Read it now?

Or wait?

It’s an ever-vexing quandary.

Should you start a series when the first book is out and then bite your nails as you wait for each new installment? Or wait until the series is complete and read everything at once, possibly running the risk of the early books becoming unavailable before you get the final one?

Well, my Worldweavers series is now complete and all four books are readily available so you can binge read the entire thing. (Click the ‘Buy at Amazon’ link in the sidebar).

Random and Wolf, the first two books of my new series, The Were Chronicles, are both out and the third book, Shifter, will be out in November so it might be safe to start reading now. (Click the Wolf link in the sidebar. Or read an excerpt).

At Off The Shelf, Emma Volk, offers some other series suggestions:

11 Binge-Worthy Literary Series

Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith:

Botswana’s premier lady detective Precious Ramotswe navigates her cases and her personal life with wit, wisdom, and a keen moral eye in this long-lasting and bestselling series. Compelling and good-hearted, she never forgets that she is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.”

See all Volk’s suggestions HERE


Scottish children getting automatic library cards
Library CardsIn a bid to promote literacy, Scottish children will be given library cards either at birth, age three or four – or in their first primary school class.

In Glasgow, for example, a pilot program will target pupils in areas with issues of lower literacy and every baby registered will be given a library card.

Access to books and learning materials will help us to make sure that every child has the opportunity to get excited about reading,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

What a fantastic idea. Of course, there are some restrictions on the cards and if it were me, I would soon want a REAL, that is, unrestricted card.

I could read fluently by age 5 and I blew through the children’s section of my own home town library well before I left it for Africa when I was ten years old. In Africa, I had to learn a new language (English, actually), but by the time I was 13, I wanted the run of the adult library. I want ALL the books. ALL of them. I always did. I was word-greedy from an early age…

Scotland leads the way, HERE

Science fiction – a commie plot to undermine American values?

It’s an idea that the FBI was strongly considering during the height of the Cold War, as their lengthy investigation into Ray Bradbury shows, JPat Brown says.

The FBI followed Ray Bradbury’s career very closely, in part because an informant warned them that his writing was not enjoyable fantasy, but rather tantamount to psychological warfare.
Bradbury and the FBI“The general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria,” the informant warned. “Which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War in which the American people would believe could not be won since their morale had seriously been destroyed.”

Read the whole story HERE

Dune Sandworm‘Dune’ – climate fiction pioneer

‘...there’s no more Earth left for you.’

Frank Herbert’s novel turns 50 this year and since its ecological lessons were ahead of its time, the slowly dawning interest in the doomsday potential of climate change may bring new respect for the masterpiece, Michael Berry writes at Salon.

Dystopian fiction has never been so plentiful. Much of it depends on familiar landscapes being ravaged by drought, rising seas and other environmental disasters, and ‘Dune’ stands as an important early example of a novel that explored ecology and environmentalism,” Berry notes.

In 1970, on the First Earth Day, Frank Herbert spoke to 30,000 people in Philadelphia and  told them, ‘I don’t want to be in the position of telling my grandchildren:

‘I’m sorry, there’s no more Earth left for you. We’ve used it all up.’

Read the whole story HERE

50 Books for 50 Classes

At Flavorwire, Emily Temple offers us some surprising choices to create a ‘College Curriculum on Your Bookshelf’

For example:


Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino: This book of short stories delivers all you really need to know about the creation of the universe in one slim package.

Each story is based on a scientific principle, whether factual or erroneous, and spirals out into a glorious, spellbinding work of art. Here you’ll find stories about atmosphere, particles, existence as a single point before space and time, and what happens when you’ve got that one uncle who hasn’t evolved to walk on land and still lives in the primordial sea, and you’d like to introduce him to your new girlfriend.

See her other 49 choices HERE



The romance of a tumbling pile of books waiting to be read is so much more enticing than a grey, plastic screen.”

17 things only real book lovers will understand

Quote of the Day
It's Called Reading~~~~~
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Your first book?


After my mother finished reading Heidi to me, I wanted her to start all over again. When she said no, I picked the book up and taught myself to read.

I was four.

HeidiIn the beginning there was the family treasure that my great uncle had given my mother when she was a little girl herself and she then gave to me, ‘Through Desert and Jungle’, by Henryk Sienkiewicz.

I went on to the flawed adventures that were Karl May’s wild-west-that-never-was, my family’s sets of collected works of Pearl Buck and Howard Spring, and the children’s sets of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” books. I then went on to illustrated tomes of the myths and legends of the world, to large glorious collections of the ORIGINAL fairy tales by the Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen, on to Wonderland, and Narnia, and Middle Earth, and Asimov and Zelazny and Frank Herbert and Ursula le Guin….

I began by falling in love with the wind whispering in the trees beyond the windows of the cottage that housed Heidi’s mountain dreams, and ended up by listening to the songs of the stars themselves. And Words were the vessel that took me there. Every time. All the way.

All this comes to mind because of an article in The Guardian headlined:

“‘Get your head out of that book!’ – the children’s stories that inspired writers

In my case, it was Heidi. In the case of other authors – Margaret Atwood, JG Ballard, Germaine Greer, Judith Kerr, Doris Lessing — it was everything from sinister water-babies to Chinese warlords, Norse gods to star‑crossed lovers.’

Read the whole story HERE

Teens Readers Ted talkA Ted talk by Laura McClure offers us books for today’s teens

A science fiction and fantasy reading list for teen creativity

Creative writing is part of being a kid. Writing and reading goofy stories of lost kingdoms and Mars colonies helps the imagination grow strong. But a recent study uncovers an interesting, perhaps even dismaying trend: this generation of kids seems to prefer narrative realism when they write.

One example she offers is
Blue Remembered Earth, by Alastair Reynolds: Why you’d want to give this to a teen: In this futurist game of Diplomacy, Africa wins. A (mostly utopian) vision of Earth in the future.

See all her selections HERE


Another book for today’s teens – and adultsWolf posterWOLF, Book 2 of The Were Chronicles, is on the way. 

You can pre-order it at Amazon HERE

Buy Random, Book 1 of The Were Chronicles, HERE

All right. I’m a sucker. All of my cats have been rescues. I feel for every one of these poor tiny wounded souls. I hope there is an angel watching out for all of them.

20 Touching Before-And-After Photos Of Rescued Cats

Cats are mischievous creatures full of cuddles and purrs, an article at earth porm says, adopting one is a win-win, good for you and good for the cat. Here are before and after photos of rescued cats that show just how much a little love and care can change a cat forever.Rescued catSee all the cats HERE

Speaking of cats…

19 Cats Who Are Having A Life Crisis Because You Won’t Let Them Inside

Your safety might be at risk if you don’t hurry up and let the cat in immediately, Matt Buco writes at Distractify.Cold cat“Seriously it’s getting a bit cold out here.”

Life crisis cats HERE


For those of you who support worthwhile endeavors – here’s one. As a writer, and a scientist, and a huge Octavia Butler fan, this one hits all MY buttons…

“We use sci-fi to encourage Brooklyn girls to dream big”

The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors:

Quote of the DayQUOTE  Van Gogh~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Men’s Lib in Austen

The comic Manfeels Park takes comments from men on the internet and puts them into scenes from Jane Austen’s stories, Jenna Guillaume of BuzzFeed reports. The comic is the brainchild of Mo and Erin, who were inspired after discussing the “man-feels” on an internet comment thread and realising it was the perfect pun for Mansfield Park.
Men's lib in Jane AustenRead the Article

Hilarious archive of librarians’ harsh children’s book reviews

One hundred years before post-millennial parents were deeming Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs inappropriate for young vegans, Jenni Avins writes at Quartz, the children’s librarians of the New York Public Library kept a card catalog of hand-typed kids’ book reviews.

“There’s about a billion card catalogs in the library,” says librarian Lynn Lobash. “But these are special in that they were used as a tool for collection development, for the staff to evaluate the children’s collection.”
Kid's book reviewRead the Article

27 Reasons Literary Nerds Will Love Tumblr

Book lovers and Tumblr were basically made for each other, Heben Nigatu tells us at BuzzFeed, and offers examples from

Tumblr punsto an examination of “the underlying anxieties of your favorite genres.”
TumblrRead all the reasons

Speaking of puns…

Isaac Fitzgerald of BuzzFeed offers puntastic book titles “that will make you laugh out loud.”

Here's Looking at EuclidSee them all

Chillingly Evil Corporations in Literature

In Flavorwire, Jason Diamond looks at novels that no longer seem so farfetched. There is Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, of course, any corporation in any William Gibson book, CHOAM from Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Or take Rachel Cantor’s debut novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, for example:
Rachel CantorCan you imagine a world where Burger King really is the king, where Papa John is Big Brother, or where Colonel Sanders was worshiped as a deity? It might seem farfetched, but in a real world where some corporations earn more than some entire countries, and employ armies of workers, the idea might be more plausible than you think.

In A Highly Unlikely Scenario, the book’s protagonist works for Neetsa Pizza, a new bizarre corporation with memorably insane businesses ideas.

Read the Article

This Cat is the Stationmaster in Her Own Train Station
Trainmaster catMeet Tama, the highly praised “Stationmaster” at a train station in Japan. She has her own office, greets all of the passengers, and is paid in cat food. Never before has there been a stationmaster so adored by those who ride through her platform. And check out her Tama-themed train.

Read the article

Quote of the Day

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ~ Scott Adams

Alma Alexander
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Comments welcome. What do you think?

The Dancing Santa & Obama

Vignettes from my town

There are times that I do wish I lived in the same century as the rest of the world, that I carried a smartphone with me everywhere, and thus had the capacity to take photos or videos whenever I see something amazing. Twice, today. TWICE.

The first one was out in the street – there was a life-size Santa mannequin outside a store, and other than the fact that it was a disconcertingly SKINNY Santa I didn’t think anything more of it when we first passed it. What I didn’t realize at that time, and found out on our return journey past the same figure, was that it was an ANIMATED Santa mannequin.

A young mother and a little girl of no more than four or five years old – wearing a Santa hat herself – had stopped in front of the mannequin, and had obviously toggled something – because the mannequin suddenly began gyrating at the hip like a Christmas Elvis singing “Jingle bells” and then saying “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and asking, “And what do YOU want for Christmas, little child?” (intelligent, that – no ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ confusion.)

The little girl was *mesmerized*. She stood there before the dancing Santa with her mouth open and her head cocked to the side like a puzzled puppy’s, and she kept on looking around at passers by with eyes the size of saucers and pointing at the Santa without a word as if to say, “look, are you seeing it too? It’s dancing! it’s TALKING to me!”

A man passing by began to sing a carol together with the Santa. My husband and I stood there grinning like two loons. The mother was giggling quietly into her glove. And still the Santa sang and danced and the little girl stood staring, bewitched, smitten, amazed. Oh, when Christmas comes out and smacks you on the noggin. As we were leaving I said to the mom, “Thank you, that MADE MY DAY!” She smiled back and said, “Mine too!”

Not much past that delightful scene, we came across a car parked in the street, It had a very large “OBAMA” painted on its side, right along the length of it. But what was even more wondrous was the rendering (by an indifferent artist, to be sure, but still a recognizable image) of the POTUS himself on the front of the vehicle, made even more remarkable by the fact that he was flanked by two fluffy white clouds with a cheesy little rainbow arched over his head.

Fan, much, you think…? You don’t see THAT every day.

Oh, if only I had taken a camera with me.

Thanks for the smiles, world. Merry Christmas rightbackatcha.

Overheard in a Bookstore at Christmastime

Wendy Welch, co-owner of Tales of the Lonesome Pine bookshop, Big Stone Gap, Va., shared “a list of our favorite customer sayings compiled from Christmases past and present”, Shelf Awareness reports. For example:

Lonesome Pine

* A woman asks: “Do you have any books about how to be a good husband? Maybe two or three.”

* After child rips page out of a picture book while mother browses nearby: “I’m not going to pay for that. You shouldn’t have the children’s books lying about where children can reach them.”

* “Do y’all sell Christmas presents here?”

* “I need a gift for my mother-in-law. I don’t care what it is. Just make sure it’s big and heavy. And wrap it for me.”

* “Excuse me, do you know a lot about books? O.K., pick me out something a 14-year-old will like. Quick, I’m in a hurry.”


Robots of death

Robot handImage: Chris Beaumont/CBS Interactive

Judgement day may have just taken a step closer, for killer robots at least, Steve Rangers writes in a thoughtful article at Tech Republic that discusses the reality of android soldiers and why laws for robots are doomed to failure.

For the military, war robots can have many advantages: They don’t need food or pay, they don’t get tired or need to sleep, they follow orders automatically, and they don’t feel fear, anger, or pain.

There are already plenty of examples of how technology has changed warfare from David’s Sling to the invention of the tank. The most recent and controversial is the rise of drone warfare. But even these aircraft have a pilot who flies it by remote control, and it is the humans who make the decisions about which targets to pick and when to fire a missile.

But what concerns many experts is the potential next generation of robotic weapons: ones that make their own decisions about who to target and who to kill.

The Laws of RoboticsUnfortunately, attempts to control the automatic killing machines may be futile, as even SF writer Isaac Asimov believed when he penned his laws of robotics.

When the killer robots come

‘Write A House’ to give free homes to writers

The mission statement of ‘Write A House’  tells it all, Arianna Rebolini writes at Buzzfeed.

Our mission is simple: to enliven the literary arts of Detroit by renovating homes and giving them to authors, journalists, poets, aka writers. It’s like a writer-in-residence program, only in this case we’re actually giving the writer the residence, forever.

The project is two-tiered. First, they plan to educate local youth through vocational training in carpentry and construction who will ten renovate and rehabilitate vacant homes in Detroit.

Second, they will award at least three homes per year to low-income writers.

Free house for writersWrite A House / Via

Free homes for writers

Jargon run amok: A whimsical mashup of techspeak

Speaking Tech
Adam L. Penenberg at Pando Daily offers his take on the matter:

Call me #hashtag Ishmael, though I am no longer a man, I am skeuomorphism, caught in a p2p network and WWW of my own design. I’ve been hacked, flamed, and trolled, armies of botnets firing spam at me and inundating my in-box with phishing scams, pleas for crowdsourcing, and embargoed press releases. I am the ultimate UGC-creation machine but had to pivot to avoid the embarrassment of sunsetting my product line. (It’s all there in my 12-slide PPT investor pitch deck.) Maybe I should organize a brain dump to get all this on my strategic road map, although I may lack the bandwidth to grok all of that.

Do you speak Tech?

Quote of the Day

The function of science fiction is not always to predict the future, but sometimes to prevent it.” — Frank Herbert

Alma Alexander

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The books that shaped a writer

John Scalzi uses a personal milestone, the 12th anniversary of his first pro publication in Science Fiction, to write about the works of Science Fiction and Fantasy that shaped his life and career.

I’m impressed that he knows the exact anniversary of his very first pro publication. I’ve been writing since Methuselah was a boy and I don’t even know what my first pro published story was never mind when it was. Writing has always been a part of my life.

But there were, of course, formative works in the genre in which I write. So here are mine,  a random number in random order. These are the things that mattered to me when I was growing up and learning to live and love and write.

1. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R.Tolkien

tolkien, LOTR cover 2This is the cover of the paperback edition I own of the full trilogy in one wrist-breaking volume. This is a book which has been LOVED, my friends. I have read and re-read it until I know it by heart. I can get lost in it. And every time I think I can go back and figure out what it is about this world and the way that Tolkien rendered it that makes it so deeply magical for me I fail at that task miserably because by the second chapter I’m into it again, the story closes over my head, and analysis becomes irrelevant.

In today’s world of fast food and fast fixes, many readers say that they ‘can’t get into’ LOTR because it is too dense or too complex or too slow or too *somethihg*. There can be no greater recommendation than someone calling a book “complex”. I can have shallow any day – I am frequently SWIMMING in it – newspaper headlines reeking of selfishness and greed, bestsellers such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” – I need my dose of complex to survive it all. And LOTR delivers on that. It has always delivered.

This is the thing that taught me that an imaginary world can be more real than reality could ever be. This is the kind of thing that made me WANT to create worlds of my own. Tolkien once spoke of “desiring dragons with a deep desire” – well, his story made me desire to write one of my own, with just as much depth and substance, with a desire fully equal to his own for his dragons. This book taught me to dream with my eyes open.

We will NOT talk about the movies.

2. The Amber Chronicles, Roger Zelazny

AmberIt’s way too long ago now for me to remember details, but at some point I received a box of books which contained, amongst other things, the five books that now form the First Amber Chronicles. The illustration, above, is of the first book in that series. I was a teenager, young, inexperienced, still searching for direction, when I cracked open “Nine Princes in Amber”… and fell in love.

I was astonished by so many things in these books. The fact that they fyve books interlocked and made a seamless whole – which ended, in the final volume, at the very place where the first volume began. It was possible to simply put the fifth book down and start reading again from the beginning (which I did…) and realise immediately that one was now reading a different story, because of all the background knowledge that had been gained from that first innocent “cold” read. The complexity of the story – are we starting to see a pattern here? – blew me away, the realism of characters born of pure undiluted fantasy fascinated me; the whole idea of the Family Tarot Pack and all that it represented made me positively giddy.

Amber satisfied so many different longings that it is almost impossible to be coherent about any of it.

From that moment on Zelazny was a must-read author and I gathered up his books zealously until I owned an entire shelf of them. He wasn’t ALWAYS transcendent, but when he was good he was brilliant and a complete nonpareil and he quickly became one of my personal literary gods.

I was fortunate enough to meet him, only a few months before he died. I brought THAT book, the first Amber book, in that oriignal well-loved paperback edition, for him to sign. He took it into his hands and turned it this way and that, looking genuinely mystified for a moment and then asked me just how long I’d HAD that particular volume because that edition had been out of print for years. (He told me other things, too. Things I greatly treasure. But that’s another story…)

Amber. How I love Amber. Its weird architecture, its dysfunctional family, the possibility that hero might turn into villain and vice versa, that you never really knew what you could expect next, the sense of storied history and legend that underlay it all, the beauty and the occasional ugly betrayal, the glory and the sorrows. All of it. How did this change and inform my own writing? It made me realize there is ALWAYS something going on behind the curtain, and that it is an author’s gift to his or her readers not to reveal EVERYTHING. A little mystery matters.

3. Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay

TiganaI don’t actually remember if this was the first book by Guy Gavriel Kay that I ever read, although it might have been. I know that I’ve had a couple of favorites since “Tigana” – “A Song for Arbonne”, for instance, or “Lions of Al-rassan” – and I know that I consider him a master of the historical fantasy genre.

But “Tigana” was one the best books I have ever read. Not genre, I go beyond that Anne McCaffrey blurb on the cover. Yes, it was a great fantasy – but its power, for me, lay in its stark and raw TRUTH.

I don’t know how a white middle-aged Canadian male knows what it means to lose your country, your soul, the core of your being… but he does. Oh, he does.

“Tigana” ripped my heart out because it viscerally conveyed something that I could not believe that anyone could understand about me — the fact that I am adrift because my anchor has been destroyed.

The country I was born in no longer exists; it has been dismemembered into several sqaubbling warring statelets, some of whom would sooner cut my head off than admit that I was once a part of the same nation as they were. And just like the fabled Tigana of this story, there will come a time when living memory will fail and nobody will remember any more the land in which I was born, in which I grew up and learned to see the world, to love people and places, to dream big dreams. I find myself remembering a place which simply no longer exists, which is as much of a fantasy as any novel, and it’s *my own past*. And this is the thing that “Tigana” touched so deeply, in so raw a fashion – it made me scream and weep and sob and pray.

Some day I can only hope that I can write something with the power of this book.

4. Dune, Frank Herbert

DuneI wrote about “Dune” already, here – I invite you to go read that in its entirety. But – hey – pattern – why did I fall in love with this book? Can you say “complexity”? “Depth”? A sense of three-dimensional truth that informed the very fabric of it – sure, perhaps none of this was true, none of this could ever be, but dear GOD it felt like it was.

How did it inform my own writing…? Well, aside from the obvious (this was a masterclass in worldbuilding…) here’s what I said in that article I linked to, above:

“The themes of this work are enormous and wide-ranging — from Machiavellian politics to ecological change and its consequence, to mystical religious transformation. Many of these ideas took me years to fully take in — fourteen or fifteen is far too young for some of the ramifications, unless you’re one of Paul Muad’dib’s children — but they have percolated through my own visions, since. When I wrote the desert sequences of The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days, for instance, they may have owed much to what I knew of places such as Morocco, which are firmly in our own “real” world — but the roots of my own world, without the spice or the great worms or the sheer breadth of Herbert’s vision, are sunk deep into the mystic sands of Arrakis.”

Greatness matters. You know it when you see it. And I saw it, the first time I reached for a book called “Dune”.

5. Songmaster, Orscon Scott Card

SongmasterYes, I know. And it’s been a really long time since I’ve actually picked up anything by him at all; the last thing that I did was so preachy and stultifying that I couldn’t get into it at all. And even this particular book has its problems – but let me explain.

I read the first part of this book as a stand-alone story somewhere in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction or the like, I don’t recall now, and I was shaken by its insight and its power and its beauty.

When the book came out, I bought it immediately – and yes, that first part, the part I had read before and loved, that part was still wonderful. The second part… had its moments, had its ideas and they were perfectly adequately explored…. but… it left me colder. The second half of the book had a whiff of Message to it, something the author wanted to Convey and to have the reader Understand. It jarred. It marred the beauty and the power of that first part, the part I had loved, the part that had moved me.

What did it teach me? That the author’s personal soapboxes really should go into storage when a work of fiction is attempted. Things work just fine if the author is exploring an idea and inviting the reader along on the journey. Things work less well when the author is convinced that he has already been to the place where this idea lives and has the maps and the blueprints to prove it. The author has grasped The Only True Truth and is going to TELL you about it, dammit, and you’d better accept it if you know what’s good for you.

It taught me not to think that I am in any way superior to my readers, or know more, or know better. I let THEM read into the story the things that I think I have put in there. I don’t bludgeon them with those things.

6 and beyond – “Elric of Melnibone” by Michael Moorcock; almost anything at all by Octavia Butler, Ursula Le Guin, Judith Tarr, Ray Bradbury, China Mieville, Tamora Pierce…

SO many books. SO little time. And I am still reading and learning, every day.

What books have shaped you?

Alma Alexander

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