I didn’t write a blog last week because I was tweeting thousands of words an hour from the Romantic Times convention on the outskirts of Chicago and I just didn’t have any wit to spare for a full-blown blog. Plus, Bob Mayer says blogging is unnecessary. In fact, Bob Mayer says any promotion or marketing whatsoever until you have published three books is really a total waste of time. That may be true (I’ll kick it into high gear in September 2013 when book three comes out, not to worry), but I also like this longer format of expression for its own sake. Longer than a tweet, that is. And shorter than a book.

So I’ll keep blogging as much for my own enjoyment as to offer you seven readers an occasional peek into my “journey.” That’s a joke, by the way. I’m sitting at my desk. I am not journeying. My ass is in this chair, because that’s what writers do. Sit. It involves coffee and a pen and paper (or MacBook Air in my case) and a dog beneath the desk if you’re lucky. We writers sit for hours at a time and forget about our friends and spouses and children because…because there are characters in Russia falling in love and lying to themselves that it’s nothing and that they can just fool around and go back to their “real lives” and put all that foolishness behind them. Beautiful idiots.

It’s been a pretty eventful week. The RT convention was a series of peak experiences. I met famous people! I met Anne Rice! I met Colleen Lindsay! I took a picture of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Catherine Bybee, and Jennifer Probst! I met Bob Mayer! I was sitting with Jennifer Probst and Aimee Carson when Jen’s phone beeped and she learned her book had hit number 6 on the New York Times Bestseller list! (I tip my hat to Dalton, head waiter at the Hyatt Red Bar, who immediately returned to the table with a congratulatory, complimentary piece of chocolate cake. Well played, Dalton. Well played.) I had lunch and dinner with Lisa Hendrix, Jackie Barbosa, and Lori Brighton! I did a live #1k1hr in the lobby with Michelle Willingham, Jackie B., Lisa H., and Mira Lyn Kelly!

And I met everyone at Sourcebooks who has been instrumental in the care and feeding of my first book. Mark in Marketing, Todd in Everything, Dawn in the Art Department, Rachel in Copy Editing, Danielle and Heather in Publicity, Leah, Deb and Dominique! I watched Barbara Vey shake her booty on a disco-bus stripper pole! Susanna Kearsley is wise! Grace Burrowes is temperate! Maire Claremont is stunning! Zoe Archer is frank! Carrie Lofty is charming! Caridad Pineiro is merry! Cassandra Carr and Daisy Harris are saucy! Roxanne St. Claire is confident! I talked publishing trends and the disappearance of the-book-that-someone-spends-a-lifetime-to-write with Megan Frampton, Liz Edelstein, and Liz’s husband! I drank chocolatinis with Katharine Ashe, Mira Lyn Kelly and Erin Knightley! We were soon joined by Colleen Gleason (she likes the ginger hero!) and Heather Snow! I got to hang with the Harlequin ladies, including Maisey Yates!

And Anne Calhoun! Oh my god, can you imagine: she had an eight-hour layover in Chicago on her way to Turkey and I got to meet her in person! She brought Angela James over to our lunch table! Anne and Mira Lyn and I talked about books for four hours straight…they were both appalled at my not-having-yet-read Suzanne Brockmann. (I’m reading as fast as I can!) Then, on the last day, when I thought I’d just hang in the lobby alone until my plane left, I met C. Morgan Kennedy and Karen Stivali and Laurie London and learned more about everything! I loved Morgan’s thoughts on what resonates with a young reader: “As a girl, I just didn’t relate to books like Black Beauty. When I thought of horses I thought of the mounted policemen in inner-city Cleveland where I grew up. I didn’t think of freedom.”

And here’s the thing. My connection to all those people is one thing and one thing only: words. I love their words. Many of them are now my friends because I finished their books and wrote them a fan-girl email telling them my favorite lines and saying, “I just loved that. Thank you for that. My kids didn’t eat dinner on time because of that.” All of the other stuff becomes entirely inconsequential: political beliefs, religious beliefs, age, race, creed. (What is creed these days, anyway?)

It was just ALL good. Sometimes, when I’m feeling low, I think the romance community is akin to shark-infested waters. Treacherous. I have been swimming with sharks in real life. If you sit really still and don’t make any jerky motions they kind of swirl around you and eyeball you with their black opacity and it’s all very thrilling. Thrilling because you know they could eviscerate you. I no longer think anyone in the romance world is there to eviscerate me. Sarah Wendell specifically said, “I am not going to eat your intestines!”

When someone talks about a book they love or a story they’re working on it’s like this open road of joy…for me at least. Listening to people explain their characters, tease out their plots, or list their favorite books, it gives me that feeling that some people attribute to spirituality. It makes me feel like this is why I am here on Planet Earth: To read and write books.

PS Special thanks to my roommate Mingmei Yip who only became mildly bored with my new tendency to begin all sentences with the phrase, “Bob Mayer says…”

What to Expect When You’re…Publishing

Yesterday, my husband equated the creation of my book with the creation of our children. At first, it’s totally secret. Those nights of the summer of 2010 when I would stay up until two in the morning, possessed. I had an idea! I had passion! It flew out of my brain, thousands of words a day. I was on fire. I just wrote and wrote.

And then it was done. Conception had taken place. Now, what?

The first few months where only you and a very special inner circle know your news. Full of hope. Everyone’s really excited! You wrote a book! or You are having a baby! Oh my god! That’s so great! When they walk away from you at a cocktail party they murmur, “That’s the craziest idea for a book I ever heard…good luck with that.” or “They are never going to have sex again…good luck with that.”

Then, the professionals come. The doctors, the nurses, the sonogram, the amnio, the genetic counseling. Or, in the case of a book: the agent, the publisher, the art department, the marketing department. The wonderful stewards of my experience. My spirit guides. (That’s a joke for my husband, with whom I have a shared suspicion of anyone offering to guide me on a molecular level through deep space.) I have always loved professional opinions. When my husband and I met with that genetic counselor I don’t think she knew quite what she was in for. My husband adores statistics. He reads Karl Popper. For fun. (Did someone say empirical falsification? Chug.)

So that part was great in terms of my book. I had a chart of agents to query. My agent had a list of appropriate editors to whom she sent my manuscript. And one of them loved the book! We’re getting into those awesome pregnancy months 4-5-6 when you are glowing and are pregnant enough that people can congratulate you without worrying you are just fat, but not so huge that they pity you.

This past week was, well, probably the beginning of my third trimester in terms of my book. The advance reader copies (ARCs) are being printed. Right. Fucking. Now. Literally, somewhere in the world my words are going onto pages specifically to be reviewed. (That’s just a nice way of saying, “Cruelly dissected by evil reviewers who hate bunny rabbits and dance naked around glowing embers.” But I digress.) By the third trimester of pregnancy, things are pretty much set in stone. That’s when reality sets in. That’s when I started to segue from oh-look-at-all-those-cute-clothes to who-the-hell-is-going-to-wash-and-fold-all-those-onesies.

After all these past months of jumping up and down and (justifiably, come on, it is fucking awesome, my first book is being published! YAY!) being so excited, I am now in the awkward position of being utterly terrified and wanting to hide in my garage and/or cry in the shower. “What was I thinking?” “I can’t write!” “And now everyone will know!” “This is a disaster!” “I will buy back my advance!”

I really thought that last week. I even email’d that idea to my agent. I added that I suspected I might not be thinking rationally. In addition to the ARCs closing (can you hear the printing press churning away and the evil reviewers rubbing their hands together in anticipation?), this is also the final phase for cover and title decisions.


Whimper. That would be like, I don’t know, what was the name of those contractions that really hurt and then the OB smiles and pats you on the head and says, “Oh, those aren’t really contractions, those are just…Braxton Hicks!” (I didn’t even have to look that up after all!) Anyway, after dinner on Wednesday, I clicked open my computer and there was an email from my editor with the subject, “Final Cover for Author Approval.” Braxton Hicks. Braxton Hicks. Braxton Hicks.

Now, an aside about Titles of Books. I wrote a whole other blog about titles, but you know, it wasn’t good, so I threw it out. Suffice to say, PSA to aspiring authors, don’t get too attached to your title. It can change. Sometimes it can change several times. As my fabulous editor said when I kept asking, “Is it final? Is that definitely it?” She answered, “Don’t get off the roller coaster until the ride is over.” That has become my mantra. I picture myself unbuckling in the middle of The Hulk at Universal. Bad Idea.

So, here’s what happened. The supposedly-final title, the one on the email Wednesday night, had a problem. My twelve-year-old daughter brought to my attention that the latest title (the one that everyone was gaga about, including The Buyer From The Big Bookstore) was also the title of an increasingly popular YA book that all her friends in seventh grade were reading. She showed me the cover. I FREAKED OUT.

That YA cover didn’t just have the same title, it looked EXACTLY like my book. Not just, pass-me-a-shot-of-vodka-to-smooth-my-frayed-nerves similar. I was lost. Jesus in the desert. I vaguely remember my husband’s voice from another room, “No, you don’t need to turn on the light, Mommy wants to sit quietly in the dark.” I was a quivering mess. I am contractually obligated to accept the cover and title provided by my publisher. Not just accept. I need to enthuse. I quivered more.

Keep in mind, my book has sex in it. Grown up, big girl, happily-ever-after sex. And the idea of some twelve-year-old girl picking up my book instead of the book she’d intended to buy? Whimper.

Yesterday morning, I sent a whimpery email to my agent and told her I just didn’t think I could get behind that cover/title. I listed my reasons. I asked if I sounded irrational. She said I sounded rational. (This is why I need an agent: I did not need to buy back my advance; I did need to tell my editor my concerns.) And then the craziest thing happened: my editor totally listened. She raised my concerns to the art department and marketing department and they listened. It’s being changed. The title. The aspects of the cover that might have misled people to believe it was for a younger audience. Resolved. I stared at that end-of-the-day email in fascination.

Of course, I know that I am still contractually obligated to accept whatever the publisher provides, but it turns out my concerns were not emotional foolishness. They were real. And it turns out that the publisher, okay MY publisher at least, is interested and concerned about what authors think. I will spend this weekend in a state of gratitude.

I should have a definite title by next week. Maybe. Until then, I am still firmly buckled into The Hulk, preparing for Labor & Delivery on September 1.

For further reading, here is a wonderful article on other authors’ experiences with covers and titles from The Awl.