Which door would you pick?

Doors (archways) photo
Photo by Michael Lomza at Ubsplash: Marianne's Palace, Kamieniec Ząbkowicki, Poland

There was a question posted in LiveJournal a few years back: You find yourself in front of seven identical doors. A voice from above tells you, “These doors lead to seven different places: Narnia, Neverland, Wonderland, Hogwarts, Camelot, Middle Earth, and Westeros. Which door do you go through?”

Well, first of all I would add two more doors that lead into my own worlds:

Syai, the China-that-never-was-but-might-have-been, either in “The Secrets of Jin-shei” or the book set in the same world hundred of years later, “Embers of Heaven.”

Worldweavers, the home of Thea Winthrop and Elemental Magic, where you could walk and talk with Nilola Tesla and Corey the Trickster.

Okay. My answers on the original seven because asking an author which of her own worlds  she would choose to live in is like asking her which of her children she loves best:

First off, the obvious NO: Westeros. I’ve never read the whole entire series but what I’ve seen of the TV show basically tells me that unless I step out of that door on the far side as ALREADY a queen (and even THEY often don’t fare all that well), my life would tend to be short sharp and brutal and thank you very much. I’ll pass. Besides, for some reason, what I HAVE seen of George R R Martin’s epic I’ve enjoyed on the level that it’s a punchy story that rolls you forward but on some deep and fundamental level it just never did satisfy me.

Narnia – if you has asked me this question when I was 14 I would probably have run, not walked, to Narnia. Particularly if I could meet Aslan (who was not, after all a TAME lion). There was just… something. Something magical.

But then I fatally read, or was educated about, the stuff between the lines, and Narnia lost its gloss. I can still love it, and enjoy it, but there is a tight wary part of me that wants nothing to do with the allegorical layering within it and I do NOT want to end up where I think I would end up if I went there, with Aslan magically transforming into one of those religious-postcard blue-eyed Jesuses with an expression of inexpressible beatitude and an attitude of “you will be just fine if you do what I say you do and think only what I say you think”. I’m sorry, but I’m way beyond that. I have my own ideas. If I could be guaranteed Aslan and ONLY Aslan, I might consider it. Otherwise…

Neverland and Wonderland share a particular characteristic which means I’d love to visit but not stay there long term – an overwhelming preponderance of the twee and the whimsical. In the case of Alice – particularly in the Looking Glass books – you might say that it all means an entirely different thing and that if you pay attention you might actually understand this and have an experience that is vastly different from what you think you are seeing. And while I do ADORE Lewis Carroll’s obvious and irrepressible love of language – if I had to LIVE with that I’d be insane in short order. I’d probably TURN into a Jabberwock and start eating people.

Hogwarts – oh, I don’t know. There are wonderful things in that world. There are also things that make me roll my eyes mightily and go, oh, REALLY?!? And learning pig latin to do spells… would lose its charm fast.

Which leaves us with Camelot, and Middle Earth.

Camelot was an enduring love affair, for me. I LOVE the Arthurian cycle (well, the parts of it before it turns into a Christian tract and the only thing that matters is finding the metaphysical equivalent of salvation in the shape of the Holy Grail. But it had a power to it that I responded to, the power of PEOPLE living a MYTH.

When I was 19 I even wrote an entire novel from the POV of Guinevere (and discovered that it was a damnably difficult thing to do because she could not POSSIBLY know half the things that I needed her to know in order to carry the plot forward, without resorting to silly little-girl tricks like listening at doors…) Given a chance to go through that door and find myself in Camelot… ah, well, the rub here is WHICH Camelot, and what I will find there. But this one would tempt me. Tempt me hard.

In the end there is only one door for me, though, and I am sure those of you who know me picked this one for me right from the start.

I am a Tolkien girl.

For a very long time I have lived and breathed Middle Earth. I may not know Quenya, but my heart speaks that, and Entish, and knows how to sing “Misty Mountains” in the original tongue of the Dwarves who wrote it. I understand this world, and I treasure it. In fact, I hardly need to open that door and step through… because I am already there.

I’ve been there for as long as I know.

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A new treat for my Patrons

I have written a new short story set in a world I may revisit some day: Val Hall, the Bruce Wayne Foundation-funded Home for Retired Superherors (Third Class). It’s all about…well, you’ll just have to read it.

A note about Patreon: as publishing changes, most authors need new sources of income. If you would like to help me continue writing about wizards and Weres, Jin-shei sisters, and girls who rise from the gutter to Empress, consider pitching in with a small monthly pledge. For the cost of a latte or two you too can become a patron of the arts.

Details HERE

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Wired asked writers to create 6-word SF stories

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so. – Joss Whedon

More from Wired HERE

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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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THIS ‘n THAT

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”

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The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors:

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

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Magical worlds

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIANarnia – a scene from the Disney film: Photo by c.W. Disney / Rex Features.

Have you ever wanted to escape to a magical world of fun and mayhem? Lindsay Taylor and Suzanne Smith, the authors of the Hattie B, Magical Vet series want to know, then offer their personal favorite fantasy realms, from Narnia and Neverland to Wonderland and Willy Wonka’s factory…

Someday, I’d like to think that the worlds of my Worldweavers series and The Were Chronicles will be at the top of readers list of their favorite magical places.

Taylor and Smith’s favorite of their top 10 list? Narnia, of course.

Narnia: C.S. Lewis managed to conjure such vivid imagery of a faraway mythical land, a place where the animals can talk, where the White Witch rules and the formidable Aslan guards the land and leads battles that it is impossible to have anything less than a fantastic vision of Narnia in your mind. If we could choose to travel to any magical world we would choose Narnia every time.

See their other choices HERE

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A friendly bite

I had a delightful time at Bitten by Books, answering some unusual interview questions about everything from whether I can fake an accent to my favorite vacation (easy, the first time I swam with dophins, in Tahiti).

That, of course, was followed by questions about the writing of Ransom, and the Were World in general, and then an interaction with the readers who frequent the book review site – an interaction which was still going on two days later.

This has been quite a ride, and some of the readers’ comments have been SO much fun to answer. I’ve been peppered with everything from which of my characters I most identify with to my favorite Muppet and everything in between. Swing by and take a gander at the interview there, but then do go on and scan the comment section. It’s well worth it.

Bitten by Books Q&A HERE

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The Future of Women on Earth May Be Darker Than You Thought

It’s easy to get caught up in the internet gender war trainwreck,” Annalee Newitz writes at io9, “where we’re still arguing over whether women belong in tech or rape victims are liars. But let’s set that shit aside and take the long view: Do we have any evidence that the future will bring greater freedom to women, or should we expect more dystopia?”

She notes that “One of the most important mathematicians in classical antiquity, Hypatia, was a woman. Every other ancient mathematician we study today? Male. Hundreds of dangerous pirate captains sailed the high seas in the 16th century. But hey! One of them was a woman!”
pirateIllustration by Steven Belledin

I could…look back in numb terror, counting how few generations separate me from women who had the same voting rights that my cats do right now. How easy it would be to take my rights away, turning the last century into a weird tangent in a history that has mostly featured women as what Zora Neale Hurston once called ‘the mules of the world.’

Read the whole essay HERE

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If you would like to take a step to aid women, Care 2 is urging the U.S. Congress to: “Pass the International Violence Against Women Act”

You can add your name HERE

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Good times at Village Books

My own local book store, Village Books in Bellingham, reports sales were up 9% over last year’s holiday season. Unfortunately, books were up only 2% while non-book sales were up 18%.

As an author, I say “unfortunately”, but co-owner Chuck Robinson has a different POV, of course: sheer delight.

About 49% of the month of December was in non-book products”, Robinson commented at Shelf Awareness. “Village Books’ wearables category, which includes scarves, jewelry, socks and even bras, did so well this holiday season that if it was separated from the rest of the operation, it would constitute a “sizable women’s accessory store” on its own.

Over the past few holiday seasons, Robinson said, the non-book side of his business has continued to grow rapidly. Robinson also reported a calmer, happier atmosphere in the store this season, with fewer staff members mentioning encounters with grumpy shoppers.

“Nearly every staff member commented on how pleasant customers were,” he said. “In spite of seeming less rushed, we did notice folks shopping later on Christmas Eve.”

Village Books RedVillage Books tries to help. Photo by Alma Alexander

Robinson reported that Village Books sold a “boatload” of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which was the store’s Whatcom Literacy Council pick of the year.

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Things You Didn’t Know About ‘The Lord Of The Rings’

Lord Of The RingsFor example: Christopher Tolkien, the son of J.R.R. and editor of his posthumous works, hated the Peter Jackson movies.

If you’re a dedicated fan and essentially consider Middle Earth a second home, Todd Van Luling writes in the Huffington Post, you probably have your own extensive knowledge of trivia surrounding J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. Since The Hobbit was released in 1937 and The Lord of the Rings 17 years later in 1954, Tolkien has garnered an extensive following, and has sold hundreds of millions of books. It’d be a decent bet to guess you own at least one of those copies.

Read the whole article HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

More Hilarious Questions Posed to the NYPL Pre-Interneta questionSee other questions HERE

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Quote of the Day

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”  ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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Whence fantasy?

I was born on the same continent that gave us the stories, legends, myths, and fairy tales that underlie things like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Wheel of Time, and, hell yeah why not, Game of Thrones (yeah, Khal Drogo. But the Dothraki have a definite patina of Here Be Exotics…)

Those, and more, and any number of EFPs (Extruded Fantasy Product).

The definition of classical fantasy rests on people taking long journeys on tree-lined dirt roads with European seasons hanging in the tree tops and the clouds, and stopping for bathroom breaks in generic Ye Olde Inns with ale on tap and the generic stew bubbling in a cauldron over the fire. It is entirely surprising that Europe never ran out of rabbits, the amount of stews that were on the boil all the time. And we won’t talk about the Magic Potatoes which make their way into European stews while their real life counterparts still existed only in Hy Breasil or whatever they called that land far beyond the western ocean…

The thing accepted as and feted as classic fantasy is rich but it has been very well mined. And so it is not surprising that so many readers are looking for places and things and stories which *they haven’t seen before* — the “silk road” fantasy oeuvre. Anything that isn’t obviously rooted in the cheerfully misrepresented and romanticized European High Middle Ages.

Embers of Heaven

 

I didn’t set out to write that, but my “Secrets of Jin Shei” and “Embers of Heaven” were set THERE, a mythical land inspired by imperial China rather than anywhere closer to home.

Yes, it made things more difficult because there was THAT much more research that needed to be done before I could be comfortable telling a story set in a milieu so distant from my own cultural heritage.

 

 

Worldweavers

 

Similarly, my Worldweavers books take place in the U.S. and are infused with Native American myths. And my new series, The Were Chronicles, invokes modern life in The New World by Weres far distant from their ancient European roots.

But dammit, it’s worth it, when the resulting stories shine with a brighter glow. It is ALL our world, after all, and it is high time some cultural shut-ins learned that there is more out there than just stew in inns crewed by the likes of jolly red-cheeked Butterbur of Bree.

Speaking from the inevitably Euro-based divide that dictates standards of beauty – which is all too prevalent, in both fantasy and Real Life (TM) – It is high time that it was accepted that a woman whose heritage is South East Asian or Central African, rather than red-haired Celtic, can, should, and must be called beautiful too – and may step up to the adventure gate in her own right.

It is high time that we looked at “other” and saw something worthy of curiosity and honor and respect rather than just the differences that frighten and repel and lead to dehumanization and slaughter. It is high time we all learned… how to  be human together. It is time the OTHER stories get told. Make room by the fire, there – those of you who have had plenty of chances to speak – and learn how to listen, instead.

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Paul Weirmer explores the same thing at SF Signal

Silk Road Fantasy and Breaking the Great Wall of Europe

Wolf on the Steppes

 

Tired of nearly every secondary world fantasy being set in a world that seems to borrow only from Medieval Europe, especially Western Europe? Most especially Northwestern Europe (England, France, perhaps the Low Countries)? … So am I. And I’d like to tell you about fantasy that transcends that barrier.

 

Read the Article

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From Stand-Up to Twitter, a New Generation’s Fresh Take on Storytelling

If we make it through this time of climate crisis and economic upheaval, the new storytellers will deserve some of the credit, Sarah van Gelder writes at Yes! Magazine.

The new storytellers are writers, poets, musicians, documentarians, radio producers, and others who are reporting the story of a new world being built around the frayed edges of the old….a new society is emerging from the bottom up, born of the hopes and hard work of many people who have been excluded from the old society and who yearn for a more just and life-affirming world.

arundhatiArundhati Roy said it beautifully at the World Social Forum in 2003: “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”

 

Read the Article

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Every cliche you know about a woman’s handbag is probably true.

I am just SO not a fashion bunny, not the Duchess of Cambridge who has to have a matching bag and shoes. I have been carrying the same damn bag – season in, season out – for, uh, well, yeah, years.

The other day I decided that I  wanted a change, hauledl out another bag, and started to transfer stuff.

Ho. Ly. Cow.

I found receipts in there dated. 2013. 2012 … 2008, and some so faded that they were blank. At the very bottom of the bag there was a folded piece of paper which was the itinerary for when my aunt came over to visit from Europe… almost four years ago.

There was a charger for a defunct cellphone, and a silver cigarette lighter engraved to my Dad for winning a chess toiurnament which I nicked just after he died as a memento fully intending to put it somewhere safe when i got home. My father has been gone for almost a year now.

I felt a little like Mary Poppins, half convinced that the next thing I was going to pull out was a Tiffany floor lamp.

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Speaking of Mary Poppins…
Mary PoppinsAunt Sass in fiction … Julie Andrews in the 1964 film of Mary Poppins. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

The real-life model for Mary Poppins will be published this autumn

The tale of ‘stern and tender’ Aunt Sass appears in a PL Travers story originally written as a private Christmas gift, Alison Flood writes in The Guardian. The resemblance to Travers’ most famous creation, the nanny whose spoonful of sugar made the medicine go down for the Banks children, is no coincidence.

Travers writes in the previously unpublished story about the moment she heard of her aunt’s death. “I thought to myself, ‘Some day, in spite of her, I shall commit the disrespectful vulgarity of putting Aunt Sass in a book.’ And then it occurred to me that this had already been done, though unconsciously and without intent. We write more than we know we are writing. We do not guess at the roots that made our fruit. I suddenly realised that there is a book through which Aunt Sass, stern and tender, secret and proud, anonymous and loving, stalks with her silent feet,” wrote the author. “You will find her occasionally in the pages of Mary Poppins.”

Read the Article

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Sergeant Milunka Savic stands her ground

In 1912, when Milunka Savic was 24, her brother was called up to serve in the first Balkan War, Therese Oneill writes at Mental Floss.

We’re not sure if Milunka took his place or just went along, but we do know that she assumed a male identity and became a highly decorated soldier in the Serbian army.

Sergeant Milunka SavicShe apparently kept her gender a secret through the First Balkan War and into the Second, when a Bulgarian grenade wounded her so severely that her gender was revealed to the field surgeons.

Sgt. Savic was called before her commanding officer. They didn’t want to punish her, because she had proven a valuable and highly competent soldier. The military deployment that had resulted in her gender being revealed had been her tenth. But neither was it suitable for a young woman to be in combat. She was offered a transfer to the Nursing division.

Savic stood at attention and insisted she only wanted to fight for her country as a combatant. The officer said he’d think it over and give her his answer the next day.

Still standing at attention, Savic responded, “I will wait.”

It is said he only made her stand an hour before agreeing to send her back to the infantry.

She fought for Serbia through World War I, receiving honors from several different governments for her distinguished service. Some believe her to be the most decorated female in the history of warfare. She was decommissioned in 1919 and fell into a life of relative obscurity and hardship. She died in Belgrade in 1973 at the age of 84.

Read the Article

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Quote of the Day
YA quote~~~~~
Alma Alexander
Check out my books
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Comments welcome. What do you think?

Tell me a story

Even in our digital age, live storytelling has a spellbinding effect, Richard Hamilton says in Daily Good.

Hamilton, a radio broadcaster, wonders whether radio or any recording device can ever fully replicate the experience of listening to a live storyteller.

StorytellerStoryteller Abderrahim El Makkouri holds a photo of himself performing in the 1970s. Courtesy of the author

The folklorist Joseph Bruchac thinks not. ‘The presence of teller and audience, and the immediacy of the moment, are not fully captured by any form of technology,’ he once wrote in  The Guardian. ‘Unlike the insect frozen in amber, a told story is alive… The story breathes with the teller’s breath.’

Hamilton says his research into oral storytelling suggests that Bruchac may be right.

I wrote a book about the storytellers of Morocco, collecting more than 30 tales in the process. When I read some of them aloud to one of my friend’s children, these stories came alive in a way that I had not expected. The gurgles and shrieks of delight from the bunk beds encouraged me to put more into the performance. It was like the relationship between an actor and his audience, each emboldening the other in a virtuous circle.

Narrative seems to occupy a very central position in our thought patterns. Our brains seem wired to try to seek out a narrative. It is how we make sense of the world.

Living stories

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When the magic is free

Weight of Worlds, my collection of 11 tales of magic, cruelty, and sacrifice, will be free in ebook form until Feb. 5.

Weight of WorldsBut, for the moment, only on the Kindle, I’m afraid.

The cover story tells of several worlds and their millions of souls lost in a game of chance; in other stories we encounter the soul of a sinner locked in a gargoyle serving out his time in purgatory, an angel offering a new life to a deeply troubled woman but at a bitter price, and many others.

All of my stories owe a debt to the dark and twisted fairy tales of Oscar Wilde and the passion and poignant drama of the stories of Hans Christian Andersen.

If you pick up the book, please consider writing a quick review on Amazon.

Weight of Worlds

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YA dystopiaIllustration by Tom Gauld

Our Young-Adult Dystopia – Is youth best served by age?

I sometimes wonder what Dante or Milton or any of those guys would make of the modern appetite for the young-adult epic,” Michelle Dean muses in the New York Times.

It wasn’t always a lucrative thing, writing grand, sweeping, fantastical stories, you know. It was a job for nose-to-the-grindstone, writing-for-the-ages types, and worldly rewards were low. Milton died in penury, blind and obscure; Dante met his maker in literal exile.

Today, Dean says, writing a big, imaginative epic, and particularly one aimed at children or young adults, will get you plenty of money and status. However she notes the publishers focus on young writers and points out that could be a problem.   

Children’s literature toys with our chronological expectations because the best of it has always been written, actually, by the comparatively elderly. Lewis himself was 51 when the “Narnia” books came out; Lois Lowry was 56 when “The Giver” was published; Madeleine L’Engle wrote “A Wrinkle in Time” in her 40s, and L. Frank Baum his “Oz” books in the same decade of his life.

Age is what the greats have in common. The long years between adolescence and middle age seem to be necessary soil for this craft. It requires roots, and no quick shoots will do. They need years to grow and tangle and set before the brilliant, unforgettable book appears.

Our Young-Adult Dystopia

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Quote of the Day

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Alma Alexander

Check out my books

Email me

What do you think? Comments welcome.
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Which door would you pick?

Something going the rounds in LiveJournal posits this: You find yourself in front of seven identical doors. A voice from above tells you, “These seven doors lead to seven different places: Narnia, Neverland, Wonderland, Hogwarts, Camelot, Middle Earth, and Westeros. Which door do you go through?”

I would add two more doors that lead into my own worlds:

Syai, the China-that-never-was-but-might-have-been, either in “The Secrets of Jin-shei” or the book set in the same world hundred of years later, “Embers of Heaven.”

Worldweavers, the home of Thea Winthrop and Elemental Magic, where you could walk and talk with Nilola Tesla and Corey the Trickster.

Okay. My answers on the original seven (because asking an author which of her own worlds  she would choose to live in is like asking her which of her children she loves best):

First off, the obvious NO: Westeros. I’ve never read the whole entire series of books, and from what I’ve seen of the TV show basically tells me that unless I step out of that door on the far side as ALREADY a queen (and even THEY often don’t fare all that well), my life would tend to be short sharp and brutal and thank you very much but I’ll pass. Besides, for some reason, what I HAVE seen of George R R Martin’s epic I’ve enjoyed on the level that it’s a punchy story that rolls you forward but on some deep and fundamental level it just never did satisfy me.

Narnia – if you has asked me this question when I was fourteen I would probably have run, not walked, to Narnia. Particularly if I could meet Aslan (who was not, after all a TAME lion). There was just… something. Something magical. But then I fatally read, or was educated about, the stuff between the lines, and Narnia has sort of lost its gloss after that. I can still love it, and enjoy it, but there is a tight wary part of me that wants nothing to do with the allegorical layering within it and I do NOT want to end up where I think I would end up if I went there, with Aslan magically transforming into one of those religious-postcard blue-eyed Jesuses with an expression of inexpressible beatitude and an attitude of “you will be just fine if you do what I say you do and think only what I say you think”. I’m sorry, but I’m way beyond that. I have my own ideas. If I could be guaranteed Aslan and ONLY Aslan, I might consider it. Otherwise….

Neverland and Wonderland share a particular characteristic which means I’d love to visit but not stay there longterm – an overwhelming preponderance of the twee and the whimsical. In the case of Alice – particularly in the Looking Glass books – you might say that it all means an entirely different thing and that if you pay attention you might actually understand this and have an experience that is vastly different from what you think you are seeing. And while I do ADORE Lewis Carroll’s obvious and irrepressible love of language – if I had to LIVE with that I’d be insane in short order. I’d probably TURN into a Jabberwock and start eating people.

Hogwarts – oh, I don’t know. There are wonderful things in that world. There are also things that make me roll my eyes mightily and go, oh, REALLY?!? And learning pig latin to do spells… would lose its charm fast.

Which leaves us with Camelot, and Middle Earth.

Camelot was an enduring love affair, for me. I LOVE the Arthurian cycle (well, the parts of it before it turns into a Christian tract and the only thing that matters is finding the metaphysical equivalent of selvation in the shape of the Holy Grail. But it had a power to it that I responded to, the power of PEOPLE living a MYTH. When I was 19 I even wrote an entire novel from the POV of Guinevere (and discovered that it was a damnably difficult thing to do because she could not POSSIBLY know half the things that I needed her to know in order to carry the plot forward, without resorting to silly little-girl tricks like listening at doors…) Given a chance to go through that door and find myself in Camelot… ah, well, the rub here is WHICH Camelot, and what I will find there. But this one would tempt me. Tempt me hard.

In the end there is only one door for me, though, and I am sure those of you who know me picked this one for me right from the start.

I am a Tolkien girl.

For a very long time I have lived and breathed Middle Earth.

I may not know Quenya, but my heart speaks that, and Entish, and knows how to sing “Misty Mountains” in the original tongue of the Dwarves who wrote it. I understand this world, and I treasure it. In fact, I hardly need to open that door and step through… because I am already there. I’ve been there for as long as I know.

So, then. Which door would you pick?