Why epigraphs?

“Dune” did it to incredible effect. Asimov’s Foundation series did it beautifully. There are other books where this was used to enhance and deepen the worldbuilding.

I am talking about epigraphs, quotes that open chapters or sections of novels, quotes which often come from Science Fiction or Fantasy worlds that do not exist outside the book being read.

The Ages of Mankind

When I wrote “The Secrets of Jin-shei“, I used epigraphs to define the Ages of Mankind, as seen through the eyes of the culture and beliefs of my imagined country of Syai – Liu, Lan, Xat, Qai, Ryu, Pau, and Atu.In that order, they cover emergence (birth and babyhood), growing (childhood), coming of age (becoming adult), reproducing and replacing one’s self (the age of childbearing), the secondary stage of reproducing and replacing one’s self, and growing old (sliding into senescence), the sunset and twilight of one’s life (death), and that existence that bridges the end of the last life and the beginning of a brand new one, a sort of hovering in the waiting room of the gods (the closing of the circle).Jin-shei Ages of Mankind Liu poster

What emerged as the quotes for each section were these delicate ‘Chinese’ poems, fragile and ethereal, almost written by brushwork rather than typed on hard keys on a computer keyboard. They were astonishing to me, who created them, but they had a sturdy reality – despite their tender fragility – which served to anchor my new-made world firmly to a reality which would not otherwise have been possible. There is a power here which is difficult to define, but which is palpable. This would not have been the book it is without the epigraphs which serve as the scaffold on which the entire structure was built.

I did a similar thing with the follow-up to that book, “Embers of Heaven”, where the epigraphs came from various works of reference and literature and liturgy. Imaginary, all. But, again, the quotes serve to anchor the novel into its world, a world where these books existed, where they would have been recognizable and familiar to someone of that world, of that culture. They anchored my own mind in that world, in the way it was thinking and feeling, in the unquestionable reality of its existence.

This is powerful stuff. Even now, rereading the material, years after it was written, I find myself transported straight back into the world of Jin-shei by these quotes.Jin-shei Ages of Mankind Lan poster

The right epigraphs, even if they have been as wholly invented by an author as the novel which they anchor, serve to link the words of fiction to a world which is only a sideways step from our own, as real as that which we see when we look out of our own windows. They serve as windows, also, and they allow the reader of a book to glance directly into the mind of its writer, and understand more completely the fictional realm into which the writer has led them. The epigraphs are the keys to a massive door which open into a place which we may not have ever seen before… but which, because of those imagined yet easily recognized quoted words, we *know*.

I’ve built a series of posters based on those Ages Of mankind, the first two enclosed here. I’ll post the others at another time.

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ALL fiction is fantasy

Alma’s Bookshelf: “The Secrets of Jin-shei”

One of a series of essays on writing referencing my own books for examples

I spend half my life living in dreams, in alternate realities.

That might sound bizarre to some, even verging on pure lunacy – but it applies to every writer of fiction out there. Whether you’re writing contemporary thrillers, historical bodice-rippers, science fiction or pure fairy tale, you face one simple truth – whatever the world you’re in, it’s a world created by YOU.

There are places out there that feel like they have been torn out of the gritty gray reality of our own workaday world, where you can smell the smog in the streets and hear the squeal of brakes. It’s the kind of pure “reality” on which a lot of writers have built careers.

And then there are those, like me, who like to just make it all up.

The very first book I had published was a series of fairy tales, literary stories modeled rather more on the emotional and subtle and almost mystical fairy tales as told by Oscar Wilde. But every single one of those stories had one thing in common. They were set like tiny gems into a setting of their own particular world, a setting I took pains to build and create, a setting in which I lovingly breathed life into every leaf and every rose petal and every drop of sea foam I wrote about.

Worldbuilding is one of the most exhilarating, heady things that it is given to a writer to do. The process of building a world – star by star, tree by tree, shimmering piece of magic by shimmering piece of magic – is unsurpassed by anything that it is possible for the human mind to achieve.

True fantasy is extremely hard to do well, because you cannot rely on the familiar scaffolding of the world that your reader is already familiar with in order to tell your tale. The setting of a fantasy has to be so strong, so unbreakable, so seamless, that it is invisible – much like the real world is in a contemporary novel – and leaves its readers, at the completion of the book, waking up as if from a lovely dream.

But there is another kind of fantasy, one which I value even more highly, “historical” fantasy – the kind that magically invokes an otherness that is almost painfully familiar.

Historical fantasy is the kind that you read knowing, just knowing, that this IS in fact your own world… only different. The kind of book where the author has done a LOT of research into the details of his or her chosen period, and although choices were made for the sake of the story that may not match perfectly with the original historical events, those events are recreated in such a manner that the provenance of the fantasy itself is immediately warmly familiar.

The Secrets of Jin-shei coverWhen I began “The Secrets of Jin-shei”, this is the kind of book that I was writing. I took the rich tapestry of Imperial China, and I unraveled it thread by thread, and then re-wove it into a different world, a different China, my China, one that never really existed – but which owed everything to the time and place of its inspiration and which breathed the same mystical oriental air.

I researched meticulously – but this is not the kind of research that is done for a purely historical novel and aimed at checking facts. I was not going to exactly recreate the facts, I wanted to re-create the sense, the feel, the atmosphere.

My China, a land I called Syai, shared a lot of things with ancient China – not least a religion based on the Tao, and an Imperial court full of beautiful wives and concubines dressed in scarlet brocades and jeweled embroidery.

Most importantly of all, my central premise – the secret women’s language I called “jin ashu” and the bond of sisterhood known as “Jin-shei” that gives the novel its name — is real. There is a women’s language passed from mother to daughter over generations which has survived to the present day in this magical form, although the last of the women who learned the language, nushu, organically at their mothers’ knee are now almost gone. There was a sisterhood, known as “Jiebai Zhimei”, which sometimes linked women in strong bonds of friendship and which had its roots in this secret language that the women shared.

But Syai, my ‘China’, is NOT the real China.

In the real historical China women did not have the kind of power that the women in Syai do. In the real China the women’s language and the secret sisterhood had considerably less global influence than portrayed in the Syai of my novel. I took the reality, unraveled it, re-wove it into a fantasy cloth rich with myth and legend and tradition and history – but only the memory of reality.

Syai is not China, any more than a painting is a precise likeness of a photograph.

When I first submitted the novel for publication, the response was that it was something that “transcended fantasy” – and the novel was subsequently sold to a publisher far more mainstream in outlook than I might have expected it to go to. Reviews have stated that the book is a “genre-buster” and have called it “mainstream fantasy”. It has been published in 13 languages.

And yet I was afraid that there would be people out there who would inevitably pick it up as a “pure” historical novel, and who would shred the culture and milieu of Syai on the basis of the historical inaccuracies on which has been built. Indeed, that happened. For example, one reader wrote in her blog:

I need another recommendation for a good book. The Secrets of Jin-shei turned out to be a pretty good book being female-centered and all. but I still don’t agree with how the author changed so many things with the Chinese culture … I can’t help comparing it to Memoirs of a Geisha…(I felt)l like I was enriched with the Japanese culture… after reading Secrets I couldn’t help but feel cheated. China was never a matriarchal society and yet that is how she portrayed it…”

But “Jin-shei” was never meant to be a factual representation of a culture or a world in the manner that “Memoirs of a Geisha” was.

“The Secrets of Jin-shei” is a dream, not a reality.

It is true, of course, that all fiction, even if set in the ‘real’ world, is fantasy, a story told about a place that seems real, but is not. But it is here, in the realm of fantasy, that this becomes something very important.

Think of “The Secrets of Jin-shei”, if you like, as a Westernization of an ancient oriental fairy tale – of the kind that took the world by storm when ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” made its explosive debut on the cinematic scene. (One of my favorite reviews of “Secrets of Jin-shei” , from a place that went by the completely appropriate name of China Books, cited that movie: “Combine ‘The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’ with ‘The Joy Luck Club,’ add elements of ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,’ and you have this astonishing novel.” )

It is a dream. An alternate reality. A place that could have, might have, should have existed… but never did, except in my heart and my mind.

Buy “The Secrets of Jin-shei” HERE

A fuller version of this essay appeared on the Book View Café HERE

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Too many characters?

Books Of Character illustrationFrom Lovereading infographic

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

“Sometimes is it all too much?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the Lovereading infographic HERE

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

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

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS & THAT

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

A psychologist explains how we’re all brainwashed by words

Read the explanation HERE

 

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Bitcoins are Cheaper & Healthier than Cash

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

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

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

Read more HERE

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

 

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

Read the whole story HERE

 

 

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Denmark opens first food waste supermarket selling surplus produce

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

Read the whole story HERE

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

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

The story and video HERE

 

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

More HERE

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Quote of the Day

Einstein Quote photoWell, even I knew that!  🙂

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Ode to the literary cat

It is a a writerly thing. Some of us have dogs, to be sure, but the classic writerish badge of belonging to the scribe tribe is…a cat.

In some ways it’s inevitable. Dogs worship us, and although that can be invaluable in a world which otherwise largely doesn’t care, it is the cat who serves the ultimate purpose in writers lives, keeping us grounded, and keeping us humble.

In the throes of epic inspiration, wrapped in the arms of your Muse? Forget it. The food bowl is empty, the litter box needs cleaning, and those things need attention now. Screw the Muse. there is first and forever and always CAT. And Cat must be obeyed.

Cats go perfectly with books and cups of tea or coffee, in homes, in libraries, in bookstores, so many bookstores.

I well remember the somewhat disconcerting gaze of the Borderlands Sphynx – the naked hairless ubercat who came to perch on my lectern when I did a reading there and stared at me with those ageless eyes, at the same time giving approval and waiting for me to stumble on a word so that it could have its little snicker of schadenfreude.

There’s Dewey, the library cat whom I knew only from a book but still wept oceans of tears over. There are multifarious fictional cats, whose roles range from window-dressing to full-on characters. And real-life cats named after them.

Boboko in the LibraryA friend of mine named one of his own after Pixel, the Cat Who Walked Through Walls. My own heart’s-beloved, Boboko, was named after a fabulous feline in Charles de LInt’s “Mulengro”, and he apparently knew about his bookish origin. He hung around books in my library, as the photo attests.

Make today a read-a-book-and-hug-your-cat day. I do it every day.

Mashable takes note of the bookstore-owning felines of Instagram and offers us some delightful pictures.

e.g.
Book store cat“Right this way to the picture book section.”

See more photos HERE

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From a review of ‘Shifter, the third book in The Were Chronicles, by Angela Cabezas at her blog, Angela’s Library:

“Alexander’s writing is gorgeous and insightful, and she uses it to full advantage. I’m always sad when I finish a great story, but as I wrote to Alma in a Facebook message while in the throes of book withdrawal, ‘I just finished Shifter and now I have to cancel my plans for the day to eat chocolate and cry!’ The best books leave a hole in you when they’re over, and Shifter certainly left a gaping void in me.

“The experience is worth it, though. And look at it this way – once you’re finished you can always go back and re-read the book’s perfect last line over and over again to bring yourself comfort, as I’ve been doing. So what are you waiting for? Go get some chocolate and start reading this book!”

Read the whole review HERE

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HOW many pages? The 10 longest books ever written

Look, I am no slouch in the word-count department. Several of my books – “The Secrets of Jin-shei”, “Embers of Heaven’, the forthcoming “Empress” — even the “Changer of Days” duology, written as a single novel but published in two parts because that’s the only way the skittish publishers would tackle a quarter-million-word epic — all fall in the 200,000 words plus category. That’s a million published words right there.

And I haven’t even counted the epic I wrote in my teens which is just as many words but as yet only exists on 500+ handwritten – in pencil – pages in three hardcover A4 sized notebooks.

Even my YA books are pushing the envelope. Three of the four Worldweavers books are longer than 100,000 words. I managed to contain myself a little more with the Were  Chronicles books because they all fall in roughly at 95-99K words apiece.

But the books here put together by Short List, are in a class beyond that – way beyond that!

Perhaps the headline ought to read ‘The 10 longest stories ever written‘ because the Short List collection includes novels told over several volumes.

But we are talking about long – very long – coherent stories, ranging from near a million words to 2.1 million words.

The number of words is the way most writers judge length, but most readers probably think more in terms of pages. So how many pages are we talking about here?

Well, the shortest book here, the piker, is only 2,400 pages, while the longest is…

drum roll, please

… 13,095 pages.

I suspect you won’t finish it in a day, or maybe a lifetime.

A lot of the books you may never have heard of – OK, probably never heard of. But every reader in the western word has heard of Proust and his ‘In Search of Lost Time’. It might even be on the bottom of their to-read pile – the very bottom.

Short List tells that it is 1,267,069 words in 3,031 pages.

Proust cover

There’s no doubt that Proust’s masterpiece could quite easily double as a mightily  effective doorstop, with 13 volumes clocking up nearly 1.3 million words. Its theme of involuntary memory is repeated through the course of following the narrator’s life, from childhood to adulthood. Published between 1913 and 1927, it had a profound influence on many works that were to follow in the 20th Century; it’s considered the definitive modern novel by many leading scholars. So, to summarize: really long, but really good.

 

But the undisputed winner in this list is basically a romance, ‘Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus’, 2.1 million word, 13,095 page romance. In 10 volumes.

Le Grand coverThis 17th century novel obliterates the opposition. The work is credited on the page to Geroges de Scudéry, but is usually attributed to his sister Madeleine. The ultimate example of the roman héroïque form, it is, essentially, a romantic novel, with endless twists to keep the suspense, and the action, going. Despite its gargantuan length, at the time it was hugely popular.

However, it was not subsequently published again until an academic project was launched to make it available to read on the Internet.

Yes, you can read it ON THE INTERNET HERE

So what are you waiting for? Those 13,095 pages aren’t going to read themselves, Short List chides..

See the other books HERE

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Quote of the Day
Slices Of Trees posterYour choice but I know which I opt for.

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Alma Alexander       My books       Email me
 
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So tell me!

As I was shopping at the local store to pick up a few things after my physio appointment, this little old lady stops pushing her cart a few steps ahead of me and stares at me. I stop also not quite sure what she’s about to do. And then she says,

“So then, TELL me about your book.”

That’s when I realized I was wearing my ‘Ask me about my book’ sweatshirt, a gift from a friend a couple or three years back.

So I told her. And I left her a bookmark. You never know.

~~~~~Books To Make You CryBuzzfeed asked readers to tell them about a book that would definitely make us cry. They came up with a lot to choose. Staffer Lincoln Thompson picked a few and suggests you grab some tissues and start reading.

One example:
The God Of Small ThingsRaveendran / AFP

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This is the story of Estha and Rahel, 7-year-old fraternal twins growing up with their single mother in India in 1969. Throughout the novel, their wide-eyed innocence and adorable enthusiasm for life is crushed by the brutal reality of the adult world that surrounds them. Somehow, they persevere. This book is so beautiful and made me contemplate the unfairness of life for days. ~ Victor Sun, Auckland, New Zealand

See all the books HERE

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The job of a writer

“To call someone like me a writer-activist suggests that it’s not the job of a writer to write about the society in which they live. But it used to be our job. It’s a peculiar thing, until writers were embraced by the market, that’s what writers did—they wrote against the grain, they patrolled the borders, they framed the debates about how society should think. They were dangerous people. Now we’re told we must attend festivals and get on to bestseller lists and, if possible, try to be good-looking.” ~ Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy on what shaped her, what moves her HERE

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Jonathon Sturgeon asked staffers at Flavorwire about
The best books you were assigned in high school

“It struck me that these high school assignments are a point of connection that spans generations…(they) stay with us, shape us, guide us…What we read together helps define who we become.”

For example:
A Farewell To ArmsA Farewell to Arms

“When my junior English teacher assigned Ernest Hemingway’s 1929 novel to our class, I approached it (as) a moldy old relic. But I was also reading it while entering into my first serious relationship, emotionally and physically, with a girl who was in that same class — and we were both taken aback by the directness with which Hemingway’s story spoke to us, and to the way he captured the intensity (and occasionally, the recklessness) of our attraction. I wasn’t used to “classics” having that kind of accessibility…Arms was, in many ways, the moment I became an adult reader. ~ Jason Bailey, Film Editor

See the other choices HERE

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My husband has long been fascinated by UFOs and often pontificates about what he characterizes as the blindness of science about their reality. I don’t share his ..errr, obsession, but he insisted I share this list of books selected by Katie Heaney of Buzzfeed.

12 Books About Extraterrestrials That Will Blow Your Mind

Hubbie particularly likes this book:
The Invisible College By Jacques Vallee

The Invisible College

Jacques Vallee, French researcher and PhD in computer science, has long studied aerial phenomena, and in this book examines possible links between patterns in UFO sightings and human behavior and events

— and how much of it takes place in the realm of the human psyche.

 

See all the books HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Lost and Found: Who loses their knickers on the subway?

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Profound thoughts in the shower

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Architect Crafts One Tiny Paper Building Every Day for a Year

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FAN ART for my ‘The Secrets of Jin-Shei’
Artist hoshiaka
The Secrets Of Jin Shei By HoshiakaThe comments make me smile HERE

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
 
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Stories are alive

What is it that makes certain stories last?

That’s a question that Neil Gaiman explores in a lecture two and a half years in the making, part of the Long Now Foundation’s nourishing and necessary seminars on long-term thinking, an article in Brain Pickings tells us.
Neil GaimanGaiman suggests that stories are a life-form obeying the same rules of genesis, reproduction, and propagation that organic matter does. “Stories are alive – they can, and do, outlive even the world’s oldest living trees by millennia,” he says.

Read the article and listen to Gaiman HERE

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My first major success was ‘The Secrets of Jin-Shei‘, a novel of sisterhood set in a mythological land called Syai that resembles an Imperial China that never was. It is out in 13 languages so far.

The Secrets of Jin-sheiThe first Harper Collins hardcover edition of Jin-shei had a gorgeous cover. While the paperback is still available, the hardcover edition is out of print now and I have seen it being sold as a collector’s item. I have a few copies of my own stashed away that I am hoarding.

Published more than a decade ago, it is a story that fits Gaiman’s definition. It is a living thing. I still hear from or about women and girls who have pledged Jin-shei to each other like the characters in my story. Some time back, a teenager in Brazil posted a video about it on her blog. I don’t speak Portuguese, but she did seem to be enthusiastic about it.

At off the Shelf, Hilary Krutt takes a look at several other similar books:

 

11 Novels that Explore the Beautiful and Complex Bonds of Sisterhood

“The concept of sisterhood has always possessed an almost mystical allure for me,” Krutt says. “Growing up with no sisters of my own, my brother served as a proxy, begrudgingly allowing me to dress him up in old tutus and playing along with my extensive collection of Barbie dolls. He eventually grew out of it, but I always cherished the time when he allowed me to project my girlish whims on him. Whether you’re from a clan of sisters or sisterless like me, here are eleven books about the joys and challenges of sisterhood.”

e.g.

The Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown:

Bianca, Cordelia, and Rosalind are the book-loving and wonderfully quirky spawn of Shakespeare scholar Dr. James Andreas. When the three sisters return to their childhood home to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there.

But the Andreas sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from might offer more than they ever expected.

 

Read the whole story HERE

 

 

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Another story that interested me because of the personal connection to one of my own books is a Flavorwire story on Internet novels. :

I didn’t write an Internet novel in the sense of the article below, but the man-who-was-to- become-my-husband and I wrote an epistolary novel together about NATO’s war on Yugoslavia in the form of an exchange of emails over the Internet between a pro-war American man, and a Serb woman living under the bombs. After the original bitter exchanges, the couple, despite themselves, fell in love.

Published by New Zealand HarperCollins, it was called ‘Letters from the Fire‘ and sold extremely well in New Zealand where I was living at the time. Now self published on the Internet… Well… No comment.

The books mentioned by Flavowire have made a lot more of a stir.

The Evolution of the Internet Novel, 1984 to Present: A Timeline

neuromancer

 

The article begins with, not surprisingly, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, published in 1984.

It may be argued that earlier novels, genre or otherwise, anticipated the Internet before William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), but can any of them lay claim to the invention of the word “cyberspace,” or the cyberpunk genre, or the credible hacking novel?’

 

 

Read the whole story HERE

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ParbunkellsThe Word the Internet Didn’t Know

Ever heard of the word in the photo above? Maddie Stone asks at Gizmodo. Probably not, because, until this month, that word didn’t exist on the Internet.

That’s right: A 17th century English word that means “coming together through the binding of two ropes,” according to a 1627 publication housed at the New York Public Library’s Rare Book Division, was, until this month, dead to the digital world—and to almost every living person.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the internet knows everything, but it doesn’t.

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

New favorite review of ‘Wolf‘, second book in my The Were Chronicles. At Goodreads, a reader called Melani exclaims with glee,

They saved the day with SCIENCE!”

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The man who saved 2,000,000 babies

…and 14 other saviors of mankind

Read the whole Kindness Blog story HERE

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Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

Read the whole story of the bee apocalypse HERE

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Quote of the day

Stories should change you – good stories should change you.” ~ Neil Gaiman

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Alma Alexander      My books      Email me   

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Dear Author…

In the little over a decade I have been writing full time, I have received some fascinating letters. Two stand out particularly.

I haven’t asked permission of the letter writers – in at least one case, it was so long ago that I am not sure my contact information is any longer valid. So these two examples are essentially paraphrased with names and other personal information excised.

The first was someone who had met me on a major book tour for The Secrets of Jin-Shei, a novel which involves a sisterhood. The letter writer speaks poignantly about how my book made her reflect on her own experiences.

Paraphrased excerpt:

You sat in front of me (on the plane) and eventually, like people who travel, often do, we began to talk. You said you were an author and showed me the cover of the book you had published. You were on your way to a book signing.

Though you did talk to me for most of the trip and even gave me your card, it was the cover of your book that, strangely, remained in my mind. So, that when I went to the library and saw that cover amongst the other books, I remembered it. I didn’t remember you had written it; I remembered the cover…I found your picture on the back and it all fell into place.

So, I started reading the book and that’s when the sadness came. Here in my hands was a book about sisterhood, a mirror reflecting the deep friendships I’ve had with several women, including the teenager I made my mother take into our home as my foster sister… your book helped me remember….and understand that.

The rest is far too personal for me to summarize here without her permission. But I was greatly touched by her letter.

The second also involves The Secrets of Jin-Shei. It was much shorter and rather… unusual.

Paraphrased excerpt:

I have never read any of your books, and up to today had not heard of them. However, last night I had a dream that clearly showed me the name Jin-Shei.

After researching the name on the internet all I could find related to it was your book. Could you possibly share with me the actual historical significance of this name? Does it have an English translation? Is it merely a name you created?…Your book sounds interesting…

I hope he did read it and did find it interesting. After all, his own dream had led him there.

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11 Contemporary Retellings of Classic Literature

At Off the Shelf, Sarah Jane Abbott offers some books by inspired authors that have reimagined beloved novels and iconic characters, using them as them as jumping off points to explore new settings, eras, and characters.

e.g.
Going-Bovine

Going Bovine by Libba Bray:

All sixteen-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks.

Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel or possible hallucination who sets him on a quest paralleling that of Don Quixote.

 

See all the books HERE

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10 Books To Read Before You See The Movies This Summer

We all love a few hours at the movie theater, Mark Athitakis writes at Huffpost, but there’s just no substitute for curling up with a few hundred pages of printed magic.

One example:

Every Secret ThingBy Laura Lippman: The thriller Every Secret Thing revolves around two teenage girls and the abduction and murder of a baby seven years earlier. Starring Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks and Dakota Fanning, the movie casts more female leads than your average thriller (thank you!) and Laura Lippman, whose 2003 novel inspired the film, has deserved a big-screen treatment of her work for years. But the film was shot in New York, robbing the story of Lippman’s beloved Baltimore and her rich local details about everything from race relations to hairstyles. Let’s not overlook the scary pleasures of her prose, either. “There was something menacing in the very fineness of his bones,” she writes, “as if a bigger boy had been boiled down until all that remained was this concentrated bit of rage and bile.”

Read the whole story HERE

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Dinosaurs and All That RubbishDinosaurs and All That Rubbish Photograph: PR

Daniel Hahn’s top 10 underrated or forgotten children’s classics

The author of the new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature chooses the children’s classics you probably haven’t heard of but really should read, from picture books about dinosaurs and bike rides to a historical novel narrated by a dog.

Read the whole story HERE

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66 on 66It’s arguably the most famous road in the world. Route 66 – just saying those words makes you want to hit the road. But did you know there are many wonderful used bookstores along the way from Chicago to Los Angeles?

Abe Books has plotted the ultimate bibliophile’s road trip where you can visit 66 bricks and mortar used bookstores – who all sell on the AbeBooks marketplace – while driving from the shores of Lake Michigan to the beaches of Santa Monica. We are talking about two thousand miles and hundreds of thousands of books. It’s a booklover’s paradise – and worth the trip for that alone. Some folks travel for culinary adventures, some travel for landmarks and museums, but bibliophiles travel for the finest in literary offerings. It’s called Bookstore Tourism, and yes – there’s a book about it.

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS n THAT

Destroying What Remains
Artic sea iceAs sea ice in the Arctic vanishes, the Navy plans training including live bombing runs

Disturbing essay by Dahr Jamail HERE

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We humans are so VERY GOOD at inventing things that kill…
The UrumiThe best bladed weapons are at least somewhat flexible—but the urumi is downright floppy. When swung, it acts like a whip. A metal whip. A metal whip with two sharp edges

10 of History’s Most Terrifying Swords, including THIS

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Quote of the Day

QUOTE Oscar Wilde~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
 
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