Dangerous Women

After the exhilaration brought on by the massive Women’s March, I found it both amusing and infuriating to browse through these

Postcards warning men about the dangers of women’s rights

They were put together by Tara McGinley who wrote: “Here’s a collection of totally ridiculous vintage postcards and posters dated from around 1900 to 1914 warning men of the dangers associated with the suffragette movement and of allowing women to think for themselves.”

postcards posterExcept for the clothes, I am not entirely sure that things have changed all that much.

See more postcards at Dangerous Minds website HERE

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HORIZONS MURALFeature image: detail from “Horizons” a mural by Robert McCall.

I always remain astonished at the disdain in which the literature of the future has always been held by the here and now.

It’s just so easy to wave a hand and close the door on the science fiction ghetto. 

Sometimes I think that the ‘real’ writers are so afraid of how they’ll be shown up by us genre folks that they’d rather just not compete at all and fondly imagine that keeping the gates locked will keep the cooties away. But I have news for them. it’s in HERE that the future lives. The fences and the locks and the keys…keepg THEM out, not US in. We’re already out there among the stars. Have the literati considered the possibility that it is around THEM, rather than us, that the locked gates and the iron bars really are…?

While I am better known for my fantasy than my science fiction (I sometimes combine the two), I believe that if anything, the sheer vision required to create ANY future from scratch should be a feature of literature, not the bug.

Here are two links to relevant articles well worth you time.

Why science fiction authors can’t win HERE

Building a Better Definition of Science Fiction HERE

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Andrew Hilleman offers

10 Great Westerns You’ve Never Read

My husband, who cut his teeth on westerns, has read a couple of these and urged this link on me. He is still haunted by ‘The Ox-Bow Incident‘, an exploration of mob rule that still echoes harshly for us even today.

Read all of Hilleman’s picks at the PW website HERE

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Surprise! Children’s Books Figured Out Life Long Ago

Children's Book wisdom poster
There’s a reason certain children’s books stay with you long after you’ve left elementary school, Crafty House tells us. “Deceptively simple, such evergreen stories absolutely brim with meaning and insight, serving to remind the reader of the most basic but vital lessons in life.”

 
See all the quotes at Crafty House HERE

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Quote of the Day

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein

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How many reviews?!!

Goodreads infographicIn late 2006, I wrote the first book review on Goodreads,” Otis Chandler writes on the website’s blog.

“It was a simple, two-paragraph review of ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson (5 stars – I recommend it) and I had no idea how popular a book recommendation and review site could become…I think Goodreads reviews are the best book reviews anywhere!

“Today, we have reviews that share personal experiences, reviews that include actor photos for dream casts of the book’s characters, quick-but-sharp summary reviews, and so many enthusiastic “you have got to read this!” reviews. There are reviews that push your thinking, and ones that create deep discussion…What’s your favorite Goodreads review?”

To read more and see the whole infographic, go to Adweek.com HERE

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At io9, Charlie Jane Anders offers us

10 Authors Who Wrote Gritty, Realistic Fantasy Before George R.R. Martin

When George R.R. Martin released ‘A Game of Thrones’ in 1996,” she writes, “he helped to change the game with his grounded approach to fantasy tropes. At the same time, people sometimes talk as though Martin was the first to bring realism to epic fantasy. So here are 10 other authors.”

For example:

Mary Gentle cover imageMary Gentle: Her novel Grunts is an epic fantasy story from the point of view of the Orcs who have to go into battle and die by the thousands for a cause that they barely understand. At the time when it was published, in 1992, its darkly comic approach of viewing the story from the point of view of the ‘villains’ was considered revolutionary, and it became famous for a joke about Orcs raping Elves that probably wouldn’t be considered funny today. But there’s also funny scenes of the Orcs eating their own wounded, and the war crimes trials that ensue. It’s hard to get less uplifting, and nastier, than Grunts.

To read more, go to the io9 website HERE

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World Poetry Day Quiz

Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes,” said the French priest and poet Joseph Roux.

Throughout the ages, great minds have expressed themselves through this beautiful and often challenging medium.

For World Poetry Day“, Sam Rigby writes, “BBC Culture has put together a quiz to test your knowledge.”

No, I won’t tell you how I did.

But you can take the quiz at BBC.com HERE

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QUOTE of the DAY
GRR Martin quote posterPersonally, the way I do a story is by planting a seed in the ground and waiting for something to grow. I never know in advance if I”m awaiting a cabbage or a redwood. What grows, grows. I just tend it. So yeah, I am very much a “gardener”.

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“The writing is stellar”

Meet Alma AlexanderWhat a week it was.
Random, The Were ChroniclesThe Author Visits web site gave me the gamut of everything possible for telling everyone about Random, the first book in my The Were Chronicles.

There was a  review (a GREAT one!), there was an exceprt from the opening of Random and a sneak peek at the second book in the series, Wolf. I did a guest blog giving you an insight into the background of these books, and had a fun interview. And 76 of you signed up for the giveaway as I write this.

Thanks to the Author Visits site – and stay tuned – more goodies on “Random” are coming soon on the Internet near you.

About that review: I hope you’ll go to the site and read it all, but here’s an excerpt.

Random is a complex emotional journey of a young girl looking to make sense of a sense-less event that impacts her life and that of her family’s. As she learns the truth behind her sister’s death, she reconciles with Celia’s demise but also finds ways to memorialize her sister by finding purpose and perhaps even conclusion. That is until a double whammy completely changes the course of the story that will undoubtedly be the center of book two.

The quality of the writing is stellar. Well composed and thoughtful, Alexander chooses to give Jazz a mature voice that I appreciated as an adult reader. What I mean by mature has to do with tonality. There is an interesting cast of characters to complement Jazz and Mal’s story and adds dimension to Jazz’s search for answers. The book has no compromising situations or unsavory language.

My rating: a must read. 4 stars. ~  Veena Kashyap

Read the whole review

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE Calamity Jane~~~~~
Alma Alexander
My books

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In the Whoverse

With the newest Doctor Who in place, it seemed a good time to revisit a piece I did for SFNovelists.com about MY Doctors, including my favorite, David Tennant.

David Tennant

I think that part of the Tenth Doctor’s appeal to me lies in the simple fact that Tennant makes absolutely believable one simple fact – he is not “a tame lion”. This is an elemental being. He can do anything. And if he doesn’t, it’s because he practices severe and brutal self control. He is gentle, he is kind, he is funny, but he is also terrifying, and there is NO APPEAL against his judgement once he reaches a decision. I LOVE that in a Time Lord.
image mirrorco.uk

Who’s there?…

My first Doctor Who – and you never forget your first, your first ANYTHING – was Tom Baker. He of the scarf. When he regenerated, I kind of lost interest in the Whoverse until it petered out. Then Eccleston took it up – I never really glommed onto him, but then, he was only around for a season … and then *HE* came. My Doctor. My REAL TRUE Doctor.

When David Tennant said “I don’t want to go”, I was screaming right along with him, I didn’t want him to go either. Quite selfishly, I wanted him to keep going, to stay the Doctor, to be the only Doctor, the last Doctor, even.

When #11, Matt Smith, arrived on the heels of this regeneration, I was admittedly predisposed to dislike him. And although he had his moments, like the luminous Van Gogh episode for instance, my misgivings proved prescient. He gave away his status with both hands … (turning) the ‘Doctor Who And Companion’ show into the ‘Companion and Doctor Who’ show….

Read the article, and the comments

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The best novels of all time, in brief

From Tolkien to Proust and Middlemarch, The Telegraph picks the “100 best novels’ — and describes them in a few words each.
Marcel ProustMarcel Proust, art by Wesley Merritt

e.g.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
A drug addict chases a ghostly dog across the midnight moors.

One Thousand and One Nights, Anon
A Persian king’s new bride tells tales to stall post-coital execution.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Boy meets pawnbroker. Boy kills pawnbroker with an axe. Guilt, breakdown, Siberia, redemption.

The other 97

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14 Stunning Book Illustrations Brought To Life

The Smithsonian Libraries have created cheeky GIFs from pages of the books they store, Maddie Crum writes at The Huffington Post.
Flying squirrelsWitnessing a flying squirrel from a 19th century document literally flying across the page, à la images printed in “The Daily Prophet”, certainly makes for an enriched reading experience.

The library says their aim is to “digitize and organize material that’s been practically dead to the world.” In doing so, they’ve breathed new life into images of early fireworks, sketches of Galileo’s astronomical observations and serene Japanese woodblock prints.

See the rest

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World’s Top 11 Coffee Cities Every Coffee Lover Should Visit

I’ve been to at least 5 of these. So there may be something in it, although they can’t spell “Addis Ababa”… But I REALLY don’t know about Iceland…

When you love coffee, you love coffee, Jane Scearce notes at Lifehack. You have distinct opinions on where the best coffee is in your local area. When you travel, you have to know the scoop on where to get some quality brew. But if the entire city had a high chance of providing a tasty cup of Joe…well, it could be your personal heaven.

Scearce lists 11 of the best cities for coffee across the globe – and two of them are in my backyard.
Istanbulsource: tannaz via Flickr

Istanbul, Turkey is known for its rich, dark coffee beans. They have a unique method for it as well. Turkish baristas grind beans into a fine meal, and boil them both with or without sugar in a cezve, a specially made pot for Turkish coffee. They don’t use sifters, so the cups of coffee are given a moment to let the grounds settle to the bottom before being served. If you have a taste for thick, flavorful coffee and a desire for a whole new experience, Istanbul is the way to go.

The other coffee cities

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Quote of the Day

A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” ~  Italo Calvino    

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Alma Alexander
My books

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50 Best Southern Novels

The American South has long carried the stigma of poverty, racism, and anti-intellectualism, Tyler Coates writes at Flavorwire. Yet the region has also produced a disproportionate number of intellectuals, poets, and writers, possibly because of the complicated and layered identities each Southerner holds within him- or herself.

These 50 novels are a reminder that the South cannot be defined solely by its failings; it is also responsible for shaping the minds of countless thinkers who offered to American literature essential insights about not only their region but the world at large.

The heart is a Lonely HunterThe Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The hit novel written by the 23-year-old McCullers centers on the story of a deaf man and the people he meets in small-town Georgia — black and white (a tomboy, a diner owner, a physician, and an alcoholic). The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a moving work about human connection. —Elisabeth Donnelly

The AwakeningThe Awakening by Kate Chopin

An early feminist classic, Chopin’s short novel follows Edna Pontellier, a New Orleans wife and mother who falls in love while on vacation and returns home to find that she can no longer stand to devote herself to social obligations and domestic drudgery. Although Edna’s fate is ultimately tragic, her embrace of an artist’s life and journey to independence make her one of American literature’s first liberated women. — Judy Berman

The 50 Best

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The Last of Us

In Futures Exchange, Frank Swain offers “True tales of how various species went extinct,” some centuries ago, some practically yesterday.

The Dusky SparrowIllustrations by Jeannette Langmead 

The Last Dusky Seaside Sparrow

The Dusky Seaside Sparrow lived in the marshes of Merritt Island, Florida, until it was threatened by the development of the Kennedy Space Center. The last four surviving birds, all male, were moved to Discovery Island in Disney World for a hybrid breeding program. The effort was a failure, and in 1987 the final surviving member, an elderly male named Orange, passed away in the Magic Kingdom.

Going extinct

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A disappointing Hans Christian Andersen birthday quiz

Hans Christian Andersen Fairy tale king … portrait of Hans Christian Andersen by Karl Hartmann. Image: Archivo Iconografico, SA//Corbis

The great Danish author was born this week in 1805, and in celebration The Guardian asks, do we really know his stories? The trouble is, the questions they ask are not so much about Andersen and his stories as a lot of peripherals.

For what it’s worth, I took the quiz and got a measly four right. Not because I don’t know my Andersen, but because I don’t necessarily know some contemporary ramifications of adaptations of his work. But whatever, quizzes can be diverting.

An Andersen quiz

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How Being Bilingual Makes Your Brain Badass!

At Mind Openerz, we learn the merits of being bilingual and how it affects the brain.

I’m trilingual, myself, but I’ve lost most of the French I once knew. I used to read novels and plays in French (Camus and Racine, in the original), but I haven’t used it for years and it’s mostly gone now. I guess if I got dumped in the middle of some French countryside where nobody spoke anything else, I’d pick it up fairly fast. But anyway, I still have two languages,  my birth tongue, Serb, and English.

Language on the brain

According to not-so-new studies conducted in 2004, using magnetic resonance imaging, neuroscientists at University College London discovered bilingual test subjects “had increased density of the cerebral cortex in the lower part of the parietal lobe.“ Your cognitive skills (thought processing, awareness, attention) are governed by this. According to a site about old people, senior citizens learn foreign languages to strengthen a part of their brain to fight dementia: nature’s Neuralyzer (that memory erasing crap from Men In Black).

 Your brain on languages

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Quote of the Day

 Words and the writer ~~~~~

Alma Alexander

Check out my books

Email me 

Comments welcome. What do you think?

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Food In The Hobbit

The Shire was an idealized version of the rural England of Tolkien’s childhood, Recipewise explains, and gives us some remarkable recipes for Gandalf’s tea party.

Food in the Hobbit

An Unexpected Party – Image Copyright Artist John Howe

Gandalf Tea Wednesday. Or at least this is what Bilbo should have written down … Some called for ale, and some for porter, and one for coffee, and all of them for cakes . . . A big jug of coffee had just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones . . . ‘And raspberry jam and apple-tart,’ said Bifur. ‘And mince-pies and cheese,’ said Bofur. ‘And pork-pie and salad,’ said Bombur. ‘And more cakes — and ale — and coffee, if you don’t mind,’ called the other dwarves through the door. ‘Put on a few eggs, there’s a good fellow!’ Gandalf called after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. ‘And just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!'” An Unexpected Party, The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Food In The Hobbit

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10 Of The Most Bizarre Books Ever Written

From unsolvable codes to 13th-century penis doodles in the margins of bibles, history is like an all-encompassing high school cliche that never comes to an end, Andrew Handley writes at Listverse. These books span the course of written history, and they’re all utterly bizarre.

Vivian GirlsThe Story Of The Vivian Girls

The entire time Henry Darger was working as a janitor in downtown Chicago, nobody knew that he was secretly writing one of the most bizarre and intricate storybooks of all time. When he died in 1973, Darger’s landlord discovered a 15,000-page nine million words manuscript entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.

Nobody really knows how long Darger worked on the book, although it’s believed to have been decades. He lived in the same cramped, single-room apartment for over 40 years, and he never spoke a word of his lifelong dream to anybody.

Popol VuhPopol Vuh

Written over the course of centuries by an unknown number of people, Popol Vuh covers the entire span of Mayan history and mythology—taken straight from the mouths of the 16th-century Maya.

In the early 1700s, a Dominican priest named Francisco Ximenez journeyed into the heart of the Mayan civilization and began transcribing Popol Vuh, which means “Book of the People.” Its content covers everything from the creation of the world up until the time it was written, sort of the Mayan parallel to the Bible.

Bizarre Books

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The world’s 10 oldest living trees

METHUSELAHMethuselah

At 4,841 years old, this ancient bristlecone pine is the oldest known non-clonal organism on Earth. Located in the White Mountains of California, in Inyo National Forest, Methuselah’s exact location is kept a close secret in order to protect it from the public. (An older specimen named Prometheus, which was about 4,900 years old, was cut down by a researcher in 1964 with the U.S. Forest Service’s permission.) Today you can visit the grove where Methuselah hides, but you’ll have to guess at which tree it is. Could this one be it?

olivetreeOlive Tree of Vouves

This ancient olive tree is located on the Greek island of Crete and is one of seven olive trees in the Mediterranean believed to be at least 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Although its exact age cannot be verified, the Olive Tree of Vouves might be the oldest among them, estimated at over 3,000 years old. It still produces olives, and they are highly prized. Olive trees are hardy and drought-, disease- and fire-resistant — part of the reason for their longevity and their widespread use in the region.

The oldest trees

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The Anti-Memoir Memoir

The Scientists: A Family Romance, Marco Roth’s memoir about his bookish upbringing and his father’s secret life, was hailed as one of the best books of 2012. He was not the first to question the idea of a single, unified self. He picks five of his favorite anti-memoir memoirs.

Anti-memoirsIs it possible to write a memoir about how you mistook your own life, about what you didn’t yet know or failed to see, and when you didn’t know it? About how your character and judgments were formed and how you came to unlearn that first and not always painful formation? 

Memoirs of an Egotist by Stendhal

Written in 1832, when he was 49, and one year after the publication of The Red and the Black, Souvenirs d’Égotisme (perhaps better translated as Remembrances of an Egotist, since Stendhal avoided calling it un mémoire) is an account of a 10-year period in the author’s life which was spent mostly failing to write, failing to find a lover, failing to fit in to an increasingly socially and politically conservative Parisian society, failing to find employment, and ultimately failing to commit suicide.

The Anti-Memoir Memoir

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By the Book: Wonderlands for Bibliophiles 

Literature is often inspired by travel—let these 31 literary gems from around the world  inspire your next trip, Bryan Kitch of the AFAR Staff says.

TorontoImage courtesy of The Monkey’s Paw.

The Monkey’s Paw, The Most Unusual Bookstore in Toronto

As stated on their website, Monkey’s Paw is Toronto’s most idiosyncratic secondhand bookshop, specializing in uncommon and out-of-print books, ephemera, and images, Natalie Taylor reports.

On one visit, I was able to find an old Boy Scout handbook from the 1940s. This is also a great place to find an old typewriter. If you like odd books or want a good story from owner Stephen Fowler, this is your place.

And the source of the store’s name? The W. W. Jacobs tale with an ominous moral: be careful what you wish for.

SavannahBook Lady Bookstore

“Nothing makes me happier than stumbling upon a really great bookstore,” Joan Wharton says, “and this one in Savannah takes the cake!”

The store is located on the first floor of an old mansion and, as you can see, every square inch is packed with wonderful books—I could have spent all day browsing through the dusty stacks.

If you love books and find yourself in Savannah, I highly recommend checking out the amazing Book Lady Bookstore.

Wonderlands for Bibliophiles

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Great Unsung Science Fiction Authors That Everybody Should Read

Science fiction contains more masterpieces of the imagination than anyone could read in a single lifetime, Charlie Jane Anders writes in io9. And your local used book store or science fiction bookshop is teeming with great adventures you’ve never discovered. Here are 12 great science fiction authors who deserve more props.

SF writersTop image: Clifford Simak book cover by Chris Moore

The Mount

 

Carol Emshwiller: She’s won two Nebula Awards, the Philip K. Dick Award and a World Fantasy lifetime achievement award, plus effusive praise from Ursula K. Le Guin and others — but we’ll consider Carol Emshwiller unsung until everybody with even a passing interest in science fiction and the fantastical has read her work.

Her novel The Mount has a jarring portrayal of a future Earth where humans are bred to be beautiful for aliens – and come to like it.

 

 

 

Unsung authors

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Quote of the Day

Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” ― Anna Quindlen

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Alma Alexander

Check out my books

Email me

Comments welcome. What do you think?

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Thea and Tesla save the world

The third book in my Worldweavers series, ‘Cybermage‘, is out and the cover is awesome.

Cybermage The series, originally published by HarperCollins, is being reissued by Sky Warrior Books. The original series was published as a trology — ‘The Gift of the Unmage’, ‘Spellspam’ and ‘Cybermage’.

I have since written a fourth book, “Dawn of Magic,” for Sky Warriors that nicely wraps up the story arc and it will be out soon. That will be the last…I’m almost positive.

For those who don’t know the series, Worldweavers is the story of Thea Winthrop, an ugly duckling, incapable of casting even the simplest spell. Until …

 Well, you can read more about it below.

You can buy the series in bookstores and online. You can buy it at Amazon HERE

More on the Worldweavers series:

In the first book, The Gift of the Unmage,’ Thea meets Grandmother Spider, Coyote and other First World gods and begins to get a glimmer of who she really is. Back home at ‘The Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent’ for those incapable of magic, new friends help her discover her true destiny just in time to save her world from the menace of The Nothing.

In the second book, ‘Spellspam,’ a monstrous mage of incredible power is sending spam that carries magic spells. When something promising a clear complexion gives a girl transparent skin, Thea and her friends realize that they must find the wizard before he can wreak incredible destruction in their world.

In the third book, ‘Cybermage,’ Thea and her friends find a way to break into a cube created by the wizard of the west, Nikola Tesla, and uncover a secret which will change their world forever.

 In the fourth book, ‘Dawn of Magic‘, Thea, Tesla and Coyote have to recover the stolen core, the source of all the world’s magic.

 Thea Winthrop is American as Harry Potter is British. And the series is frequently compared to Harry:
        “For readers suffering withdrawal (from) Harry Potter, this new series might just suffice.VOYA
        “Like the Harry Potter series ….”  Kliatt
        “This book does remind me of Harry Potter”  Susan Rappaport
“It will appeal to those who love Harry…”  Teri S. Lesesne

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Read the book first!

There are a handful of upcoming films that have us fidgeting in our seats, re-watching trailers or poring over development news on a near-daily basis, Kristin Fritz writes in Word & Film. “Here are seven up-and-comers whose books we’re devouring in the meantime.

 TracksMia Wasikowska in ‘Tracks’

 Tracks by Robyn Davidson

 In the mid-1970s, Australian Robyn Davidson moved to a town called Alice Springs. She was in her twenties then, and her intention was to train a few camels and then set out with them across the Outback. What follows is a raw and real telling of strength, drive, fierce independence, and adventure. Her story is inspiring and intimidating, her voice candid and addictive.

 The movie, starring Mia Wasikowska of “The Kids Are All Right” and “Jane Eyre” and Adam Driver of “Girls,” is currently making the film festival rounds, but does not yet have a U.S. release date.

 Book before the movie

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6 Books That Took Forever to Become Movies

 While the current box office is positively glutted with remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and a healthy dose of adapted material, Kate Erbland writes at Mental Floss, not every book is rushed to the silver screen. Some take whole decades to make the jump from page to celluloid, often quite memorably held up in the process. From classic novels to the next big pop culture phenomenon, success as a book doesn’t guarantee a quickie movie version.

Hobbit The Hobbit: Book: 1937 // Movie: 2012

 J.R.R. Tolkien’s exceedingly beloved fantasy novel has gone through plenty of adaptation cycles, including a 1966 short film comprised of cartoon stills and a 1977 animated version, but the definitive live-action version only hit theaters in 2012. Peter Jackson’s three-part series will wrap up later this year, and the trilogy is a testament to the continued power of Tolkien’s story.

 Trailers of long-delayed movies

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10 Book Recommendations Based On Your Favorite TV Shows

 Have you ever caught yourself sitting in front of the television for hours on end thinking, “Okay, it’s really time for me to read a book”? April Sperry asks in The Huffington Post.

 Choose your next read based on your favorite TV show, she suggests. “Stories are stories, no matter what medium they’re displayed in.

 Amen to that. Here are her suggestions.

 Desperate houswevesIf you watch “Desperate Housewives”, you should read: “The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club”, by Duncan Whitehead. Both are chatty, gossipy tales of suburban communities that are far more dysfunctional than they seem at first glance.

 If you watch…

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This is something (almost) every women writers thinks about on a daily basis.

 ‘I don’t want to be a rare successful female writer. I just want to be a successful writer’

 More often than not, when you pick up a new book, author Sophia McDougall writes at New Statesman, “it will be by yet another white man, meaning that white and male will be what the next set of Big Names will look like. How can we break out of this self-reinforcing cycle?”

 sophia-mcdougallMy first book was published and suddenly the experience of entering a bookshop changed, it was no longer so peaceful. For a long time it was just the purely self-centred anxiety of many a writer: do they stock my book? Where is it displayed? If it’s not here, is that bad? But in time I mostly got over that.

 But I started to notice something else. I’d started counting.

 I think it was 2007. There was a table in a Waterstones, loaded with a particular male crime writer’s favourite crime novels. I glanced at it across the shop. And suddenly I thought “I bet there are no books by women on that table.” So I went over and counted.

 I was wrong. There was one. One book out of twenty.

 The Staff Picks display at the Waterstones by Charing Cross station. There’s a handful of women. Shame they’re all dead.

 The science fiction and fantasy (SFF) table in Foyles. Oh, hi there, Ursula LeGuin. You look lonely.

 Fascinating and disturbing essay

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Quote of the Day

 “Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can; there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.” ~ Sarah Caldwell

 ~~~~~

Alma Alexander

Check out my books

Email me

Comments welcome. What do you think?

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What did you learn in your 40s?

There may be no soul mates, as Pamela Druckerman muses, there may be no “great love”, there may be no incandescent and transcendent joy – but there is contentment, and there is the thing that is being married to your best friend. Actually, maybe that’s as close to having your soul mate as you can get.

 And yes, 120% yes, on “finding your people.”

 What You Learn in Your 40s

 Pamela Druckerman writes in the New York Times on what she has learned about life.

 Pamela So far in my adult life, I’ve never managed to grasp a decade’s main point until long after it was over. It turns out that I wasn’t supposed to spend my 20s frantically looking for a husband; I should have been building my career and enjoying my last gasp of freedom. I then spent my 30s ruminating on grievances accumulated in my 20s.

 

…There are no soul mates. Not in the traditional sense, at least. In my 20s someone told me that each person has not one but 30 soul mates walking the earth. (“Yes,” said a colleague, when I informed him of this, “and I’m trying to sleep with all of them.”) In fact, “soul mate” isn’t a pre-existing condition. It’s an earned title. They’re made over time.

 …By your 40s, you don’t want to be with the cool people; you want to be with your people.

 Life at 44

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Surprising Historical Facts That Will Change Your Concept Of Time

Not everyone can be a world history master, especially when we tend to learn about it in specifically segmented classes like “European History” or “American Revolutionary History”, Todd Van Luling writes at The Huffington Post:

 Maybe you have an exceptional grasp on the global historical timeline. But for those of us who don’t, the list below, inspired by a recent Reddit thread called “What are two events that took place in the same time in history but don’t seem like they would have?” puts key historical moments into some much-needed context.

For example:

 Betty White is older than sliced bread.

Betty White

Sliced bread was introduced in 1928 by inventor Otto Frederick Rohwedder. Before this moment, bread was sold in whole loaves as bakers didn’t trust sliced bread could stay fresh. Betty White was born in 1922 and spent her early years not eating sliced bread. But White recently celebrated her 92nd birthday, which means she’s been able to experience the first “greatest invention” much longer than most of us.

 Older than sliced bread

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Philip Roth: My Life as a Writer

 In a Sunday Book Review Interview in the NYT, he reflects on his writing, non-writing, and reputation.

 Philip RothOn charges his novels are full of misogyny:

 Misogyny, a hatred of women, provides my work with neither a structure, a meaning, a motive, a message, a conviction, a perspective, or a guiding principle.

 On male characters in his novels:

 As I see it, my focus has never been on masculine power rampant and triumphant but rather on the antithesis: masculine power impaired. I have hardly been singing a paean to male superiority but rather representing manhood stumbling, constricted, humbled, devastated and brought down. I am not a utopian moralist. My intention is to present my fictional men not as they should be but vexed as men are.

Philip Roth in 2012 Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Roth books

Philip Roth looks back

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100 reasons to read

 The writers behind the Scholastic Reading Club Blog have collected one hundred reasons to read. Bibliophiles sent in their reasons to participate in the #100ReasonstoRead Give-Away. Ten winners will be selected; each winner receives a prize pack of one hundred books. These libraries were each selected by the Scholastic Book Club staff.

 Some of the reasons…

     The more you read, the more you know!

    Books don’t require batteries!

    There is always another book waiting to be read!

    To get in touch with our inner superhero.

    To imagine what we would do as demigods.

 Reasons to read

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Quote of the Day

 It’s important for little girls to know not every story has to be a love story and for boys to know that soldiers aren’t the only ones to triumph in war. ~ Guillermo Del Toro

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Alma Alexander

 Check out my books

 Email me 

 Comments welcome. What do you think?

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Retreating into the rainforest

My experience with the Rainforest Writers Retreat on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington began last Wednesday when Colleen Anderson drove down from Vancouver, Canada, and picked me up in Bellingham.

We went the scenic route – down Whidbey Island, the Port Townsend ferry to the peninsula, down the edge of the Hood Canal until we could veer off inland via Aberdeen into the wilds towards Quinault and the Rainforest Resort on the lake.

We had supper in the resort restaurant, yakked with people we knew and met people we didn’t, and at some point that night I actually sat down and began writing.

For a lot of people with day jobs where writing time is stolen from their days an hour at a time, this is unutterable luxury – this place, where they could sit down, crack open a laptop and just WRITE to their hearts content.

Since writing IS my day job, for me it was something different. I was in a community of people from my own tribe, people who were dedicated and passionate about their writing, people who did not (as I let myself be, sometimes, at home) allow themselves to be distracted by extraneous things.

Everyone was here to write. In an atmosphere of such an intense focus — helped by the fact that Internet is spotty here and cellphone signal practically non-existent — it was easy to dive into it all and gratefully feel the sea of words close over my head. I can breathe this rarefied air, the rainbow mist of words, all these multiple voices whispering into the air, rising like smoke into the light fixtures, clinging to windows like pale invisible winged things with big eyes and Cheshire-cat smiles on their faces.

There was a whiteboard in the main cabin where you could post their day’s wordage. By Thursday morning, I was in the four figures.
Alma Alexander, new author photoAlma Alexander’s new author photo

Thursday was the first full day of the retreat, and I wrote. In between I visited the world’s largest spruce tree, which lives just off this resort, a 1,000-year-old behemoth, saw an eagle fishing on the lake, had a friend take some new author pics of me in my fur-lined cape, took some amazing shots of the most unutterably gorgeous sunset. Then we had a group dinner, and it turned out that we had all collectively produced 80,000+ words ON THAT FIRST DAY.

Sunset Sunset on Lake Quinault

Well, there was no stopping me after that.

Friday I wrote some more in my novel, and then University Books from Seattle set up a sale table with a huge selection of books, including those of the attendees.  We mingled and talked books at the evening event over drinks, and it is sometimes just WRONG to feel so purely content, isn’t it? To be at home in a world of one’s own choosing?

 After this get-together, I got mugged by a short story. It was something I’d started before but never got very far with, but the squib of it was on the laptop that I had brought. I worked on that for the rest of the night and just after breakfast the next day, and found myself with a completed story. Raw, but it has good bones.

 Saturday was colder and cloudier, and there were even flurries of snow in the morning as I crossed the parking lot for breakfast. I went back to the novel and worked at it steadily for the rest of the day (punctuated by socializing, lunch, writing discussions, all that). My word count was now in the five figures, one of only five or six people at the retreat to get there. I was nowhere near the winning word count, but then I had never expected to be, and even what I had astonished me. I may not even KEEP all the words, but I WROTE them, and thought them, and dreamed them, and they are part of the edifice that I am building whether they show in the final product or not.

I wrote a couple of pages on Sunday morning, too. This place rolls like that. By noon Colleen and I were on our way back home.

Would I go again? Hell, yeah. I had a great time. I wrote up a storm, socialized with friends old and new, laughed a lot, ate well, walked in the woods, and was generally silly-grin happy about everything for the duration. Is this book going to have Rainforest Retreat in its acknowledgments…? You bet.

Rainforest Writers Retreat website

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25 big novels that are worth it

What we love about big novels is that you have to get really comfortable with them, Jason Diamond writes at Flavorwire.

 A big page count usually equals a big chunk of time, meaning you need to be a serious reader without a fear of commitment. We offer you this list of epic page turners that you may have missed, skipped, or just couldn’t finish the first time, because we believe that bigger can certainly be better, and these books are proof of that.

 They start with a book(s) that tops out at 4,215 pages

 Proust

In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust

There are big novels, and then there is In Search of Lost Time. Proust’s massive work is a literary undertaking that feels more like a quest, but those who have made it say there is nothing quite like closing the final volume after the very last page.

 At 992 pages, this book is less than a quarter the size but…

don-quixote

Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes

 Debuting in the 1600s, this Spanish masterpiece is still one of those books you absolutely must read before you can say that you’ve read all of the greatest novels. It’s big, sure, but it would also be one of the top two or three we’d pick off this list if we were stranded on a desert island.

Big novels

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Which book species are you?

Book loversActually, I’m most of them.

 Book species, Full Graphic

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Quote of the Day

 The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”  ~ Albert Einstein

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Alma Alexander

Check out my books

Email me

Comments welcome. What do you think?

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Do you know what love is?

What is love?Maria Popova has assembled famous definitions of love from 400 years of literary history in a Brain Pickings article just in time for Valentine’s Day.

They range from the profoundly cynical:

Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage ~ Ambrose Bierce in The Devil’s Dictionary

to the truly profound

What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is ~ Anaïs Nin in A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller, 1932-1953:

See all the quotes.

What is love

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Best Bookstores In The World

Ashley Lutz tells us at the Business Insider about 18 bookstores every book lover must visit at least once.

From Venice to Mexico City, check out some of the most interesting book retailers out there.

Boekhandel Selexyz DominicanenBert Kaufman on Flickr

Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, Holland.

This epic bookstore is a converted Dominican church from the 13th century. The serene alcoves of the church now serve as reading nooks.

A superb example of adaptive re-use, the Selexyz Dominicanen infuses rich and historic architecture with plentiful shelves ripe with information,” writes Diane Pham at inhabitant.com.

El AteneoWikimedia Commons

El Ateneo, Buenes Aires, Argentina.

This bookstore is housed in an ornate theater building from the 1920’s. Customers can sit in still-intact theater boxes to relax and browse their books.

While the selection of books on offer is standard chain store fare, bibliophiles will find the staggeringly opulent display of books to be reason enough to pay El Ateneo Grand Splendid a visit,” according to Atlas Obscura.

Bookstores around the world

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As I’ve always argued, ALL fiction is fantasy, damnit.

J. R. R. Tolkien on fairy tales and the language and psychology of fantasy

In 1939, J. R. R. Tolkien gave a lecture titled Fairy Storie, defining what a fairy tale is, Maria Popova writes in Brain Pickings:

A “fairy-story” is one which touches on or uses Faerie, whatever its own main purpose may be: satire, adventure, morality, fantasy. Faerie itself may perhaps most nearly be translated by Magic — but it is magic of a peculiar mood and power, at the furthest pole from the vulgar devices of the laborious, scientific, magician. There is one proviso : if there is any satire present in the tale, one thing must not be made fun of, the magic itself. That must in that story be taken seriously, neither laughed at nor explained away.

Hans Christian Andersen
Tolkien on fantasy

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And then we have the incomparable Ursula’s thoughts.

Ursula Le Guin on fantasy

What is fantasy? On one level, it is a game: a pure pretense with no ulterior motive whatsoever. It is one child saying to another child, ‘Let’s be dragons,’ and then they’re dragons for an hour or two. It is escapism of the most admirable kind–the game played for the game’s sake.

On another level, it is still a game, but a game played for very high stakes. Seen thus, as art, not as spontaneous play, its affinity is not with daydream, but with dream. It is a different approach to reality, an alternative technique for apprehending and coping with experience. It is not anti-rational, but para-rational; not realistic but surrealistic, superrealistic, a heightening of reality. In Freud’s terminology, it employs primary, not secondary process thinking.

It employs archetypes, which, as Jung warned us, are dangerous things. Dragons are more dangerous, and a good deal commoner, than bears. Fantasy is nearer to poetry, to mysticism, and to insanity than naturalistic fiction is. It is a real wilderness, and those who go there should not feel too safe. And their guides, the writers of fantasy, should take their responsibility seriously.

From the essay, Elfland to Poughkeepsie, a speech to the second annual Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop.

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Shelter Encourages Kids to Read to Cats

Book Buddies
Fascinating
Olivia B. Waxman at TIMENewsfeed tells us about the Book Buddies program in which children in grades 1-8 can read to homeless cats at The Animal Rescue League of Berks County in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania.

Once youngsters complete five books, they receive a prize like stickers or pretzels. According to the shelter’s website: ”The program will help children improve their reading skills while also helping the shelter animals. Cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.”

Reading to cats

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Quote of the Day

Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. ~ Siobhan Harmer

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Alma Alexander

Check out my books

Email me

Comments welcome. What do you think?
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