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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Just what is YA?

Children’s Book Week – June 12-16

When books were just books

When I was growing up, there was no such thing as “young adult” as a marketing niche.

In my house, there were just books. Never was I told that any of those books were not for me. I was reading fully “grown-up” literature when I was 7. I read my mother’s Pearl Buck collection before I was 10 and I didn’t have any difficulty with any of it.

Children who are encouraged to read and permitted to read will find their own level. They might well enjoy today’s “age-appropriate” middle grade or YA offerings, But then, if the books are good enough, so will many people who have long since left their teens behind. A good story can be read by anybody who loves to read, from age 12 to 92, without any artificial age boundaries in there.

And I’m using 12 as a beginning with a distinct sense that it is fungible. There are precocious readers who can read this stuff much younger, as I did, The relationship between a book and its reader is always very individual and specific and quite often unpredictable.

Age distinctions are a recent development, and since their arrival we have had kidlit fragment into picture books for VERY young readers, chapter books, middle grade, YA, New Adult.

People are constantly asking where are the lines? And that is a good question because it simply isn’t true that a young protagonist is all that it takes for a book to be YA. You could look at “Lolita” through that lens and because it has a young girl center stage – she’s even the title – you might throw a wholly undeserved YA label on it.

For a long time Harry Potter was pretty much THE YA genre. Everyone knew about Harry. And a generation grew up having picked up the first book when they were Harry’s age and then aged concurrently with it, adding their years just as Harry did his.

But the Harry Potter books and movies are very much a ladder and the first one feels almost simplistic. The subsequent books are much darker, much more complicated while still rated YA. Young readers are expected to cope with a very broad range of material, and this is often underestimated when it comes to “children’s literature”. Children can understand so very much – especially if you root it in familiar tropes.

My first YA series

Worldweavers coversThe first series I wrote for a YA audience was Worldweavers (“Gift of the Unmage”, “Spellspam”, “Cybermage”, “Dawn of Magic”) It was born out of a YA panel at the 2002 Fantasy Worldcon, where Jane Yolen, the grande dame of children’s lit, said at one point that she didn’t like the way the Potter books treated their girls. I lost the rest of the panel completely because that was all it took for Thea Winthrop to step out of the shadows and introduce herself to me.

Her story had all the tropes. Thea went to a school known as the Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent, a place for the weird and geekish in her magical world. Thea was a Double Seventh, the seventh child of two seventh children, and her magical gifts were expected to be profound. Instead, she grew up as the Girl Who Couldn’t Do Magic.

It wasn’t that she was bad at magic in her magical world – she could not do it at all. To her, it was like she was standing behind a glass wall, unable to reach or touch or practice it. The reason behind that initial paralysis drove the whole series.

I peopled my book with three different kinds of creatures.

There are humans, much like us who can’t do magic. And there are those who can. And some of the magic users were rather famous in our own world, like Nikola Tesla, known widely as the Wizard of the West during his life and, when he appears in my books, the only quad-Elemental mage in human history.

The second group group of creatures are those I wholly invented, like my Alphiri. They look like Tolkien’s elves but have the grasping souls of Star Trek’s Ferengi and a built-in conviction that everything is for sale.

The third group of creatures are drawn from the American mythos – creatures like Grandmother Spider, and Tawaha the Sun God, and Coyote the Trickster.

I wove a story around them all – a story which revolved around one thing: about Thea’s coming of age, and into her own.

In fact, she becomes powerful indeed – becomes something quite unique (no spoilers; you’ll have to read the books to find out what.) But this doesn’t happen overnight, or easily. There are things she has to be willing to sacrifice on her road to the apex of her existence. She has to be willing to offer things she cherishes deeply, in order to save a friend. And then in order to save her world, she has to make tough choices that will haunt her for the rest of her life. By the end of these books, my little girl is a little girl no longer. She is a grown, fully developed human being.

That is not to say she has become perfect – but that is not the point of a YA book. It is not to tell a young reader that one has to be flawless in order to survive. It is to assure them that flaws are inevitable, even necessary, but that it is possible to transcend them, or incorporate them into one’s being, and grow through that process.

Thea Winthrop is an amazing character who was a gift to work with. She is fourteen when we first meet her, and she is the perfect insecure teenager, one who disappoints her parents and knows it and is made miserable by it. She doesn’t quite know how to make it right. This is familiar territory to many young readers, who don’t live in a world of magic but who have, in their time, known that look of disappointment on their elders’ faces and have quailed at it. They will be standing right there next to Thea when she has her experiences. They understand – and they will be waiting for her to deal with that burden, to see how she does it, to see if they can learn something about how to deal with their own.

I wrote a book and series about choices and about growing up DIFFERENT and how to handle it all, even when you have to do it with fear, or with reluctance, or with only just enough grace to scrape by. And also with joy – the joy of discovery of one’s real identity, one’s real potential. The joy of friendship. The joy of learning, and of growing wise. And also the bitterness of betrayal, and the agony of failure, and what sometimes feels the almost unbearable burden of survival against the odds. It’s about proving something, both to oneself and to others.

In some ways, that journey is the best of “children’s literature” – the coming of age stories – and there are many out there, from Susan Cooper, to Madeleine L’Engle, to C S Lewis, to J K Rowling and the Potterverse. And I’m not talking about just fantasy. There are plenty of authors over there in the REAL “real” world who tell stories that could well have happened in our own real lives. But is something like “Stand by Me” or “The Outsiders” truly limited to a YA audience? Can the people who might already have passed the finish line of the “coming of age” race and are acknowledged as fully adult not be allowed to look back and remember the road they travelled to get there, in the worlds of “children’s literature”?

It’s all about the story

The best of children’s literature is basically a good story which can be enjoyed by a reader of any age. In the end, what it boils down to is whether your young reader can stand beside a character in a story, stand beside them and support them, at the same time stand beside them and learn from them what is possible, what is permitted and what is unthinkable – and why.

“Children’s literature” is formative, introducing the young to the realms of Story where they will either flourish and thrive or where they will founder – and foundering is easy enough, if the readers in question are bullied or forced into books. A fostered love of reading is essential when it comes to staying in love with the written word.

In my books, that translates into a certain complexity of story. Thea’s tale is layered and complicated, just like any “real” growing up would have been. I paint relationships there – very different ones – relationships where she is very much the acolyte, relationships where she is the adversary, and relationships where she is loved and cherished.

They are all necessary for the story to get woven together. They form as complex a backdrop as any “real” life might, and the reason they are necessary and the reason they work are the same – they sparkle with recognition, with tiny glittering pieces which a reader might pause and take a closer look at and find something very familiar in them, perhaps a reflection of themselves.

When we are adults, we assume that we understand the world we live in and are able to deal with what it throws at us because we are familiar with the context of it all. In “Children’s literature” the protagonist is just starting to come to terms with a world – that is often baffling and sometimes frightening.

That is what makes the Worldweavers books the “youngest” books I have ever written, not because of a simplistic measure like the age of their protagonist but because this isn’t about a journey finished and now remembered, being, instead, about the journey AS IT HAPPENS, counting the steps it takes to cross a room, a river, or a world. The young readers of such books are sharing that journey themselves, in real time, and that is why a good “kid” book is going to appeal to them – they will recognize themselves in the protagonist and that protagonist’s position in the story they’re reading.

In the space of a few short days devoted to a Children’s Literature Week, it is impossible to cover all the books that matter in this context – but what is important is simply this: that there are certain books which are The Beginning, the origin station for a lifelong journey into the world of the word. And that is to be celebrated.

My second YA series is The Were Chronicles – but that’s for another time.

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Quote of the Day

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you have been.” ~ Novelist Madeleine L’Engle

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Girls can. Girls SHOULD

How Thea Winthrop became the world’s greatest wizard

Back in 2002, back when Harry Potter WAS the YA genre – (Number One, and then twenty empty spaces behind it before the next contender), I attended that year’s World Fantasy Convention.

At that time, I had no real interest in paddling in the YA pool. My writing was aimed at an adult readership, not least because of the way I have always used language, rich and lush and peppered with words that might send some readers to a dictionary.

But then I heard Jane Yolen say during a panel discussion that she had never particularly liked the way that the Potter books had treated girls. I missed the rest of the panel because I was sitting in the back with a story flowering in my head. A story as American as Harry Potter was British. A story not about a boy but a GIRL…a girl named Thea Winthrop.

The story became the Worldweavers trilogy, published by HarperCollins.

Spellspam HarperCollins coverThea was a rare thing, a Double Seventh, a seventh child of two seventh children. In her world, her potential was unlimited, and its manifestation eagerly awaited. Except that she…COULDN’T. It wasn’t even that she was BAD at magic, it was that she couldn’t do ANY.

As a final attempt at triggering something, her father sends her back in time to the tender mercies of a shaman from a long vanished tribe, the Anasazi. Cheveyo of the Anasazi awakens something long sleeping in Thea, and introduces her to the world of the Elder Days and ancient magic rooted in Native American lore.

It is this that becomes the first part of the solid bedrock on which Thea learns to take a stand. That took up most of the first book, “The Gift of the Unmage” – that, and this glorious concept of the Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent, a school where untalented children of magical families are warehoused, safely out of the way of their more endowed siblings.

The second part of Thea’s coming of age is her unexpected ability to channel something that looks very like magic through computers. In her world, computers are almost the only thing that is proof against magic – they are practical and rooted in the empirical world, and they have been used to store magic spells because it’s safer than storing them in the classic grimoire books. Magic locked up inside a computer was supposedly tamper proof and escape proof.

Until that stops being the case. In the second book, “Spellspam”, the spam familiar to all of us start bearing real live spells. In the opening scene of that book,  an email offering “The clearest skin you can ever imagine” delivers precisely that – skin that turns TRANSPARENT. (Oh, I had fun with these.) It seems that Thea is no longer the only one who can tamper with magic through computers. There Is Another. And she is roped in to help find that other, and stop them.

In the process of doing this, a white cube is found that is clearly full of magic but which nobody can figure out how to open. Until Thea does in the third Worldweavers book, Cybermage, and discovers Nikola Tesla, the only human Wizard who could command all four of the elements, Air, Water, Earth, and Fire.

Thea helps Nikola Tesla, who had been tricked into losing his Elemental magic to regain it in the face of attempts of the grasping greedy race called the Alphiri (think High Elves with the souls of Star Trek’s Ferengi) to steal it for themselves. The Alphiri are defeated, Nikola Tesla is redeemed, and Thea finds her place in the world.

That seemed to be the end of it, a nice tidy place to finish, except… that it wasn’t.

Some years later a fourth book would come knocking, demanding to be written, the rest of Thea’s story, taking the whole tale neatly back to its beginnings. “Dawn of Magic” concludes the Worldweavers saga in epic fashion, and is one of my favorites amongst my books, because of the way that the main triad of characters – Thea, Tesla, and Coyote the Trickster who goes by the name of Corey – carry the story.

This book is all about human magic, and what it is, and what it means, and where it hides. There is a luminousness to it, a quiet shine.

Going back to that panel in 2002… I wrote a book about American magic, about an American girl. I wrote that book that Jane Yolen whispered about between the lines in that panel. I wrote a book about the GIRL who had the adventures. And it was good. Girls can. Girls SHOULD.

Thea Winthrop was nobody’s sidekick – she went out and grasped things with her own two hands. She didn’t follow – she sometimes walked beside (one can’t do better than that, with Nikola Tesla), but more often than that, she was in the lead. She did the difficult things that others shied from doing, and lived with the consequences. She could be hurt. She could falter. She could fall. But she had known the bitter taste of defeat once, and she would never go back there again.

The books, when they came out, garnered two very different sets of reviews. On the heels of the fade of the HP phenomenon, some reviewers came up with various iterations of “For those suffering from Harry Potter withdrawal, this is just the ticket”, implying that the books were more of the same HP juggernaut stuff.

Others begged to differ and specifically described the books as wholly original, owing nothing to Harry Potter. Either way, they were hitting SOME sort of target.

Because Thea isn’t (yet?) a household name, you will gather that they didn’t hit the HP bullseye. But for those who found and treasured them, the books seemed to find a very special niche.

Thea Winthrop was the girl who held her own against anybody.

There would be absolutely no problem in the way the Worldweavers books treated girls. They treated them as equals, as worthy, as real. These books treat girls as people. And I’m proud of that.

The essay in full can be read at the Book View Cafe HERE

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At BuzzFeed, Chelsey Pippin offers us

27 Literary Prints To Hang In Your Home Library

“For all the wallspace that isn’t already taken up by bookshelves.”
Books Are Dreams Neil Gaiman wall hangingSee them all at Buzzfeed HERE

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Quote of the Day
Who Won the West? posterIt all depends…

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DON’T READ THAT!

It’s YA; aren’t you embarrassed to be caught with that book?

First of all… repeat after me: “There is no such thing as ‘YA LITERATURE‘.”

There isn’t. Not really. Not specifically. The category was created, whole-cloth, as a marketing niche for those who wanted to capture a particular kind of readership. But let’s unpack that a little bit.

1) Kids tend to read “older”. That is, they like protagonists older than they are. Ten-year-olds will yearningly read about teens. Young teens will read about older teens. Older teens… well, most of them will read adult literature.

In short, any book marked as a YA book is going to be read, at least at first, by young teens.

2) Quite often the people who actually PURCHASE books for young(er) readers are not those readers themselves but parents, grandparents and other adults who are paying the money and making the choices. Yes, they will choose the books that they think their kids are likely to enjoy, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is the adults who are choosing.

And those adults might well have a personal stake in what they choose.

3) I have written books with young protagonists that have been marketed as YA.

Girl Reading WordweaversMy heroine in the Worldweavers books starts out aged 14, and is 16 at the conclusion of the final book. In The Were Chronicles my POV characters are 14, 17, 19+. Both series deal with serious, some life changing, situations.

The Worldweavers books have been marketed as for “12 and up”, and The Were Chronicles for possibly slightly older teens – but these are books that have been read by 9-year-olds at one end and by grown ups of a range of ages at the other, and enjoyed by all of them according to reader responses that I am getting.

And here’s the truth of it: these were books WRITTEN for all of those readers. A good story is a good story and can be enjoyed by anyone from 10 to 100. A reader will find their own level, a place where they are reading things they understand and enjoy. This means that I am perfectly fine with younger readers reaching for a slightly “older” book, and I am also more than happy when a reader who is beyond – often well beyond – the “YA” criterion reaches for the same book.

Those readers are likely getting different things from the same novel, and that is absolutely fine. But just because something is flung out there with a warning label that screams “YA LIT AHEAD! PICK UP AT YOUR OWN PERIL!” is absolutely no reason for ANY reader to avoid it, whether for being “too young” or “too old” for it.

Readers, hearken! My books are for all of you. As one reviewer so perfectly put it, my books are for everyone who is or might once have been a child. Read freely, regret
nothing, and choose to read whatever you wish without knuckling under to the stigma of reading “outside of your age range”, of what has always been no more than a marketing label designed to sell more books.

Read. All the stories are yours.

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Another blogger had some interesting thoughts on this. Austin Hackney wrote:

“…an article I recently came across in Slate vilifying adults who read young adult or children’s literature rubbed me up so far the wrong way that I simply had to write this if only to let off some steam. And mix up a few metaphors while I’m at it. I’m not going to link to it. If you want to read it you can find it for yourself…

“No matter what the self-appointed cultural guardians at Slate may think, the facts speak for themselves. All the recent surveys I’ve been able to find suggest that well over 55% of the readership for YA literature is made up of people 18 years old and up. Namely, adults..quite frankly some of the very best writing in English today is categorized by the publishing houses and the booksellers as being for the young adult market.”

Read more at Austin Hackney blog HERE

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The page 69 quiz

Reader selecting book photoCan you identify the classic book from a single paragraph? 69 is a big number: in 1969, man walked on the moon. Bryan Adams had a summer. At the age of 69, Marshall McLuhan died, leaving behind his theory of how to choose a book: if you like what’s on page 69, chances are you’ll like the rest too. Can you pick these page 69s?

From what book did this passage come?
“Boleyn is still smiling. He is a poised, slender man; it takes the effort of every tuned muscle in his body to keep the smile on his face.”

I personally liked this item because I never could figure out why the book in question worked. But it did. BTW, I won’t tell you how I did on the rest of the quiz.

Take the quiz at The Guardian website HERE

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Quote of the Day
Book Reviews poster

Once upon a time, at the bright dawn of my career, I had an international megahit. A few other books went international, but nothing like the Blessed Book, “The Secrets of Jin Shei”. I’ve written LOTS more books since then and some of them – just as worthy – have been lagging in the review department. If you read them, and liked them, mosey on to Amazon and tell the world…

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Up to a challenge?

Alma Alexander's Reading Challenge

I’ve seen several reading lists floating around, most of specific titles, a few consisting of interesting categories…and not so interesting categories.

An example of the latter is “a book by or about a celebrity”, something that should not be on anyone’s bucket list. You know the best definition of a celebrity? Someone who is famous for being famous. God knows we see enough of celebrities on the internet and the TV why would you want to throw good money at them by buying a book that some poor schmoe of a ghostwriter probably wrote for them in the first place?

But I do have a few reading suggestions:

A childhood favorite: Let’s start with a bit of nostalgia. A warning, though, rereading these things can be devastating when you discover that some things don’t match up to your glowing childhood memories of them.

A classic: One you have already read, or one you missed. If you’re rereading it, I guarantee you will see it differently this time.

A recent NYT bestseller: Does it match up to the hype?

A book that’s the first thing to catch your eye when you walk into a bookstore.

A graphic novel.

A YA book by a writer you haven’t heard of before.

A historical novel: Pick your own time period and feel free to grade the author’s research.

A space opera.

A fat fantasy: There are more of these out there than just Game of Thrones. Go LOOK.

A book by a writer you personally know or have heard of through social media.

A book about a culture you are unfamiliar with.

A travel book.

A memoir or an autobiography, and NOT a celebrity’s.

A book of poetry.

A foreign writer’s book which has been translated into English.

A book from a “best of” list in a genre of your choice.

A book that is about a protagonist different than you — different gender, different race, different culture, different sexuality, etc. — which you will read with a truly open mind.

A book about animals.

A non-fiction book about an important issue, social, political, environmental, doesn’t matter – something that affects the world you live in. Educate yourself.

A book you need to cover with brown paper in order to take it out in public.

A book that raises an issue that makes you uncomfortable, or asks a question you may never have quite articulated to yourself.

A book which pays tribute to the senses other than just sight – i.e. a book about music, about food, about perfumes…

A book about the future.

A book set in Europe.

A book set in Asia.

A book set in South America.

For American readers – a book set in a different part of the USA than the one you know/live in.

A book about loss.

A book that you’ve seen made into a movie but have never read the actual book before.

A book that falls under the umbrella of ‘magical realism’.

Enough for you to start with? Happy 2016. Happy reading.

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She lived her life in one room

Julian of NorwichA statue of Julian of Norwich – (Image: rocketjohn/Wikimedia)

From the 12th to the 16th centuries, a few hundred people in England called anchorites, mostly women, chose to live their lives shut up in a room attached to a church, Sarah Laskow writes in Atlas Obscura. One of them, Julian of Norwich, wrote the first published book by a woman in all of English literature.

Although they had just two or three small windows letting in a sliver of the outside world, anchorites were influential.

Julian’s fame came in part from her mystic visions that she described in a book, “Revelations of Divine Love“, in which she describes the sixteen visions she had. One of the most often-cited parts is her vision of God with all of creation:

“And in this vision he also showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with my mind’s eye and thought, ‘What can this be?’ And the answer came in a general way, like this: ‘It is all that is made.'”

Read the whole story HERE

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Quote of the Day

Easy Reading Hard Writing posterAnd that’s the absolute truth!

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Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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RIVER

RiverRivers have always been very important to humankind, I say in the intro to my anthology, River.

They’ve been called gods. They’ve been blessed and cursed and venerated and used and enjoyed and exploited and polluted since the beginning of recorded history. They’ve been sung about and dreamed about and followed on epic journeys of discovery.

Gypsy Ninja has picked 10 mighty rivers which made the world in what it is today, including MY river, the Danube, on whose banks I was born in a country which no longer exists.

DanubeThe Danube is the most international river basin in the world. It springs in Germany’s romantic Black Forest, travels a total distance of 2850 km (1770 mi.), passing through 10 countries and 4 capital cities. It was an important transport route for medieval Europeans. Throughout most of its history, the Roman Empire held the Danube as its northern border. Before the Romans, the Greeks were navigating the river’s lower reaches. With more recent events like the Main-Danube Canal being built in 1992, the Danube is connected to the Rhine and from there to the North Sea.

Read the whole story HERE

Buy River, the anthology, HERE

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You’ve read how many?
How manyBuzzFeed

So little time, so much to read, Michelle Regna says in introducing this list at BuzzFeed.

It’s not a definitive list — it doesn’t even have one of mine, for example — but a neat quiz nevertheless. How did you do?

Read the whole story HERE

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29 Surreal Places In America You Need To Visit Before You Die

If you live in the U.S., Arielle Calderon says at Buzzfeed, you don’t need a passport to see what mother nature has to offer.
TulipsRuthChoi / shutterstock.com
Skagit Valley Tulip Fields, Washington

This is one place I know well. It is only a few miles from my home and I have scores of photos like this one.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the tulip fields between April 1–30 to see these gorgeous flowers in bloom. The festival is designed as a driving tour since there is no one designated “site”.

See all the remarkable places HERE

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Elves and Dragons Doing a Fantastic Job of Protecting Iceland’s Environment
Elves Hill
Originally Icelanders used mythological creatures as a way to deter people from coming to their island, now they protect it, Sola Agustsson writes at AlterNet.

 

Read the whole story HERE

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Nasa’s Curiosity rover finds water below surface of Mars

New measurements from the Gale crater contradict theories that the planet is too cold for liquid water to exist, Hannah Devlin reports at The Guardian.
water on mars
The Curiosity rover is currently ascending Mount Sharp, in the centre of the Gale crater.
Illustration: Stocktrek Images, Inc./Alamy

Prof Andrew Coates, head of planetary science at the Mullard Space, said: “The evidence so far is that any water would be in the form of permafrost. It’s the first time we’ve had evidence of liquid water there now.””

Read the whole story HERE

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Quote of the day

A child who reads will be an an adult who thinks.

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s
story in the slightest.” ~ C.S. Lewis

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Alma Alexander      My books      Email me   

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Is she a Werewolf? or a Wereboy?

Were logoI wanted them real. I wanted the reader to start glancing nervously at the person sitting next to them on the bus or the subway and starting to wonder whether that strange fox-faced sharp-featured woman or the pig-nosed broad-featured guy dozing in the corner actually turned into the things you think they might be turning into, when the moon was right. 

 

It’s been a few years, now, my doing doing this. There’s a trail of interviews scattered on the internet, leading like bread crumbs towards the stories I have put out there.

These interviews have ranged from adequate to sharply insightful and relevant. I don’t rank them, and Il do every interview to the best of my ability, striving to walk the tightrope between being entertaining and informative. But often when an interview consists of pre-chewed questions or asks about stuff I’ve answered many times before it begins to be difficult to keep being fun and original. .

So it’s always a joy to be offered questions that are original, one-of-a-kind, and obviously indicative of the simple fact that the interviewer had actually read the book – and had GOT it!

One of the best such interviews I’ve ever done is up now, at Angela’s Library, where we talk about “Random,” the 1st book in The Were Chronicles, as well as the rest of life, the universe, and everything.  It was a delight to do it.

A brief excerpt:

Q: For most people, the word “Were” will trigger images of werewolves howling at the moon and biting innocent victims. In your novel, though, the Were world extends far beyond wolves and full moons. What was your process for developing the Were-kind in Random?

A: This particular world became very complex very quickly. My version of Werewolves – the Lycans – are definitely not the howling-at-the-moon types. They are scientists and they are driven by that pure scientific fury that can sometimes take over a human soul and demolish it if it stands in its way.

My chagrin here is that I love wolves. If I have a totem animal, it is the wolf. And yet somehow these complex, twisted, driven, fiercely intelligent and loyal creatures that spun out from under my pen just would not be ‘good’, and they quickly evolved into one of the villains of the piece. In Random, they are nebulous, their presence one of that black storm cloud that you might see on the horizon and begin to batten down the hatches in anticipation of hail.

In Wolf, the second book, they take much more of a center stage, and they are absolutely fascinating. Their dynamics, the life of the pack, their loyalties and their mindset, proved to be an utterly enthralling thing to delve into, and while second books in trilogies are too often weak bridges from a great opening in Book 1 to a satisfying conclusion in Book 3, this particular Book 2 is bucking the trend beautifully. It is a strong and beautiful story and it is carried by one of my favorite characters. Jazz’s brother Mal – the wolf of the title – well – I think I fell in love with him, a little bit. I think it will be difficult for my readers not to do the same. He is just such a beautifully strong, vulnerable, wounded, wise, intelligent wolf.

As for the rest of the Were – I actually set out to develop a genetic basis for the “being Were” thing, and that gets worked on in Wolf.

I wanted to breathe  life into the tired old trope you mention, that of the word “Were” calling up the howling murderous mindless beast in the reader’s mind. I wanted Weres to be real. I want the reader to start glancing nervously at the person sitting next to them on the bus or the subway and start to wonder whether that strange fox-faced sharp-featured woman or the pig-nosed broad-featured guy dozing in the corner actually turns into the things you think they might be turning into, when the moon is right.

You will never really know for sure, again, after reading these books, whether someone right there beside you might be something wild and strange during the nights of the full moon… or whether YOU might be.

Read the whole interview and its provocative questions and enter the giveaway of a signed copy of Random. Be the first on your block…

Read the interview

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Quote of the day
QUOTE 'Random', The Were Chronicles~~~~~
Alma Alexander
My books

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