaiman. Since day one of the con the rumors had been spreading that the reason the Good Omens panel had been moved from it's scheduled time on Saturday to Sunday was because Neil himself would be coming. To have Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in the same room together would be ecstasy. This seemed like it was literally too good to be true yet the whispers continued. I started to get swept up in the anticipation of possibly FINALLY seeing Neil Gaiman. My mind was making pro/con lists and I kept hoping that the pro of Neil actually living in Wisconsin would tip the scales. I couldn't concentrate on making my Sock Mac Feegle, I couldn't keep my lunch down. I was like an overexcited small child who was destined for a tantrum and in need of a nap.

That afternoon the crush to get into the main hall was epic. I wasn't the only one who was willing to believe in rumors and hearsay. But as it happens, sometimes there are glittering moments in your life when everything aligns and rumors are true. The cheers, which must have been heard blocks away, started before I could even see them. People were soon on their feet as Neil and Terry came into view. Then just hearing Neil speak. That voice! It was just enough to hear his voice. The panel was oddly voyeuristic. I felt like I was sitting watching Neil and Terry just chatting in their living room. They recounted many stories about how Good Omens was written, many of the anecdotes I'd read about before, but it was different seeing them reminisce. They also upheld the belief that at one point the book started writing itself because there is one line they both love but they swear neither of them wrote. They also discussed taking the picture for the back cover of the book. Terry remembers thinking how cool the "black and white" look would be, only Neil laid claim to the black so he was nice and warm in this cemetery, in winter, in England. While Terry was wearing a pair of very lightweight cricket pants and all the cricket accoutrement, being the only white clothes they could find at that time of year. Therefore you have the cool laid back Gaiman who spent the day climbing on tombstones, and a cold Pratchett huddling in the meager warmth of the mausoleum.

At one point they sang a bit of a They Might be Giants song and at another point, while recounting meeting a crazy person who wanted to buy the rights to the book demonstrated their "escape plan." They where to employ the code word "Biggles." But this lady was so beyond Biggles levels they both started to pretend to fly, in a move the fictional pilot would heartily approve. When Neil, near the end of the wondrous hour, got up and stood at the podium near me, he realized just how big the room was. Literally everyone from the convention came... well, they kept telling us not to miss it? And have I said... rumors? Here was Neil going, "Wow, there's people over here." It was nice to finally see his face and not just his dulcet tones. The podium had a purpose, of which Terry was suspicious. Turns out Neil was there to present the 2010 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy to Terry for I Shall Wear Midnight, a serious contender for my favorite Terry Pratchett book ever. Terry was very humble with his short speech: "About Bloody Time." I don't know if any author event or panel could ever live up to this. Since then Terry is sadly gone and Neil doesn't do as many events. But at least I can say I was there. Also, it wasn't the only time I was destined to see Neil.

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