Monday, February 25, 2013

Gentlemen's Clubs of St. James in London

In Mark Rowland's London Rambles, Mr. Rowland offers an excellent analysis of the popularity of St. James for gentlemen's clubs.

At its heydey in the Victorian era, St. James boasted 250 clubs cheek-by-jowl; 50 remain to this day. Click HERE for a geographical location with year of opening listing for every club.

The White's, Brooks's, and Boodle's of Regency romances fame are still in existence today. White's is older (established in 1693), while Boodle's and Brooks's were established in the 1760s. Though White's in romance novels is usually an aristcratic and political club, Mr. Rowland puts it squarely in the social category, but puts Brooks's and Boodle's in the aristocratic and political category. In romance novels, Brooks's and especially Boodle's are portrayed as clubs for the younger, brasher group with a wilder reputation for gaming and drinking, whereas White's is for the more serious, politically and/or socially influential aristocrats. So it is interesting to read this disconnect between Mr. Rowland's research and the research of romance novelists.

The mention of Almack's in this list of gentlemen's clubs, even under the 'social' category is clearly a misnomer. It was an assembly hall for ton dances and run and championed by high society ladies.

So why St. James? Why did it become this hugely popular site for gentleman's clubs? Here are some of the reasons according to Mr. Rowland:

"They needed to be close to the seats of royal, governmental and military power in the heart of Westminster. Settling just to the north of those also made practical sense for ease of access to the legal 'illage' at the Inns of Court off the Strand and Fleet Street, the financiers of the City, and the prime residential districts of Mayfair and Belgravia to the north and west respectively."

For the historical context behind the explosion of clubs during the Victorian era, Mr. Rowland details the wars, the industrial revolution, empire building, the mechanization of a previously agricultural feudal society, etc. historical events as the reasons.

Do read the article in its entirety.

An aside: Current notable members of White's.

[Edited 3/9/13 to add: I stand corrected about Almack's. It was initially a women's and gentlemen's social club—a rare club that admitted women. It was much later in its reign during the Georgian era that it was taken over by the women and became a dance assembly hall. However, it continued to boast one of the most popular cards' room mostly for men.]

Friday, February 22, 2013

Picture Day Friday: Gorgeous in Golden

The following gown is the star of Zuhair Murad's Spring Couture 2013 collection. Photograph is provided by Women's Wear Daily, all rights reserved. Go here to see all of Zuhair Murad's golden gowns from the same collection.

(Does this gown have anything to do with history, writing, books, or the writing life? Not a thing. :) But it sure is gorgeous...)

[Click on image to expand.]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Modern Libraries as Community Centers

Carl Sagan said this of libraries: "The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries."

In the face of vanishing libraries due to lack of governmental funding, this serves as a good reminder of the public good that libraries do for civilized societies. This also serves as a reminder of the main function of libraries as opposed to being community centers with computers, loud homework coaching sessions in the main halls, older teens getting together to eat dinner to the accompaniment of jokes and laughter, and music entertainment for the little ones, where the poor book stacks are being pushed against the walls in ever-reducing numbers.

So a few libraries across the nation have come up with creative ways to enforce a modicum of rules at their facilities.


No chewing on headphone cords (in the children's section)


Don't reach across my desk (in the YA section)

Then there's:

No reshelving even if you're a Library Science major (to prevent mis-filing, but even more importantly, to collect stats on which books get read how much for future buying and weeding out purposes)

And finally:

No bathing (for those downtown libraries that see a lot of homeless traffic)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Romance Writers of America 2013 Conference

The Romance Writers of America's annual conference is a conference by writers, for writers, about writers.

From July 17 to July 20 this year, more than 2000 published and aspiring writers—along with editors, agents, booksellers, librarians, and other romance publishing industry professionals—will gather at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel in Georgia to network at the 33rd annual conference.

The goals of the conference are education, networking, business meetings, award recognition, and of course, that staple of all conferences: lavish parties. The most important business transactions, and thereby, the best gossip happens at the hotel bar.

The following authors are the featured speakers:
Keynote Speaker – Cathy Maxwell
Awards Luncheon Speaker – Kristan Higgins
Librarians' Day Luncheon Speaker – Jill Shalvis
Awards Ceremony Emcee – Christie Craig

RWA also sponsors an event for the readers in the community, titled Readers for Life Literacy Autographing, where books are donated by publishers, autographed by more than 700 authors, and bought by dedicated readers. Since 1990, RWA has raised more than $770,000 to fight illiteracy.

The conference is now open for registration with a fee of $450 for members through May 1 and $500 after that. The hotel rate is a discounted $189 per night for single or double occupancy at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

I, unfortunately, will not be attending the conference this year, and that's cause for much disappointment. I'll miss meeting all the lovely friends I only speak with online the rest of the year. So the conference is such a mainstay of my writerly existence, but this year, it isn't provident for me to make it there. Perhaps, next year.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Picture Day Friday: Indus Valley Civilization 2

I posted a picture of a toy from the Mohenjodaro Museum HERE and explained a little bit about the Indus Valley Civilization. Here are samples of pottery recovered from one of the sites.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Clutter? What Clutter? Get Rid of It!

When was the last time you last saw the surface of your desk?

At any point in time in the past, I'd have had the following on it: laptop, keyboard, docking station, wires running crazily helter-skelter, printer, loose computer paper, loose handwritten paper, notes for all current writing projects, a journal where I note down tasks and daily progress, my schedule and also a list of goals, water bottles, a mug of cold stale coffee, a can of coconut water, a bottle of lotion, my glasses, a pedometer, bills I need to take care of, and pens and pencils galore. If I had to eat at my desk, I'd have had to precariously perch the plate of food on top of some of this mess.

It's well and good to admire minimalist principles and to enjoy the idea that the gleaming wood of your desk will be available daily for your appreciation. But how on earth would you go about getting to that clean surface and then keep it that way?

Well, here's how...

Choose one small, self-contained area that's going to be your first clutter-free zone.

Ask yourself these questions: What is essential to this space? Are all the essentials coralled into logical groups? What are the things that you love but do not belong there? Where can they be moved to? Should everything that doesn't fall in the "essential" or "love" category get thrown out, or should it be revisited in a different part of the house?

Now set up boxes for donations, garbage bins, recycling bins, and the shredder in a readily accessible spot.

Start going through everything, item by item, in your chosen clutter-free area. File paper away in organized file folders, shred it, or recycle it. Put clothes away in the closet, donation box, or garbage bin. And so on. Make sure every single item in that area is looked at, thought over, and dealt with in some fashion. That area should now be well-organized and have fewer things per square inch of real estate than before.

Now that you've created your first clutter-free area, expand your clutter-free zone by taking over and organizing the adjacent area. And so on. Area by area, day by day, organize your entire home and office.

Next, and this is key, every time a new thing arrives in your clutter-free zone, make sure it is put away into the existing structure of organization, or moved to an appropriate area. Things should not simply land in the clutter-free zone with no rhyme or reason or organization. New things should always be put away in organized spots, as well as things that have been taken out for use should always be put back in their original spots.

This needs to become a habit, which will take time to develop—work on this habit consciously. The only way to get a habit to stick is to do it every single day.

Some areas are prone to clutter: mud rooms, kitchen islands, etc. Know these habits of yours and your family's. And make it point to, say, once a day before going to bed, clear out these areas, so that in the morning, the day begins on a tidy note.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Unitasking: The New Way To Work

The buzzword of the late 1990s and 2000s was multitasking. Everyone wanted to be multitasking or want it bruited about that they're efficient multitaskers.

But the key question these high achievers failed to ask was: Were they effective as multitaskers? That is, at the end of the day, given the same set of tasks, did the multitaskers or the unitaskers achieve more in terms of quality and quantity?

Behavior and social scientists now believe that constant context-switching between various tasks causes people to be less effective overall. For something like walking and chewing gum, multitasking works. For something like, writing programming code for one software application and having a protracted discussion via email on another piece of software, multitasking is counterproductive to achieving milestones for either of the two tasks.

Every time you switch away from task one to task two, you have to reload all the details about task two in your mind before you can start working. Similarly, switching back to task one requires you to reload those set of details, and back and forth.

So for the intellectually challenging tasks, tasks that require a lot of attention and care, tasks involving physical and emotional intimacy, etc., unitasking is to be lauded and actively pursued.

Read what Leo Babauta has to say about Monk Mind and how to achieve single-task focus.

However, busy moms will still prize multitasking. For example, here's what writer Monica Trasandes wrote in the December 2012 issue of Real Simple: "Recently I found myself walking toward the kitchen with a load of laundry in my arms, two empty coffee cups dangling from my fingers, and car keys tucked between my chin and the clothes."

I think Trasandes is a lightweight. I'd have a book tucked under one arm, a purse dangling from that elbow, the mugs held in one hand, while an empty water bottle and a board game are firmly clasped in the other hand, in addition to the laundry and keys.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Picture Day Friday: Sahibaan Mahal

Sahibaan Mahal, in Khadaro of the Badin district of Sindh in Pakistan, is a modern remaking of an ancient palatial style influenced by the Taj Mahal. Sahibaan Mahal was built by Mir Khuda bux Talpur, one of the members of Royal Mir family, for his wife. It was completed in early 1940s during the time of the British Rule of India and Pakistan.

The property is about four acres. The castle has five entrances, six minarets, two terraces, and a round swimming pool. Each minaret has a room with a balcony and colorful windows. The swimming pool can also be reached by an underground tunnel, though the pool is outdoors.

(The famous story about Talpur is that he kept a private women force that guarded him.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Analyses of the Books I Read in 2012

I found the source for this blog from Fizzy Thoughts and modified it a bit. (For a complete list of my books, go HERE. Without further ado, here are the stats...

How many books did you read in total?

148: an average of one book every two-and-a-half days

How many works of fiction and how many non-fiction?

Nonfiction: 8, Fiction: 140 (wince), a ratio of 1:18. In 2010, the ratio was 1:57 and in 2011, it was 1:15, so hopefully the trend will show more nonfiction in 2013

Which percent of male versus female authors did you read?

Male: 10, Female: 138 (double wince). So the male authors read are about 7% of the total. In 2010, the number was 3% of the total, and in 2011, it was 5%, so it's a positive trend. Of the ten books by male authors I read in 2012, four were nonfiction.

How much romance versus all other genres?

27 non-romance vs. 121 romance, which is a little less than 82% of the total books read. In 2010, I read more than 85% romance, but in 2011, I read 79% romance, so I read more romance in 2012 than 2011. All the non-romance books were in the following categories: children's and young adult fiction, literary fiction, women's fiction, poetry, mythology, and non-fiction

What were the categories of the books and how many books did you read in each category?

Medieval (9), Stuart (1), Tudor (3), Georgian (10), Regency (70 + 2 DNF), Victorian (10), Western (7), Contemporary (10), Inspirational (1), Mystery & Historical Mystery (8), Chick-Lit/Women's Fic (4), Literary Fiction (2), Children's & Young Adult (2), Poetry (2), Mythology (1), Humor (1), Memoirs (1), On Writing (3), and Parenting (3)

Which was your top favorite book that was published in 2012?

"The Garden of Happy Endings" by Barbara O'Neal
The rest of my list of favorite books of 2012 was published on this blog on January 30, 2013.

Which was your surprise favorite books and why?

"Bringing up Bébé" by Pamela Druckerman, because books on parenting are rarely entertaining or witty
"The Good Fellow's Toast Book" by George N. Madison, because I thought it would be pontificating but was light and witty

Which were the oldest and newest books, by pub date?

"Beacon Lights of History: Great Writers" by John Lord (1896)
"The Last Renegade" by Jo Goodman (Sep 2012)

Which were the longest and shortest book titles?

Longest Book Titles:
"Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting" by Pamela Druckerman
"Why I Live on the Mountain: 30 Chinese Poems from the Great Dynasties" by C.H. Kwôck and Vincent McHugh

Shortest Book Titles:
"Frederica" by Georgette Heyer
"Isabella" by Loretta Chase
"Devilish" and "Hazard" by Jo Beverley
"Defiant" by Kris Kennedy
"Deception" by Kris Kennedy
"Untamed" by Pamela Clare
"Marianna" by Susanna Kearsley

Which were the longest and shortest books?

"Africa is Not a Country" by Margy Burns Knight and Mark Melnicove(48 pages)
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" by John le Carré (371 trade paperback pages)
"Have His Carcase" by Dorothy Sayers (252 hardcover pages with small font)

Who were the most-read authors of the year?

Joan Wolf, Loretta Chase, Jo Goodman, Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, Kris Kennedy, Carla Kelly, and Lisa Kleypas

Which authors were new to you in 2012? Would you want to read their entire backlist now?

Would love to read Carla Kelly's, Emma Jensen's and Dorothy Sayers's backlists.
The other authors were: Heather Snow, Cecilia Grants, Maya Rodale, Amanda Scott, Karen Witemeyer, Sharon Kay Penman, John le Carré, Pamela Druckerman, C.H. Kwôck and Vincent McHugh, E.B. White, Asha Bhalekar, George N.Madison, Sherwin Cody, and John Lord

Any books in translation?

"Why I Live on the Mountain: 30 Chinese Poems from the Great Dynasties" by C.H. Kwôck and Vincent McHugh
Seven Poems (no titles) by Hans Christian Anderson

Any re-reads?

Books by Eloisa James, Jo Beverley, Mary Balogh, Lisa Kleypas, Kris Kennedy, and Connie Brockway among others

Which books you wouldn’t have read without someone’s specific recommendation?

"Mariana" by Susanna Kearsley recommended by @sunita_d
"A Grand Design" by Emma Jensen recommended by @janga
"Reforming Lord Ragsdale" by Carla Kelly recommended by @janga & @janetnorcal
"Madam, Will You Talk?" by Mary Stewart recommended by @sunita_d & @redrobinreader

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?

>"Why I Live on the Mountain: 30 Chinese Poems from the Great Dynasties" by C.H. Kwôck and Vincent McHugh
Seven Poems (no titles) by Hans Christian Anderson
Books by Jo Goodman and Joan Wolf (which I predicted I will glom in 2012)

Which books that you read in 2012 do you think you will re-read in 2013?

Books by Jo Beverley, Joan Wolf, Jo Goodman, Meredith Duran, Connie Brockway, and Kris Kennedy among others

Which authors do you predict you will glom in 2013?

Jo Goodman

Which types of books would you like to read more of?

Poetry and nonfiction

What information are you missing in your data collection for 2012?

Month and year of publication, publisher, category, whether I own it or borrowed it from the library, and star rating

Monday, February 4, 2013

The 10-10 Reading Challenge for 2012

Copyright by Melissa Klug In January 2010, I was challenged by Melissa Klug, director of marketing for Glatfelter book paper manufacturers, to take up the Original 1010 Challenge for Reading in 2010. The challenge called for reading 10 books in 10 categories by October 10, 2010. We were to report in to the challenge on the 101010Reading blog.
Used and Discarded Books a series of painting copyrighted by Ephraim Rubenstein
I modified the challenge as follows: Read any number of books in 10 categories, other than romance, by December 10 to finish the challenge. Also the overarching aim was to reduce the to-be-read TBR mountain. (For a complete list of my books, go HERE.)

Detective, Mystery, Crime, Thriller
—"Death Comes to Pemberley" by PD James
—"Strong Poison" by Dorothy Sayers
—"Have his Carcase" by Dorothy Sayers
—"When Maidens Mourn" by C.S. Harris
—"Madam, Will You Talk" by Mary Stewart
—"The Cocoa Conspiracy" by Andrea Penrose
—"The Queen's Man" by Sharon Kay Penman
—"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" by John Le Carré

Chick-Lit, Women's Fic, Literary Fic
—"Pride & Prejudice" by Jane Austen
—"The Garden of Happy Endings" by Barbara O'Neal
—"Mariana" by Susanna Kearsley
—"The Chocolate Thief" by Laura Florand
—"Garden Spells" by Sarah Addison Allen
—"Master of the World" by Jules Verne

Children's & Young Adult
—"Tales from Hitopdesa" by Asha Bhalekar
—"Africa is Not a Country" by Margy Burns Knight & Mark Melnicove
—"Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White

—"Seven Poems" by Hans Christian Andersen
—"Why I Live on a Mountain: 30 Chiense Poems from the Great Dynasties" by C.H. Kwôck and Vincent McHugh

—"The Good Fellow's Toast Book" by George N. Madison (The Reilly & Britton Co., 1914)

Mythological Tales
—"Tales from Hitopdesa" by Asha Bhalekar

Parenting Tips
—"Bringing Up Bebe" by Pamela Drucker
—"The New Age Baby Name Book" by Sue Browder
—"Sleep: The Brazelton Way" by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Joshua D. Sparrow

Biographies & Memoirs
—"Paris in Love" by Eloisa James

On Writing
—"The Art of Writing & Speaking the English Language: Dictionary of Errors" by Sherwin Cody (The Old Greek Press, 1905)
—"Beacon Lights of History: Great Writers" by John Lord (WM. H. Wise & Co, NYC, 1896)
—"Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels" by Sarah Wendell

Books Pubbed More Than 50 Years Ago
—"Beacon Lights of History: Great Writers" by John Lord (WM. H. Wise & Co, NYC, 1896)
—"The Art of Writing & Speaking the English Language: Dictionary of Errors" by Sherwin Cody (The Old Greek Press, 1905)
—"The Good Fellow's Toast Book" by George N. Madison (The Reilly & Britton Co., 1914)

Categories for Reading in 2013

Detective, Mystery, Crime, Thriller
Chick-Lit & Women's Fic
Literary Fic
Children's & Young Adult
Biographies & Memoirs
Organizational Tips
Parenting Tips
On Writing

Friday, February 1, 2013

Picture Day Friday: Guinevere