5 Gifts for a writer

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

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

Five gifts for the writer you love this Christmas

1. Visibility

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

2. Reviews and recommendations

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

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

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

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

3. Something tangible – Kickstarters and Patreon.

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

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

4. Direct appreciation

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

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

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

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

5. Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

Everything he thought he knew about himself was wrong.

Buy it at Amazon HERE


The 24 Best Science Fiction Books Of 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

See all the books HERE


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Quote of the DayThe Deal Breaker Quote

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

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5 Gifts for Readers

Gift BooksPhoto: TheTimes.co.uk

1. Well, books, of course. Isn’t that the very definition of heaven for a bibliophile, opening up stacks of new books on Christmas morning?

Well, until they think of their teetering To Read stack – but still, new books, Christmas morning…

This also, now, includes electronic varieties. If they read on a tablet or on their phone, print out a card to stuff in their stockings and just say, “Check your ebooks…”

Books Coffee And A CookieBooks, coffee and a cookie, by mefotografie

2. Something to drink while reading. A special tea, or a tin of Ghirardelli’s drinking chocolate, or some good coffee.

Or maybe something to drink out OF. There are lots of booksy mugs and teacups out there. And what’s better than curling up with a hot beverage and a good book on the morning after Christmas day?
Alma Alexander BookmarksA reader will make do. There have been entire exhibitions made of stuff found inside books which had been used as a bookmark — grocery receipts, love letters, candy wrappers, straws, checks, feathers, silk ribbons…and once, memorably, a photo of a Kindle.

Wood Bookmarks…www.creativebloq.com…

Yes, readers will make do yes. But why not offer them something better. A real bookmark.

Indulge your whimsy. There are LOADS of fun ones out there — both from authors and works of art from creative designers.

Give them the opportunity to concentrate on what they’re reading and not on what they’ll use to mark their place when they have to stop



4. Kids special

Take them book shopping. Make it a day. Visit shops that sell new books, but also drop into used books emporia and if you find a copy of a book that enthralled you when you were their age, tell them about it, pass the gift on. Young readers haven’t had the time to accumulate their experiences, to completely hone their specific likes – they’re still seeking.
Going Digitalmamiverse.com…
And use technolgy, as Mamiverse suggests, by giving kids a tablet stuffed with books.

Give children the gift of your time, and your reading wisdom, accrued over the years. Tell them about reading, and its joys. Make them approach those bookshelves with shining eyes and an eager spirit.

Don’t just give them the gift of a book on a single day of the year – give them the joy of ALL books, light the small fire of the love of reading, and you will have created a gift that will keep on giving long after you yourself are no longer present to add to the stories they will start to gather, and cherish, and treasure all their lives.

5. Is your book lover deprived of a good place to read and/or keep their books?

Build them a library. Well, OK, if that’s not practical there are other things you can do to help. Is there a bookshelf that you can offer – even just a tiny little one? If they appreciate whimsy, you could offer them this one.

Zany bookcaseGo home, bookcase. You’re drunk. This Dali-esque piece is made by Scott Blackwell, who would like you to know it comes with a free melting clock. (neatorama.com…)


If there is furniture in heaven, it will be these. Someplace to put away the books which breed on book lovers’ coffee tables and the floor beside their bed. Someplace they can wander past and run their fingers lovingly over favorite books’ spines.


Next time, I’ll suggest:
Five Things to Give Your Favorite Writer For Christmas


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Levalet JackhammerFrench Artist ‘Levalet’ Injects Humor into the Streets of Paris

Quote of the Day
Alma Quote 2~~~~~
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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.


Where you can buy Random

Dark Quest Books


Amazon ebook

Barnes & Noble


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

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

Quote of the day

Jorge Luis Borges~~~~~
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Skating in the Alps

Blejsko Lake AlpsBlejsko Lake, Alps – Photo by Karol Nienartowicz

On winter holidays in the lost land of my childhood, I went with my family to this lake in the Alps at a place called Bled, in SLovenia, whilom Yugoslavia.

Imagine that lake, frozen, surrounded by a wonderland of snowy woods, with a castle looming over it on the promontory and the little island with a chapel on it like something out of a fairy tale. That’s the ice I learned to skate on – tossed out in the middle of a borderless, fenceless, edgeless rink and told to skate my way home. And I did. I did. I did. I stayed upright and I stayed graceful. The gift of the fairy lake to a young girl who was learning to dream.

The photo was taken by Karol Nienartowicz, a 29 year old Polish landscape photographer with a passion for the Alps. He goes to the limits and beyond to capture his breathtaking images, BabaMail reports. He’s even spent nights in a tent on a glacier, 13,123 feet above sea level. Now, that’s dedication!.

30 remarkable Karol Nienartowicz photos HERE

Christmas booksThe paperback of “Random” probably won’t make it under your tree on Christmas morning… but a little note saying that it’s been ordered and it’s on its way DOES fit in your favorite reader’s stocking.

Just saying.

Poetry BrothelThe Poetry Brothel transforms the Back Room into a poetic paradise for a night. (Photo: Rachael Saltzman)

New York’s Poetry Brothel

Tucked inside an alleyway, down one set of steps and up another, a salon exudes the easy sex appeal that could only manifest in a Prohibition speakeasy, Alexandra Villarreal reports at The Observer. Lipstick red covers the wall and floor. A sparkling chandelier lights up the night.

The Madame and her drunken bouncer introduce the evening’s entertainment, burlesque performers who swing their hips and lift their legs to uproarious applause while whores and their patrons sneak behind a bookcase for time in the shadows.

Read the article

School libraries are essential for learning

You can’t have learning without the magic of a book. Lose the libraries and you lose… the bedrock. Why is this so hard to understand?

This comes to mind because of an appalling story out of Philadelphia. In 1991, there were 176 certified librarians in the public schools. This year there are 11 and only five are known to be actually doing what they were trained to do. Five librarians for the nation’s eighth-largest school district.
School libraryMasterman principal Marjorie Neff sits in the school’s closed library, which was closed last year due to budget cuts. TOM GRALISH

Leaving Philadelphia’s public school libraries without professional staffing is a grave mistake, Carol Heinsdorf tell us at Philly.com. It will have consequences for the students for the rest of their lives. Study after study shows a clear link between school libraries staffed by certified librarians and student achievement.

WAY above your pay grade

So I’m standing in the bullshit ‘security theater’ line at LAX behind the incredibly beautiful Nichelle Nichols, who played Ulhura on the original Star Trek, Daniel Knauf writes .

At 81, she’s still as gracious, classy and lovely as ever.

Unfortunately, as is the case for many people her age, she has some mobility problems and was seated in a wheelchair as we approached the metal detector. With some difficulty, she got out of the chair to go through the machine, and the TSA Officer waiting on the other side ordered her to take off her shoes….

So when this officious prick asked the Single-Woman-on-Earth-Least-Likely-to-Be-a-Terrorist to remove her shoes, despite her clearly limited mobility, I said (very loudly),

“Sir! That woman is a Star Fleet Communications Officer! She is WAY above your pay-grade! How DARE you ask her to remove her shoes?!”

At this, all the other people waiting in line cheered and applauded, and officer was shamed into waving her through.

It was an awesome moment.

Why Dogs Never Actually Die.

This guy nails it. I have three of them, sleeping next to MY heart/ That’s a lot of tails. And then there’s the cats that have joined them, too, softly pawing at the heart in question when they’re sleepy and content. Poor heart. So much going on. SO much not forgetting.


Free water, electricity and fuel

Well maybe not exactly, but Panasonic has built a town just outside Tokyo that features homes built with solar paneled roofs and batteries for storing energy, LED street lighting, ride-sharing services, and car charging stations dotting parking lots.
Smart townMore HERE

How to make street art with moss
Moss-graffitiDYI Cozy Home tells uo how HERE

Oldest artShell ‘art’ made 300,000 years before humans evolved

Half a million years ago, hundreds of  thousands years before our own species evolved,
a Homo erectus etched a deep zigzag into a clam shell. We will never know what was going on inside its maker’s head, The New Scientist says, but the tidy, purposeful line has opened a new window into the origins of our modern creative mind.

Read the article

Quote of the Day
QUOTE Chesterson~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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Ever heard me?

I mean heard my real voice, not the one you hear in your head when you read one of my books? No? Well here’s your chance.The Skiffy and Fanty podcast is a, deservedly and perennially, award-nominated podcast show that I’ve been listening to for ages.
podcastI’ve heard their interviews with writers I’ve long known and loved, and sometimes writers I didn’t know but whose personalities and insights as they shone through these online chats made me sit up and become interested in what ELSE they had to say, in their books. And then, one day, like in ALL the best stories, it was my turn in the Skiffy and Fanty spotlight:
We talk about her werecritter culture, the immigrant experience, language, and much more!
I enjoyed this chat immensely; I hope you do too.  
Listen to it here
In the dark of winterThe days seem impossibly short and the nights never ending, Emily Temple writes at Flavorwire, and suggests that it’s a great time for reading dark books. After all, there’s nothing better to cut through the literal gloom than to curl up with some intellectual doom. All you need is a tiny light to see your book by.  She offers 50 of them, starting with the REAL Grimm fairy tales we’ve been talking about recently.Then there is:
Wittgenstein’s Mistress

Wittgenstein’s Mistress, David Markson
A series of missives from the typewriter of the last woman on earth as she mulls over art, literature, life, and her own tragedies.
Or pick one of the other 49
But to lighten the mood, The Stylist offers…
20 opening lines from our favorite Christmas books
My favorite is, of course…
The Grinch Who Stole ChristmasEvery who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot.” 
See the rest
50 Writers You Need to See Read Live:  It’s a pleasant surprise when a writer is dynamite in person, Elisabeth Donnelly  writes at Flavorwire, “whether they’re reading their work or answering questions with confidence and something like charisma. The best live appearances by writers are able to cast a spell over the audience — through a variety of elements — and here are 50 writers make that achievement look easy.”e.g.
Gary ShteyngartGary Shteyngart
He’s very, very funny and quick-witted and he’s written scarily accurate speculative fiction about our future world. Your ribs will hurt from laughing after seeing him live.

See all 50

A holiday reminder

Books make Great Gifts


Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and a practice of an art,” Ursula K. Le Guin said at the 2014 National Book Awards.

And she had some thoughts about Amazon, the “profiteer” trying to “punish a publisher for disobedience.

“…I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds. But, the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.

An Upstate New York Home Gets the World’s Most Colorful Makeover
Rainbow housePhoto: Kat O’Sullivan

See ALL the photos here

Quote of the Day

QUOTE Astrid Lindgren~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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