Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hot enough for you?

I don’t know whether any April showers are going to be cold enough to put out the kind of heat that is being generated over here!

SpiceMay marks the launch of Spice, the newest imprint from Harlequin Enterprises, and it is hot! But for all of us who have been reading romances—Harlequin, Silhouette or whatever—we have known about the birds and the bees for some time now!

Spice Titles

I asked our eHarlequin expert, Eleanor Elliott, “Does sex…sell?”

She shared the following insights: “On eHarlequin.com, we’ve known for a long time that ‘Hot’ books are…hot! Month after month, books in our Passion category are the top sellers, and some of our most popular online reads and community discussions are about Desire, Blaze, and Presents.

“Needless to say, we’re very excited about the introduction of Spice books – and I personally think the upcoming covers are gorgeous.”

I thought I’d check in with the women “in the know” when it comes to Passion.

Empress of Desire, Melissa Jeglinski (no, of course she doesn’t call herself that. I just made it up on the spot. What do you think? It certainly sounds sexier than Senior Editor) had this to say: “Silhouette Desire, is undergoing many exciting changes in the coming months. Our heroes are becoming more powerful, our settings more glamorous, our conflicts more dramatic. It all adds up to dynamic, passionate novels sure to make readers salivate for…more, of course!

“Desire is also launching an exciting new series, Secret Lives of Society Wives this May with Metsy Hingle’s The Rags-to-Riches Wife. Think Desperate Housewives at the country club and you’ve got the basis for this dramatic series about six socialites who find themselves blackmailed into the most scandalous situations. We’ll have one title each month for six months and the juicy stories will have you tuning for the next hot installment.

Brenda Chin says, “The big deal in Harlequin Blaze, right now is variety. It’s not just six sexy stories every month—we want to make sure we give our readers six different reasons to enjoy everything Blaze has to offer….

“For those craving a little adventure, we’ve come up with Adrenaline Rush, sexy stories to get your heart racing. Or for people who’d like to see a little history laid bare, we’re offering Perfect Timing, Blaze’s answer to time travel. Readers who enjoy being thrilled to death will like It Was A Dark and Sexy Night…, our upcoming Gothic mini-series.

“And hopeless romantics should love Forbidden Fantasies, extremely sensual tales that contain Hot Tips from Oxygen’s Sex Expert Sue Johansen for spicing up your own love life. Fans of Chick-lit should watch for our spiced up version – It’s All About Attitude, and readers who want to take their reading experience to a whole new level can’t miss out on Extreme Blaze.

“I’m really excited about the variety of stories in the line…and I hope readers will be too!”

As our eBook maven, Malle Vallik notes the Harlequin Presents, series is a fantastic success story—as you may recall in a previous posting of mine, I mentioned two Presents recently beat out The DaVinci Code, landing on the #1 and #2 spots on the eRetailer list. Cool, eh? She’s also created two bundles, Royal Brides and Mediterranean Men both very popular themes with the Presents reader. And starting in July, the entire Passion category will be available in eBooks.

And for anyone who missed Bertrice Small’s Lara: Book One of The World of Hetar, published last year in HQN, it will be available in eBooks in May. Sensual stories are everywhere you look…!

And coming in May, Ignite Your Senses with Spice--sexual and sensual stories for the discerning woman. Are we talking to you? These books are unabashedly self-declared erotic fiction. And yes, there also is a contest with BootyParlor.com, (it’s exactly what it sounds like) check out the Live Your Fantasy flash onTease by Suzanne Forster and Getting Even by Kayla Perrin

As to why this flowering of erotic fiction, Susan Pezzack feels “It's happening because women are experiencing sex in a more open way."

And yes, it’s challenging to find writers who are able to write wonderful sensual stories—though I think you’ll find we’re doing a good job! Susan notes: "Unless you've experienced something, it's difficult to write about it in a convincing way. For example, unless you've experienced really great sex it would be hard to write about really great sex." But hey, that’s why we read books and use our imaginations, right? Life isn’t always perfect….

So now I’ve given you some great “hot tips” for all your summer reading needs, get out there and get HOT.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Happily Ever After

Happily ever after is not just the stuff of fairy tales. This year’s World Book Day
in the United Kingdom had a survey which concluded that “Happy endings of books make a positive contribution to the nation’s quality of life.”

You’ll be fascinated to know that men and women are different (!) with different opinions on what their favorite happy endings are. Though interestingly both sexes were occasionally in agreement that they were unable to agree on whether some endings were happy or not—the real question seemed to focus on the issue of whether you believe that “settling down” is a happy end for some people!

Why do people like happy endings? They say reading a story with a happy ending puts them in a good mood for the rest of the day and gives them a sense of well-being. They are satisfying—and often satisfying in a way life is not. While it all seems obvious, the older I get, the more profound I am finding the obvious.

As an avid reader, do you find yourself listening to a friend’s story and wanting to re-write the ending? Or do you find yourself hearing the beginning of some true-life saga and mentally seeing the rest of the chapters play out in an inevitable Thomas Hardyesque manner? I do. I’ve learned (mostly) to keep quiet about my opinions.

In fact, I have one of those blank books I have titled The Prediction Book in my home and when anyone gets particularly know-it-all about their ability to predict how something will play out, they are challenged to write down their prediction in The Prediction Book. They cannot crow or claim any prescience if they haven’t put it down beforehand. It has been a very humbling experience for all concerned! I recommend it.

But while the barriers between truth and fiction are blurring in many complex and different ways, that doesn’t take away from the deep sense of rightness a satisfying ending delivers. Or the great sense of happiness a happy ending delivers.

And just to put it out there, I am totally a happy endings devotee. I still read like a twelve-year-old, throwing myself utterly into a story. For me, the characters become real, and if the story is good, they are people I care deeply about. I like spending time with them. Just like my own friends, I want them to be happy. I am distressed if they are sad.

And if the story ends in a bad way, in a bad place, that is where I am. And it can take days, weeks—as long as my own memory lasts to recover from being left in that bad place. I still haven’t forgiven Larry McMurtry for killing Gus in Lonesome Dove—and not just for killing him, but killing him in such a mean way. And I read that book many, many years ago!

Maybe it’s the romance reader in me—that believer in relationships, in partnerships, in thinking we can find a path to get along…OK, an incurable optimist. That believer that love is capable of overcoming enormous obstacles, of performing miracles. That it has. That it can.

And I find it inspiring to be reminded through stories and examples that we humans are capable—occasionally—of putting others needs above our own and of having others put our needs above theirs.

It has happened. It can.

Friday, April 07, 2006

It's all about the Story...

I had to share a note from Pam Laycock, Executive Vice President of Strategy & New Business Development:

“Anyone in the vicinity of our offices may have heard the screams of delight when we looked at the daily bestseller list for eReader.com, our largest eBook retailer. We had Harlequin Presents titles in the #1 and #2 spots….followed by The Da Vinci Code at #3!

“Imagine, we beat The Da Vinci Code. In total, we had 7 titles in the top 50. Our eBook program is still small, but it is definitely holding its own against more diverse lists from other publishers. And when you look at the entire list, it definitely shows the relevance of romance – especially in the digital age.

“Many thanks to the multi-functional team that has brought eBooks to life!”

eBooks offer the opportunity to connect readers to “big books” but also provide a wonderful opportunity to link readers to all kinds of different types of stories and allow publishers to offer a much broader range of choice. There was an interesting article in Wired Magazine some time ago that introduced the concept of The Long Tail—talking about the ability that new technology offers to search for and cost-effectively sell content beyond the bestsellers. For some types of businesses and creators, the potential new business model illustrated by The Long Tail may offer some intriguing new opportunities.

Along the lines of the power of stories, I also got a note from Anne Fontanesi, one of our National Account executives, talking about a January 2007 title, Silent in the Grave by Deanna Rayburn. She’d been sharing a few advanced reading copies (ARCs) of the title and just heard from one of her buyers that they “couldn’t put it down.” Music to our ears! She gave a copy to Lani Clegg of the Carmel Apple Book Club, who simply said, "Finished SITG. Loved it!"

Another great story Anne shared was that she gave a copy to Patricia Pinkerton, the UC San Diego head rowing coach, who shares a passion for rowing and reading with Anne. “A few weeks later she marched up to me, shook her fist and said, ‘You are evil! I stayed up all night reading Silent in the Grave. It is wonderful.’ Since Pattie coaches a nationally ranked crew and regularly gets up at 4:45am for 18 hour days, that is compelling praise indeed!"

And I'd just like to add: Thank you Pattie, and GO TRITONS!!!!!!

That is what a great story can do—it can capture people’s imaginations, transport them to a different place, somewhere they don’t want to leave…even when their eyes are closing!

It really is all about the story.