The Alexandria Papers Newsletter #113


The Latest Research News on Meditation, Well-Being and the Brain | Technology Networks
Dive into the latest research on meditation, the brain and well-being.
Can Your Mind Really Heal Your Body? | Psychology Today
Faith healers and psychics have long claimed magic powers to heal the body. New research shows how our thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions actually can improve our health.


How Is Migraine Diagnosed? Your Comprehensive Guide From a Migraine Expert | Migraine Again
Is there a test for migraine? Is there a blood test for migraine triggers? An expert answers common questions about migraine diagnosis.
Ice Pick Headaches: What You Should Know About the Stabbing Pain in Your Head | Migraine Again
Ice pick headaches present as a sudden sharp pain in the head that goes away quickly. Learn what we know about them, when to see a doctor, and what treatments are available.

Trauma and Sexual Abuse

These 5 Self-Care Practices Can Save Your Life After Emotional Abuse | Psych Central
Along with a trauma-informed counselor, self-care to supplement therapy is a powerful way to tend to the mind, body, and spirit after abuse.
Examining the Link Between Body Dysmorphia and PTSD | Eating Disorder Hope
Is there a link between body dysmorphic disorder and PTSD? Learn more about the potential connection between body dysmorphic disorder and PTSD.
Crooked Parallels: On Alice Munro, Andrea Skinner, and My Mother’s Failure to Protect Me | Literary Hub
Shortly after she died, I wrote about Alice Munro and the way her life seemed to parallel that of my late mother’s (aside from the literary canonization). For me, Munro’s stories offered an uncanny window into the lives of my parents: their frustrations, their longings, their regrets.

Mental Health

Scientists reveal a fascinating neurocognitive trait linked to heightened creativity | PsyPost
A study found that creative individuals exhibit reduced brain responses to surprising stimuli, suggesting they process the importance of information differently, which may help explain their unique thinking patterns and ability to notice unconventional details.
What are the benefits of decluttering? 7 benefits that will make you want to clear out your cupboards | Ideal Home UK
If you need a little encouragement to clear out your cupboards we’ve rounded up the 7 key benefits of decluttering, according to experts.


Thrillers with a Side of Romance | Crime Reads
I love a thriller that makes my heart race. But throw in a bit of sexiness and I won’t be able to stop turning the pages. Make the sexiness edgy and forbidden? Even better: I’ll read it in one sitting.
The Weird Fiction That Influenced an Even Weirder Writer | Crime Reads
I didn’t realize I wrote a noir novel until Better Living Through Alchemy was nearly finished. The book grew out of a big-reveal scene I’d conceived for a short horror story: an occult detective fi…

Cooking and Baking

15 Hearty Casserole Recipes My Mom Can’t Get Enough Of | Pocket Friendly Recipes
These 15 hearty casserole recipes are a game-changer in the kitchen. My mom can’t get enough of them, and I bet you’ll feel the same. Easy to whip up and perfect for any night, they’re
Our Best Biscuit Recipes | King Arthur Baking
Homemade biscuits are ideal any time of day: They’re just as welcome at a weekend breakfast as they are at a weeknight dinner. These deceptively simple bakes also have a deep and complicated history in America, where they’ve been part of our country since its very beginning.
Chocolate, Morning to Night: Our Best Chocolate Recipes | King Arthur Baking
If your ideal dessert is chocolate on chocolate, we have the 16 best chocolate recipes for you. There are fudgy, rich cakes and indulgent, shiny-topped brownies. There are even chocolate recipes you can eat for breakfast if you want to start your day off right. There’s something for all…

The Alexandria Papers Newsletter on Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts by email and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. I’m committed to having the entire archive free, but paid subscribers help cover the costs of research each week.

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Do you need help editing or proofreading your book? I’m a retired university World Literature and Creative Writing professor, and author of several traditionally and/or Indie published books, with over 20 years editing and proofreading experience with novels, poetry, and nonfiction. Trauma informed editing.
Heaven and earth, the Celtic saying goes,
are only three feet apart, but in thin places,
that distance is even shorter.
Eric Weiner, “Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer”
for Max or Alex or, maybe, James

Last night I dreamt of you, after all these
years, and you were lying in my arms, in

the middle of the day, the sunlight showing
the first strands of silver in your hair, and

your eyes blue, so blue, heart-poundingly
blue, like something out of a romance novel

only better because, at last, you were mine.
Afterward, in the dream, we walked through

your garden, lush with peonies, pink and red,
heavy with daffodils and yellow roses, and

you showed me the freshly dug corner where
you were going to plant carnations, red and

pink, because they were my favorite. I stumbled
along beside you, wondering that someone as

beautiful as you could actually love me, and
when you kissed me, the sun warm on my

back and you warm and strong in front of me,
bees buzzing faintly behind us, a lush carpet

of violets under our bare feet, the cat rubbing
against our ankles, when you kissed me and

whispered my name, the walls around my heart
crumbled into useless piles of rock and salt.

Last night, I dreamt of you, after all these
years, and of our worst argument…

(read more)

As powerfully written, darkly humorous, surprising, and accessible as Szeman’s prose works, these poems let you glimpse into the hearts, lives, and minds of ordinary people — whether they be mythological, biblical, literary, or contemporary — as they struggle to make sense of relationships, family, marriage, divorce, children, spirituality, faith, and the existence of God. As they struggle to comprehend the very things each of us experiences every day.

(read more poems)


• Grand Prize Winner, Elliston Poetry Prize
• Isabel & Mary Neff Creative Writing Fellowship
• First Place, Elliston Poetry Prize
• Second Place, Elliston Poetry Prize
Centennial Review Prize for Poetry
• Honorable Mention, Non-Rhyming Poetry,
Writer’s Digest Creative Writing Contest

(Get your copy now)

The Kommandant’s Mistress (a novel)

Part One: The Kommandant, Chapter One

“Then I saw her. There she stood, in the village store, her hair in a long braid down the center of her back, her skin white in the sunlight, and my hand went to my hip, seeking the weight of my gun. As the girl spoke, I stumbled back against one of the shelves, my fingers tightening at the leather around my waist. While the shopkeeper arranged the food in the bag, the morning sun glinted on the storefront windows, illuminating the girl. The wooden shelves pressed into my shoulders and back. Sweat dampened my forehead and ribs. Another shopper spoke, frowned, pushed aside my arm to reach a jar on the shelf behind me, but I didn’t move. My hand slid down over my hip and leg. No, I’d forgotten that I no longer wore my gun…”

(read more: Chapters 1-3)

About The Kommandant’s Mistress

The rumors spread by the Camp’s inmates, other Nazi officers, and the Kommandant’s own family insist that she was his “mistress,” but was she, voluntarily? Told from three different perspectives – that of the formerly idealistic Kommandant, the young Jewish inmate who captivates him, and the ostensibly objective historical biographies of the protagonists – this novel examines one troubling moral question over and over: if your staying alive was the only “good” during the War, if your survival was your sole purpose in this horrific world of the Concentration Camps — whether you were Nazi or Jewish — what, exactly, would you do to survive?  Would you lie, cheat, steal, kill, submit?

Flashing back and forth through the narrators’ memories as they recall their time before, during, and after the War, and leading, inevitably, to their ultimate, shocking confrontation, “Szeman’s uncompromising realism and superb use of stream-of-consciousness technique make [this novel] a chilling study of evil, erotic obsession, and the will to survive” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

New York Times Book Review “Notable Book” and one of its “Top 100 Books of the Year,”  Winner of the University of Rochester’s Kafka Prize for “the outstanding book of prose fiction by an American woman,” the tales told by the Kommandant, his “mistress,” and their “biographer” will mesmerize and stun you, leaving you wondering, at the conclusion, which, if any, is telling the complete truth about what happened between them.


• New York Times Book Review “Notable Book”
and “Top 100 Books of Year”
• University of Rochester Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize
“the outstanding book of prose fiction by an American woman”
• Publishers Weekly (* review) “Outstanding Merit”
• Talmadge McKinney Award “Excellence in Research”

(originally published by HarperCollins / HarperPerennial NY)

(Get your copy now)

Part One: Claudia, Chapter One

Doubts are more cruel
than the worst of truths.


Chapter One

They got there sooner than I expected. I was waiting at the upstairs window, so I saw them when they arrived, their lights flashing, their sirens silent. There were two policemen, in two separate cars, and the paramedics in the ambulance. As they got out of the vehicles, the emergency lights turned everything a strange, pulsing red: the snow, the ice at the edge of the window, the bedroom where I stood. They slipped across the yard on their way to the front porch, their breath hanging white in the air. As they rushed up the front steps and disappeared from my view, I let go of the lace curtain and turned around to look at the body. I suppose I should’ve gone over to the bed and closed its eyes or covered its face, but I couldn’t make myself do it.

The squad stopped at all the other bedrooms on the floor before they found the right one. When they saw me and the body, they rushed in, plying stethoscope, oxygen mask, and blood pressure cuff, calling out to each other in their own telegraphic language. Their hands rushed as quickly as their words, but none of that made any difference. There was no life left in that body. There hadn’t been for ages.

All that time, I didn’t move or make a sound. When the policeman came over to me, he had to put his hand on my arm to get me to look at him. It was almost as if I were the one who was dead.

And to think that was only the beginning…

(read more: Chapters 1-3)

About Only with the Heart

When Claudia Sloane is arrested for the murder of her mother-in-law, everyone is stunned, especially her husband Sam. Claudia loved Eleanor as if she were her own mother and would never have hurt her. At least, that’s what Claudia insists. But even Sam begins to wonder how far Claudia would go in the name of love: did she help the terminally-ill Eleanor commit suicide?

During the widely publicized trial, Sam tries desperately to maintain his belief in his wife’s innocence despite the mounting evidence against her. Meanwhile, Claudia unwillingly begins to suspect that Sam may have helped his own mother commit suicide, but is letting his wife risk conviction for the murder.

Gripping and suspenseful, compassionate yet unflinchingly honest, Only with the Heart deals with the dreadful effects of terminal disease on its patients and their Caregivers, explores our primal need for acceptance and family ties, and examines the complex and evolving nature of love.

Originally published by Arcade 

“Piercing, close-to-the-bone fiction.” — Barnes & Noble

“Bold and ambitious.” — San Francisco Mercury News

“[A] delicately structured, poignant novel of love, memory, & family responsibility.” — Publishers Weekly

(Get your copy now)

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