What Lisa Simpson Reads

At Bustle, Becky Schultz talks about the 11 Books You’d Find On Lisa Simpson’s Shelf because she has great literary taste.

For example:
Amy TanJoy Luck Club by Amy Tan

After destroying Lisa’s room with fireworks, Bart and Homer make it up to her by spending a day at the Springfield Festival of Books. There, they encounter Stephen King, Tom Wolfe, John Updike, and Amy Tan, who Lisa admires for Joy Luck Club, a novel that follows four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco who start a mahjong (for money) club.

Lisa: Ms. Tan, I loved the Joy Luck Club. It really showed me how the mother-daughter bond can triumph over adversity.

 Amy Tan: No, that’s not what I meant at all, you couldn’t have gotten it more wrong.

Lisa: But

Amy Tan: Please, just sit down. I’m embarrassed for both of us.

See the other great books HERE

To write, you must read, read, read – and don’t forget to read

I’ll be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop In an interview with me for their website, I was asked: What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers? I replied:

One young and aspiring writer, asking for advice of this nature, once unforgettably told me that she “didn’t have time to read.” I knew then that she would never really be a writer.

Reading is the primary education for any writer. People who don’t read never develop the love and the reverence for the written word–and how, then, can they hope to tease out its wonders?…

Beyond that, if you are serious about pursuing this as a craft, as a vocation, as a career… well… Write. Practice. It comes only with practice, this inner instinct about whether something you’ve just written is good, or if there is something wrong with it, and what, and how it needs fixing. I once wrote a page and half of something and realized that what I had there was a very dense summary of the thing I needed to actually write. Once I teased out everything that got condensed into it until it weighed as much as a literary neutron star, it turned into nearly three chapters of the book that came out of it all. But without the millions of words of practice I had already put in… I would not have known this, recognised this, figured out what I needed to do to fix it.

Read the whole interview HERE

Speaking of reading…

Pat Conroy says:

The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language.

Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in “Lonesome Dove” and had nightmares about slavery in “Beloved” and walked the streets of Dublin in “Ulysses” and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in “A Prayer for Owen Meany.”

I’ve been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.

The only book of mine that I have ever had reservations about is a collection of some of my teenage poems, self published by my proud father. Some of them were okay, but others. Well, they were the work of a young teen. ‘Nuf said.

At Mental Floss, Rudie Obias has written about authors with more serious problems with something they published.

9 Authors Who Regretted The Success of Their Work

An author who made a shark the villain, later became a shark champion; a man who wrote how to build bombs later rejected the idea that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change.

Octavia E. Butler despised her third novel Survivor because it featured some of the worst clichés of the genre.

Survivor“When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way,” she told Amazon.com. “They were a little sly, or a little like ‘the natives’ in a very bad, old movie. … People ask me why I don’t like Survivor, my third novel. And it’s because it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel.”

After its initial edition, Butler refused to bring Survivor back into circulation.

Read all the author regrets HERE

Author Stops Reading White Male Authors For a Year

No white males Reads Nisi Shawl


Every time I tried to get through a magazine,” K. T. Bradford wrote, “I would come across stories that I didn’t enjoy or that I actively hated or that offended me so much I rage-quit the issue. Go through enough of that, and you start to resist the idea of reading at all.

So Bradford decided that instead of reading everything, “I would only look at stories by women or people of color or LGBT writers. Essentially: no straight, cis, white males.”

The result was that she enjoyed reading short stories more, and she also became aware of how often certain magazines published whole issues in which no women or POC authors made an appearance. She went on the hunt and discovered several that published new-to-me writers and also a surprising number of magazines dedicated to under-heard voices.

Read the whole article HERE

The top 10 liars in fiction

Nick Lake, author of There Will be Lies, selects his favorite fictional tricksters and tellers of untruths in books
GatsbyGatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), the greatest liar in literature? Photograph: Warner Br/Everett /Rex

Rich playboy Gatsby (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald) lies about a lot of things. His romantic life; his past; the origins of his ostentatious wealth, actually amassed through grubby bootlegging. But the small, practical lie that has always stuck in my mind is the fact that the handsome books in his library have uncut pages, proving that he hasn’t ever opened them. F Scott Fitzgerald called the jazz age the “cut glass age”, for its glitter, outward beauty and inward emptiness. But I almost think the uncut books are a more resonant metaphor.”

See the other liars HERE


Researcher accidentally invents glasses to solve color blindness

The glasses were designed for surgeons. A doctor’s friend tried them out and discovered trees are green, flowers come in limitless colors, and a sunset can take your breath away.

Read the whole article HERE

Quote of the Day

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~ William Arthur Ward

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Hot Dudes Reading

“Some people check out books,” Taylor Glascock writes. “Other people check out dudes. Some people do both.”

“Created at the beginning of February 2015, the Instagram account @hotdudesreading has already garnered more than 366,000 followers. In an increasingly technology-driven world, @hotdudesreading takes the path less traveled. It’s the fine fellows with paperbacks, not the e-readers, that get ahead.”
hot dude readingphotos courtesy of @hotdudesreading

Sigh. This Clark Kent look-alike seems to have just flown in from Krypton to spend some QT on the F Train with us mere mortals. I may have to pretend to faint so he’ll catch me but I’m going to let him finish the last few pages of 100 Years of Solitude first.”

See more hot dudes HERE


Abducticon is here!

My first venture into straight SF has been published and is now available online and in some bookstores.

AbducticonIt’s the Friday before a science fiction convention weekend. Hundreds of fans are lined up at the registration desk. The posters for the Media Guests of Honor aren’t done, there’s a problem with the Program Booklet, the Author Guest of Honor has gone AWOL, and the coffee in the Green Room is dreadful

When ConCon member Dave Lorne realizes the whole hotel is lifting off the ground after a silver sheened man enters something on a strange tablet, he blurts out,

“Put us back!”

The silver man looks at him with a curiously cocked head and says with something like regret,

“I can’t do that, Dave.”

Moments later, programming chair Xander steps out on a balcony, sees the ocean far below, and says quietly to his companions,

“Houston, we have a problem.”

The fan-filled hotel has been kidnapped by time traveling androids and taken for a jaunt around the Moon while they search for their roots. At least something is going right.

Welcome to AbductiCon.

A hilarious and metaphysical novel of SF fandom, the convention culture, and the treasured tropes of science fiction.

Buy in Paperback


Buy in Ebook

Book View Cafe

Amazon Kindle

Also available at most online vendors and some bookstores

Jane Austen in quotes

Who needs modern self-help gurus when a 19th-century novelist had it all worked out?

It’s no longer universally acknowledged that “a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”, but many of Jane Austen’s thoughts on love, relationships, class, clothes and even the joys of nature are amazingly relevant to modern life, Marta Bausells writes in The Guardian. She picks 30 of the best.
Austen on marriagePhotograph: BBC/PA
Marriage is indeed a manoeuvring business.” —Mansfield Park (1814)

What’s your favorite Austen quote?

See the other 29 quotes HERE

The Few, the Proud, the Independent Bookstores
Indie bookstoreWarner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Contending first with the chains and more recently with Amazon, independent booksellers find survival tough but not impossible, Joanna Scutts writes at The Daily Beast, and lately new stores are thriving.

As far as chains go, for example, Caroline Green of Asheville’s Malaprop finds that Barnes & Noble has become a sort of ally. If a title is out of stock, she’ll call them, she says with a shrug. “At least they’re not Amazon.”

Read the article HERE

9 Radical Books About Motherhood

“The fallacy that motherhood turns previously intelligent, discerning, engaged Female Persons into more or less boring morons,” Elisa Albert writes, “is predicated on another fallacy: that there is a dearth of intelligent, discerning, engaging writing and thinking about motherhood.”

There isn’t, she says in the Huffpost and offers nine books to prove her point.

The Lost DaughterThe Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante Everything Ferrante writes is worthwhile, but this slender gem hits it so far out of the park you can only squint at the horizon. A middle-aged woman rents a small apartment by the sea in a distant town for the summer. Instead of focusing on her academic work, she becomes obsessed with a young family she sees daily on the beach, which leads to startling recollections of her long-ago life as an extremely stressed young mother. This is one of the most perfect novels I’ve ever read, an experience of absolute narrative perfection. If the ending doesn’t take your breath away (literally, as in GASP), I will eat my placenta in a stew. The intensity and the fearlessness and the utter lack of apology make this a lasting work of genius.

See the other 8 books HERE



Crossed DestiniesItalo Calvino, The Castle of Crossed Destinies:

When asked to write a brief booklet to accompany the reproduction of a 15th century deck of cards, the author “was tempted by the diabolical idea of conjuring up all the stories that could be contained in a tarot deck.” The narrators of the resulting linked stories—mute from some unknown trauma—tell their tales of love, loss, and adventure using cards rather than words.

At Tor.com, Jedediah Berry examines five …errr strange books


See the five books HERE

10 most dangerous dives in the world
Dangerous divingCoco’s Island, Costa Rica is #9 This photo shows one of the reasons why.

Laura Gooyers tours the dangerous diving spots HERE

Couple turns 212

Duranord Veillard is 108, his wife, Jeanne 104

Read the story HERE

Quote of the Day  

“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” — Jane Austen, letter

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Is now the time?

AbducticonWith my first time travel novel, AbductiCon, now out, the following story quite naturally caught my eye. And maybe someday, someone will want to make a movie out of it. Personally, I think it would be a great one, what with time-traveling androids, a hotel filled with science fiction fans taken for a jaunt around the moon, and all that. It is, as the description on Amazon says, “a hilarious and metaphysical novel of SF fandom, the convention culture, and the treasured tropes of science fiction.”

But, alas, that’s for another time. Right now, let’s take a look at this:

10 Time Travel Books That Need To Be Movies

At io9, Charlie Jane Anders muses that as Predestination recently proved, the smartest movies about time warps are often based on literary sources. So here are 10 time-travel books that would make bloody amazing movies.

Her third choice is Kindred by Octavia Butler.
Kindred by Octavia ButlerWe’ve had 12 Years a Slave, so maybe we’re finally ready for a movie of Kindred, in which a present-day woman keeps traveling back in time to visit her ancestors — who include both slaves and slave owners. Dana has to learn to survive the institution of slavery and become part of the plantation’s community. But she also has to ensure her own existence, which involves her cruel, callous slave-owner ancestor Rufus.

See her other choices HERE

When women rule

The Indian village of Mawlynnong has been called the “cleanest village in Asia” and boasts a 100% literacy rate. Perhaps that is because it is one of the only matrilineal societies on earth. But some men aren’t happy.
mawlynnongMawlynnong uses bamboo trash cans and has strict rules on cleanliness

The village is home to the Khasi tribe, Allisha Azlan and Audrey Cheng write at Business Insider. a matrilineal society in which lineages and property are passed from mother to daughter, and women own most of the land.

Read the whole article HERE

In a recent blog entry, author Shannon Hale discusses a disturbing problem with school visits by women writers — sometimes boys are banned.

Fortunately that hasn’t happened to me. In fact, one of the 13-year-old boys whom I met on one of my very first school visits in Pasco has now turned into an almost-20-year-old friend with whom I still catch up, with great delight, at every Radcon since that first meeting. I can safely say that my own life has been the better for the connection, and I believe that I’ve imparted a few nuggets of writerly wisdom in the other direction. None of which would have been possible if he had been excluded from my original presentation, because my books had a GIRL on the cover…

No Boys Allowed: School visits as a woman writer

I’ve been doing school visits as part of my tour for PRINCESS ACADEMY: The Forgotten Sisters,” Shannon Hale writes. “All have been terrific—great kids, great librarians. But something happened at one I want to talk about...”

…and she talks about the banned boys.

“Let’s be clear: I do not talk about “girl” stuff. I do not talk about body parts. I do not do a “Your Menstrual Cycle and You!” presentation. I talk about books and writing, reading, rejections and moving through them, how to come up with story ideas. But because I’m a woman, because some of my books have pictures of girls on the cover, because some of my books have “princess” in the title, I’m stamped as ‘for girls only.’ However, the male writers who have boys on their covers speak to the entire school.”

Read the whole blog piece HERE

5 Medieval-style ‘Game of Thrones’ Restaurants in Europe

Game of Thrones fever is pretty high right now on the internet. “Fan of the show or not, I thought you might enjoy some of my picks for a medieval style feast in Europe,” MessyNessy writes.Tavern Brabant,Prague is pretty much your go-to European city for medieval-style taverns. There is the Tavern Brabant, complete with skulls hanging from the ceiling and hay on the floor to take you back to the Middle Ages. The food is just as authentic at both venues, with medieval and traditional Czech dishes on offer from pork roasted in bock beer to beef goulash– don’t expect to eat light, this is banquet-style eating.

See all the restaurants HERE

The 20 coolest towns in the US

What makes a town “the coolest”? Matador Network asks. In the end, it’s the same as what makes travel the coolest: the people.

The kinds of towns we like:

1) Are not just bedroom communities or suburbs, but have their own economic / local “heart.” (We like to walk around downtowns, not just drive everywhere.)

2) Have strong DIY or local movements around agriculture / food / drink / farm to table. (We like to eat and drink well.)

3) Have cool natural features close by, and ideally a significant part of their local economy is outdoor recreation. (We like to surf / paddle / hike / chill in the woods.)

4) Have cultural diversity to the point where even if the town is small it still has a “global citizenry” feel. (We like it when we can speak more than one language; we like it when the place is LGBT friendly.)

For example:
Mercer, WisconsinPhoto via Cody Doucette
Mercer, Wisconsin

Why it’s so cool

Mercer is the kind of place where an old-school live bait shop shares space, and ownership, with a coffee shop turning out homemade pastries, scones, and perfectly prepared espressos.

See the other 19 towns HERE


12 Essential Reads for Black History Month

A fascinating list from Off the Shelf HERE

Quotes of the Day

Life is short, so live extra lives. Read books.” ~ Shannon Hale

You cannot invent an algorithm that is as good at recommending books as a good bookseller.” ~ John Green

Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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What’s your fetish?

Fetish, n. Something irrationally reverenced

Not all fetishes are sexual, Daniel Dalton writes at BuzzFeed. Sometimes you just really love something inanimate, intangible, or non-human…

LogophileDaniel Dalton / BuzzFeed / Via unsplash.com

Oh, I suffer from SO MANY of these…

But this next is NOT one of them!
StegophileDaniel Dalton / BuzzFeed / Via unsplash.com

See all the others HERE

Graffiti Artists make over a school

This is amazing, a project that fires the imagination of the kid in the prison-like white-walled school and transforms those bare walls into something that takes FLIGHT.

And I have no words to express my gratitude to the people involved. Every one of those kids will be the richer for this experience, even though a staggering percentage of them (from the statistics quoted in the video) are “below the poverty line”. Sometimes life is NOT just about bread alone. It’s about dreams, too.

At Huffington Post, Eleanor Goldberg reports on a low-income school that shares a zip code with an Art Basel mecca, but was neglected for years. When 73 graffiti artists found out about it, they decided to give its 30-foot white walls an unbelievable makeover.Painting schoolSee the video HERE

15 obsolete words we should still be using
crapulousCrapulous = overindulging (Photo: Everett Collection/Shutterstock)

Some words fall into disuse, Laura Moss writes at Mother Nature Network, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. Words like

“Apricity: noun. The warmth of the sun in winter”; “Callipygian: adjective. Having shapely buttocks”; “Cockalorum: noun. A boastful person…”

And “Slugabed: noun. Lazy person who stays in bed long after the usual time for rising”, a word my ludicrously early-rising husband sometimes calls me.

See all the words HERE

The Glass Ceiling: The Invisible Authors

Glass-CeilingAs a former professor of English literature,” Anthony Servante writes, “I can tell you the history of female authors who used male pseudonyms (but) …Why are women still using pseudonyms today, 150 years after Emily and Charlotte Brontë began the practice?”

Billie Sue Mosiman’s essay, Literature’s Glass Ceiling, accommodates Servante’s article, along with two female authors who use male pseudonyms to answer some questions about their practice of hiding their gender in the hopes of selling more books.

Read the article HERE

Feminist writers are so besieged by online abuse that some have begun to retire
FeministsWashington Post illustration)

Writing in The Washington Post, Michelle Goldberg looks at the harassment women writers face online.

Jessica Valenti is one of the most successful and visible feminists of her generation. As a columnist for the Guardian, her face regularly appears on the site’s front page…And she tells me that, because of the nonstop harassment that feminist writers face online, if she could start over, she might prefer to be completely anonymous.

“I don’t know that I would do it under my real name,” she says she tells young women who are interested in writing about feminism. It’s “not just the physical safety concerns but the emotional ramifications” of constant, round-the-clock abuse.

Read the article HERE

Amish snowbirdLeaving buggies behind, Amish snowbirds flock to Florida for winter

Relaxed town of Pinecraft in Sarasota suburbs hosts thousands from up North seeking sun, sand and more modern ambiance

Read the story HERE

Jeff Wysaski has been adding some new sections to his local bookstore

See the rest HERE  

The Woman Who Feels Everything

“Amanda” physically feels everything experienced by those she around her. If you eat in front of Amanda, she feels food being shoved in her mouth. When you stub your toe, she feels the same stabbing pain. This phenomenon is a type of cross-wiring in the brain.

More about this extraordinary condition HERE

Quote of the Day

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

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German Indians

There is a bookstore in Novi Sad, the city in which I was born – a place that smelled of books, and of yellowing paper, and of aging book binding glue, and of silk paper bookends; a place with a hint of ancientness and mystery where old cloth-bound books felt rough with use under your fingertips, or worn smooth by the many hands that had held the book before yours, a place where people spoke in low voices, as though they were in a library or a temple. It was a treasure trove, books stacked on shelves and on top of shelved books tucked between book and the shelf above it, piled on the floor below, often with an attempt at order but all too frequently subject to serendipity.

They actually modernised that shop, in later years, and it became much more stiff and formal and – well – by-the-book, if you like, and a part of me mourned that – but I digress.

It was here that I picked up my first Karl May volumes, in translation, of course, when I was maybe seven or eight years old.

This comes to mind because of a fascinating Utne article in which Laura R. Graham and H. Glenn Penny examine German fascination with North American Indians. They note that:

“American Indians became deeply ingrained in German culture during the 19th Century, their stories became ciphers for modern struggles during the 20th…The unrelenting breadth and depth of this preoccupation is remarkable…By writing about American Indians, German novelists became best-selling authors…The most prominent of these was Karl May, whose books sold over seventy million copies by the 1980s.
German IndianGerman hobbyists call their effort to study, simulate and emulate aspects of North American Indian life “practical ethnology.” Photo by Fotolia/Shchipkova Elena

Back when I was that eight-year-old child, I picked his books up and fell into them, drowned in them, happily. I LOVED Winnetou, the Apache chief. I loved all of it, the set-up, the context, the milieu, the characters – so much so that my father bestowed upon me the nickname of Ntsho-chi, Winnetou’s sister. Other girls, other generations, might have grown up with a Disney Princess called Pocahontas who sang about the colors of the wind, but when I was growing up Ntsho-chi was the Indian Princess who was the lodestar.

Everything in those books was a wonder. It was one of the first books to totally immerse me, to hold me, to make me cry.

It took me YEARS to unlearn everything I thought I knew about the Apache, from reading this book.

Not least the fact that not everything good and advanced and (I hate to use the word, but that’s what was being portrayed) “civilized” came to the noble savages through the agency of a white Ubermensch, and specifically a German one. – actually, two German ones, one old and dying philosopher-type and then his inheritor, WInnetou’s gung-ho blood brother who sported sixpack abs and steely blue eyes and blond hair and went by the name of Old Shatterhand because of the way his handshake crushed people’s fingers into bone stew. The guy who could outride and outshoot and outswim and outthink anybody at all, Superman in fringed buckskin, and yet humble and full of humor and faith…the ultimate, in fact, of what I later learned to know as a Mary Sue character. A beloved incarnation of May himself who (as far as I know) never actually went near the pueblos of which he wrote or met a single Indian.
Karl MayKarl May booksEven back when I read those books for that first magical time, after I carted them home from that magical bookstore, there were things in it that bothered both the mystical and the pragmatic in me.

I could buy it all – everything – all the bits of window dressing, every tchotchke, every eagle feather on every warbonnet that everyone, of course, wore – ALL of it.

But there was one thing that made me grind my teeth, even back then.

The ending.

Where the “noble savage”, the heathen Indian, the man who ran around under God’s own sky and in His trees but called Him the Manitou instead of Jehovah and didn’t require anyone to die for his salvation, suddenly heard the sound of a church bell in a (you guessed it) German settlement of pious Christians, and for some reason all of it went away and nothing would do but Mary and Jesus from then on – the Christian faith, the Holy Holy Holy Christian faith, the thing that obviously trumped the ignorance and the innocence of the savage heathen who inhis last hours found his salvation (and possibly found himself, bewildered and with an odd sense of being cheated, trying to figure out St Peter and the angels of the heavenly choir while trying to find out where the Happy Hunting Grounds had got to…)

Nothing against faith. Nothing at all. A sincerely held faith is a beautiful thing.

But this was not that. It was possibly one man’s sincere faith, all right – but it was being stuffed into a character where it did not belong at all and where it could only mar and not enhance and the writer, the character’s creator, the one who had MADE the great and glorious Winnetou who ruled a number of my childhood dreams, could not see that he was ruining his creation for the sake of that faith. It stopped being a story. It began to be preaching and indoctrination and “thou canst not be saved and brought to the feet of (the only) God untill and unless thou first bow thine head in transcendent surrender when the first sound of a church bell reaches thine ears”.

And that is part of what the German re-enacters are actually buying into. They’re re-enacting the “noble savage” – but they know that they themselves are NOT that, cannot be that, because they are really those German settlers in the story who had built the church with the heavenly bell, they are really the manly man of Old Shatterhand who ruled the West just as solidly as Winnetou (and who was portrayed as belonging there as much if not more than his Indian friend and blood brother, the man who was born of that world and who carried it inside him to an extent that the white dude never did, never could….)

It’s a different kind of fairy tale, a novel one that caught and fired their interest, distant enough from their own home and from everything they know and understand to be fascinating, and knowing (as Karl May taught them) that they were the coming of salvation, the coming of God, and they could play both the pre-Christian innocence and nobility and the post-Christian saintliness and oh GOD (so to speak) it is just irresistible.

And in the meantime, still remembering with a melancholy sense of loss the sights and smells of that old bookstore and the dreams that dwelled within, I am stuck out here in the cold, unlearning the untruths behind the fairy tale of the Old West as told by a German dreamer who may well have sincerely and genuinely believed that – in one way or another – it was his destiny to raise the red man out of the Garden of Eden and straight into Heaven itself.

I will choose to remember the joy it gave me. I will choose to remember the frisson of delight that ran down my child-sized spine when my father called me lovingly by a fictional Apache princess’s name.

The rest… I will learn from the people who can actually and regretfully close the book on the dream… and tell me about what REALLY happened.

Meanwhile, read the Utne article HERE

Quote of the day

We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
~ American Indian Proverb

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Who’s your favorite spy?

SpiesThe Greatest Spies In Pop Culture

In fiction — as well as the real world — spies are everywhere. At io9, Katharine Trendacosta and Meredith Woerner picked 50 out of hundreds that merit special attention.

GarakGarak, Deep Space Nine
My husband was charmed that they chose one of his favorites, a fellow who he claims had the best line in the Deep Space 9 series.

When a human told the Cardassian Elim Garak that the meaning of the saying “the boy who cried wolf” is that if you tell lies, no-one will ever believe you again, Garek explains that he has it wrong:

“It means that you should never tell the same lie twice.”

Included on their list is one of my favorites, Christopher Foyle from the British series Foyle’s War. Although he started as a police officer, Foyle was so good at his job he ends up recruited by MI5. This, despite that scrupulously honesty is one of his defining features. “That’s right, he’s so good that a spy agency wanted him even though he doesn’t like to lie.”

Others on the list include George Smiley from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, James Bond, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Ethan Hunt of Mission Impossible, Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin from the Man from U.N.C.L.E., John Steed and Emma Peel, Jason Bourne…the list goes on and on. Who is your favorite?

See the whole list HERE


I’m giving a reading tonight…

 'Fan of the fantastic? We're thrilled to welcome back @[67938071280:274:Alma Alexander] tomorrow (Feb. 20) at 7pm with her latest Young Adult novel about shapeshifters, Random: Book One of The Were Chronicles. </p>

If you are anywhere near Bellingham, Washington this Friday, you might want to drop by Village Books at 7 p.m where I will be reading from Book 1 in The Were Chronicles…and a snippet from Book 2.

100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime

OK, this is a sales pitch for Amazon and they don’t really need any more promotion —

but still …

it’s a fascinating list and contains a number of books I’d recommend myself.

A Walk in the WoodsTake a “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, for just one example, a book that both my husband and I loved to the point we’d follow each other around the house reading passages out loud.

The suggested reading list includes works old and new — Malcolm X, Mark Twain, Vladimir Nabokov, Tiny Fey, Jack Kerouac, Joan Didion, Anne Frank…

So check the list put together by Amazon’s Books Editors. You don’t have to buy the books online; you can always get them from your favorite bookstore.


See the whole list HERE

Indies revenge

And speaking of favorite bookstores…

When huge chain bookstores spread across the country decades ago, they drove many independent booksellers out of business. Then most of the chains faltered and many went belly up.

When Borders liquidated a few years ago, for example, it left many communities without a bookstore, Judith Rosen writes at Publishers Weekly.

Most independent booksellers were hesitant about leasing the smaller vacated stores, and shopping centers were unwilling to carve up cavernous locations once occupied by the chain’s superstores.

Now, the bookselling landscape is changing once again. Independents are taking back some of the physical bookshelf space that had been lost.

Time needed to pass for the consumer, the landlord, and the bookstore market to figure out what should fill that space. It’s not another 20,000-sq.-ft. store, but maybe it’s two 4,000-sq.-ft. stores on different ends of town,” said Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books, which recently announced that it will open a third bookstore in the Seattle area.
Third Place BooksThird Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Wash. photo: thirdplacebooks.com

Read the encouraging story HERE

23 Reasons

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about the role of women in a totalitarian state, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, is one of the best books ever written, Krystie Lee Yandoli writes at BuzzFeed.
The Handmaidens Taleinstagram.com
It has empowered people to think for themselves outside of conventional social norms.

See the other 22 reasons HERE

The top 10 novels featuring works of art

I never wrote a novel featuring a painting, but I did win a BBC contest for my short story, The Painting.

Novelist Sophia Tobin chooses her favorite books with paintings at their heart, from Dorian Gray’s hidden portrait to Donna Tartt’s stolen Goldfinch.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by VermeerGirl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (1999)

The book that inspired a play, a film and thousands of mini-breaks to The Hague. Looking at the Vermeer painting of the same name, Chevalier was inspired by the latent intensity of the sitter’s gaze as it meets the viewer/artist. From this she creates the story of Griet, a servant girl who, through her interest in art, becomes close to her employer, Johannes Vermeer. The influence of Netherlandish art is clear in Chevalier’s luminous version of Delft and her subtle portrait of love and loss, as coolly lit as one of Vermeer’s paintings.

See the others HERE

Dan ReeveArtist Daniel Reeve created and re-created calligraphy and maps for Peter Jackson’s films of the Tolkien adventures in Middle-earth. His gallery of images includes maps and illustrations as well as calligraphy and lettering.

See his work HERE

Quote of the Day
QUOTE John Gardner~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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Tomato eyes?

At the Ted talk blog, Helene Batt and Kate Torgovnick May examine 40 brilliant idioms that simply can’t be translated literally

As our Open Translation Project volunteers translate TED Talks into 105 languages, they’re often challenged to translate English idioms into their language. Which made us wonder: what are their favorite idioms in their own tongue?

For example:
The idiom: ชาติหน้าตอนบ่าย ๆ
Literal translation: “One afternoon in your next reincarnation.”
What it means: “It’s never gonna happen.”
Thai translator Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut

Other languages this idiom exists in: A phrase that means a similar thing in English: “When pigs fly.” In French, the same idea is conveyed by the phrase, “when hens have teeth (quand les poules auront des dents).” In Russian, it’s the intriguing phrase, “When a lobster whistles on top of a mountain (Когда рак на горе свистнет).” And in Dutch, it’s “When the cows are dancing on the ice (Als de koeien op het ijs dansen).”

About those tomatoes
tomato_eyesThe idiom: Tomaten auf den Augen haben.
Literal translation: “You have tomatoes on your eyes.”
What it means: “You are not seeing what everyone else can see. It refers to real objects, though — not abstract meanings.
German translator Johanna Pichler

See all the idioms HERE

8 Hot Book-Based Movies
dakota-johnson-fifty-shades-of-greyDakota Johnson in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’/Image © Focus Features

If it is hot you want, Jay A. Fernandez and Word & Film has eight movies beyond “50 Shades of Gray” for you to look at, from “Dangerous Liaisons” to “Nine 1/2 Weeks”  — and some honorable mentions.

You know about that movie, of course. “The film adaptation of E.L. James’s mega-selling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey is out and hearts and other delicate organs are all aflutter at the prospect of Jamie Dornan’s billionaire control-freak Mr. Grey finally introducing Dakota Johnson’s naïve college grad Anastasia Steele to the exquisite joys (and pains) of BDSM on the big screen…if you find yourself hungry for more book-based, big-screen eroticism, here’s our ranking of some of the steamier options on offer (on a scale of one to five shades). Curious?”

Hot enough for you? HERE

Girl Canon

Girls read more than boys, a Flavorwire article notes, but the classic, canonical growing-up books tend to represent the male experience. Emily Temple asks, where are the books for girls to grow up on?

I wondered the same thing myself at the start of the Harry Potter tidal wave and set out to something about that with my Worldweavers YA series. Its central figure, Thea Winthrup, was The Girl Who Couldn’t who became over the four books, The Woman Who Saved The World. Quite a role model.

Temple offers 50 other “Essential Books about the female experience.

Check out her list HERE


Dawn of Magic


Speaking of Worldweavers, the fourth and  final book in the series, Dawn of Magic, is now out and I am sponsoring a giveaway at Goodreads.

Go to the site and enter your name for a chance to win a copy of the book in which Thea, Nikola Tesla and Corey the Trickster rescue mankind’s stolen Core of Magic..


Enter Contest HERE


50 Books Guaranteed to Make You More Interesting

At Flavorwire, Emily Temple offers a list of books that will make you smarter, funnier, deeper, and yes, more interesting — at least to some people.

Take, for example:
The Gilda Stories,The Gilda Stories, Jewelle Gomez: OK: this is a feminist lesbian vampire novel, a coming-of-age story starring an undead escaped slave that spans some 200 years as the title character works her way from Louisiana in 1850 to New Hampshire in 2020. It’s bound to teach anybody something new.

And one more:
Lone Ranger and TontoThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Sherman Alexie:  Not only one of the best, funniest, and smartest books about the Native American experience in America, but also one of the best, funniest, and smartest books. Alexie’s interwoven shorts will improve you in almost every way.

See the other 48 HERE

Sounds of Silence

Silence has become an endangered species. Gordon Hempton writes at Daily Good, and that is bad for us and the planet.

“Our cities, our suburbs, our farm communities, even our most expansive and remote national parks are not free from human noise intrusions. Nor is there relief even at the North Pole; continent-hopping jets see to that.”  
Silent Forest“Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything. It lives here, profoundly, at One Square Inch in the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park — arguably the quietest place in the United States. It is the presence of time, undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are…To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it.”

Read the profound lyrical essay HERE

Quote of the Day
QUOTE Great book~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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You killed her!

I write books. I tell stories. I create worlds, and the characters who inhabit them. I know I have hit my mark when I get a reaction from readers — like the one who once called me up at 3 AM to wail in anguish:

“You killed her! I can’t believe you killed her!”

I know this place. I’ve been there myself, with other writers’ characters. Ones I could not believe the author would have the heart or the gumption to kill them off. So I understand very well where James Varon is coming from when he lists the following as one of the

17 Times Your Love Of Books Was Officially Out Of ControlOut of controlFlickr / Patrick Gage Kelley

# 9 - “When you get halfway through a book and you’re so painfully invested in the characters that you almost don’t want to finish the book in case something bad happens to them. What if one of them dies!!!!”

And #15 also hits the mark: “When you meet someone who loves a book that you also love and you…practically do nothing but just discuss books until both your voices are hoarse. And then when you marry that person because having books you love in common.”

Because that’s what I did.

Read the rest HERE


I’m at Radcon this weekend in Pasco, Washington. I visited a school, where one girl grabbed the bookmarks for my various new books, marched to the school librarian to pick up copies — and was outraged to discover they hadn’t acquired them yet. Bless her.Alma and Jim Hines

Bookmarks For Bookworms

I love some of these. The HippoMark is inspired and I’d like one myself, although I have my doubts about how useful it is or how easily it would get knocked right out of a book it was marking if it was laid down carelessly. This one is much more useful.
Fox bookmarkThe ones I make, as promo swag for my books are useful bookmarks, but aren’t nearly as natty as some of these are.Bookmarks spread

See ALL the bookmarks HERE

This century’s 12 greatest novels, so far

What are the greatest novels of the opening years of this tumultuous century? Jane Ciabattari and the BBC asked prominent book editors, critics, and reviewers to name the best novels published in English since 1 January 2000. The critics named 156 novels in all, and based on the votes, these are the top 12.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The winner in this BBC Culture critics’ poll is Junot Diaz’s first novel, about New Jersey ghetto-nerd Oscar, who dreams of being the Dominican-American Tolkien and finding love.

“It is a big deal for me to fall in love with a book when its DNA is science fiction, fantasy and testosterone,” says Elizabeth Taylor, The Chicago Tribune’s literary editor-at-large.

See all the others HERE


Remember that line:? All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. “

And of course Europa is THE one we want to go to. Well, we were warned… But DAMN, it’s going to be exciting.
EuropaIllustrations by Ron Miller

We’re Going To Europa

All the world’s a page

One woman’s year-long quest to read a book from every country
World-BookAnn Morgan read a book from 196 states in 12 months (AFP/Getty)

The response from bibliophiles around the globe was a story in itself, Ann Morgan writes in The Independent.

Read her story HERE


Quiz: Can you identify the detective from their description?

From hardboiled PIs to mustachioed gentlemen amateurs, fictional detectives give detailed descriptions of suspects but rarely talk about themselves. Can you pick these iconic detectives out in a lineup

Name that detective


A free look-up capable custom Kindle dictionary of fictitious terms, places, and people in literature.

Read more HERE

These 23 Unbelievable Facts will destroy your Understanding Of Time

Time has always perplexed the human race. We’ve tried to define it, track it, and measure it since the emergence of civilization. However, facts like these listed here show us how distorted our perception of time can be and how much we still need to learn about the fourth dimension.

Read all the facts HERE

Quote of the Day
QUOTE - C.S. Lewis~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me 

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Goodbye — and Thank You

I was nineteen years old and a ‘seasoned’ writer who had written between three and six novels, depending on whether you counted only the ‘good’ ones or everything, when I hit upon a brilliant idea.

I would rewrite the Matter of Britain, the body of medieval literature associated with legendary heroes like King Arthur.

In the first person.

As the Queen.

I wrote the book. entitled “I, Guinevere”, and got so identified with it that my boyfriend at the time used to send me cards addressed to “the Princess” (I still have those cards. They are little treasures.)

It was a serious attempt to come to grips with a topic I passionately loved, with characters whom I’d known well for years through dipping into their stories as told by many other people, with the kind of lush language with which I was to become familiar as my writing later grew more fully into that shape.

“I, Guinevere” was promptly handed by my father to a South African publisher who loved it. I was close enough to a published book to smell it.

He said that the novel had to go to a beta reader first for his report. And off it went.

The beta reader… was Andre Brink.

André Brink, 1982André Brink in 1982

He was one of South Africa’s great writers, a Name, and I was stunned. But Brink was perhaps the last person who might have had any sympathy for the kind of writer I was – or I was shaping to be – or for the subject matter that I had chosen.

I waited for his report with something like existential dread.

When it came back, it opened with a sentence which still takes my breath away.

I have no doubt at all that this work was written by someone who will be a great writer one day.

If you can smell the next word, you’re right. It was


One of the reasons he gave for my novel’s having missed its mark was that it lacked, as he put it, “what Nikos Kazantzakis called madness“. (It was because of this that I went on to read Kazantzakis whom I had not read before then – so thank you, Mr Brink, for Zorba the Greek.) What he meant, I suspect, was that it lacked the rawest kind of passion, a sexual energy with which this story was charged – but with which I had failed to imbue it.

It rankled, then, but of course he was utterly correct – I was nineteen years old, and a very young and innocent nineteen, and my attempts to write adultery in THE FIRST PERSON (even adultery decorously clad in the robes of High Chivalry) were probably laughable.

I say “were probably” because, to my chagrin, I seem to have permanently lost every last copy of that manuscript. I would love to read it now all these decades later just to see by how much I had sailed past my mark but that is no longer possible. All I have is a memory of that nineteen-year-old girl and her romantic-but-attempted-to-be-gritty vision of Camelot and its shenanigans, and of the book that was born out of that.
dad and me lonelier roadA portrait of the writer as a young woman — Alma at 19 and her late father, Hamo Hromic, with an early book of her poetry

And that sentence. The sentence that – in spite of himself – in spite of all his misgivings and his caveats and eventually his veto – Andre Brink could not help but give me.

Thank you for that, sir.

With gratitude, and respect, I bid you farewell. And may Nikos Kazantzakis greet you with a does of ‘madness’ out there in the light where the passion of words (which you have always carried with you) blazes like a star,

Alma Alexander


Andre Brink dies at 79

Quote of the day

If I speak with a character’s voice it is because that character’s become so much part of me that … I think I have the right then to imagine myself into the skin, into the life, into the dreams, into the experience of the particular character that I’ve chosen.” ~ Andre Brink

Alma Alexander       My books       Email me

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Bridge to history

One of the formative reading experiences of any child of my background and culture is the book “The Bridge on the Drina” by Ivo Andric.

Bridge on the Drina


It was a seminal work of historical fiction which goes to the heart of the formation of the melting pot that became a country called Yugoslavia in which I was born.  Andric won a Nobel Prize for Literature, for that and other works – but to most of the world it was a just a good book. To those of us who read it from the inside, it was searing. It was a reminder of a long and bloody history whose tentacles reach right to the present day and still pack a poisoned punch.


Letters-from-the-FireMany many years after Andric wrote his book, I co-authored a novel with the man I subsequently married called “Letters from the Fire”, whose subject matter was yet another war fought on that embattled piece of land that was once my country. Amelia Batistich, a New Zealand writer of some note and of Croatian ancestry, phoned me shortly after it was published to thank me for writing it.

Her true gift to me were the words that followed.

“It is the ‘Bridge on the Drina’ of our times.”

And to this day, the idea that I might have come close to emulating what Andric did for my people and my past makes me want to cry with humility, and with pride. And yes, sometimes the two can stand hand in hand and smiling at one another.
Drina BridgeWatch a video about the town, the book, and the bridge HERE

Reading loveI mean, I love reading ALL YEAR, but what the hell – just go for it – and I DO have some brand new books for people to pick up after all :)

What should I do?

Last year I went to the Rainforest Writing Retreat on the shores of beautiful Lake Quinault and wrote up a quiet storm – a large chunk of the novel then in progress, before I was blindsided by a short story which I had to write down right there.

I am going to try to do it again this year, even while aware that life, as has been famously said, is what happens when you’re making other plans

I am thinking about projects to concentrate on while I am there, and I have decided to see if all y’all have any preferences as to what you might want to see emerge FIRST.

The options:

1) The novel I wrote there last year was “Wolf”, the second book in the Were Chronicles series. That’s coming out in May. The third book, Shifter, is due by the end of the year.  publication date of end of this yea. BUT…

…there are other stories that have presented themselves in that universe. I’ve just sketched out a few notes, so far. But this might be a good time to launch into the first of those…?

2) Another Fat Historical Fantasy is long overdue and I have one in the wings waiting there very patiently. This is a distinct possibility. I could dive in and let the waters of this thing close over my head and not come up for air until it’s time to leave. And it will be a Big. Fat. Historical. Fantasy. Think Jin Shei.

3) Finishing up a half-written stand-alone fantasy which has been dropped several times. There are good bones there, and it might be time to put some flesh on them.

4) I am putting together a themed short story collection. Some of the stories are done but I need six or seven more. I could have a more or less finished collection ready by the time I leave the retreat.

So – what do you think? Vote in the comments, for #1,#2,#3, or #4. And I will take it under advisement… you have the rest of this month to make your opinions known. Which door…?

Dawn of MagicDawn is here
There’s a Goodreads page for the final book in the Worldweavers series, Dawn of Magic, for your reading and reviewing pleasure.

See the Goodreads page HERE

You can buy it at Amazon in either paperback or ebook.

While it’s like choosing your favorite child, I have to admit that it IS my favorite of the four books in the series. Go read, enjoy, leave me LOTS of reviews…

Buy Dawn of Magic HERE

8 tips for studying smarter

The way most students study makes no sense, two psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis say, according to a story by Joseph Stromberg at Vox.

Rereading an assignment, for example, is useless.
University student studying in library.Photofusion/UIG via Getty Images

Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel have spent a combined 80 years studying learning and memory, and recently distilled their findings with novelist Peter Brown in the book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

Read what works and what doesn’t HERE

Is Being a Writer a Job or a Calling?

Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens discuss whether being a writer is just a job or a loftier ambition.

Benjamin Moser:
Benjamin MoserThere is something dreary about wanting writing to be a real job. The sense of inner purpose…distinguishes a writer from a hack. Emily Dickinson didn’t turn her calling into a job, and neither did Franz Kafka…or any of the millions of writers who have never earned a penny for their thoughts. A defrocked priest forever remains a priest, and a writer — independent of publication or readership or “career” — is always a writer. Independent, even of writing. Writing, after all, is something one does. A writer is something one is.  (Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson )

Dana Stevens:
Dana StevensI still remember the moment I decided to be a writer — or, as I distinctly sensed it at the time, realized I would become one. I was between 7 and 8 years old, sitting in the lowest forking branch of a huge sycamore…I was thinking…the fact that books, those miraculous receptacles of meaning pulled off the shelf each night, were just objects created by people, and that when I grew up, I could conceivably be one of the people responsible for making them. Before that “could” was fully formulated in my mind, it had become a “would” — one day, this would somehow be my job. (Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson )

Read the rest HERE


Well played

Native American Council Offers Amnesty to 240 Million Undocumented Whites

Read the story HERE

Beware the robots

Brain surgeons, at least, don’t need to fear robots taking their jiob.

Or do they?

Scientists have recently developed a way to use a laser guided robotic arm that enters the brain through a tiny hole in the skull, then use nanoparticles to remove the cancerous tumor, leaving the healthy cells untouched. The process is still go through clinical trials.

Meet the ultimate WikiGnome

One Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake

Read the article HERE

Quote of the Day
Saved by a squirrell~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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