Too many characters?

Books Of Character illustrationFrom Lovereading infographic

The Lovereading site explains that they love epic books with swathes of characters creating a wonderfully complex plot, but ask rather plaintively:

“Sometimes is it all too much?”

They have created an infographic about 15 books with increasing casts of characters. Books like: Shogun, Bleak House, The Stand, and Game of Thrones.

You can see the infographics at the link below, but first I decided to look at a few of my own books as to number of characters.

The Secrets of Jin-shei:
Eight protagonists, or nine if you count the ghost, and several times that number of named characters. When asked about the writing of it, I sometimes suggest that if I ever have a similar idea for another book with so many major characters, I plan to go lay down until the impulse passes.

Embers of Heaven:
The sequel-that-is-not-a sequel to the The Secrets of Jin -shei — it takes place in the same world but hundreds of years later — has only two major protagonists, but more than twenty named characters.

On the other hand, my science-fiction romp has an entire SF/fantasy con of named characters and ensemble protagonists, at least half a dozen other important named
characters and four time-traveling androids.

My newest book, coming out next month, has two main protagonists, at least four secondary “important” characters with agency on the plot, and more than twenty named characters

The Were Chronicles:
It is a series and thus tougher to count. There are three MAIN protags, one per book, but each one also features as characters in each other’s books, so it’s hard to know if you’re counting them twice. And numerous other named characters, of course

There is only one main protagonist in this four-part series, unless you want to count Coyote The Trickster, along with 25+named characters, some of them from other worlds.

Spanish Gardens:
There are five protagonists, or perhaps six counting the enigmatic bartender named Ariel, and several other named characters, although they are less importance in the scheme of things

Check out the Lovereading infographic HERE

Man Vs Robot photoBoston Dynamics’ new robots don’t give a damn about weak human attacks.

But then…are we really sure they’ll ever forget this ridicule?

Read the whole story HERE


Lucy is going to the park and she is taking the dog for a walk.“Why it’s impossible for you not to read this sentence”

A psychologist explains how we’re all brainwashed by words

Read the explanation HERE


Bitcoins are Cheaper & Healthier than Cash

photo of dollar bills sleepBills, coins and credit cards are dirty, carrying bacteria, fecal matter and drugs, The Optimist reports.

In 94 percent of bills tested, pathogens, including staphylococcus, were found.

Using bitcoins has many intended and unintended benefits. But one such unintended benefit is minimizing your risk of bacteria exposure and becoming sick.

Read more HERE

extinct squash grown from seeds in  ancient potA native American Pot full of extinct squash seeds found by archaeologists


So they planted the 800-year-old seeds..

Read the whole story HERE



Denmark opens first food waste supermarket selling surplus produce

‘It’s ridiculous that food is just thrown out or goes to waste,” says Danish minister.

Read the whole story HERE

illustration of a master Penman at workHe Does Something Only 12 People In The World Can Do…

…and you will just have to see it to believe it.

The story and video HERE


New York Public Library Puts 20,000 Hi-Res Maps Online


Quote of the Day

Einstein Quote photoWell, even I knew that!  🙂

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Want to live longer?

Book Club in session

Then join a book club.

Taking part in social activities such as book clubs or church groups makes people live longer and appears to be as important to health as exercise, Chris Green says in The Independent.

A retired person’s risk of death is dramatically lowered if they take part in such groups in the first few years after stopping working, a study found.

Read more HERE


Ethical robots?

In my light-hearted romp, AbductiCon, time-traveling androids take over a SF/fantasy convention to try to learn about their origins, while the kidnapped fans worry about their ethics.

You’ll have to read the book to see how that all works out, but in our own world the idea of intelligent robots is beginning to raise some concerns. Stephen Hawking has warned that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”.

So how can we prevent that? How can we teach them ethics before they take over?

Well, Alison Flood writes in The Guardian, a couple of academics suggest that we tell them stories.

Now that is an idea every author can relate to, I can just see a robot sitting on a woman’s lap as she begins “Once upon a time…”RobotKindness calculus … the ROBOY humanoid robot  Photograph: Erik Tham/Corbis

Read the whole Guardian story HERE

From girlhood to womanhood

The female Bildungsroman, novel of development, is, in some ways, a contradiction in terms, Anne Boyd Rioux tells us in The Toast.

Novels about the transition from girlhood to womanhood have historically been more about “growing down” than growing up. They show their heroines learning to conform to gender norms rather than discovering themselves as individuals and generally end rather depressingly with marriage and subservience.

But there have always been exceptions, many of which should be rediscovered. For example:

An Indian Childhood cover“Impressions of an Indian Childhood” (1900) by Zitkala-Ša –

This collection of vignettes from Zitkala- Ša’s childhood follows her from her Sioux family to the white boarding school where she found enforced assimilation painful but also discovered her joy in reading and writing.

She tells the stories from the point of view of her older, wiser self, who regrets her rejection of her Native heritage and criticizes the hypocrisy of her white teachers and the prejudice of her fellow students.


See more HERE

29 Amazing Literary Magazines

And you thought your reading list was long already…

BuzzFeed asked readers to tell them about their favorite literary magazines and Arianna Rebolini selected the “collections of fiction, essays, and poetry you need in your life.”

For example:
Room Magazine covernigitstil /

Room Magazine

What it features: Fiction, poetry, reviews, profiles, and art, by and about women.

Why it’s great: Since launching in 1975, Room has been a place for writers and readers to explore all of the many and diverse experiences of women.

“It’s Canadian, feminist, and one of my favorite things ever.” —bucketofrhymes

See all the magazines HERE

This Tree Beautifully Reveals The Relationships Between Languages

For reasons both poetic and pragmatic, Mike Nudelman writes at The Business Insider, the tree has historically been the designer’s go-to inspiration for mapping relationships. In the graphic below, Finish-Swedish illustrator Minna Sundberg artfully uses this format to trace the world’s largest language families.

All of the languages illustrated here stem from subcategories of either Indo-European or Uralic origin, and upon closer inspection many fascinating links are revealed.Language Family Tree illustration

Read more HERE

Quote of the Day

“We think that an intelligent entity can learn what it means to be human by immersing itself in the stories it produces” ~ Mark Riedl

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The perfect line


Lolita posterCreative Commons / Flickr: smithsonian

51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature

“We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about their favorite lines from literature,” Jennifer Schaffer writes. “Here are some of their most beautiful replies.”

“At the still point, there the dance is.” ~ T. S. Eliot

“We cross our bridges as we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and the presumption that once our eyes watered.” ~ Tom Stoppard, Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead

“For poems are like rainbows; they escape you quickly.” ~ Langston Hughes, The Big Sea

See all the beautiful lines HERE

OK, this article was aimed at Valentine’s Day. So I’m a little late. Sue me.

The 10 Best First Dates In Literature

At Bustle, Charlotte Ahlin tells us, perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, that “books are full of inspirational love stories: Gatsby, projecting all of his material desires onto Daisy. Rhett Butler, being a total jerk, an elderly vampire, stalking an underage girl. Literary romances are always perfect and never, ever dysfunctional. And the same goes for dating in books — first dates always go smoothly, just like in real life!

For example: The Postponed Execution From One Thousand and One Nights

Scheherazade painting

Scheherazade is one of the greatest female characters in history. Her husband Shahryar, the king, has a habit of marrying a new woman every day, and then killing her that night. But Scheherazade manages to postpone her execution by telling him a gripping story and ending on a cliffhanger. And she does the same thing the next night. And the next. And the next. A creepy first date, but she manages to spin it into a survival tactic, until Shahryar falls for her and stops trying to kill her so much.

Check out the other nine first dates HERE

Are you seeing a pattern here yet? A story at Loverly offers

Book Wedding photo15 Book Wedding Ideas for Literary Lovers

Take your engagement photos in the library

Do you and your partner love to read? Did you meet at a bookstore? Are you saying “I do” at a library?

Whatever your tale may be, give new meaning to the term “love story” by incorporating books into your big day! Here are 15 novel (see what we did there?) ways to make books part of your wedding decor.


photo by Mastin Studio City on Grey Likes Weddings

See all the ideas HERE

At Litreactor, Christine J. Schmidt gives us

The 5 Stages Of Realizing Your Lover Is Not A Book LoverNon Book Lover illustrationPhoto Credit: Vicky Mount (flickr)

The beginning stages of dating are wonderful, she writes and adds: I love learning things about my new partner little by little and question by question. Some of my go-to questions are: Are you adventurous or practical? If you were to get a tattoo right now, what would you get, and where? And the question of all questions: Do you read?

And the stages of discovering (and accepting) that your lover does not read as much as you do.

Read the whole story HERE

And finally, writing in The Guardian, Susie Steiner, author of ‘Missing, Presumed,’ offers some books to help you deal with the end of love:

Top 10 books for the broken-hearted

Some relationships ebb away, petering to their end, she writes, but there is another altogether more visceral kind – the brutal, sudden and sometimes unexpected end to love.

For this, some serious heartbreak literature is required, books that can carry us through the worst of times, offer wisdom in the dark, a voice saying you are not alone. And they touch on larger themes of grief and the inward-looking process of rebuilding oneself. They will hold your hand through the worst of it.

One example

After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell: This novel tells the story of Alice, a young woman in a coma. The story’s clever, dreamlike structure loops back into her past and the secrets held there. It has all the grip of a psychological thriller, but the writing is drenched in loss and absence. It’s the intense atmosphere of grief that stays with you.

Read the rest of her choices HERE

Quote of the Day

Shifter quote PosterAfter a friend saw a review that spoke of the “perfect last line” in Shifter, the third book in The Were Chronicles, he pulled it out and made this poster for me.

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Disappearing sounds

I remember the now nearly extinct sound of the typewriter that I used before I embraced computers for my writing. My husband not only remembers typewriters, he also fondly recalls the sound of teletype machines from his days as a newsman in the ancient past.

TypewriterTeletype Machine

That trip down memory lane comes because I just discovered Brendan Chilcutt’s

The Museum of Endangered Sounds

I launched the site in January of 2012,” Brendan writes at his website. “as a way to preserve the sounds made famous by my favorite old technologies and electronics equipment.

“Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?”

Hear all the saved sounds HERE


Noting that books are always a great gift, Crystal Paul at Bustle offers

9 DATE Ideas For Book-Lover Couples This Valentine’s Day

For example:

Literary Road Trip photoTake a Literary Road Trip – Head out to some literary museum and sites. If you’re in Boston, for example, you could probably hit up a talk at Edith Wharton’s home and have a picnic at Walden Pond in the same day. You could even trace the tracks of Kerouac or follow the tracks of famous literary travels.

Read all the selections HERE

If a movie is ever made of one of my books, The Secrets of Jin-shei  let’s say, I don’t know that I’d dare go see it because there is no guarantee that I would not be in tears — and not the good kind. And that would be lousy advertising for the movie, wouldn’t it.

At Mental Floss, Stacy Conradt tells us about

11 Authors Who Hated the Movie Versions of Their Books

Mary PoppinsImage credit: Disney

Some of the most beloved movies ever were based on books, Conradt says. But just because moviegoers loved them doesn’t mean the original author did.

For example:


Disney’s Mary Poppins might be a cherished childhood memory for a lot of people, but for author P.L. Travers, it was a complete slap in the face. Despite having script approval, Travers’ edits were largely disregarded. Travers loathed the movie’s animated sequences and was perturbed that Mary Poppins’ strict side was downplayed. After some heated meetings, Travers reluctantly approved. She would have been shunned from the star-studded premiere had she not shamed a Disney exec into an invite. The 65-year-old Travers spent most of the movie crying and ultimately refused to let Disney touch the rest of the series.

Read the whole story HERE

I am always happy to talk to book clubs, in person if they are nearby, or on Skype. (See “Book Clubs” in the menu under my header.) But I don’t have a great deal of experience with them.

At Bustle, Alex Weiss offers us

10 Ways To Make Book Clubs Fun

Book ClubsOne of the ways he suggests is ‘Switch Up Your Meeting Spots’.

But the one I find of most interest, for obvious reasons, is: ‘Choose Local Authors’. (Attention local book clubs: contact information is on my blog. 🙂  )

Read the whole article HERE

Quote of the Day
Salinger Quote posterThe man knew the way to a booklover’s heart.

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What book…?

What book changed you life posterMine?
My Son My Son cover imageTigana By Guy Gavriel Kay coverLord Of The Rings By JRR Tolkien

‘My Son, My Son’ by Howard Spring

The book, and the writer. Spring taught me that EVERY story is about character. ‘My Son, My Son’ was the first book that made me cry over it.


‘Lord of the Rings’ by JRR Tolkien

This book brought EVERYTHING to life for me.


‘Tigana’ by Guy Gavriel Kay

Because this book proved that people who did not share your life’s experience were still capable of understanding it COMPLETELY.


Your turn. What book or books changed YOUR life? Why and how?

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First joke ever told?

100 jokers who shaped modern comedy

100 Jokes illustrationIllustration by Giacomo Gambineri

4,000 years of humor

At Vulture, Jesse David Fox talks about 100 sketches and one-liners that changed humor forever — from the Marx Brothers to ​The Simpsons, Richard Pryor to Amy Schumer.

The oldest joke on record, a Sumerian proverb, was first told all the way back in 1900 B.C. Yes, it was a fart joke, Fox says, and adds it’s just a shame we’ll never know the name of the Sumerian genius, but much easier to assign credit for innovations in joke-telling, which is exactly what Vulture set out to do with this list of the 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy.”

For example:

Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Surely you can’t be serious.
I am serious … and don’t call me Shirley.

Airplane! is arguably the quintessential cinematic example of brilliantly stupid humor, and this joke may be the stupidest — and therefore, the best. The 1980 classic abounds with quotable one-liners and layered jokes that improve with time, but no one steals the show more than the straight-faced Leslie Nielsen imploring Robert Hays to land their out-of-control plane.

See all the humor and jokes HERE



Gun Insanity 1: Texas bookstore gives 10% discount to anyone openly carrying a gun

Gun Insanity 2: Pro-gun picture book for kids

How Joan Didion the Writer Became Joan Didion the Legend

In Vanity Fair, Lili Anolik writes:

In a 1969 column for Life, her first for the magazine, Joan Didion let drop that she and husband, John Gregory Dunne, were…in Honolulu “in lieu of filing for divorce,” surely the most famous subordinate clause in the history of New Journalism.  

The poise of it, the violence, the cool-bitch chic—a writer who could be the heroine of a Godard movie!—takes the breath away, even after all these years….Didion…is a brilliant writer, sentence for sentence, among the best this country’s ever produced…
Joan Didion photoJoan Didion and John Gregory Dunne at work in Trancas, California, in 1972.
By Henry Clarke/The Condé Nast Archive.

What I do want to do is get her right. And… since 2005, when she published the first of her two loss memoirs, one about Dunne, the other about Quintana, her daughter, she’s been gotten … egregiously wrong… I’m talking about the canonization of Didion, Didion as St. Joan, Didion as Our Mother of Sorrows.

Didion is not, let me repeat, not a holy figure, nor is she a maternal one. She’s cool-eyed and cold-blooded, and that coolness and coldness…is the source of her fascination as much as her artistry is; the source of her glamour too, and her seductiveness, because she is seductive, deeply. What she is is a femme fatale, and irresistible. She’s our kiss of death, yet we open our mouths, kiss back.

Read the whole fascinating article HERE

12 Powerful War Novels that Transcend War

That war stories must occur in strange lands far from home, filled with bullets and blood, remains a powerful fallacy, novelist Matt Gallagher writes at Off the Shelf, and, he adds, the consequences and effects of war can’t be contained so neatly.

“Stories of war are stories of love, stories of loss and longing, stories of hope. Stories of war are stories of before and after, of inheritance and memory. The best stories of war are so much more than stories of armed conflict. They are stories of humanity.”

For example
Democracy Joan Didion cover

Democracy by Joan Didion 

To call this a Vietnam novel would be both accurate and far too constraining.

Set against the backdrop of the Fall of Saigon, DEMOCRACY chronicles an ill-fated romance and the beginning of the end of the American empire.

See all the books HERE



17 Uncomfortable Images That Tell The Cynical Truth About Our World

Art has the incredible ability to reveal uncomfortable truths about our world and evoke some serious emotions, a story in Higher Perspective says.

Truly, the modern world is pretty crazy and strange. It’s easy to ignore it – it’s pretty much all our culture tries to get us to do. That’s why Joe Webbart, an artist responsible for making these collages, decided to step up and reveal the truth.
Wallpaper composit photo“All of my images are hand-made, without the use of computers,” writes Webbart. “I find the images in newspapers, magazines given on trains, buses and bins. My collages work to a basic rule of sourcing just two or three images. With these I can reinvent the original scene to communicate a new idea. I suppose I’ve become fairly anti-technology. Although I now promote my art on websites, own an iPhone and use Facebook. It’s confusing, I wish I had been born 100 years ago.”

See all the photos HERE

Quote of the Day
Love Reading Poster QuoteThere’s only one month for this?

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Does romance pay?

The woman who rewrote the rules of romantic fictionNora Roberts portraitNora Roberts photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Polaris

There are more than 400 million Nora Roberts novels in print, Carole Cadwalladr writes in The Guardian, she has spent more than 893 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and earns an estimated $60 million a year.

But you may never have heard of her, Cadwalladr says, because she writes romance. All genres are scorned by literary types, but none more so than romance, a genre written by women for women.

But if “a guy writes one…they call it something else. And it gets reviewed and made into a movie,” says Roberts.

The unspoken words ‘David Nicholls’ and ‘One Day’, hover in the air. One Day was a romantic novel, taken seriously by publishers, given a non-chick-lit cover, and treated as a worthy subject for reviews in major newspapers.

A woman writes it and it’s just one of those,” Roberts says.

Roberts is not one to mince her words. Talking about one of her recent books, Chasing Fire, she points out that it doesn’t have “a nursing mother cover”. A what? “You know, where she’s falling out of her dress and he has his mouth on her tit.”

At a book signing she is answering questions and is equally phlegmatic.

What does she find helps keep her going when she’s writing?

“Alcoholic beverages.”

Does she tweet?

“I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a flaming stick.”

What does she think of the recent news story claiming that romantic
fiction gives women unrealistic expectations?

“We’re pretty smart. I think we know the difference between reality and fiction. I don’t think that people read Agatha Christie, and then think: I know, I’ll go and murder someone.”

Read the whole wonderful story HERE

Where in the world?

I try to avoid posting material when I don’t know the source, like this selection of Fascinating-If-True stories that came to me in a much forwarded email without any provenance.

But googling it on Bing suggests that it came from BeforeIt’

Entitled “Where is the world’s…?” it has photos and descriptions of things like the wettest place on earth (Mawsynram, India with 467 inches of rain per year), driest (The Atacama Desert with 4 inches of rain – a CENTURY), coldest place, hottest place, biggest city, city with the best Internet connections, city with the most bike riders…you get the picture.

One example:

Where is the world’s oldest city?Damascus city sceneThere’s quite a bit of controversy over which city gets to officially claim the title of “oldest continuously inhabited city”. However, Damascus is the safest bet, with evidence of civilization that extends back over 11,000 years.

See all the photos HERE

So okay. I’ve been to cons before. Many cons. I went to my first one LAST CENTURY, back in New Zealand, the year that Roger Zelazny died (he was GoH at my first con. I was that lucky.)

Since that first one, many have come and gone, I’ve been on uncounted panels and signings, I’ve been to six Worldcons and a handful of World Fantasy Cons, I’m a seasoned con pro.

But this year… this year I am going to my first Comic Con.
Comicon logoThe Emerald City Comicon in Seattle has just brought me on board as a pro guest. I’m wildly excited and not a little terrified (from what I’ve heard about Comic Cons from others). I mean to enjoy every minute of it.

Can’t wait until April!

At Mental Floss, Judith B Herman gives us

25 Words That Are Their Own Opposite

Cups imageImage credit: IStock

What we’ve done is stumble into the looking-glass world of “contronyms”—words that are their own antonyms. Words such as…

Fight with can be interpreted three ways. “He fought with his mother-in-law” could mean “They argued,” “They served together in the war,” or “He used the old battle-ax as a weapon.” (Thanks to linguistics professor Robert Hertz for this idea.)


Dust is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.

Stone is another verb to use with caution. You can stone some peaches, but please don’t stone your neighbor (even if he says he likes to get stoned).

See all the other words HERE

Quote of the DayMovie vs book image

I couldn’t have said it better.

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