Monday, April 23, 2007

Argh Ink -- The Author Photo..Just Show Us What You're Really Like

Jennifer Crusie (who's one of my favorite authors because of her terrific writing and great sense of humor) had a blog entry last week talking about authors' photos for books. She supplies a link to photos of several romance authors who were huge sellers in the golden era of the 70's and 80's. She points out that--apart from the intrinsic entertainment of seeing these writers 25+ years ago--their photos were staged to be dramatic. It was all part of the image of romance writers back then:
"What I like about these photos is the Diane Arbus feel to them which nicely captures the freakshow that is publishing-for-a-living. Almost every one of those photos was carefully staged and chosen by the author to show a side of herself that wasn't real, deliberately letting the reader in on the joke."
(Not least among the weirdities is Danielle Steel's hairdo...I wanted to include a photo Valerie Sherwood wearing a strange animal boa, but couldn't because it would violate the copyright. So click on the link above to see it and the others.)

Anyway, take a look and grin. Most of these authors are still writing, too, although not necessarily as lucratively as 25 years ago. Jennifer Wilde a/k/a Tom Huff died at least a decade ago. Although I never included any of them among my favorite romance writers, the only authors among them I've never read are Shirlee Busbee and Valerie Sherwood.

If you read the entire article that accompanies the photos, you'll note it originally appeared in LIFE magazine in November 1981 and mentions the first-ever national conference of RWA (Romance Writers of America), which had been founded only the year before.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Romance Cover Contest 2006

What used to be the All About Romance website's annual bookcover contest now has its own website, called Cover Cafe, Home of the Annual Cover Contest. The most fun, of course, is seeing the nominees for worst cover of the year.

Note, alas, that my friend Rexanne Becnel's 2006 Harlequin NEXT release, Leaving L.A., is among the nominees for Worst Cover. I've inserted it with this entry. Rexanne hated the cover, which she found appalling, and so far I haven't heard anyone disagree with her. What was the NEXT editorial board thinking???

Don't judge the book by its cover, however. Rexanne's an excellent writer; her book did not deserve that awful cover.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Kitty Litter Cake???

This cake may taste wonderful, but I don't think I could bring myself to try it--it looks too realistic! But if you'd like to know how to make Kitty Litter Cake, WikiHow will tell you.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The 100 Unsexiest Men in 2007

Okay, here's something to while away [waste?] some time and give you a few chuckles. The Phoenix website lists its choices for The 100 Unsexiest Men in 2007. The only one I disagree with is No. 42, Jeff Foxworthy--I think he's cute, which equates to mildly sexy to me, and I think he's funny (yeah, corny, etc., etc., but still funny). There are others on the list who are physically appealing to me, but whose behavior has put them beyond the pale. (Don't wanna do a guy who's a nut-job or a bigot or a control freak, regardless of how hot he looks.)

As for the choice for No. 1--I totally agree. Hint: Last year he tried to copyright the phrase "you're fired."

Saturday, April 14, 2007


No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; ... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

--John Donne, Meditation XVII, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

Last night I had dinner with two friends whom I hadn't seen in a long time. The reunion was great. We've been through many changes over the last two years--not least the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina--yet on meeting again, it was as if we had never been parted. We picked up on our old rhythms and patterns, and fell into the same easy rapport as we had before. As in the past, the evening simply wasn't long enough for everything we had to say to one another.

After five hours of nonstop talking, we had to part ways. We agreed to get together once a month to keep the buzz going. I hope we'll do it. I've discovered that having friends who are boon companions is more important than nearly everything else. I am a loner--I need and enjoy time alone--yet I've learned I must make time for friends. Even when I feel grouchy, irritable, and mad at the world, I've discovered that if I make the effort to go out and be around people with whom I have rapport, I'll be glad later--I'll return home feeling refreshed, renewed, relaxed, and connected.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Schlachthof Fünf

Kurt Vonnegut, literary icon of those who came of age in the Vietnam era and after, died yesterday. I have several of his novels, tucked away in a box in one of my storage units. I read them decades ago, when I was in college or perhaps only recently out of it. I no longer remember the plots of his books (my poor memory for plot details has worsened with the passing years), except for bits of Slaughterhouse Five, his most famous novel. It portrays the Allied forces' firebombing of Dresden, Germany, during World War II. Over many years I've carried with me the despair and horror that pervaded the story, as the eponymal hero Billie Pilgrim watched Allied bombs drop on the beautiful city--site of Europe's loveliest Gothic cathedrals and home to a huge population. The hero of the book (like Vonnegut himself, who was a POW in Dresden during the actual event) hides from the bombs in Schlachthof Fünf (German for "Slaughterhouse Five").

Like Joseph Heller (Catch 22), Vonnegut wrote about WWII not to praise it or to illustrate the heroism of its participants, but to demonstrate the futility and agony of war. Slaughterhouse Five was both fuel and resource for the anti-war movement in the Sixties.

According to Max Hastings, by February 1945, attacks upon German cities had become largely irrelevant to the outcome of the war and the name of Dresden possessed a resonance for cultured people all over Europe — "the home of so much charm and beauty, a refuge for Trollope’s heroines, a landmark of the Grand Tour." He argues that the bombing of Dresden was the first time Allied populations questioned the military actions used to defeat the Nazis.

After Hurricane Katrina, when I saw the devastation in New Orleans, it reminded me of pictures I'd seen of the destroyed city of Dresden. It was heartbreaking...yet also left me hope, because I knew that much of Dresden has been restored--even the Frauenkirche, Dresden's most famous edifice, which was completely rebuilt and finished only a few years ago. If Dresden could come back from firebombing, I thought, surely New Orleans can come back from Katrina.

Of course, Dresden lost forever much of its most beautiful architecture, as well as thousands of its residents (estimates of 25,000-35,000). Ironically, Dresden too lies on either side of a river, in a flood plain, and is subject to flooding.

Back to the inspiration for this entry. There will be plenty of obituaries and eulogies describing Mr. Vonnegut, detailing his life, and critiquing his writing, so I shall add only: He is unarguably one of the greatest U.S. writers of the 20th century. Rest in peace, Kurt.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Above the Law?

Yesterday's lead story in our local newspaper was about a public official who apparently thinks laws don't apply to her. Local news outlets reported that a New Orleans city councilwoman had been stopped on two occasions by state police for speeding, with a flashing blue light on the dashboard of her SUV. On the most recent occasion, the trooper clocked her speed at nearly 100 mph, as she weaved in and out of traffic and drove on the shoulder of the road. When stopped by the state trooper, she yelled at him, "Do you know who I am?", demanded to know why he was stopping her, and told him she was on her way to an important meeting. She also flashed an honorary sheriff's deputy badge (which gives her no authority outside Orleans Parish and, actually, not much within it).

She was not ticketed on either occasion--but the troopers made reports on both incidents, and now the reports have been made public. According to the police, only official law enforcement vehicles, driven by actual law enforcement officers, can use flashing blue lights. Yesterday at the weekly council meeting, the councilwoman involved apologized for the incidents. A former school principal, she said she wanted to set a good example for children. She promised she would not engage in similar behavior in future.

Okay. . . but if she hadn't been outed, would she be feeling this way? Or would she still be arrogantly driving 100 mph with a flashing blue light, weaving in and out and endangering lives as she rushes to her meetings?

She is an example of why the electorate distrusts elected officials--the attitude that she's above the law because she's more important than "the little people."

Sunday, April 01, 2007


"A hundred million miracles are happening every day!"
Flower Drum Song by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

What started out as an ordinary week became miraculous.

On Tuesday I started taking diet pills I bought online, a miracle drug touted in a spam message. It's amazing--in less than a week I have already lost 20 pounds. Plus, the package says it also eliminates cellulite, wrinkles, and flab. Before long I should have the figure I had at 20!

On Wednesday I received another miracle drug I'd ordered online (same source, a spam message) -- this one promised to make me pain-free. After a only few days, I've gone from hobbling around with a cane due to my month-old bum knee and preexisting arthritis, to skipping and jogging everywhere. I gave my cane to my dogs to use as a chew-toy and plan to run in the Crescent City Classic 10K race next weekend.

Normally I never forward chain-letter e-mails, but on Thursday I forwarded one sent me by some guy in Nigeria. It promised me "miraculous events" would occur in my life as long as I didn't break the chain. Two days later I learned that a shiftless relative who's been gouging me for support for years was suddenly awarded a prize job making an unbelievable salary, based solely on the fact that she's pretty and an expert at manipulating people to get her way.

Then on Saturday I won millions in the lottery. I'm rich, I'm rich, and all my troubles are over! I can pay off all my debts, move to a big fancy home in a choice location, buy a vintage Jag XKE, and live a life of leisure.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that yet another miracle drug I bought over the Internet is curing my elderly mom of her age-related tremors, mild dementia, and wrinkles? She looks and acts 3o years younger--younger than me, in fact.

Oh, and for the best part, scroll down:

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