Ode to my Evening with Neil Gaiman (on the Santa Rosa stop of the Last US Signing Tour)

Neil Gaiman event posterYesterday I drove for 2.5 hours (there was gnarly traffic on Highway 37) to get to Santa Rosa.  My ultimate destination: An Evening with Neil Gaiman: The Last US Signing Tour for the recently released novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Ocean).

I met up with my good friend Kim at her house where we caught up and talked about Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, several of his books, nerves and many other things. About 4:30 we left her house to head to the theater.  We were giddy and nervous and excited. We enjoyed our time in line people watching and checking out the ‘other item’ that people had brought for Neil to sign. There were many copies of American Gods (which Kim had), several Stardust novels, Good Omens, Anansi Boys, Stories (the edited anthology), and lots of Sandman (and Death) related books.

We entered the theater very shortly after the doors opened at 5:30 and took seats five rows from the front on the left hand side of the stage. An hour later, Neil took the stage. He was entertaining and engaging and utterly fantastic. He read from Ocean, answered several questions and tied in wonderful personal anecdotes.

  • neil gaimanHis favorite Muppet is The Great Gonzo.
  • Shirley Maclaine once pulled his hair to see if it was real.
  • When he was 9, he had a lisp and went to elocution lessons to correct it (and then continued the lessons for about five years).
  • Of his beekeeping: “Everyone should have a hobby that could kill them.”
  • Patrick Troughton is his ‘Doctor.’
  • He’s always afraid the fraud police are going to show up.

Then he read from his upcoming book, Fortunately, the Milk. It was hilarious! I will definitely be pre-ordering that (so I can be one of the adults ‘secretly reading a kids book’).  Neil spoke to us on stage for about an hour and a half. Then the signing began.

IMG_1229Kim and I were lucky enough to receive a signing pass with the letter ‘E’.  We knew we had some time to wait but not too much. I brought a deck of cards so we proceeded to play a couple rounds of rummy before switching to the less complicated game of Crazy Eights. We had a blast playing cards and people watching and every once and awhile stopping and staring in awe at Neil signing away.  And soon ‘E’ was called to line up.  We were herded like cattle and Copperfield Books staff guided us and prepared everyone’s books for signing (making sure a post-it note with correctly spelled names was inserted in the one book to be personalized, opening all the books to the right page to be signed, etc.).

I brought my copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane to be signed and personalized, several more copies of the book to be signed and gifted, and my (very heavy) copy of Absolute Sandman, Volume 1.  Kim had brought her copy of American Gods (formerly my copy) and her copy of Ocean.


She went first, but we were essentially together.  Neil looked up at her as he began to sign her books and commented on her height.  She said she was tall like a tree.  And he called her lovely.  We both kind of spazzed out and rambled a bit.


He started drawing a strange monster into her copy of Ocean instead of just personalizing it. And for some reason I started telling Neil about the fact that her copy of American Gods used to be mine….but now it’s hers.   He commented that books tend to find their home and whom they belong with. That was such a lovely comment and it really is true. He finished the little creature in her book, signed ‘Love Neil Gaiman’, and then signed her copy of American Gods.



He then moved on to my books. He started with my copy of Ocean and I pulled out two boxes of tea I had brought to give him.  He began to tell me that he was very grateful because he was without his luggage and as a consequence had no tea due to the recent events related to air travel.  I had no idea what ‘recent travel incident’ he was talking about because I had been traveling myself and had not been following any news updates (I discovered later that night he was referring to the terrible crash at SFO).  But I kept smiling goofily while I tried to process what he was saying. It dawned on me that he was telling me he had no tea until I gave him some.


My smile just kept growing bigger as I processed what he said and as he thanked me for the tea. He drew a heart in my copy of Ocean, proceeded to sign the other copies of Ocean, and then moved on to my Sandman. He looked back up at me and asked if that was mine too. I told him yes and so he said he would break the rules and personalize that too just for the tea.  But not only did he personalize and sign it, He freaking drew Sandman!!


But Neil was done signing for us and we were ushered away to keep the signing procession moving. Kim and I were both in shock and as soon as we were outside the theater we began to repeat everything Neil said and did and talk about the things he drew for us. By the time we got back to the car we were squealing and dying to open our books in the light of the parking garage.  We then proceeded to take photos of our books and ourselves with the giant smiles and shocked expressions of people who still hadn’t fully processed all that just happened.  After taking many photos (and frantically posting them on social media sites), we finally settled enough to actually drive home, but we continued to talk and replay the events of the evening. It was magical and everything I wanted it to be and more.

Eventually, we got back to Kim’s house, ate like starving people and then proceeded to watch Blink (a Doctor Who episode for those who don’t know – and if you are one of those people – Go watch it!).

It’s been a full 24 hours and I’m still having trouble relating what my evening with Neil Gaiman means to me. Neil Gaiman has inspired me in so many different ways and across many different media.  His work conveys so much feeling and depth. He is a gracious, intelligent man who appreciates his fans. I am so grateful I was able to spend an evening with him. And I am even more grateful I was able to share the experience with an amazing friend. I will remember and think fondly of the event (and cherish my signed copies of Ocean and Sandman) for many years to come.

Neil Gaiman’s New Book – The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

cover of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanI received my copy a day early. For whatever reason. I was ecstatic. I had seen the tracking notice that the book was out for delivery and as a result spent all day at work eagerly anticipating diving into it. But as I open the package when I arrived home and saw it really, truly there in my hands, I couldn’t start to read it. I suddenly knew the exact feeling Patrick Rothfuss described in his blog post about this book.

This is the first book of Neil Gaiman’s that I’ve gotten upon release. I was late to the magic magnificence that is Neil Gaiman. American Gods was the first Gaiman book I read.  I embarked upon that masterpiece as part of a giant group twitter read. I loved it. And I loved reading it with a community and discussing it I the short 140 character bursts. I was hooked.  I’d always loved the movie stardust and vaguely knew it was written by Neil Gaiman, but I’d never read it. After American Gods, I read Stardust and I read Anansi Boys. And then I convinced my book club to read Neverwhere (which sadly, was the wrong book to use to introduce my book club friends to Gaiman).  I started following him on twitter and tumblr. I read The Graveyard Book. And I eagerly anticipated the release of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Last night, after opening the package, I carried the book with me everywhere. It was next to me as a watched a documentary on HBO. I absentmindedly caressed the raised letters on the cover as I watched. I read the inside and outside book jackets. I read the dedication and the opening epigraph, but I could not bring myself to start the book. It was partially a fear of being disappointed, but it wasn’t really that because I’d seen enough nondescript reviews to know I’d love it. It was more the fear that I would read it too quickly and once it was read it couldn’t be unread. There is only one chance to read a book the first time.

And so late last night, I started to read. As I read the prologue, I felt tears stream down my cheeks because just in the first few pages I understood something and felt something. I knew the book related to Neil’s own childhood past in some ways (inspiration and the beginnings of a story).  The references to slowly grasping and remembering childhood memories which once were so real and vibrant but over time had faded to nothing.  I’ve experienced that and have wanted to experience more of that. I read the prologue and felt my chest tighten, my throat close, and the tears began to flow more steadily. I stopped reading after the prologue.

There is magic in this book and I want to savor all 178 pages of it. I know I’ll end up finishing it sooner rather than later (and I’ll post my full thoughts on the book when I do), but I’ve broken the barrier. I’m ready to read this beautiful story and feel all the magic it has to offer me. And something tells me I’ll be reading it more than once.

What to Look Forward to in 2013 – Books edition

As you can probably tell by the number of book reviews that I push to my blog (and that’s not even all of the ones I write), I’m a big reader.  I read a lot of different books and that includes many different series.  Some I really love and others… well, I’m not above reading things everyone else is to have conversation points.  I’m looking forward to reading the following books:

book cover for Kim Harrison's Ever After
Release date: January 22nd

Ever After by Kim Harrison on January 22

I started reading Kim Harrison’s Hollows series just last year and tore through them.  I love how Rachel has grown over the series and I’m looking forward to the introduction of a character promised to make Ivy happy.


book cover for House Rules by Chloe Neill
Release Date: February 5th

House Rules on Feb. 5th

I’m not the biggest fan of this series. Personally, I feel like it was a cop-out [SPOILER ALERT: to bring Ethan back to life]. But I have friends that really like this series, so I continue reading it to be able to talk with them about it, even though the last book had absolutely no surprises in it plot-wise.

book cover for Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
Release Date: march 5th

Frost Burned on March 5th

This is probably my second favorite series. It’s been too long since I’ve been in Mercy’s world.  I really enjoyed the last outing which was so well written that at times it felt like one of the old Native American tales that is was referring to. When you have a vampire that drives the Mystery Van, a female mechanic, and a hot alpha wolf (not that the vampire is always around) – you can’t go wrong!

book cover for Blood Trade by Faith Hunter
Release Date: April 2nd

Blood Trade on April 2nd

When I first started this series, I felt like Jane Yellowrock was way too tough and too much of an ass-kicker.  As the series has gone on, she’s grown on me. But she has also become slightly softer due to her increased interactions with people.  She can still kick some serious butt, but she has become less of a cardboard character.  I can’t wait to see how Jane continues to evolve.

book cover for Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
Release Date: May 7th

Dead Ever After on May 7th

The final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series is released in May. Admittedly, I have not been that impressed with the last several books. Personally, the series went downhill soon after Quinn left (and I don’t say that just because he was my favorite of Sookie’s beaus).  But, it is the final book and I’ve read all the rest. Despite the fact that I have a pretty good idea about how it all will end, I’m hoping for surprises and I can’t not read the last book.


Make Good Art on May 14th

Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech in 2012 to the University of the Arts was inspiring (watch it below and get inspired yourself). And I’m not the only one who thought so. His message – ‘Make Good Art’ – resonated with so many people that it is being published.  And Gaiman said he had requests from several publishing houses to make this book.  Naturally, I have to buy a copy of this book, especially when it is specially designed by Chip Kidd.


book cover for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Release Date: June 18th

The Ocean at the End of the Lane on June 18th

Speaking of Neil Gaiman, he has his first new adult book since Anansi Boys in 2005 will be released this June. I don’t know much about it (other than the brief description), but the cover is beautiful and I enjoy Gaiman’s imagination.  I’m looking forward to it!

Magic Rises on July 30th

This is by far my favorite urban paranormal fantasy series. Kate Daniels and Curran are amazing characters. (I love me some Curran. He’d definitely be on my fictional five.) The world is dynamic. And the stories are fantastic.  I’ve been looking forward to this book for far too long. I did enjoy Gunmetal Magic and the foray into Andrea’s mind, but I can’t wait to get back to Kate.

Grave Visions on August 6th

This is the third book in Kalayna Price’s Alex Craft series. I read the first as part of the Vaginal Fantasy book club. I didn’t love it, but I was intrigued enough to read the second book. The characters are developing slowly and I love the way the world of fairy is being explored.

The Chimes at Midnight on September 6th

Speaking of fairy, I’m a huge fan of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series.  I love how Toby’s relationship with the fascinating King of Cats has been developed. Completely Team Tybalt (also on the fictional five list)! I love how classic aspects of fairy lore are being explored and expounded in the series. I know I’ll be reading it as soon as its available.

Elder Races #6 in November

There’s very little information available. But Thea Harrison has said she has written Aryal’s story and the publisher says a book is coming out in 2013.  The full-length novels have been up and down for me. I really liked the first and fourth, but 2, 3, and 5 weren’t my favorites.  In my opinion, the novellas had more compelling stories than those novels. But I do enjoy the world that has been created for the Elder Races series and will continue to read them.  And I can’t wait to see what kind of love is in store for the harpy.

I’m sure there are many more books (especially those not in a series) that I’ll will be released in 2013 and I’ll be excited about. As it is, there is just about a book a month on this list.  It’s a good thing I usually read several in a month, right?  What books are you excited about this year? Tempted to pick up the first book in any of the series that I’ve mentioned above?