The line-up that wrapped around a block outside The Danforth Theatre in Toronto wasn’t for a band or a celebrity, but rather it was for celebrated and beloved author Neil Gaiman, who is on what is being proclaimed his last signing tour. That is to say, the last multi-city promotional book tour in which he is going to do mass autographings. He’s shown pictures of having to dunk his hands in ice and let them soak because he has pre-signed so many copies in preparation for signing tours, not to mention the autographs he does on the spot for those who stand in line and wait to get their books signed.
I was delighted to see that by the time I heard about the event and checked the website I could indeed actually register and that tickets were still available. In the past I’ve been very disappointed by sell-outs that seem to happen within five minutes of Gaiman events in Toronto. Anyway, this time around I got lucky and even though my seat was on the balcony level, it was a real pleasure to hear Neil Gaiman read from his novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane as well as giving the audience a sneak preview of his forthcoming children’s book, Fortunately, the Milk, which comes out next month.
Some of the highlights included the interviewer, Mark Askwith, himself a Toronto legend in the comic book community, calling Gaiman Toronto’s boyfriend. As well, Gaiman related an amusing anecdote involving Shirley Maclaine and his famous mop of hair. And one of the best lines from his upcoming book, Fortunately, The Milk involves the main character saying to another character, “You’re a Stegosaurus.” When you get to that scene in the book, it’ll make a lot more sense and will be much funnier in the context of that particular scene.
I heard that the event didn’t end until two o’clock in the morning (yikes!), and that it did indeed live up to the standards of Gaiman’s other signing events, which are notorious for stretching on and on for hours with the signing portion, which he graciously obliged to. They called up rows with a lottery system, which was also interesting. For those that stuck around to get their book(s) signed, I’m told it was well worth it, and I imagine it would be. One of my co-workers, also a Gaiman aficionado, got her book signed with a charming little drawing from the author, which was also a highlight.
Overall, it was a great, well-organized event and at least I can say I saw Neil Gaiman when he came to Toronto even if I didn’t get the chance to meet him, which I’m sure would have been a spectacular treat, but one never knows what things may come in the future.
I attended the World Horror Convention/Bram Stoker Awards Weekend 2013 this past week in New Orleans, Louisiana, aka the Crescent City, aka the Big Easy, and I wrote the convention recaps on my book review blog in three parts, which you can find by clicking on the following links:
The above posts focus on the panel recaps and the convention itself, but having dreamed of visiting New Orleans for many years (the city has a reputation for being hugely inspirational for writers from Tennessee Williams to Anne Rice), I was glad to have been able to make this come to fruition at long last. New Orleans is a place that I felt an intimate connection to even before I visited, because it has inspired me in a way that few other cities have managed to. Since reading Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice as a youngster, I found myself hypnotized by the descriptions of the places, the flavour that Rice drenched over the book. It’s something hard to shake. And the images from the film adaptation provided me with even more fuel. New Orleans is made of the stuff of dreams.
As a writer, I relished the opportunity to do “on the ground” research and even though the research I have been doing for years into the history of Louisiana, the architecture, the food–everything–was fairly comprehensive, and although both Google Street View and YouTube can be an indispensable tools, nothing compares to the experience of physically being in a place. One of the most significant places I needed to research for my current WIP, which is another rewrite of Novel #3, features bayous and swamps. Although I’d done as much research as I could and worked hard on the descriptions, there’s things that we notice when we’re physically present somewhere that we normally wouldn’t. For instance, one can get a good handle on sight and sound imagery from photos, videos, etc, but not smell imagery, which is the most vivid. And I got a good whiff of some of the most intense and unusual scents of a swamp, which was hugely educational.
The French Quarter, of course, isn’t without its charm, and I took in a few ghost tours, as well as a Cemetery/Voodoo tour, which were all great experiences. Although the voodoo spoken of on the tour I went on was very much an “on the surface” type of approach that was more of a Spark Notes version, I learned that there are some fairly significant differences between Louisiana and New Orleans Voodoo versus Haitian and West African Vodou, which is more the tradition that my research has pointed me to.
One thing that everyone reacts to is also the heat, which was definitely very intense for this little Canadian. Don’t get me wrong–Eastern Canada definitely has heat waves and it gets muggy, humid, and just generally gross here, as well, but the heat found in the Southern US is of an altogether different breed.
This was a very significant trip for me in many ways, and definitely fuelled me to keep going on my WIP. As well, I picked up quite a few books on Louisiana folklore, which I’m hugely interested in, including Gumbo Ya-Ya, Louisiana Folk Tales, and Louisiana Indian Tales to name a few.