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Monday, February 18, 2008

Life Is Short



Many of you know I was involved in a bad car accident last month. It came as close to being an early end of me as I ever want to go. So along with the pain pills and the insurance hasseles, I've found myself rethinking my entire life. I suddenly want everything instantly. Don't put off doing anything pleasurable until tomorrow. Eat dessert first. Play today, work tomorrow and put off the rest entirely.


That's a huge change in my attitude. I grew up believing the 'ant' was the good guy in the story and the 'grasshopper' was the fool. Nice and steady wins the race. Blah! Not for me. Not anymore.


I was thinking of this change in my philosophy a few days ago during a discussion on one of my author loops. this private loop is for a group of Harlequin authors, and the discussion focused on how terrible it was that Harlequin has reduced their word counts across all of their lines. Long-time series authors bemoaned the loss of an extra twenty to thirty thousand words in which to tell their stories. They loved the old way when they had time to explore emotions, add in more points of view, include more bad guys, and generally take their time to wind through their stories.


I have to say, as a reader, I loved some of those old Harlequins too. Back when I had leisure time, I enjoyed picking up a book that took hours to read and kept me entertained and interested into the wee hours or for days. But sorry, authors, things have changed---in my life as well as in the world. Today when I pick up a Harlequin book, it's because I want a quick get-away with a guaranteed happy ending. I want to be able to finish it in one sitting. I want it fast, exciting, emotionally satisfying---and over.


The best selling Harlequins right now in the U.S. are the Presents line. That's always been the shortest Harlequin line available. Does that tell you something about what most readers want? For myself, I love reading a good Presents. I just finished both Anne McAllister's ONE NIGHT LOVE CHILD, a January Presents, and Katherine Garbera's THE WEALTHY FRENCHMAN'S PROPOSITION, a Silhouette Desire (which is another short line.) Both were wonderful books. And fast.



If I want or have time for more, say on a long plane ride or a vacation on the beach, I'll read one of the amazing variety of single title books available either in the bookstore or via e-books. By the way, many of these so-called single title books have also been shortened. Whereas a good best seller used to be in the one-hundred thousand word category, now many of them don't even make it to ninety thousand words. Minimum word count used to be ninety, today it's eighty or even seventy. Thanks due in part, I'm sure, to authors like Dan Brown, James Patterson, and Steven King who are masters at quick and exciting reads.

At one time I imagined all this focus on brevity was due to the price of paper. But today I'm sure that isn't even a factor. Not with all the e-books out there. Now that I've changed my opinion about life in general, I know better. It's the pace of our lives. Time is our single most expensive commodity.

As an author, I've never had any trouble writing short. It makes me work at finding just the right pace--just the right word. It's harder, yes. But it also makes me a better writer. I'm enjoying finding new ways of putting a little mystery/adventure, a couple of points of view, and a bad guy or two in with my sexy little romances. Writing a fast read is exactly what I need in my my life right now.

As a reader, I'm thrilled that all the lines are going shorter. I have always wanted a good thriller, mystery, paranormal, erotica, or family romance (depending on my mood) that I could read in a couple of hours and then go on with my life.

How do you feel about the shorter books? If you're a writer, do you find shorter is harder -- or maybe impossible? If you're a reader, have you given up reading Harlequins because they've gotten shorter? Or are you fining yourself picking them up again after falling away exactly because they are now easier to finish in the time you have?

Leave me a comment and I'll pick one winner from all the comments left before Tuesday February 19th to win a new Presents (my choice) or one of my backlist (your choice)

Linda's newest (shorter) Silhouette Romantic Suspense series, The Safekeepers, begins in June with SAFE WITH A STRANGER. Don't forget to drop by Linda's newly designed website to find out more about her series, check out her new extras, and register to enter her ongoing contest to win books, chocolates, and gift certificates! http://www.LindaConrad.com

29 comments:

rebekah said...

I just started reading Harlequin and find that at times I really like them. When I'm in the mood for a short book it is nice that there are some to read. When I first picked one up I will admitted I wasn't sure if I would like it because it was so short. I was afraid that it would lose something by being so short. But I really did like the book. When I'm doing alot of running around the shorter books are the ones I like to keep in my purse.

Karen H in NC said...

Glad to hear you are on the road to recovery after being in that car accident.

I tend to read longer (300+ pages) books although I do have several shorter books on my TBR shelves. A lot of my all-time favorite authors started out with the shorter, quick reads.

Jen in WA said...

I like the occasional shorter book. In fact, I'm an anthology junkie and those are all short stories. It only makes a difference to me if the author didn't develop the characters or plot enough to make the read enjoyable.

Lois said...

Well, the thing is, with the various amounts and types of books out there, there is always something for every mood you might have. I love longer, I love shorter - just as long as they are well written, I want them all! :)

Lois

Linda Conrad said...

Exactly, rebekah! Harlequins are great for keeping in your purse for times like waiting at the dentist's office or standing in a long line.

Thanks, karen h in nc! The broken ribs and the pain that goes with them are the only big problems left.
Yes, I read longer books too sometimes. But much of the time I'm afraid to start one because I know it will take too much time to finish. :)

Ohh, yeah, jen in wa. Anthologies are a favorite of mine also. But I still want them to come in a book sized so that I can slip into my purse!

Donna Alward said...

I love the shorts - for exactly the same reason. Sometimes longer books seem such an investment of time. Short, intense quick gratification DOES have its place.

I really enjoy authors who can magically fit a BIG STORY into a small format.

Pat Cochran said...

You have just solved a puzzle for
me! I've been reading several
Harlequin Desires and Presents
recently, but I was left feeling
as though there was something
missing! What's missing is the rest of the story! I'm a woman in my "golden years," I've been
reading for a long time. It appears that what I am missing is the substance and sustaining body of the books which have "fed" me through the years. In essence, it
seems I am starving!!

Pat Cochran

Linda Conrad said...

You said it, Lois! What would we do without books?

Hi Donna. That's it exactly. Not all short books are wonderful, of course. But when you find one where the author fits in a big story, it can be magic.

Oh, Pat, sorry you feel that way! Again, I do feel there are some shorter books that don't bring you that magic, but others can be just as special as any of the larger books. What are you hungry for? More backstory? More emotion? More points of view? Perhaps you should try one of the slightly longer Harlequins. Like Superromance, for instance. If you just want more story, maybe you should try an Intrigue or a Silhoutte Romantic Suspense. I found I need to write a little more story than I used to in my Desires. That's why I now write for Romantic Supspense. Have you tried those?

CrystalGB said...

(HUGS)Linda. I didn't know about your car accident.
I am a long time fan of Harlequin Presents and Silhouette Desires. I can read these after work and get my romance fix for the day. :)

Anne McAllister said...

Hi Linda,
What a lovely surprise to find my book cover on YOUR blog entry! I'm so glad you enjoyed ONE-NIGHT LOVE CHILD. In fact, it's a March Presents (you must have got the book club copy) so it's not even out on the shelves yet (she said, hoping to goodness she hasn't missed her own book!)

I'm glad you're recovering from your accident. Scary stuff. Take care of yourself.

Regarding longer and shorter books, I like both. But when I had young kids at home I couldn't read a longer book unless I was sick in bed with the flu. There wasn't enough time and I couldn't sustain the memory cells necessary for a long story spread over days of reading. I could read a short book in one or two sittings and be happy with it.

Of course, like Pat, I sometimes felt "starved." But I think that's more the fault of a particular book than the shortness in general. Both short books and long books can leave me feeling 'starved' if they don't get to deeper levels of the relationship and the story.

As they say in the editorial offices, "It's all in the execution!"

Anne McAllister said...

Hi Linda,
What a lovely surprise to find my book cover on YOUR blog entry! I'm so glad you enjoyed ONE-NIGHT LOVE CHILD. In fact, it's a March Presents (you must have got the book club copy) so it's not even out on the shelves yet (she said, hoping to goodness she hasn't missed her own book!)

I'm glad you're recovering from your accident. Scary stuff. Take care of yourself.

Regarding longer and shorter books, I like both. But when I had young kids at home I couldn't read a longer book unless I was sick in bed with the flu. There wasn't enough time and I couldn't sustain the memory cells necessary for a long story spread over days of reading. I could read a short book in one or two sittings and be happy with it.

Of course, like Pat, I sometimes felt "starved." But I think that's more the fault of a particular book than the shortness in general. Both short books and long books can leave me feeling 'starved' if they don't get to deeper levels of the relationship and the story.

As they say in the editorial offices, "It's all in the execution!"

Anne McAllister said...

Hi Linda,
What a lovely surprise to find my book cover on YOUR blog entry! I'm so glad you enjoyed ONE-NIGHT LOVE CHILD. In fact, it's a March Presents (you must have got the book club copy) so it's not even out on the shelves yet (she said, hoping to goodness she hasn't missed her own book!)

I'm glad you're recovering from your accident. Scary stuff. Take care of yourself.

Regarding longer and shorter books, I like both. But when I had young kids at home I couldn't read a longer book unless I was sick in bed with the flu. There wasn't enough time and I couldn't sustain the memory cells necessary for a long story spread over days of reading. I could read a short book in one or two sittings and be happy with it.

Of course, like Pat, I sometimes felt "starved." But I think that's more the fault of a particular book than the shortness in general. Both short books and long books can leave me feeling 'starved' if they don't get to deeper levels of the relationship and the story.

As they say in the editorial offices, "It's all in the execution!"

Jane said...

Short and sweet is fine. As a reader and consumer, I'm worried that I'll get shortchanged. Will I be paying more for less? Are these shorter books as polished as the longer ones? I think readers will continue to buy books and we won't care about its length as long as it has substance and is well written.

Michelle said...

I love fat novels. Sometimes the size of a book is what draws me to it in the first place (does that make me shallow, judging a book by its cover?). And sometimes I'm so sad to finish a big, fat novel I've lived with for a week or two that I'll feel lost. (I'm a lot of things, but committment phobic isn't one of them :-))

Having said that, though, I love the one night stand excitement of a Harelquin Romance too.

Hmm... I just love books.

Michelle Douglas

Anne McAllister said...

I didn't intentionally post THREE times! It kept refusing my post and saying, "retype the letters you see above." So I did. And then I did again (the letters always changed!) And finally, the third time, it posted. THREE TIMES!

Sorry about that!

limecello said...

Hi Linda,
I've been finding that Harlequins/categories have been getting much too short. I can finish a book in two hours, and while there's the very slight accomplishment factor, I'm left disappointed. I tend to look for Harlequins in the library, or going without now. I prefer novels that I can really "sink my teeth into." However, some of the authors I love write for Harlequin, and I'll still get their books, I just tend to limit myself a bit more. They are nice for tossing in my purse when I've got a long wait while running errands, etc.

Virginia said...

I really enjoy a short books sometimes when I don't have much time to read. I do kind of switch around alot. I find myself reading a long book and then going to a short book. I don't know why I do this.

Cryna said...

What is the saying......"in for a penny"......

I am afraid I have to disagree with you Linda in that everyone wants shorter stories and quick reads because of the lifestyles of today. I have been an avid reader for years - Harlequin as well as other lines.

There have been many changes and unfortunately I cannot say that I agree with all the changes. I am a reader that feels some of the new guidelines that they have brought out just do not do it for me anymore. I feel that it doesn't matter how good a writer is - if they are rushed to jam everything into a few words something is left out and unfortunately it does not always bode well for the reader.

I have read Silhouette Romantic Suspense for years - back when they were Intimate Moments - and they satisfy yes. So do the Intrigues, but others not so much. And there are some lines that have lost a few good authors because of new guidelines. So then how does a reader like myself react. We move from Harlequin lines to other lines, which defeats the purpose.

Anthologies are quick reads, when you pick them up you know you are going to get a quick read, which is what you are looking for. But generally speaking a book is something that is supposed to be satisfying and not something that leaves you feeling like you have missed something.

Nathalie said...

I have to say I am not a fan of those shorter books, however they can be nice when you just need to relax!

mammakim said...

I am glad you are feeling better from the accident.
Sometimes I like a shorter book. I can read a shorter book at lunchtime at work and it is nice to not have to go back to work after lunch thinking of when I can read it next :)

robynl said...

I'm sorry about the accident which I didn't know about.
I read shorter books because they are good for when you don't have that much time. But I will read longer books also.

Dina said...

I like both Harlequin and Silhouette. For me, the amount of pages are not important as long as I enjoy reading the books. It's just the time I have to read them, that sometimes the shorts ones work best. :)

Dina said...

Forgot to say that I am glad that you are getting better since your accident too.

Pat Cochran said...

Thanks, Linda, Anne, and all, I've
enjoyed today's discussion. I will
be looking into Superromances for
a cure for my "starvation" problem.
I will also look into the Romantic
Suspense line. Take care, Linda,
and get to feeling better soon!

Pat Cochran

Linda Conrad said...

Thanks all for a lively discussion! And thanks to all of you for your best wishes. Every day I'm feeling a little better. And on the bright side, I did get a new car out of the deal. :)
I put names in a hat and drew cryna to receive a 'short' book. cryna, email me at LindaConradbooks@aol.com with your snail mail addy and I'll get it right out!
Thanks again everyone! Stay safe!

Gigi said...

Hi Linda,
I am glad to hear you are on the road to recovery.

I took put myself in the ant category. I am always thinking about tomorrow.

About 9 years ago I finally got my hands on one of the smaller books.
I think it was the Temptaion line.
until then I had only read the much longer books. I would consider myself a book snob back then I wouldn't even look at the smaller books. But now I love them.
The stories move along at a great pace when I don't have the time for the longer books.
The smaller books are easy for me to finish in a few hours. They are easy to transport. I have spent many hours waiting for my kids at school practices and these smaller books are wonderful.

I would have to say that now I read more of the shorter books. I especially like reading the serial stories. But, I still love to sink my teeth into a longer more in depth book a few times a month.

Gigi said...

A new car. I got a new car about 2 and half years ago. I love the new car smell.

I dread the buying process of choosing a new car but I do love it after you get them home.

My car has plenty of hidy holes to stick the smaller books and stuff in.

Gigi said...

I was just over at your site looking at the covers of the Shadow Series. I got the first two. I really liked the covers for those but the other cover are such I a change I guess I must have missed them.

I liked the animal picture in the background of the first two books.
I understood the meaning of the animal spirits in the belief system of the Native Americans

I did read Shadow Whispers, but I didn't realize what I was getting until I started reading.

Cryna said...

Thank you so much Linda....I have sent an email to you.

So happy that you are recovering from your accident.