Saturday, November 15, 2008

Booking my expenses

Despite the popular perception that all romance writers are rich, most of us struggle along on a budget like everyone else. These days, for almost everyone I know, matters have gotten serious. If we don’t pinch pennies until they squawk, how will we afford to buy all the books we want? Not to mention giving books as gifts this holiday season.

Since I’ve always been the queen of cheap, I thought I’d pass along a few tips. I hope someone will find them helpful!

So here goes.

· I use credit cards – Borders, Amazon – that pay me back in gift certificates with which I can buy books.
· When planning meals for the week, I check out that forgotten stuff in the freezer and pantry. Sometimes I can squeeze out a couple of almost-free meals. At least, they feel free, since I paid for them long ago.
· As some of you will recall from previous blogs, I’m an avid vegetable gardener. Not only do the big crops like tomatoes and zucchini pay off, but bountiful basil makes for pesto dishes all summer and fall. It can be grown in pots, too.
· Energy savings add up. After our son left for college, I went around the house unplugging his appliances. Also, I turned off the waterbed heater – a foam pad keeps us plenty warm.
· Sometimes buying in bulk makes sense, and sometimes it doesn’t. Take a calculator to the store if necessary, and don’t forget to factor in the cost savings if buying in bulk translates to fewer shopping trips.
· Remember those Borders and Amazon credit cards? My son’s university lets us charge his tuition at no additional fee. I pay off the charge promptly, and let me him use the gift certificates to order textbooks.
· If you grind your teeth at night and your dentist recommends an expensive night guard, try buying a mouth protector at a sporting goods store for less than $10. This saves me hundreds of dollars.
· But: Avoid false economies! I’m keeping my newspaper subscription. In addition to the fact that I enjoy reading it, the subscription makes economic sense because of the free coupons and sales ads.

Feel free to add your favorite tips. And good luck to everyone who’s working hard to make it through these challenging times.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Title Me!

My 21st book is Bachelor CEO. However, like most of the books I’ve written, it didn’t start out being called that.

Titles are extremely important, and often what the author sends in isn’t what goes on the cover. Take the covers on the right. They weren't called that at first.

In fact, my very first novel sold as Temporarily Yours, and Melissa Jeglinski decided to call it A Little Office Romance. She just picked it, told me what it was and I was like, okay, since it was a great title. I also had a great cover and my debut did well. Catching the Corporate Playboy was my title, but many of them are a result of brainstorming and a back and forth between the editor and the author (me). I’ll talk a little more about that in a minute.

Continuity series books are different. All of my three titles were already assigned, and those were The Simply Scandalous Princess (I got to work with the very talented Jacqueline Diamond and Kara Lennox) and then the NASCAR series Tailspin and Out of Line.

Once I’ve fought to keep my title. I loved Hart’s Victory (Harlequin NASCAR) and my agent went to bat for it, especially after marketing wanted to change it. When they couldn’t come up with anything better, they stayed with Hart’s Victory.

But often, titles can be made better. I’ll admit, I don’t stress over the title when I submit the proposal. And sometimes I come up with the new title, and other times my editor does.

The Marriage Recipe didn’t start out that way, but that title is one I came up with. Together my editor and I came up with The Christmas Date.

All of my linked series The Marriage Campaign, The Wedding Secret and Nine Months’ Notice were something else, although I don't remember what. Funny how after a while, I can’t remember. I do remember that Redeeming the Wayward Playboy became About Last Night, a title I came up with. Twins for the Teacher (out in March 2009) was my editor’s much better replacement for Educating Hank. One time I sent in Capturing the Cop’s Heart, and it became Capturing the Cop.

So back to Bachelor CEO. The first title was The Reluctant CEO, but really, once I wrote the book that title no longer fit. The book is part of Harlequin American’s Men Made in America series. I wrote the CEO book, which is why it was essential CEO stay in the title.

So I got the email asking for new titles and the brainstorm began. I sent in these:

The CEO Dilemma or CEO's Dilemma
The Hot & Bothered CEO
Sex & the CEO
Loving the CEO
Marrying the CEO
The CEO's VP Problem
Promoting the CEO
CEO in Charge
Small Town CEO
The Millionaire CEO
Capitalizing on the CEO
Casting the CEO
Cultivating the CEO

At this point, you sent in anything and don’t worry if it sucks.

My editor sent back these:
The CEO's Proposal
The CEO's Secret Wish
Taking on the CEO
The CEO's Secret Love
The CEO's Family Business
The CEO's Surprise
The CEO's Dream
The CEO Takes a Partner

We both realized we still were batting zero. Then we learned that Kathleen decided that the best title would be something like The _______________CEO, so we started with adjectives. My editor sent back this list:


I sent back my reasons for and against each choice and said I really liked The Bachelor CEO. So my editor sent that one to Kathleen, who sent back that after reviewing the books out that month that she wanted to drop the article, and thus Bachelor CEO was titled. It debuts in July 2009.

I’m currently working on Baby on Board, a title we just might get to keep. Or not.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

National Novel Writing Month

Most of the time, I don't need outside motivation to write. I love writing, and I look forward to a day when I have nothing on my agenda, so I can spend the whole day at the computer. That's when I'm working on a story I love and it's going well and I'm not on a tight deadline.

But those other times ... yeah, okay, sometimes it's just work. And I would much rather watch mindless TV, clean the oven or get a root canal. Yet writing is my job and I have to do it whether my muse is cooperating or not.

November is National Novel Writing Month, when writers all over the world are challenged to complete a novel (or 50,000 words, whichever comes first) between Nov. 1-30. There's a website, and you check in every day with your word count and they give you a nifty graph to mark your progress. And if you succeed, they send you a certificate.

This sounds like fun to me, and since I've had a little bit of trouble slogging through my current project, I thought signing up for NaNoWriMo would motivate me.

Boy, was I wrong. I don't know whether it's performance anxiety or what, but my page output is actually less than normal! With the month one-third over, I've produced exactly 7822 words. At this rate I won't even get halfway done.

Then again, I am making forward progress, whereas before, I was completely stuck. The point of this exercise is that you write without editing yourself, just write write write and worry about the quality of your prose later. Just get to the end! Remembering that has actually helped me get going in the right direction again.

My next blog day is on the 29th. I'll let you know how I'm progressing and if I have to pull an all-nighter!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Great Escape

The Great Escape

I'm convinced there's no such thing as a life without stress, and as women we shoulder more than our fair share of tension, juggling jobs and family, kids and husbands and church and community work and a host of other balls we do our best to keep in the air.

These tough economic times only make things worse, so I think it's more important than ever to take good care or ourselves. That means finding ways to pamper ourselves and deal with the stress. A walk around the neighborhood always helps me feel better, and there's nothing like a soothing bubble bath to ease some of the tension.

But my number one favorite de-stresser is to read a good book. Reading — and writing — have always been my great escapes.

(True story: In school I hated math class. Especially geometry. I have a very poor sense of direction and a difficult time picturing things spatially. I dreaded geometry class until I disccovered I could scribble away madly in my notebook and the teacher would assume I was taking notes. I wrote an entire 'book' during geometry class my sophomore year in high school. That manuscript is long gone, along with anything I might have accidentally learned in that class.)

Some people like adventure stories with lots of action, where they can imagine themselves overcoming the odds. Other people like fantasy or the other-wordly elements of paranormal stories.

Me? I like reading about people who live lives a little closer to my own. People I could imagine having as friends. Heroines I could imagine myself being. Reading about their problems and how they overcome them helps me put my own worries in perspective.

I also really enjoy visiting another part of the country in the pages of a book— either a place I've been before, or someplace new to me. I love it when a writer takes me on a virtual journey to a new town or neighborhood. I don't have the time or money to do a lot of real traveling, but for about the cost of a coffee and a pastry I can spend lots of enjoyable hours in great places all over the country,

In other words, I enjoy stories like those found in the pages of an American Romance. Books that are guaranteed to make me feel good about life by the time I'm done. With the cost of everything going up, books are still one of the best bargains around.

So — what's your favorite escape reading? Do you like beach books? Holiday stories? Scary stories or a good mystery? What kinds of stories take you away from your troubles and help you relax?