The “Blessed Book”

The Secrets of Jin-shei cover frony and back

Hard cover of U.S. HarperCollins edition

An ebook version of “The Secrets of Jin-shei”, a historical fantasy that I wrote in a white heat in 2002, was released this year and has sparked renewed interest in the story of a group of women set in a China-that-never-was.

White heat means exactly that. Its 200,000 words took me less than three months to write and what came out was was a clean first draft which required very little editing. This was a story that was ready to live, and to fly.

I’ve never managed to match that blazing speed with any of my other books.

It’s a sweeping epic set in a land I called Syai that is modeled on medieval China; it is the story of a group of women, the Jin-shei sisterhood, who form a uniquely powerful circle that transcends class and social custom. They are bound together by a declaration of loyalty that transcends all other vows, even those with the gods, and by their own secret language passed from mother to daughter, and by the knowledge that some of them will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice to enable others to fulfill their destiny.

It has been published in 13 languages in more than a score of countries. In the United States it was put out by HarperCollins with the help of a wildly enthusiastic editor who loved the story fiercely… but the HC division which produced this book promptly went away as an entity. The book, after an initial publicity push, was pretty much left to fend for itself after the editor who had spoken so eloquently for it was out of the picture.

And yet it did exceedingly well in foreign editions. In Spain, for example, it sold more than 30,000 hardcover copies and “Bestseller” was stamped on the cover, I call it the Blessed Book.

It’s still in print, at least in the USA, but sales had dropped dramatically… until an ebook version as issued and it has been selling steadily ever since.

I am astonished and delighted that it still gets constant and on-going attention on reading venues like Goodreads where it has received 1,480 ratings (averaging just under four stars) and 166 reviews.

It has scored a respectable number of reviews on Amazon but because of Amazon’s astounding marketing power, I’d love to see the number of reviews climb there. (Hint, if anyone reading this blog has read Jin-shei and would like to add an Amazon review, I’d love to know what you think of it.)


News about Children of a Different Sky

Carl Slaughter interviewed me on my themed fantasy anthology filled with  tales of migrants and refugees, with profits going straight to charities working with refugees and migrant..

CARL SLAUGHTER:  What prompted you to do an anthology with this theme?

ALMA ALEXANDER:  There are seven words that underlie the status of any refugee in the world, ever: “There but for the grace of God…”

It is not a new issue — people who run from disaster in the hope of finding a better future have always been with us. But what IS new is that now it is all being televised on 24-hour 7-days-a-week news channels, always available online on news websites.

We can no longer hide from the misery of these displaced souls because we see them running now — we see them on the crowded boats on open seas, we see them clawing to shore and drowning on the doorstep of salvation, we see them languish in camps where conditions are enough to horrify any sane mind, we see them crowding against barbed wire and against walls and being denied harbor because they are hated and feared and basically unwanted by the populace already on the ground in the places where the migrants wish to go.  People who cannot see that the refugees in this restless and lost crowd might one day, some day, just as easily be themselves.


I was eager to do what I could to help and the only way open to do that for someone like myself is to do that thing that I do – Tell Stories. And since there is always strength in numbers and I knew many stellar writers whom I knew I could ask to help this endeavor and who, if they were on board, would make a magnificent contribution.

That is how Children of a Different Sky came to be.

CS:  What was the story selection process?

AA: The theme of the anthology was the migrant/immigrant/refugee experience, and the story criteria were simple enough:

“Make me think; make me feel.”

And oh boy, did the stories in this book deliver on those terms. As an editor, this is a collection of which I am very proud. As a reader…this is one of the most luminous collection of stories I have ever seen in one place. This anthology began as a project with an idea – a charity anthology with proceeds of sales to go to organizations helping migrants and refugees on the ground. During the process of its incarnation, it grew into a living thing with breath and heartbeat.  And every story and poem in this book is one essential component of this transformation.

Read the whole interview HERE:

Wired asked writers to create 6-word SF stories.

– Harry Harrison

More from Wired HERE

Quote of the day

Memory is not a storage place but a story we tell ourselves in retrospect. As such, it is made of storytelling material: embroidery and forgery, perplexity and urgency, revelation and darkness.”  — Psychologist Noam Shpancer

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Old Bat’s Belfry interviews me

Shari Mullulane has a delightful blog named — Old Bat’s Belfry — which offers “Fantasy Book Reviews, News and Author Interviews.”

A few year’s back (May 28, 2009 for the obsessives among us) she ran an interview with me in her ‘Wacky Interview Series’. which she describes thusly:

“In case you missed the first interviews in this series, here is the deal…I read a lot of author interviews and they are good, informative, and interesting but rarely tell me all that much about an author’s personality. I often find myself thinking, ‘Well that’s all good and everything but I want to know more about the real live person behind the book!’

“So, I decided to conduct a fun interview; something that will give my readers a good laugh and be fun for the authors. You will not find serious questions covering books, publishing, writing or future plans. Instead you will get a chance to see how they react to a bunch of crazy questions and scenarios.

“This time around I asked Alma Alexander, author of the Worldweaver Series (which I reviewed and loved) if she would consent to do one of these. She said it sounded like fun! So, I sent her the 10 wacky questions, plus the 2 bonus substitutes…So here for your reading pleasure is a look inside of the mind of Alma Alexander…”

1) Which magical power would you like to have and why?

The power to grant wishes. No, I don’t want to be a genie and be summoned into servitude by someone rubbing a silly old lamp – I’m me, and I meet some other human being, and that other human being has a dream which they know can never come true. Oh, how I’d love to be able to wave a wand and fix that! The catch is, *I* get to pick which dreams get made to come true. No three wishes stuff. The wishee may never know what really happened.

2) What would you do if you had a time machine?

Go back in time and spend just one more day with my grandparents – my grandfather, the poet, who taught me to love language, and my grandmother, who taught me about the power of unconditional love. They’ve both been gone for two decades or more, and I still miss them fiercely.

3) What was your funniest/most interesting encounter with a fan?

I don’t know if I would call them FANS, exactly, but I had a clutch of teenage boys, armed with serious note-taking equipment, file purposefully into a reading of “The Secrets of Jin Shei” which was (a) an “adult” book, not YA in any way shape or form and (b) very much not a teenage boy book. I wondered what they were doing there. About two minutes into my reading, the lot of them got up and fled for their lives, from all the girl-cooties that were obviously flooding their sub-conscious. I don’t know what they expected to find – possibly “jin shei” sounded like some weird new form of martial arts and they were expecting a demonstration on the spot…

4) If you had a chance to spend some time with one mythical being, what would it be and why?

If I could be quite, QUITE certain that I wouldn’t be barbeque, I’d love to go for a dragon-back ride. I’m a little like Tolkien, when he said that when he was young he ‘desired dragons with a profound desire’. One does rather hope that they WERE real once upon a time.

5) If aliens landed in your backyard, what is the first thing you would ask them?

“What KEPT you? I’ve been waiting for you all my life…”

6) What quirky habit do you have that often gets you teased by your peers or family?

I am a coffee addict. People who know me well ALWAYS make allowances for coffee stops, no matter what other plans are afoot. If I’m cranky, my husband wants to know if I’ve had a coffee fix recently – and if I growl that I have not, makes immediate contingency plans for it.

7) What did you want to be when you grew up?

Me. {g}

And always, always, always… a writer.

8) If you could be reincarnated as an animal, what would you be and why?

A cat, owned by someone like me. Why? Do you KNOW how spoiled my cats are…?

9.) My readers want to know what you had for breakfast. Not sure why exactly…

Oatmeal. With raisins. And brown sugar.

10) Why in the world did you consent to doing this wacky interview? I mean there is not one question here about your books, your writing or your future plans!

Because sometimes the past is the past and the future is unknown and right now is all you get, and it’s a gift. That’s why they call it the present. Occasionally I need to be reminded of that…

Bonus Questions!

11) Who is your favorite comedian or cartoon character and why?

Not too long ago, on a business trip that involved getting to the airport from my hotel at oh-dark-hundred, I was up early finishing last minute packing… and watching the cartoon channel. I had honestly FORGOTTEN how much fun Tom and Jerry were. I almost missed my plane.

12) How would you describe your sense of humor?

I’m a punaholic. I love word-play. I love love love clever stuff. Slapstick, not so much (although good farce may apply). Some things that have tickled my funny bone: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Three Men In A Boat, certain episodes of MASH, Danny Kaye’s “The Court Jester” and “Walter Mitty” (oh, heck, as far as the latter goes, ANY Thurber…) The Once and Future King.

Draw your own conclusions.

Old Bat’s Belfry site here

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