Monday, February 21, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

It's my first week to take the wheel here at Jungle Red Writers! I'm hoping it'll turn out better than my first week driving back in the day (I hit a Buick in Carl's Drug's parking lot.) So without further ado, let's take 'er out for a spin.

I have a confession to make. I like February 15th better than February 14th. You can keep your flowers and your I (Heart) You teddy bears and your spring-loaded cards that play "Love Will Keep Us Together." I want chocolate half off. Seventy-five per cent off. Eighty, if you're willing to wait until a week after and risk getting nothing but Red Hots and Necco wafers. I load up on red and pink M&Ms and Hershey's Kisses. I promise myself I'll just have a few, for dessert, but at the end of the day, I'm sitting in my comfy chair with my feet up and a litter of pink and silver foil on the rug.

It struck me that reading is often the same way. How many times do you hear people referring to mysteries as fluff? Mind candy? A palate-cleanser? I see this all the time when I volunteer at my local library. The patron comes up the desk. She rather proudly lays down a book we shall call Extremely Sensitive and Incredibly Plotless. This book has been on the NYT Bestseller list for 46 weeks and has been reviewed in the New York Times, The Sunday NYTimes, The NYT Review of Books, The NYT Book Review Monday--and the author's apartment has been featured in the style section.

Then, sheepishly, she adds four mysteries to her pile. "I know it's just mindless entertainment," she apologizes. "But sometimes I just need something light."
What I want to say to her is, "Ma'am, it's not just mindless entertainment. I and my fellow mystery writers work incredibly hard, sometimes for years, to master the language and characterization and plotting that will have you sitting in your comfy chair until 2 am, devouring our books. It's okay to enjoy reading. It's a good thing to be swept away by a story and to laugh and weep along with the characters."

What I do say is, "I'm sure you'll enjoy these."

How about you, ladies? What do you say--or not say--when someone dismisses our genre as a guilty pleasure? (And does anyone else besides me buy out the candy section after St. Valentine's Day?)

JAN: If we're talking pure status, Julia, I'd WAY rather be seen on a plane reading books with titles like -- One was a Soldier -- or Come and Find Me -- Dead Head - or Murder, Murder and more Murder - than The Nannie Diaries (which was actually a really good book.) Mysteries have a hard edge, tough chick aura that Jersey girls like me aspire to. Whereas love stories - even literary, NYT bestselling, award winning, love stories always make me feel like a such a featherhead girl - even though I really do like them. But I think the bottom line is this: there's high end, well done mysteries, love stories, memoirs and literary books, and there's complete crap or total fluff mysteries, love stories, memoirs and yes, literary books, with the no plot, no-point prose that makes you wonder how on earth they got published.

And while I think I might give you a good run for your money in the bargain-hunting frugality contest, I confess that the day after Valentine's Day, I can't even look at chocolate! However, the day after Christmas, I have been known to restock my lights and wrapping paper.

HANK: Who was it that said to some mystery writer--are you ever going to write a REAL book? Listen, I'm sitting here tearing my hair out because I'm on page 385 (uh-oh) and I've got to get person A and person B to arrive in the same place at the same time and have a perfectly natural and logical reason for it to happen.
So although I am generally a pretty nice person, if someone were unwise enough, right about now, to make one crack about "mindless"--well let's just say they'd be the ones having a "%#*&%$% conflict in every sentence.

(I buy white tissue paper. Fabulous. Day after Christmas? They almost pay you to buy it...Happy First Blog day, dear Julia!)

DEB: I hate categories--cozy, fluffy, hard-boiled, literary. People having the idea there is only one kind of book they SHOULD read is like thinking you should choose between granola and Cheerios for every meal. I don't mean we shouldn't be discerning, but how can we be discerning if we don't sample things? And there are different types of books for different moods and situations. I bought two at the supermarket here in London the other day: the new Val McDermid paperback, Trick of the Dark, and a Katie Fforde. You all know Val McDermid's books, I'm sure, but for those US readers who aren't familiar with Fforde, she writes "fluff" romances. (Yes, the girl always gets the guy, but what's wrong with that? And they can be wickedly satirical--the heroine's horrid family in this book could have been right out of Austen.) The Fforde was the perfect book for a day feeling under-the-weather, the McDermid will be the perfect book for another occasion. I can't see that snobbery, literary or otherwise, is ever to anyone's benefit, and it deprives people of a lot of pleasure.

Happy First Blog Day, Julia, and here's to books of all sorts.

ROBERTA: My good friend Deborah Donnelly, who wrote the wedding planner mysteries, used to talk about how much pleasure it gave her to hear from a reader telling her that one of her books got her through the aftermath of surgery or a relative's illness or anything hard, really. I can admire beautiful writing but most of all I want characters and a story that pull me in--I don't care whether it's mystery or romance or bestseller...

Hank, 384 pages and still haven't reached the denouement--that's a whopper! can't wait for that one. Also can't wait for Julia's new book! And Hallie's! and Rhys's! And Rosemary's! I'm salivating...

RHYS: More than one person has said to me, "So will you ever try to write a real book?" And it's something I can't understand because to me the mystery is the ultimate study in human nature on the brink. Nothing else shatters the wholeness of the universe of a community or family like a murder. Mysteries are perfect opportunities for in depth character studies. And what's more our stories have a beginning,a middle and an end, which is more than one can say about many so called "literary novels."

Have you noticed that Barnes and Noble has shelves marked Fiction and Literature and others marked Mystery. But you know what, I don't care. I love my fans. I love my friends in the mystery world and I'm quite happy!

I think that went rather well! I got the blog back without breaking anything. To celebrate, I'm giving away 4 Advance Reader Editions of my upcoming book, One Was A Soldier. Tell us about your guilty pleasures--reading or otherwise--in the comments for a chance to win.


  1. I chuckled when I read the comment about Katie Fforde's books. I just finished one yesterday, feeling in need of some total relaxation and enjoyment.
    I realized a long time ago that "should" is not a word to use when referring to books; any reading is worthwhile. When I'm feeling sad or depressed or struggling to resolve a problem, a mystery is the perfect antidote. I lose myself in the story and when I finish the book and return to my life, I find my mind calmer, I'm more relaxed, and I'm better able to focus.
    As a life-ling reader of ALL sorts of mysteries, each of you has my heartfelt gratitude, appreciation, and admiration for the books you write.

  2. Welcome, Julia! Who put together all those wonderful book covers? Gotta love the marketing department!

    Guilty pleasure? Really good coffee. I still order it from Peet's in California (where I worshipped at the mother store in Berkeley), and I refuse to give it up.

    Since I'm off to Ireland this week, I'm looking forward to seeing what books line their bookstore shelves. There are so many great writers over there that we never even hear about.

  3. Funny blog. Love the picture of the wrappings on the floor.
    I'm not a lady, but I'm going to answer anyway for a chance to win the book.
    My guilty pleasure is also chocolate (or chocolate and caramel combo), but I can't EVER buy a supply. I would get sick eating it all in one day. I know this from experience. I put off the craving as long as I can, then drive to the store and buy something, eat it, then try to hold off the cravings again. I once ate two pounds of Milk Duds in less than four hours, was sick for three days, and thus learned never to stock up. I'm disciplined about my writing, not candy and ice cream.

  4. My guilty pleasure is actually YA fantasy novels. I blissed out this summer through The Golden Compass. And now I've got the first Redwall novel sitting on my desk waiting for its spine to be cracked. When a book transports you, that's magic.

    I'm with Deborah - genre categories are for the birds. Also agree with Jan that on a plane I want a book that transports my mind from what's transporting my body. And that's what a great mystery does for you.

  5. I'm surprised to find another like me, whose guilty pleasure is YA fantasy/fiction! The Golden Compass was good, I also liked the Magick series, and bunches of others. I don't know if I would have discovered this genre without having had kids!
    Then I read Mark Twain in between. I always thought of him as 'literary' growing up, but now I think of him as pure comedy (I'm reading Roughing It). I guess in a way, that means I'm cheating. "Yeah, I'm reading Twain" sounds more "literary" than it really is! :)
    Nice blog!

  6. I was going to say reading but that isn't true. Reading as important as breathing to me. I guess my guilty pleasures are a big latte when I am in town and then *whispers* Americas Next Top Model.

    I also wanted to say that one of the things I appreciate about your books is the strong characters and the social issues they bring up. And that is the case with most of the mysteries I read.

  7. I read fluff. I write fluff. I like to think it's good fluff, but I may just be kidding myself. We can't all write the same thing, though. Just as some people are responsible for the main meal - the meat-and-potatoes; the heavy, dense, filling stuff - some of us have to handle dessert. I write whipped cream. And I'm OK with that.

  8. My guilty pleasure has always been reading. Whether under the sheets with a flashlight as a kid or ensconced in my favorite chair, reading mysteries in all forms is the purest form of relaxation for me. I even have a cheesy bulletin board in my classroom: Let Mystery Take You Places. On it is a wide variety of book jackets labeled with their settings. It's the least expensive way to travel!

    I get so tired of people berating the genre. My responses range from the benign "you don't know what you're missing" to the snarky "I guess you really aren't a total reader."

    The more interesting a title, the more I make sure to have it with me in public. Non-fiction titles such as "The Poisoner's Handbook" or "Stiff" have garnered some priceless facial expressions as I sat reading in the doctor's office.

    I'm happy to say I "turned on" two students to Julia Spencer-Fleming's books last semester and they are progressing through the series, running to me like junkies to babble about them.

    So as I while away a perfectly good afternoon with a book, I will do so with a contented smile. Guilty pleasures are all they're cracked up to be. Not to mention I've been waiting a blessedly long time for this newest Spencer-Fleming novel.

  9. Good morning to you Julia. I found this through your Twitter link. My guilty pleasure is -- TA DA -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer! I became a fan at the first episode. Gotta love a kick butt girl, which is what I believe we should all be in one way or another.
    I believe reading is the most worthwhile habit a person can have. There is no substitute. I love movies and some TV, but a book, even one not particularly well written, always takes me to a new place, teaches me something, or gives me a new perspective on a subject. My mind, my imagination, and my world are expanded each time I read.
    By the way, B&N also has a separate Romance section, at least my store does. And, it's a very large section!
    Thanks for your blogging, here and elsewhere, and for your marvelous books. CanNOT wait for the new one.

  10. I seldom read "serious" books, by which I mean non-fiction. However, the amount I have learned from my fiction reading is beyond measure. It is the chance to explore beyond the realm of reality. Good writers (so many here!) check their facts and claims and suggest (obliquely) that we check them too. And as the characters explore their spiritual depths, I get a companion with whom to explore mine. I am among women who have woken my husband in the middle of tthe night to say "you've got to listen to this".

    Reading provides so many things that it should never be trivialized.

  11. The Golden Compass--I SO loved it! And ALL of them. (Just--almost real.)But that's--not to feel guilty about, right?

    I mean--Project Runway. That's a guilty pleasure. (I'm pleased to say.)

    I read somewhere that Henry Kissinger read murder mysteries every night when he was Secretary of State--that was the only thing that gave his mind a rest. But I don't think it's rest.I think it's--regeneration.

  12. You know, looking at the covers again--I actually have that version of Cakes and Ale. Huh.

  13. Books, cupcakes, and cooking shows. Actually, now that I think about it, I don't feel all that guilty. OK, maybe the cupcakes.

  14. I discovered mysteries in second grade, when my teacher, recognizing that I already knew how to read, let me spend the daily reading lesson on my own in the library. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and The Bobbsey Twins all captured my imagination, and mysteries are still my favorite genre.

    As for guilty pleasures, why feel guilty? We all deserve pleasure, right? That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

  15. You know, looking at the covers again--I actually have that version of Cakes and Ale. Huh.

    That's because you are a very classy dame, Hank.

  16. My guilty pleasure is reality t.v. Go ahead, shoot me. I like it because I can read during the show and not miss anything. Ha! And, Rhys, the reason B&N has mysteries as a separate category (and not under fiction and literature) is that mysteries are our top selling genre! Soem days I am scheduled to shelve the romance/sci-fi/mystery cart and there are always 2-3 times more mysteries than the others. And it is so much fun to say "hi" to all my favorite authors while I shelve them.

  17. Oooh, Project Runway, now that's one of my guilty pleasures too. And all the silly British comedies even though I've seen them a hundred times. They are like comfort food.

  18. To those who call reading mindless entertainment, I would counter "what about TV watching?" I think there is a lot more mental exercise in reading than in staring at the TV.

  19. Barbara, you are so right! Since when was TV watching an intellectual pursuit?

  20. I love Georgette Heyer's Regency romances. Fabulous characterization and meticulous research. I've read every one of them numerous times; they're my comfort read.

    TV guilty pleasure: American Idol. I confess. And I'm loving Steven Tyler in place of Cowell. He's so much less self-conscious and he's so fun to watch when he enjoys a performance.

    Hallie--my 10-yr-old LOVES the Redwall books and has read them all. She's hoping Jacques is still writing and will come out with more.

  21. Okay, I admit to really wanting the advance reader copy. I've read all the previous books and need a new fix...

    I was an English major in college and read contemporary American literary fiction for years, until sometime in the late 80s when I put down a book (I won't say by whom)and thought, "If I never read a book again where I can't stand a single person in it, it will be too soon."

    I then discovered the joys of PD James and Ruth Rendell and haven't looked back.

    Since then, my tastes have broadened again. To be engrossed in the world of a novel I require some complexity--of language, character and plot. I'm not interested in A to B plots, cardboard characters or third grade reading levels, but other than that, tell me a story, entertain me, make me laugh, transport me to another place or time, make me think. It's all good.

    I don't feel guilty about any of it.

  22. A friend of mine told me that her mother, recently diagnosed as bi-polar, maintained her sanity reading cozies because solving the puzzle kept her mind occupied. She also told me my book was the best anti-depressant she had found. That's a great compliment. On that note, my guilty pleasures are romantic comedy (on paper or the big screen) and chocolate.

    BTW, does anyone else think chocolate should be designated as an essential food group?

    Great post and comments. Thanks.

  23. Cindy, isn't it, already?Well, it is around here..xoxo

    Caffeine, chocolate, salt and pizza. That's how I see the food groups, at least.

  24. Unfortunately, Brian Jacques just passed away.

  25. I hadn't heard that Jacques passed away. My daughter will be crushed. Karen, do you know if he had any books in the publishing pipeline?

  26. I think that went rather well too! All of my pals have been incredibly supportive and - like the old, battered Velveteen Rabbit that I am, they think I'm real. In fact an older publishing type gave me my best compliment (so far)by saying that I was "a real writer."
    I don't have any guilty pleasure reading material - I appreciate everything I bother to finish because I know how hard it is to do! I don't think anything's fluff if it's well-written. It's entertainment, for pete's sake.

    My guilty pleasure activity - or at least the one I'll admit to here - is watching lightweight rom-coms. Put me in front of Legally Blonde with a tub of popcorn and a copy of InStyle magazine and don't come back for ninety minutes.

  27. Suzze...
    Is that like..."We are Maggie and Terri and Suzze..."?

  28. Our group over on EONS, Bookoholics, discussed the topic of mysteries as "real books" awhile ago. We pretty much said the same things as you all did. This group has done so much for all of its members as far as motivating the reading of new authors and trying new genres of books. All of us have TBR lists that need a wheelbarrow to carry.

    When I tell a friend about a wonderful mystery I read or am reading, I always add the word "novel" to mystery.... gotta start somewhere, I say.

    One of my guilty pleasures are the Sookie Stackhouse books, and its offshoot, True Blood on HBO. Right now I'm chomping at the bit for the next novel and the next season of the show!


  29. Hmm, I relish the thought of my genre being someone's guilty pleasure. Bring a smile to a reader excited to curl up with my book? Yes! Be an escape? Wonderful. Mi alegria es su alegria.

    Apart from drooling with anticipation for the next in the series from favorite mystery authors, my not-book-related guilty pleasure is Dancing With The Stars. And Castle. And In-N-Out french fries, well done.

  30. Rochelle, that's a fabulous way to look at it!

    And "Whoo hoo Hollywood HooDoo! (that's how my blurb for your very not-guilty pleasure book begins, what think?.)

    Laura, I'm a newly minted Tyler fan, too. Just between us.


  31. Two things first: yes, chocolate is a food group, at least for writers; and someday I want to be called a "classy dame" like Hank!

    My guilty pleasures are romance novels and over-the-top-stupid wedding shows (probably because I eschewed all drama and expense on my own wedding day and people who spend $10K on a wedding dress are from an alien world--no offense to anyone present). However, I am unapologetic about loving and writing "fluff" mysteries. With all the sadness and despair in the world, I refuse to be embarrassed about liking and writing books that (hopefully) entertain, teach something, and turn out OK in the end.

  32. Tammy, Thank you! "You;re a classy dame!"

  33. Woo Hoo, Hank! I LOVE that line for HH!!!! STILL waiting to hear back on the title. As soon as I do, I'll let you know. xoxo

  34. Rochelle, we don't have In 'n Out Burgers up here in Maine, but aside from that, you and I have the same non-book-reading guilty pleasures: DWTS and Castle. The former I always watch with my younger daughter (we skip the results shows and catch up on line because they're after her bedtime.)The latter I watch with my eldest. In fact, now that she's away at college, we meet online via Skype each Monday night, one of us in southern Maine, and the other in Northampton.

  35. I hate categories also. There seems to be a somewhat unwritten hierarchy when it comes to genres. I don't agree nor do I understand it. I feel whatever you enjoy should be good enough without the need to make apologies.

    Being president of the Long Island Romance Writers I hear this same complaint many time among our romance writers. They work just as hard as a literary writer. We all do.

    Yes some books are fluff but so are some movies and TV shows. It's an avenue to take to get away for a little while. There's no harm done and a lot to be gained.

    As for my guilty pleasure: I like going to Baskin and Robbins or Cold Stone Creamery for a double scoop of chocolate ice cream. I don't do this often so it's a real treat!

  36. Julia, I'm absolutely delighted to hear (see) that you're a Castle fan! Tonight when my wife asks why I'm staying up again, I'll tell her I'm communing with you. We're both big fans of Clare and Russ, as are many in my library mystery group... really looking forward to AOWaS. Best, Jim

  37. Hmm...I try not to think of any reading as bad, but I'm probably less likely to admit to people that I read YA stuff, mostly fantasy.

    My favorite non-book guilty pleasure would probably be watching a couple of hours of shows via Netflix, most recently Eureka, while doing nothing but knitting (and maybe drinking some tea and nibbling on something decadently chocolate).

  38. Reading "Date Lab" in the Washington Post online. What fun, what disaster! (Met my husband on a blind date, and my parents met on one, so I guess it’s in my genes.)

    I refuse to feel guilty about Real Chocolate. But twice a year, after my dental checkup, I stop at Norm’s News on Main St. in Kalispell and buy malted milk bills. And eat most of them before I get home. (Well, it IS 25 miles.)

    Victoria Holt got me through law school. 15 minutes a night and all thoughts of taxes and torts vanished for a few hours so I could sleep. A good story knows no categories.

    Great post, covers, and comments!

  39. Interesting...we share the value system as it applies to calendar-color-coded, foil-wrapped chocolate. Like you, I love the day after the day and miss my local Woolworth's. They ALWAYS overstocked. And like you, as I sit devouring the latest codex candy (I also buy remaindered books!), I see on the floor the pile of shiny aluminum foil that missed my fillings as I crammed four or five chocolate kisses into my melting pot mouth.

    I'm not sure I do much 'serious' reading, except for work and, well, that can be rather dry. So I rejoice in my guilty pleasures and thank you authors for giving me my fix.

    If the guilty are to confess, hear my sin now. I am neither an avid nor rabid mystery book fan--they're not my first choice. Why? Well written mysteries are too real (especially when laced with references to the town of your youth). Yes, they provide a necessary escape, but I begin to have feelings for the characters only to have some of them snuffed out (twice in one novel, Julia? what's with THAT?!)

    But once I start on such stories, I get pulled in. I feel the crunch of the crusty snow underfoot. I freeze in the blinding blizzard that plagues our protagonists. I tear up in silent sympathy to people I've only seen in my mind's eye. And I do stay up until 2am to turn that last page before I can let them go, off, back into their world.

    I know it's a good book when I find myself wondering what the survivors are doing right now.

    So thank you, creators of the codex candy. Your calories are not empty. They make us stop, think, and maybe, change our thinking for the better.

  40. I can't imagine why we should feel we need to apologize for reading young adult novels--I suspect that's what got most of us started on the reading road to ruin :-) And especially not for reading The Golden Compass. I arrived in the UK on the morning of 9/11 (UK time), then found myself stranded with no means of communicating with my family or anyone I knew and loved in the US for nearly a week.

    I read Pullman's trilogy straight through, and it got me through some very emotionally tough days.

    Have I said how much I love books?

  41. Oops - I seem to have messed up when commenting, hope I don't post twice but I certainly don't want to miss out on winning an ARC!

    I love genre fiction - SF, mystery, romance, fantasy - bring it ON. When people find out I'm a librarian they often ask what I think of the latest bestseller or literary prize winner. I usually tell them I haven't read it, and probably won't read it, but if they they give me half a chance, I'll tell them about the lastest book I have been reading.

    My guilty pleasure is generally a visit to McDonalds - I try to limit those visit when I'm on the highway for a long drive.

    As far as hitting the sales, in our house that's called "averaging down." If you have bought something at full price and then it goes on sale for half off, well then you buy another one and revel in your shopping acumen that has allowed you to get two for 25% off!

  42. LOL, I bought Hubby's Valentine dark chocolate Hershey's Kisses on the 50% off shelf the day after. He didn't care at all that they were late or cheaper.

    Nice first blog, Julia.

    I'm a short story writer and let me tell you, I hear it all. Can't you write a book? You write romance! You write mystery! Where can I get your short story? Oh, it is only out for a week?

    And the really great ones--you tell them and they say, "Pick me up a copy." "Oh, can I read you copy?"

    You gotta love the comments!

  43. Darn, I thought chocolate was a food group. It goes right up there with chips, ice cream, cake, and soda.

  44. Mysteries are not guilty pleasures they are pure joy. A good story takes you away from the daily grind - better than "Calgon". I especially look forward to reading books with continuing characters. The people are my "friends". My whole being is totally "in" the book. The only guilt one should deal with is guilt-free reading!
    Thank you Julia, Deborah, et al for the many hours of pleasure you give us.

  45. Thanks for letting me ride along on your first spin, Julia. I don't know what Necco wafers are, but I'll happily take all the leftover Red Hots!

    No way could anybody turn up their noses at mysteries, which are about finding the truth and about the power of the human mind to uncover the truth, even when it's been secreted away. And that's in addition to the drama leading up to and following the murders.

    Recently having discovered historical romance (What Happens in London), I'm going to name that as my guilty pleasure. No--not guilty pleasure. Alternative pleasure. Love to see how people pushed against the strictures of their social systems.

  46. My husband exclaimed one day, "You have hidden shallows!" He is right. I went to an Ivy League school, majored in something suitably esoteric, got some poetry published, read a lot of nonfiction ... and give me genre fiction any day. Mysteries, British chick lit, urban fantasy, all my idea of a good time. (Okay, I'm reading Dante's Inferno now, but partly because it's Dorothy Sayers' translation!)

    I disagree, though, with a previous commenter -- no guilt over loving Project Runway! My 6+-year subscription to Entertainment Weekly? Guilty pleasure, definitely.

  47. I love mysteries, but read all types of books. My guilty pleasure is reading too much!!

  48. So Julia, your reference to Noho must mean your daughter is at Smith? Mine graduated from Smith a year ago. Art History and French. Spent one more year within at the Smith College Museum of Art and is now doing a PhD at University of Delaware. My so-called "little one" is a first-year student in Theatre Performance at Juniata College in PA. Playing Mrs Gibbs in "Our Town" opening this Thursday. Have you guessed what my guilty pleasure is? Unabashed admiration of my kids. (I was going to say "bragging on my kids" but that's more a social faux pas than a guilty pleasure, no?)

    Thrilled to have "met" all you mystery writers in one place this morning on this blog. I just discovered Julia's books and am plowing through them. Now that I've met all of you I know what to read next!

    I adored Brian Jacques and grieve his passing from our lives.

  49. A TV show about a hot mystery writer, Castle, is near the top of my guilty pleasure list. Castle and Beckett are as hot and unrequited as...Russ and Clare! I do love mysteries and wept for hours when I learned of Robert Parker's death, and the inevitable demise of Spenser, Hawk, and Susan.
    But I am anxiously awaiting the release of your next book,Julia, One Was A Soldier. I love mysteries, especially when I'm sitting by a lake in the Adirondacks. I keep hoping I'll run in to Clare and Russ to wish them a happy life (but not too happy, eh?)

  50. I know just how much hard work goes into the novelsI read for relaxation. Mysteries, in general, have to tie in to something that interests me, but there are enough of them out there that do!

    I want characters who hold my interest, well-written prose and good dialogue, and a storyteller interesting me in the story itself.

    I started out in Regencies reading Heyer, who was still alive at the time, and other historical novels. I tend to read histfic only in the periods in which I have an abiding interest, primarily Tudor and Regency eras--but the mysteries I read jump all over time, it seems.

    I have read some "literary" fiction, but while there are nice words on the page, many fail to interest me in the characters or plot. I want a *story*. If I don't like the characters, why would I read that book? I have been known to stop reading a series when I can no longer care about the main characters, and then pass on the earlier books in it.

    I read a lot of SF/fantasy, but no horror, and only read "paranormal romance" or urban fantasy by particular authors who can build their worlds well, like Charlaine Harris and Patricia Briggs. I read very little YA based on today's world, unless a little Other creeps in, but read YA, esp. Robin McKinley (whose blog posts overrun with footnotes).

    I used to read more history than I do now. Most non-fiction I read *in books* these days are botanical in nature (never took botany in college), or are collections of essays on Buffy/Joss Whedon, or an author I particularly enjoy. I also read books related to my spirituality and its Deities and practices.

    I think a folksinger I once hear said there were six food groups: sugar, salt, grease, chocolate, starch, and caffeine. I like Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar in milk or dark chocolate--others try but don't match it in quality. I am a sucker for chocolate and caramel together, chocolate and rum, Richard Donnelly's Saffron truffles, and some of his other spiced truffles, and his rose and his citrus truffles. I miss Cocolat--Alice Medrich's truffles. All your hazelnut chocolate are belong to me*, but I'll pass on Nutella made in the US, as it's got ingedients NOT in the European version, that I'd rather avoid. There are alternates, like a hunk of Gianduja...

    If I have a "guilty" pleasure, it is well written kink erotica--must be sex-positive, with characters I like, an actual story/plot, and actual grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Emma Holly was the first after "A. N. Roquelaure" who met these basics. Intelligent kinky erotica/romantica is what I seek.

    Of movies, I like political comedy (Sorkin's American President and then West Wing), romcoms, bits of history, SF/fantasy, and almost anything with Johnny Depp, Kevin Kline, Tony Shaloub, Stanley Tucci, or Alexander Siddiq in it. Other than that, give me a strong female lead or good dialogue. Scenic landscape works nicely, too.

    *it's a pre-Lolcats saying. Can't remember the source of: All your base are belong to us, allegedly said by an alien...