‘Young Adult’, what’s that?

When I was a little girl, my home town library h?d only two sections – children’s, which I blew through in a spectacular fashion, and adult.

We had no such thing as a “young adult” section or concept.

OK to read Young Adult signYou read the kiddies books until you realized that you were past them and then you went on to read the adult books, those that caught your interest and held your attention. I was reading Howard Spring and Pearl Buck novels (in English translation) before I was ten. And poetry.

When I went moved to Africa and learned English, I read the unabridged John Galsworthy “Forsyte Saga” novels by the time I was thirteen.

The story was the thing that mattered. I read for the story, not for the story that was considered to be ‘appropriate’ for me by some stranger in the publishing industry who had never met me.

Teenagers are a modern phenomenon. In the olden days, a teenager was an adult. Period.

In the middle ages, girls were married at 12 or 13 and became mothers by 14 or 15. Many of them died in childbirth as their young and not fully formed bodies failed to measure up to the stress of giving birth to a real life-size infant. Boys did a man’s work by the time they were fifteen. There was no mollycoddling and no extended coming-of-age as we know it today. The culture of the adolescent, so absolutely prevalent and accepted today, did not exist.

What was perhaps the tipping point into the concept of YA literature came as late as the 1950s and 1960s, specifically after the groundbreaking “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton. It had none of the patina of nostalgia that often characterized books about young characters before this time, books written by adults who were reflecting back on a long-past youth. No, this was a novel about the here-and-now – written BY an author who was technically a Young Adult herself, about people LIKE herself, and the immediacy and verisimilitude – not to mention a distinct darkening of theme and ideas – was obvious.

Publishers began to see this segment of readership as a distinct – and new and lucrative – market. YA sections began to appear in bookstores and libraries, for books distinct from books considered to be “children’s books” and distinct from stuff that was considered appropriate for an adult audience.

The range of these books spread across genre – but the contemporary YA novels began to tackle topics that were faced by actual YA readers in their own lives. Topics such as rape, suicide, parental death, murder, drinking, sexuality (both straight and gay), drugs, identity, beauty, and teen pregnancy.

Young Adult fiction, particularly the kind that librarians and booksellers liked to describe as “edgy”, portrayed young-adult protagonists, teens, who were depicted as having to confront social and cultural issues which the readers of such books frequently faced in their own real lives.

The distinctions between works of literature deemed to be ‘children’s lit’, ‘YA’, or ‘adult literature’ have been notoriously fluid and flexible. The fracture lines have deepened, more recently by the introduction of ‘middle grade’ – novels which fall between blatant kiddie books and the threshold of what is considered YA, often assumed to fall somewhere between the ages of 9 – 12.

Worldweavers coversThe Young Adult Library Services (YALSA) branch of the American Library Association, the ALA, defines a young adult in the readership sense as a person between the ages of twelve and eighteen. But once again the borders are arbitrary and flexible, because authors and readers routinely estimate readership ages to start as low as 10, and as high as 25.

I recently wrote the conclusion of what was originally marketed as a fantasy YA trilogy, my Worldweavers books. In the three original books – “Gift of the Unmage”, “Spellspam” and “Cybermage” – my young wizard, who is in her mid-teens, has to meet the challenges of growing up, growing into her gifts.

In the last installment, “Dawn of Magic”, she is 16, and to all intents and purposes, an adult.

Who is my audience…?

I am writing for people like the girl who I myself once was, readers who read for STORY rather than on the basis of which section of the library or bookstore the book was shelved in.

I was allowed to find my own reading level while growing up and read whatever I was comfortable with. My audience is those readers, One of my most cherished compliments came from a book buyer of the acclaimed New York children’s bookstore, Books of Wonder, who told me that I wrote for “readers who already know how to think”.

My books are deep and nuanced – and, for all that they are fantasy, more real. So I am writing for kids like the kid that I was, the kids who are bored with the stuff that accepted wisdom maintains that they are supposed to be reading, who are crying out for stories that are not written “down” to them, stories that are honest, stories that will be just as readable when they are in their thirties without them having to cringe and hide them in brown paper wrappers. It is my highest standard of achievement to write that kind of story, and I have a cadre of readers who are telling me that I have got there with my “younger” stuff.

I am writing for everyone who loves to read – for precocious ten-year-olds like the one I used to be, for fourteen-year-olds who might recognize aspects of themselves, for thirty- and forty-somethings who may smile as they remember something from back when they too were counted in the ranks of those whose chronological age ended in that ‘teen’, to even older readers who may be starting to see signs of a grandchild generation that is starting to blossom into reading and for whom my stories may, in turn, become something that can be treasured.

I am writing for readers. Not for genres.

A story is a story is a story and belongs to whoever chooses to claim it, and live happily ever after…

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Wired asked writers to create 6-word SF stories.

Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.
– Richard Powers

More from Wired HERE

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How do you…

… get your ideas/write a book?’

One of the perennial questions posed to authors in many many many interviews is the fabled “Where do you get your ideas?

I too often answer with a snarky quip…”Off the Idea Tree in my backyard.” The true answer is simply, “Everywhere.”

A much harder question is “How do you write a book?

The “you” is generally generic. The questioner might mean how does anyone write a book, or how can s/he write a book, or how do I, Alma Alexander, write a book.

The first answer to that is another question: “Which book?” Because one of the fundamental truths of the craft is that there are a lot different kinds of writers.

One kind is the writer who tends to write the same book over and over again. Different characters, different settings, but very similar plots.

Barbara Cartland, who wrote 723 mostly romance novels, comes to mind. Writing things like category romances or the average mystery tends to be a fairly regimented process because of the often rigid set of rules which governs the finished product. If you’re writing your third, tenth, twenty seventh book, you’ve got it honed down to a fine art. You can probably churn out a decent story within a month – you’re putting together a product very similar to something you’ve done before and familiarity breeds speed and confidence.

Another kind is the writer of a fabulously successful series that his/her fans want more of, sometime even if s/he wants to go on to something else. The author of a series is constrained by a certain amount of stuff already established in previous books – a certain setting, a certain character, things you can’t just arbitrarily shift because you’ve now made it canon and the reader will roar in outrage if you futz with canon.

A third kind of writer is like me. Even if the fundamentals of our approach to worldbuilding, to style, remains basically unaltered, even if we continue to write in our favorite genre (fantasy for me), EVERY book we write is different.

How does that happen? It depends on our initial approach to a specific book. What was the inspiration? What were we trying to do? What kind of story were we intending to tell?

Let me illustrate that by offering you a quiz about a few of my own books. Here’s a selection of paths by which I arrived at specific books. If you have read a book or two of mine, or are a fan who has read several, see if you can match the initial inspiration I describe here to the book that was published.

1) I wrote a single scene featuring the protagonist and a handful of the main characters. I liked the scene, and set out to write the book in which it would appear. But when I started writing the story, and I began to write it fairly linearly, from the beginning, it took me literally 2/3 of the tale to actually GET TO THE FRIGGING SCENE WHICH STARTED IT ALL.

If I asked you to pick the scene I am talking about, all y’all would probably pick a different scene. Truth is, it’s integral to the plot, to the book, and it is impossible, once the story was done, to actually pry that one single brick out of the mortared wall. It is impossible to tell that the entire wall once hinged on the existence of that one single brick, or which brick it was. The whole effort took… years. At least a year to write, and then more years before it saw publication.

2) I wrote down a list of ten characters. Nameless, milieu-free characters. Just a short paragraph about each. When I showed it to my husband, he asked me what it was.

“My next novel.”

“What’s it about?”

“I have no idea?

It was the simple truth. At that point I had NO clue what the story was that these characters wanted to tell. Then somebody sent me a newspaper article about a real-life situation – and the fantasy which involved that news story and those characters blossomed into my mind, fully formed, with the characters taking on a vivid and brilliant life and literally dictating the book to me,

I wrote 200,000 words in three months. I didn’t stop to think, to breathe, practically not to sleep or eat – I wrote it at a white-hot fury. What’s more the draft I wrote down was not draft zero or even draft one. It was pretty much the finished thing, with a few tweaks but no major changes. It was a miracle book that was sold worldwide in 13 languages.

3) After finishing the miracle book, I was asked if there was a sequel. I denied it, right until the moment… there was one. An editor was involved with this one right from the start; we discussed the bones of the book, I presented a loose sack of ideas, she approved them, and I wrote the book. It came back to me with an editorial fiat that unequivocally demanded that I rewrite the ending completely. I did. It still worked and the book was published.

4) A combination of a series of ideas culled out of frustrations with the popular culture, a real-life but rather larger-than-life character I wanted to write about, and a desire to explore a different magic gelled to produce a story about a youngster coming into her potential through fraught circumstances.

It was a difficult story to write because it was more structured than some of my other tales were – and I don’t work well to outlines. But while I tried to stick to the original proposal, my OWN jaw drops at the difference between what I proposed to the finished series. 

This story took me longer to write than anything I had written before. In pure
wordage, it adds up to not THAT much more than Book 2 above – but while that took me three months, this series took several years. 

5) This book started life as a short story for a themed anthology. When I was almost 5000 words into the “short story” *and was still worldbuilding, I realized I was writing a book. And if I fitted certain things together in a certain way… I had a considerable amount of story I didn’t know I had. In the end I had a powerful trilogy.

So, then. You want to know how I write a book?

WHICH BOOK?!? They are all different for me. Every. Single. One. I reinvent myself as a writer with every single manuscript I produce.The answer that vexed question is that there IS no single way that a book can be written or has to be written. If it works for you, and produces something good, it all comes out even in the end.

Stop worrying whether you’re writing a book “the right way”. There IS no right way. No two books are exactly alike. Listen to them, and they’ll tell you what their preferred process is. And after that… just TRUST them. Your stories know what they are doing.

Were you able to figure out which of my published books came from the paths described above? They are:

1) Hidden Queen/Changer of Days
2) The Secrets of Jin-shei
3) Embers of Heaven
4) Worldweavers trilogy – (“Gift of the Unmage”, “Spellspam”, “Cybermage”, “Dawn of Magic.”)
5) The Were Chronicles (“Random”,”Wolf”, “Shifter”)

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Wings of Fire coverA copy of my latest book, Wings of Fire,

is up for a giveaway. If you want to get

on the list

Sign up HERE

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Dangerous Women

After the exhilaration brought on by the massive Women’s March, I found it both amusing and infuriating to browse through these

Postcards warning men about the dangers of women’s rights

They were put together by Tara McGinley who wrote: “Here’s a collection of totally ridiculous vintage postcards and posters dated from around 1900 to 1914 warning men of the dangers associated with the suffragette movement and of allowing women to think for themselves.”

postcards posterExcept for the clothes, I am not entirely sure that things have changed all that much.

See more postcards at Dangerous Minds website HERE

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HORIZONS MURALFeature image: detail from “Horizons” a mural by Robert McCall.

I always remain astonished at the disdain in which the literature of the future has always been held by the here and now.

It’s just so easy to wave a hand and close the door on the science fiction ghetto. 

Sometimes I think that the ‘real’ writers are so afraid of how they’ll be shown up by us genre folks that they’d rather just not compete at all and fondly imagine that keeping the gates locked will keep the cooties away. But I have news for them. it’s in HERE that the future lives. The fences and the locks and the keys…keepg THEM out, not US in. We’re already out there among the stars. Have the literati considered the possibility that it is around THEM, rather than us, that the locked gates and the iron bars really are…?

While I am better known for my fantasy than my science fiction (I sometimes combine the two), I believe that if anything, the sheer vision required to create ANY future from scratch should be a feature of literature, not the bug.

Here are two links to relevant articles well worth you time.

Why science fiction authors can’t win HERE

Building a Better Definition of Science Fiction HERE

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Andrew Hilleman offers

10 Great Westerns You’ve Never Read

My husband, who cut his teeth on westerns, has read a couple of these and urged this link on me. He is still haunted by ‘The Ox-Bow Incident‘, an exploration of mob rule that still echoes harshly for us even today.

Read all of Hilleman’s picks at the PW website HERE

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Surprise! Children’s Books Figured Out Life Long Ago

Children's Book wisdom poster
There’s a reason certain children’s books stay with you long after you’ve left elementary school, Crafty House tells us. “Deceptively simple, such evergreen stories absolutely brim with meaning and insight, serving to remind the reader of the most basic but vital lessons in life.”

 
See all the quotes at Crafty House HERE

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Quote of the Day

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein

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Read it! Now!

The New Jersey bookstore Inkwood has a list of reading resolutions for 2017.
2017 Reading Resolutions chalk board
Here’s my own handful of resolutions – your mission, should you choose to accept it.

1) If an author you like has a handlea-able number of books out there and you haven’t read them all, become the completist. Find and read ALL of their work. Then write and tell them so.

2) Commit to reading at least 12 books this year – it’s ONLY one book a month and it won’t take that long . No, they don’t have to be 1000-page books (and if they are, you can make a case of that book counting for two or even three ordinary books…)

3) Be a word-spreader. if you like a book, tell other people about it. Writers will thank you for it.

4) Read at least one book in a genre you’ve never read before. You might still not find it congenial but at least you’ll know WHY.

5) Read at least one author you’ve never read before or never HEARD of before. You might hate the book (and you aren’t REQUIRED to finish) but at least you aren’t going to be reading the same handful of authors over and over again. Reading is an adventure. Get your ticket punched for a destination you’ve never ben to before.

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And speaking of lists…

I tend to ignore them myself.

I know, I know, I just offered you a list. Sue me.

Lists I hate graffittiI’ll admit to running through the the occasional list invoving books to see how many of them I have read.

Some lists are more esoteric than others – there are lists I can confidently say I”ve pretty much covered comprehensively and there are other lists which leave me scratching my head and wondering if I live in some alternate universe because I haven’t heard of any of those books or their “acclaimed” authors. Books lists are one of the oldest and dodgiest forms of literary criticism.

Here’s a list that’s left me interested and intrigued. It has books I’ve heard of but haven’t read yet although I’ve been meaning to (Le Guin’s “Lavinia”, for one) and it has books by authors whose names I recognise – but not from THIS book. I think I may have some catch-up reading to do…

Let down by the lists

Read more HERE

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At Off-the-Shelf,  Kerry Fiallo offers us:

17 Favorite Book First Lines to start 2017

One of mine is: “All this happened, more or less.”
Another is: “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”

The Secret History coverAnd then there is:

“The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.”

From The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

Read the whole article HERE

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Quote of the Day

Writers Block posterNote to my husband: Not in the winter you don’t!

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20 Serial Killers?

Unh… 20 Killer Series?

It’s satisfying to have a stand-alone book. When you are writing it, that’s the story, and when you’re done you’re done. You can go onto something else without a qualm of conscience.

But series are something else again. They don’t let you go. With the first book, they open the door just a crack. But when you come inside, you realise that there are more doors waiting for you, and it’s irresistible, you can’t NOT open them to see what happens next.

My first series was inadvertent – a 250,000-word novel was picked up by a publisher who demanded that it be split into two more manageable volumes. That became “The Hidden Queen” and “Changer of Days”.

After that, I wrote what was essentially two stand-alone novels which were set in the same world, but 400 years apart – “Secrets of Jin-shei” and “Embers of Heaven”.

And then I stepped into the series world.

The Worldweavers books were born in the aftermath of the Harry Potter mania, and happened when I heard Jane Yolen say that she wasn’t at all sure that she liked the way the Potter books treated girls. And I was off and running with Thea Winthrop and her adventures. That series was a trilogy for the longest time and then I wrote the fourth and final book in the Worldweavers canon. “Dawn of Magic” was published in 2015.

My latest series, also YA, is The Were Chronicles – “Random”, “Wolf”, “Shifter”. The genesis of these books was an anthology about the Were creatures for which I sat down to try and write a story… and discovered that my idea was far too big to fit into a short story mold. It wanted to be a novel. And then it wanted to be THREE novels. And it is possible that the ramifications of those three novels may mean that it eventually becomes SIX novels.

Series. They never let you go.

The Book Depository has come up with their list ofTop 20 SeriesIt rounds up the usual suspects: Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Harry Potter…

What would you add, or subtract, from their list?

Best series ever? HERE

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Wolf Cover

 

WOLF, Book 2 in The Were Chronicles, is now available as an ebook on Amazon.

Other online vendors to follow.

 

 

 

Buy it at Amazon HERE

 

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My first book – the very very first book I sold – was a collection of new-minted fairy tales which were a cross between Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde. The three stories eventually became “The Dolphin’s Daughter”, a book that went into NINE PRINTINGS and still gave me a trickle of royalties more than ten years after it was first published, which speaks volumes about the power of the fairy tale. So I do have a vested interest in the area.

At io9, Charlie Jane Anders offers
10 Books That Will Change How You Think About Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are everywhere these days, she says. They rival superheroes at the movies and TV, and novelists rush to create their own darker, more relevant versions. But how well do you really know fairy tales? Do you know this one?

e.g.
Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen
Jane YolenThe prolific Jane Yolen has been called America’s Hans Christian Andersen, and with this book she hunts down great folktales from around the world and presents them for young readers.

Read the whole story HERE

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25 Genre Novels That Should be Classics

At Flavor Wire, Emily Temple notes that there’s a stigma that keeps worthy works of genre fiction (mostly SF/fantasy, with a little historical, mystery and crime thrown in) from reaching classic status: being taught in high schools, appearing on all-time best-book lists, etc.

Some genre novels have already crossed the border into pure classic territory — Brave New World, Slaughterhouse-Five and 1984, for example. Here are 25 genre novels that should be considered classics.

e.g.
Solaris, Stanislaw Lem

Solaris

 

Lem’s weird, surrealist space novel is a classic of sorts for those in the know, but epidemically under-read.

The book vacillates between beautifully ruminative and action-packed exciting, as the inhabitants of a space station deal with the clones of their loved ones that the sentient planet they’re on continually sends their way. Also, best depiction of an alien sea that has ever been committed to print.

 

 

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS n THAT

Uhtceare: An Old English word meaning ‘lying awake before dawn and worrying.’

9 other Old English Words You Need to Be Using

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Literacy Falling From The Sky In Brazil!

In a part of the world where most adults don’t have books, it’s highly unlikely the kids will as well. Enter the “Stories In The Sky Project”. Brazilian writers donated stories and the stories were than printed on kites and handed out to kids. They would fly the kites and at some point, would cut the string and let the story kites fall to the ground where other kids could pick them up and enjoy the stories. Then those kids would start the process over again. What a brilliant way to give kids the opportunity to read!

See video HERE

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Quote of the DayQUOTE Nietzche~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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The womanless cannon

At Strange Horizons, Kari Sperring writes about Katherine Kurtz.

Matrilines: The Woman Who Made Fantasy

“Kurtz’s debut novel, Deryni Rising, came out from Ballantine Books in 1970,” Sperring writes, “…and it changed the face of modern fantasy.” She uses Kurtz for a springboard into the continuing and vexing problem of women writers being mostly ignored in the cannon.

Katherine KurtzI myself have ALL the Deryni books. ALL of them. Dear GOD I ate them up. These were the kind of books I craved – complex, convoluted, character-driven, immensely detailed, utterly believable, beautifully contextualised – and these were thus the kinds of books I went on to write.

I haven’t heard much about Kurtz in a long time now, to be sure. Erased and sidelined. Some day I should go back to the beginning and re-read the Deryni books, all of them.

Such things bear rediscovery.

 

 

Read all of Sperring’s wonderful essay HERE

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11 Unforgettable First Lines in Literature

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, Off the Shelf says, then the first line is the window to the book.

“A first line can drag you in, shock you, confuse you, or touch you. A first line is what makes you read on. Here are some of our favorite first lines that set the tone for some incredible books.”

For example, what book begins?
“I was not sorry when my brother died.”

Javiar MaríasTsitsi Dangarembga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check your answer (or guess) HERE

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Stunning street art tribute to author Terry Pratchett appears in east London
Terry Pratchett
Mural showing Terry Pratchett off Brick Lane (Picture: Ella Finch)

Characters such as the skeletal, dry-humoured Death and inept wizard Rincewind dance across the walls of the Pillow Cinema, The London Evening Standard reports .

Pratchett wrote 40 Discworld and sold more than 85 million books during his lifetime. Now his legacy is set to live on in Brick Lane with reproductions of the original book art by Josh Kirby.

Read the whole story HERE

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“But You Didn’t”

I posted this poem, story and link long long ago in a galaxy…well, I posted it months ago anyway, but it still keeps getting discovered, opened and shared. It is incredibly moving.

The poem was written by an unknown American woman but has now been brought to life through the art of a Chinese cartoonist and shared here on VIRALNOVA. All that’s really known about the poem is the title.
But you didn't
Poem Translated & Illustrated by Chinese Netizen on Sina Weibo

See the whole illustrated poem HERE

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The Book Cover That Judges Readers

On Galley Cat, Dianna Dilworth tells us that Thijs Biersteker has given the idiom, “don’t judge a book by its cover” a new meaning.

The Dutch artist has invented The Cover That Judges You. The book cover is designed to detect how a reader is judging it based on a scan of the reader’s face.
Cover that judges you

If you approach the book, the face recognition system picks up your face and starts scanning it for signs of ‘judgement’. If your face shows a skeptical expression, the book will stay locked. But if your expression is neutral, the book will unlock itself.

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Charlotte’s Web by EB White has been voted the most popular children’s book ever, according to a new survey from BBC.com.

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Top 10 books about reading

Books about books, where literature is integral to life, are a genre in themselves, as terrific titles by authors from Nicholson Baker to Geoff Dyer very readably show.  One example:

The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller: Miller is a book critic for Salon magazine; someone who’s had the good fortune to turn her love of reading into a career. In The Magician’s Book she tells where that love began, in the world of Narnia, and shows how literature can work its spell on a young reader.

Read the whole story HERE

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Quotes of the Day

‘I don’t understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism, but when we destroy something created by nature we call it progress.’ Ed Begley, Jr.

‘Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.’ Jacques-Yves Cousteau

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
 
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What Lisa Simpson Reads

At Bustle, Becky Schultz talks about the 11 Books You’d Find On Lisa Simpson’s Shelf because she has great literary taste.

For example:
Amy TanJoy Luck Club by Amy Tan

After destroying Lisa’s room with fireworks, Bart and Homer make it up to her by spending a day at the Springfield Festival of Books. There, they encounter Stephen King, Tom Wolfe, John Updike, and Amy Tan, who Lisa admires for Joy Luck Club, a novel that follows four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco who start a mahjong (for money) club.

Lisa: Ms. Tan, I loved the Joy Luck Club. It really showed me how the mother-daughter bond can triumph over adversity.

 Amy Tan: No, that’s not what I meant at all, you couldn’t have gotten it more wrong.

Lisa: But

Amy Tan: Please, just sit down. I’m embarrassed for both of us.

See the other great books HERE

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I wonder what Lisa would think of my new novel, Abducticon?

It just got its first review on Amazon (5 stars) from Rainy Day, who says in part:

If you’ve ever been to a Science Fiction/Fantasy convention, ‘con’ to most people, you will love this book. If you’ve ever been involved in a con, either in setting one up, working one, or as a guest, you will recognize every single person Ms. Alexander writes about. Perhaps not every single episode that happens, as, well, the entire con and the hotel, complete with mundane guests, is hijacked by time-traveling androids and taken for a ride around the moon.

Wouldn’t that be a con to end all cons? And the reactions from the gamers? Absolutely priceless! Everything you could possibly want in a con is in this book, up to and including the replicators.

If you like cons, you will absitively posolutely LOVE this book. This is truly one of the funniest SF books I’ve read in years. Job well done, Alma Alexander!

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To write, you must read, read, read – and don’t forget to read

I’ll be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop In an interview with me for their website, I was asked: What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers? I replied:

One young and aspiring writer, asking for advice of this nature, once unforgettably told me that she “didn’t have time to read.” I knew then that she would never really be a writer.

Reading is the primary education for any writer. People who don’t read never develop the love and the reverence for the written word–and how, then, can they hope to tease out its wonders?…

Beyond that, if you are serious about pursuing this as a craft, as a vocation, as a career… well… Write. Practice. It comes only with practice, this inner instinct about whether something you’ve just written is good, or if there is something wrong with it, and what, and how it needs fixing. I once wrote a page and half of something and realized that what I had there was a very dense summary of the thing I needed to actually write. Once I teased out everything that got condensed into it until it weighed as much as a literary neutron star, it turned into nearly three chapters of the book that came out of it all. But without the millions of words of practice I had already put in… I would not have known this, recognised this, figured out what I needed to do to fix it.

Read the whole interview HERE

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Speaking of reading…

Pat Conroy says:

The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language.

Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in “Lonesome Dove” and had nightmares about slavery in “Beloved” and walked the streets of Dublin in “Ulysses” and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in “A Prayer for Owen Meany.”

I’ve been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.

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The only book of mine that I have ever had reservations about is a collection of some of my teenage poems, self published by my proud father. Some of them were okay, but others. Well, they were the work of a young teen. ‘Nuf said.

At Mental Floss, Rudie Obias has written about authors with more serious problems with something they published.

9 Authors Who Regretted The Success of Their Work

An author who made a shark the villain, later became a shark champion; a man who wrote how to build bombs later rejected the idea that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change.

Octavia E. Butler despised her third novel Survivor because it featured some of the worst clichés of the genre.

Survivor“When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way,” she told Amazon.com. “They were a little sly, or a little like ‘the natives’ in a very bad, old movie. … People ask me why I don’t like Survivor, my third novel. And it’s because it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel.”

After its initial edition, Butler refused to bring Survivor back into circulation.

Read all the author regrets HERE

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Author Stops Reading White Male Authors For a Year

No white males Reads Nisi Shawl

 

Every time I tried to get through a magazine,” K. T. Bradford wrote, “I would come across stories that I didn’t enjoy or that I actively hated or that offended me so much I rage-quit the issue. Go through enough of that, and you start to resist the idea of reading at all.

So Bradford decided that instead of reading everything, “I would only look at stories by women or people of color or LGBT writers. Essentially: no straight, cis, white males.”

The result was that she enjoyed reading short stories more, and she also became aware of how often certain magazines published whole issues in which no women or POC authors made an appearance. She went on the hunt and discovered several that published new-to-me writers and also a surprising number of magazines dedicated to under-heard voices.

Read the whole article HERE

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The top 10 liars in fiction

Nick Lake, author of There Will be Lies, selects his favorite fictional tricksters and tellers of untruths in books
GatsbyGatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), the greatest liar in literature? Photograph: Warner Br/Everett /Rex

Rich playboy Gatsby (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald) lies about a lot of things. His romantic life; his past; the origins of his ostentatious wealth, actually amassed through grubby bootlegging. But the small, practical lie that has always stuck in my mind is the fact that the handsome books in his library have uncut pages, proving that he hasn’t ever opened them. F Scott Fitzgerald called the jazz age the “cut glass age”, for its glitter, outward beauty and inward emptiness. But I almost think the uncut books are a more resonant metaphor.”

See the other liars HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Researcher accidentally invents glasses to solve color blindness

The glasses were designed for surgeons. A doctor’s friend tried them out and discovered trees are green, flowers come in limitless colors, and a sunset can take your breath away.

Read the whole article HERE

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Quote of the Day

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~ William Arthur Ward

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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