Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

I was in the midst of preparing a lengthy, rather pontificating post about writers and blogging, but realized it's New Year's Eve and I have a party to go to. My New Year's Eve celebrations for the last few years have been spent at a dear friend's home, where the major activity of the evening, apart from consuming mass quantities of food and drink, is playing Trivial Pursuit. I LOVE Trivial Pursuit. (My Gen Y daughter thinks it's hilarious that her mother plays Trivial Pursuit on New Year's Eve.)

The lengthy, pontificating post shall be saved for another day. For tonight, blolleagues and readers, I simply wishes you all a very happy and successful New Year.

Closing out the old year...

I feel compelled to end the year on a humorous note, so I'm relying on Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels to provide it. Their end-of-year post is a review of what SB Candy swears is the Worst. Book. EVER.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Favorite Gossip Tidbit of the Day

My favorite gossip tidbit of the day appeared on the Answer B!tch:

Why did Tom and Katie have to publicize how much money they spent for their wedding?
—Florence, Oak Forest, Illinois

Stars often feel the need to remind us they're larger than life. Especially when they are, in reality, rather short.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Great Conversation

Many years ago, my mother gave me a set of books called Great Books of the Western World, 54 volumes of literature, history, social sciences, mathematics, natural sciences, philosophy and theology, by authors, ranging from Homer to Freud, over the course of 25 centuries. In explaining the purpose of gathering these works into one set, the editors talked about The Great Conversation, meaning the exchange of ideas and advancement of knowledge made possible by studying the work of great thinkers of the past, and developing on the ideas presented therein.

I bring this up because recent discussions of blogging among some of my blog-colleagues (for whom I am coining the term blolleagues)--Charles Gramlich, Stewart Sternberg--have sparked my own ideas about the purposes and results of weblogs.

The growth of the weblog--i.e., blog--in the past five years has been truly astonishing. There are millions of them in cyberspace. These blogs cover nearly any topic you can think of. Bloggers have formed communities of interest (e.g., writing, books, literature). I didn't start reading blogs until about a year ago, when I happened upon one via a website link. That first blog was Booksquare. From links on Booksquare, I found other blogs by writers and readers (my primary areas of interest in cybersurfing). I read, and learned from, many different blogs, and eventually developed the desire to have a weblog of my own.

Now that I have joined the ranks of bloggers, and had a couple of months of experience in posting on my own blog, as well as commenting on others' blogs, I realize that the world of blogging is another type of Great Conversation. Bloggers and their readers interact worldwide; anyone with access to the Internet and the World Wide Web can read one's blog. It is indeed a Great Conversation, an exchange of ideas among people with whom one likely will never have any other type of contact. The thoughts exchanged may seldom be as profound as those in the Great Books' Great Conversation--but nevertheless, they are a Conversation, and an exposure to ideas beyond one's own narrow circle.

I am profoundly glad to be living in the age of cyberspace.

P.S. The Great Books of the Western World set is still being sold by Encyclopedia Brittanica. The price has tripled in the several decades since my set was purchased.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

I am an Anglophile and have long enjoyed reading historical novels set in the United Kingdom. Despite my deeply-entrenched democratic beliefs, in my fantasies I wallow in the glories of the British aristocracy of yore. I have even learned the nomenclature of the various orders, as well as the protocol of addressing the holders of titles. Hence, I was delighted to discover that I can receive my very own title, bestowed by Lady Fortune the Absurd of Greater Internetshire:
My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Reverend Lady Sphinx Ink the Implacable of Goosnargh Leering
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Delighted with being ennobled (although I would have liked to be higher in the hierarchy than a mere Reverend Lady...perhaps a Countess, Marchioness or Duchess, if not a Princess), I have proceeded to feed in the names of some of my writing friends, with these results:
Countess-Palatine Emily the Undulant of Mousehole by Sea
His Exalted Highness Duke Charles the Lachrymose of Leighton in the Bucket
Her Exalted Highness Duchess Laura the Saturnine of Nether Wombleshire
Sir Steven the Idle of London by the Bow
Reverend Countess Candice the Festive of Midhoop St Giggleswich

What a distinguished company! But my amour propre was injured as I realized
these friends, except for Sir Steven the Idle, now are of higher rank and take precedence over me. For example, I will be the last to go in for dinner (no doubt on Sir Steven's arm, as he too is of low rank).

Oh well. At least I no longer have to sit below the salt.

Guess Who Else Has to Have a Day Job to Make Ends Meet?

How do you think he gets the cash to pay all the elves?

(Photo and caption from

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Pantser Speaks

My compadres, C.S. Harris and Charles Gramlich, have posted some interesting discussions of their work processes lately. Harris has been writing a multi-part series on how she plots her books, beginning with plotting her work-in-progress, WHERE DRAGONS LIVE, the fourth in her Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery series.

Gramlich responded to one of Harris' posts, Plotters vs. Seat-of-the-Pantsers, with one of his own, Plotters versus Pantsers, in which he reveals that he has practiced both methods of plotting and now finds that one works better for novels and the other better for short stories.

I tend strongly toward being a Pantser, which the Plotters no doubt would say is why I have never yet completed a manuscript. Perhaps they're right. But I would add that I'm a Pantser in my day job, too, and somehow I manage to write excellent legal opinions that way. I believe my problem completing works of fiction comes more from my lack of BICHOK.*

*"Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard"

The coverboy complains

Ah, those romance novel covers! How they inspire wicked wit!

How Did I End Up On The Cover Of This Romance Novel?

The Onion

How Did I End Up On The Cover Of This Romance Novel?

Last week at the supermarket, while shopping for my weekly supply of three dozen eggs and 12 pounds of mutton, I spotted a rack near the checkout...

Actually, he is pretty Hot. And must look great with his shirt torn open and six-pack abs rippling. Lotsa mantitty. (Readers of Delicate Sensibility, avert your eyes.) Only flaw is that I prefer brunettes.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bow down and worship Sphinx Ink

I am so excited! I just found out yesterday that TIME Magazine has selected ME as Person of the Year for 2006!! It's wild and fabulous and totally deserved, if I do say so myself....I don't expect to be looking for a job ever again, but one never knows what the future holds. Just in case, I plan to add this honor to my resume. It should put me at the top of any list.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Dresden Files

I discovered The Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher earlier this year, and quickly zipped through the entire series except for the most recent (still waiting for Proven Guilty to come out in paperback). The setting is a combination of alternate reality and the near-future, in which there are wizards, vampires, and other supernatural beings living among ordinary humans. Harry Dresden, a wizard who earns his living as an investigator, is a rebel who's often in trouble with both human authorities and paranormal powers-that-be. His ad in the phone book reads,
Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.
Dresden's a man of honor and principle struggling to make a living in a world that doesn't value his talents. Remind you of anything?

Yep, the classic P.I. . . . and, like classic detective novels, the Dresden Files books are in first person p.o.v. Butcher gives Harry a wry voice and dry wit that make him memorable, funny, and real, while maintaining the overall noir-with-humor feel of the series. Butcher's talent as a writer shows not only in how well he develops Harry, but also in the excellence of the secondary characters who appear throughout the series, chief among them Bob (an intelligent spirit embodied in a skull, Bob is a wizard's version of a computer). Bob is a marvelous creation, funny, scatological, and perpetually horny (alas, since he's a spirit, all he can do is watch). Also important are Murphy, a tough cop who's Harry's contact on the police department (and, incidentally, female), and his best friend, Michael, a real "knight in shining armor." Many other characters reappear during the series and, with every book, Butcher has developed Dresdenworld into a place you want to visit (though maybe not to live--it's scary a lot of the time).

Well, heck, can't blurb the series any better than Butcher himself does on his website:
The Dresden Files are set in a 'alternate' Chicago where magic is real, but only a few actually believe in it; it's a first-person tale told by an irascible wizard named Harry Dresden, who regularly gives the magical establishment indigestion — and the police, the same. Take Sam Spade, your Average Joe Underdog Action Star, and toss in some spellcraft, and you get Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Heck of a guy.
The latest news is that the Dresden Files is being made into a TV series for the SciFi channel that will debut on January 21. There's a brief video promo that looks intriguing. I have marked January 21 on my calendar and plans to catch the first episode.

And, oh yeah, the actor playing Harry (Paul Blackthorne) is Hot.

Gollancz Romancz

Interesting news: British publisher Gollancz wants to get in on the surge of interest in romance-fantasy novels and, in January 2007 , will launch its own line of same (punnily named Gollancz Romancz).

Three of the first four titles are reprints of already-released work by American authors Charlaine Harris and Elizabeth Vaughan. The fourth is by Australian author Kim Wilkins. Sphinx Ink has read Harris and Vaughan and likes their work enormously--both are on her "must buy" list. I haven't read Wilkins, but apparently she's popular.

In addition--as you can see from the thumbnail--Gollancz Romancz has a really cool logo!

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Post Scriptum: After publishing the previous post, I realized I've used the word "snarky" repeatedly in my posts, probably too much. I'm becoming too trendy, I thought, I'm incorporating too much recent slang in my writing. I decided to look up "snarky," expecting to see its genesis in, oh, 1990 or so...and guess what I found? The word's been with us for a hundred years! Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., dates it to 1906. Who'd a-thunk it?

In the interest of variety in verbiage, however, I will try to avoid using "snarky" for at least a month.

OD'd on celebrity gossip

Last night I discovered Ask the Answer B!tch at the E!Online website. I spent the next couple of hours overdosing on it. Readers can ask the Answer B!tch any question they like about Hollywood filmdom and celebrities...the AB can probably find the answer. Her snarky, witty, smart-ass approach makes her columns fun to read. Her archives contain over 170 questions. The mixture ranges from the serious ("What is Method acting?", "What do stand-ins do, exactly?") to the inane ("Which cell phone plans do the stars get?", "Why hasn't Britney Spears written me back?", "Does everyone in Hollywood get colonics?"). The Answer B!tch's responses not only offer interesting facts, but also make inanity a hoot.

Even the AB, however, has to tiptoe around some topics ("Who in gay Hollywood can I look up to?"). At least one query is of interest to writers: "Why don't writers have any power in Hollywood?"

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Stop, Thief!

The Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels are known for their witty, snarky and sarcastic discussions of books, especially romance novels. Occasionally, however, they are serious. Yesterday they tackled the topic of plagiarism, a continuing and apparently growing problem for authors. The SBs referred to the 1997 case in which bestselling romance author Nora Roberts discovered that also-bestselling romance author Janet Dailey had repeatedly plagiarized Nora's work. It was a big scandal within the publishing world, particularly the romance genre. The Smart Bitches interviewed The Nora and posted it online. Good discussion. For a contemporary take on the Dailey-Roberts situation, see Laurie Likes Books.

Yeah, Dailey had excuses, but they didn't fly. I myself have boycotted Dailey's books ever since learning of her dishonesty.

News for Curious Cooks

As my friends know, included among the books I buy so compulsively are cookbooks--despite the fact that I rarely cook. Why? I do love to eat. Cooking, however, is a three-part process: (1) You prepare the food--slicing, dicing, mixing, etc.,--and cook it. (2) Then you serve it and consume it. Those are the fun parts. (3) But then you have to CLEAN UP AFTERWARDS. That's the part I hate, and that's why I dine out, or bring home takeout food, as often as possible. The little "cooking" I do generally is limited to heating frozen entrees or precooked food in the microwave.

So why do I love cookbooks? Well, I enjoy reading them, especially those that include anecdotes about the author's life, the history of the recipe, the culture that developed the particular style of cooking, etc. For many of the recipes I'll think, "Hey, that seems easy--I could probably make that!" Of course, I probably never will use it--see (3) above. I'm also interested in the facts behind the food--not just the anecdotes of the cookbook authors, but also the scientific reasons why certain foods behave the way they do.

Thus, I was pleased to discover News for Curious Cooks, which examines the chemical reasons why foods act/react in certain ways. This is about as close to science as I ever get, or want to get, but it's fun.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Blog Harvest

I am at home semi-sick (feels like flu coming on), but had to check out my favorite blogs, plus some I haven't read before, and the links on each lead to more articles, with more links...well, you know how it goes. Here are some tidbits I found.

takes on one of my favorite rants, the lack of adequate proofreading in books now being published. In Castration by Drapery, or, The Importance of Good Editing Booksquare focuses on a recent J.D. Robb novel full of mistakes that should have been corrected in the editing process. J.D. Robb, author of a best-selling futuristic/paranormal romantic suspense series, is a pseudonym of fabulously successful romance author Nora Roberts. I was impressed that The Nora herself responded to Booksquare's post, with apologies for the errors and a promise to have her publishing team work harder on catching all those nagging little nasties before publication.

The Renegade Writer talks about she writes her freelance magazine articles so quickly in Channeling Your Inner Squirrel.

Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind takes a look at the types of readers who like mysteries in Oh, so that explains it--which actually is a comment with a link to an article on that subject, but you're being sent to Confessions first because it's an excellent blog for readers and writers.

And for some juicy/bitchy gossip-speculation, read Gawker on Stalk of the Town: Maury Povich's Current Affair. Alas, poor Connie Chung....

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Some readers have commented favorably on the Longmire site posted yesterday. Want more? Longmire has two other pages that feature readers' contributions to the collection:
Readers' Covers
Readers' Naughty Covers

Enjoy. Don't give yourself a hernia laughing.

Friday, December 01, 2006

And Now for Something Completely Different...

Let's start December with a few laughs: Graphic designer Mark Longmire is a wacky guy with a funny website, including a page parodying romance novel covers. Try it, you'll like it--hilarious. Click on the link.

Longmire Does Romance Novels