I wanted to be Ursula when I grew up

Ursula Le Guin photo posterA few years ago at a local SF/Fantasy con, I was getting food for myself and my husband at the buffet while he, because he is unable to move AND carry something at the same time, waited patiently where I had left him sitting.

A slight, grey-haired woman slipped into the empty seat beside him in my absence and gave him a friendly smile.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Ursula.”

*Le GUIN*. Ursula Le Guin.

When I got back with the food I almost dropped the entire contents of the plates at my feet. It was literally almost impossible to believe that I was going to find a perch next to one of the giants of my game, while both of us polished off buffet food off our plates.

I’ve long said that I wanted to be Ursula Le Guin when I grew up.

I wanted to grow into her wisdom, her talent, her dignity, her grace. While she was still with us, that was something I always had in my sights, the epitome of achievement, the rarefied heights of being one of those rare people who could write for the angels and have mere mortals also read her words and find power and glory in them.

And now she is gone.

We all die in the end; immortality is given to none of us. And Ursula Le Guin has lived a good, a GREAT, life, and 88 is a respectable age.

But I wanted THIS one to be immortal. I wanted an Ursula Le Guin shining ahead of me forever.

We have lost an elder, a wise woman, a great writer, a friend. I have had the great good fortune to have had the gift of having met her, spoken to her, read her work and shared her worlds while she was still here amongst us. There is now a last generation who can claim to have done that.

For those who come after, she will be one of the names enshrined in the pantheon of the greats, a memory, no more than the distant shining light of a guiding star. But I have sat beside her perched on uncomfortable hotel chairs at a convention, both of us part of the same tribe, and our lives have touched in real time. I will be grateful for that.

And for the rest… steer that swift, elegant, gold-sail’d craft of yours into the stars, my lady. And may you find light and rest and stories there.

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Another story.

At a different convention, there was a panel which was supposed to be more of a discussion – for “mid-career” writers. Trading insights, advice, grumbles, triumphs, the state of the craft. An exploration of where you were, and where you go from here.

I desperately wanted to go to this but I was stuck on another panel at the same time – so I asked my husband to go and listen for me, and tell me what was discussed. When he turned up and entered the room where the panel was to be held, a participant (from a circle of people sitting in in the middle of the room) looked up and told hubby that this was a “closed panel” and that he couldn’t just crash it. He said he was there by proxy, as it were, but he was ready to honor the command, and wirhdraw.

Until one voice spoke in the silence.

“No,” it said, very softly but with an air of command. “Let him in.”

Yes, Ursula le Guin.

And once she spoke, nobody gainsaid her. And hubby came in and sat quietly in his chair, and listened, and brought home treasure to me….

by Ursula’s Word.

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It falls to others to write obits, or remembrances, or perhaps get quoted by others in pithy one-liners. The world knows who people like Neil Gaiman and Guy Gavriel Kay and Karen Joy Fowler and Mary Robinette Kowal are, and when they say something in public they’ll get published by big newspapers, or quoted and requoted in social media. But my name is not recognizable enough for that.

People with qualifications in that arena will write treatises on her work, and its place in literature and genre, but that won’t be me either – I haven’t the standing to do that.

Her close friends and her family have the floor when it comes to more personal reminiscences about Ursula Le Guin the person as opposed to the writer, the legend. That, too, is not my province.

What I am, what I will always be, is a reader who gloried in her work and her worlds, and a writer who was in awe of the magic she found in language and story.

For the times my life interesected hers, I am grateful – because there are many out there who would have loved the opportunity but never got a chance of one. For the gifts that she leaves behind, I give thanks – because those are a legacy that will not fade ro tarnish.

For the generations that come, who will never have known her except as a name on a book cover, I say this. Lift your eyes to the stars. FInd a bright one. Think of her.

The right seasons

I was born in the Northern hemisphere, in July, in the SUMMER.

I grew up on the changing of the seasons in their proper order – the bare trees of winter would bud into pale yellowish-green young leaves, and those leaves would unfurl into the full deep green of summer and spread thick dark shade on the ground underneath the full crowns of trees, and then those leaves would start turning colors.

This was proper. New Year’s Eve was crisp and cold and snowy; May smelled of lilac and June of roses; Octobers were golden. All was well with the world.

Then I turned 10 and we left old Europe for barely subtropical Africa. New Year arrived that year and it was WARM, snow was only a memory. Then it got worse – we moved further down into the southern hemisphere and ALL my seasons reversed. My birthday was now sweater weather and came close to mid-winter. And Christmas and New Year were celebrated by barbecues on the beach, in bikinis. The years slipped by, one after another.

Everything was wrong wrong wrong wrong. All the seasons upended.

Then I married, moved to tropical Florida and lived for just over two years in flip-flops and bare feet. The heat and humidity was relentless, the bleached skies, the sapping weight of it all. I said to my husband, GET ME OUT OF HERE!

I wanted my seasons back. I wanted to look outside my window at a tree and be able to tell you what season it is. I wanted to recognise winter if a branch was bare or covered in sparkling frost; or fall if it was golden; or summer if it was deep green; or spring if it was budding.

We started looking for a place like that. And then we found it.Fall in Washington photo

I looked outside today and the golden branches of my maple against the backdrop of the deeper green of the cedars told me everything about what season it was – October, late fall. I look out of that same window, or out into my garden, and I know what time of year I am in. And it is the RIGHT time of year. And I am grounded again, like I used to be in my childhood, connected to my world and its seasons and its turning.

I am home.

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Bob Dylan’s silence “Impolite and Arrogant”, Nobel Prize member says

Bob Dylan montageLex Van Lieshout/European Pressphoto Agency

Nobel lit prizes seem to be given to the most obscure candidate on the list – a novelist from Outer Mongolia, or a poet from Central Africa whose single collection was rarely ttranslated into any language the selection committee had any hope of understading it in. Rarely does anyone actually recognize a laureate’s name from before they were awarded the Nobel.

Bob Dylan may not be the first songwriter who was considered for this prize. By all accounts, Rabindranath Tagore wrote songs in his time, but I WOULD like to respectfully suggest that in that time songs were something rather different than what they are today. Today, lyrics may be POETIC but they’re hardly LITERATURE which makes this award a little bit awkward for me. If anyone deserves an award like this and is also a musician, how about someone like Leonard Cohen.

Or if they really wanted to ring the changes, why not a GENRE WRITER? I know, shock horror. I nominate Ursula Le Guin. How about it?

Read the whole story about the upset member’s comments at the NYT HERE

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Resurrecting gods: Where discarded deities wait for shelter

Could there be such a thing as a no-kill shelter for unwanted gods? What happens when you stop believing in a god?

Actually I wrote a story along those lines – “Night Train“, which appeared in the Dark Faith II: Invocations anthology a couple of years back. The answer might be that old gods never die, just fade away — unless you keep believing.

So all that incense being burned. It isn’t a no-kill shelter. It’s a no-death shelter…

Read the whole story HERE

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The acceptance of moose

A 5-star review of ‘Dawn of Magic’, the fourth and final book in my young adult series, Worldweavers, contains this delightful sentence:

“There is probably some truth there to carry away on what college is, diplomas, and the inevitable acceptance of moose.”

Everyone knows about diplomas, of course. But you might have to read the book to understand where the “acceptance of moose” comes into it. 🙂

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Opening lines quizDawn Of Magic poster Which novel started with the above line?

1) “Molloy” by Samuel Beckett
2) “The Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut
3) “Murphy” by Samuel Beckett
4)  “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut

I did OK. You?

See the whole quiz at Buzzfeed HERE

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I so want to be Ursula Le Guin when I grow up…

The gift of Ursula Le Guin:

‘She makes the ordinary feel as important as the epic’:

Ursula Le Guin head shotsRead the whole article at The Guardian HERE

Another story from The Nation notes that:

Ursula Le Guin Has Stopped Writing Fiction—but We Need Her More Than Ever

The author on sexism, aging, and the radical possibilities of imaginative story telling.

Read it The Nation HERE

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Little Free Library photo

Photo by Mary Anne Mohanraj

You can read anywhere in time and space, but I’m not sure if it is bigger on the inside.

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Who made me?

In interviews I am often asked about authors who have influenced me and I usually name a couple or so. But there are many more and I have recently come up with a list of 15 who have been important to my own development as a writer.

Illustration of author in shadowPixaay illustration

Some on my list will be unfamiliar to a lot of readers. That’s what comes of having grown up bilingual and in two different cultures. Some of the authors write in a language that many people won’t even be able to identify immediately (google them… 🙂 )

The last name on the list is my grandfather. His poetry is my earliest exposure to the written word, to language. To him, I owe EVERYTHING.

1. Tolkien
2. Roger Zelazny
3. Guy Gavriel Kay
4. Ursula le Guin
5. Octavia Butler
6. Howard Spring
7. Neil Gaiman
8. T H White
9. Ivo Andric
10. Dobrica Cosic
11. Desanka Maksimovic
12. Henryk Sienkiewicz
13. Hans Christian Andersen
14. Oscar Wilde
15. Stevan Mutibaric

Anyone can join in on the list making, writer or reader. Who is on your list? I’d love to know. (Click on cartoon-style bubble at upper right)

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25 Reasons Why I Stopped Reading Your Book

Well, not me.…The “I” in the title is Chuck Wendig, novelist, screenwriter, and game designer.

I found this on his blog terribleminds where, as he explains, he “talks a lot about writing. And food. And pop culture. And his kid. He uses lots of naughty language. NSFW. Probably NSFL. Be advised.”

Amusing, with a lot of good writing advice for readers who are also writers. I particularly like reason 17:

Whoa, way too heavy a hand with the worldbuilding, pal. Ease back on the infinite details, okay? The worldbuilding should serve the story. The story is not just a vehicle for worldbuilding. I want to eat a meal, not stare at the plate. The plate can be lovely! You can work very hard on the plate. But not, I’m afraid, at the cost of the food that sits upon it.”

Read the other 24 reasons at terribleminds HERE

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Lorraine Berry talks in The Guardian about

The horror of female adolescence – and how to write about it

Adolescent girls movie photo ‘Creatures’ … Sofia Coppola’s film adaptation of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Photograph: AP

Why does literature so often depict the onset of sexuality – or indeed any aspect of girls’ growing up – as a strange, feverish thing? Berry asks.

The only teenage girls I ever read about in literature classes were powerless; except for their sex, which we were made to understand made men weak….When I graduated from my high school in 1980, teenage girls were being used as messy political weapons by the US’s nascent religious right, to build its power. Our access to birth control, to abortion, and our rights to have sex as freely as young men, became one of the major issues around which the “Moral Majority” organised itself.”

Read Lorraine Berry’s whole story at The Guardian HERE

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The only rule

At The Literacy Site, Will S. examined:
What Science Is Saying About Fiction Readers

Among other things, he noted that the authors of one study said that what you choose to read is important:

“We believe that one critical difference between lit and pop fiction is the extent to which the characters are complex, ambiguous, difficult to get to know, etc. (in other words, human) versus stereotyped, simple…”

i.e, What they are saying is that it’s literary fiction vs genre, with literary at the top, of course.

Well, some reviewers have said that I write ‘literary genre’ fiction. So there.

A readerBut seriously, genre fiction does not have to be – although admittedly it can be – one gigantic trope, or a bingo card where you’re supposed to check off genre boxes. A good book is a good book, and that depends on the writing.

Many genre books that are sniffily dismissed by the cognoscenti are considerably better and more engagingly written than some of the more pretentious literary stuff that is intended to be as woolly, ‘intellectual’ and impenetrable as it can be. THOSE books make you run from reading.

It’s the books about people, about strong characters, about what happens to them and how that changes them, that teaches readers the empathy that science is discovering is one of the major benefits of reading.

A book carried by strong characters who are part of a strong story can be genre, or it can be literary. Anyone who tells me that literary offerings are better than a book by Ursula le Guin, by Guy Gavriel Kay, by Octavia Butler, by Neil Gaiman… is basically an utter pretentious and supercillious ignoramus. In truth, ‘literary’ is just another genre, not superior to all the others.

Not every science fiction or fantasy book is about D&D quests. Not every Western is about shootouts at high noon in a deserted dusty street of a Hollywood Wild West set. Not every book with romance in it is going to be a bodice-ripper. Not every mystery is going to be a straight-up whodunnit.

These books are stories with genre tropes embedded inside. They are no less literary for all that. Read good books, and don’t worry about what “genre” they are. That’s the only rule.

Read the whole Literary Site article HERE

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Alice in Wonderland at 150

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But what has it meant to different generations? Rosa Silverman asks at The Telegraph. Is it innocent fantasy or dark and druggy?
Alice in WonderlandPhoto: Royal Mail

Walt Disney made a film of her. Jefferson Airplane wrote a song about her. And now Royal Mail has released a set of stamps in her honour.

Alice in Wonderland celebrates her 150th birthday this year and we are still enthralled by her spell – or rather, the spell cast by Lewis Carroll when he wrote the much-loved children’s book in 1865.

Read the whole story HERE

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Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second“. ~ Marc Riboud
Life-long loveLove That Lasts: Couple from Khalilov, Russia, have been happily married for 65 years.

This isn’t my usual, mostly book-related fare, but I couldn’t resist these pictures by Kindness Blog that celebrate what humanity can be like at its best.

19 of the Very Best ‘Uplifting Photos of the Day’

Human Beings. Animals. Family. Fun. Friendship. Love. Laughter….What more could you need?”

See all the photos HERE

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The 10 Best Short Story Collections You’ve Never Read

At Publishers Weekly, short story author Mia Alvar says that a great short story collection can cover as much ground as an epic doorstopper, one brief vignette or character at a time.

Here’s a list of (my) favorite collections that … share what every great story collection has in common: fully realized worlds compressed into a few pages, and a multiplicity of perspectives shedding light on what it is to be human in the world.

e.g.
Dubravka UgrešićLend Me Your Character: Author Dubravka Ugrešić herself has described this collection as “stories [written] by altering other stories.” Her sources range from Tolstoy, sensationalist news items, Slavic folk tales, and editorial pitch letters. ‘A Hot Dog in a Warm Bun,’ for instance, channels the absurdities of Gogol’s “The Nose” into…a different member of the (male) anatomy. Her characters—almost all of them blocked writers, fretting over their literary legacies—struggle with the impossibility of creating a truly original story nowadays…These stories were written in a nation “that no longer exists” and a language that “too has divided, in three.” In light of that disruptive and tragic history, Ugrešić’s quirky humor, irreverent feminism, and playful postmodern style often had me wincing through my laughter.

See all Mia Alvar’s selections HERE

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THIS n THAT

Pluto

 

NASA’s New Horizons probe has reached Pluto more than nine years after leaving Earth. The spacecraft will perform a flyby of the icy dwarf planet, capturing the most detailed images ever seen. Aboard are the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the American astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930.

 

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To get boys to read

“I have boys, and boys are particularly resistant to reading books. I had some success recently with Sherman Alexie’s great young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian–I told my son it was highly inappropriate for him, and one of the most banned books in America. That got his attention, and he raced through it.”
~ author Nick Hornby in an interview with the Daily Telegraph

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The New York Times has removed ‘A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America’, by Ted Cruz from its bestsellers list, claiming that “strategic bulk purchases,” have skewed the book’s sales figures. Amazon and HarperCollins denied the allegations.

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QUOT Caitln Moran~~~~~
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Unputable downable

Buzzfeed Books asked subscribers of their newsletter to tell them about a book that they couldn’t put down. One reader talked about taking her choice to work and pretending to search her purse for something just so she could read another page. That’s unputable downable!

Their list of 53 books is heavily weighted toward the best sellers list, but there are some surprises and reasons given for each are fascinating.

The choices range from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, to Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan, and Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin.

One selection:

The New York Trilogy

 

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

“I have never been so adamant about finding out what’s going to happen in a book, whilst at the same time feeling so baffled by the path taken to get there. Auster’s interlocking, genre-bending detective stories are something you really just have to dig into to understand. And, as amazing as this book is, it should really come with a warning: “Will ruin all other books for you by making them seem highly ordinary.” ~ Holly

 

 

See the other 52 selections HERE

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Dorothy Woodend asks rather plaintively at Alternet

Um, Now Can We Have a Girl’s Coming of Age Film?

and points out in these reawakening movies, it’s always about the boy. (article link below)

So, I read the article and all about the movies it describes. Neither would have induced me to part with money for a ticket, to be honest – it all sounds like SO much “more of the same” – I’ve seen these movies before,

it seems that only in fantasyland (the iconic “Hunger Games”, or my own Worldweavers series..) is the girl allowed the space and the privilege of doing her own growing up.

Contemporary lit of the YA ilk is often focused on the MALE half of the equation, with the girls’ own adventure presented as either as a side plot and an also-ran or simply glossed over altogether in her supporting role for the male metamorphosis.

And they say that boys won’t read NOW? Even though it’s all about them? Well, then, why don’t we simply go ahead and write the girl stories anyway? What is there left to lose? And I’d love to see a proper movie with a young female central character (who is not Katniss Everdeen) coming into her own…Me and Earl
In Dorothy Woodend’s piece, she discusses two of the most recent examples of men-in-crisis film are Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Ben’s At Home.

“One is a Sundance darling…and the other is a low-budget Canadian indie. Superficially, they don’t look the same. One has stars, a showy cinematographer, and a big old budget, while the other was shot in Toronto for apparently five dollars…What they do have in common is the license given to the male lead to suck up all the attention, no matter what is happening around him.”

Read the whole story HERE

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And they tell ME I write books that put my characters through hell..

10 Dark Books for the Literarily Disturbed

If you’re seduced by the deeper, grittier side of literature, check out a list of the most subversive novels in literary fiction, chosen by Feed Your Need to Read. They add, “don’t say we didn’t warn you about these dark books.”

Tropic of Cancer

 

Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

Henry Miller’s semi-autobiographical tale of a homeless writer’s bawdy adventures in Paris never shrinks from explicit detail. The mix of offensive language, vignettes, and aggressive social commentary led to the book’s immediate ban. As a judge at Miller’s obscenity trial raved, “It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.”

 

 

9 other dark books HERE

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How the Modern Detective Novel Was Born

Golden Age of Murder

 

In a new book, Martin Edwards traces the detective novel through the decades, and the many forms its taken on the way to its current form.

The roots of the modern detective novel can be traced back to Trent’s Last Case, written by E.C. Bentley, and published in 1913. Bentley intended to write an ironic exposure of detective fiction, but the book’s cleverness and lightness of touch meant that readers took it seriously, and it became a wildly successful best-seller. Above all, it influenced a new generation of writers after the First World War.

 

Read the whole story HERE

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Blank pagesBlank pages … teenagers reading. Photograph: Cultura Creative (RF)/Alamy

Which books didn’t change your life?

Whether she’s weighing into Amazon or defending fantasy against the slights of literary novelists, Claire Armitstead writes at The Guardian, “Ursula Le Guin is always good value.”

This month on her blog, a request for a list of her top 50 books led to a meditation on the books that had failed to change her.

“What books didn’t influence me?” she writes. “If only someone would ask that! I’ve been waiting for years to answer it. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, I will say, had absolutely no influence on me except to cause hours of incredulous boredom. I thought in all fairness I ought to try The Fountainhead. I gave up on page 10.”

Read the whole article HERE

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THIS n THATlocker booksTeachers Transform Lockers into Book Spines

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Font with agendaProject Seen: A font with an agenda

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Missing comma gets grammar nerd out of parking ticket

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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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