Archive for March, 2010

I’m never sure I like Twitter…I’m never sure what to post. But I saw Harlan Coben post this short video today, and I just loved it. Spreading these creative ideas…yeah. That’s what Twitter is for!

I hope you’ll take a look.

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Are the titles of our books important to you? Do the words on the cover influence your book-buying at all?

In a recent study in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology, a couple of psychologist-academic scholars analyzed the titles of Harlequin romances. They created a list of the twenty most popular words, and drew some conclusions about what the list meant. If you’d like to read about the study, go here. To read their paper in its original form, go here.

They looked at more than 15,000 titles, published between 1949 and 2009. Here are the top five words:

Oh, yeah? I was intrigued. Some of my title words showed up on their “Top 20” list…some didn’t. Take TEXAS BABY and TEXAS WEDDING, for instance. BABY, of course, was number 3. TEXAS was number 16. WEDDING is 13. But is that a good thing, or not? Does that mean you, the readers, love those words and will be more likely to buy? Or does it perhaps mean you’re sick of them, and won’t even pick my book up? My new book, TEXAS TROUBLE, is half on, half off. What would that mean to you?

In truth, writers often have very little say in which titles are chosen for their books. The editors always ask us for input, but it’s not, in the end, our call. I once sent in a book called THE MOONBIRD TATTOO, and it hit the shelves as TRIAL BY SEDUCTION. I don’t mind. I assume the marketing department knows what it’s doing, and the publisher is obviously just as interested in my book being a smash hit as I am. Maybe more so!

The journal’s paper provides an interesting analysis, but the thoughts I really care about are the ones from the readers. I’d love to know what you think. How much difference does a title make? What titles have you adored? Would you rather see a new kind of title? Ever seen a title you absolutely can’t stand? Have you ever bought a book that didn’t match its title at all?

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I’m guest blogging later today over at Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs I’m mulling over the value of really strong, fascinating secondary characters. Do they always make your book richer? Is it possible for them to take over, making your hero and heroine look second-rate? Come share your thoughts. The best comment will win a book!

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My father used to tell us, “Everyone in the world is either Irish or wishes he were.” I was a kid, so I believed it. It didn’t take me long to discover that everyone values his own heritage that same way, but I still secretly think it’s super cool to be Irish. πŸ™‚

So, in honor of this day, which of course has a special sparkle for me, here is a list of my favorite Irish things!

1) The music. Someone once said of the Irish, “All their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.” I’m the corniest person on the planet, so I love a good tear-jerker song. Try listening to Bing Crosby sing “The Isle of Innisfree,” and you might see what I mean. If you’ve ever been away from your home and your people, you’ll cry at that one, or your tear ducts are broken. How about “The Fields of Athenry” or “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”? Sinead O’Connor singing “Molly Malone.” Christy Moore singing “Nancy Spain.” Anyone doing “Danny Boy.” Even while they’re tearing out your heart, you’re hitting the “repeat” button! Don’t like to cry? Hmmmm…you must not be Irish! πŸ˜‰

2) The Dingle Peninsula in Western Ireland. This is what heaven looks like (as the song said). The picture here is of my daughter in a magical little cove called Slea Head. If you get a chance to go, do it. The Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, Lisdoonvarna…if you can, stay in an absolutely charming little B&B called Castlewood House, where they serve breakfast that was made by the angels.

3) The words. The irreverent definition of blarney is the ability to tell a man to go to hell in such a way that he looks forward to the trip. Whatever you call it, words fall from Irish tongues like fairy dust. Think of their wonderful blessings: “May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back.” And “May you be buried in a coffin made from the wood of a hundred-year-old tree that I shall plant tomorrow.”
And when they turn their words to poetry…to the lyrical celebration of nature, of life, of love, of fear and innocence… that is heaven, too. Yeats is my favorite Irish poet, and these are two of his images that I love the best:

From “Sailing to Byzantium”:
“An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing”

From “Song of Wandering Aengus”:
“And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.”

Ooops… I’m suddenly realizing that three things isn’t enough! What about their gorgeous actors (Liam Neeson!), their art (The Book of Kells), their plays (Pygmalion!), their novels (Maeve Binchy), their courage, their beer and their history? But I mustn’t go on forever, so I’ll leave you with the Irish blessing I love best.

May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.

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The Oscars are a big deal at our house. Four years out of five we couldn’t care less who wins, but we still make a party of it. This year, the gals liked “An Education” and the guys liked “Inglourious Basterds,” but no one worked up a sweat. (Nothing like the year Ralph Fiennes was up for “The English Patient.” I’m never going to feel the same about Geoffrey Rush after he stole Ralph’s Oscar.) This year, we were happy that a woman won Best Director, but no one was passionate about “The Hurt Locker,” so it got a fairly tepid cheer.

But whatever our level of interest in the awards themselves, each year the six of us (His Highness, me, the “kids” and their SOs) pile into the family room, where the embarrassingly gigantic television lives, and watch the whole crazy show, from the red carpet right up to the closing credits. Someone–this year it was Mike, who draws a great Avatar!–puts a picture on the white board, celebrating the big night. The coffee table nearly cracks, there’s so much food on it.

We pass out ballots and make jokes about being so clueless in the technical categories. Someone always says, “What’s the difference between sound editing and sound mixing again?” We have all looked at online forecasts of the winners, but we’ve all forgotten what they said. Then we turn to our Bingo sheets, which we’ve made specially for our family. It includes squares like “Renie tweets about awards” (she’s always connected) and “Daddy thinks someone’s hair looks as if it was styled by a wood chipper.” We wait for Mike to get bored and pick up his guitar, for Necole to get sleepy, or for me to tear up over something sappy. Sometimes we poll the room–“I need a majority of the gals to agree a dress is horrible. I hate that one. Do you hate that one?” Then we jubilantly mark off our squares. On the mantel sit our “prizes,” usually gift certificates to Best Buy or iTunes.

Although everyone in our family believes that watching an actual movie requires total, sacred silence, the rules are different for the Oscars. It’s a little like Mystery Science Theater 3000. We laugh and catcall and yell at the people on the stage and at each other. We critique gowns and tuxedos and drool over Robert Downey Jr. Well, the guys don’t. It’s weird…they seem to think the gals would be mortally offended if they lusted openly after one of the hot actresses. We probably would. πŸ˜‰

Then, when it’s finally over, comes the part I love the best. Though all night we’ve been hassling each other about being Oscar-stupid, or about being so far behind on reaching Bingo, everything changes. As we count up our correct guesses and double-check our squares, the Ballot and Bingo winners try to find a way to prove that they didn’t really win, so that they can give the prize to someone else, someone they dearly love.

I adore Oscar night…because it always reminds me how much I like our crazy family.

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