Dare you steal this book?

It was traditional, particularly before the invention of the printing press and books were all hand written manuscripts, to letter a curse into the book to prevent theft, Book Porn tells us. For example:

    Steal not this book, my worthy friend
    For fear the gallows will be your end;
    Up the ladder, and down the rope,
    There you’ll hang until you choke;
    Then I’ll come along and say -
    “Where’s that book you stole away?”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have worked very well, as the books also had to be chained into place. Even chains had limited effect. Witness the many ancient libraries where there are still chains in place… but no books.

When printed books came along, bookplates were sometimes used to make the same point.
Book protectionRead the Article

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Writer At Work

If you’ve ever had questions for a writer but were afraid to ask, here’s your chance.

Well, if you live anywhere near Bellingham, Washington anyway.

I’m spending a few hours tomorrow, July 25, at Bellewood Acres as writer in residence. I’ll be the one tapping away on my laptop in the apple orchard’s store, working on my newest book.

Bellewood Acres, located near Bellingham, a few miles from Canada, is home to one of Northwest Washington’s largest apple orchards. You can pick your own apples and your own pumpkins from their pumpkin patch.

Since writing is usually a solitary occupation, this will be a welcome break for me. Customers can stop by and ask about my books, the writing life, or what I am working on, which currently is a new Young Adult title.

I haven’t been to Bellewood Acres in a while, and I sure miss their incomparable Apple Pie.

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The 38 Most Haunting Abandoned Places On Earth

These real life ruins offer an eerie glimpse into a world without humans,” Lara Starr writes at The Open Mind. “Their dark walls inspire a sense of wonder like I’ve never felt before.”

This one just makes me itch to write a story about it.
Missouri RRimgur.com
Railroad in the Fall – Lebanon, Missouri

I mean, where do these rails go? What kind of a train rides them? It feels elegiac, like you’re riding through the heart of golden Fall, already half memory, and heading straight into the gloaming of a winter just around the corner somewhere (where it could already be starting to snow lightly in the twilight). A far gentler, lovelier, softer winter than George R R Martin ever thought about… but I guess… winter is ALWAYS coming…
SS AmericaWreck of the SS America – Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
This former United States ocean liner was wrecked in 1994 after 54 years of service.

Read the Article

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The Perspective-Shifting Habit of Extremely Creative People

We spend a lot of time racking our brains in morning meetings and staring at blank computer screens waiting for an aha moment, Alena Hall writes at The Huffington Post  , but science shows we might be better off removing ourselves entirely from our typical work environment to gain a fresh perspective.
Maya AngelouMaya Angelou, the late poet and civil rights activist, was full of inspiring words, most of which came to her in hotel rooms she rented for the sole purpose of writing. Even as a homeowner, she chose to inhabit these solitary spaces when it was time to get to work.
CHARLES-DICKENSCharles Dickens: The great English novelist found inspiration for some of his most beloved story characters as he strolled the streets of London. The city served as one of his most influential muses throughout his career.

Read the Article

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From The New Yorker Archives

Now that The New Yorker has made some of its archives available online for free until the end of this summer, Isaac Fitzgerald of BuzzFeed has selected 14 of the best fiction pieces that you might want to read.
George SaundersAndrew H. Walker / Getty Images Entertainment

Escape From Spiderhead”: George Saunders, author of Tenth of December and Pastoralia, takes a foray into mind-bending science fiction with a story full of exotic drugs and unethical experiments, as told by a human lab rat who is faced with impossible moral dilemmas.

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day

“You don’t need to correct all of your flaws. It’s OK to be human.” ~ Matthew Perpetua

~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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Kids turning 50

Kids’s books that is

These books were all published in 1964, an amazing year for children’s books, says Scarlet Neath in Bustle.

The ’60s in general are seen as the start of the modern shift in children’s literature from being completely sanitized to more brutally honest. As Maurice Sendak said, “I’m not going to bullshit [kids].
Chitty

CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG – Ian Fleming is best known for his 11 James Bond novels, but he also wrote one children’s book while recovering from a heart attack (and he unfortunately did not live to see it published).

The Disney movie version, which is arguably the creepiest kid’s movie of all time, was very loosely based on the book—pretty much all they have in common is the flying car.

 

Read the article

 

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25 of Children’s Most Beloved Female Characters, Ranked in Coolness

If you grew up as a literature-loving young lady, there’s no doubt that you also had a bookshelf full of novels with characters you felt were as near and dear as any flesh and blood friend out there in the so-called “real world,” Kate Erbland writes in Bustle.

Did you ever pretend that Ramona Quimby was your own precocious little sister? Or ponder which member of the Baby-sitters Club would be your best pal in real life? Perhaps you dreamed about somehow folding yourself in between the Pevensie sisters, giving The Chronicles of Narnia a fifth kid to honor? Or imagined that you lived up in that nasty old attic alongside Sara Crewe?
PippiPippi Longstocking: Wild, fun, wild, really fun, crazy, imaginative, nutty old Pippi is the heroine of her own life — and her blasé attitude towards authority and big love for animals mark her as cool even today, despite the fact that she was invented in the early part of the twentieth century.

Read the Article

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The 100 Best American Novels, 1770 to 1985 (a Draft)
100 bestAbout a year ago I put an end to my indiscriminate reading habits,” David Handlin says at The American Scholar, “so I resolved to read, at least for the time being, only American novels….(and) would compile a list of the 100 Best.”

Handlin cautions that he writes “as an enthusiast, not as a scholar” and offers a thoughtful essay on how he chose his list. Definitely worth reading.

Read the Article

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GROAN

25 Literary Pun Names For Your Cat, selected by Nathan W. Pyle at BuzzFeed and inspired by Catticus, mascot of The Next Page bookstore in Philadelphia
CatticusRead the Article

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The Creativity Pill

Creativity pillNeurologist Rivka Inzelberg recently noticed that her patients with Parkinson’s disease seemed to be authoring more novels than older people tend to author, James Hamblin reports in The Atlantic.

Looking closer, poems and paintings also seemed to be pouring out of afflicted patients, in a relative sense—specifically those treated with a synthetic dopamine-precursor pill, levodopa (L-DOPA).

Read the Article

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SciFi and Fantasy’s Best Librarians

Tor has selected some the most notable librarians in SF/Fantasy. For example:
cal-doctorwhoCAL Doctor Who Silence in the Library librarians

The story of Charlotte Abigail Lux (CAL) is tragic enough to break both your hearts. When she was dying, her father preserved her consciousness within a program that simulated a dream world, giving her access to all the knowledge in the library. CAL used this knowledge to help save the Doctor, Donna, and others from the fearsome Vashta Nerada.

ook-paulkidbyArt by Paul Kidby
The Librarian—The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
Transformed into an orangutan by a wayward beam of magic, the Librarian is a member of the small, elite group who have the knowledge and ability to travel through L-space. His true identity is unknown and he speaks only through a series of “ooks” and “eeks,” but he’s still a pretty low-key guy when he’s not protecting the world’s knowledge. Just don’t call him a monkey. Trust us on that one.

Read the Article

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A Tale of Two Internets

Mikki Kendall is black and a woman and her Internet may be wildly different from yours. Every morning she looks at Twitter, and sees tweet after tweet of personal invective and vitriol. There are death threats and rape threats and threats against her family from people who disagree with things she’s written online.

As part of an experiment, she changed her avatar to that of a white male. The difference was black and white.
Black and whiteShe talked about it at On the Media.

Read a transcript of the article

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An Apartment Tower Designed To Help Residents Make Friends

A 24-story residential development in Belgium is designed to get people talking.
Friend friendly towerIt’s hard to foster community in a tower. High-rise towers often lack common spaces that give people a reason to bump into each other or hang out informally. There’s only so much interaction that can happen as people move straight from the lobby to an elevator, then into their apartment.

Social interaction is the main goal of a new high-rise design in Antwerp, Belgium.

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day
Sky crack quote~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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51 must-see cities

With our ever-expanding bucket lists, The Huffington Post says, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the essentials. So they’ve picked the greatest destinations on Earth, the 50 cities you must see during your lifetime. I added one of my own to the list.

I’ve got most of the European destinations covered although I missed out on anything in the Iberian peninsula as I’ve never been to either Spain or Portugal. But there are a slew of Asian cities I’ve never been NEAR and I’d love to see. Lhasa, for instance. That must be a JOURNEY, in more ways than one.

The city that I added to their list is Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape TownCape Town was my home for 13 years, the longest Ive actually ever lived anywhere for a contiguous stretch of time. Its climate is wonderful. That is, if you discount the occasional wind which blows hard enough to lift one out of one’s shoes as it did me, literally, once, or blow over a double decker bus – that happened, too.

Cape Town backs onto wine country, with estates that produce some of the best wines I have ever tasted (Nederburg Baronne. Immortal. Much missed.) It has some of the best and most interesting beaches ever – the one with the cold current running right off shore, which rendered the water ICY, the one which was home to a colony of penguins with whom you sometimes ended up sharing the ocean. I went to University there. It was the home of a special place known as Spanish Gardens which you can read all about in the novel I wrote (Midnight at Spanish Gardens.)

Amazing, unique, awesomely beautiful place. Should have been on this list. So I am putting it there.

PetraPhoto by Husar 77
Petra, Jordan -  the Rose Red City Half as Old as Time. Of all the world’s great ancient cities, Petra stands in a league of its own. Set in the midst of a epic, wind-swept desert, Petra’s monumental rock-cut buildings must be seen to be believed.
SiemReapPhoto by Angel B. Arevalo
Siem Reap, Cambodia – While most come to see the stunning ancient city of Angkor Wat, but Siem Reap’s laid-back bohemian-backpacker vibe and tasty food make it a worthy destination on its own.

Read the Article

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The Empty City: Extraordinary photos capture the true spirit of New York City at night

I’ve always said New York City doesn’t really exist – it’s a stage set, unreal, only imagined -and these almost surreal fairytale photographs taken by artist Franck Bohbot PROVE it. As in, where are all the PEOPLE? This is freaking NYC. There are millions of humans crawling around there. And I don’t care WHAT ungodly time of day these were taken at.

Bohbot’s photos, posted at Sploid by Omar Kardoudi, are “rooted in his fascination with cinematographic iconography, his thematics study the relationship between the individual and the urban landscape. He lives and works in New York.”
NYC 1NYC 2Read the Article

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One-star reviews
Hamlet******SPOILER*******
“Everyone dies!!!!”

Read the Article

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Nadine Gordimer offered Wise Words About Bettering A Troubled World

The great novelist Nadine Gordimer, whose stories told of the immorality of apartheid in her beloved South Africa, was not only a writer, Matt Silver writes at NPR upon her death at 90: She was an activist in the fight to end apartheid. In her writings and speeches, the Nobel Prize offered words of enlightenment for anyone sharing her commitment to bring a better life to those suffering from prejudice, poor health, poverty, and other ills.

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day

Truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.” ~ Nadine Gordimer

~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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Q: Are readers the best lovers?

A: Yes. Scientifically, readers are the best people to fall ino love with.
Readers and loversPhoto Courtesy: We Heart It

Ever finished a book? Lauren Martin asks at Elite Daily. I mean, truly finished one? Cover to cover. Closed the spine with that slow awakening that comes with reentering consciousness?

Like falling in love with a stranger you will never see again, you ache with the yearning and sadness of an ended affair, but at the same time, feel satisfied. Full from the experience, the connection, the richness that comes after digesting another soul.

It’s no surprise that readers are better people. Having experienced someone else’s life through abstract eyes, they’ve learned what it’s like to leave their bodies and see the world through other frames of reference.

Read the Article

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TV Shows Are Just Reimagined Classic Novels

Frankenstein pushing daisies? You won’t believe the similarities between these classic books and today’s most popular shows, says Alexis Nedd in BuzzFeed. For example:
Firefly20,000 LeaguesFirefly = 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea:  A morally shifty captain with a chip on his shoulder and a strong hatred of government leads his crew on a journey of danger, exploration, and criminal activity in the last great frontier.
Pushing DaisiesFrankenstein

Pushing Daisies = 

A man knows the secret to bringing the dead back to life but everyone focuses on that instead of the nuanced plot that deals with the nature of life, beauty, and human connection.

Read the Article

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ArchieArchie to Take a Bullet For Gay Friend in Final Comic

 

“‘The way in which Archie dies is everything that you would expect of Archie,’ said Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher. ‘He dies heroically. He dies selflessly. He dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale but the best of all of us. It’s what Archie has come to represent over the past almost 75 years.’

Read the Article

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QUIZ – Dragons in literature
Toothless the dragonToothless, dragon star of How To Train Your Dragon, based on the books by Cressida Cowell. Photo by c.20thC.Fox/Everett/REX

As How To Train Your Dragon 2 roars onto the cinema screens, Claire Kearns asks at The Guardian: Is your dragon knowledge ferocious or tame?

Read the Article

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The Perfectly Shaped Treat: Literary Cookie Cutters

Do you like cookies? Kelly Jensen asks at Book Riot. What about words and books? Well then do I have a (sweet) treat for you: literary cookie cutters. Let’s take a tour through the possibilities for some of the most bookish cookies your heart can imagine.
Open Book cookiesLet’s start with the basics, shall we? Here’s your standard book, pages open for your reading/eating pleasure.
Comic-book-cookiesThey’re almost too good looking to want to eat. Almost.

Read the Article

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The Importance of the Human-Animal Bond
Puppy-LoveThe human-animal bond is a metaphor for the roles animals play in our lives.
Photo by Fotolia/Andres Rodriguez

What is it that has caused us to become closer to other species of animals? Aubrey H. Fine asks at Utne. I believe one of the most critical aspects in this evolution is a growing respect and understanding that our companion animals are sentient beings with emotions and thoughts.

Historically, the human/canine relationship goes back almost 12,000 years and may may an evolutionary basis. Gregory Berns explains, “The dog’s brain represents something special about how humans and animals came together. It’s possible that dogs have even affected human evolution. People who took dogs into their homes and villages may have had certain advantages. As much as we made dogs, I think dogs probably made some part of us, too.”

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day
All I Want~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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Greatest sculpture?

Our cities are full of majestic monuments, stunning sculptures and artistic statues, each having a story to tell, Bored Panda says and offers us 25 of them.

Les VoyageursImage credits: Bruno Catalano
Les Voyageurs, Marseilles, France

Hippo SculpturesImage credits: Patche99z
Hippo Sculptures, Taipei, Taiwan

RomaniaImage credits: Dan Dima
Mihai Eminescu, Onesti, Romania

Read the Article

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How big is a book?

Vincze Miklós at io9 invites us to “just imagine burying your nose between the pages of these beauties, massive atlases, photobooks, and tributes to the written word.”
The Klencke Atlas(via Erik Kwakkel and AP Photo/Sang Tan)

The Klencke Atlas, presented by a group of Dutch sugar merchants, led by Johannes Klencke, to King Charles of England II in 1660.

Earth Platinum(via Millennium House)

Earth Platinum, a 6 by 4.5-ft, 128-page atlas by the Sydney-based Millennium House. 31 copies were produced and sold for $100,000 each in 2012.

Read the Article

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Who else do my readers read?

There is a fun site that produces a cloud showing relationships among authors. I plugged in my name and got this: What else do readers of Alma Alexander read? The closer two writers are, the more likely someone will like both of them. Click on any name to travel along.
Alma literary mapThat’s me in the center even if the image is not super. I’ve written historical fantasy as do Judith Tarr and Guy Gavriel Kay. Charles de Lint I can see being in the same camp although it’s a slightly different animal. I’ve been compared to Gail Tsukiyama before.

But why on earth are Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman grouped together out there at the periphery? OK, I can see an overlap with at least SOME of Gaiman, but Pratchett writes funny, and I rarely write humor. While I deeply admire the man and do enjoy his work I don’t know that I would expect an overlap of readers who might profess to enjoy us both?

Read the Article

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When truth and fiction collide

“This reminds me of “The Secrets of Jin Shei. You’ll know why!” my German translator, Christiane Bergfeld, said in sending me a link.

I do know why. And it’s amazing.

There is a limit to how much actual research you can do on ANYTHING – and at some point you just have to trust to what you have already learned, and then after that to luck. Such was the case when I posited a race of red-headed gypsies who lived in the mountains of Syai, of my mythical not-quite-China where the world of “The Secrets of Jin Shei” is set. But then… oh, SO many years later… it turns out I knew more than I knew.
jin-shei gyosyTHE UYGHURS: THE MYSTERY OF THE CHINESE CELTS
The boy in this photograph is officially Chinese, being from the Uyghur people, a mixed Caucasian-Asian Muslim ethnic group that primarily live in Xinjiang (aka East Turkestan) in the People’s Republic of China.

A meeting of civilizations: The mystery of China’s Celtic mummies. The discovery of European corpses thousands of miles away suggests a hitherto unknown connection between East and West in the Bronze Age. Clifford Coonan reports for The Independent.

Read the Article

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Iridescent Clouds over Thamserku
iridescent cloudsImage Credit & Copyright: Oleg Bartunov

NASA offers a daily photo of the universe – stars, galaxies, nebulae — and sometimes an image from earth like this stunning cloud formation. NASA explains how it came about.

Why would a cloud appear to be different colors? A relatively rare phenomenon known as iridescent clouds can show unusual colors vividly or a whole spectrum of colors simultaneously. These clouds are formed of small water droplets of nearly uniform size. When the Sun is in the right position and mostly hidden by thick clouds, these thinner clouds significantly diffract sunlight in a nearly coherent manner, with different colors being deflected by different amounts. Therefore, different colors will come to the observer from slightly different directions. The above iridescent cloud was photographed in 2009 from the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal, behind the 6,600-meter peak named Thamserku.

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Read these, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says

“I’ve always loved YA novels. The ones I read growing up include “The Three Musketeers,” “Lord of the Flies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Huckleberry Finn” and “The Catcher in the Rye,” among many others. Those works inspired and shaped me as the man I would become, and they continue to remind me of the values of compassion and courage I still embrace.”

He picks five contemporary young adult novels that he thinks adults should read.

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day

Einstein and Fairy Tales~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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An author confesses

1. There are times that I have sat and watched words which *I am typing* appear on the screen in front of my eyes… and not recognized them. That’s how much my characters – or sometimes just my story – take over when I’m in “writer mode”. I sometimes think it’s a mild form of possession.

2. There are characters I have created that I actively dislike and there are times that it’s HARD to be fair to those characters. I like to think I generally come out on the side of the angels, but I don’t know…

3. In my stories, people *die*. Sometimes they do so for a really really good reason, or a good cause. Sometimes they do it willingly, in the hopes of achieving something with that death. Other times their death may appear meaningless or wholly arbitrary. But see, this is the way things work in the real world, too, and I don’t think that my fictional realms should be any the less “real” for being created by my mind.

4. I don’t work from outlines or to rigid pattern. My stories are organic. I stick a story seed into the ground, water it copiously, and it sometimes astonishes even me when something weirdly exotic comes up out of the good earth.

5. There is a time, after the completion of every single one of my books, that I wander around the house chewing my nails and driving my poor husband nuts with the whine that “Nobody wants my book!” I go through phases of absolutely believing that every sane reader out there simply HAS to hate this thing I have just completed.

6. I flinch at bad reviews. Silence, however, is far worse. At least a bad review means that someone has READ the book, even though they hated it. Resounding silence makes an author wonder if the book actually does exist, or if the previous months of frenetic editorial activity and galleys and copyedits and proofreading have all been just a figment of one’s imagination.

7. There is something frankly terrifying the first time you see your book in the hands of a complete stranger.

8. You never stop learning in this game. Even when you start teaching, you learn from the people who call themselves your students.

9. There are times that it’s a royal pain in the ass, being a writer. You learn to THINK like one. You sit down to watch a TV show, or go to a movie, and the rest of the people watching the same thing will sit rapt for an hour or two and then drop their jaws in utter astonishment at some twist ending… which you worked out halfway through and were waiting with increasing impatience to be vindicated.

10. It never gets old. Every time a new book arrives, it’s like the first time. Every book is a little piece of a dream come true. It’s a little bit like sitting outside on the porch just as the clouds break on a gray day and the sun streams through, and everything that was monochrome is suddenly part of a bright and vivid world, and you understand perfectly just why you were born – simply to be the one to see those colors come to life before your eyes.

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ForecastStorm Warning:

Bookshop Sidewalk Chalkboard Edition

The Owl & Turtle Bookshop, Camden, Maine, issued a storm warning July 4 via the store’s sidewalk chalkboard, which noted:

“Working hypothesis: Putting this chalkboard out on the sidewalk causes rain (We’re 50% sure).”

 

 

 

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Best Of Science Fiction and Fantasy Art
Kerem Beyit
The Scroll of Years, artwork by Kerem Beyit.

Every year, the art world chooses the best science fiction and fantasy illustrations — providing a visual feast for the rest of us. The Chesley Awards just chose its 2014 finalists, and there’s an astonishing wealth of beautiful artworks to spend your afternoon admiring, Charlie Jane Anders tells us at io9.

Lost CovenantBest Hardcover Covers: Jason Chan – Lost Covenant: A Widdershins Adventure by Ari Marmell; Pyr

Read the Article

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Top 10 dogs in children’s books
LassieFrom Best Mate in Michael Morpurgo’s Born to Run to Lassie and Toto, author Cliff McNish picks the 10 most memorable hounds in children’s fiction for The Guardian.

When I was asked to put together a top 10 list of children’s books with amazing dogs the first thing I realised is that mutts in children’s fiction have brilliant names. What self-respecting child called Jack or Emily wouldn’t really rather be Pongo or Missis Pongo from Dodie Smith’s The 101 Dalmations? Or the mashed-up pit-bull from Larry Levin’s Oogy?You can even go to hell if you want, as boy Conor does with Scrote in Anthony McGowan’s Hellbent, proving that even in the afterlife you can have a loyal hound at your side.

Buck from Call of the Wild by Jack London
Buck

The great children’s dog ever? My favourite, certainly. There’s a paragraph in the novel where his owner, Thornton, asks Buck to haul an incredible pack-weight on his sledge. An impossible weight. A weight no dog should ever be able to pull.

“Thornton knelt down by Buck’s side. He took his head in his two hands and rested cheek on cheek. He did not playfully shake him, as was his wont, or murmur soft love curses; but he whispered in his ear. ‘As you love me, Buck. As you love me.’” And does he? You bet he does.

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day
Doug Adams

~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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Is reading fiction dangerous?

“These days we’re desperately trying to get more people to read (‘Please, read anything, here’s a YA novel by the Kardashians’) but in the 1800s, it was a different story,” according to Beth Bartlett in the HuffPost.

Books were supposed to teach people about science, philosophy and religion, not lead someone down an exciting path filled with action, drama and heartbreak. The thought that reading could be a joy instead of a chore and accessible to anyone with a dime scared many in positions of authority.
Winslow Homer The New NovelWinslow Homer “The New Novel” 1877

Stories can leave you dissatisfied with reality

The real threat was readers would keep these fanciful ideas in their heads and quit being grateful just because they were alive. Soon they would want better lives with more adventure and romance and less back-breaking work and death

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The 10 most incredible scientific hoaxes of all time

The World Science Festival Staff looks at Mer-monkeys, The Petrified Giant and The Robot that Checkmated Ben Franklin.
Checkmate(Wikimedia Commons)

One of the first popular robots was the Mechanical Turk, a chess-playing machine built by 18th-century inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen. A mannequin attired in Turkish robes and turban sat behind a large cabinet, which had a chessboard atop it. The machine debuted in 1770 at the court of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and the Turk defeated courtier after courtier with its swift, aggressive style of play, even besting Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte.

However, the Turk wasn’t actually an automaton. The cabinet was actually cleverly constructed to allow a man to fit inside, and to use magnets and strings to control the Turk’s moves.

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The Greatest Book Dedications You Will Ever Read

Collected by Jo Barrow at Buzzfeed and dedicated “To you. For reading this post.”
The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Anansi BoysAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Read the Article

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London streets filled with ‘BookBenches’

Children’s enjoyment of reading has grown over the past eight years, at the same time as literary “BookBenches” appear all over London, Joshua Farrington writes at The Bookseller.
BookbenchThe 50 book-shaped benches celebrate a range of books from classics to modern favourites.

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28 Pieces Of Street Art That Cleverly Interact With Their Surroundings
street-art-Image credits: WD.street.art

Street art is usually meant to disrupt its environment and to capture our attention, the folks at The Mind Unleashed tell us, but the artists on this list practice a special technique that makes their artist even more eye-catching and playful – they tailor their art to its surroundings so that their (usually) 2D paintings seem to interact with their 3D surroundings.
Timming the bush Trimming the bush – Image credits: banksy

Where we see a vine and a brick wall or a railing, these artists see the opportunity to create something that will make us think or make us smile.

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day

A writer is like a tuning fork: We respond when we’re struck by something. The thing is to pay attention, to be ready for radical empathy. If we empty ourselves of ourselves we’ll be able to vibrate in synchrony with something deep and powerful. If we’re lucky we’ll transmit a strong pure note, one that isn’t ours, but which passes through us. If we’re lucky, it will be a note that reverberates and expands, one that other people will hear and understand. ~ Roxana Robinson

~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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The art of time travel

I time travel quite a bit.

No, seriously, I do. It’s cheap and you can do it whenever you want, really. So long as you have photographs….

My father, the great photographer and organizer, died last year. While he was still with us I did a time capsule for him…here he was seventeen. Here he was in his twenties, and then in his late twenties and a soldier in uniform … one when he met my mother and then in his early thirties holding toddler me in his arms, and then in his forties still young and full of gung-ho optimism about the world flying out into adventure under the flag of the United Nations into Africa with wife and daughter in tow – and him in his fifties, and then his sixties, and then the later ones, in his seventies, thin and spare and white-haired…

…This is a time machine for the soul. And it looks back, only back

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Five hundred new fairytales
King Golden HairSpinning a yarn … King Golden Hair – Illustration: Barbara Stefan

A whole new world of magic animals, brave young princes and evil witches has come to light with the discovery of 500 new fairytales, which were locked away in an archive in Regensburg, Germany for over 150 years, Victoria Sussens-Messerer reports in The Guardian.

The tales are part of a collection of myths, legends and fairytales, gathered by the local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810–1886) in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers were collecting the fairytales that have since charmed adults and children around the world.

Read the Article

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Curch BookstoreImages courtesy of Joop van Putten and Hans Westerink

Medieval cathedral converted into a book shop

Completed in 2013, the 15th-century cathedral has been converted into a modern book store and can be found in Zwolle, The Netherlands. It spans over three floors and includes a shop in the former church building.

The architect radically changed the interior design of the 547-year-old Gothic building, but had to ensure they left the original features, such as the pipe organ, stained glass windows and decor intact.
Church BookstoreRead the Article

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The Secrets of Jin-shei, my novel about a world based on an Imperial China that never was, has been out in 13 languages for a few years now, but is still getting new reviews.

Just yesterday, a woman in Colombia posted a review on Amazon saying: “The book is beautiful, touching, sad, sweet and magical.”

I love it when a reader discovers a book of mine like this… and makes it young again.

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28 Brilliant Works Of Literary Graffiti

Daniel Dalton of BuzzFeed collects examples of graffiti from Animal Farm to Slaughterhouse-Five.
Alice In WonderlandAlice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll. London, UK.

Samuel BeckettSamuel Beckett – Camden, London.

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Secrets of the Creative Brain

A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity, shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.

Nancy AndreasNancy Andreasen

Doing good science is simply the most pleasurable thing anyone can do, one scientist told me,” Nancy Andreasen says in an article in the Atlantic. “It is like having good sex. It excites you all over and makes you feel as if you are all-powerful and complete.”

Among those who ended up losing their battles with mental illness through suicide are Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh, John Berryman, Hart Crane, Mark Rothko, Diane Arbus, Anne Sexton, and Arshile Gorky.

Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill.

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day
Parker quote~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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Whence fantasy?

I was born on the same continent that gave us the stories, legends, myths, and fairy tales that underlie things like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Wheel of Time, and, hell yeah why not, Game of Thrones (yeah, Khal Drogo. But the Dothraki have a definite patina of Here Be Exotics…)

Those, and more, and any number of EFPs (Extruded Fantasy Product).

The definition of classical fantasy rests on people taking long journeys on tree-lined dirt roads with European seasons hanging in the tree tops and the clouds, and stopping for bathroom breaks in generic Ye Olde Inns with ale on tap and the generic stew bubbling in a cauldron over the fire. It is entirely surprising that Europe never ran out of rabbits, the amount of stews that were on the boil all the time. And we won’t talk about the Magic Potatoes which make their way into European stews while their real life counterparts still existed only in Hy Breasil or whatever they called that land far beyond the western ocean…

The thing accepted as and feted as classic fantasy is rich but it has been very well mined. And so it is not surprising that so many readers are looking for places and things and stories which *they haven’t seen before* — the “silk road” fantasy oeuvre. Anything that isn’t obviously rooted in the cheerfully misrepresented and romanticized European High Middle Ages.

Embers of Heaven

 

I didn’t set out to write that, but my “Secrets of Jin Shei” and “Embers of Heaven” were set THERE, a mythical land inspired by imperial China rather than anywhere closer to home.

Yes, it made things more difficult because there was THAT much more research that needed to be done before I could be comfortable telling a story set in a milieu so distant from my own cultural heritage.

 

 

Worldweavers

 

Similarly, my Worldweavers books take place in the U.S. and are infused with Native American myths. And my new series, The Were Chronicles, invokes modern life in The New World by Weres far distant from their ancient European roots.

But dammit, it’s worth it, when the resulting stories shine with a brighter glow. It is ALL our world, after all, and it is high time some cultural shut-ins learned that there is more out there than just stew in inns crewed by the likes of jolly red-cheeked Butterbur of Bree.

Speaking from the inevitably Euro-based divide that dictates standards of beauty – which is all too prevalent, in both fantasy and Real Life (TM) – It is high time that it was accepted that a woman whose heritage is South East Asian or Central African, rather than red-haired Celtic, can, should, and must be called beautiful too – and may step up to the adventure gate in her own right.

It is high time that we looked at “other” and saw something worthy of curiosity and honor and respect rather than just the differences that frighten and repel and lead to dehumanization and slaughter. It is high time we all learned… how to  be human together. It is time the OTHER stories get told. Make room by the fire, there – those of you who have had plenty of chances to speak – and learn how to listen, instead.

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Paul Weirmer explores the same thing at SF Signal

Silk Road Fantasy and Breaking the Great Wall of Europe

Wolf on the Steppes

 

Tired of nearly every secondary world fantasy being set in a world that seems to borrow only from Medieval Europe, especially Western Europe? Most especially Northwestern Europe (England, France, perhaps the Low Countries)? … So am I. And I’d like to tell you about fantasy that transcends that barrier.

 

Read the Article

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From Stand-Up to Twitter, a New Generation’s Fresh Take on Storytelling

If we make it through this time of climate crisis and economic upheaval, the new storytellers will deserve some of the credit, Sarah van Gelder writes at Yes! Magazine.

The new storytellers are writers, poets, musicians, documentarians, radio producers, and others who are reporting the story of a new world being built around the frayed edges of the old….a new society is emerging from the bottom up, born of the hopes and hard work of many people who have been excluded from the old society and who yearn for a more just and life-affirming world.

arundhatiArundhati Roy said it beautifully at the World Social Forum in 2003: “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”

 

Read the Article

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Every cliche you know about a woman’s handbag is probably true.

I am just SO not a fashion bunny, not the Duchess of Cambridge who has to have a matching bag and shoes. I have been carrying the same damn bag – season in, season out – for, uh, well, yeah, years.

The other day I decided that I  wanted a change, hauledl out another bag, and started to transfer stuff.

Ho. Ly. Cow.

I found receipts in there dated. 2013. 2012 … 2008, and some so faded that they were blank. At the very bottom of the bag there was a folded piece of paper which was the itinerary for when my aunt came over to visit from Europe… almost four years ago.

There was a charger for a defunct cellphone, and a silver cigarette lighter engraved to my Dad for winning a chess toiurnament which I nicked just after he died as a memento fully intending to put it somewhere safe when i got home. My father has been gone for almost a year now.

I felt a little like Mary Poppins, half convinced that the next thing I was going to pull out was a Tiffany floor lamp.

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Speaking of Mary Poppins…
Mary PoppinsAunt Sass in fiction … Julie Andrews in the 1964 film of Mary Poppins. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

The real-life model for Mary Poppins will be published this autumn

The tale of ‘stern and tender’ Aunt Sass appears in a PL Travers story originally written as a private Christmas gift, Alison Flood writes in The Guardian. The resemblance to Travers’ most famous creation, the nanny whose spoonful of sugar made the medicine go down for the Banks children, is no coincidence.

Travers writes in the previously unpublished story about the moment she heard of her aunt’s death. “I thought to myself, ‘Some day, in spite of her, I shall commit the disrespectful vulgarity of putting Aunt Sass in a book.’ And then it occurred to me that this had already been done, though unconsciously and without intent. We write more than we know we are writing. We do not guess at the roots that made our fruit. I suddenly realised that there is a book through which Aunt Sass, stern and tender, secret and proud, anonymous and loving, stalks with her silent feet,” wrote the author. “You will find her occasionally in the pages of Mary Poppins.”

Read the Article

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Sergeant Milunka Savic stands her ground

In 1912, when Milunka Savic was 24, her brother was called up to serve in the first Balkan War, Therese Oneill writes at Mental Floss.

We’re not sure if Milunka took his place or just went along, but we do know that she assumed a male identity and became a highly decorated soldier in the Serbian army.

Sergeant Milunka SavicShe apparently kept her gender a secret through the First Balkan War and into the Second, when a Bulgarian grenade wounded her so severely that her gender was revealed to the field surgeons.

Sgt. Savic was called before her commanding officer. They didn’t want to punish her, because she had proven a valuable and highly competent soldier. The military deployment that had resulted in her gender being revealed had been her tenth. But neither was it suitable for a young woman to be in combat. She was offered a transfer to the Nursing division.

Savic stood at attention and insisted she only wanted to fight for her country as a combatant. The officer said he’d think it over and give her his answer the next day.

Still standing at attention, Savic responded, “I will wait.”

It is said he only made her stand an hour before agreeing to send her back to the infantry.

She fought for Serbia through World War I, receiving honors from several different governments for her distinguished service. Some believe her to be the most decorated female in the history of warfare. She was decommissioned in 1919 and fell into a life of relative obscurity and hardship. She died in Belgrade in 1973 at the age of 84.

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day
YA quote~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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Comments welcome. What do you think?

Amazon Manifest Destiny?

“I’m here to tell you that working with the power who is out to destroy you will never, ever end well,” Aaron John Curtis says. Mohawk by birth, he offers ten reasons why Amazon’s takeover of online retail mirrors the slaughter of Native Americans.
tobacco-david-and-goliathThe “Threat” Will Take Care of Itself

Some tribes, upon seeing the European’s appetite for tobacco consumption, believed there was no “white problem.”  Left to their own devices, Europeans would smoke themselves to death before they did any permanent damage.

When Amazon began gobbling up book sales, some indie booksellers opined that Amazon was too large.  It would overreach, expand too far too fast, and succumb to the sprightly indies who could respond more quickly to changes in the marketplace.

Hey, guess what?  The spry booksellers and Just Say Nohawks were both wrong.

mexico-cityUrban nightmare (Mexico City)

The End Game
    “Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”Alanis Obomsawin, Abenaki Nation

Amazon’s Manifest Destiny

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The Power of Cherokee Women

Cherokee Mother-and-ChildEuropeans were astonished to see that Cherokee women were the equals of men—politically, economically and theologically, Carolyn Johnston, author of Cherokee Women in Crisis, says.

“Women had autonomy and sexual freedom, could obtain divorce easily, rarely experienced rape or domestic violence, worked as producers/farmers, owned their own homes and fields, possessed a cosmology that contains female supernatural figures, and had significant political and economic power,” she writes.

“Cherokee women’s close association with nature, as mothers and producers, served as a basis of their power within the tribe, not as a basis of oppression. Their position as ‘the other’ led to gender equivalence, not hierarchy.”

Cherokee Women

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This Is Your Brain on Writing

alma writing rik-Durham-reverse-layup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A novelist scrawling away in a notebook in seclusion may not seem to have much in common with an NBA player doing a reverse layup on a basketball court before a screaming crowd, Carl Zimmer writes in the New York Times. But if you could peer inside their heads, you might see some striking similarities in how their brains were churning.

That’s one of the implications of new research on the neuroscience of creative writing. For the first time, neuroscientists have used fMRI scanners to track the brain activity of both experienced and novice writers as they sat down — or, in this case, lay down — to turn out a piece of fiction.”

Your Brain on Writing

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Rejected Princesses

Wu ZetianWu Zetian

Introducing Wu Zetian, first and only Empress of China — seen here poisoning her infant daughter, Imgur tells us.

Now, that’s actually a bit of a historical inaccuracy, we’re told: the generally-accepted truth was that she *strangled* her young daughter, to frame the old queen and get her out of the way. It worked — both the old queen and the old queen’s mother were executed.

From there, she ascended to be Emperor Gaozong’s predominant consort, and set about eradicating all other claimants to the throne. Early on, her method of choice was a slow-acting poison. As time went on and her influence grew, however, she took to engineering treason charges for her opponents, summoning them to the throne room and making them kill themselves in front of her.

More Rejected Princesses

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Quote of the Day

The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.” ~ García Márquez , Love in the Time of Cholera

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Alma Alexander
Check out my books
Email me 
Comments welcome. What do you think?