When the magic is free

Weight of Worlds, my collection of 11 tales of magic, cruelty, and sacrifice, is free in ebook form until Feb. 5.

Weight of Worlds
But, for the moment, only on the Kindle, I’m afraid.

The cover story tells of several worlds and their millions of souls lost in a game of chance. In other stories we encounter the soul of a sinner locked in a gargoyle serving out his time in purgatory, an angel offering a new life to a deeply troubled woman but at a bitter price, and many others.

All of my stories owe a debt to the dark and twisted fairy tales of Oscar Wilde and the passion and poignant drama of the stories of Hans Christian Andersen.

If you pick up the book, please consider writing a quick review on Amazon.

Weight of Worlds

‘Year of reading women’ declared for 2014

The bias in favor of male writers is fueling a drive to switch attention to female authors, Alison Flood reports in the Guardian.

From a small American literary journal’s vow to dedicate a year’s coverage to women writers and writers of color to author and artist Joanna Walsh’s burgeoning  #readwomen2014 project, readers – and publishers – around the world are starting to take their own small steps to address male writers’ dominance in the literary universe.

Persephone BooksFresh perspective … Persephone Books in London, a publisher and bookseller focused on women writers. Photograph: Anna Gordon

Figures last year from Vida show the huge imbalance in how male and female writers – and reviewers – are treated: at the New York Review of Books, for example, in 2012 16% of reviewers were women, with 22% of the books reviewed written by women.

Joanna Walsh points to authors and readers who have all undertaken projects to read only women writers. Her own project, #readwomen2014, started as “nothing but a few Christmas cards” which dubbed 2014 “the year of reading women”, listing 250-odd names from Angela Carter to Zadie Smith and encouraging recipients to “if not vow to read women exclusively, look up some of the writers I’ve drawn on the front or listed on the back”. But she was inundated with requests for the cards, and with suggestions on Twitter for other women authors to include.

Read women

12 Historic Bars Every Book Nerd Needs To Visit

Channel your inner literary lush, Arianna Rebolini of BuzzFeed says, by drinking where the greats drank. The White Horse Tavern in New York, for example:

White HorseFlickr: katie_cat / Creative Commons

Notable Patrons: Dylan Thomas, James Baldwin, Anais Nin, Norman Mailer

The White Horse Tavern opened in 1880 and was known for being a longshoreman’s hangout until the 1950s, when Welsh poet Dylan Thomas started coming around. It is most famously (and morbidly) known as the place of Thomas’ last drink; in November of 1953, after downing eighteen shots of whiskey, he collapsed on the sidewalk and later died at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Still, the West Village tavern remained a favorite spot for the literary set, attracting writers and poets to this day.

ArticoFlickr: ladyous / Creative Commons

Antico Caffe Greco, Rome

Notable Patrons: John Keats, Charles Dickens, Henrik Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Maria Zambrano

Having opened in 1760, this historic landmark is Rome’s oldest bar (and Italy’s second oldest). Its reputation as a haven for writers and artists was built largely by Shelley and her contemporaries, who worked on manuscripts and swapped ideas while enjoying a cappuccino at the Caffe’s marble tables. It continues to draw some of Rome’s most influential minds today.

‘Drinking’ with the greats

Romance writers, Jennifer Weiner, and the future of publishing

The New York literary industry stands at the front door and frets over the guest list, while everyone else is sneaking out the back, Jesse Barron writes in Harper’s. There are many better parties…You can feel, in literary corners of the city, the depreciation of old-style New York–centered prestige.

RomanceIllustration by Thomas Allen

Good romance writers, in particular, can earn a living without anyone in New York publishing knowing their names, because they publish and promote their work themselves.

Future publishing

21 Photographers Share The Most Amazing Shot They Ever Captured

They speak for themselves

Driving through the desertGuy Nesher – “My best photo to date, taken during a trip to the Bolivian salt desert.”

Winter castleLuiz Pires“I was living in Munich a couple of years ago and had my mother and sister visiting me for a few days. We decided to brave the winter conditions and icy roads to drive to Neuschwanstein castle a couple of hours away. When we got there, the weather had completely cleared and we were rewarded with amazing ‘winter wonderland’ scenes.”

Amazing photos

Wearable’ book allows reader to feel emotions of characters

Students have created a “wearable” book that enables you to feel the characters’ feelings as you read the story”

Wearable books
Feel the emotions

Fatal literary passion

Russian Man Stabbed to Death in Poetry-Over-Prose Dispute

Literary passion

Quote of the Day

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first ~ Mark Twain

Alma Alexander

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12 Literary Pilgrimages

Many destinations are benefiting from their connection, however tenuous, to a popular work of literature, Mental Floss reminds us.

Bath, England

Bath festivalBath Festival

Jane Austen died in 1817 but still remains one of the most popular writers in the English language. Her works of quiet social satire have inspired countless film adaptations and modernizations, reams of fan fiction and even a week-long festival in Bath, the scene of many an Austen book.

Thousands of Austenophiles spend a week in September dressing up as their favorite character from Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice or any of Austen’s other works, engaging in Regency era gossip, partaking in country dances, a wedding, and touring the Pump Room.

Check out The Grail Trail, Walden’s Pond and all the others.

Literary Pilgrimages

On io9, Charlie Jane Anders  offers:

The best entry level science fiction books to convert your friends

But I’d take issue with at least one of the choices.

CLOUD ATLAS? They recommended CLOUD ATLAS?

That book is a hot mess of convoluted timelines and weird cut-and-pastes and if you don’t have a mind that copes with such stuff you’re only going to get lost and frustrated and are going to toss the entire baby of spec fic out with the Cloud Atlas bathwater. Who in their right mind would suggest this as a ‘gateway’ book?

If anyone had tossed me in on that as a gateway to SFF I would never have read another word in the genre again in my life!

SF/F for beginners
Many of their other choices I agree with. What do you think?

SF/Fantasy for beginners

Seattle, a ‘City of Literature'”

The UNESCO Creative Cities network is a group of 41 cities worldwide with specialties in film, literature, design, music, gastronomy and other areas. Seattle writer Ryan Boudinot is leading an effort to get Seattle designated as a City of Literature.

The literary Seattle

The Huffington Post reports on:

16 Major Advantages Of Being A Book Lover

Book love
The Number One reason is, of course:

You’re never bored. Public transportation? Grab a book. Doctor’s waiting room? Grab a book. Your friends are ignoring you because you “never come out” and “are always too busy reading”? You guessed it: Grab a book.

Number Three: You get to explore the consciousnesses of hundreds of people. It’s like telepathy, but better.

Welcome gifts
Number Eight is obvious: You are the easiest person in the world to buy gifts for.

Book Lovers Advantage

Photos That Will Make Your Stomach Drop

Maybe you will feel strange while you looking at these photos, BoredDaddy.com says, but who knows, maybe that’s exactly what you need to break out of the rut. P.S Whatever you do, don’t look down.

portaledge campingPortaledge camping at Yosemite. Corey Rich / Getty Images

This one gives me the heebie jeebies. What if you turn over in your sleep?

Vertical skiingExtreme skiing at Grand Targhee, Wyoming. 33m.lista.cl

I have vertigo now. Gotta go lie down until it goes away. BTW, That last picture in the series is from my old home town, Cape Town, South Africa.

Don’t look down
Short List offers:

The Ultimate Shakespeare Quote Quiz

Shakespeare: pretty much the greatest writer in the history of the English language – I think we can all agree on that?

Not only did he write some incredible plays, virtually all of which are still actively performed and enjoyed today, but he also knew his way around a memorable turn of phrase, inventing many that now form part of the fabric of our everyday conversation.

So if you’re big on the Bard, take the quote quiz. I got 18 right. How did you do?

Shakespeare Quiz

Quote of the Day

Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. ~ JOHN MAXWELL


Alma Alexander

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Why is writing so damned hard?

Some thoughts on common conceptions and misconceptions about writing.

1) I’ll write that book as soon as I have some time.

Buzzzz, no. You MAKE the time. If the book wants to be written, it will eat you alive from the inside if you don’t write it. If the only reason that you aren’t writing is because you can’t “make time” for it, you probably aren’t meant to be a writer at all.

People who want to, need to, write stuff have been known to write ten words while stopped at a traffic light, type with one hand while trying to burp a toddler with the other, write during their lunch hours while working their second job as a janitor.

I was writing fairy tales with my biochemistry textbook open in front of me two days before finals. Harry Potter was born to a struggling single mom on benefits.

I am not saying that you aren’t a writer if you don’t do all of these things. But blaming “time”? You won’t suddenly “find the time” when you retire. You write because you can’t help writing. If you don’t really want to write, nobody can help you. But if you do… nobody can stop you. Not even “lack of time”.

2) Everything I write must be perfect the first time.

Sorry. First drafts suck, by definition. That’s what they are FOR. You blurt out the story you want to tell onto a permanent record, so that if it turns all evanescent on you and vanishes as soon as you stop thinking about it, you still have it. The basic story is there to be tweaked, and polished, and played with, to be made perfect.

Much as I hate to admit it, all the best writing is rewriting – the thing that you do with that first draft once you’ve got it down. No. It does NOT need to be perfect out the gate. NOTHING is. Give yourself this golden opportunity to make your mistakes – because it is here that you will have a chance to correct them.

3) Everything I write is terrible.

If it’s the first draft, it probably is because what’s in your head is not what’s in front of you on the paper or screen. In your head you have already begun improving it, fixing errors and infelicities and the version before you doesn’t reflect that…yet.

Oh and also – write this down and put it on top of your computer monitor so you don’t forget it – YOU ARE NOT THE BEST JUDGE OF YOUR OWN WORK.

Before you condemn it as the world’s uttermost crap, run another pair of eyes over it – no, not your mother’s, nor your best friend’s — the eyes of a cold reader. They will inevitably see things in your work that are too deeply buried in there for you to notice. This second look gives you a chance to fix the things that may TRULY need fixing. It will also serve to show you that you aren’t necessarily writing the complete drivel that you think you are. Distance yourself from your work. It’s freeing.

But do be prepared that there will be some out there who will genuinely NOT LIKE IT. This is nothing to do with how good or how craptastic it is. It’s subjective opinion. Don’t take it personally.

4) I have to start at the beginning, go on until the end, and then stop.

Well, that is one way of doing it — if you are that kind of linear thinker; if your story is that kind of linear story.

But now hear this – IT DOESN’T HAVE TO WORK THAT WAY.

The genesis of one of my novels came when I first wrote a vivid scene that I rather liked. It wasn’t the starting place for the novel, but I knew I’d find a place to fit it in. I did, of course, but that place was nearly 2/3rds into the book.

Changer Of Days USA coveThe scene that inspired this and which I wrote first shows Anghara, my heroine,  atop a hill looking  back at a plain black with the dust of the army pursuing her. In the final manuscript it doesn’t appear until  two-thirds of the way through the book. 

If your story insists on being a jigsaw puzzle that’s fine too. Write the scenes that scream to be written, and then see how they fit together. The only true way of writing is the way that works for you. Everything else is true, too – it just isn’t YOUR truth. And your truth can, and often does, change depending on the sort of story you’re grappling with. Accept this with grace.

5) Beginnings are difficult.

Yes, they are. Beginning writers often start way too early and drone on and on – or they will start way too late, in the middle of a situation the reader doesn’t understand and full of characters they haven’t been given a chance to care about yet.

So yes, beginnings are difficult. BUT…it is also somethng that is made easier by practice. And by that I don’t mean write a million words of beginnings of your own. Read and re-read the books you love. See how THOSE writers led you in and made you want to stay. Beginnings are difficult, but they are not insurmountable. But once you begin something, the next thing that you’re going to say is…

6) Endings are difficult.

Yes, they are. Again, beginning writers have their problems because they don’t know that their story ended three chapters ago. Or they just stop, in the middle of something, and leave a reader screaming for closure.

The perfect ending is elusive… but achievable. Practice. Read. Become familiar with what an ending needs to do in order for your story to remain in the reader’s memory. Make sure an ending is satisfying – it doesn’t have to be neat and all deus ex machina but it has to be satisfying – you have to give emotional truth and closure.

It is difficult, yes, but it is only impossible if you give up.

7) Middles are impossible.

In between those difficult beginnings and endings you have to TELL A STORY THAT MATTERS.

Have you ever heard about the EIght Deadly Words of Literature? They’re these: “I DON’T CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO THESE PEOPLE.” Whoever your people are, whatever happens to them, your reader HAS TO CARE. And this does makes middles an almost impossible achievement.

They can paralyze a writer because they don’t seem substantial enough or important enough or even just not worth telling. But a good story is a good story – and a good writer can make almost anything into a good story. The middle is a path through the wilderness. Learn to recognize these trails. They’re worth following.

8) You start with short stories and then graduate to novels – that’s how you build a career.

Sounds logical, but it’s nonsense.

Novels and short stories are two very different animals. I’ve known exquisite short story writers who have NEVER made the leap to novel-length works – and I’ve known amazing novelists who simply can’t write a short story.

Some writers can do both, but it isn’t a given, and it certainly is not the career stepping stone that it’s been touted as. Short stories and novels require completely different skill sets, and they are not training for one another.

If you want to write novels, write novels. You don’t have to master the short story first. By all means write short stories if you want to but you don’t HAVE to. It is NOT obligatory.

9) Your work is done when you’ve finished the first draft.

Oh, Hell, No. As I said before, your first draft is going to suck.

Your first draft is there so that you have the story in front of you. The real work doesn’t END here, it begins. You have to tease that first draft monstrosity into shape. You have to hack at the rough edges. You have to mold corners. You have to make sure the light falls on it JUST SO. You have to buff and polish and fine-tune. Are you SURE there isn’t a better word for this? are you SURE this is the character’s real motivation? Are you positive that nothing at all in here can’t be made better?

And even then you aren’t finished. It goes out to editors, and comes back with THEIR comments and corrections. No, you don’t have to accept them all, but a good editor is worth their weight in rubies and you at the very least must pay attention. Often their best comments arent specific – they just tell you that they feel that there is a problem here somewhere and it is UP TO YOU to find it and fix it.

Now you’re done, right? Wrong. You return the editorial MS, it gets published, people read it, review it and then you have to deal with their reactions and responses. And then you have to go on and write the next thing.

What, you thought writing was a destination? It’s a JOURNEY, my friend. You’re always thinking, working, dreaming, researching, pushing words around to make new and pleasing patterns. Call yourself a writer? Your work is NEVER done. You’ve just given yourself DIFFICULT homework to do every night. For the rest of your life.

10) Only books on bestseller lists are worth reading.

If you think that, we don’t have much to discuss, do we? Do I need to tell you that sometimes bestseller lists are self-fufilling prophecies? Sometimes you can find a rack of books for sale which are labelled #1, #2, etc – but they’re the ONLY books for sale, so of course every sale goes to boost that number? Often the best and most satisfying reads never make the best seller ranks.

Don’t read only the things everyone else reads. Go wander in unfamiliar groves and pick strange fruit on occasion. And wait for the amazing taste of it to burst inside your mouth as you bite into it, the kind of taste that doesn’t always live on bestseller lists where everything is in some way shape or form a Red Delicious apple – good but bland and after a while it ALL TASTES THE SAME…

11) Showing and telling.

“Show, don’t tell” – a scene with action or dialog rather than just narrative – is a dictum often leveled at beginners because quite often it IS a problem. The story was started in the wrong place and too much background is missing and needs to be supplied somehow, or you’ve got the wrong POV for the story and your poor character is flailing while trying to understand things that (s)he could not possibly have known in the circumstances which you have set up.

But all that being said, sometimes TELLING something is precisely the right way to go. Once again, it comes down to practice – and honestly, I’m sorry, but there really is no way to learn writing except to WRITE. And you really do have to write your million words of crap before you start having an educated enough sense of what you’re doing to KNOW that it isn’t the right thing and to begin to have the ability to reach for the right thing through all the mess that you’ve got on your hands.

In other words, feel free to tell.

Sometimes description MATTERS. Just know when it’s enough telling, and sweep us forward into what happens next. It’s like cooking with salt. A little goes a long way. Use a light hand.

12) ALL the research I have ever done on this subject needs to go into the book.

Oh, you’ve seen it in a lot of novels, haven’t you? The ones where it’s obvious that the writer has REALLY done his or her research because the book rings with it hollowly like a bell every time you strike it. The author had to learn all these things, and by gum, YOU WILL KNOW THEM TOO, or at least you will know that the author knows them.

But there is a little thing called the Iceberg Theory of Writing. An iceberg is beautiful and imposing and you can admire and appreciate it while you’re floating past it. But NINETY PERCENT OF ANY GIVEN ICEBERG IS BELOW THE SURFACE. Sure, it gives the iceberg stability and balance and presence. Without it, there wouldn’t be an iceberg. But you don’t have to know precisely its shape and size and position and how much of it there is and how heavy it is and all the relevant physics and chemistry of it all in order to know that it exists, that it needs to exist, and that the iceberg knows what it’s about. Do thou likewise with thy research. Make it the basis for your world. Don’t make it YOUR WORLD.

13) All it takes is talent.

And perseverance. And luck. And a thick skin. And a coin whose heads is humility and whose tails is pride (yes this makes sense. Think about it). Many things go to make a writer. An ability to sling words is important but it is not nearly enough. You have to have all those other things, and you have to have faith.

Now go. Write. Believe.Good luck.

Quote of the Day

Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. ~ JOHN MAXWELL


Alma Alexander

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Comments welcome


Do you have an opinion?

A Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Book Meme

At SF Signal, John DeNardo wants to know what people think about the Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror books they have been reading.

Here are my answers to his 10 questions:

The last sf/f/h book I read and liked: Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan. A beautifully done book, tone perfect.
natural-history-dragonsThe last book I read and wasn’t crazy about: Ocean at the end of the Lane, Neil Gaiman. It’s a story that I have a sneaking suspicion would have been sent back by return mail if anyone other than Neil Gaiman had submitted it to a Big Six publisher. It feels like there’s something deeply personal in here, yes, but it also feels like it was skated over – and that ocean really WAS just that pond.

The book I am reading now: Hild, Nicola Griffith. It’s supposedly HISTORICAL, but it’s far enough in the past for there to be a shade of fantasy about the history.

The book I most want to read next: Freedom’s Maze, Delia Sherman. I look forward to this one.

An underrated book: Havenstar by Glenda Larke. She is a good writer who too often flies under the radar.
An overrated book: Game of Thrones, GRR Martin. I get overwhelmed by it all – the cast of thousands, the wars, the violence. There is real imagination here but it’s being stretched very very thin over the subject matter.

The last book that was recommended to me? Too many to choose from. I won’t pick just one.

A book I recommended to someone else: Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay I tell EVERYONE about this book. It is sublime.

A book I have re-read: Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien. Don’t ask me what I think of the movies.

A book I want to re-read: Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake. I remember it as being eerily fascinating. But I last read it too many years ago to be sure.

Take the quiz (and if any of my books are on your list, please let me know.)

A sf/f/h meme

Language by the Book, but the Book Is Evolving

The O.E.D.Michael Proffitt,, the O.E.D.’s new chief editor, speaks of its future in an article in the New York Times. Some things might surprise you.

Take, for example, where the Oxford English Dictionary is now getting some of it’s quotes — from blog and Twitter postings, quotations from gravestones, an inscription in a high school yearbook. Not that modern terms from these sources are as far afield as you might think.

Historical quotations in the O.E.D. show that many infamous terms of today are older than expected. The following sentence might give most traditionalists hives — literally or figuratively.

OMG, I Am, Like, Literally Unfriending You


OMG The first recorded appearance of this breathless acronym for “Oh, my God!” comes, surprisingly, in a letter to Winston Churchill.

1917 J. A. F. Fisher Let. 9 Sept. in Memories (1919) v. 78. I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis — O.M.G. (Oh! My God!) — Shower it on the Admiralty!!

LITERALLY Word curmudgeons wince when “literally” is used figuratively. Examples of this inversion go back to 1769. Even Mark Twain did it.

1876 ‘M. Twain’ Adventures Tom Sawyer ii. 20 And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth.

LIKE Few words annoy the purist like “like.” Plopped into sentences, “like” is a rest stop for the hesitant, and not just tweens.

1778 F. Burney Evelina II. xxiii. 222 Father grew quite uneasy, like, for fear of his Lordship’s taking offence.

UNFRIEND Facebook was born in 2004. Unfriending began a tad earlier.

1659 T. Fuller Let. P. Heylyn in Appeal Injured Innoc. iii, I Hope, Sir, that we are not mutually Un-friended by this Difference which hath happened betwixt us.

WHATEVER, The earliest record of this fashionable retort may not go back centuries. Still, 41 years is older than many of its expert practitioners.

1973 To our Returned Prisoners of War (U.S. Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs) 10 Whatever, equivalent to “that’s what I meant.” Usually implies boredom with topic or lack of concern for a precise definition of meaning.

Change at the O.E.D.

The story of Stagecoach Mary

Mary Fields was the first African-American woman employed as a mail carrier in the US, and just the second woman. Born a slave about 1832, she stood 6 feet tall and weighed about 200 lbs, liked to smoke cigars, and was once said to be as “black as a burnt-over prairie.” When she moved to Montana, Native Americans called her “White Crow” because “she acts like a white woman but has black skin.”

In 1895, Fields, then about 60, was hired by the postal service because she was the fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses. She drove the route with horses and a mule named Moses. She never missed a day, and her reliability earned her the nickname “Stagecoach Mary.” If the snow was too deep for her horses, Fields delivered the mail on snowshoes, carrying the sacks on her shoulders.

Mary_FieldsMary Fields, c. 1895.

Actor Gary Cooper once wrote an article for Ebony in which he said: “Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath, or a .38.”

Stagecoach Mary

Quote of the Day

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on. ~ Robert Frost

Alma Alexander

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In the House of Books

I’m rarely envious of other’s homes and possessions, but … sigh …
Pulitzer Prize biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin recently spoke to The Wall Street Journal reporter Marc Myers about her life — and her books.

Doris Kearns GoodwinDoris Kearns Goodwin in her study. (Bryce Vickmark for The Wall Street Journal)

Twenty years after my husband and I moved to Concord, Mass., we ran out of book space. So in 1998, we bought a larger home nearby, and today it’s a house of books—about 20,000 in all.

Part of the reason Dick and I bought the house was … we saw the spaces as expansions for our books. We also loved the home’s layout. When you enter the house, there’s a reading room on the right with a fireplace. In front of you is a hallway that leads to the kitchen, dining room and the home’s great room. Upstairs there are three bedrooms and a study.

LibraryLibrary with her Lincoln books. (Bryce Vickmark, The Wall Street Journal)
The great roomThe great room. (Bryce Vickmark, The Wall Street Journal)

We refer to our rooms based on the books we keep there: the fiction room, the sports room, the biography room and so on. As writers, we have a terrible time letting go of books.

House of Books

Seeing with Your Whole Body

One day, as artist/sculpture Jane Rosen stepped out of her house on a California ranch, she saw a red-tailed hawk soaring above her, Richard Whittaker writes at Daily Good, “and I heard these words: ‘Tell my story’.

To do that, she has had to learn to really see, to see with much more than her eyes.

I’m not saying it doesn’t include the eyes…(but) when I’m looking at a bird or an animal, especially when I’m drawing it, the key is the shift in cognition where—and I know when it happens, I can sense it.

Are you talking about drawing?

I’m talking about life.”

Jane Rosen
Interview with an artist
The wishing trees

At First, It Looks Like A Normal Old Tree. But Look Closer… It’s Where Dreams Are Made.

They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but I’m willing to guess that “they” never saw these kinds of trees before. Look closely at these trunks. Do they look a little strange to you? They should.

Money TreeFlickr / Ken Wewerka
Money TreeFlickr / Paul Morriss

According to the BBC, in the 1700s, the Scottish people would sometimes hammer florins into a tree as an offering, hoping to take away sickness.

Wishing trees

Writing Lesson

A handy chart from Writers Write on a very common problem
Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

Very chart
33 Tips to Being a Better Writer

James Altucher has a bunch of rules, some of them very unusual rules. Take the first one, for example:

Write whatever you want. Then take out the first paragraph and last paragraph. Here’s the funny thing about this rule. It’s sort of like knowing the future. You still can’t change it. In other words, even if you know this rule and write the article, the article will still be better if you take out the first paragraph and the last paragraph.

Another: Break the laws of physics. There’s no time in text. Nothing has to go in order. Don’t make it nonsense. But don’t be beholden to the laws of physics.

I know that he has at least some of the right stuff because of another one of his rules:

CoffeeCoffee. I go through three cups at least before I even begin to write. No coffee, no creativity.

Unusual writing tips

Quote of the Day

Part of doing something is listening. We are listening. To the sun. To the stars. To the wind.” —Madeleine L’Engle


Alma Alexander

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The tattooed librarian

At Mental Floss, Jill Harness has gathered photos of 13 librarians with fantastic tattoos related to their choice of career.

Shhh, librarianA Tattooed Librarians and Archivists reader submitted this great pinup tattoo that she got to celebrate earning her Masters of Library and Information Science.

Books tattooAnyone who reads profusely has had someone, at some point, tell them “there’s more to life than books”—but, as any fan of The Smiths can tell you, “not much more.” This wonderful Smiths-inspired design was sent to Tattooed Librarians and Archivists by a library technician and MLIS student who works at a Bay Area high school and got the piece as a 31st birthday present. The artwork was done by Dan Gilsdorf at Tattoo 13 in Oakland.

The tattooed librarian

Alma AlexanderAlma Alexander in Village Books

The children of writers row on row

It was libraries, and then bookshops, increasingly so, as I grew to want to OWN the books I liked rather than having to give them back when I was done with them. But the serried ranks of books on shelves have always been a guiding star for me, a lure, a come-hither siren call that it has proved impossible to resist, or to shake off.

In the beginning it was the books that drew me, and much like modern kids who will tell you that milk comes from the supermarket I might have told you that books came from those shelves, that they grew there like strange fruit, fully formed, all those words between covers.

And then I started writing those words myself, and meeting other people who did the same, and the books changed into something else entirely. I began glimpsing the people behind the words, the faces behind the names on the book spines, the minds in which these stories originally grew and ripened and came to life.

And I do wonder, coming upon a book with my own name upon it on a bookstore shelf, how many other kids like me will look on these volumes and come to know, as I did once upon a time, that books are the children of writers, and they, the readers, become the children of those books – how many virtual grandchildren-readers my own story will give me, while on its travels out in the world. How many of you will turn my book over in your hands and think, oh, I think I might like this one, I’ll take it home with me tonight…

The Life, Death, And Afterlife Of The Mysterious “Flowers In The Attic” Author

Kate Aurthur of Buzz Feed reports on the remarkable story of the unknown wheelchair-bound writer who published a gothic teen-horror classic and became a phenomenon. Seven years later, she was dead, yet her name and legacy have lived on in nearly 70 subsequent books.

For the first time ever, her family and colleagues tell the story of V.C. Andrews’ unlikely rise to immortality.

VC Andrews posterThomas VanCleave / Justine Zwiebel / BuzzFeed

The Ghost Of V.C. Andrews

Classic paintings animated by digital magic

Rino Stefano Tagliafierro brings paintings from Caravaggio to Rubens to life.

Classics bought to life

What a character needs

A great piece – this is a blog worth bookmarking if you have the remotest interest in writing and writers.

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. This is his blog. He talks a lot about writing. And food. And the madness of toddlers. He uses lots of naughty language. NSFW. Probably NSFL. Be advised.

25 Things A Great Character Needs

Jason Krell on io9 gives us…

Twelve quotes from authors to remember when starting your first book

Quotes for a first book
When working on your first book, you’re faced with an extremely daunting task. At times it will be a highly enjoyable venture, but much of it will be excruciating. There are moments where you might want to throw in the towel, or where you’ll feel completely lost. And when that happens just remember the wise words of the successful authors below:

e.g. “Begin with an individual, and before you know it you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find you have created – nothing.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Quotes for authors of first books

Quote of the Day

The first book

Alma Alexander

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17 Best Bromances

The Huff Post has examined bromances in literature, noting carefully, “We don’t include any in this list who are actually romantically involved (such as Sebastian and Charles in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited) as those don’t differentiate from romances. This list is reserved for BFFs only, not lovers!

I’m not sure everyone defines the slang that way, but whatever…

Number 10 on their list is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but they don’t mention the current Dr. Watson’s rather plaintive cry “I AM NOT GAY!”

Sherlock and  WatsonBenedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

The two lived together for a time, and they also solved mysteries together. Watson is the perfect match for Sherlock’s sometimes abrasive, Type-A behavior. Also, Watson is the person who actually records all of Holmes’s triumphs. All but four of the Sherlock Holmes tales are told by Watson, who is outraged that Holmes doesn’t get more recognition in the press. He also deals with what a jerk Holmes is rather well. What a good friend!

Best buddies in literature

21 things you didn’t know about Sherlock

As season 3 of the BBC series begins, here are 21 things you may not know about Sherlock, Ross Jones tells us in The Telegraph.

For example, not everybody appreciated Irene Adler’s nudity and the BBC got more than 100 complaints.

AdlerActress Lara Pulver (BBC)

Some Sherlock purists objected on different grounds. Irene Adler as conceived by Conan Doyle it was argued in blog after blog, was a formidable woman of honor, who would never allow herself to become a pawn of Moriarty, or to fall for Holmes after showing him her breasts

The unknown Sherlock

Arthur Conan Doyle: 19 things you didn’t know

Writing in The Telegraph, Rachel Ward tells us what we may not know about Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. For example, he embraced football, fairies and public feuds.

And did you know he wasn’t knighted for creating Sherlock, or any of his fiction? In 1902, he was knighted for his work on a non-fiction pamphlet regarding the Boer War.

Arthur Conan DoyleArthur Conan Doyle, writer of Sherlock Holmes Photo: Paul Grover

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
How fiction can change us

One man realizes how great fiction revitalizes us, Kevin Hartnett reports in The Millions.

“Reading 1Q84 pollinated my life with wonder…When life wears us down, great fiction gives us back our human shape.”

Great fiction changes us

10 books that will change the way you understand the mind

The Mind
A new wave of science fiction, from the TV show Person of Interest to the movie Her, features artificial intelligences whose minds are truly alien, Annalee Newitz writes on io9. These AIs have plural selves, or many identities running in parallel; they are basically hive minds within one consciousness. But this idea of a hive mind has a long history in scifi literature. Here are ten tales to explode your brain with minds made up of selves, rather than a single self.

Mind of My Mind, by Octavia Butler is a particularly good example. The people in Butler’s incredible Patternmaster series have psychic powers — but unless they are linked together by a guiding “patternmaster,” they basically go insane. In Mind of My Mind, a patternmaster is born in the ghettos of Los Angeles during the 1970s and discovers her power by linking her mind to others like herself. Eventually, she amasses a small army of formerly homeless and schizophrenic mind-controllers, healers, and other psychics who are able to secretly take control of the city. Butler’s vision of the hive mind is more like a network. Each person in it retains a separate identity, but can’t function without remaining connected to the whole.

The hive mind

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Anais Nin quote~~~~~

Alma Alexander

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