How can I write…?

I and 33 other authors offer advice.

I wasn’t consulted, but my best advice?

Nothing is EVER finished – but you have to know when to let go. It won’t be perfect. Not EVER. Live with it. Get your story as good as you can and then let it step out into the world to seek its fortune. Hope it sends you a postcard to show you how it’s doing.”

That’s it. But it took me a score of books and a few million words to really recognize the truth of it. And between you and me, I sometimes have a hard time practicing what I preach.

I particularly like this advice:

33. “Ignore all lists of writing tips. Including this one…every time you hear a writing tip, you have to decide whether it means something to you, resonates with you, or (it’s) the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard. It’s your book, you need to learn to write it your way. Now please ignore this advice. – Marcus Sedgwick, author of The Ghosts of Heaven and others

And this:
As Bad as it gets posterimages.unsplash.com

07. First drafts are always horrible and ugly. Don’t worry about that – it’s the same for everyone…if you keep redrafting, one day you will look at your horrible book and realise that you’ve turned it into something actually quite beautiful. – Robin Stevens, author of the Murder Most Unladylike series

See all the advice at Buzzfeed HERE

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The Japanese Museum of Rocks That Look Like faces

Rock faces 1Rocks have faces? Rocks have souls?

This is FABULOUS. this is a cabinet of stories waiting to happen. It gives me a happy and slightly insane urge to go out and start turning rocks over and asking them to talk to me.

Speaker to Rocks. There are worse things to aspire to be…

The museum is called the Chinsekikan (which means hall of curious rocks) and it houses over 1700 rocks that resemble human faces. It’s in Chichibu, two hours northwest of Tokyo and may be the only one of its kind.
Rock face 2 photoThe story in Colossal suggests this looks like Elvis Presley. I think it looks rather like our lamentable president-elect.

Read the whole story at the Colossal website HERE

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26 Very Long Books Worth the Time They’ll Take to Read

My choice in this list of books selected by Boris Kachka in Vulture might be obvious if you know my background. I was born in Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists. Clifton Fadiman of the New Yorker called it “one of the great books of our time“. I certainly agree.

I find the comments on the back cover of my own copy that was given to me shortly after the US and NATO’s war on my homeland to be very perceptive:

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon coverBlack Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia,  Rebecca West (1941, 1,181 pages)

Written on the brink of World War II, West’s classic examination of the history, people, and politics of Yugoslavia illuminates a region that is once again the center of international concern. A magnificent blend of travel journal, cultural commentary, and historical insight, it goes into the troubled history of the Balkans and the uneasy relationships among its ethnic groups. The landscape and people Yugoslavia are brilliantly observed as Rebecca West and untangles the tensions that rule the country’s history as well as its daily life.

See all the other books at the Vulture website HERE

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Quote of the Day

The best novels are those that are important without being like medicine; they have something to say, are expansive and intelligent but never forget to be entertaining and to have character and emotion at their centre.” ~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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The horror that never ends

In The Guardian, celebrated correspondent Janine di Giovanni has selected

The top 10 books of war reportage

One of his choices (whole list and link below) includes ‘Hiroshima’, John Hersey’s incredibly powerful 1946 report on the aftermath of the first atomic bomb ever used on people.

Hiroshima may be a footnote in ancient history to most of the world, but not to the people of Japan where the memory of the appalling destruction and carnage is still vivid and alive.

I was at a science fiction convention in Yokohama when a a Japanese translator felt compelled to interrupt a discussion by lily-white, mostly American and almost completely oblivious panelists obliquely talking about the war before an increasingly antsy Japanese audience. After his cautioning remarks, the subdued panelists continued with a bit more sensitivity.

And if, after Giovanni’s list, you’re still looking for reading material… there’s this novel called “Letters from the Fire‘, covering a different war, a “smaller” war (if there is such a thing), a war which didn’t end with a mushroom cloud… but which – as EVERY war is – was still full of loss and pain and confusion and devastation.

Unlike most books on the list, it’s a novel not war reportage – but it is based on absolute fact, so much so in fact that when it was first published I caught a young and earnest bookstore clerk filing it in the ‘Non Fiction’ section of the shop. When I pointed out it was fiction, he looked genuinely baffled and asked, “Are you *sure*?”

“Reasonably,” I said, “I wrote it.”

But he might have had half a point, actually. It’s fiction… but this is as real as it gets.

I don’t know what it is about war, about its brutality and its callousness and its vainglory and its bitter, bitter triumphs and tragedies which are one and the same thing because what is a triumph for one side is invariably the other side’s tragedy and it’s a matter of luck as to which side you land on. I don’t know what it is. But even while we continue to fight them – usually for no reason that anyone can really remember after the whole thing is done – some of the most incandescent writing and some of the most incredibly poignant human understanding possible has also been born in the flames of war. Perhaps it’s worth reading about the ones past – and if you read enough maybe you’re going to reach the point of enlightenment where another becomes unthinkable.

I’ll drink to THAT, at least.

From the list:Hiroshima destruction photo The devastated city of Hiroshima. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Hiroshima by John Hersey
And here is where compassion lies. All the brutality and horror of war down to the most base level, told by six survivors.

Read the whole story HERE

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The Suicide Note as Literary Genre

William Turner painting

William Turner painting

Feature image: “Bedford and the River Great Ouse,” J.M.W. Turner, c. 1829

Everything has gone for me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

“So ends Virginia Woolf’s poignant suicide note, addressed to her husband,” Dustin Illingworth writes at Literary Hub. “It is a throbbing document, hauntingly beautiful, in which a decision is made to part with a rote anguish.

“This, then, is the morbid fascination of the literary suicide note: that it is, perforce, the final written work of the author in question. If we believe that writers possess a special relationship with language—one in which the incommunicable is somehow voiced—we might be forgiven our curiosity for what these moments of literary extremity are able to reveal of the inviolate mystery of death.”

Read the whole story HERE

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Adult dolls. Not for children – and NSFW

Cinderella 14 260x150

The Enchanted Doll is the brand of the Russian jeweler artist and designer Marina Bychkova who makes absolutely incredible porcelain and polyurethane dolls for adults.

She creates unimaginable dolls which are valued by connoisseurs all across the planet. Marina’s dolls are not smiling; they are pensive, mysterious, and sad. Each of them has their own soul, their own destiny.

See all the dolls at Design You Trust HERE

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THIS & THAT

Teams of Tiny Robots Can Move 2-Ton Car

Ant Size Robot photoMicrorobots Video by bdmlstanford

Taking inspiration from ants, researchers at Stanford are designing tiny robots that have the ability to pull thousands of times their weight, wander like gecko lizards on vertical surfaces.

Read the whole story HERE

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Quote of the Day

David Bowie Quote poster

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Global warming = more girls

BabiesGlaciers are melting, oceans are rising, and the male population is dwindling as temperatures continue to increase—at least in Japan, a new study shows.

Japanese researchers found that in the hottest recorded summer, 2010, there was a dramatic increase in female births, whereas the coldest winter, 2011, produced more baby boys, Soli Salgado reports in Utne.

Read the article

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50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked

In Hollywood films, writers are the low man on the totem pole, the person banned from the set, the guy who wrote the Great American novel drinking himself to death in Los Angeles, rewriting dumb scripts.

There are a lot of bad movies about writers out there, Elisabeth Donnelly tells us, so Flavorwire came up with “the definitive list of the 50 Best Films About Writers of all time.”

One of my favorites, Finding Forrester, made the list, albeit as number 49 out of 50 with some silly disparaging remarks and a dumb suggestion that a scene I scarcely remember has become a meme. I’d pick any of a dozen other scenes myself.

And their gushing love of Woody Allen movies? Well … never mind…

What do you think of their choices?
Finding ForresterFinding Forrester...This film is pure cheese, one of the infrequent films to feature a black protagonist as a writer, and its most memorable moment is a writing scene — a writing scene! — that’s become a meme, with Sean Connery cheering the young writer on as he types on a typewriter in his inimitable burr, “Punch the keys for God’s sake! Yes, yeeeessss! You’re the man now, dog!”

Read the article

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The secret emotional lives of 5 punctuation marks

From the angry period to the dramatic asterisk…
doing-okay-budDoing okay, bud? (iStock)

Punctuation is the homely, workaday cousin to the glamorous word, Arika Okrent writes at The Week. It works quietly in the background, sweeping up and trying to keep the information flow tidy, while words prance around spilling thought, meaning, and feeling all over the place. Punctuation marks accept their utilitarian roles, but they too carry feelings.

The Week takes a look at the secret emotional lives of five punctuation marks, especially in social media.

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

‘YOU’ Poem Goes Viral

See the video

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The Force wasn’t with them

Every On-Screen Death In The Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy, In Under 3 Minutes

See the video

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Telepathy is here, well sort of

Read the article

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San Antonio Airport offers Digital Library Kiosks which allow patrons to checkout ebooks. In addition, the kiosks serve as rapid recharging stations for mobile devices.

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Quote of the Day
Joss Whedon~~~~~
Alma Alexander
My books

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Snarking the Cover

No, I get it. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, and all that. BUT WE DO. It’s the first thing we see, the first aspect of the book that we meet. A good cover is a real asset. Some of these from Christina at Reader of Fictions? … er… well… not so much.

Sure, that enthusiastic ‘Hey! Let’s put a doe’s head on the body of a woman wearing a tutu and ballet shoes!’ sounds AWESOME in a planning meeting. But surely the first first rough sketches would have tickled someone’s sense of the weird far enough to go, ‘er, anything else on the drawing board?’

Christina is a “twenty-something librarian” and book reviewer who also offers us Cover Snark, where the people are snarky and the covers quiver in fear. “Since I don’t write many snarky book reviews here on A Reader of Fictions, Cover Snark is my outlet.”

 Some examples:

Hair cover 

 

 

Thoughts: No, I really wouldn’t believe the things she sees, since her HAIR IS IN HER FACE. She sees hair.

 

 

 

 

cyberman

 

 

 

Thoughts: What a funny looking Cyberman.

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Snarks

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Required Reading: 40 Books Set in the Pacific Northwest

 Some books celebrating my current home, the Pacific Northwest, or the Great Northwet as one friend calls it.

 The books were chosen by the staff of Powell’s Books. “Whether you’re from the area or you simply appreciate the region for its beauty, history, or temperament (or legendary bookstore), these titles will give you a more nuanced understanding of this peculiar corner of the U.S.”

 Lathe of HeavenThe Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Northwest’s very own SFWA Grand Master writes a philosophical novel set in Portland, Oregon. George Orr goes to sleep and awakes in the world of his dreams — still Portland, but… different. Now anytime he goes to sleep, the world is capable of shifting, and no one seems to notice. What is the true world? How does one bear such a gigantic responsibility? Big-idea sci-fi at its finest. ~ Recommended by Kaila

 

Mink RiverMink River, by Brian Doyle

Mink River is Pacific Northwest fiction at its finest. Doyle plunges us head first into the lives of the residents of a soggy, fictional Oregon coast town, Neawanaka. Rich with both Native American and Irish storytelling, Mink River lets us inside the raw, honest lives of ordinary people and makes us see the extraordinary in them. Long after you have read this novel, you will find yourself wondering what the characters are doing now and hoping that all is well in the fictional little town you’ve come to love. ~ Koa

 

Roadside Attraction

 

Another Roadside Attraction, by Tom Robbins

In this funny, rambling tale about a pair of counterculture roadside attraction operators, Robbins asks: What if Jesus wasn’t really resurrected? True to form, his first novel explores spirituality while questioning organized religion and social mores through philosophical parables and clever prose. ~ Genevieve A.

 

40 must-reads

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Women, Books, and Oscar: 10 Brilliant Books That Gave Women Excellent Roles

Okay, we know Bette Davis didn’t actually win for Of Human Bondage but it’s such a great performance she should have, the Off the Shelf staff says. Every actress in this list had a career-making turn in her part-based-on-a-book. Each of these woman captured their character so well that we only see them now when reading the book.

The first in their list:

Of Human Bondage

 

Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham

 The story of Philip Carey, a sensitive orphan born with a club foot who is eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief spell in Paris as a would-be artist, he settles in London to train as a doctor where he meets Mildred, the loud but irresistible waitress with whom he plunges into a tortured and masochistic affair. There is no more powerful story of sexual infatuation, of human longing for connection and freedom.

 

 

 

Great roles for women

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What It’s Like To Live At A Bookstore In Paris

Young writers are invited to stay at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris for free, Krystie Lee Yandoli of BuzzFeed reports, as long as they work in the bookstore for a couple of hours every day and commit to reading and writing every single day.

Shakespeare books

Shakespeare2 Molly Dektar, a 23-year-old MFA student at Brooklyn College, lived at Shakespeare and Company in January and June 2013. “One minute I was a visitor just like any other, and the next minute I was welcomed in to this huge, historic community of writers and expatriates,” Molly said

“I aimed to read a book a day but it wasn’t entirely possible. Still, the goal is spiritually important and should be taken seriously.”

 Living in a bookstore

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The 19 Most Charming Places On Earth, Too Perfect To Be Real

Hidden all over the world are towns that you may think only exist in your dreams, Viral Tales reports. They are villages full of quintessential charm, almost too perfect to be real. However, these dream towns really do exist. Here are 19 towns that are so beautiful, you will scarcely believe that they aren’t movie sets.

Wengen, SwitzerlandWengen, Switzerland – SergiyN / iStock

Shirakawa, JapanShirakawa, Japan – del.Monaco

Living in beauty

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At 90, she still is running the store

The white-haired woman in Manila is short but stands straight, in a pink blouse and flat shoes, with mostly unwrinkled skin, a wide nose and a broad smile that nearly leaps from her face when she laughs, Mitch Albom reports in the Detroit Free Press. “You ask her the secret of her longevity, and she says, ‘Work every day’.”

Socorro Ramos When asked about the early days of her first bookstore, opened during World War II, Socorro Ramos rolls her eyes and says the Japanese soldiers censored every publication, ripping out the pages they didn’t like. After a while, she feared selling American books at all because — she runs a finger across her throat — “the Japanese cut your head off.”

 

Socorro and her husband Jose started the bookstore in 1942. Who opens a bookstore during a war? They got by selling candies, soaps and slippers because books were just too dangerous. She let them pile up in the back until the fighting was over.

 

Still running the store

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Quote of the Day

The love of books is a love which requires neither justification, apology, nor defense.” ~  J.A. Langford

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Alma Alexander

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