Introducing Our Smart Bitch in Training: DocTurtle

After reading two romances, one historical and one category, DocTurtle, it seems, has fallen and fallen hard… for you guys. He had such a great time reading and blog-reviewing Sex Straight Up and An Infamous Army that he asked for more romances to read and review for the awesomeness that is the Bitchery audience. As he wrote to me:

I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had reading these books and writing these reviews, and how much I will be delighted to continue my association with your blog in whatever way you’d like me to…. I’ll leave it to you and your readers to decide just what it is you’d like from me in the future.  There seemed to be support for continuing a similar style of multi-part review….  In any case, I have to admit that I’m (gasp!) excited about reading more.

I’m sure you’re aware that I’ve learned a lot about your and your readers’ passion…and I’ve learned to measure my words more carefully, after my oversimplistic snarking that caused this whole wonderful kerfuffle in the first place! Until I hear from you again, please know that I await your orders and am at your service.

Since there is little doubt that DocTurtle is a man of much brainly brainness, so the “Smart” half is not in question. But why not see if we can make him into a well-read connoisseur of romance, a Smart Bitch in Training, as it were. So behold, and welcome DocTurtle – or, as he would prefer to be known: Patrick. And what better way to introduce him to y’all than to interview Patrick with Smart Bitch style nosy ass questions.


PatrickWhy math? What’s your specialty – what’s your PhD in?

Patrick:Unlike the majority of my students (who often come to college with no particular field of study in mind, stumble upon math when they do well in Calculus, and think “what the hell, why not?”) I’ve wanted to go into math or some related field for as long as I can remember.  (At one point I thought being the team statistician for the Atlanta Braves would have been the coolest career to which one could possible aspire.)  I can’t really say “why” since I never made a conscious decision to go into math.  I guess the closest thing I can offer to a “why” is that I like patterns and pattern-matching, and at the end of the day math is really not much more than the search for order and patterns.

My Ph.D. is just in “Mathematics.”  Nothin’ fancy there.  I have two specialties within that sprawling field of study: combinatorial and geometric group theory, and graph theory.  The second is easier to describe: it’s essentially the study of the structure and properties of networks made up of “nodes” and “edges” connecting them (think of a computer network, for example).  Meanwhile group theory is in a sense a generalization of the rules and structures of algebra that one would do in high school: how does one “add” and “multiply” and “divide” in a more general setting?  The kind of group theory I do most often arises in particle physics and theoretical computer science.

How much of a problem is Isomorphism within Coexeter Groups? Are they exclusive and snobby, or are they profligate slut integers who love ‘em and leave ‘em without thought to reputation?

Book CoverPatrick: Thanks to widespread attention from the international community and significant funding from various philanthropic agencies, we’re happy to say that isomorphism is no longer a problem for most of the world’s Coxeter groups.  The vast majority of Coxeter groups are now free to live an isomorphism-free life, growing to ripe old age and raising many healthy grouplets who will never know the horrors of isomorphism.

My 2005 book chronicles the plight of those sad creatures who are afflicted with isomorphism.  I’ll thank SB Sarah never again to mock those poor souls, and I’m sure she’ll be decent enough to oblige.

How did you meet Maughta? And how the CRAP do you pronounce that? Why did you get married in Lynchburg? Isn’t that a dry county?!

Parick: “Maughta” (my wife, of Judge a Book by its Cover fame) is pronounced “MAW-ta.”  There’s a long story behind the word “maughta”; suffice it to say that it’s a made-up word meaning “lizard.”  It’s the basis of about half of our inside jokes and most of our terms of endearment for each other.

As we love, titilliatingly, to tell the story, Maughta and I met when she was introduced to me as the childhood best friend of my then-girlfriend, soon-to-be-fiancee.  (Gasping horror!)

We were in fact introduced by my GF at the time, but no relationship-wrecking ensued: we didn’t really MEET meet for a couple more years, by which time the old relationship was long gone.  I was in my first year of my masters study and Maughta was in her junior year of college, both at the University of Denver.  (She grew up in Denver, I grew up in Montana and moved to Denver for college.)

We moved away to go to grad school together at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, me in math and Maughta in the history of religion.  Nashville was an awesome place to live during grad school: it’s a beautiful city with lots of stuff to do and, of course, a stellar music scene.  We got married by a judge in the presence of a couple dozen of our friends at Sunset Grille, a restaurant in an “historic” shopping/dining district called Hillsboro Village, just south of Vanderbilt’s campus.  (The Village is filled mostly with Ye Olde Touriste Trappes, but there’s some goooood eats there, too.)

SB Sarah’s reference is to a photo posted on my website and taken the day before the wedding.  We’d taken a trip down to Lynchburg (which is indeed located in a dry county) to show Maughta’s parents the Jack Daniels Distillery.  If you ever have a chance to go, definitely do: it’s a fun free tour run by the locals, and the countryside around the distillery is gorgeous.  It’s a great way to spend a half-day.

Besides reading Heyer, what else do you like to do? Crush integers? Calculate pi? Eat pie?

Patrick: Mmmmmmm…pie…

I love (in no particular order) running, reading, writing, and vegetarian cooking.  Most of my free time is spent on one of those activities, with or without Maughta.

Oh, and bowling.  I just got back into that a year or so ago, and I’ve got a nice team put together with me and three English professors from another nearby university.  We kick ASS.

I think you already introduced your readers to some of my reading tastes at the outset of The Challenge, but I might say that my tastes tend towards realism.  I prefer non-fiction to fiction, generally, and shy away from most speculative fiction, but I’m open to anything.  I love 19th and 20th century British literature, early Soviet literature, and Jewish- and Jewish-American literature (especially I.B. Singer and Chaim Potok).

What have you learned about the romance genre? What do you enjoy about it? What would you change? Obviously you’ve had a limited experience reading it, but first impressions definitely count.

Patrick: Wow.  I think the answer to that first question might paradoxically be “not much” and “shitloads,” all at once.

“Not much”: I’ve not yet read enough to suss out many of the genre’s conventions, standards, cliches, and expectations.  Maybe this is a good thing, since I’m therefore likely to read each of the next many books without any expectations in advance.

“Shitloads”: well, I’ve learned that it’s not a monolith.  While I knew before that there were many different sub-genres, I’m sure that I wasn’t aware of just what allowed one to distinguish between examples from those various sub-genres.  Of course, I’m still not aware of many of those distinctions (see “Not much”), but from reading the books I have read and from keeping regular tabs on SBTB’s posters and commenters I feel as though I’ve got a better sense of the many facets of romantic fiction.

I think it’s too early for me to be able to say what I enjoy about reading it…except to say that, as is the case in reading any genre, I’m sure I’ll find different things to enjoy about different authors’ works.  Let’s take the only two examples I can at this point:

I enjoyed O’Reilly’s ability to keep the pages turning, which stemmed in part from her ability to condense a tight plot and a believable romance (even if I wanted to smack the two protagonists upside the head several times) into a short short format.  Even though I mocked it at the time, I enjoyed her sometimes silly choice of words (“man-man” and “hoo-haw busting sex” first come to mind): she kept it fun.

I enjoyed Heyer’s gentility and concise choice of words.  As I said above, I’m a big fan of 19th/20th century British literature in general, and sly sardonic satire in particular, and Heyer’s best chapters had the latter in abundance.  I also enjoyed the richness of her language, and her attention to detail.

“What would I change?”  I really have no idea what to say to that.  It’s certainly not fair of me to change anything that would obscure or pervert a particular author’s intentions, so I don’t think I’d change a thing about the books I’ve so far read…if I were to interpret the question along the lines of “How would you write your own romance novel?” I might have more to say.  For instance, my own retelling of the Battle of Waterloo would have less blood and guts.  And I would have focused more on the inner workings of the relationship between Lucy Devenish and George Alastair, and maybe even between the Worths and the Fishers as more well-established couples: just because a romance is longstanding and stable, that doesn’t mean that it’s free of interest and intrigue worthy of chronicling.

Okay, so I guess I would change something about Heyer!

A final note: My thanks go out to SB Sarah for giving me this chance to introduce myself to the SBTB community more fully!  Thank you all for all of your support; I look forward to reading and learning with you all in the coming days!

Another cool thing about Patrick? Four words: teaching math through poetry.

Patrick: [At a recent conference] I was giving a talk on math poetry: I’ve invented new mathematical means for creating poetry. Here’s a sample; it’s got pretty deep mathematical structure, and though it’s not obvious on the face of it, the theme of the poem is deeply related to its construction as well:


Are we so free that we must build
tight cages out of self-wrought bars?,
that, every barrier of old o’erperched,
bold walls we must before us raise
to repress our over-anxious powers?

Dreary now is Spenser’s sonnetry,
and empty are Keats’s odes:
a drove of words must measure more
than the essence it encodes.

So vowing, to this priesthood
I, in metered ciphered characters,
make an offer of my novice oath,
though a cheap and clumsy canticle,
in a passionately davened prayer.

You can read more about this poem and how I use poetry to teach lower-level math classes at my blog, plus more examples in the poetry section.

So what is SBiT Patrick reading next? Chase. Loretta Chase. To quote his email to me: “The Lord has arrived!” Stay tuned for more from SBiT Patrick in the coming weeks.

Comments are Closed

  1. Claudia R. says:

    I’ve been stalking this blog for a while now, but I can no longer resist—The prospect of DocTurtle reading Loretta Chase has pulled me out of hiding…

    I’ll be eager to hear what he thinks of Dain and Jessica, as LoS is one of my favorites, and I think Chase has a particular talent for witty banter that perhaps he will appreciate.

    Happy reading!

  2. Gemma says:

    Oooh. Maybe I should get my copy out and read along. This is fun, I’m so glad Patrick’s enjoying himself. His reviews have been priceless.

  3. Barb Ferrer says:

    The second is easier to describe: it’s essentially the study of the structure and properties of networks made up of “nodes” and “edges” connecting them (think of a computer network, for example).

    *brain seizes immediately*

    If’n you say so, dude.  And Vandy and Nashvegas, yay!  My husband’s alma mater. 

    Welcome to the fold, Patrick.

  4. Emmy says:

    You need the Doc at your liveblog events, lol. Made of teh funny.

  5. Do we need to come up with a new title for the Doc?  The “Smart Dude”?  “Smart SOB?”  A rockin’ SB title in the peerage?

    Regardless, it’s great to have him aboard and we welcome him!

  6. Helen M says:

    I, for one, welcome our new mathematician overlord.

  7. GrowlyCub says:

    He’s married.  Wail!  Oops, so am I… grin And to think I was so close to him in Murfreesboro!  He could have been enlightened years ago! 😉

    Welcome, Patrick to the fold (although I have to say DocTurtle had a certain smart bitchy ring to it that Patrick seems to be lacking)!

    I look forward to your next review and I hope you continue to enjoy yourself with the books and our reaction to your reviews!  I certainly have a blast with your reactions to the books! 🙂

  8. Babs says:

    DocTurtle reading Lord of Scoundrels?!?! I can’t wait to read his reviews.

    And I agree with Darlene—he deserves a “rockin’ SB title.” Ideas anyone? (I am sleep deprived and uninspired this morning.)

  9. Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    SOB Patrick?  Whatever name you guys pick for him, I’m just glad he’ll be back with more reviews.

    Lord of Scoundrels?  Excellent pick.  May I suggest Agnes and the Hitman for his next venture into contemporary?  (I just finished reading it in between marathoning episodes of Chuck, and now I can’t get Adam Baldwin as Shane out of my head.)

  10. Chani says:

    I can only echo everyone else’s glee at Patrick entering official(?) smart bitch training. I have loved his last two reviews – a smart, funny, gorgeous guy will make me swoon every time (and Patrick reminds me alot of my smart, funny, gorgeous husband).

    I also congratulate the SBs for picking LoS as the next read, as it is generally considered one of the best, so I hope he likes it! I shall have to dig up my copy and read along.

  11. Kathleen O'Reilly says:

    Woot!!  I think Doc Pi is going to love Lord of Scoundrels.  I was laughing at the bio, and the love for early Soviet lit explains so much…..

  12. Julie Leto says:

    I ordered LORD OF SCOUNDRELS months ago on the recommendation from another author.  I’ll need to read it before Patrick starts his review.  Welcome, Patrick, to the land of the smart bitches.  While I have no head for math beyond the rudimentaries of algebra and geometry, I just bought Danica McKellar’s book MATH DOESN’T SUCK.  I’ve been blessed with a daughter who has a mathematical mind and she’s stuck with a mother who’d rather play with words.  And yet, I think a career in math and science is what she should aspire to, so I learn.  Math poetry.  Darn…wish I would have known about that when I was teaching, though it was a struggle enough just to reach a darned haiku.  (The teaching was easy…the learning from the students…a little resistant, LOL.)

  13. Carrie Lofty says:

    I second (or third, etc) the notion of a SB title. I know they’ve sorta dropped off the map of late, but I still get a kick out of seeing the icons on various websites. We’ve had empresses and duchesses and lowly ole’ baronesses like me, but the Doc could be our first noble dude. Welcome aboard!

  14. Awww, he’s cute.  Looking forward to more reviews.  Welcome Patrick!

  15. Suze says:

    Yee-Haw!  Welcome, SB Patrick!  You are made of awesome.  And so is your mathematical poem.

    Clearly, Patrick must be a Count.  Because, you know, counting.  Bwahahaha!

    For page-turning fun, I recommend Shelly Laurenston, whom I’ve recently glommed upon.

  16. Madd says:

    Oooh. Maybe I should get my copy out and read along.

    I’ve got a slew of library books to read and yet I am sorely tempted to do the same.

    Welcome aboard, Doc Patrick! Really looking forward to your take on the Lord of Scoundrels.

  17. Kismet says:

    Welcome Patrick….
    and is anyone else thinking that the story of how he met his wife would make a fabulous romance novel 😉 ?

    On Lynchburg…. stupid dry counties, ruining all the fun… and people wonder why Liberty (most ironic name ever) University is located there.

  18. Claire says:


    so very pumped.

  19. Silver James says:

    I’m too old to entice him (and he’s married) so I’ll just have to adopt him. Ooh la la am I thrilled that he’s coming into the fold! And since I’ve never read Lord of Scoundrels, I must grab this book and bone up on it.

    Welcome, Patrick. I vote for a count-hood, too!

  20. Aunt Lynn says:

    Welcome Patrick, and yes, a title is in order.  I like the idea of “Count …”

    And I second the vote for Agnes and the Hitman for a contemporary after Lord of Scoundrels.

    Maybe somewhere in the list after that, the m/m Caught Running, or as I recently discovered, the absolutely supurb Adrien English gay mystery-with-a-hefty-dose-of-romance series by Josh Lanyon.  That is, if Patrick can take a bit of man-on-man lovin’ in his story…

  21. Madd says:

    Agnes and the Hitman is chock full o’ yay!

  22. Carin says:

    Count Patrick of Coexeter, aka Count Coexeter.  Darn.  I so do not know how these titles work.  Welcome, Smart Bitch in Training Patrick!

  23. LadyRhian says:

    Count Hard-on for Math?

  24. Le Comte de Fibonacci-Zeequense.

  25. Barb Ferrer says:

    And to think I was so close to him in Murfreesboro!

    Growly, seriously?  Because of lurve for the aforementioned husband, I transferred from Florida State (Go Noles!) to MTSU to finish my degree and started my Master’s there.


  26. Maya M. says:

    How do the SBs keep finding these delightful men?  Ferret rescuers…math poets…blog-reviewing husbands…OK that last was already found, but he had to be coaxed into appearing cyberpublicly before the bitchery, right?

  27. AQ says:

    Welcome, SB Count Coexter aka Patrick, formerly known as DocTurtle. (Carin, I kinda like it!) Will Count Coexter be getting his own SB avatar?

    Patrick, any general idea when the first post for LoS might arrive. I, too, would like to read along and join in on the fun.


  28. GrowlyCub says:

    Barb, small world.  When did you attend MTSU?  I was there from 98-00, first as an exchange student teaching (graduate assistant), then doing my Masters of Arts in Teaching Foreign Language. 

    And in my case, the aforementioned husband moved from MI to Murfreesboro to be with me… 🙂

  29. Elyssa Papa says:

    Yay to Patrick being part of the SB! Looking forward to more reviews by him.

  30. Molly says:

    Smart SOB is a definite rocker.

  31. Lovecow2000 says:

    Yay!  I just recently read LoS, so am looking forward to Sir Patrick of Mathyness’s review. : )

    May I suggest Judith Ivory’s Beast for his next historical?  How about Bet Me by Crusie for a contemporary?

  32. Wendy says:

    Math. poetry.  My intellect shrinks before this amazing concept.  Logic-and-order people blow me away…regularly.  (I married one, and my best friend is also one.  There’s something about balance in here.) 

    But hurrah! for more reviews from SBiT Patrick.  *happy dance* (which, from me, looks much like the Muppet flail)

  33. DocTurtle says:

    Wow…I’m…I’m speechless.  Such honor!  Such accolades!  Such titles!

    “Count.”  Hee hee!

    A couple of replies:

    To Kismet: I think you’re thinking of Lynchburg, Virginia.  That’s where Liberty is.

    To AQ: As I told Sarah in an e-mail this morning, I figure it’ll be a few more days before I’ve finished the first chapters of LoS: the semester’s begun, so I’m up to my eyeballs in course prep and committee work and everything else that goes into an academic career.

    I shan’t be long!

  34. Booktender says:

    If DocTurtle might read contemporary romantic supsense, might I recommend Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann?  Sarah recently did a lovely article about how it is the perfect romance.  Could be a perfect start to this sub-genre.

  35. Barb Ferrer says:

    Barb, small world.  When did you attend MTSU?  I was there from 98-00, first as an exchange student teaching (graduate assistant), then doing my Masters of Arts in Teaching Foreign Language.

    I was there in… 1990.  Graduated in ‘92 (after a moment of madness where I completely changed my major with only two semesters left).  We lived in the Nashville area until 1994 when we moved to NE Ohio.

    When you were there, was there still that fabulous little family run Middle Eastern restaurant on the square?  OMG, best food.

  36. Julianna says:

    I’d be inclined towards something like “der Margrave Saßipanz” or “Baronet Proudtush”.  I do like the title Comte, though.

  37. kathybaug says:

    As a former math major from years and years ago, I appreciate and approve of Darlene’s suggestion for a title:

    Le Comte de Fibonacci-Zeequense

    Very apropos and witty.  (for the mathless among us, Fibonacci was a famed mathematician and he formulated an important sequence (zeequense) of numbers 1 1 2 3 5 8 13…. you get each number by adding the 2 before it)  (boy, I hope I got that right, it’s been awhile since I thought about math more than adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing)

    Welcome Patrick!

  38. AQ says:

    I shan’t be long!

    Thanks, Patrick. I’ll run out and get a copy over the weekend then for I can play along.

    Title: I’m sticking with Count. He is after all a professor of Math. Makes me giggle every time. Yes, I am a seven-year old at heart.

  39. GrowlyCub says:


    When you were there, was there still that fabulous little family run Middle Eastern restaurant on the square?  OMG, best food.

    If it was still there we never found it. 🙂  We are now 75 miles south, still in Middle TN, but barely… I always tell folks if you go to far, you’ve fallen into a Aalabaaaama. 😉 

    NE Ohio?  Cold!  Although, this morning it was 4degrees F and so far the high has made it to an astounding 20degrees F.  I did not move to the latitudinal equivalent of the Sahara desert to freeze my tush off here, grumble.

    To get back on topic, definitely stick with Count, but the Fi sequence thing is too far out there, why not Count Pi as suggested, although I like Count Mathyness, because that’s more subtle. 🙂

  40. rebyj says:

    I’m trying to imagine the bowlers I know reading a romance and it’s just not computing LOL.

    I’ve learned that it’s not a monolith.  While I knew before that there were many different sub-genres, I’m sure that I wasn’t aware of just what allowed one to distinguish between examples from those various sub-genres.  Of course, I’m still not aware of many of those distinctions (see “Not much”), but from reading the books I have read and from keeping regular tabs on SBTB’s posters and commenters I feel as though I’ve got a better sense of the many facets of romantic fiction

    That quote deserves some highlighting! 

    Thanks for letting us get to know you better Doc, I look forward to your take on The Lord of Scoundrels since I’m more familiar with that than Heyer.

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