Read it now?

Or wait?

It’s an ever-vexing quandary.

Should you start a series when the first book is out and then bite your nails as you wait for each new installment? Or wait until the series is complete and read everything at once, possibly running the risk of the early books becoming unavailable before you get the final one?

Well, my Worldweavers series is now complete and all four books are readily available so you can binge read the entire thing. (Click the ‘Buy at Amazon’ link in the sidebar).

Random and Wolf, the first two books of my new series, The Were Chronicles, are both out and the third book, Shifter, will be out in November so it might be safe to start reading now. (Click the Wolf link in the sidebar. Or read an excerpt).

At Off The Shelf, Emma Volk, offers some other series suggestions:

11 Binge-Worthy Literary Series

Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith:

Botswana’s premier lady detective Precious Ramotswe navigates her cases and her personal life with wit, wisdom, and a keen moral eye in this long-lasting and bestselling series. Compelling and good-hearted, she never forgets that she is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.”

See all Volk’s suggestions HERE


Scottish children getting automatic library cards
Library CardsIn a bid to promote literacy, Scottish children will be given library cards either at birth, age three or four – or in their first primary school class.

In Glasgow, for example, a pilot program will target pupils in areas with issues of lower literacy and every baby registered will be given a library card.

Access to books and learning materials will help us to make sure that every child has the opportunity to get excited about reading,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

What a fantastic idea. Of course, there are some restrictions on the cards and if it were me, I would soon want a REAL, that is, unrestricted card.

I could read fluently by age 5 and I blew through the children’s section of my own home town library well before I left it for Africa when I was ten years old. In Africa, I had to learn a new language (English, actually), but by the time I was 13, I wanted the run of the adult library. I want ALL the books. ALL of them. I always did. I was word-greedy from an early age…

Scotland leads the way, HERE

Science fiction – a commie plot to undermine American values?

It’s an idea that the FBI was strongly considering during the height of the Cold War, as their lengthy investigation into Ray Bradbury shows, JPat Brown says.

The FBI followed Ray Bradbury’s career very closely, in part because an informant warned them that his writing was not enjoyable fantasy, but rather tantamount to psychological warfare.
Bradbury and the FBI“The general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria,” the informant warned. “Which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War in which the American people would believe could not be won since their morale had seriously been destroyed.”

Read the whole story HERE

Dune Sandworm‘Dune’ – climate fiction pioneer

‘...there’s no more Earth left for you.’

Frank Herbert’s novel turns 50 this year and since its ecological lessons were ahead of its time, the slowly dawning interest in the doomsday potential of climate change may bring new respect for the masterpiece, Michael Berry writes at Salon.

Dystopian fiction has never been so plentiful. Much of it depends on familiar landscapes being ravaged by drought, rising seas and other environmental disasters, and ‘Dune’ stands as an important early example of a novel that explored ecology and environmentalism,” Berry notes.

In 1970, on the First Earth Day, Frank Herbert spoke to 30,000 people in Philadelphia and  told them, ‘I don’t want to be in the position of telling my grandchildren:

‘I’m sorry, there’s no more Earth left for you. We’ve used it all up.’

Read the whole story HERE

50 Books for 50 Classes

At Flavorwire, Emily Temple offers us some surprising choices to create a ‘College Curriculum on Your Bookshelf’

For example:


Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino: This book of short stories delivers all you really need to know about the creation of the universe in one slim package.

Each story is based on a scientific principle, whether factual or erroneous, and spirals out into a glorious, spellbinding work of art. Here you’ll find stories about atmosphere, particles, existence as a single point before space and time, and what happens when you’ve got that one uncle who hasn’t evolved to walk on land and still lives in the primordial sea, and you’d like to introduce him to your new girlfriend.

See her other 49 choices HERE



The romance of a tumbling pile of books waiting to be read is so much more enticing than a grey, plastic screen.”

17 things only real book lovers will understand

Quote of the Day
It's Called Reading~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
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The Worldcon That Was

This year’s Worldcon report might as well have been entitled “Never yell fire in a crowded theater.”  Well, almost. I need to break it down into subheads for you to understand.

1)    Never Yell…
…when you can whimper .

I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my lower extremities recently. My doctor offered a diagnosis of osteoarthritis and sent me to physio. The therapist thought there was some soft-tissue problems as well as the potential arthritis. After four sessions, one in the pool that nearly destroyed me, I left the last session feeling quite pleased with myself. I didn’t feel like running a marathon, but at the very least I didn’t waddle like my hip joints were close to dislocated.

And then I got into the car Thursday morning, at an hour  at which I am not usually required to be compos mentis, let alone possessed of enough concentration and focus to drive a car over a mountain pass and for more than six hours.

The I-5 corridor was uneventful, but then we turned into the mountains and Stevens Pass was unusually murky. It might have been only mist and cloud, but I was primed for smoke. It didn’t smell like it, though, so I let it slide – and by the time we pulled into Leavenworth it was bright sunshine and clear skies anyway. We took a break, ate some nice German pastries, caffeinated, and hit the second half of the road. My body was starting to rebel. I had a knot at the back of my neck which felt hot – like something was literally on fire back there – and I could sense things that shouldn’t have been moving actually sliding over one another when I tried to shrug it into a more relaxed state. But it was the hips which were the real problem because I’d already been limping in Leavenworth and by the time we climbed out of the car in Spokane I was a full-on train wreck.

I managed the rest of Thursday with just a limp and a wince, dealing with all the responsibilities that had to be dealt with immediately – including my first panel. I ran into half a dozen people I knew – ranging from luminaries like Vonda McIntyre (the GoH) and Larry Niven to various friends I hadn’t seen in too long. I was also supposed to connect with a FB contact, Elizabeth Leggett, but missed her. By this stage I was hungry and footsore. There was supposed to be a party that night which I’d wanted to go to, but by the end of the day, I was moving vewwy vewwy carefully indeed. We wimped out completely and had room service for dinner.

On Friday I was hobbling along like someone had kneecapped me. Of course, my Friday programming involved items that were consistently alternating between the two furthest ends of the convention center. The air outside looked apocalyptic – the sun was just an orange blob in the fug that covered the sky – but see the next section, for all that.

This was my Friday:

10 AM :KaffeeKlatsch (one end of the Conference Centre): That went wonderfully well, with a mix of people I’ve known for years and new faces whom I only met for the first time on the day. I told some funny stories. They all had the grace to laugh. It was fun.
Back to the other end of the CC to deal with things.

12:30 PM: Back to the OTHER end of the CC for my pre-arranged `interview.

2 PM – Back to the OTHER end of the CC for my autographing slot. In something of a tradition, I shared a table with Stanley Schmidt on one side of me – I think if I ever do another Worldcon signing again I am going to insist that it be done this way, we appear to have become something of a Worldcon tradition this way, Mr Schmidt and myself. On the other side of me was a nattily attired L.E Modesitt, in one of his trademark brilliant waistcoats. I got to say hello briefly to Elizabeth Bear, at the next table, and completely failed to even find a moment to connect with Catherynne Valente, further down – because I had actual people who brought actual books to be actually signed and I didn’t just sit there staring into space.

4 PM: back to the OTHER end of the CC for the Writers Workshop, where I was one of the resident pros doing the critiques. Then it was BACK TO THE OTHER END OF THE CC to pick up the husband I had left waiting for me there and we barely managed to scrape by the rest of that evening. In fact, by the third trip across the CC I had actually left him sitting comfortably while I borrowed his cane to help me maneuver across the halls. I ran into any number of people who looked appropriately concerned to see me attached to one of those. By this stage I was in near agony and of course the one thing I had forgotten to pack was aspirin.  I could not get comfortable in bed and sleep was iffy.

Saturday dawned magnificently different, clear and sunny and we were off and running again:

11 AM: Interview and photo shoot, just off the Dealers Room area (again, the opposite end of the CC)

12-1 PM: Manning the SFWA table in the Dealers Room, and at the same time having an extra little hour of signing there. I actually did a brisk trade in my paperback copies of “Abducticon” while here. People picked the book up, begin reading the blurb on the back, started smiling, and then cackled when they hit “… and the coffee in the Green Room was DREADFUL.” Everyone who’s been to a con more than once recognizes this book and gets a look of warm affection when gazing upon it. Which is EXACTLY what I was aiming for. Very happy to see that it is hitting the right demographic.

The LuggageQuick visit to the Terry Pratchett exhibition (and a photograph with The Luggage!) and then it was on to
3:30 PM – My Reading.

People came, bless ‘em all, and I had a proper audience – which, given that this was a Worldcon and there were a dozen worthy alternatives of things to do and places to be, is always a win. More copies of “Abducticon” found homes at that reading and I am immensely pleased at the reception this book has been getting in con circles.

4 PM: interview with a grad student from the UK who asked me to be a part of her study on the role of things like fanfiction and derivative versions of people’s work and the pros’ reactions to this.

I was supposed to be attending the traditional Tea with the Duchess at 7 PM but somehow they couldn’t quite make the proper arrangements for the Tea and although the Duchess was present and accounted for it didn’t quite come together. So we went to the hotel restaurant to grab something to eat, and ended up being found, and then wrapped in a cocoon of loving care, by Gerald Nordley and his lady. They found me some aspirin, they delivered a loaner cane to get around for however long I needed it while still in Spokane, and they generally acted like a couple of guardian angels.

Sunday morning, I moderated a panel called “When we were young”, about books that had been formative influences on the panelists in our larval years. We had Steven Barnes, Scott Lynch, Marissa Meyer, Kevin J Anderson, and myself – and all I had to do, as moderator, was ride herd on a number of articulate, passionate, knowledgeable people who had ideas and opinions and who had the presence and the confidence and the vocabulary to present them. I had to call a halt long before we were really done – there hadn’t even been time for a proper question session from the audience.

And then it was homeward bound.

Of course, these were the bare bones of the con. No mention of meeting old friends, meeting new people, making wonderful serendipitous connections. All of that went on too. It was a WORLDCON and it was magic and the Sasquan people did a magnificent job of it. All kudos to them. But, er, wait a sec. Let’s backtrack just a little.

2)    …Fire…

I’d been following the news about the wildfires in Washington state. There seemed to be enough of them in between home and Spokane to be – well – a cause for travel concern. And then I extrapolated that and read a report about air quality in Spokane and the day before we left it was rated “unhealthy”, specifically singling out people older than 65 or those who had had a stroke, all of which describes my husband, and I was getting antsy. He said, we’re going, I don’t CARE. So we set off fully aware that there were flames out there, and that thousands of acres of forest and not a few homes had already been reduced to ashes and smoke.

Stevens Pass was murkier than we had ever seen it before – but then again we hadn’t driven it for some years, and we had to admit that we didn’t have a valid basis for direct comparison. But it was cool enough outside in the mountains for us to nod at each other and firmly agree that what was hiding the views from us was just mountain mist and high clouds. Yes. That was what it was.

On the road to Spokane, things thickened a little – but not remotely to the extent that I’d been reading on Facebook, about the sun rising as a tiny blood red orb in the smoky skies, making the whole place look extraterrestrial. There were pictures, yes. But it didn’t look so bad, when we approached the city. A bit muggy, yes, a bit brown, the air a tad too… uh… VISIBLE… for comfort… but not TOO bad.

And then, on Thursday night, it began to thicken.

On Friday morning, it was Apocalypse Now. Apparently there were signs on doors eventually dissuading people from venturing outside at all – but that was after I heard the story of an idiot who went jogging in that soup and ended up on a respirator. And you didn’t have to go outside – as the day wore on you started to smell smoke in the corridors. I could smell it in our room when we ended up there on Friday night. Smoke In SpokaneYou couldn’t see past the next couple of blocks out of our hotel room window, outside. There was no sky, no horizon, just this dirty-brown ashen and featureless pall that lay over everything. I had actually been contemplating the delight of a short stroll on the riverside path, just outside our hotel – but my troubles with my hip, and then Friday’s air quality, put paid to THAT.

Saturday was a bit better, blue skies and clear air, and the sun resembling its more usual self – but by Saturday night we were sliding again. When Sunday came, it was getting brownish out there again. I had my final panel, we collected our bits and bobs, and we drove out there. Out onto the highway.

Friends, it was spooky. You couldn’t see further than a few hundred feet to either side of the highway – further in, ghostly outlines of brooding poplars haunted the edges of vision, barely sketched in. Cars on the other side of the highway emerged out of a smoke bank, as though something was vomiting them out of that dragon’s mouth; cars in front of me vanished into that same bank a disconcertingly short way ahead. We stopped to get gas and I could smell the smoke in the thick air, I could taste ashes. TWO HUNDRED MILES WEST OF SPOKANE WE WERE STILL IN SMOKE. The West. Is. On Fire.

More than 500,000 acres (and untold human property and human lives – some literally) have been lost to this conflagration. That is almost too big to comprehend. And yet I viscerally know that it is true because of the air I saw swirling thick and brown through the city streets in Spokane, and blowing across Eastern Washington highways. It’s heartbreaking.

And yet…. This is Worldcon. We’re nothing if not a bunch of creators. I Tweeted at some point that the unofficial anthem of Sasquan was “Smoke gets in your eyes”. By Saturday lunchtime – completely independently of that tweet – someone else had already filked up an entire song about the circumstances surrounding us.

We will none of us forget this con. We were smoked like salmon. Some of us were lucky to get home in good time and in one piece and just the memory of the hint of what it must really be like closer to where real flames are rising. I’ve seen some pictures and it’s catastrophic, unbelievable, entire mountainsides scoured bare and black by the blaze. Oh God, my darling forests, my beloved cedars and maples, I am so sorry. For the whole towns evacuated in the inexorable advance of this conflagration, for people who gathered up kids and pets and a pathetic bundle of belongings and fled, I am so sorry. For the firefighters who are tirelessly trying to get this under control, you have my enduring respect and gratitude; to those who didn’t make it through… I don’t even have words.

The West is on fire. Don’t forget us.

But that wasn’t the only “scorched ground” that was being claimed in Spokane…

3)    …In A Crowded Theatre.

Lo these many years ago, I went and did one of those “sing your own Messsiah” things, where a group of volunteer singers, coached and directed by a professional, get together to sing the Messiah oratorio by Handel. We were doing tolerably well, dutifully following the music and the directions, until we got to the point where the Hallelujah Chorus was due to be sung. The director stopped for a moment, looked us with a small smirky smile, and said, “let’s face it, this is why you’re all here, isn’t it?”

In a situation that is almost but not completely unlike that incident, there were. the Hugo awards of 2015 at Sasquan. No, I dare say that it wasn’t why we were all there… but I would be prevaricating if I didn’t admit that we were all aware of the Hugos, and that a certain electric tingle in the air was building up as we rolled on towards Saturday night.
No, I am not going to go into great gory detail analyzing things here. It’s been done, by other people, elsewhere – you can start with io9, if you want to read more:

And there are other articles. Easily found. I’ll settle for a couple of comments.

I didn’t go to the ceremony itself. We found out a little late that it was a ticketed event because the theatre had fewer seats than warm bodies in attendance on site. I guess they thought first come first served could lead to chaos, so they announced that tickets, although they were free, could be got by queuing some two hours ahead of the ceremony at just the hour that most people were sitting down to dinner, so there was a lot of gnashing of teeth over that. I had been vacillating about going anyway so this tipped the scales; I ended up following the live-tweet feed, and learned of what happened almost in real-time anyway. Which was good enough.

And what happened was simply this. The body of fandom reacted to an infection, and the immune system went into overdrive. For now, at least, the virus is out and the body’s state of health looks to be preserved – I might have wished for a different ceremony, a different set of circumstances, the possibility that some of those nominated got caught up in the whole controversy and lost out in what turned out to be a gigantic and self-destructive paroxysm of “It’s not FAAAAA I I I R!” from the kindergartners in the corner who couldn’t seem to grow up well enough to play with the adults in the room in an equitable manner.

The end result measured up reasonably well with what I hoped was going to happen, and what I expected was going to happen.

What I had hoped was that those TRULY deserving of the rocket would end up holding it… and that those NOT deserving, those who had tried to wrest the award by  bullying and bickering and whining and blackmail, would NOT. I looked at the vote counts, afterwards; it is clear that the “no-award” wins were a message from fandom. And the message was, “You Will Not Pass.”

The what-I-expected part was the social media sphere exploding with puppies and their supporters screaming “We lost, so we won!” in full throat, no matter how little actual sense that made in any form of their narrative. Let’s unpack this – they thought the wrong people and the wrong stories were taking over the Hugos so they packed the ballot with the “right” candidates. This means that they valued the award enough to want to win it  and they LOST. Dramatically. The goal posts then shifted to “Well, *we were on the ballot*, and the fact that you didn’t vote for us means that our point is proved and there is a clique that’s in charge of things and that wants to exclude us”.

Except that the “clique” turned out to be all of fandom, which turned out in unprecedented numbers to vote (the tally was a whopping 65% higher than any previous Hugo vote!)… and the only “clique” in the room turned out to be the puppies themselves. I am told that the losing puppy candidates immediately got up and demonstratively left the theatre – which is more juvenile behavior. They spat out the dummy and they took their toys and they stalked home, sulking. And then the social media exploded with the blame game of the “other” side and how they were all bad and evil and how they were all in cahoots against the pups and their supporters.

One of them turned to someone in an elevator, after the ceremony, and said spitefully, “well, you got what you wanted, didn’t you? You burned the awards to the ground rather than give them to someone you didn’t want to win them.”

To which MY response would be, dude, no, YOU got what you wanted. YOU burned the bridges here. It’s all on YOU. And no, you can’t claim that you “deliberately lost” to win, because you couldn’t know this was going to happen. But that’s the narrative now, changing to fit the circumstances. They’re still put upon, and repressed, and somehow being oppressed… by the future into which they refuse to step. Even as the past to which they cling so violently crumbles to dust in their hands.

When the history books get written… well, I dare say that those referred to as “social justice warriors” are going to come out if it all as better than “sad/rabid puppies”. Even the names are self-selecting. You can’t rail against “social justice” and then claim that you are being oppressed in the name of social injustice. That’s illogical, Mr Spock.

Fandom did what needed to be done. The only thing that could have been done. What happens going forward… well, it’s the future. We shall see when the smoke (this time almost literally…) clears. In the meantime, the looming Hugopocalypse has been turned aside, and 2016 is a new game. Forward. It’s the only way we can go.

Postscript: “Smoke gets in your Eyes”, redux

And so, then, it was over, and we climbed into the car for the journey home. It was, as I said, brown and mucky. The air had taste and texture when I stopped for gas on the outskirts of Spokane. And then we hit the highway, going west.

And it was smoke smoke smoke smoke smoke all the way to the mountains, and well into them. Two hundred long miles of brown air and alien landscapes shrouded in sepia. Saddening, and scary.LeavenworthWe stopped in Leavenworth for supper, ate quickly, and pushed on – but by this stage I was really ready to stop driving. That knot in the back of my neck was the size of a pineapple, and the pineapple felt like it was on a grill – my muscles were hot and knotted and achy. And then we hit the post- Leavenworth road, going into the pass, and it was all I could do not to stop and just sit there taking photographs.

The skies turned unlikely shades of apricot and cinnamon, with shadowy mountain crags silhouetted against them – and in the middle of it all that round red bloody sun hung like a curse. And would not go away. Every time I thought we had put paid to it we’d round a corner or take a turn and there it was again, hanging lower, redder, more baleful. And I was driving directly west. It was a game of chicken and there were moments on the road that I literally had red flecks dancing on my retinas from the direct malevolent crimson glare.

It wasn’t until we hit the I-5, and Everett, literally an hour from home, that the sun finally set on Sasquan – and skies painted themselves into one of the most spectacularly picturesque sunsets ever (and I couldn’t even watch because I was driving, and I was TIRED, and I knew I couldn’t really afford to let my attention lapse).

Towards the end I was looking at my GPS and muttering to myself, “Fifty minutes… I can do this.” “Forty five minutes, I can do this.” I turned into my driveway  riding on fumes, staggered into the house, petted the cats,fell into bed, and slept for ten hours.

And then, because now that it’s over I’m sorry that it is and I wish I was still back there, I sat down to write this. You do realize you just read close to 4,000 words about an event that lasted less than four days in real time? Sasquan, I miss you already.

May the smoke grow less. May fandom continue strong. And we shall all see each other again. Soon.

Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
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Vale Sasquan

Another Worldcon is history – and a what a Worldcon it was.

Full report later but in a nutshell – drove seven hours to Spokane to be there and paid for it with pain and stiffness, but didn’t let that stop me meeting old and new friends, respected colleagues, and a few iconic genre giants, not to mention a ghost or two and their legacies. .

Larry Niven and Alma Alexander at Sasquan 2015Steve Barnes Sasquan 2015

Alma with Larry Niven ….and Steven Barnes

Then I drove another seven hours back, half of it through heavy smoke from all the brush and forest fires, and then slept for ten hours straight. I have typed this note with a great deal of impediment and difficulty because my cat is currently making ABSOLUTELY sure I do not go anywhere again. He is sitting in my lap, between me and the keyboard, draped across one of my arms.

There’s more to tell. Later. Until then – vale Sasquan, you were great. Thanks for everything.

Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Grilled Unicorn, really?

Who knew that a passing reference on my blog to a Medieval cookbook which included a recipe for Roast Unicorn (complete with a glorious Middle-ages take on a unicorn – a whole entire one on a grill) would prove to be so popular?

Grilled UnicornThat single item got more clicks and likes and interest than almost anything else I’ve blogged or tweeted … ever.

Um, do people know that even if unicorns existed, which they don’t unless you count rhinoceroses, they would be so vanishingly rare that they would be beyond a protected species? That they’d be guarded with fire, and not plunked down on top of one for a Sunday roast…?

On the Heroine Question

Alyx Dellamonica has a series of mini interviews with female writers, on the subject of “heroines” – and mine’s the latest. Something to entertain you while I’m dodging wildfires on the road to Worldcon!

One question was whether I had imprinted on any particular literary heroine as a child, and I answered in part:

Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. She was so iconic, so seminal, not to mention the only one of the sisters with whom I had a remote connection – Meg was the goody two shoes, Amy was a spoiled brat, and Beth was the ghost of a pretty kitten.

Jo was a writer, and she pushed on her dream until she got published, and many of us who did the same thing eventually ended up identifying with that because that was our dream also. That was something that we – that I – grew up looking up to, waiting to accomplish. But I didn’t want to be Jo. I just wanted to be a writer.

Read the rest of my answer HERE

12 Canadian bookstore cats

Natural good looks? Check. A way with customers? Check. Uncanny knack of laying down on the exact book you want to buy? And… check. We’re feline fine about these 12 Canadian bookstore cats from coast to coast.
The Book Man, Abbotsford BC

See all the cats HERE

How To Tell If You’re In an Edward Gorey Book

Shadows make you anxious, and you avoid them just in case they are
concealing someone who means you ill.  (who knew that Gorey knew about
the Vashta Nerada?)

Learning the alphabet gave you night terrors, and even now you have a deep seated fear of being mauled by a bear.

See all The Toast clues HERE    

Similar-looking Cover Designs INFOGRAPHIC

For example:
Africa CoversWhich is so like the cover on my own memoir.
Houses in AfricaSee the whole infographic HERE

I had just finished my umpteenth cup of coffee when I stumbled on this!

Today Is the Day Balzac Died from Drinking Too Much Coffee

Honoré de Balzac drank coffee for days on end, weeks on end, on an empty stomach, and they say it’s how he croaked. The 19th-century French writer “died of caffeine poisoning.” Some say he drank 50 cups of coffee a day, but it’s not like he kept count, and it sounds like he drank way more than 50 cups a day when he felt like it.

errr, unh…no comment. I need another cup.

Read the whole story HERE


I’m off to Sasquan. If you’re coming, look me up at my reading or book signing, my Kaffee Klatche, or come to Tea with the Duchess. It’s always lovely to meet new people, and to see old friends.

Quote of the Day

Artists Are...~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
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Books & Booze, anyone?

“When I first arrived in LA,” Alex Heimbach writes at Bustle, “I was thrilled to discover the Library Bar. Unfortunately…the books were purely decorative… what I really wanted was a bookstore that also served booze — a place where I could simultaneously indulge my great loves for books and beer.”

She has collected some bookstores where you can do just that.

10 Awesome Bookstores Serving Booze
Prairie Lights BooksPrairie Lights Books — Iowa City, Iowa
Thanks in part to its proximity to the country’s most prestigious MFA program, Prairie Lights has a long tradition of hosting and nurturing great writers. Even better, the cafe is located in the former home of the city’s literary society, so you can have a glass of wine in the same place where authors like Robert Frost and e.e. cummings spoke to the local literati.

See the other 9 HERE

Brooklyn’s Most Eccentric Book Seller Explains Why He’s Cashing Out
Community BookstoreJohn Scioli (right) and a friend chat outside Community Bookstore (Scott Heins / Gothamist)

After 30 years running the beloved Community Bookstore, Cecilia D’Anastasio writes in The Gothamist, John Scioli is selling his building for $5.5 million and maybe moving to France.

“I’ve been going to the South of France since 2004 and I meet a lot of Russian women there—they go on holiday… I tell them I have a used bookstore, and they coo, ‘Oh, do you have Dostoyevsky?’ You know, they want to talk about literature.”

Scioli and his acerbic wit have roughly a year to move out of the bookstore and two more to leave his digs upstairs.
Community Bookstore 2Read the whole story HERE

Unicorn Cookbook Found at the British Library

A long-lost medieval cookbook, containing recipes for hedgehogs, blackbirds and even unicorns, has been discovered at the British Library.

Professor Brian Trump of the British Medieval Cookbook Project described the find as near-miraculous. “We’ve been hunting for this book for years. The moment I first set my eyes on it was spine-tingling.”
Grilled UnicornDetail of a unicorn on the grill in Geoffrey Fule’s cookbook, England, mid-14th century (London, British Library, MS Additional 142012, f. 137r).

Experts believe that the cookbook was compiled by Geoffrey Fule, who worked in the kitchens of Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England (1328-1369).

Read the whole story HERE

Might explain Midsummer Night’s Dream…

Was Shakespeare high?

Scientists have discovered that 400-year-old tobacco pipes excavated from the garden of William Shakespeare contained cannabis, Bonnie Malkin writes in The Telegraphic, suggesting the playwright might have written some of his famous works while high.

Residue from early 17th century clay pipes found in the playwright’s garden, and elsewhere in Stratford-Upon-Avon, were analzsed in Pretoria using a sophisticated technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry, the Independent reports.
Shakespeareshakespeare Photo: ALAMY

Read the whole story HERE

There are stories in here. Many. Try this one on for size.
MirrorYour Deepest, Darkest Fears

Illustrator Fran Krause asks people to tell him their deepest and darkest fears…but they never expected that he’d do this with them, BJ Rudd writes at

“Many of our fears have a connection to our childhood memories and have manifested over time to become what they are today. Krause started with his own fears, before venturing into others’ weird and creepy anxieties. He realizes that some fears might seem completely irrational to some people but are actually completely horrifying for others.    Below you’ll find some of the submissions he’s received over the years and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even submit some of your own.”

See more fears HERE

Ebook CoverEReader Cases That Look Like Beautiful Old Books

Sasquan is being held in Spokane this week, practically my backyard, so I’ll be there for my sixth Worldcon. I’ll be on a couple of panels, give a reading, attend a Kaffee Klatche with fans. I’ll also be hosting ‘Tea with the Duchess.’ If you’re coming to Sasquan, be sure and look me up.

Quotes of the Day

Some young people come in and they say, ‘Do you have a computer?’ I’m like, ‘No, do you want to buy a computer?’ and then they start to walk out. They don’t know how they’re supposed to find anything without a computer—like, they want Hemingway, and I tell him that their book is under the Hemingway section. ‘Oh my God, how did you find it?’ ” ~ John Scioli, retiring bookseller

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” ~ William Wordsworth

Alma Alexander     My Books     Email me
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A loss too near

In a few days, it will be two years since I lost my father.

Second anniversaries are… odd.

It’s still close – it’s still too close. You think back and the memories of the death, the dying, they are still here, close to the surface; if you pick at the scab, it still bleeds. This is not a scar yet. And yet it feels self indulgent to dwell on it.

It isn’t that first year, that searing first anniversary, where you you still have permission for the white-hot grief.

I remember vividly that last year on the day of his passing I took a bunch of flowers to Hospice House, where he died, to leave them in his memory – and I was keeping it all under control, I was going to be just fine, I was going to explain everything clearly and calmly when i walked in through that front door and spoke to whoever was there on duty at the front desk.

Except that’s not what happened. Not at all. i walked in there through that door which was the last door he had ever passed out of, and a woman behind the front desk looked up and smiled. I began, “my father…” and burst into tears. Into great hacking heaving sobs that I couldn’t hold in. We hammered out between us who I was and why i was there, and I was saying I just wanted to come and say thank you one more tiem for what they did for him, and they said the flowers were lovely, and I cried, and so did the woman at the front desk, and then I climbed back into my car with tears still blurring my vision. That was raw grief, my grief, and his spirit was not there. He was long gone. However, I had permission for that grief. The Jewish tradition has a name for this – Jahrzeit – the one-year anniversary. And it was okay.

In the aftermath… I spoke of him less. I would remember individual incidents or sayings, not a general aching recollection, a sense of shadow, a feeling of missing something that should have been there. The speed dial on my phone still says “Mum and Dad” but I have stopped expecting my father to be there, I have stopped catching myself halfway to “oh, I should tell him this he would love it” if I find something he would have enjoyed on the Internet. The second year is a year of distancing, and I have distanced. Hospice House is now not longer the first image in my head when I think of him.
Hamo Hromic: My dad and II remember him on other ways,

I remember him as the man who could not tell a joke (either because he couldn’t get the beginning straight in his head and had to start the damn thing three times before he could be sure of the story, by which stage him telling  the joke was usually far funnier than the joke itself ever was, or because he would flub or, worse, forget the punchline at the critical moment.).

I remember him as an incarnation of that cartoon character of the bewildered man holding up a hammer, with all the fingers on his other hand bandaged up, a hole in the wall behind him, and the shattered remains of one of those stupid flying ceramic ducks on the floor at his feet. You did not point my father at handyman jobs. The best he could do was hang a picture, and even THAT took planning and procedure and twice as long as anyone else would have taken to do it.

I remember him when he found out about a particular novel of mine, which I had successfully kept under wraps right until I could announce that yes, it was being published, and his response when he was told about it was literally this:

“You wrote a book and are getting it published without ever having told me about it? I will never forgive you. Now give me the manuscript.”

And he took the MS printout and sat down with it on the living room sofa, and did not let go of it until he had turned the last page. And then he cried. And on the heels of that I remember that “Random”, the first book in my new series, bears a dedication to him… because this was the first book of mine that he did not live to see, to gather up and to collect lovingly on his shelf which was groaning with copies of my books in every language in which they had ever appeared, to read carefully, to store up another helping of approval and pride.

I don’t idealize him, nor idolize him. There are other memories and some are not wholly pleasant. But they’re all memories now.

This world has been empty of him for two years. His ashes are dispersed in the great quiet Pacific Ocean. His soul no longer clings to the dust of this dirtball of a planet. The things he loved are gone or are loved by someone else. There’s a sense of inevitability and of progression – the sense of loss is no less but it is also no longer sharp, no longer acute. And it feels self indulgent, these days, to remember him and cry. People lose parents every day. It’s the way of the world. It feels as though I should gird up my loins and wipe my nose and keep going, now.

That part of my life is over, the part when I was this man’s daughter-in-the-flesh. I am now daughter-in-spirit, daughter-in-memory, I am the daughter that was, half a daughter, with only one living parent left to anchor me to that identity now. There will come a day on which I will have to say that I USED to be a daughter, and on that day I become an ex-daughter, an orphan, but I suppose I am lucky in that have kept my beloved parents for longer than it is given to some. I suppose when the inevitable day comes that my ancestral walls are all down and the cold winds can blow freely through the ruins of that childhood house which will exist no longer I will have the right and the permission to re-indulge one last time in that rawest, sharpest grief.

But for now… it’s the second anniversary. It feels too close, and too far away. I feel as though I am just far enough from shore not to know whether it’s worth paddling back towards land, or resolutely setting sail towards the unknown horizon. Perhaps, next year, the shore will have gone a little more distant still and the choice won’t be so hard to make. But now… right now… I still feel the tethers, invisible links to all that is left behind on that land I have left in my wake, and it feels… weird… almost dangerous… whatever I do.

So right now, on this second anniversary, I will do nothing at all. I will let myself float on the waters, and lie back in my cockleshell boat, and stare at the sky full of stars – and maybe I will see a star shoot across the sky, and know that on the second anniversary it might be okay if I let myself believe that my lost father is somehow remembering me.


Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
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List of lists

In The Boston Globe, Pat Greenhouse talks about perhaps the ultimate book of lists:

‘Lists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider Audience’

The lists in the book were compiled by Shaun Usher and include Isaac Newton’s sins and Marilyn Monroe’s dream lovers, among others.

The lists also reveal tidbits such as Disney’s alternative names for the seven dwarves and Einstein’s stark demands for his wife (“You will stop talking to me if I request it”)…

Read the whole story HERE

I was born in Yugoslavia, grew up in Africa, went to school in a castle in Wales, lived in New Zealand, met my husband in the continent of Cyberspace, and now live in Bellingham WA. I think perhaps it’s time to write a new travel memoir (my first was ‘Houses in Africa’). But while you’re waiting for mine, take a look at these:

10 Travel Memoirs to Take You Around the World

Experiencing a new place and a new culture leads to both outward and inward discovery, Elaine Wilson writes at Off the Shelf. “Set off on a literary adventure with these ten gorgeous travel memoirs that chronicle the authors’ exploration of their surroundings and themselves and allow you to travel the globe from the comfort of your cozy reading chair.”

For example:
The Turk Who Loved Apples

The Turk Who Loved Apples, by Matt Gross

Matt Gross, the former “Frugal Traveler” for The New York Times, can teach you how to get lost and let your surroundings guide you to incredible discoveries.

No matter where you are or where you’re headed, Gross’s globe-trotting memoir is the perfect travel companion.

See all the others HERE


My husband has always maintained that the ‘Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ was an overrated book because of the cop-out ‘and then I woke up‘ ending.

Wonderful Wizard Of OzBut, as a story in Mental Floss by Joy Lanzendorfer makes clear, he’s confusing the book with the movie. In the story entitled “13 Facts About L. Frank Baum’s ‘Wonderful Wizard of Oz'”, she writes:

7) Oz wasn’t a dream, after all: …while Oz turns out to be a dream in the movie, it’s a real place in the book. When Aunt Em asks Dorothy where she came from, she says that she was in the Land of Oz, then adds, “I’m so glad to be at home again!” (“There’s no place like home” is a movie line.)”

Read the whole story HERE

The NPR staff offers us

Happy Ever After: 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances
Swoon Worthy RomancesMary McLain/NPR

NPR had asked its listeners to tell them about their favorite romantic reads. They had to cut the polling short after they had received more than 18,000 nominations.

One example
The Duke And I

The Bridgertons (series), by Julia Quinn – You can start pretty much anywhere in this beloved series about an alphabetically named family (Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne … all the way to Hyacinth). The Bridgertons are some of the most famous siblings in romance — and the books are also a lovely example of familial love surrounding the individual love stories.

See the whole list HERE

Books You Should ReadThinkstock

I am sure that every author thinks he or she has a book that should be on this BuzzFeed list – me included, of course. No, I won’t tell you which one.

But there are a number of excellent books on here that I can endorse. For example, just the other day I was surprised when my husband told me he and never read ‘Little, Big’ by John Crowley. I immediately dug it out of a bookcase and gave it to him. Its presence here should remind him that I’m always right.

Underrated books list HERE

Sasquan is being held in Spokane, practically my backyard, so I’ll be there for my fifth Worldcon. I’ll be on a couple of panels, give a reading, attend a Kaffee Klatche with fans, and do some book signings at an official session, or just stop me in the hall. I’ll also be hosting ‘Tea with the Duchess.’ If you’re coming to Sasquan, be sure and look me up. It’s always lovely to meet new people, and to see old friends.

I’ve been in the U.S. for only 15 years and yet I have been to 37 on a list of U.S. wonders. On the other hand, my native born American husband didn’t do that much better; he only got 74. So there! I think he needs to take me on some sight-seeing trips, particularly to places HE has never been,

The Ultimate USA Wonders List

Shenandoah National ParkShenandoah National Park

This bucket list compiles 200 of America’s greatest treasures. From the skyscrapers of New York to the small villages of New England to the dunes of New Mexico and the coral reefs of Hawaii, America is an intoxicatingly stunning and diverse country and there’s enough to see to satisfy a lifetime’s worth of experiences.

See the other 199 places at List Challenges HERE


Proving once again that the government has a form for everything, Slashdot reports, Buzz Aldrin has unveiled his Apollo 11 documentation, including a travel voucher detailing his expenses on his trip to the moon with a total expenses claim of just $33.31. The report notes : “Government meals and quarters [were] furnished for all of the above dates.”

Also at Slashdot:

Inkjet printer cartridges have been the bane of many small businesses and home offices for decades. It’s interesting, then, that Epson is trying something new: next month, they’re launching a new line of printers that come with small tanks of ink, instead of cartridges.

The Thermostat In Your Office May Be Sexist.

If you’re constantly bundling up against your office building’s air conditioning, blame Povl Ole Fanger. In the 1960s, this Danish scientist developed a model, still used in many office buildings around the world, which predicts comfortable indoor temperatures for the average worker. The problem? The average office worker in the 1960s was a 40-year-old man sporting a three-piece suit.

Bookstore offering ‘Go Set a Watchman’ refunds

Quote of the Day
Paracosm definition~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
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