Meet the Author

Meet Alma AlexanderRandom, The Were ChroniclesI’ll be at “The Author visits” all week, the first stop on a blog tour for Random, the first book in The Were Chronicles, my new YA series. There will be a book giveaway, an exceprt from Random, a review, a guest blog post from me, hints about What’s Next.

From today’s interview:

Which character in a book would you enjoy having drinks and dinner with?

I’d love to share a rowdy dinner party with the entire royal family of Amber (if I could sit next to Corwin), or perhaps I could visit the Wales of Llewellyn’s era, as portrayed by Sharon Penman, and share Llewellyn’s table (one assumes these invitations mean one can speak a shared language, although my current knowledge of 13th century Welsh is pretty much nil…), or maybe I could have tea with Merlyn from “The Once and Future King”…?

The whole interview here

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10 Best Historical Novels

My novel, The Secrets of Jin-Shei, takes place in an Imperial China that never existed. In fact, I called my version of ‘China’ by another name and in an endnote discussed the differences between my world and historical Imperial China.

That didn’t stop my publisher from trying to position it as a historical novel, some
reviewers from discussing it as such, and some bookstores putting it in the history section.

This comes to mind now because of a story in Publishers Weekly by Alix Christie, author of Gutenberg’s Apprentice, in which she picks 10 of her favorite historical novels. One on her list is the novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, a book that Jin-shei and its sequel, Ember of Heaven, have been compared to.

Memoirs of a GeishaMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenMuch has been made of how a male writer could so convincingly inhabit the character of a Japanese geisha. But the novel’s real strength lies in the lucidity and modesty of its storytelling, a lack of fussiness that mirrors spare Japanese aesthetics. Golden’s achievement is to open up a sealed and foreign world in the form of an affecting coming of age tale.

“The historical novels I admire,” Christie writes, “inhabit their worlds so fully that as a reader I feel I’m breathing the air of that distant place or time. This has less to do with historical detail than with a freshness of language, tone and incident that makes the concerns of the characters so recognizably human that they feel almost contemporary. The ability to transport us into different minds is a hallmark of good literature generally; the bar is set even higher when a story’s setting is truly foreign.”

Read the article

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Buzzfeed asks:
Debut novelsFor example:

VonnegutDickens
Try your hand at all 81 titles

 

 

 

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Top 10 health and safety fails in children’s books

From The Hunger Games to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, children’s books can demonstrate a somewhat lax approach to disaster and death. Ross Montgomery, author of The Tornado Chasers, shares his favorite books for danger lovers.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

 

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr: Look, if you open the front door and there’s a tiger outside, the first rule is that you don’t invite them in. Don’t come to me acting all surprised when he’s eaten all the sandwiches and drunk all the tea in the teapot.

 

 

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

Oxford Dictionaries Book Quiz of Last Lines

Though a book’s opening lines may determine whether or not you take the book home at all, it’s as likely to be the last lines that stick in your memory long after you set the book down: they may tidily tie up events, or make you question instantly if there is a sequel, or see you muttering “Thank goodness that’s over!”

Take the quiz

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An Anti-Feminist Walks Into a Bar: John Scalzi brilliant’s Play in Five Acts
ScalziRead his blog

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has been challenged for the past seven decades, the same amount of time it’s been in publication.

22 Mind-Boggling Facts About Banned Books In America

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Terry Pratchett’s Fury

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Quote of the Day

Daphne du Maurier
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Alma Alexander
My books

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What are you hiding?

We moved into a peculiar house. The downstairs area, a “daylight basement”, was  completely unfinished — concrete floors, no ceiling, open to the dirt at the back of the house. So we set about making it livable.One of the areas of the unfinished area was quickly dubbed “The Cave” – a vast concrete bunker behind an odd-shaped hole two feet off the floor. It would have to be dealt with creatively and in a bespoke manner.

Since we were going to have to do something novel anyway, I came up with the idea of having a sliding door which doubled as bookshelves.

When closed, the James Bond door that completely closed off the weird opening looked just like a recessed bookcase. It wasn’t a thing of polished architectural beauty, but it was durable, and serviceable, and amazing.

‘The Cave” was eventually turned into another room and the door is now nearly always open. But when it is closed, it hides a secret treasure — the hidden room is now our library.
library door with catMy cat guards secret room

I love my house.
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14 Other Hidden Rooms

Architecture & Design offers us a look at other secret rooms hidden behind bookcases, fireplaces, or a decorative piece of wall.
Hidden RoomA beautiful arched entry with a secret bookcase door

Read the article

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7 Reasons Why Real Life Romances Are Nothing Like Disney Movies

Many girls dream of their Prince Charming, Missy Yost writes in Lifehack. “Unfortunately, he only exists in Disney movies and books. If you’re not careful, once grown you can fall victim of the fantasy character and sabotage a great relationship and your own happiness by chasing an imaginary prince.”
DisneyImage via Flickr by Loren Javler

If Prince Eric cannot love Ariel when she is a mermaid, then he is not worth the time or effort. Happy relationships are not built on lust and perfection.

Read the article

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The Color Thesaurus

Ingrid Sundberg writes on her blog that “having a variety of color names at my fingertips helps me to create specificity in my writing. I can paint a more evocative image in my reader’s mind if I describe a character’s hair as the color of rust or carrot-squash, rather than red.”

So she created this color thesaurus. Here is a snippet.
ColorRead her blog

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THIS ‘n THAT

30 People who saw a statue as an opportunity, and took it.
Choking statueSee the others

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A forest of 150-foot tall ‘trees’ collect rainwater and generate solar power in Singapore.
'Trees'Read the article

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Mental Floss gives us: Little-Known Punctuation Marks
PunctuationSee the whole chart

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Quote of the Day Banning Books Quote~~~~~
Alma Alexander
My books

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Ban Those Books!

Banned booksTo celebrate Banned Books Week, Powell’s Books found a bunch, well 33, that THE MAN doesn’t want you to read. Fight the power! Read the books!
And Tango Makes ThreeVia static.parade.condenast.com
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson: What is so offensive about a kids’ picture book about penguin parents? Welllll, those penguin parents happen to be the same sex, which, according to Wikipedia, set off the alarm of many social conservatives in the US. So much so apparently that “the American Library Association reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most challenged book of 2006, 2007, and 2008.” Wowza.
Read the article at Buzzfeed
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10 Experimental Novels That Are Worth the Effort……at least according to Emily Temple at Flavorwire. Don’t agree? She encourages you to make your own list.The Mezzanine,The Mezzanine, Nicholson Baker: This entire novel takes place over the length of an escalator ride. No, no, it’s about 140 pages of minute details, imaginings, footnotes, and lists with columns like “Subject of Thought” and “Number of Times Thought Occurred per Year (in Descending Order).” There are times when the amount that Baker can focus on one tiny thing threatens to drive one mad, but in the end, the novel is a deeply moving meditation on change and life and, of course, language. 
Read the article
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How Long Will It Take To Read That Book?At io9, Lauren Davis offers a chart that gives you an estimate of how long it would take the average person to read a book, or all of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones.
How long to read How long to read 2See the whole chart
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20 Amazing Novels You Should Read Before You Watch The Movie
There’s nothing better than sinking into your comfy chair with a wonderful book and being drifted off into a whole new world, Sarah Anton writes at Lifehack. She picks a score of books “you must read before you watch the movie! Not only to know what to expect before it happens, but also to compare your vision of the character to the movie’s portrayal.”If I StayIf I Stay by Gale Foreman: For those of you who like the supernatural and have a soft side in your heart, you will love Gale Foreman’s book, If I Stay. Not only do you connect with the characters, but you also start viewing life in a whole different way… in a supernatural way. Time to let the dreams begin. Mia’s life changes drastically as she is put in a coma after a tragic car accident. While in a coma, she has an out-of-body experience where she meets various individuals. As her story moves forward, she has to decide whether or not she will stay in a coma, since she is not yet ready to let go of the people she met while in her out-of-body experience
Read the article
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The Linguistics of LOL, or The evolution of language
When two friends created the site I Can Has Cheezburger? to share cat photos with funny, misspelled captions, it was a way of cheering themselves up, Britt Peterson writes in The Atlantic. They probably weren’t thinking about long-term implications.But the “cheezpeep” community is still active online, chattering away in lolspeak, its own distinctive variety of English.

lolspeak was meant to sound like the twisted language inside a cat’s brain, and has ended up resembling a down-South baby talk with some very strange characteristics…One user writes that it used to take at least 10 minutes “to read adn unnerstand” a paragraph. (“Nao, it’z almost like a sekund lanjuaje.”)

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

41 Church Signs: Anyone in snow country will appreciate this one.Snow prayerSee them all

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18 People Who Didn’t Proofread, and should have
Toilet signOh-oh

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The BBC has announced an all-female author shortlist for its National Short Story Award — Tessa Hadley, Francesca Rhydderch, Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, and Rose Tremain. The five stories “tackle pivotal moments in a woman’s life from girlhood to middle age, including sex and love, death and disintegration,” the BBC reports.

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Quote of the Day

“If you can’t be a successful bum, the next best thing is a writer.”‘ ~ Arthur Clarke

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Alma Alexander
My books

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Feminist SF, really?

Feminist SFMainstream science fiction has been pretty terrible at populating its worlds with anyone other than straight white dudes, Devon Maloney writes at The Cut.Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and others wrote almost exclusively about their demographic. Onscreen science fiction, from Star Wars and Back to the Future to War of the Worlds and Blade Runner, is little different.But sci-fi history actually has featured ahead-of-its-time, female-identifying authors and creators who have challenged conventional notions of race, gender, and sexuality head-on for centuries. Here is a rundown of 25 of the most feminist moments in sci-fi history:
Lt StarbuckStarbuck Gets Gender-Swapped (2004): The original 1978 Battlestar Galactica series portrayed Lieutenant Starbuck as a womanizing, cigar-smoking rogue, but the 2004 reimagining of Starbuck as an incredibly flawed, adaptive, and brilliant woman made the character unforgettable.Read the article

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Women Who Conquered the Comics World

As both a comics creator and historian, Trina Robbins is particularly interested in the unknown history of female cartoonists, Lisa Hix writes for Collectors Weekly. Robbins has published a Fantagraphics book called Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists, 1896-2013.

The subject is particularly relevant right now, given that new comic-book-based movies are hitting the big screen every few months, yet not a single one has revolved around a female hero. But Marvel has taken bold steps by making a Pakistani American teen the new Ms. Marvel, in a comic-book series written by a woman, and turning Thor into a woman in its upcoming revamp of the series.
msmarvelIn the new “Ms. Marvel” series—created by two women, editor Sana Amanat and writer G. Willow Wilson, and one man, artist Adrian Alphona—the heroine is Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager living in New Jersey. (Via Marvel.wikia.com)

Read the article

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10 Great Books Based on Other Great Books

Literature is a never-ending, overlapping, sometimes circular conversation — between writers, between readers, between books themselves, Emily Temple writes in Flavorwire.

There are some novels that are better if you have a little bit of background going in — and sometimes that background is nothing more or less than another great novel.

Here are a few books you should pair the way you would a fine wine with an excellent cheese — each enhancing the other and making for a very satisfying evening.
Madame BovaryBefore reading: Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
You should read: Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
Flaubert first read Don Quixote when he was 11 years old. He wrote a letter to a friend that he had decided to become a novelist: “I’ve already got some ideas for my first books. I’ll write about Cardenio, about Dorotea, and one about Ill-Advised Curiosity.” Of course, anyone who has read Cervantes knows just what little Gus is talking about. There are many parallels in the two books — one of the most interesting is Emma Bovary herself.“Emma embodies, in one person, the conflict between idealism and pragmatism that Cervantes divides between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.”

Read the article

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35 Things To Do With All Those Books

Many of these ideas are utterly bizarre, but I do like this staircase library.
Staircase libarybuddingbibliophiles.com

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

12 Awesome Things at the Library, e.g.:

You can stream stuff for free. Using your library card, you can check out a service called Hoopla. Using Hoopla, you can stream movies and TV shows without spending a dime. It’s not as stable as Netflix or Hulu but if you can stand the bugs you can watch some pretty good stuff for free.

Read the article

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Quote of the Day

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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Alma Alexander
My books

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Famous Last Words

 

Tolkien Grave   Many years ago, I went to visit the grave of J. R. R. Tolkien in Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford. It took some finding in amogst the sea of Polish dead in the Catholic part of the cemetery, but I did find it and stood before the gravestone of the man who gave us the greatest fantasy of all time, and his wife.It had just their names and the dates and then, underneath each name, one word. “Beren”, under his, “Luthien”, under hers.His great immortal love story – or mortal love story, if you want to see it that way – Luthien the Elven Princess who gave up her immortality to be with her love, the mortal Beren, so that they both could die – because she did not want to live forever without him.

Just those names. And a whole love story – in real life – is told. Without another word.

I stood by the gravestone in silence for a moment because I could think of nothing to think except “thank you”. And in the stillness of the air between the graves a touch of a a breeze stirred the leaves on the trees, the lightest of touches on my hair, the faintest of whispers, as though the Professor was saying, “You’re welcome…”

At Flavorwire, Emily Temple has selected 15 other epitaphs of famous authors — from the tongue-in-cheek to the ponderously serious, from the knightly to the poetic, and even one that doubles as a grave robber’s curse.
Charles Bukowski[Image via]

“Don’t try.”  Not as depressing as it seems:Charles Bukowski explained the phrase in a 1963 letter: “Somebody … asked me: ‘What do you do? How do you write, create?’ You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: ‘not’ to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.”

Read the article

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11 Great New York Moments From Books

New York City is unlike any other place in the world. Love it or hate it (or both, as the case may be), the people, places, and even smells are totally one of a kind, Leah Butterfield writes in Bustle.

The books on this list were written at various times throughout the city’s history, but they all contain those quintessential, only-in-NYC moments that make New Yorkers feel all mushy and sentimental.
Here is New YorkE.B. White ponders the three types of New York in Here is New York: The entirety of this short book is devoted to New York City as E.B. White experienced it in the summer of 1948. Many of his ruminations still ring true, like his claim that there are “roughly three New Yorks”: New York for the born-and-raised folks, the commuter’s New York, and New York for those who were born elsewhere and came to the city “in quest of something.” White found the third one to be the most important, crediting the spirit and passion of outsiders with the city’s major achievements and productivity.

Read the article

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10 Lessons from Real-Life Revolutions that Fictional Dystopias Ignore

Dystopias are glorified just as much as utopias are, and they are just as unlikely to be monolithic. The world is built of alternating bricks that consists of both. And the truth is, uncomfortable though that may be, that every single thing can be seen as one or the other. It depends on your point of view.

In io9, Esther Inglis-Arkell offers 10 lessons from real-life rebellions against repressive regimes that she wishes the creators of fictional dystopias would pay attention to.

Take #7 for example:
Two Downtrodden Groups Will Usually Be Fighting Each Other
Civil warIn the American Civil War, both the Union and the Confederacy had conscription but exceptions to both were contingent upon wealth. Those on the Union side could pay to keep from joining the army. Confederate men were excused as long as they owned a certain number of slaves. Wealth was, then as now, tied to political power, meaning that the wealthy people had steered the course to war in the first place.  As the saying at the time goes, the Civil War was “a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.”

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

Whereabouts? Each of us has acquired a new line in our celestial address, Michael Quinion writes in his delightful newsletter World Wide Words.

As every school kid knows, our address is:
Name, Street, City, Country, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, Universe

Now insert between Milky Way and Universe  – Laniakea.

Brent Tully and his colleagues at the University of Hawaii have given this name to the supercluster of about 100,000 galaxies to which our own galaxy, the Milky Way, belongs. The team took the name from the Hawaiian words lani, heaven, and akea, spacious or immeasurable.”

Read the newsletter

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Smells take us back in time

The smell of new unsharpened pencils takes me back to my grandfather’s desk, where he kept a box of them in a drawer. He was a teacher for four decades and more and a writer for longer than that. Pencils were a part of all that he was – that smell of virgin lead, full of promise and of future memories as yet unborn. The pencil before it was thrust into the sharpener and formed into a point that could make marks on paper. The smell… of POTENTIAL.

I keep a box of my grandfather’s unsharpened pencils on my own desk.

I remember the smell of a particular kind of glue. Not every kind, but the kind that came in plastic pots which had a plastic “pocket” on the inside where a tiny plastic spatula lived which you used to scrape up the glue from the pot and shovel it onto crepe paper and put together the kind of sloppy messy joyful senseless projects we did in kindergarten. That glue, and crepe paper. Particularly red crinkly crepe paper. Two distinct smells – and I’m five again, messing about in a room with child-sized benches and blunt scissors and the laughter of small children.

Lilacs. And hyacinths. And my grandmother walks beside me once again.

The first tickle of frost in the air that tells you that summer is really over, fall is here and winter is coming.

And horrible smells. The smell of tar, which makes my throat close up at the back and my breath choke in my throat. The slightly sweet rotten smell of a long-term sickroom. That bile-inducing moment when you’re cleaning up your cat’s little present before someone else steps in it and the smell reminds you of what it feels  like to feel nauseous.

The path to our thoughts and our memories so often leads straight through our noses..
Smell(Copyright: Science Photo Library)

Smell is the oldest sense, having its origins in the rudimentary senses for chemicals in air and water – senses that even bacteria have, Tom Stafford says at the BBC. Before sight or hearing, before even touch, creatures evolved to respond to chemicals around them.

Read the article

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Quote of the Day

Never laugh at live dragons.” ~  J.R.R. Tolkien

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Alma Alexander
My books

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Are we the enemy?

We are living in a science fiction novel.

Is our species evolving into a new superorganism taking over Earth? Gaia Vince thinks so. At BBC.com he makes the provocative argument that humanity is completely transforming life on our planet.
HomniVince argues that our species, Homo sapiens, is evolving into a superorganism he calls Homo omnis, or ‘Homni’ that is in some ways equivalent to a slime mold monster.
Slime moldDo we behave like slime moulds, individuals coming together to have a much more powerful influence on the planet? (Science Photo Library)

Only time will tell if we will be a benign caretaker, or a monster that destroys life and with it ourselves. The odds aren’t good.

Read the article

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Castles you can spend the night in

From dungeons and haunted turrets, to four-poster beds and glorious spas, a stay in a British castle is a magical and mysterious experience. As the original owners pass away or find it itoo expensive to maintain their ancestral homes, more and more beautiful castles are opening their doors to guests,  Britain Magazine says.
Ruthin CastleRuthin Castle, Denbighshire: The Wales retreat surrounded by a vast estate was built in the late 13th century for King Edward by Dafydd ap Gruffydd. Dafydd went on to become the Prince of Wales, before being hung, drawn and quartered for treason. Ruthin Castle has been transformed into a luxurious hotel.

Read the article

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I went to school at Hogwarts castle myself

Well, Bodelwyddan Castle in Wales, actually. I don’t know whose idea it was to stick a girls’ boarding school into a haunted castle, but it was inspired.
Bodel Castle AutumnI spent a year in that school. Yes it had at least one resident ghost. It had exposed beams, old fireplaces, stone walls, mullioned windows, cobbled yards, battlements, ivied walls. All of it.
castle ghostAn interior shot complete with ghost. Well, not a ghost, of course, just some student, teacher, visitor or … hmmm?

I lived in a storybook castle for a year. for all that it was a BOARDING SCHOOL They had *pink stuff* for lunch sometimes. I don’t to this day know what it was but it tasted foul and I don’t eat anything pink to this day.

It’s a luxury hotel now.

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8 Authors Whose Biggest Successes Came After The Age of 50

When you read lists like “the top 25 writers under 25”, or find out that Stephen King published three of his major novels before the age of 30, it can feel like the time to write the next great novel has already passed, Rincey Abraham writes at Book Riot.

However, there is no age limit for when a novel can be published.  These authors’ major works were all published when they were in their 50s or later.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder: Little House in the Big Woods, the first of Wilder’s Little House books, was originally published in 1932 when Wilder was 65 and the final book was published when she was 76.

 

Read the article

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War and Peace

War and Peace in 186 words

For those who don’t quite have time to get through all 561,093 words of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece, Boyd Tonkin has produced a wonderfully abridged version for The Independent.

There will be a quiz.

 

 

Read the abridged version

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A Dare: Go Forth and Re-Read Your Favorite Books From Childhood

There are adults who actively, sometimes exclusively, read YA fiction, Syreeta Barlow writes in Book Riot, as if it’s a fattening indulgence that cannot be denied.

Reread childhood booksBut I think certain children’s and young adult fiction should be required re-reading after your Nth birthday. Your perspective will completely change. Trust me. Revisit Catcher in the Rye after you’ve had your quarter-life crisis, and suddenly, your teenage drama feels like it played out in some Marvel multiverse where you remained forever seventeen and nothing was as important as other people’s opinions of you. When you can reflect on your adolescence without self-pity or undeserved veneration, you may be closer to discovering your true self in the words that spoke to you as a child.

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

Ursula K. Le Guin to Receive NBF Lifetime Achievement Award

Read the article

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La Jaguarina: Queen of the Sword
La Jaguarina, Queen of SwordsIn April 1896, Rejected Princesses reports, hardened veteran US Sergeant Charles Walsh was hit so hard in a round of equestrian fencing that his opponent’s sword was permanently bent backwards in a U shape. His opponent? A woman who later retired only because she ran out of people to fight.

Read the article

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Quote of the Day

The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” ~ Bertrand Russell

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Alma Alexander
My books

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