Monday, August 21, 2006

Review of "Going to Extremes" by Amanda Stevens

Another review is up.

Check it out at Book Snark.

Grade: C

My Last Word on Plagiarism (for this month)

Some of the commenters on my Glass Houses thread apparently do not understand plagiarism and how plagiarism differs from copyright infringement.

Generally, copyright infringement means using another person’s words without his/her permission (there are exceptions for fair use, of course). If the copyright holder gives a blogger permission to use the words, then the blogger can do so without infringing on the original author’s copyright.

Plagiarism means using another person’s words and passing them off as one’s own. Or we could use the definition found in “A Pocket Style Manual”, 4h ed., 2004 Bedford/St. Martin's, pp 228-30 – "Three acts are plagiarism: (1) failing to cite quotations and borrowed ideas, (2) failing to enclose borrowed language in quotation marks and (3) failing to put summaries and paraphrases in your own words." (Rose is guilty of all three of these, in my opinion.)

So if the blogger from the second paragraph takes those words (for which she has permission) and tries to pass them off as her own by not citing them properly, then the blogger has plagiarized. Note that the blogger can have permission from the copyright holder and still be guilty of plagiarism.

Let’s look at an example to understand:

Lily is an aspiring, but rather crappy, poet. She loves the work of Anne Sexton. So she visits Madame Zora who contacts Ms. Sexton and asks for permission to use the first three lines of “With Mercy for the Greedy” in a poem. Ms. Sexton, not quite herself after being yanked back from the afterlife, says, “Sure, honey, go ahead.”

Lily then writes the following poem and vanity-publishes it as part of a collection:

To Ralph

I luv you so much.
I luv you so much it hurts.
But you sumtimes write to me and
Concerning your letter in which you ask
Me to call a priest and in which you ask
Me to wear The Cross that you enclose;
I think your stoopid to say such a thing
To me. Because you know I’m Knot relijus,
so their.

Let’s see…Lily has permission to use the lines, so there is no copyright infringement. But Lily has failed to put the lines she used in quotes and has failed to say anywhere that Ms. Sexton wrote them. That’s plagiarism. Ms. Sexton saying, “It’s OK to use my words” is not the same as “it’s OK to use my words and to pretend like they are your own.”

And even if Ms. Sexton, tired of Madame Zora’s fake Romanian accent and cheap perfume and wanting to get back to the Elysian Fields where she has been unusually happy, had said “what the heck, it’s also OK to pretend they are your own” – does that really make it OK for Lily to deceive the reader? Does that make it NOT plagiarism?

No. It’s still misrepresenting the words of others’ as her own work. It’s still plagiarism.

In Rose Desrochers’ case, she may think she has permission from ECT to deceive her readers. But ECT can’t give her that. No one can.

The following lines -- “Concerning your letter in which you ask / Me to call a priest and in which you ask / Me to wear The Cross that you enclose;” -- are from the poem “With Mercy for the Greedy,” by Anne Sexton, from the book “All My Pretty Ones,” Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

I should also add that the copyright holder for Ms. Sexton's work is most likely her estate or heirs, so in reality, Lily would have needed a less mystical method of obtaining permission to use Ms. Sexton's words. But that wouldn't have been as much fun in the example...

The Long Hot Summer...err..Weekend

So the weekend was a bit of a blur...

We're remodeling our dining room, which once upon a time (long before we bought the house), was a sun porch. The guilty parties who turned it into a closed-in room used things like old 2x4's--and I mean real 2" and real 4" wood--chunks of glulams, and newspaper to infill the walls, and their ability to frame a square and plumb wall is not in doubt. They didn't know how to do it. Grr.... But the electrical is mostly done and the new sheet rock is up. It needs more mud and much sanding, but it should be ready for painting by mid-week. Then we just need to replace the floor, and we'll be done.

I did get a couple more book reviews finished. I'll post those soon. I also read an awesome book this weekend that I can't snark about at all. It's "I See You" by Holly Lisle.


I hadn't intended to read the WHOLE thing at once, but I got started and I just couldn't put it down. This is how romantic suspense ought to be written!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Voices, Voices Everywhere...

One hears a lot as an aspiring writer about voice and letting the reader get to know characters through their dialogue. You don’t want your characters to sound alike, whether they are narrating (meaning first person from the character’s POV) or speaking. One book that impressed me greatly in this regard is “House of Sand and Fog”, by Andre Dubus III, published by Vintage Books, 1999.

"House of Sand and Fog" tells the story of two (well, actually three, but the two following are the main characters) people. Colonel Behrani moved his family from Iran to the U.S. in the wake of political violence that threatened their lives. Wealthy in Iran and now almost broke, he uses the last of his savings to buy a house at auction. This house will be the start of a new life of financial independence. Kathy Nicolo is the previous owner of the house, which was mistakenly siezed by the city and put up for sale. Her house, left to her by her father, is one of her sole possessions, and one that helps hang onto her sanity. The story centers around the two characters as they both fight for possession of the house. Of course, the story is much better than I’ve made it sound here (go read it! Oprah even recommends it).

The story is told in the first person, alternating between Kathy’s and the Colonel’s points of view. Dubus distinguishes the voice of the characters by using different language, sentence construction, and word choice. The Colonel’s sections are also told in the present tense, which usually drives me up a wall, but in this case, just added to the tone of those sections. You can flip this book open to any page, read a sentence or two and instantly know who is narrating – the differences are distinct.

For example, here is the Colonel narrating:

“Many summer evenings, instead of sleeping on the sofa in my office, I rest on the carpet near the sliding door of the terrace with my head on a pillow beneath the leaves of the tree plants my Nadi cares for like her own children. Last evening the sky was clear, and sleep came for me as I watched the stars through the screen.

I rise with the first light from the east, and, after a shower and shave and a breakfast of toast and tea, I wake Esmail for his newspaper route. Then I dial the Highway depot and inform them of the summer flu I am suffering.” (pp 23-24, TP edition, 1999)

And here is Kathy narrating:

“My husband got to miss all this, that’s what I kept thinking, that he didn’t have to be around for any of this, and I was stuck at the El Rancho Motel in San Bruno. It was a shitty little one-story L of rooms wedged between an electrical parts warehouse and a truck-stop bar near the 101 Freeway ramp…

…I was dying for a cigarette, which made me even madder because I hadn’t smoked one since a month after Nick left, and I hadn’t craved one in five. So I chewed
gum.” (pp 34, TP edition, 1999)

I highly recommend this book, whether you care about characters’ voices or not.

P.S. TP edition means trade paperback edition - not something else y'all might have been thinking.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Time Out for a Rant (Not Writing-Related)

Several years ago, eight blocks of a main arterial street in my city were changed from a pot-hole-ridden undivided four-lane to a divided four lane with a beautifully landscaped median and new lighting. Great! I drive this street back and forth several times a day--to work and back, and I go home for lunch. Traffic moves better than ever.


Every other week, the common-sense-challenged folks at the city perform routine maintenance on the median landscaping--during the morning rush hour. Yes, during rush hour!

They block off the inside lane in each direction so that they can park their service trucks and unload the mowers and leaf blowers and trash bags. What the hell are they thinking? Why can't they do the work between, say, ten and eleven a.m. after traffic has calmed down? The Lord--or maybe the workers' union--only knows.

This morning traffic was backed up several blocks as drivers tried to merge into one lane. Grr... I might have to find a new route to work.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Silhouette Bombshell RIP

The sad news today is that as after January 2007, Harlequin is terminating their Silhouette Bombshell line because of poor sales or as the announcement says, "Silhouette Bombshell has not been able find a broad-based readership".

The Silhouette Bombshell line is my favorite of the series romance lines. I'm a romantic person at heart, but I find a lot of the romance sans mystery or action to be too, um, boring. Particularly if it involves a secret bride, a secret baby, or cowboys. An endless dissection of a relationship simply for the sake of the relationship puts me to sleep...

Heroine: Does he like me? What did he mean when he said that? Was he being critical? Am I fat? Is he jealous of my very good male friend/neighbor/co-worker? Why do I do such stupid things all the time? etc etc etc

Hero: Does she like me? Does she hate me because she didn't go to bed with me? Why do I bother to try to help her? Why does she talk to my friend/her friend/her co-worker more than me? What does that mean? Am I fat? etc etc etc


The Bombshell line featured savvy kick-ass heroines. The line varied from the traditional romance book formula by allowing books to be written in the first person--not requiring, just allowing. Stories could also be told in the third person and stay in the heroine's POV for the entire book. I liked this a lot. I like being along for the heroine's ride and not knowing what the guy is thinking or planning until he says it or does it.

Harlequin Intrigue has the mystery, but the books still follow the third person, alternating heroine/hero POV formula. The focus is also more on the guy saving the day, not the girl. These are a weak alternative, in my opinion--but they will be all I have for a while.

Of course, there's always paranormal romance...kick-ass female vampires/werewolves/witches...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mini-Plug for Buying New Books (Instead of Used)

I know that I talk a lot in my reviews about getting books from and returning books to a used book store. I do this--get and return books, that it--because like most of us, I don’t have a huge amount of money to spend each month on books. The library would be free, but they don’t carry what I want to read. Going to this store lets me to read each book for about ¼ of its cover price. Not bad.

A friend of mine suggested that I join I looked into it, and I’m tempted. As many books as I can read delivered right to my door for a nominal charge each month. Considering how many books I go through each month, this beats even the buy/read/exchange method.

However, there are some authors whose books I always try buy new – Lynn Viehl, Victoria Strauss, C.T Adams and Cathy Clamp (they write as a team), and a few others I'm sure will occur to me in about fifteen minutes. Here’s why:

Buying new makes sure that my opinion--Hey, I like this author’s writing!--gets counted.

I want publishers to know when I really like something, and the best way to let them know is by buying that product from them. Buying new also means that the author gets a cut of the money you spend on the book.

So support your favorite authors. Buy new whenever you can!

Occupants of Glass Houses

Plagiarism is a hot word on the Internet these days. Just look at the recent Kaavya Viswanathan scandal and Cassandra Claire fanfic mini-storm. Plagiarism is a very real problem, and one that should be taken seriously.

Let's look at the case of a certain blogger. Rose Desrochers has many posts on her website about supposed plagiarism on the 'Net. I'd actually call her rather rabid about "exposing" people and accusing them of stealing, copyright infringement, and other vile things. There appears to be no gray in Rose's world. Everything is black and white, and when something is black, it is BLACK!


Yesterday, she posted an item on her blog regarding a news article on Internet service providers' methods of cracking down on child porn. A good subject for a blog, no doubt. However, here are excerpts from her post about the article side by side with the wording from the original article. Note that Rose's post includes no quote marks to indicate the passages she lifted from the article.

Rose: …will be jointly building a database of known child porn images, creating a unique mathematical signature for each as well as develop other tools to help network operators and law enforcement better prevent distribution of those images...

Original Article: …will jointly build a database of child pornography images and develop other tools to help network operators and law enforcement better prevent distribution of the images.

Rose: AOL, plans to check e-mail attachments which are already being scanned for viruses.

Original Article: AOL, for instance, plans to check e-mail attachments that are already being scanned for viruses.

Rose: If child porn is detected, AOL would refer the case to the missing children’s center for further investigation.

Original Article: If child porn is detected, AOL would refer the case to the missing children's center for further investigation ...

Hmm, a clear-cut case of plagiarism in my opinion.

In all fairness, it is hard to summarize a news article about something this specific without quoting large chunks of it. That doesn't make it right to do it, it just means one needs to be very careful -- OR -- if it were me, I would have just quoted the first couple of sentences literally and with attribution and then directed my readers (all four of them!) to the full article.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Review of "Parallel Lies" by Kate Donovan

I've finally gotten a review of "Parallel Lies" posted at my other blog. Check it out.

My TBR pile has also increased dramatically thanks to a giveaway I won at Lynn Viehl's blog. She blogs frequently, and if you are a writer, I highly recommend including her blog on your daily "must read" list.

I've got a couple more reviews I'll try and get finished over the weekend, but no promises. Lots going on, and the weather is far too beautiful for me to spend my time sitting inside in front of the computer. Maybe what I need is a laptop with WiFi. I could sit outside at my favorite coffee shop and write to my heart's content.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Review of "The Challenge" by Susan Kearney

I've got a review of "The Challenge" by Susan Kearney up at my other blog, Book Snark.

More to come...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Long time no post

Work has been kicking my butt lately, so I haven't had time to devote to the old blog.

I'm really behind on book reviews right now. I may do some shorter ones just to get caught up because I really really need to clean off my bookshelves. I'm afraid for my dog every time he bumps against them trying to find a place to curl up and snooze. He's a bit skittish--even if he is 60 pounds--and his psyche would be greatly damaged if a pile o' paperbacks fell on his head.

I've got a couple romances to snark about including "Parallel Lies" by Kate Donovan and "The Challenge" by Susan Kearney.

Oh my God. *sigh*

Someone shoot me if I ever even consider buying another Susan Kearney book. I've read two books of hers now and in both books, the hero--and the author--seem to find forced sexual enounters not only acceptable but good way to arouse the heroine. Huh? In both books, the heroine should have knocked the hero over the head with the nearest heavy object and then called the cops (at least for the book set on planet Earth). In "The Challenge", the heroine repeatedly responds to the hero treating her badly (treating her like a child, demeaning her, etc.) by seducing him. Yeah, 'cause an erection will solve every character defect.

No more Susan Kearney for me ever. Never. I'm finished. Done. Finis.

And I want the four hours back that I spent reading the last book.