Neil Gaiman, Missed Opportunity(?), and A Signed Hardcover Stardust for You…

gift edition hardcover signed contest RZA VIP tickets
Win this! Read post for details.

One of these statements is correct: There is a spoiler of Neil Gaiman’s upcoming Dr. Who episode below; I have a photo of Neil Gaiman staring at my cleavage; Neil Gaiman offered to cross himself off my list of people I’m allowed to sleep with (wink nudge). Hmmm…I wonder which one of these is correct?

I have a signed copy of the new, HARDCOVER edition of Stardust, for ONE OF YOU! There is also a potential bonus: a pair of VIP tickets to RZA in April if you can get Neil Gaiman to this site (details below).

I’ll tell you in a moment how to win it, but first I want to share the amazing adventure of An Evening of Stardust.

Traveling Marla druzgal Kayte R Maresa Whitehead Brandon Sink Stardust hardcover gift edition
Neil Gaiman posing sweetly with (left to write): Traveling Marla, Maresa Whitehead, Brandon Sink. Kneeling in front: Kayte Rose. Thanks to Pittsburgh photographer Renee Rosensteel for use of photos in today’s blog!

I love being a subscriber of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures. Any level of subscriber is given early opportunity to buy tickets for events and sometimes that makes the difference between getting a VIP ticket or being in the nose-bleed section. As I told you in my blog about Erik Larson, I spent two years in the beautiful balcony sections, both grateful for the student-priced tickets available to see these amazing authors, but simultaneously determined that my graduation present to myself for finishing my Master’s in Creative Writing would be a subscription with floor seats.

That’s how I came to excitedly buy four VIP passes when they became available for Neil Gaiman. The hardest part then was choosing who to take, because so many wonderful people I know love his work. In the end, I took a friend who was in the master’s program at Chatham with me, a friend who was a “sister” in Delta Tau Sigma (the service sorority I co-founded while at IUP) and my nephew, Brandon.

Stardust hardcover gift edition signed contest
Neil Gaiman was magnetic in front of a packed Carnegie Music Hall Wednesday night.

The lecture was wonderful. He talked about his Stardust epiphany in the Arizona desert so many years ago and read a little from the book. He also gave us a special first-time reading from his manuscript for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a novel he will be publishing next summer.

The special gift edition hardcover copies of Stardust sold out quickly as the packed hall clamored to get as many copies as possible. I was relieved to be able to purchase exactly one additional copy—the one for you. The employees of Mystery Lovers Bookstore worked tirelessly and patiently with all the insane attendees (me included). I recommend you buy all your books through them!

Everything about Neil Gaiman‘s lecture and persona was magnetic. Telling a few modest stories about his own life, he captivated the audience with the image of himself as a little boy mid-play, mind soaring into fantasy as a large rubber ball came flying at his head. He was endearing and inspirational. If there was an audience member who didn’t leave wanting to immediately go read, write or live fantasy, I couldn’t imagine it.

When the lecture ended, after addressing an audience-favorite question of what to expect on the next Dr. Who episode he’s writing (sorry, no spoilers will ever come from me) he headed upstairs to patiently sign and pose with the 150 of us who were lucky enough to get VIP tickets.

Stardust hardcover gift edition Carnegie Music Hall
Dr. Drew Davidson, the director of the Entertainment Technology
Center at CMU, along with Jayne Adair, Director of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, with Neil Gaiman. Davidson introduced Gaiman and handled the Q&A at the end of the lecture.

When we finally reached him, I suddenly became self-conscious that my cleavage might be hanging out and ruining what might otherwise be very tasteful photos. I said as much to the photographer as I was leaning in for a photo with Neil, and he asked, straight-faced, “Would you like to have a photo where I’m pretending to stare at your cleavage?” I don’t believe I hesitated at all before saying “Yes, please!” then gushing with the “Really?”s and “Would you?” and “You know I’m going to have to put this on my blog!”

My friends tell me it was about this point that I began shaking like a Pavlovian dog at the sound of a bell (might have even gotten a little spittle on his beautiful black jacket). Neil nonchalantly posed for the cleavage stare shot then went on to sign the book for one of you to win.

I lost any remnants of collected self and began gushing as we left the signing area and made our way out onto the street.

That was when one of my friends said “You could have gotten lucky. You know he’s in an open marriage.”

Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Stardust gift hardcover edition
A captivated audience jam-packed the Carnegie Music Hall to hear Neil Gaiman’s lecture.

My first thought was “Who knows these things about an author? Is there some kind of author tabloid I’m missing?” As much as I joke about the authors I’m stalking, I’ve never actually followed their personal lives thoroughly enough to consider it stalking. I read what they post on Facebook or on their blogs, and even that is only when I happen to be online. It turns out Neil’s wife, Amanda Palmer, is famous herself and talks quite a bit about their open relationship, so I’m not sharing anything new or not publicly known.

(Of course I Bing‘d her the next day and now I’m dreaming of a Gaiman-Traveling Marla-Palmer puppy pile…{sigh}.)

My second thought was to daydream about having such a relationship myself, imagining myself enacting some of the thoughts that occur around otherwise off-limits men. Then I imagine my husband also enacting his thoughts and I doubt we would survive such a relationship.

Regardless of your moral stance, the practical application of such a relationship requires a level of emotional maturity, trust and intimacy few couples really achieve. A step before open marriage is a threesome, a scenario I’ve wondered about with some considerable interest.

Carnegie Music Hall Stardust hardcover gift edition 15th Anniversary
Neil Gaiman posing with reader Brandon Sink who brought along a special copy of Blueberry Girl, a children’s book of Gaiman’s that he signed for Brandon’s niece, Adeline.

I recently bought an issue of Cosmo specifically because it posed a quiz on whether or not you could emotionally handle a threesome. I passed the minimum seven questions which told me I could participate in a threesome with little to no emotional fallout. (I’m not sure if this was a good reflection on my emotional maturity or a bad one on my moral compass, but it was what it was.)

My third thought, the only one I actually spoke aloud, was “Damn it! He’s not on my list!” I was suddenly Ross, confronted by Isabella Rossellini on an episode of Friends. He had removed her from the list because of “geography.”

And I was no different. Years ago my husband and I each made a list of 10 people we could have sex with should we get in a situation where we might have that opportunity.

Many couples play this game. It’s fun, and for the majority of the world who are not celebrities, it’s harmless.

Stardust signed hardcover gift edition contest
Neil Gaiman exiting the stage to a standing ovation. I’m pretty sure I screamed like a schoolgirl and had tears in my eyes by the time he was finished.

But I did play the game similar to the character of Ross from Friends. I had an initial list which included several internationally appealing men, but I revised it to only contain Americans or those frequently living here. Like Ross, I let myself believe that as long as I increase my odds of running into those on my list, that would somehow translate to both having the nerve to approach them and that they would be so flattered as to participate!

I find many womens’ lists boring. Most include men who are considered perfect physical specimens: Brad Pitt or David Beckham, Channing Tatum or Jason Momoa. My personal opinion on people conventionally attractive is that they’re sexually either lazy or selfish, or they have no imagination.

I think this because I assume (I know, I know) that they haven’t had to work as hard for things to come to them because of their looks, and so I imagine that translating to a bedroom scenario. I figure such men would be boring, selfish, lazy coitus hogs, and for me, the bedroom is all about what happens in the mind.

Stardust hardcover gift edition signed copy contest
My friend Kayte gave Neil Gaiman a journal she made. The idea that Neil Gaiman will now be using his Visconti Rembrandt fountain pen to write in her beautiful journal, the cover of which looked like a door, is scintillating!

My list has always been an eclectic mix of artists of all media. They are rarely physically “perfect” but have some attribute I find irresistible. My list includes men like Joel Stein because of his beautiful mouth and what comes out of  it. Actors on my list include John Cusack and Nicholas Brendon. It includes writers like Benjamin Percy, with his vagina-shattering voice and enticing language in novels. Neil Gaiman fits my earlier versions of the lists which included international personalities. He matches my penchant for an prominent bridge as beautiful as the one attached to the man I married, and an imagination I can only assume would translate to bedroom bliss.

The most amusing part of these lists is the little glimmer of hope that perhaps we may someday find ourselves in a situation that (a) we meet one of our fantasy people; (b) we could approach them sexually; and (c) they would agree to have sex with us. Having already met two of the people on my list (Nicholas Brendon and Benjamin Percy) I knew that the only thing ever happening on my list was (a). I guess I simply prefer fantasy to reality (don’t we all?).

Stardust signed copy hardcover gift edition contest
Longtime fan Maresa Whitehead was excited to attend and meet Neil Gaiman as well. I understand why they did the signing on a VIP basis. Mr. Gaiman is just so damn nice that he would probably use that fan appreciation to overexert himself with every single audience member, until he dropped from just being so doggone charming!

So there I was, on the sidewalk outside the Carnegie Music Hall, in my disappointed reverie, thinking that had Neil Gaiman still been on my list, I could have told him as much, and since he was in an open marriage, I would have gotten to cross him off said list. It was an entertaining few moments of what-if’s and wishes that I hadn’t been so practical in redacting my earlier lists.

But I just smiled and headed toward my car, signed book in hand, a cleavage-staring photo on my phone for this contest, and Stardust in my eyes.

Thank you, Neil Gaiman, for a night I’ll always remember…

Love, Marla

Readers, I was so overwhelmed by my wonderful experience that I made an extra donation to PA&L just thanking them for bringing in Neil Gaiman. If you would like Neil Gaiman and other wonderful authors to return to Pittsburgh, please consider helping this great nonprofit, Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, by donating here.


Readers! Caption this photo to enter to win the signed copy of Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Email your caption to me: marla at marlasinkdruzgal dot com or messaging them to me on my Facebook Writer Page (not my personal profile).  DO NOT POST YOUR CAPTIONS IN THE COMMENTS (that would spoil the fun of reading them all at once on the follow-up post!)

Traveling Marla Cleavage Stardust hardcover gift edition signed book contest
Neil Gaiman offered to pretend to stare at my cleavage after I fussed over covering up, worrying my photo with him would look crass (since I’m pretty much always hanging out). (1) CAPTION THIS PHOTO TO WIN A SIGNED HARDCOVER OF STARDUST AND (2) GET NEIL TO THIS SITE TO BE ENTERED FOR A PAIR OF VIP TICKETS TO RZA IN APRIL!

Deadline: Next WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21st at MIDNIGHT. I will then post all the entries with a voting poll. You’ll have all weekend to get those votes in on the best caption. Winner will be announced on Monday morning, November 26th. Every entrant will receive a Traveling Marla postcard if you provide an address.

Bonus: If any of you can get Neil Gaiman himself to give us a caption of his own, or to post a comment on this blog, every entrant will be entered to win a pair of VIP Tickets to RZA with Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures next April!

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