How can I write…?

I and 33 other authors offer advice.

I wasn’t consulted, but my best advice?

Nothing is EVER finished – but you have to know when to let go. It won’t be perfect. Not EVER. Live with it. Get your story as good as you can and then let it step out into the world to seek its fortune. Hope it sends you a postcard to show you how it’s doing.”

That’s it. But it took me a score of books and a few million words to really recognize the truth of it. And between you and me, I sometimes have a hard time practicing what I preach.

I particularly like this advice:

33. “Ignore all lists of writing tips. Including this one…every time you hear a writing tip, you have to decide whether it means something to you, resonates with you, or (it’s) the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard. It’s your book, you need to learn to write it your way. Now please ignore this advice. – Marcus Sedgwick, author of The Ghosts of Heaven and others

And this:
As Bad as it gets

07. First drafts are always horrible and ugly. Don’t worry about that – it’s the same for everyone…if you keep redrafting, one day you will look at your horrible book and realise that you’ve turned it into something actually quite beautiful. – Robin Stevens, author of the Murder Most Unladylike series

See all the advice at Buzzfeed HERE

The Japanese Museum of Rocks That Look Like faces

Rock faces 1Rocks have faces? Rocks have souls?

This is FABULOUS. this is a cabinet of stories waiting to happen. It gives me a happy and slightly insane urge to go out and start turning rocks over and asking them to talk to me.

Speaker to Rocks. There are worse things to aspire to be…

The museum is called the Chinsekikan (which means hall of curious rocks) and it houses over 1700 rocks that resemble human faces. It’s in Chichibu, two hours northwest of Tokyo and may be the only one of its kind.
Rock face 2 photoThe story in Colossal suggests this looks like Elvis Presley. I think it looks rather like our lamentable president-elect.

Read the whole story at the Colossal website HERE

26 Very Long Books Worth the Time They’ll Take to Read

My choice in this list of books selected by Boris Kachka in Vulture might be obvious if you know my background. I was born in Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists. Clifton Fadiman of the New Yorker called it “one of the great books of our time“. I certainly agree.

I find the comments on the back cover of my own copy that was given to me shortly after the US and NATO’s war on my homeland to be very perceptive:

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon coverBlack Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia,  Rebecca West (1941, 1,181 pages)

Written on the brink of World War II, West’s classic examination of the history, people, and politics of Yugoslavia illuminates a region that is once again the center of international concern. A magnificent blend of travel journal, cultural commentary, and historical insight, it goes into the troubled history of the Balkans and the uneasy relationships among its ethnic groups. The landscape and people Yugoslavia are brilliantly observed as Rebecca West and untangles the tensions that rule the country’s history as well as its daily life.

See all the other books at the Vulture website HERE

Quote of the Day

The best novels are those that are important without being like medicine; they have something to say, are expansive and intelligent but never forget to be entertaining and to have character and emotion at their centre.” ~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

About me    My books    Email me 

If you found this blog post interesting, amusing or helpful, then please use the icons below to share it with other writers, readers or the guy next to you on the subway. 

My River!

I was born on an ancient river in a country which no longer exists. The country, then Yugoslavia, split into many parts, including my home, Serbia. The river was the Danube, an old river, muddy, treacherous, full of shifting sandbanks and sucking mud and terrifying whirlpools.

And I love both the river and my home country with a passion and a longing that is part of my very being.

This come to mind now because of a wonderful video,

The Danube in Serbia: 588 ImpressionsDanube in Serbia photo

(Link to video at end)

I was told stories about the Danube when I was barely a toddler, of the years when the winters were so diamond-hard that the ice on the river was thick enough to bear sleighs and horses and they had sleigh races, complete with thundering hooves of iron-shod horses, up and down the frozen river. The river which ate life during the war, when the invaders took the local residents out onto the ice and pushed them under, sometimes still alive, for the crime of being who and what they were.

The river which threw out bright glints when the summer sun hit the water lapping at the muddy banks, or the deep green depths where sometimes the clear water lingered; the river whose bottom was trawled by great bewhiskered catfish whose smaller representatives you could see moving sluggishly in a large tank at the marketplace  – but I, even as a child, knew that there had to be bigger and wiser catfish in the river who had lived there for a century or more and were far too canny to get trapped into that death-tan.

When my grandfather was a child the river was still clean enough to drink from. When my mother was a child it was still clean enough to swim in. By the time my time came, you’d probably catch seven different kinds of dysentery from the thing, and it smelled of diesel, closer to the main quay where the boats tied up, and, further down the embankment, of soft squelching ripe river mud, the kind that would suck the shoes off your feet if you wandered too deep into it.

The mud hid things that were known as bikovi, a kind of seed pod which was distinguished by sharp spikes – three of whom at any given time served as a steady tripod on which the thing rested and the fourth pointed straight up, sharp and solid and sturdy enough to drive through the sole of a shoe.

I loved my river with a great love. The Danube which was not blue, not here, and never was. It does not matter. I worshipped the great brown water flowing swiftly by. I loved the ramshackle fishing boats pulled up on the sandbanks out where the river was not constrained by concrete or great levees. I loved the forests of cats’ tails and other water reeds that crowded its shallows, wading out into the stream. I even loved the sharp seedpods which I took such care to avoid. I loved the way it looked, the way it smelled, the way it flowed through my own veins, like blood and memory.

I was, still am, in superstitious awe of it. When I returned to the city of my birth in the aftermath of the NATO bombing campaign in 1999, the one that had taken out ALL the bridges that bound together the parts of the city on the river’s two banks, the only way across was by crowded ferries which often had standing room only and were stuffed with as much humanity as they could carry… or by cockleshell boats plied by private enterprise, which would take you across for coin, like the ferryman across the Styx.

We did that, my mother and my aunt and I, one time, and sat in the little wooden boat as it was flung across the river by the good offices of a tiny outboard motor. I remember sitting on the wooden seat in the boat, next to the edge, with the boat low enough in the water that I could, if I wanted to, reach out a hand and trail it in the water as we crossed the river.

And I tried.

I put out a hand and spread out fingers that trembled… and I could not make myself touch that holy water. Holy, to me, for so long. I had been warned against its whirlpools as a child and now there they were, swirling brown and oddly innocuous right next to my boat… and I could not touch them. Because the legends I carried in my heart and in my spirit told me that there really WAS a river god living here, and that he was drowsing, and that my touch might wake him, and I would pay the price.

The great river. The old river. The river of dreams, and of power, and of eternity, flowing like time.

The above was excerpted from an ezine edition of the St Petersburg Gazette on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain’s death.

You can watch the whole wonderful video at YouTube HERE

Comments welcome HERE

How Long Did it Take to Write the World’s Most Famous Books?

When inspiration strikes, a work of fictional brilliance can be produced in a matter of days. Others take a bit longer.

From ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ which the author, John Boyne, claims to have written in 2 ½ days, to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien which took 16 years to complete, has collated 30 of the world’s most famous books to compare how long they took to create.

One of my longest novels, The Secrets of Jin-shei, was written in less than four months; another took …mumbleyears.
How long did it take? infograpicRead more at HERE

Books, not Pokemon

Inspired by the success of Pokemon Go, a Belgian headmaster has developed an online game for people to search for books instead. Aveline Gregoire’s version is played through a Facebook group called “Chasseurs de livres” (“Book hunters”).

Players post pictures and hints about where they have hidden a book and others go to hunt them down. Once someone has finished reading a book, they “release” it back into the wild.

Searching for books: Reuters story HERE

Quote of the Day
Alma Quote poster~~~~~
About me    My books    Email me 

If you found this blog post interesting, amusing or helpful, then please use the icons below to share it with other writers, readers or the guy next to you on the subway.

List of lists

In The Boston Globe, Pat Greenhouse talks about perhaps the ultimate book of lists:

‘Lists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider Audience’

The lists in the book were compiled by Shaun Usher and include Isaac Newton’s sins and Marilyn Monroe’s dream lovers, among others.

The lists also reveal tidbits such as Disney’s alternative names for the seven dwarves and Einstein’s stark demands for his wife (“You will stop talking to me if I request it”)…

Read the whole story HERE

I was born in Yugoslavia, grew up in Africa, went to school in a castle in Wales, lived in New Zealand, met my husband in the continent of Cyberspace, and now live in Bellingham WA. I think perhaps it’s time to write a new travel memoir (my first was ‘Houses in Africa’). But while you’re waiting for mine, take a look at these:

10 Travel Memoirs to Take You Around the World

Experiencing a new place and a new culture leads to both outward and inward discovery, Elaine Wilson writes at Off the Shelf. “Set off on a literary adventure with these ten gorgeous travel memoirs that chronicle the authors’ exploration of their surroundings and themselves and allow you to travel the globe from the comfort of your cozy reading chair.”

For example:
The Turk Who Loved Apples

The Turk Who Loved Apples, by Matt Gross

Matt Gross, the former “Frugal Traveler” for The New York Times, can teach you how to get lost and let your surroundings guide you to incredible discoveries.

No matter where you are or where you’re headed, Gross’s globe-trotting memoir is the perfect travel companion.

See all the others HERE


My husband has always maintained that the ‘Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ was an overrated book because of the cop-out ‘and then I woke up‘ ending.

Wonderful Wizard Of OzBut, as a story in Mental Floss by Joy Lanzendorfer makes clear, he’s confusing the book with the movie. In the story entitled “13 Facts About L. Frank Baum’s ‘Wonderful Wizard of Oz'”, she writes:

7) Oz wasn’t a dream, after all: …while Oz turns out to be a dream in the movie, it’s a real place in the book. When Aunt Em asks Dorothy where she came from, she says that she was in the Land of Oz, then adds, “I’m so glad to be at home again!” (“There’s no place like home” is a movie line.)”

Read the whole story HERE

The NPR staff offers us

Happy Ever After: 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances
Swoon Worthy RomancesMary McLain/NPR

NPR had asked its listeners to tell them about their favorite romantic reads. They had to cut the polling short after they had received more than 18,000 nominations.

One example
The Duke And I

The Bridgertons (series), by Julia Quinn – You can start pretty much anywhere in this beloved series about an alphabetically named family (Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne … all the way to Hyacinth). The Bridgertons are some of the most famous siblings in romance — and the books are also a lovely example of familial love surrounding the individual love stories.

See the whole list HERE

Books You Should ReadThinkstock

I am sure that every author thinks he or she has a book that should be on this BuzzFeed list – me included, of course. No, I won’t tell you which one.

But there are a number of excellent books on here that I can endorse. For example, just the other day I was surprised when my husband told me he and never read ‘Little, Big’ by John Crowley. I immediately dug it out of a bookcase and gave it to him. Its presence here should remind him that I’m always right.

Underrated books list HERE

Sasquan is being held in Spokane, practically my backyard, so I’ll be there for my fifth Worldcon. I’ll be on a couple of panels, give a reading, attend a Kaffee Klatche with fans, and do some book signings at an official session, or just stop me in the hall. I’ll also be hosting ‘Tea with the Duchess.’ If you’re coming to Sasquan, be sure and look me up. It’s always lovely to meet new people, and to see old friends.

I’ve been in the U.S. for only 15 years and yet I have been to 37 on a list of U.S. wonders. On the other hand, my native born American husband didn’t do that much better; he only got 74. So there! I think he needs to take me on some sight-seeing trips, particularly to places HE has never been,

The Ultimate USA Wonders List

Shenandoah National ParkShenandoah National Park

This bucket list compiles 200 of America’s greatest treasures. From the skyscrapers of New York to the small villages of New England to the dunes of New Mexico and the coral reefs of Hawaii, America is an intoxicatingly stunning and diverse country and there’s enough to see to satisfy a lifetime’s worth of experiences.

See the other 199 places at List Challenges HERE


Proving once again that the government has a form for everything, Slashdot reports, Buzz Aldrin has unveiled his Apollo 11 documentation, including a travel voucher detailing his expenses on his trip to the moon with a total expenses claim of just $33.31. The report notes : “Government meals and quarters [were] furnished for all of the above dates.”

Also at Slashdot:

Inkjet printer cartridges have been the bane of many small businesses and home offices for decades. It’s interesting, then, that Epson is trying something new: next month, they’re launching a new line of printers that come with small tanks of ink, instead of cartridges.

The Thermostat In Your Office May Be Sexist.

If you’re constantly bundling up against your office building’s air conditioning, blame Povl Ole Fanger. In the 1960s, this Danish scientist developed a model, still used in many office buildings around the world, which predicts comfortable indoor temperatures for the average worker. The problem? The average office worker in the 1960s was a 40-year-old man sporting a three-piece suit.

Bookstore offering ‘Go Set a Watchman’ refunds

Quote of the Day
Paracosm definition~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
If you found this blog post interesting, amusing or helpful, then please use the icons below to share it with other writers, readers or the guy next to you on the subway.

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

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 🙂

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…?

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

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

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


Well played

Native American Council Offers Amnesty to 240 Million Undocumented Whites

Read the story HERE

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.

Meet the ultimate WikiGnome

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

Read the article HERE

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

If you found this blog post interesting, amusing or helpful, then please use the icons below to share it with other writers, readers or the guy next to you on the subway.