Sun of a foreign sky

Crowd-funded stories of war and exile to help refugees

The time has come for the stories from the ragged edges of silence to be given a voice, stories that will shine a light on some of the most painful conditions that a human being can endure: existence as an exile, a migrant, a refugee.

“Children of a Different Sky” is a crowdfunded anthology of short stories and poems from many authors you know – Jane Yolen, Brenda Cooper, Marie Brennan, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Patricia McEwen, Jacey Bedford, Irene Radford — and many others, some of whom may be unfamiliar to you, writers who might have a more intimate, more visceral, connection with the pain of exile.

Any money collected beyond the costs of publication will be donated to organizations working to help the dispossessed human tides of our era.

You can learn more about the project at the crowd-funding website HERE

Still from Alma videoIncluded on the website is my video explaining how it works and why I think it is so necessary. (Another link below)

I am one of the unmoored myself, although I was not driven from home by war like so many recent refugees.

But at age 10 I did leave the country of my birth, the ground where the bones of my ancestors are buried, where their ghosts walk, where a sliver of my spirit lives still, lives always. I understand on a visceral level what it means to be FORCED to leave a place one calls home.

Back in the land I come from, there is a beloved poet called Aleksa Santic, and a beloved and well known poem entitled, “Ostajte ovdje” – “Stay Here”. Young children of my heritage and culture know these lines – they are engraved on the souls of the humans of my nation.

Loosely translated,  with poetic license, they read:

Stay here – the sun of a foreign sky
Will never warm you like this one in your own heaven
Bitter is the bread in that place                                                                                   Where you you’re among strangers and not amongst your brothers.

This anthology is an effort to make sure that the dispossessed are not forgotten. It is my attempt to help save both the souls and the bodies of those who now need us most.

If you marched in any city in the world…if you had the courage and the fury to join the thousands who protested Donald Trump’s heavy-handed refugee/immigrant travel ban in the last days of January 2017, I salute you.

Supporting this crowdfunding effort is another way you can help.

Watch the video and give what you can HERE

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11 Famous Authors Who Were Once Refugees

In a story at Bustle, Charlotte Ahlin writes: “Let’s clear something up right away, though, because some people seem to be confused: refugees are human. 100% of refugees are real, human people trying to survive, like you and your friends… Whether they go on to be famous authors, or Steve Jobs’ parents, or just ordinary, non-famous human people on the planet, every refugee deserves to live in safety.

Refugee author Ishmael Beah book coverIshmael Beah

At age 12, Ishmael Beah fled his home and family following an attack by rebels in Sierra Leone. At age 13, he was picked up by the government army and forced to fight as a child soldier for over two years. Beah was finally rescued by UNICEF, and eventually made his way to the United States, where he is now an author and human rights activist. A Long Way Gone is his harrowing, powerful memoir of his life as a boy soldier.

See all the authors at the Bustle website HERE

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But you didn’t

But You Didn't cartoon

I posted this story and a link to it more than a year ago, but it still keeps getting rediscovered and reopened. It is an incredibly moving poem.

“But You Didn’t” Poem Translated & Illustrated by Chinese Netizen: by Fauna

 

See the whole illustrated poem HERE

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HELP ME WRITE: author illustrationPublishing is in flux and most authors need new sources of income to remain full-time writers. If you would like to help me continue writing about wizards and Weres, Jin-shei sisters, and girls who rise from the gutter to become an Empress, consider pitching in with a small monthly pledge. For the cost of a latte or two you too can become a patron of the arts.

Details on how you can help can be found HERE

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Quote of the Day

Blind is a man without a book ~ Icelandic proverb

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Children of a Different Sky

Telling the stories of war and exile

The time has come for the stories from the edge of darkness, from the ragged edges of silence, to be given a voice, and through that voice, the help that is so sorely needed. What I have to offer as a writer and a teller of tales is a way to shine a light into some of the most painful conditions that a human being can endure:

The almost impossible to comprehend existence as an exile, as a migrant, as a refugee.

Children of a Different Sky” will be a crowdfunded anthology which will provide a stage on which those stories can be presented to the world… and also, as a crowdfunded charity anthology, to collect donations which will be passed on to organizations working to help the dispossessed human tides of our era.

This project is a collection of stories, some by authors you might recognize quickly; others, from perhaps unfamiliar writers who might have a more intimate, more visceral, connection with the subject matter.

I am one of the unmoored myself, although not one of those truly adrift. I have never been forced out of a home, or a country, or made to go to strange places I could not understand, against my wishes, terrified and frozen.

But I did leave the country of my birth aged 10, never to live there again. This does not mean I ceased to love it – this is the ground where the bones of my ancestors are buried, where their ghosts walk. This is the place where the river I love so much runs eternally between shores of mud and thistle and weeping willow, the place where a sliver of my spirit lives still, lives always. So I understand, on that visceral level, what it means to be FORCED to leave a place one calls home.

I feel for the children whose memories involve bombs and fire and fury and guns and bullets and dust and blood and loss and grief. I feel for the emptiness I see blossoming behind their eyes, underneath the pain, the inability to understand why such things can be. I understand the way a child might feel when torn apart from those first precious friendships with one’s peers, from the security and warmth of a family home; when witnessing the carnage of a hot war blowing up around them, destroying everything they have ever believed to be true, like a dragon breathing a plume of flame on their lives and leaving ashes behind.

And I wonder what I can do. What I, and those like me, can do.

Well, what we can do is tell stories.

Not THEIR stories – those are theirs to tell, some day, maybe. But stories like theirs. Stories which will reach out and tell other people about the truth of their lives, through the “lies” of fiction, of fantasy. We can shine a light, we who create art, into the dark places of this world. That is what we are for. That is what we do. What we want to do. What we NEED to do

Back in the land I come from, there is a beloved poet called Aleksa Santic, and a beloved and well known poem entitled, “Ostajte ovdje” – “Stay Here”. Young children of my heritage and culture know these lines – they are engraved on the souls of the humans of my nation. They are these:

Ostajte ovdje – sunce tudjeg neba
Nece vas grijat k’o sto ovo grije.
Gorki su tamo zalogaji hljeba
Gde svoga nema i gde brata nije.

Loosely translated,  with poetic license, they read:

Stay here – the sun of a foreign sky
Will never warm you like this one in your own heaven
Bitter is the bread in that place
Where you you’re among strangers and not amongst your brothers.

We who were born under that sun, understand.

And this book, this collection, this effort to gather the stories and to make sure that they are not forgotten, this is my attempt to help save both the souls and the bodies of those who now need us most.

The vast majority of the money raised by this crowdfunding project will be passed on to several agencies who work with and offer aid to the refugees of our era. They used to be Jewish and Gypsie children running from the German Reich; today, they might be Syrian kids running from the ruins of Aleppo or Yazidi women fleeing enslavement in the darkness of cultural recidivism;

Tomorrow, they might be ourselves.

If you marched in any city in the world where like-minded people gathered together… if you had the courage and the fury to follow your passion by being one of the thousands who streamed to America’s airports after Donald Trump’s heavy-handed blow of the refugee/immigrant travel ban in the last days of January 2017… if you spent your precious time on the phone to your representatives decrying the injustices of the new era… I salute you, and I love you all, very much.

If you could not march or raise your voices in the “No Fear/NoHate” cries at the airport or your voice strangles in your throat if you have to speak on the phone to a stranger… there are always ways to make your stand.

Supporting this crowdfunding effort, throws your support both towards the writers and artists and other publishing professionals who made this happen, and in the days of defunding the arts that also is a statement of defiance, and makes certain that you have been a part in funneling much needed funds to organizations which work directly with the lost and the dispossessed.

If you want to help — as an author, illustrator, someone who cares — write to me HERE

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Tea and a good book

My novel, ‘The Secrets of Jin-shei’, was first published more than a decade ago and it made quite a splash at the time. It was published in 13 languages, got rave reviews in many unexpected quarters, and it was a bona fide bestseller in Spain.
 
I’m sure it is out of print some places, but Germany is no longer one of them. It is being reprinted as I speak.

Just the other day I came across an unusual reference to the book from the Tea Blog, “Official Blog of the English Tea Store.”
 
cover The Secrets of Jin-sheiAt the English Tea Store you can, or at least you used to be able to, buy “Oolong Orange Blossom Tea. And, learn all about ‘The Secrets of Jin-shei’, illustrated with my favorite of all the covers, the hardcover from the HarperCollins US edition. There was text that read in part:
 
Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea that is only partly fermented, giving it an in-between character that lacks the bitterness and body of black tea, yet is richer and rounder than a conventional green. English Tea Store’s Oolong Orange Blossom Estate Tea is a particularly satisfying rendition of this Far East treat, with the gentle addition of the essence of orange blossoms…

In The Secrets of Jin-Shei, a novel by Alma Alexander, we are swept into (a) mythical Chinese kingdom , steeped in tradition and culture, that beckons us to pause, and to breathe in deeply. In the novel, we learn of the covert written language jin-ashu, the woman’s tongue, taught for generations from mother to daughter to allow a woman to reveal the dreams and desires deeply held in her heart. It is through these words that sister-bonds are formed….

Be patient in brewing Oolong Orange Blossom Tea, to give it the time it needs to unfurl into the richness of its character. And there’s no need to sweeten; it brings its own honeyed aftertaste. As well, give The Secrets of Jin-Shei time to reveal the depths of its characters and the fulfillment of its own sweet promise.

As tea-and-novel companions, Oolong Orange Blossom Tea and The Secrets of Jin-Shei are a most honorable match.

You can see the original story HERE

or HERE

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The horror that never ends

In The Guardian, celebrated correspondent Janine di Giovanni has selected

The top 10 books of war reportage

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

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

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

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

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

“Reasonably,” I said, “I wrote it.”

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

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

I’ll drink to THAT, at least.

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

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

Read the whole story HERE

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The Suicide Note as Literary Genre

William Turner painting

William Turner painting

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

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

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

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

Read the whole story HERE

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Adult dolls. Not for children – and NSFW

Cinderella 14 260x150

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

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

See all the dolls at Design You Trust HERE

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THIS & THAT

Teams of Tiny Robots Can Move 2-Ton Car

Ant Size Robot photoMicrorobots Video by bdmlstanford

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

Read the whole story HERE

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Quote of the Day

David Bowie Quote poster

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Bridge to history

One of the formative reading experiences of any child of my background and culture is the book “The Bridge on the Drina” by Ivo Andric.

Bridge on the Drina

 

It was a seminal work of historical fiction which goes to the heart of the formation of the melting pot that became a country called Yugoslavia in which I was born.  Andric won a Nobel Prize for Literature, for that and other works – but to most of the world it was a just a good book. To those of us who read it from the inside, it was searing. It was a reminder of a long and bloody history whose tentacles reach right to the present day and still pack a poisoned punch.

 

Letters-from-the-FireMany many years after Andric wrote his book, I co-authored a novel with the man I subsequently married called “Letters from the Fire”, whose subject matter was yet another war fought on that embattled piece of land that was once my country. Amelia Batistich, a New Zealand writer of some note and of Croatian ancestry, phoned me shortly after it was published to thank me for writing it.

Her true gift to me were the words that followed.

“It is the ‘Bridge on the Drina’ of our times.”

And to this day, the idea that I might have come close to emulating what Andric did for my people and my past makes me want to cry with humility, and with pride. And yes, sometimes the two can stand hand in hand and smiling at one another.
Drina BridgeWatch a video about the town, the book, and the bridge HERE

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Reading loveI mean, I love reading ALL YEAR, but what the hell – just go for it – and I DO have some brand new books for people to pick up after all 🙂

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What should I do?

Last year I went to the Rainforest Writing Retreat on the shores of beautiful Lake Quinault and wrote up a quiet storm – a large chunk of the novel then in progress, before I was blindsided by a short story which I had to write down right there.

I am going to try to do it again this year, even while aware that life, as has been famously said, is what happens when you’re making other plans

I am thinking about projects to concentrate on while I am there, and I have decided to see if all y’all have any preferences as to what you might want to see emerge FIRST.

The options:

1) The novel I wrote there last year was “Wolf”, the second book in the Were Chronicles series. That’s coming out in May. The third book, Shifter, is due by the end of the year.  publication date of end of this yea. BUT…

…there are other stories that have presented themselves in that universe. I’ve just sketched out a few notes, so far. But this might be a good time to launch into the first of those…?

2) Another Fat Historical Fantasy is long overdue and I have one in the wings waiting there very patiently. This is a distinct possibility. I could dive in and let the waters of this thing close over my head and not come up for air until it’s time to leave. And it will be a Big. Fat. Historical. Fantasy. Think Jin Shei.

3) Finishing up a half-written stand-alone fantasy which has been dropped several times. There are good bones there, and it might be time to put some flesh on them.

4) I am putting together a themed short story collection. Some of the stories are done but I need six or seven more. I could have a more or less finished collection ready by the time I leave the retreat.

So – what do you think? Vote in the comments, for #1,#2,#3, or #4. And I will take it under advisement… you have the rest of this month to make your opinions known. Which door…?

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Dawn of MagicDawn is here
There’s a Goodreads page for the final book in the Worldweavers series, Dawn of Magic, for your reading and reviewing pleasure.

See the Goodreads page HERE

You can buy it at Amazon in either paperback or ebook.

While it’s like choosing your favorite child, I have to admit that it IS my favorite of the four books in the series. Go read, enjoy, leave me LOTS of reviews…

Buy Dawn of Magic HERE

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8 tips for studying smarter

The way most students study makes no sense, two psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis say, according to a story by Joseph Stromberg at Vox.

Rereading an assignment, for example, is useless.
University student studying in library.Photofusion/UIG via Getty Images

Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel have spent a combined 80 years studying learning and memory, and recently distilled their findings with novelist Peter Brown in the book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

Read what works and what doesn’t HERE

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Is Being a Writer a Job or a Calling?

Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens discuss whether being a writer is just a job or a loftier ambition.

Benjamin Moser:
Benjamin MoserThere is something dreary about wanting writing to be a real job. The sense of inner purpose…distinguishes a writer from a hack. Emily Dickinson didn’t turn her calling into a job, and neither did Franz Kafka…or any of the millions of writers who have never earned a penny for their thoughts. A defrocked priest forever remains a priest, and a writer — independent of publication or readership or “career” — is always a writer. Independent, even of writing. Writing, after all, is something one does. A writer is something one is.  (Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson )

Dana Stevens:
Dana StevensI still remember the moment I decided to be a writer — or, as I distinctly sensed it at the time, realized I would become one. I was between 7 and 8 years old, sitting in the lowest forking branch of a huge sycamore…I was thinking…the fact that books, those miraculous receptacles of meaning pulled off the shelf each night, were just objects created by people, and that when I grew up, I could conceivably be one of the people responsible for making them. Before that “could” was fully formulated in my mind, it had become a “would” — one day, this would somehow be my job. (Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson )

Read the rest HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Well played

Native American Council Offers Amnesty to 240 Million Undocumented Whites

Read the story HERE

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Beware the robots

Brain surgeons, at least, don’t need to fear robots taking their jiob.

Or do they?

Scientists have recently developed a way to use a laser guided robotic arm that enters the brain through a tiny hole in the skull, then use nanoparticles to remove the cancerous tumor, leaving the healthy cells untouched. The process is still go through clinical trials.

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Meet the ultimate WikiGnome

One Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake

Read the article HERE

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Quote of the Day
Saved by a squirrell~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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The Random World

There is a new world out there, a vivid and complex world full of Were creatures and normal humans living in an uneasy alliance.

It’s where my new series, The Were Chronicles, takes place and the first book, Random, is now available — just in time for Christmas, for all you book lovers.

This new world is populated by far more Were creatures than the traditional Werewolf or Vampire bat. In the world of The Were Chronicles, there are Weremice, Werecrows, even Werechickens. In fact, there are Weres of virtually all kinds of warm-blooded creatures, mammals and birds.

There are also New Moon Weres, who don’t Turn at the full moon, but when it’s not visible in the sky, and Randoms, who can turn into the last creature they saw as the change was coming on them.

The Weres share this world with the normals, living lives of not quite quiet desperation. They are tolerated, but face constant discrimination and bullying. They are carefully regulated, forced to live in isolation or even imprisonment during their Turns, and forced to carry identity cards stamped with a dehumanizing paw print.

The tensions between the two groups constantly threatens to erupt into open warfare.

Random has been out in e-book form for a short time now; the paperback edition will be released just after Christmas. But if you would like to give one as a Christmas gift, may I suggest that you preorder it (see links below) and stuff a note in your favorite reader’s stocking that it is on the way.

Random, The Were ChroniclesMy name is Jazz Marsh.

I am a Random Were, which means I am a Were of no fixed form – like all Random Were, my family can become any warm-blooded creature which is the last thing they see before they Turn.

For me, when my time came, that meant… trouble.

I was quite young when I lost my older sister, Celia, and my family never spoke about her. It was only when I found the secret diaries that she had left behind that I began to discover the truth behind her life and her death.

I never understood what drove my moody and dangerous older brother until I began to get an inkling about his part in Celia’s death… and until, driven to the edge of patience and understanding, he finally had to face his own Turn problems… and disastrously took matters into his own hands.

One thing is clear.

Everything I thought I knew about Were-kind was wrong.

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Where you can buy Random

Dark Quest Books

Amazon

Amazon ebook

Barnes & Noble

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What readers and reviewers say

You will never read another shapeshifter book like this. Every surprise will catch you unwary. And, like me, you will find that others will have to pry it out of your fingers.” ~ Tamora Pierce, bestselling author

Random isn’t just a story about shapeshifters, it’s a story about humanity. It’s about what it means to be a member of a family, a culture, a race…what really made me fall in love with Random is the way Alexander writes. There’s a beauty to her language, an intelligence and insight.” ~ Angela’s Library, review blog

It’s about were-kind, but it’s so much more. It’s about finding your place in your family, your country, your world. It’s about prejudices, and _human_ rights, and love of your family. It’s deceptively easy to read, because it’s a complex story, clever and intelligent…” ~ Maggie Forest

The experience of being an immigrant, the experience of being different, the experience of being treated unfairly by self-righteous authority and being powerless to do anything about it, are all here, beautifully depicted, unflinchingly described, shown with all their terrible consequences.”  ~ Mike Reeves-McMillan

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The next two books in the series, Wolf, and Shifter will be out in 2015 from Dark Quest Books.

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Quote of the day

Jorge Luis Borges~~~~~
Alma Alexander       My books       Email me

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Famous Last Words

 

Tolkien Grave   Many years ago, I went to visit the grave of J. R. R. Tolkien in Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford. It took some finding in amogst the sea of Polish dead in the Catholic part of the cemetery, but I did find it and stood before the gravestone of the man who gave us the greatest fantasy of all time, and his wife.It had just their names and the dates and then, underneath each name, one word. “Beren”, under his, “Luthien”, under hers.His great immortal love story – or mortal love story, if you want to see it that way – Luthien the Elven Princess who gave up her immortality to be with her love, the mortal Beren, so that they both could die – because she did not want to live forever without him.

Just those names. And a whole love story – in real life – is told. Without another word.

I stood by the gravestone in silence for a moment because I could think of nothing to think except “thank you”. And in the stillness of the air between the graves a touch of a a breeze stirred the leaves on the trees, the lightest of touches on my hair, the faintest of whispers, as though the Professor was saying, “You’re welcome…”

At Flavorwire, Emily Temple has selected 15 other epitaphs of famous authors — from the tongue-in-cheek to the ponderously serious, from the knightly to the poetic, and even one that doubles as a grave robber’s curse.
Charles Bukowski[Image via]

“Don’t try.”  Not as depressing as it seems:Charles Bukowski explained the phrase in a 1963 letter: “Somebody … asked me: ‘What do you do? How do you write, create?’ You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: ‘not’ to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.”

Read the article

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11 Great New York Moments From Books

New York City is unlike any other place in the world. Love it or hate it (or both, as the case may be), the people, places, and even smells are totally one of a kind, Leah Butterfield writes in Bustle.

The books on this list were written at various times throughout the city’s history, but they all contain those quintessential, only-in-NYC moments that make New Yorkers feel all mushy and sentimental.
Here is New YorkE.B. White ponders the three types of New York in Here is New York: The entirety of this short book is devoted to New York City as E.B. White experienced it in the summer of 1948. Many of his ruminations still ring true, like his claim that there are “roughly three New Yorks”: New York for the born-and-raised folks, the commuter’s New York, and New York for those who were born elsewhere and came to the city “in quest of something.” White found the third one to be the most important, crediting the spirit and passion of outsiders with the city’s major achievements and productivity.

Read the article

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10 Lessons from Real-Life Revolutions that Fictional Dystopias Ignore

Dystopias are glorified just as much as utopias are, and they are just as unlikely to be monolithic. The world is built of alternating bricks that consists of both. And the truth is, uncomfortable though that may be, that every single thing can be seen as one or the other. It depends on your point of view.

In io9, Esther Inglis-Arkell offers 10 lessons from real-life rebellions against repressive regimes that she wishes the creators of fictional dystopias would pay attention to.

Take #7 for example:
Two Downtrodden Groups Will Usually Be Fighting Each Other
Civil warIn the American Civil War, both the Union and the Confederacy had conscription but exceptions to both were contingent upon wealth. Those on the Union side could pay to keep from joining the army. Confederate men were excused as long as they owned a certain number of slaves. Wealth was, then as now, tied to political power, meaning that the wealthy people had steered the course to war in the first place.  As the saying at the time goes, the Civil War was “a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.”

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THAT

Whereabouts? Each of us has acquired a new line in our celestial address, Michael Quinion writes in his delightful newsletter World Wide Words.

As every school kid knows, our address is:
Name, Street, City, Country, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, Universe

Now insert between Milky Way and Universe  – Laniakea.

Brent Tully and his colleagues at the University of Hawaii have given this name to the supercluster of about 100,000 galaxies to which our own galaxy, the Milky Way, belongs. The team took the name from the Hawaiian words lani, heaven, and akea, spacious or immeasurable.”

Read the newsletter

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Smells take us back in time

The smell of new unsharpened pencils takes me back to my grandfather’s desk, where he kept a box of them in a drawer. He was a teacher for four decades and more and a writer for longer than that. Pencils were a part of all that he was – that smell of virgin lead, full of promise and of future memories as yet unborn. The pencil before it was thrust into the sharpener and formed into a point that could make marks on paper. The smell… of POTENTIAL.

I keep a box of my grandfather’s unsharpened pencils on my own desk.

I remember the smell of a particular kind of glue. Not every kind, but the kind that came in plastic pots which had a plastic “pocket” on the inside where a tiny plastic spatula lived which you used to scrape up the glue from the pot and shovel it onto crepe paper and put together the kind of sloppy messy joyful senseless projects we did in kindergarten. That glue, and crepe paper. Particularly red crinkly crepe paper. Two distinct smells – and I’m five again, messing about in a room with child-sized benches and blunt scissors and the laughter of small children.

Lilacs. And hyacinths. And my grandmother walks beside me once again.

The first tickle of frost in the air that tells you that summer is really over, fall is here and winter is coming.

And horrible smells. The smell of tar, which makes my throat close up at the back and my breath choke in my throat. The slightly sweet rotten smell of a long-term sickroom. That bile-inducing moment when you’re cleaning up your cat’s little present before someone else steps in it and the smell reminds you of what it feels  like to feel nauseous.

The path to our thoughts and our memories so often leads straight through our noses..
Smell(Copyright: Science Photo Library)

Smell is the oldest sense, having its origins in the rudimentary senses for chemicals in air and water – senses that even bacteria have, Tom Stafford says at the BBC. Before sight or hearing, before even touch, creatures evolved to respond to chemicals around them.

Read the article

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Quote of the Day

Never laugh at live dragons.” ~  J.R.R. Tolkien

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Alma Alexander
My books

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