Unputable downable

Buzzfeed Books asked subscribers of their newsletter to tell them about a book that they couldn’t put down. One reader talked about taking her choice to work and pretending to search her purse for something just so she could read another page. That’s unputable downable!

Their list of 53 books is heavily weighted toward the best sellers list, but there are some surprises and reasons given for each are fascinating.

The choices range from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, to Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan, and Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin.

One selection:

The New York Trilogy

 

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

“I have never been so adamant about finding out what’s going to happen in a book, whilst at the same time feeling so baffled by the path taken to get there. Auster’s interlocking, genre-bending detective stories are something you really just have to dig into to understand. And, as amazing as this book is, it should really come with a warning: “Will ruin all other books for you by making them seem highly ordinary.” ~ Holly

 

 

See the other 52 selections HERE

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Dorothy Woodend asks rather plaintively at Alternet

Um, Now Can We Have a Girl’s Coming of Age Film?

and points out in these reawakening movies, it’s always about the boy. (article link below)

So, I read the article and all about the movies it describes. Neither would have induced me to part with money for a ticket, to be honest – it all sounds like SO much “more of the same” – I’ve seen these movies before,

it seems that only in fantasyland (the iconic “Hunger Games”, or my own Worldweavers series..) is the girl allowed the space and the privilege of doing her own growing up.

Contemporary lit of the YA ilk is often focused on the MALE half of the equation, with the girls’ own adventure presented as either as a side plot and an also-ran or simply glossed over altogether in her supporting role for the male metamorphosis.

And they say that boys won’t read NOW? Even though it’s all about them? Well, then, why don’t we simply go ahead and write the girl stories anyway? What is there left to lose? And I’d love to see a proper movie with a young female central character (who is not Katniss Everdeen) coming into her own…Me and Earl
In Dorothy Woodend’s piece, she discusses two of the most recent examples of men-in-crisis film are Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Ben’s At Home.

“One is a Sundance darling…and the other is a low-budget Canadian indie. Superficially, they don’t look the same. One has stars, a showy cinematographer, and a big old budget, while the other was shot in Toronto for apparently five dollars…What they do have in common is the license given to the male lead to suck up all the attention, no matter what is happening around him.”

Read the whole story HERE

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And they tell ME I write books that put my characters through hell..

10 Dark Books for the Literarily Disturbed

If you’re seduced by the deeper, grittier side of literature, check out a list of the most subversive novels in literary fiction, chosen by Feed Your Need to Read. They add, “don’t say we didn’t warn you about these dark books.”

Tropic of Cancer

 

Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

Henry Miller’s semi-autobiographical tale of a homeless writer’s bawdy adventures in Paris never shrinks from explicit detail. The mix of offensive language, vignettes, and aggressive social commentary led to the book’s immediate ban. As a judge at Miller’s obscenity trial raved, “It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.”

 

 

9 other dark books HERE

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How the Modern Detective Novel Was Born

Golden Age of Murder

 

In a new book, Martin Edwards traces the detective novel through the decades, and the many forms its taken on the way to its current form.

The roots of the modern detective novel can be traced back to Trent’s Last Case, written by E.C. Bentley, and published in 1913. Bentley intended to write an ironic exposure of detective fiction, but the book’s cleverness and lightness of touch meant that readers took it seriously, and it became a wildly successful best-seller. Above all, it influenced a new generation of writers after the First World War.

 

Read the whole story HERE

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Blank pagesBlank pages … teenagers reading. Photograph: Cultura Creative (RF)/Alamy

Which books didn’t change your life?

Whether she’s weighing into Amazon or defending fantasy against the slights of literary novelists, Claire Armitstead writes at The Guardian, “Ursula Le Guin is always good value.”

This month on her blog, a request for a list of her top 50 books led to a meditation on the books that had failed to change her.

“What books didn’t influence me?” she writes. “If only someone would ask that! I’ve been waiting for years to answer it. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, I will say, had absolutely no influence on me except to cause hours of incredulous boredom. I thought in all fairness I ought to try The Fountainhead. I gave up on page 10.”

Read the whole article HERE

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THIS n THATlocker booksTeachers Transform Lockers into Book Spines

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Font with agendaProject Seen: A font with an agenda

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Missing comma gets grammar nerd out of parking ticket

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Quote of the DayQUOTE kids only~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Sexy ereaders

Few benefits of the e-reader are as attractive as the privacy it affords, Calum Marsh writes at The Guardian, so after the launch of the Kindle, erotic romance really took off.

Spring FlingAn erotica publication geared towards the male market. Photograph: Ellora’s Cave

In public the anonymity is ironclad: you could be reading hardcore BDSM erotica on your Kindle or Kobo, but to your fellow commuters you might as well be poring over PG Wodehouse.

Print versions of erotica are mainly to please the authors because hardly anyone buys them in print.

 

 

Read the whole story HERE

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Planted in the stars
Beth Moon HerculesPhoto Beth Moon

Stunning Photos of Africa’s Oldest Trees, Framed by Starlight

At the Smithsonian, Melissa Wiley reports that for the past 15 years, fine arts photographer Beth Moon has taken pictures of really old trees. She has journeyed around the world in search of trees notable for their size, age and history, photographing during the day. Her most recent series, titled “Diamond Nights,” however, plays with starlight.

I was living in Zambia when I saw my first baobab tree. I always thought of Baobabs as “upside down trees” because they look like nothing so much as though a giant hand has torn them from the ground and then planted them again head first so that their torn and tortured twisted roots were the only thing that was left showing above the earth.

And now these pictures, which appear to show that these ancient trees are in fact rooted… in the stars.

Beth Moon has found something profound here.

Read the whole story HERE

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A Poet Describes Feelings In Color

Kelsey Danielle is a poet on Tumblr who describes emotions, as submitted by her followers, with the colors they feel like.

For example:
Color of loveThe project was inspired, Julia Reinstein reports at BuzzFeed, by a poem Kelsey Danielle wrote a few years ago on visualizing the things she feels as colors.

“It’s a poem that’s always stuck with me because I continue to attach colors to any emotion I’m feeling. I describe it a bit like feeling in colors. It’s been helpful for me over the years by having a visual to focus on when I’m upset or angry.”

Read the whole story HERE

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I just bought a book because the first line grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The first line of The Martian by Andy Weir is:

“I’m pretty much fucked.”

It doesn’t include my find, but at BuzzFeed, Sarah Galo finds 53 of

The Best Opening Sentences In Literature
Look at all the booksCreative Commons 2.0 / Via Flickr: stewart

FROM
“All this happened, more or less.” —Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

TO
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
—The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

See all the first lines HERE

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Can you read?

Yeah, OK. You learned to read in early childhood. But you could always do better, right?

Gretchen Rubin offers
How To Become a Better Reader in 10 Steps

One of her 10 is reading audiobooks. My husband endorses this wholeheartedly. He has ‘read’ hundreds of books this way. Initially, he insisted it was a way to get more exercise. He would download books from the library and listen to them as he walked. His walks got shorter and shorter, but he still listens to a book whenever he has a boring household chore.

Read all her tips HERE

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THIS n THAT

‘Cisgender’ has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary: The term is defined as ‘designating a person whose sense of personal identity corresponds to the sex and gender assigned to him or her at birth.’

Read the whole story HERE

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Gilligan's Island cast15 Fateful Facts About ‘Gilligan’s Island’
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Bradbury bookendsRay Bradbury’s Demolished Home Turned Into Bookends

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Quote of the Day
Northshire BooksNorthshire Books in Manchester VT.

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
 
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Stories are alive

What is it that makes certain stories last?

That’s a question that Neil Gaiman explores in a lecture two and a half years in the making, part of the Long Now Foundation’s nourishing and necessary seminars on long-term thinking, an article in Brain Pickings tells us.
Neil GaimanGaiman suggests that stories are a life-form obeying the same rules of genesis, reproduction, and propagation that organic matter does. “Stories are alive – they can, and do, outlive even the world’s oldest living trees by millennia,” he says.

Read the article and listen to Gaiman HERE

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My first major success was ‘The Secrets of Jin-Shei‘, a novel of sisterhood set in a mythological land called Syai that resembles an Imperial China that never was. It is out in 13 languages so far.

The Secrets of Jin-sheiThe first Harper Collins hardcover edition of Jin-shei had a gorgeous cover. While the paperback is still available, the hardcover edition is out of print now and I have seen it being sold as a collector’s item. I have a few copies of my own stashed away that I am hoarding.

Published more than a decade ago, it is a story that fits Gaiman’s definition. It is a living thing. I still hear from or about women and girls who have pledged Jin-shei to each other like the characters in my story. Some time back, a teenager in Brazil posted a video about it on her blog. I don’t speak Portuguese, but she did seem to be enthusiastic about it.

At off the Shelf, Hilary Krutt takes a look at several other similar books:

 

11 Novels that Explore the Beautiful and Complex Bonds of Sisterhood

“The concept of sisterhood has always possessed an almost mystical allure for me,” Krutt says. “Growing up with no sisters of my own, my brother served as a proxy, begrudgingly allowing me to dress him up in old tutus and playing along with my extensive collection of Barbie dolls. He eventually grew out of it, but I always cherished the time when he allowed me to project my girlish whims on him. Whether you’re from a clan of sisters or sisterless like me, here are eleven books about the joys and challenges of sisterhood.”

e.g.

The Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown:

Bianca, Cordelia, and Rosalind are the book-loving and wonderfully quirky spawn of Shakespeare scholar Dr. James Andreas. When the three sisters return to their childhood home to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there.

But the Andreas sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from might offer more than they ever expected.

 

Read the whole story HERE

 

 

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Another story that interested me because of the personal connection to one of my own books is a Flavorwire story on Internet novels. :

I didn’t write an Internet novel in the sense of the article below, but the man-who-was-to- become-my-husband and I wrote an epistolary novel together about NATO’s war on Yugoslavia in the form of an exchange of emails over the Internet between a pro-war American man, and a Serb woman living under the bombs. After the original bitter exchanges, the couple, despite themselves, fell in love.

Published by New Zealand HarperCollins, it was called ‘Letters from the Fire‘ and sold extremely well in New Zealand where I was living at the time. Now self published on the Internet… Well… No comment.

The books mentioned by Flavowire have made a lot more of a stir.

The Evolution of the Internet Novel, 1984 to Present: A Timeline

neuromancer

 

The article begins with, not surprisingly, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, published in 1984.

It may be argued that earlier novels, genre or otherwise, anticipated the Internet before William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), but can any of them lay claim to the invention of the word “cyberspace,” or the cyberpunk genre, or the credible hacking novel?’

 

 

Read the whole story HERE

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ParbunkellsThe Word the Internet Didn’t Know

Ever heard of the word in the photo above? Maddie Stone asks at Gizmodo. Probably not, because, until this month, that word didn’t exist on the Internet.

That’s right: A 17th century English word that means “coming together through the binding of two ropes,” according to a 1627 publication housed at the New York Public Library’s Rare Book Division, was, until this month, dead to the digital world—and to almost every living person.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the internet knows everything, but it doesn’t.

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

New favorite review of ‘Wolf‘, second book in my The Were Chronicles. At Goodreads, a reader called Melani exclaims with glee,

They saved the day with SCIENCE!”

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The man who saved 2,000,000 babies

…and 14 other saviors of mankind

Read the whole Kindness Blog story HERE

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Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

Read the whole story of the bee apocalypse HERE

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Quote of the day

Stories should change you – good stories should change you.” ~ Neil Gaiman

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Alma Alexander      My books      Email me   

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Dear Author…

In the little over a decade I have been writing full time, I have received some fascinating letters. Two stand out particularly.

I haven’t asked permission of the letter writers – in at least one case, it was so long ago that I am not sure my contact information is any longer valid. So these two examples are essentially paraphrased with names and other personal information excised.

The first was someone who had met me on a major book tour for The Secrets of Jin-Shei, a novel which involves a sisterhood. The letter writer speaks poignantly about how my book made her reflect on her own experiences.

Paraphrased excerpt:

You sat in front of me (on the plane) and eventually, like people who travel, often do, we began to talk. You said you were an author and showed me the cover of the book you had published. You were on your way to a book signing.

Though you did talk to me for most of the trip and even gave me your card, it was the cover of your book that, strangely, remained in my mind. So, that when I went to the library and saw that cover amongst the other books, I remembered it. I didn’t remember you had written it; I remembered the cover…I found your picture on the back and it all fell into place.

So, I started reading the book and that’s when the sadness came. Here in my hands was a book about sisterhood, a mirror reflecting the deep friendships I’ve had with several women, including the teenager I made my mother take into our home as my foster sister… your book helped me remember….and understand that.

The rest is far too personal for me to summarize here without her permission. But I was greatly touched by her letter.

The second also involves The Secrets of Jin-Shei. It was much shorter and rather… unusual.

Paraphrased excerpt:

I have never read any of your books, and up to today had not heard of them. However, last night I had a dream that clearly showed me the name Jin-Shei.

After researching the name on the internet all I could find related to it was your book. Could you possibly share with me the actual historical significance of this name? Does it have an English translation? Is it merely a name you created?…Your book sounds interesting…

I hope he did read it and did find it interesting. After all, his own dream had led him there.

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11 Contemporary Retellings of Classic Literature

At Off the Shelf, Sarah Jane Abbott offers some books by inspired authors that have reimagined beloved novels and iconic characters, using them as them as jumping off points to explore new settings, eras, and characters.

e.g.
Going-Bovine

Going Bovine by Libba Bray:

All sixteen-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks.

Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel or possible hallucination who sets him on a quest paralleling that of Don Quixote.

 

See all the books HERE

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10 Books To Read Before You See The Movies This Summer

We all love a few hours at the movie theater, Mark Athitakis writes at Huffpost, but there’s just no substitute for curling up with a few hundred pages of printed magic.

One example:

Every Secret ThingBy Laura Lippman: The thriller Every Secret Thing revolves around two teenage girls and the abduction and murder of a baby seven years earlier. Starring Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks and Dakota Fanning, the movie casts more female leads than your average thriller (thank you!) and Laura Lippman, whose 2003 novel inspired the film, has deserved a big-screen treatment of her work for years. But the film was shot in New York, robbing the story of Lippman’s beloved Baltimore and her rich local details about everything from race relations to hairstyles. Let’s not overlook the scary pleasures of her prose, either. “There was something menacing in the very fineness of his bones,” she writes, “as if a bigger boy had been boiled down until all that remained was this concentrated bit of rage and bile.”

Read the whole story HERE

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Dinosaurs and All That RubbishDinosaurs and All That Rubbish Photograph: PR

Daniel Hahn’s top 10 underrated or forgotten children’s classics

The author of the new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature chooses the children’s classics you probably haven’t heard of but really should read, from picture books about dinosaurs and bike rides to a historical novel narrated by a dog.

Read the whole story HERE

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66 on 66It’s arguably the most famous road in the world. Route 66 – just saying those words makes you want to hit the road. But did you know there are many wonderful used bookstores along the way from Chicago to Los Angeles?

Abe Books has plotted the ultimate bibliophile’s road trip where you can visit 66 bricks and mortar used bookstores – who all sell on the AbeBooks marketplace – while driving from the shores of Lake Michigan to the beaches of Santa Monica. We are talking about two thousand miles and hundreds of thousands of books. It’s a booklover’s paradise – and worth the trip for that alone. Some folks travel for culinary adventures, some travel for landmarks and museums, but bibliophiles travel for the finest in literary offerings. It’s called Bookstore Tourism, and yes – there’s a book about it.

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS n THAT

Destroying What Remains
Artic sea iceAs sea ice in the Arctic vanishes, the Navy plans training including live bombing runs

Disturbing essay by Dahr Jamail HERE

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We humans are so VERY GOOD at inventing things that kill…
The UrumiThe best bladed weapons are at least somewhat flexible—but the urumi is downright floppy. When swung, it acts like a whip. A metal whip. A metal whip with two sharp edges

10 of History’s Most Terrifying Swords, including THIS

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Quote of the Day

QUOTE Oscar Wilde~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
 
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Telling off the author

I’m off to New Hampshire to be a guest lecturer at the Odyssey Writing Workshop to give a class on building characters.

I’d like to bring along some of my own characters, but no matter how real they are to me, they don’t appear at my command — only when they I tick them off.

Like the night Chalky turned up in my dream.

Chalky is the protagonist of Shifter, the third book in The Were Chronicles. He’s nineteen years old, pushing twenty, just a kid. He’s had a helluva twisted childjust hood (of course he did, he’s one of my characters) and he’s never been a ‘kid’, not really. He’s cocky, and he’s vulnerable, and he’s a wretched little know-it-all, and there he was, sitting on the side of my bed, kicking his heels on the bed frame. *Lounging*. Smirking.

“You’re doing it wrong,” he said.

“Oh, what now?”

“That scene, The new material. You’re *rushing* it.”

“Am not rushing it. I need to…”

But dammit, he’s right.

“I have to know certain things,” he points out. “You haven’t given me time to learn them.”

I’m areadly unpacking the scene in my head. It’s a frigging SYNOPSIS. there’s four pages’ worth of material behind each paragraph.

I’m growling.

“What if you…”

“Shut UP,” I snap. “Did I ask you for advice?”

He shrugs, “Just thought I’d point it out. And another thing.”

“What?”

“You need to figure it out.”

“Figure WHAT out?”

“What I want. What my motivation is.”

“Now you go all Galaxy Quest on me?”

“But I”m not a rock,” he points out. Helpfully.

I seem to be doing a lot of growling. But I”m still kind of asleep. At this point stuff happens (cat sticks nose in my ear) and I come awake, and he’s gone, of course, with just that smarmy voice left in my head. You’re doing it wrong…

That voice stays in my head like a gnat. I barely choke down breakfast. Then I take a cup of coffee down to the computer thinking that maybe it might help me clarify things.

He’s RIGHT the little sod. The scene IS rushed. I had to have him visit me in my dream to tell me I’m screwing up the book??? That’s just *rude*.

Whatever. I go back to the beginning of the problem. Then I discover that isn’t the beginning of the problem, and go furher back. Then something else falls down in a heap and mocks me. I take a large swallow of coffee, crack my knuckles over the keyboard, and hit “delete”. This scene needs to die.

I start again from the beginning. A different beginning.

This time there’s… something. There’s a note of truth in it (yes this is a story about Were-creatures. Yes, every word of it is ‘true’. Why do you ask?)

I keep typing, scowling at the scene. The dialogue comes down the riverbed of story like somebody just blew up a dam upstream. Yeah, Chalky, I saw the fuse string dangling from your pocket.

But this water is clean. it is clear. it is deep.

I keep scowling. If there’s something I always resent it’s when my characters refuse to cooperate with me until I finally agree to cooperating with them, and withhold their participation in my story until this is accomplished.

I mean, I can write scenes for them. I can write dialogue for them. They’ll say it because I said they must say it. But they will say it without inflexion, without passion, without any kind of feeling, and they’ll sound like robots until such time as I grit my teeth and let them say what they want how they want. And then all of a sudden they’re frigging Shakespeare and everything they say sings. I hate it when my characters are better writers than I am.

I really hate it.

Particularly when they haunt my sleep to tell me so.

I lift my hands from the keyboard. The coffee’s long gone and the light is different outside. And he’s sitting there on the edge of my desk, kicking his heels against the side, smirking for all he is worth.

It’s a beautiful scene.

“Didn’t I tell you so?” he says.

“I want to SLEEP tonight,” I snarl.

He grins. “You did well. I might let you.”
~~~

See my Odyssey interview HERE

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At EpicStream, Jake Vyper shows us

17 Things You Learn From Growing Up on Books

“It is an addiction that comes to children at an early age. And it creates an insatiable craving for more… These are some of the things you learn to cope with when you are a book-addict. (It’s better than crack!)”Curled up by fireplace“I fantasize about this scene. I will know that I have made it in this world – made it to the pinnacle of existence – when I have a very nice glass of Riesling in one hand and a favorite epic fantasy novel in the other (selected from a vast personal library) while the snow falls down outside and I am next to the fireplace curled up in a very comfy, very expensive armchair. That is my goal in life.”

Read the whole story HERE

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The moral, so to speak, of this story by Elizabeth A. De Wolfe in Downeast is that if you leave home unmarried, you end up a streetwalker in New York City without friend or succour. Young women, sit down, shut up, and remain nicely invisible – or else LOOK, just LOOK, what fates await you…

50 Shades of Chambray

Being a thrilling account of how the Saco-Biddeford cotton empire gave rise to a trashy 19th-century literary craze full of torrid affairs, horrendous murders, and ruined females.ruined femaleAnother “ruined female” ends up in a watery grave in an illustration from The Life of George Hamilton. Image courtesy of the author.

Read the whole story HERE

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Flying used to be an adventure as and of itself – but in today’s climate of fear and loathing, where everyone is a suspect before they are a potential friend, the art of travel has been reduced to having to endure the journey so that you can get to the place where you are going. But it used to be that the journey was part of the voyage, not just the destination. So many things get LOST along the way as the world grows cynical and old.

Still. There is always the option of sitting back in a comfortable armchair with a cup of coffee at your side and your own sweet purring cat on your lap… and a book about faraway places in your hand. Traveling in the mind has the advantages of being cheap (no fares, no tchotchke souvenirs which weigh down your luggage and which you really can’t understand the reason for wanting by the time you get them home – you just had to BE there to get it…) and positively sybaritic compared to the travel hell of today. Just sit back, relax, let your mind off the leash… and journey into the world of a good book…Wanderlust(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Wanderlust is notoriously difficult to manage, Suzy Strutner writes in The Huffington Post.   Once you’ve tasted the adrenaline rush of travel, it can feel unbearable to sit at home, knowing that adventure is out there waiting to be had.

But if you can’t always get out and explore, then it’s best to let a book do it for you. The wanderlust-quenching adventures below aren’t the same titles you’ll find on run-of-the-mill lists of “beach reads.” Instead, they’re a collection of tales — both quippy and dense — that’ll take you from the beach to a mountaintop to the outback to Paris, all in a matter of pages. Read up!

Read the whole story HERE

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Speaking of travel… How this place holds my imagination. At Masable, Tim Chester offers us

34 photos that will make you want to grab a map and travel Britain

Romney Marsh
Romney MarshImage: Russell Dawson

See all the photos HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Mysterious tiny doors open Zephyrhills eyesTiny doorsMia Wead, 18, discovered this tiny door on Main Street Zephyrhills. (gary s. hatrick)

What does it mean?

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Spain formally buries Cervantes, 400 years later

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Quote of the day

QUOTE Great book~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Good advice?

They didn’t ask me, but Clickhole asked some other authors:

What’s your most important advice for young writers?

If I had been asked, I would have told beginners:
If you’re lucky enough to have one of your characters upbraid you for doing it wrong in the book you’re writing – listen. Otherwise the little bastards will never let you have a decent night’s sleep again. Your characters will have surprising insights into their own stories, and their own souls. Listen to them.

Jonathan Franzen’s advice to Clickhole was somewhat similar to mine, but my favorite response was from Haruki Murakami.
Haruki MurakamiHaruki Murakami

Every time you write, ask yourself: Could this scene take place in a hot-air balloon? If the answer is yes, then it probably should.

Read the whole story HERE

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Another thing that beginning writers should know from the start is

The Eight Deadly Words

What are they? It’s when your reader puts down your story and says or thinks:

I don’t care what happens to these people“.

You create characters to make sure that this doesn’t happen. You try and create characters whose fate will matter to the reader, whose achievements and triumphs they will celebrate, whose failures and catastrophes they will feel like a kick to their guts.

This does NOT mean that those characters have to be perfect – in fact, a damaged creature who is trying hard is infinitely more fascinating than a superhero. The best characters are NOT black or white, but the newly proverbial fiifty shades of gray.

A villain may do something that (s)he absolutely believes to be the right thing to do, — under the justification of taking revenge, or making a necessary point, or because the end justifies the means.

A protagonist driven beyond his or her limits might make an evil choice.

Thus the lines begin to blur between villains and heroes.

But is there a point where some line in the sand is crossed, a line that goes beyond reason, or ethics, or morality, beyond being human.

Everyone makes mistakes – but in the aftermath of the line crossed, I don’t care what happens next because even if the character is rewarded I don’t want to live in that world, and if the character is punished for that horrendous deed, I don’t want to know any details – let them die anonymously and their names forgotten.

Why am I thinking and blogging about it now? Because there’s a lot of chatter about two particular incidents in the TV version of “Game of Thrones”.

Let’s start with Daenerys Targaryen. There are a lot of things to like about that character — she’s her own creature and nobody’s plaything, and of course everything IS better with dragons.

But… really. That business in the arena, with the horde of the masked Sons of the Harpy rising up from the stands. I’ve never seen so many throats cut so fast. Dany clearly needs a new idea here to save the day. And lo, here it comes, the lost dragon who takes this moment to become kissy-face reacquinted with mummy – all while spears are thudding into his back.

So what does Dany do? She climbs on the dragon’s back and flies away, abandoning the small band of people who had been protecting her from the murderous mob.

I like my rulers with a little more honor than this.

And then the biggie. Stannis Baratheon, and Shireen.

Shireen Baratheon I am told that burning his own daughter at the stake is something Stannis doesn’t do in the books (I’ve read only the first book in G R R Martin’s magnum opus.) I sincerely hope so because then in the books Stannis might still be someone you can actually root for.

As it is, in the TV version I’m actually hoping that Ramsay comes back and finishes the job. Because any man who will burn his child alive – because some “god” wants the sacrifice – will not hesitate to throw YOUR children into the flames if he thinks that is necessary or if they get in his way. And that is DEFINITELY not a man I want in a position of power over me.

So, I Don’t Care What Happens To Stannis, not any more. He is a misreable failure, an unredeemable human being who deserves a long and lingering death.

Dany has a thin lingering chance. It depends entirely on what she does after she gets off that dragon. I don’t know if there is any way at all she can redeem her fleeing the arena of slaughter and leaving friends behind to face their deaths.

Game of Thrones is starting to red line for me.

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Reap What You Sew

In 2002, Michael Swaine turned an old-fashioned ice cream cart into a mobile sewing table. Now he can be regularly found in San Francisco’s neediest neighborhood, the ‘Tenderloin’ , perched behind his vintage sewing machine, stitching patches onto worn jacket linings, hemming trousers, repairing tears in ladies’ blouses — all for free.

Michael SwaineChronicle/Darry Bush

Swaine, 34, a trained artist, calls it his “Reap What You Sew Generosity Project.”

His mending is not only about the clothes — it is about the community, friendship, conversation. the people in it, and his own needs to find comfort in a world that is so used to throwing things away.

See the story and video HERE

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You’ve heard of the doggie in the window… now meet the kitten in the library.
Cat LibraryLibrary encourages office workers to check out kittens

A county office in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is home to one of the most ingenious stress-relief ideas ever: a cat library, where office workers can check kittens in and out like books.

Read the Mashable story HERE

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THIS n THAT
Antwerp, BelgiumCredit: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
More than 173,000 pots of plants and herbs form a flower carpet in front of the city hall in Antwerp, Belgium to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the Antwerp city hall. Artist Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven selected 31 different species to create a design of large geometric figures in bright sixties colors.

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How Edgar Allan Poe invented…errr, inspired Scrabble

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The Top 12 Places You’re NOT Allowed To Visit In The World

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Quote of the Day

Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more. ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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No women or girls

At The Huffington Post, Claire Fallon notes that books about women don’t win major prizes, and asks:

“How Can We Change That?”

Man, woman, cyborg — no matter what kind of writer you are, Fallon says, if you want to win a major literary award, there’s just one thing you have to do: Make sure your main character is a man.

Okay, it still helps to be a man, writing about men, but a woman writing about men will fare far better than a woman writing about women, at least if she wants to be a contender for awards such as the Pulitzer for fiction or the Man Booker Prize.

Nicola Griffith, the acclaimed author of Hild and Ammonite, recently broke down the last 15 years of major fiction prize-winners by the gender of the author and the main character, and the resulting pie charts are pretty startling.Pulitzer Prize chart
Read the whole story HERE

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How White and Male is the Media?

The media has long been a white boys club, my husband, a former newsman, often pontificates…errr, says. A new Women’s Media Center report on gender in media — film, TV, and print — backs him up.

The report notes, for example, that newspaper editorial boards of the ten largest newspapers on average, were comprised of seven men and four women, and newsroom staffs are incredibly white.Media gender biasAt Flavorwire, Sarah Seltzer takes a detailed look at the situation.

Read the whole story HERE

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Elementary School Boys Fight BullyingKids on bullyingThere is a particular joy in reading a story of kids banding together to help and support a weaker member of the herd rather than taking the path of lesser resistance and ganging up to ridicule that poor victim’s inadequacies. These five boys give me hope for humanity.

As someone who wrote a book in which issues such as bullying and discrimination play a major part (RANDOM, in The Were Chronicles), I was drawn to this story – and then I just sat there and grinned and cheered as I watched that video, those kids. The kids who chose the power of love over love of power. Well, DONE, all of you. I am sitting here and applauding.

At littlethings.com, Catie Keck gives us a full report.

Story and video HERE

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My recent appearance on John Scalzi’s Big Idea slot on his very popular blog really showed the power of a following. For a couple of days I basked in the reflected glory, as visits to my own blog quadrupled from that one posting I guest-made on Scalzi’s – and even now there’s a trickle down and I keep on seeing visitors who come to me through him.

For the sake of the books which have been the recipients of this spike in attention, I am very happy. For my blog – hey – Scalzi folk who might have moseyed by – do stick around :)

ICYMI, That post on Scalzi’s site HERE

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21 Famous Authors’ Favorite Books

At Mental Floss, Sonia Weiser notes that one key to being a good writer is to always keep reading—and that doesn’t stop after you’ve been published. Here are 21 authors’ favorite reads. Who knows, one of these books might become your new favorite.

Not suprisingly, I was intrigued by Ray Bradury’s choice(s):

Ray Bradbury

US science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Bradbury discussed his favorite books in a 2003 interview when he was 83. Among them, he said, were “The collected essays of George Bernard Shaw, which contain all of the intelligence of humanity during the last hundred years and perhaps more,” books written by Loren Eisley, “who is our greatest poet/essayist of the last 40 years,” and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

The books that most influenced his career—and are presumably favorites as well—were those in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter, Warlord of Mars series. “[They] entered my life when I was 10 and caused me to go out on the lawns of summer, put up my hands, and ask for Mars to take me home,” Bradbury said. “Within a short time I began to write and have continued that process ever since, all because of Mr. Burroughs.”

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

In the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s Spock!

Asteroid Named in Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

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Bookindy Allows Users To Browse Amazon, Buy Indie

Read the whole story HERE

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Seattle Tops Amazon’s ‘Most Well-Read Cities’ List’

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Quote of the dayQUOTE Vincent van Gogh~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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The Amazon Wars

In The Guardian, author Ursula K Le Guin, as the headline says

Launches broadside on Amazon’s ‘sell it fast, sell it cheap’ policy

Ursula K LeGuinUrsula K LeGuin at home in Portland in 2005. Photograph: Dan Tuffs/Getty Images

She accuses the online giant of using its market dominance to control what we write and what we read. After an analysis of how the “Best Seller Machine” has worked in the last decades, Le Guin writes that the online retailer is changing the culture of publishing.

The Amazon model, she writes, is “easy salability, heavy marketing, super-competitive pricing, then trash and replace”.

The ideal book, under this template, is “a safe commodity, a commercial product written to the specifications of the current market, that will hit the BS list, get to the top, and vanish. Sell it fast, sell it cheap, dump it, sell the next thing.”.” ”

And all that is fine and true.

But she already has a well-deserved name and presence in the market. She is published by some big guns with big distribution and publicity oomph. She can afford to call out Amazon.

It’s a lot more dicey for most of the rest of us.

After a few years with a publishing giant, my most recent books have all been published by small presses. My local indie bookshop balks at carrying physical copies of these books because the small press can’t offer the expected bookseller discounts or can’t take returns or other insider business accepted practices.

Often the only way a reader can buy a specific book in a bookstores is to ask them to ORDER it for you. But that presupposes that the reader actually know the book exists, and who published it, and you have to be armed with every last little detail (and even then there are no real guarantees).

In other words… there are times that the only place some books ARE easily get-at-able (if you aren’t a household name like Gaiman, or Le Guin…) *IS* at Amazon the Evil Empire.

I know. it’s a war. But I can only WRITE the books. How and where they are sold… that’s too big a battle for a single author. And if the only place I can easily sell them is Amazon… then that’s the only place I can sell them right now. I am not in the happy position of having a million people line up in Harry Potter costumes outside every bookstore in Christendom for a hot-of-the-presses hardcover copy of MY latest book. I have my own caveats about selling at Amazon… but until things change…

Buy my books at Amazon. Please.

Read The Guardian Ursula story HERE

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21 books every woman should read

At The Huffington Post, Nina Bahadur offers a list of incredible titles from the past few years, some of the most-discussed, thought-provoking and life-changing books from a diverse group of women writers.

From lighthearted memoirs to harrowing thrillers, there’s a genre here for everyone.

For example:
Sheila Heti

How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti

“A raw, startling, genre-defying novel of friendship, sex, and love in the new millennium—a compulsive read that’s like ‘spending a day with your new best friend.'”

~ Bookforum

 

 

 

 

See all the books HERE

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11 Writers Who Really Loved Cats

Writers are sometimes stern and cold at heart, Sean Hutchinson notes at Mental Floss, “introverts who escape into their own solitary world, away from outward distractions that would somehow muddle their extraordinary work. Other times, writers just need a friend. And while they say that a dog is a man’s best friend, these writers each found solace in another four-legged companion.”

Ernest Hemingway, was one, of course.
hemingway_catsHemingway and his family initially became infatuated with cats while living at Finca Vigía, their house in Cuba. During the writer’s travels, he was gifted a six-toed (or polydactyl) cat he named Snowball. Hemingway liked the little guy so much that in 1931, when he moved into his now-famous Key West home, he let Snowball run wild, creating a small colony of felines that populated the grounds. Today, some 40 to 50 six-toed descendants of Snowball are still allowed to roam around the house. Polydactyl felines are sometimes called “Hemingway Cats.”

And the other cat-loving authors were…

See them all HERE

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What If?

At Mental Floss, Mark Juddery examines 19 alternate histories that might bring a very different world.

For example:
6) What if Christianity missed the West?

Effect: The Enlightenment starts early – and lasts a thousand years.

Explanation: French philosopher Charles Renouvier’s book Uchronie (1876) suggested a history in which Christianity didn’t come to the west through the Roman Empire, due to a small change of events after the reign of Marcus Aurelius. In this history, while the word of Christ still spreads throughout the east, Europe enjoys an extra millennium of classical culture. When Christianity finally goes West, it is absorbed harmlessly into the multi-religious society. Naturally, this view of history was colored by Renouvier’s own worldview: while not strictly an atheist, he was no fan of organized religion.

Or perhaps:
9) What if the Protestant Reformation never happened?

Effect: Christianity would continue to rule the world. Science, not so much.

Kingley AmisExplanation: Renowned novelist Kingsley Amis entered alternate-history territory in 1976 with his award-winning novel The Alteration. In his imagined history, Henry VIII’s short-lived older brother, Arthur, has a son just before his death. When Henry tries to usurp his nephew’s throne, he is stopped in a papal war. Hence, the Church of England is never founded, the Spanish Armada is never defeated (as Elizabeth I was never born), and Martin Luther reconciles with the Catholic Church, eventually becoming Pope. Naturally, this turns Europe into a vastly different place. By 1976, it is ruled by the Vatican, in the middle of a long-running Christian/Muslim cold war, and technologically regressed, as electricity is banned and scientists are frowned upon.

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS n THAT

1962, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
QUIZ: “To Kill A Mockingbird”

It’s a modern classic, loved by bookworms around the globe, but how well do you know the characters and plot?

The Guardian quiz HERE

 

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11 Ways Reading Judy Blume Changes You

“‘Everyone has problems.”

All the ways HERE

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Jacqueline Woodson has been named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. “She is an elegant, daring, and restlessly innovative writer,” said Poetry Foundation president Robert Polito.

Woodson has written more than 30 books for children and young adults.

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Quote of the DayQUOTE not earn living

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Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Women write? Really?

I don’t know why Flavorwire would run a story like this unless they think it is extraordinary that women actually, can you imagine, WRITE BOOKS!  What is the world coming to?

But this is a decent list of classic genre novels, a couple you might not have read and can stuff in your canvas tote to take the beach, the pool, or just enjoy snuggled up in your armchair.

22 Thrilling, Imaginative, and Twisted Genre Books By Women

For example:
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters

Fingersmith, Sarah Waters

A crime novel set among Victorian-era lesbian pickpockets, this is the book that put Waters on the map as one of the creepiest and most compelling living writers.

 

 

 

 

See the whole list HERE

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ClutterLars Leetaru

Celebrating clutter

That’s the theme of an article by Dominique Browning in the New York Times. (Link below)

And why not? Define “clutter”.

I have in a glass-fronted cabinet a couple of porcelain animals which belonged to my grandmother – every time I look at them, I remember her and smile. Is that “clutter”?

I have on a bookshelf a collection of tiny pewter items which I picked up at various places I’ve visited in my life – a tiny Mermaid from Copenhagen, a highland cow from Scotland, a petite saguaro cactus from Arizona, a dolphin from Moorea, others. I have a handful of those Swarowski animals which were all the rage a couple of decades back which I haven’t seen around for some time. One of those is in its box because one of its little fragile glass legs broke off and I haven’t figured out a way to fix it, but the rest are out there, including the one I remember getting on my 21st birthday from someone I loved.

I have a large population of plushes, joined only this last Christmas by a black stuffed Toothless (from How To Train Your Dragon). They’ve all got names, and most of them have traceable histories.

I have books EVERYWHERE – some of them purchased a month ago, some decades ago, many signed by authors who are also friends. Some were published last year, some in the 19th century. None of this is “collectible” in the sense that it is intrinsically valuable – it might fetch a couple of bucks at a yard sale, probably, if it came to that.

Is any of this clutter? Why would I WANT to live in a house which was immaculately clean but had no past, no treasures, and no soul?

Read Dominique Browning’s essay HERE

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Clutter that we definitely don’t need is in our oceans, but someone, a kid just out of his teens, has a cleanup plan. Perhaps there is hope for humanity.

The world’s first ocean cleaning system will be deployed in 2016

There are five gigantic patches of swirling plastic throughout the Earth’s oceans, known as gyres, Ian Crossland writes at Minds.Plastic dumpsBecause of ocean currents, a great majority of the plastic that ends up in the oceans finds its way into these garbage patches, poisoning marine life and ending up in the food supply of the planet.

That the plastic lands in these rotating patches is a double edged sword. It is horrible, yes, and causes a multitude of problems, but it also localizes the pollutants and gives us a place to start when cleaning up.

Boyan Slat, at the age of 18, gave a riveting Ted Talk unveiling his plan to clean the pollution using passive flotation devices and the ocean’s own current. After all, “why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you?” In 2014, at the age of 19, he realized the plan was actually feasible, and now it’s going into effect off the coast of Japan.

Read the whole story HERE

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The other worlds of fairy tales

Take a tour of the British Academy and Folio Society exhibition of fairy tale illustrations from all over the world, exploring the idea of ‘other worlds’ from China to Native America.Oscar Wilde's The Selfish GiantIllustration by Grahame Baker-Smith from the Folio Society edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant and Other Stories. – Photograph: Publisher

See all the illustrations HERE

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The other day, I wrote about “Uhtceare: An Old English word meaning ‘lying awake before dawn and worrying.'”

It was in a Mental Floss list of “10 Old English Words You Need to Be Using

I decided to use them all:

After the second staddle of the night iI freed my pantofled toes and climbed back into bed yet again, to indulge in my customary bout of uhtceare. I must have dozed off eventually, though, because my usual feline expergefactor got me up at his accustomed hour, because he wanted breakfast. As usuall there was far too much to do and far too little time to do it in so I swallowed a few bites of breakfast on the sly and grubbled around for the car keys. It was just another day at work, with the boss mugwumping his way through the morning meeting and then the rawgabbit from the cubicle next to mine gleefully collared me to share completely idiotic gossip about things she could not possibly know anything about. It was a long time until lunch, when I could get vinomadefied out of that (but of course the idiot came with me, and then I had to stand the lanspresado her entire lunch because of course her wallet was back at the office….) Then it was back through the vomitorium and into the world again….

Read all the Old English Words HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Absolutely indispensable translation list you need while travelling. Never leave home without it.

My hovercraft is full of eels” in many languages, including Elvish and Klingon.

Translations HERE

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Quote of the dayQUOTE Mark Twain~~~~~
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20 Serial Killers?

Unh… 20 Killer Series?

It’s satisfying to have a stand-alone book. When you are writing it, that’s the story, and when you’re done you’re done. You can go onto something else without a qualm of conscience.

But series are something else again. They don’t let you go. With the first book, they open the door just a crack. But when you come inside, you realise that there are more doors waiting for you, and it’s irresistible, you can’t NOT open them to see what happens next.

My first series was inadvertent – a 250,000-word novel was picked up by a publisher who demanded that it be split into two more manageable volumes. That became “The Hidden Queen” and “Changer of Days”.

After that, I wrote what was essentially two stand-alone novels which were set in the same world, but 400 years apart – “Secrets of Jin-shei” and “Embers of Heaven”.

And then I stepped into the series world.

The Worldweavers books were born in the aftermath of the Harry Potter mania, and happened when I heard Jane Yolen say that she wasn’t at all sure that she liked the way the Potter books treated girls. And I was off and running with Thea Winthrop and her adventures. That series was a trilogy for the longest time and then I wrote the fourth and final book in the Worldweavers canon. “Dawn of Magic” was published in 2015.

My latest series, also YA, is The Were Chronicles – “Random”, “Wolf”, “Shifter”. The genesis of these books was an anthology about the Were creatures for which I sat down to try and write a story… and discovered that my idea was far too big to fit into a short story mold. It wanted to be a novel. And then it wanted to be THREE novels. And it is possible that the ramifications of those three novels may mean that it eventually becomes SIX novels.

Series. They never let you go.

The Book Depository has come up with their list ofTop 20 SeriesIt rounds up the usual suspects: Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Harry Potter…

What would you add, or subtract, from their list?

Best series ever? HERE

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Wolf Cover

 

WOLF, Book 2 in The Were Chronicles, is now available as an ebook on Amazon.

Other online vendors to follow.

 

 

 

Buy it at Amazon HERE

 

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My first book – the very very first book I sold – was a collection of new-minted fairy tales which were a cross between Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde. The three stories eventually became “The Dolphin’s Daughter”, a book that went into NINE PRINTINGS and still gave me a trickle of royalties more than ten years after it was first published, which speaks volumes about the power of the fairy tale. So I do have a vested interest in the area.

At io9, Charlie Jane Anders offers
10 Books That Will Change How You Think About Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are everywhere these days, she says. They rival superheroes at the movies and TV, and novelists rush to create their own darker, more relevant versions. But how well do you really know fairy tales? Do you know this one?

e.g.
Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen
Jane YolenThe prolific Jane Yolen has been called America’s Hans Christian Andersen, and with this book she hunts down great folktales from around the world and presents them for young readers.

Read the whole story HERE

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25 Genre Novels That Should be Classics

At Flavor Wire, Emily Temple notes that there’s a stigma that keeps worthy works of genre fiction (mostly SF/fantasy, with a little historical, mystery and crime thrown in) from reaching classic status: being taught in high schools, appearing on all-time best-book lists, etc.

Some genre novels have already crossed the border into pure classic territory — Brave New World, Slaughterhouse-Five and 1984, for example. Here are 25 genre novels that should be considered classics.

e.g.
Solaris, Stanislaw Lem

Solaris

 

Lem’s weird, surrealist space novel is a classic of sorts for those in the know, but epidemically under-read.

The book vacillates between beautifully ruminative and action-packed exciting, as the inhabitants of a space station deal with the clones of their loved ones that the sentient planet they’re on continually sends their way. Also, best depiction of an alien sea that has ever been committed to print.

 

 

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS n THAT

Uhtceare: An Old English word meaning ‘lying awake before dawn and worrying.’

9 other Old English Words You Need to Be Using

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Literacy Falling From The Sky In Brazil!

In a part of the world where most adults don’t have books, it’s highly unlikely the kids will as well. Enter the “Stories In The Sky Project”. Brazilian writers donated stories and the stories were than printed on kites and handed out to kids. They would fly the kites and at some point, would cut the string and let the story kites fall to the ground where other kids could pick them up and enjoy the stories. Then those kids would start the process over again. What a brilliant way to give kids the opportunity to read!

See video HERE

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Quote of the DayQUOTE Nietzche~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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