YA and the ‘Real World’

The Were Chronicles: “Random”, “Wolf”, “Shifter”

At a certain level, the line between YA and adult literature becomes so fine as to be totally irrelevant.

Yes, there are always some readers whose worlds are so cushioned, so protected, so absolutely walled off from reality that they can can find reading about real problems to be distancing and completely alien. But those readers are very few, And even they, growing up, have to deal with SOME issues in their lives no matter how gilded they are.

There are books which are labelled YA that deal with a lot of subjects which might be considered difficult. Subjects like suicide, like discrimination, like loss, like fear, like helplessness.

The books aren’t there to exacerbate or underline a reader’s own issues. As with all literature, they exist primarily to tell a story. At least, the best of them do. They don’t moralize, they don’t frighten or terrorize, they don’t stroke a love of violence

But they do have real power. It lies in the fact that they let readers know that they are not alone, that they aren’t the only ones to suffer such things or feel such feelings. That can be empowering for the reader. Sometimes it is safer to sublimate such feelings into the pages of a powerful story, to learn how to deal with one’s own situation through the prism of storytelling, than it is to blunder about trying to solve overwhelming problems.

YA literature isn’t sweetness and light. It can be harrowing. Because young people can sometimes live harrowing lives.

When Weres become human

The Were Chronicles logoWhen I set out to write The Were Chronicles books, the whole thing started as a light-hearted thing. The project began as a short story intended for a Were-creatures anthology which wanted something other than the traditional wolves. So I pulled an odd creation out of the story-cauldron, something I’d never seen anyone play with before – a Random Were, a creature which can literally become the last living warm-blooded thing they see just before the Turn comes upon them. The idea had immense comic possibilities. In fact – as I put it in the first book – due to an “unfortunate farmyard accident”, my main protagonist’s mother is a Were-Chicken.

But while I was clucking to myself about that… the story changed under my touch, became bigger and darker. What was originally a short story became abook – and the book became series. It changed into that most amazing thing, a YA story but also a story about what it means to be human.

My Weres became a persecuted minority in society, and themes of discrimination and bullying reared up and demanded to be addressed. What do you do when your peers are bullying and threatening you and making you miserable, because you are “different”? That’s hard enough as and of itself, but what happens if those attitudes are then taken up by people in authority over you, whom you aren’t in a position to question or to fight?

My Weres touched off a nerve – because they explored, in my fantasy setting what it means *in our own world* for people to be a different color, or a different faith, or a different sexual orientation. I wrote about the power of persecution, and the power of spirit necessary to rise against and above that.

And then the themes multiplied. What does it mean to be considered an abject failure at something – by your own peers, your own class? How far would you be willing to go to prove yourself worthy? What things, what people, what ideas in your life are you willing to fight and die for? What happens if you are the only one of your kind, and you don’t know where you came from, or what is going to happen to you because there is no precedent for what you are?

The story unwound in a powerful and explosive way, the same story seen through the POV of three different characters who play a major part in the tale, a story seen through three separate prisms which thus acquires a certain three-dimensionality which was never before so obvious in any of my stories.

This is a work of fiction, a work of FANTASY no less, but its world… is our world, and it matters. It matters deeply. These are some of my most beloved, most astonishing characters, avatars of so many out there who face pain with courage and with knowledge and with earned wisdom.

The power of story

That is part of the power of story – this identification with a protagonist, who somehow arrives out of nowhere ready to completely understand our own innermost feelings and secrets. For adult readers who have had years of living under their belt, who have been working to acquire that necessary wisdom for a long time, stories like this may be memories – a look back into a time when things were difficult for themselves, and a recollection (with or without pain) of how they dealt with those situations.

For young readers, stories like these are part of that acquisition of wisdom and experience. If there is a good reason for a YA label at all then this is it – stories of people LIKE THE YOUNG READER, characters who are potential friends, but also potential role models in how they react and respond to fictional situations that the reader might find something to identify with. The best such stories are not moralizing or didactic or arrive with a knuckle-rapping “lesson” embedded inside – the best such stories are involving, enveloping, enfolding, they are things in which you can wrap yourself, and come out of wearing them as armour against the realities which might be out there waiting to assault you.

The best “lessons” are not the ones that are forcefully and insistently taught, but those answers which you find within yourself when a story like this helps you ask the right questions. What, then, would you do? In that story, in similar circumstances, what then would you do? How would you overcome?

The story gives you the pieces, the hints, but they don’t add up to anything that is a overweening Answer To Everything. Those pieces are different for every reader. They combine with pieces you bring to the story yourself. And every book connects with every reader in a different way, and the answers are always YOURS, deeply and personally yours, because every reader is unique and there are no two questions out there about people’s identity or their life situation which are exactly alike.

Stories are powerful. And stories aimed at, and read by, young readers are amongst the most powerful stories of all. We may read many books during the course of our lives – but by the time we get to be forty, fifty, sixty years old and half a century has rolled away from underneath us… for all too many of us, it is the books we read when we were sixteen which somehow remain with us, and in which we finds the roots of many things that we grew up to become.

You can find the first book in The Were Chronicles, Random, HERE

Wolf is HERE

Shifter is HERE

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A candle in the bitter dark

Hold the light illustration

#HoldOnToTheLight is a campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world to raise awareness about treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. My contribution is below.      -0-

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There was this throwaway conversation about a compelling What-If — what happens if the same first-born child is promised to two different witches? There was even a brand new niche subgenre coined for the resulting tale.

Helping Hands - Witches story illustrationI said,

That’s almost irresistible.”

So why are you resisting?”

I was asked , and so I stopped.

 

 

To read my version of the newborn “morewitchcentriclesbianfairytaleromcom” literary genre, think about making a small contribution HERE

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13 Books About Books for Big Book Nerds

At offtheshelf.com, Kerry Fiallo offers us a meta reading experience. “Here are thirteen great novels in which books play a prominent role—usually instigating the plot.”

First Impressions CoverFirst Impressions, by Charlie Lovett

A Jane Austen superfan takes a job in a London antiquarian bookshop when two different customers request the same obscure book. What should be a simple inquiry turns into a gripping mystery about the true authorship of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Bibliophiles will love this compelling novel celebrating the love of books.

See the other selections HERE

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A candle in the bitter dark

No story worth telling – no matter how meticulously planned – has ever survived intact its first encounter with good characters, or the first really unexpected twist in the plot.

That transformation is precisely what happened to me when I set out on the story journey that turned into my YA series, The Were Chronicles.

Let me give you just a little bit of a background snapshot. Someone put out a call for a new anthology which would revolve around the idea of Were-creatures – but “not wolves”, the guidelines said emphatically. “Give me something OTHER than wolves.”

I immediately came up with the idea of the Random Were – a kind of Were-critter hitherto unknown (or at the very least unexplored) in the genre literature. Randoms were Weres who had a primary form, to be sure – and yes, that could really be anything so long as it was a warm-blooded creature (as in, no insects, no fish, no snakes). Without any further stimuli it would be this primary animal form that they would assume when their time of change came – they would Turn at the full moon, like every other Were, and stay in that shape for their three changed days before they return to being themselves.

But if any Random, at the cusp of their transformation,  so much as glimpses something ELSE, another creature, anything warm-blooded that isn’t themselves or their primary form… THAT is the shape they will assume. That happened to a character in my own novel, an unfortunate farmyard accident ensured that she went through  the rest of her life as a Were-chicken.

The comedic potential for all of this is high and the original story I started to write was, well, light. And comic. And possibly laugh-out-loud. But it didn’t stay that way. Much like the Random of the title, my story seemed to catch a glimpse of something very different and much darker, and turned into that instead.

The story that came out of all of this was not simply a light-hearted Were-critter yarn. It changed into a story which was, as one reviewer said, more about what it means to be human than what it means to be a Were. My changeling creatures became avatars, taking on the mantle of everyone who has ever been feared, mistrusted, mistreated, herded, concentration-camped, studiedly annihilated… because they were different from the rest.

And this story turned into a very sharp light that shone starkly into the dark shadows where the bullied and the battered souls lived.

Without spoiling the books, let me just tell you that Celia, one of the pivotal characters of this story, a Random Were by birth, accidentally Turns into an animal shape in front of the eyes of her entire school filled mostly with Normals, not Were, because she was too close to her Turn. From the moment that she is seen changing into a cat, she is marked – as someone with a scarlet letter on her forehead, perhaps, in this instance a large red W.

In Celia’s world, the Were have been marginalized by strict laws which have been promulgated “for their own safety” but which mean that it is impossible to run away from being one in a normal everyday society.

Much like a parallel pattern in our own historical reality, in the manner of, perhaps, the yellow stars forced on Germany’s Jewish population during a period not too long ago, my Were are permitted to live amongst and mingle with the “Normal” human population but only if they carry identity cards which are marked with a paw print. The mark of “shame”. The mark of being different and therefore fair game.

Celia’s life descends into nightmare. Her peers, goaded by the mores and expectations of their society, begin to make her days miserable. And because she is still a child, under control of authority figures who choose to take the side of the bullies, there is literally nobody to whom it is possible to appeal for help.

I did not sugar coat it. I wanted it to be stark and brutal and terrifying. And for poor Celia, that’s exactly what it was.

Paraphrasing one of my favorite G K Chesterton quotes, the value of fantasy lies not so much in scaring our children with the idea that dragons exist – but in giving them hope and courage in grasping the thought that they can be defeated.

It is invaluable for someone who feels lonely, isolated, backed into a corner, despised, feared, and cast out by a society to which they desperately want to belong to know that although it might often seem that way *they are not alone*.  And my story grew the dark wings of a brooding and dangerous kind of a guardian angel – the kind that doesn’t necessarily defend you against harm but which arms you against it so that you learn how to stand up to it all by yourself.

When I was young, I was a solitary, bookish child, often by myself, and certainly (given my peripatetic wandering childhood) always somehow *other.* I was lucky in that I was never bullied for it. I was simply left alone. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know what being bullied is like, I’ve seen plenty of it. I can understand what gives it form, strength, power. I can feel the pain visited upon the victims.

Candle in the dark imageWhat all of that does mean is that I found myself writing a story which was vastly more important than the one I thought I was embarking on when I started out. I was holding out a light in a dark place. Perhaps it wasn’t a flaming sword – perhaps it wasn’t making a victim into a warrior, at least not directly – but this story turned into writing on the wall, “You are not alone.”

That is a powerful message, and it resonated with readers. I got feedback about how much it mattered to someone who had either direct or indirect experience with these things. It was a story which may have been hard to read, for some. It might even rate a trigger warning, for some. But the catharsis was very real, too, and this story – this #HoldOntoTheLight story that was born out of a moment of lighthearted whimsy – is perhaps the most important thing I have ever written, or might indeed ever write.

This is a fantasy that is more real than I would have believed possible – and it is at once an indictment of what people do to other people who are deemed to be “not-us” and therefore ripe for being dehumanized and called enemies, and a shining story about how at least one of those marginalized people stood up and took matters into her own hands and said “No more”.

Everyone matters. It is sometimes hard to get people who have been downtrodden or hated for a long time to believe that truth about themselves. That’s why a story which shows them that they own their own place in the universe can be so important. Sometimes it’s very dark out there, when you’re the only one holding a tiny flickering candle – and sometimes it just helps when someone else steps up beside you holding another.

You still have to wait for the sunrise to see things in the bright light of another day – but sometimes, truly, all it takes to drive away a sense of darkness and keep your spirits up through the remainder of the night is knowing that you aren’t out there in the shadows all by yourself.
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#HoldOnToTheLight believes fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment. Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go HERE

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Quote of the Day
Quote Jodi Picoult poster~~~~~
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Your favorite quote?

At bookwitty.com, Véesah Afifi offers:

Alice in Wonderland cover photoChildren…in their innocence can’t fathom the weight of some of the most important quotes they hear in bedtime stories,” Afifi writes. “However, we’re adults now, and it’s time we appreciated some of the most profound quotations in the literature of our youth.”

e.g. “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
– Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

What’s your favorite quote from a beloved children’s book?

See the other quotes at Bookwitty HERE

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A 5-star review of ‘Wolf’, the second book in The Were Chronicles, by L. Bruce Diamond is the kind authors pick for their blurbs. He says, for example, that ‘Wolfis simultaneously frustrating, engrossing, infuriating, and satisfying.”  If a book can stir up that kind of reaction in a discerning reader, the author’s labors in producing it were well worth it.

He was a bit less pleased with ‘Shifter,’ the last book in my series. He gave it four stars,  noting that it was “A somewhat satisfying and slightly frustrating end-piece to an otherwise entertaining shape-changing triptych.”

You can read his and other reviews of ‘Wolf‘ at Amazon HERE

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At  My Modern Met, Sarah Ann Loreth interviews Seattle-based photographer Kindra Nikole about her:

Portraits of Medieval Knights Reimagined as Fearless Women

CursedWightKindraNikole photoPhoto by Kindra Nikole

For her latest series entitled Árísan, Kindra drew inspiration from a visit to Glastonbury, the legendary resting place of Arthur, King of the Britons (aka King Arthur)”, Loreth writes. “The photographer now captures the essence of the ancient castle ruins and imbues its historical setting with new meaning. Although women did not originally take part in battle, Kindra’s images recreate history, imagining round table knights as strong, fearless women adorned in period armor.”

See all her stunning photos at mymodernmet.com HERE

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Quote of the Day

All Men Dream - T.E Lawrence poster

Always dream with your eyes open.

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Surrealism in Seattle

My first Comic-con: Friday, Day 2

The closer I got to the Convention Center the more surreal the streets became. Pirates. Boba Fetts. Lots of Reys, of different ages and sizes, the youngest maybe not yet seven, the oldest possibly older than ME. SCADS of Spidermen (that was the thing for some reason. Lots and lots of those.) Fairy princesses. People painted green. Star Trek crews from different eras. A dog made up to look like an Ewok.

All flowing towards the center of gravity. ECCC in full bloom.

I had asked someone the previous day how many people they thought were there.

About 50,000,” I was told. “And you wait. This is just the first day.”

On Friday I heard revised estimates. 80,000, maybe 85,000. I was an ant in an anthill. Some of the ants were mousy, like me, but some were truly spectacular. I started taking pictures.
Eccc Hall Crowds photoThe signing queue in front of the booth where the star attraction, Nathan Fillion, was signing autographs was a heaving mass of hundreds of souls. I contemplated joining them but the price of admission was a little too rich. I don’t think I’m ever going to be convinced that $80 for the price of a signature was a prerequisite for getting within eyeball distance of anyone.

I remember the Worldcon in Japan where they had George Takei doing much the same thing – but there I simply joined a queue and when I got to the front I spoke a few words to him and shook his hand and that was enough – there wasn’t a requirement for money to change hands.

I just drifted on the edges a bit, saw Captain Mal flash that brilliant grin at someone else at the front of the line, and went on my way.

I did go to another signing. I had bought a copy of Matt Ruff’s latest book, “Lovecraft Country”, the previous day, and finished reading it that night. (and LOVED it.) After getting my copy autographed and chatting with him until the next fan stepped forward, I pressed on.

There was a 3-D scanner for people. You could climb in and be full-body-scanned, and then they could print a figurine of you from that. The scan was free, you could decide later if you wanted to buy the action figure, so I had myself 3-D scanned. How very futuristic.

And then there was the artist R.K. Milholland sitting at his booth chatting to a friend until I smiled at a sign that he had there in front of him: ‘I DO FREE SKETCHES FOR NICE PEOPLE.’

You want one?” he asked.

I don’t know, am I nice enough?”

He grinned. “Well, you haven’t pissed me off yet.

He hauled out a piece of white card. Wolf boy cartoon

So what do you want me to draw?”

In honor of The Were Chronicles, I requested a Were creature, half boy, half wolf. He quickly drew this hilarious caricature, and then broke me up completely by putting in a speech bubble above the creature he drew, who had an expression of pure comical consternation, which bore the single word,

….Help.”

I took more pictures.

I bought a T-shirt with the picture of a cat drawn WITH NUMBERS. Which portrayed the maths of the Uncertainty Principle. The cat, of course, was Schrodinger’s.

I saw a panel that looked interesting but by the time I decided I wanted in, the panel had been declared full and I was turned away. .

My usual affliction was starting to present itself. Namely, I have wretched feet. No matter what shoe I put on, I will end up with a blister SOMEWHERE. The one I was beginning to cultivate this time was getting painful. I found a first aid station and, like my wolf-boy, I said “…Help.”

No problem,” said the first-aid person. He applied a thin gel-like thing over the enormous blister that had developed on the side of my foot and then put a massive oversize bandage to go over that. “You are definitely not the first person to present yourself here with that problem!” he added cheerfully.

I had a standing dinner engagement back at the hotel with friends, so I retreated from the Center in good time to limp back to the hotel slowly and carefully. After they left, I went back up to my room and finished another book. Yeah I know. I read at the speed of summer lightning…

Day 1 can be found HERE

Tomorrow: Day 3

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Batman and the Redshirt photoI didn’t see this guy at the ECCC.but  I’m sorry I missed him.

Redshirt killed by every character in history

“Go to any big sci-fi convention,” Gavia Baker-Whitelaw writes at Dailydot.com, “and you’re guaranteed to see a few people dressed as the red-shirted security officers from Star Trek’s original series. It’s a simple costume that provides a built-in theme for cosplay photos: getting horribly killed, which was the primary role of Star Trek’s redshirts.

“Cosplayer Tim Adam has perfected the art and has built up a massive gallery of imaginative redshirt death crossovers with other cosplayers from Marvel to Star Wars to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Go to Dailydot.com to read more 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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Goodbye to Giants

What we remember

Only the middle of January and already two giants have chosen this year to wander off into the sunset.
Rickman BowieDavid Bowie and Alan Rickman: photo www.chicagotribune.com

When I first saw the David Bowie headline, I had a quick moment of, ‘Hoax. It MUST be. One of those spoof things that is going to get quickly denied with a hollow laugh and perhaps an apology.’ But no. The first headline was followed by the second, and the third, and the rest, confirming, not denying.

I am not a fanatical follower; if any devoted fans knew that he was sick and ailing, that cancer had him in its claws, I did not. And I, like all too many others, was living in the kind of world where our icons don’t die. They hang there in the sky like a starman smiling down at us. They exist, they have existed, and they will always exist – right until the world changes and they are gone, a last smile fading like a Cheshire Cat’s that is a lingering memory of that fact that we once shared an Earth together, an era, a slice of time and space, even though we never met.

I remember Bowie in many of his incarnations. As I said in my first reaction to his death, he was the guy that made it OKAY for my generation to be weird, made it cool to be weird. He was sexy, and powerful, and dangerous, and talented, and instantly recognizable — and he was ours, he belonged to all of us, collectively, individually.

I remember watching “Labyrinth” for the first time and wishing I could have been Sarah, I could have stepped into Jareth’s arms and have him swing me into that lush music, dance with me in that crowd as though there was nobody else there at all. As the world falls down. Hell yes, I was a romantic. And that was just one aspect of Bowie. But it neither began nor ended there – before and after that there was the Bowie of Major Tom, of Changes, of Under Pressure, of Fame, of Young Americans, of Ziggy Stardust, of Starman.

I wasn’t the kind of fan who hung posters in my teenage bedrooms. But if I had been, there would have been no question about whose it would have been. He left us something huge and priceless. I’m glad I was here to see some if it being made. I’m glad I was part of the generation that lived while he lived, even though I was one of the millions of people who never met him, never even saw him in the flesh. But I was one of the millions who looked upon him with admiration, and with respect.

Yes, I know there have already been those who have dissecting his errors and his sins. That’s not unexpected, in its own way, and I guess it was coming – nobody gets a free pass, or should. But I might have wished for those who wanted to do it to either do it while he was still alive and there to respond if he wanted to, or failing that to have waited at least a week after he was gone before they dragged it all up. There are times to speak, and times not to. He was not – nor ever claimed to be – a saint, and anyone who expected him to be one was sadly ill-informed about life in general. Few of us live our lives unblemished.

I’m sorry he left us so soon. I think he had more to give, and now we will never see or hear it. But there it is – the memory. And in my dreams I will always have that last dance with the Goblin King, holding me as the world falls down.

The second act

And then – barely a handful of days later – another headline. Another “Oh no, it’s gotta be a hoax” which was not one. Alan Rickman. The man of whom I have said that I would listen to a telephone directory if he was the one reading it.

When I was 15 years old and at my English boarding school, they took the entire O Level English class for a field trip to Stratford Upon Avon one time, to see “Antony and Cleopatra”.

What I remembered from that trip, up front, was Glenda Jackson as Cleopatra – the way she walked onto that stage dressed in a plain beige caftan, with pretty much zero make up or accessories – no black-haired wig with dramatic bangs a la Elizabeth Taylor, no jewels, no kohl, no nothing. And within five minutes you would have attacked bodily anyone who so much as hinted that Cleopatra had ever looked anything different than that ginger-haired Englishwoman with close-cropped hair clinging to the shape of her skull and her pale eyebrows and eyelashes fringing English eyes. But that was the star, and that was the memory I took home with me, along with a theatrical program which I had obtained at the time.

Many many years later when I was tidying stuff up I came across that program and realized that I had been given more treasures than I had known at the time. The cast list of that production featured Patrick Stewart… and Alan Rickman.

I had seen Alan Rickman on stage. And it actually HURTS that I have no memory of that at all. If I could kidnap a TARDIS and go back in time this might be one of the moments I would wish to go back to – go back into that auditorium and watch for Alan Rickman as he came on the stage, and remember it.

I really fell in love with the actor and his voice in “Truly, Madly, Deeply”. It was because of him that I went out and bought a volume of Pablo Neruda. He made me laugh and cry in “Galaxy Quest”. He stole the Robin Hood movie from Kevin Costner so spectacularly that it wasn’t even funny. He broke your heart as the nice but clueless husband in “Love, Actually”.  He made one hell of an angel in “Dogma”. And Snape… always. Always. More him than anyone else in that movie, actually. Do I need to go on?

Where’s that phone directory? I have a dire need of a magnficent voice to read it to me. So that I can cry a little, perhaps.

Look, I know all of us are born, and all of us must die – but really – stop, 2016. Just stop. Stop taking people like this before we’re ready to let them go. They were both 69 years old. That’s no age. They had a lifetime still that they should have had to shine in the dark for us. They had so much more to give the world, they had so much more love to receive from it.

My sympathies go first of all to the families who have lost not just an icon but someone they have loved, a part of their hearts. That, first, of course.

But beyond that the world has lost irreplaceable people. And it isn’t even two full weeks into 2016 yet.

Is this the sort of year we can expect, then…? Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow?…

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Shifting the reader’s perspective

Shifter cover‘Shifter, the third book in The Were Chronicles, is now out and at Galleywampus I take a reflective look back on the first series (but not the last, there are more stories to be told in this world.)

I might write fantasy but these books, as one perspicacious reviewer pointed out, are more about being HUMAN than they ever were about non-human “monsters”. In fact, in this book, a lot of the monsters ARE pure human, and the creatures we so love to think of as monstrous are just as fragile and vulnerable as we would be. The enemy is ALWAYS us.

What I write about are the concerns of the human mind, the human body, the human heart, the human soul.

I do not, never have, never will, aim for preaching my own gospel through the bully pulpit of my own fiction. All I do, as the writer, is choose an issue, a problem, an idea, and use the power of story to reveal it, to explain it, to disarm it, perhaps to conquer it through understanding. I always want my stories to have more depth to them than just the surface glitter of pretty sunlight on the surface of water. When I tell a story the underlying stories are always there. Not preachily, not dogmatically, but they’re there. They will always be there.

Read more HERE

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Quote of the Day

“It’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible. Or, what’s impossible? What’s a fantasy?

Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.” ~ Alan Ricknan on the importance of storytelling

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Alma Alexander       My books       Email me
 
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5 Gifts for a writer

Yes there are dozens of things you can throw at writers. They’ll always find a use for notebooks, they’ll love a fancy pen (even if many don’t write with one that often any more), and since writers are all readers, a gift card to a local bookstore would go down like a treat.

But there are… other things. Far more valuable, even though they are intangible and not something solid you can wrap and put underneath a tree. But greatly, greatly appreciated, every time. Ask any writer.

Five gifts for the writer you love this Christmas

1. Visibility

It’s been said that the worst enemy of a writer isn’t plagiarism, it’s oblivion. Do you love a book? Take a picture of it, post it on your social media. Have it in your hand on the subway. Ask for it in a bookstore. Keep the writer’s name in circulation. The more you do, the more people might hear, recognize, go, “Oh, that one. I might try that one…” Give the gift of RECOGNITION.

2. Reviews and recommendations

Follows on from above. Give a book you loved a review – on Amazon, on Goodreads, on Library Thing, on your own blog, or all of the above.

Talk about it to your friends. Tell the world. This is the fabled Word Of Mouth, and it is a treasure beyond price. Every writer is grateful for it because it is pure reader grace, and the genuine article is powerful, and impossible to ‘fake’. Sincere reader appreciation, spread out there for others to see and act upon, is something that is very special to every writer.

Trust me, hearing “I heard about you from a friend, (s)he raves about your work..” is a gift that will warm the cockles of any writer’s heart at ANY time of the year. But right
now, it’s Christmas. This is a gift you can give freely, and give often – and you will make a writer’s day, their week, their YEAR. Talk about books with your friends. Tell them about thei things you’ve read that you liked, ask about their favorites. Talk about a book that helped you in a difficult moment with someone who might be sharing that experience and might find the book special too.

Share. Share share share. Tell the world that you love reading, and what you’ve
recently read that lit up your world.

3. Something tangible – Kickstarters and Patreon.

If you still want something tangible, something that you can actually QUANTIFY, you can go and help a writer friend with something concrete, these days it’s easier than ever.

Support their Kickstarter campaign which is trying to raise money for a new work, a better cover, or a collaborative effort. Find out if your author has a Patreon page, and commit to $2-$5 a month – even if just for a year – to help them with a particular project, or a series they’re trying to get off the ground, or their research, or even just to help feed their feline
companions while the creator is creating. Trust me. It all helps.

4. Direct appreciation

Read a book and loved it? Send the author a note and tell her so.

Writer AloneWriting is a solitary occupation and it is sometimes a very lonely existence. Once our babies leave us and are out there in the wild we know nothing more about their travails. A note from a reader who found one of our books and loved it is a lift to our spirits. And it really helps to keep us writing.

If you’re an artist and feel inspired… well, when I’ve seen fan art of my work, it’s been a revelation and a joy. It’s AWESOME to see the images one’s words have created in someone else’s mind.

Most writers are easy to contact these days via their website or blog. If not, a more traditional note (and man, these days getting a Real Letter in the mail is a treat and a half!) sent through their agent or publisher will reach them. Some of them might even write back to you.

5. Inspiration

Most intangible and ephemeral of all but believe me – it matters. Be out there, be awesome, be readers. Let the writers see that there are people out there who are eager and waiting for new stories. Speak out about how much you love reading. Talk about how a particular book has inspired you, or helped you understand or cope or transcend a difficult time. Inspire everyone who writes to be more, to be better, to rise to meeting the needs and expectations you put out there. Tell us what you’ve found, tell us what you’re seeking, tell us about the things YOU think are important. Tell us about the things you want to see stories being told about. And then watch those stories get born.

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He only wanted to help; instead, he started a war.

‘Shifter’, the stunning conclusion to The Were Chronicles, is here.

Shifter coverSaladin van Schalkwyk, better known as Chalky, was a chimera, both in name and deep into his DNA. He was created but he did not know for what purpose, and the secrets that surrounded his past were too well guarded for him to break through.

So when his friend Mal offered to take the chance of becoming a Lycan in order to infiltrate their ranks and find out the truth for him, he agreed to help. They both learned far more than they had bargained for. And one thing was clear.

Everything he thought he knew about himself was wrong.

Buy it at Amazon HERE

 

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The 24 Best Science Fiction Books Of 2015

Abducticon coverMy first foray into science fiction, AbductiCon, didn’t make it to Buzzfeed’s list but I’m rather pleased with the initial reaction to it.

After all, Hugo winner Robert Sawyer called it “a hilarious and affectionate look at science-fiction conventions, a wondrous mashup of Galaxy Quest and Bimbos of the Death Sun, a fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny treat for SF fans everywhere.”

And Lenora Rain-Lee Good said “”This is truly one of the funniest SF books I’ve read in years.”

Besides, it was a great deal of fun to write.

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As far as Buzzfeed’s list goes, there is one book in particular, from Catherynne Valente, that I’ve been wanting to get to. Maybe I’ll hint it would be a good Christmas gift.

Radiance coverValente
Radiance is dreamy and strange in the best possible way. The whole universe of the book feels like sci-fi “B movies” of the early to mid 20th century, filled with imagery that will remind the reader of early Méliès films. This book is a departure from the other epic space opera fare you’ll find on the rest of this list, but it’s a refreshing change of pace.

See all the books HERE

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Quote of the DayThe Deal Breaker Quote

My fellow said “Books and Me.” So I married him.

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Alma Alexander      My books       Email me

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