Saturday, January 20, 2007

How a cover comes to life

I've always said that covers are like giving birth. You don't know what you're going to get until it comes out. Harlequin American has been doing some fantastic covers lately (I'm still with both Kathleen and Linda--moving to Toronto and finding that hot guy on her cowboy book. I'm single--I can do that, smile).

Above is my cover for my April release, Nine Months' Notice. I received the cover pdf via email about a week ago. At Harlequin American, here's how the cover process works (at least for me). It may vary for the other authors, but I'm betting it's 90 percent the same.First step is completing an on line art fact sheet. These can be done up to a year in advance.

For example, I completed this art fact sheet in either September or October this year. I haven't done one yet for my November American, but I have for my NASCAR book. The art fact sheet asks for all the pertinent details like hair color, height, etc., basically how the characters look. The sheet also asks for the setting of the story, any important landmarks, and three important scenes. We also answer some questions that allow us to describe the mood of the book and how the characters grow and change. If we have an idea for the cover, we can include that in this section.

Then we're done. That's our part. I don't submit pictures or anything like that, letting the art department take it away. From what I understand from a Harlequin workshop I went to, Harlequin holds a meeting with the editors, marketing, and art people. Then they brainstorm what they want. Someone writes the text. Models come in and are posed so that pictures are taken, and then the artist uses a computer to create the art. This is why some covers look so lifelike--because those people really exist out there and they were actually posed into that position so the artist had something to work from. Just like Disney brought in real lions for The Lion King, Harlequin brings in real people.

From there, they take it away, editing, fixing, and tweaking until satisfied. Then, around three to four months before the book debuts, I can request the cover be sent to me and I open it. There in full view on my computer screen is the cover of the book I sweated over and loved writing. I print it out, hold it, and show it off. Hence, the birth of a baby analogy.I've been blessed to have some wonderful covers. (They are at Click on backlist.) The full cover text of my April cover is at my personal blog, if you want to read what it says on the back cover.

Thanks for taking part in this "birth" with me. My April book is child number 14 for Harlequin American since my first book debuted in October 2000. I still pinch myself every time that I get to do this.

All the best and happy weekend,

Friday, January 19, 2007

Exploding Eggs

Yesterday I decided I wanted hard boiled eggs for lunch. My system for hard-cooking the eggs is simple: bring a pan of water containing the eggs to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let it sit twenty minutes. Viola— the eggs are perfect.

No problem. Except, I am in the middle of an intense round for revisions, due next week. With my thoughts on the scene of the morning, I filled the pan, turned on the heat, and promptly forgot about it.

Awhile later, engrossed in my work, I vaguely heard a loud pop. Quickly followed by my husband’s bellow: “Annie!” (He calls me Annie and always has.) Fearing he’d had an accident or broken something, I rushed upstairs. Only to be greeted by nasty fumes and bits of egg everywhere!

As awful as this was, I found it funny. Laughed hysterically as we cleaned the mess from the floor, ceiling, walls, and even the dining room. (I never knew projectiled hardboiled egg chunks could travel that far.)

Unlike me, my husband failed to see the humor. For all I know, he thinks I’m developing Alzheimer’s. I’m not, of course. What really happened was, I got so wrapped up in my work that the real world faded away.

As I thought about this later, I realized that only another writer would understand. A call to a close writer friend confirmed this. She laughed right along with me. Thank God for friends who “get it.”

I did learn my lesson, though. Next time I want hard-boiled eggs, I’m setting the timer.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The weather outside...

The weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful…

Winter has arrived at my house—full blast, and that song has been running through my head for the past couple of days. And it’s not Christmas. It’s just &&&& cold. I live in Central Texas and this Texan is not used to temperatures in the twenties.

From my office, I can see the icicles hanging on the frozen ice laden trees and the grass and shrubs sparkle with a blanket of icy white crystals. The driveway is a film of ice. Every now and then I can hear the sleet tapping on my window. In the distance, I can see the highline poles and the endless stretch of electrical lines. Ice and icicles are accumulating on the lines and I’m praying the extra weight doesn’t cause them to break. The cold aside, it’s really very pretty—a winter ice land.

We have two fireplaces in our house and in all the ten years we’ve been here we’ve probably used them about four times. And that was at the holidays when we had company. With the central heat and our mild winters, we’ve never needed them. With the frigid cold, both fireplaces have been burning for past two days. I really like the fire. It’s cozy and romantic. I love sleeping with the fire going. And it really great to read by. Tonight, with my husband beside me, I’m curling up in front of the fire in the bedroom and reading one of the books I received for the Rita Contest. Can’t get any better than that.

What’s the weather like in your area? It sounds bad all over the US, so I hope you have a warm fire and a good book to read.

Oh, the weather outside…

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How does this happen?!

My gosh. It's January 17th. Already!

Seems like just three days ago we were ringing in the new year. And now the first month of it's more than half gone. Where it went, I wish I knew....

They say everyone has the same number of hours in a day, but sometimes those hours become awfully hard to hang onto. It's no wonder, with every one of us involved in working outside the house, working inside the home, raising children, and/or caring for aging parents. Not to mention juggling housework, yardwork, grocery shopping, and laundry. Oh, and don't forget the gazillion other errands on that "To Do" list.

The days get away from us, and even when we do have a free moment here and there, we're too busy to notice!

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a Minute Elf to gather up the stray bits of time that have fallen through the cracks? Sort of the way the Tooth Fairy comes and collects our teeth. The Tooth Fairy pays us in cold, hard cash, which isn't such a bad thing, of course. But if "time is money," as the old saying goes, maybe the Minute Elf could reward us with seconds and minutes and—if we're very lucky--hours, to replace whatever moments of our lives had slipped away.

That would be worth more than a few coins under your pillow, don't you think?
All my best to you,



Barbara White Daille

Quirky Characters

Recently, I received an e-mail from a reader commenting on the quirky pig herder my hero crosses paths with in the opening scene of Nelson in Command (Jan 07), the second book in my McKade Brothers series--in stores now.

I love goofy characters--probably because I come from a long line of oddball family members--a seventy-year-old aunt who showed up at a family graduation barbecue in a bikini top and shorts, and too many others to mention here.

The reason I use quirky characters in my books is because they're believable. Every one of us knows or has met an "oddball" at one time or another. We come in contact with these kinds of people every day of our lives, so why shouldn’t our characters?

The antics of quirky characters provide a bit of humorous relief that lends the story a light-hearted feel, even when there are more serious issues at stake. Putting the hero or heroine in situations where they're out of their element and forced to interact with individuals they would normally never encounter helps demonstrate their true character. Achieving the balance between deep emotional concerns and cheerfulness isn't always easy, but something I strive for in my writing.

If you love zany, weird, funny, ridiculous…tell us about a quirky character from a book you've read recently.

Happy Reading!
Check out Marin's Quirky "Rooster Contest"

Monday, January 15, 2007

Where authors gather

Once upon a time – when I sold my first book, some 25 years ago – it wasn’t easy to connect with other authors. Since I live in Orange County, California, I had the good fortune to belong to a terrific critique group and occasionally encountered other writers at library events or through my then-job as a news reporter.

Mostly, though, I worked in isolation.

Then, in 1984, I discovered Romance Writers of America, which had been founded just a few years earlier. It was so small and informal that, when a vacancy arose on the national board of directors, my local chapter was able to get me appointed to the board for a one-year term.

Since then, RWA has grown to major international stature and, among its many activities, sponsors an annual conference (often referred to as Nationals) that’s absolutely staggering. Most agents and editors who work in the romance and/or women’s fiction field participate. So do roughly two thousand writers, both published and aspiring. There are heaps of seminars on every aspect of the business and craft of writing, plus book signings and other events. This year, the conference will be held in Dallas on July 11-14. (For more information, check out

My local Orange County chapter is one of the largest in the country. Every month we have outstanding guest speakers, who’ve included Jackie Collins, Dean Koontz, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Mary Balogh, Tami Hoag, Kristin Hannah, Diana Gabaldon, Debbie Macomber and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This past Saturday, we had the good fortune to hear noted TV producer and novelist Stephen J. Cannell, who gave us insights into his writing methods and successful career. You can get more information about the group at

The encouragement and information that authors exchange is invaluable. Rather than competing, we support each other. It’s truly amazing how helpful people are, and how much better communication we’ve established with editors and agents, who appreciate the level of professionalism that RWA fosters. With the advent of online resources, including websites, email loops and blogs like this one, RWA members can reach out even further.

If you’re a writer like me, aren’t we lucky to have these resources? And if you’re a reader, you benefit from the ferment of creativity and enthusiasm that writers generate when they can mingle with their colleagues.

So if you wondered what we were referring to in this blog when we mention RWA or Nationals, now you’re an insider, too!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Oops! I forgot my Saturday blog

Since Christmas I've been so slammed with deadlines I've spaced a ton of things, including my Saturday blog. So here are the ruminations of a chick who has done nothing for the past couple of weeks but sit in front of a computer terminal. This is a typical day - I get up before the sun comes up, slam my hair into a Bam-Bam ponytail, put on some sweats, grab the dog and head to our huge park for a rousing three mile hike - then I'm back to the keyboard.

And we've had the worst winter ever. At the risk of sounding like I work for the weather channel I'll tell you we've had wind storms, snowstorms, and ice storms - round and round, one after the other. And believe me, the folks in the Pacific Northwest are not good winter drivers.
Scary! So, I suppose, all in all, this is a good time to have 2 revisions and an anthology due. That doesn't, however, keep me from fantasizing about going to Nordstroms, or Target, or even the grocery store. Can you believe someone actually wants to peruse the produce aisle!!??

Thanks goodness my hubby's a good sport - he does the cooking and errands - and get this, the man actually vacuums. He's a keeper!

So back to work. Talk to you next Saturday.

Ann DeFee

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow . . .

Brrrrr!!!! Here in Tulsa, we're getting hammered with day three of an ice storm. Silly me, I called Hubby home early on Friday to load up on snow food in the attempt to keep three housebound teens happy.

Being a writer, I tend to have a rich fantasy life, so here I am picturing Hubby and I snagging some romantic anti-kid time, stealing kisses on lonely cookie aisles. We'd get home, laugh our way inside while carting our goodies through tumbling snow. We'd then maybe make cocoa, share quality time talking and snuggling in front of a roaring fire. Once the kids got home, we'd bake cookies and gather 'round the fire again to make s'mores and play board games. Ahhh . . . Don't you just love snow?? HA!!

Okay, so here's what really happened . . .

Hubby and I hit the store only to find thousands (literally!!!) of other folks had already had the same idea. It was insane!! People grabbing and snatching and fighting to the death over the last bags of Double Stuff Oreos!! Every check-out line wound down the aisles, so I planted Hubby at the end of one, while I dodged shopping carts and slow folks on their cell phones, chatting about how this was going to be an amazing storm.

There was no romance to be found--especially not when it came time to lug $400 bucks worth of junk food and Gatorade (the ONLY thing my kids drink) into the house. Driving sleet hammered me like mini, stabbing ice swords while I'm hefting eighteen plastic sacks at a time to try and finish fast. Meanwhile, Hubby's dorking around with rock salt, gently sprinkling with a little metal scooper while I growl my way past.

Once inside, my mother calls. She and Dad are at their house in the Bahamas. She was calling to tell me their new washer and dryer set was being delivered by boat in about in hour. Isn't that exciting??? GRRR!!! LOL!!! She then had to tell me how pretty the weather's been--they're wearing shorts--and that she got a hug from their hunky neighbor--he's insanely hot!! Even Daughter agrees!!! Okay, so here she's getting hugs from hunky neighbors, and I can't even get my Hubby to help with groceries, let alone give me sugar!! Double GRRR!!!

While I was on the phone, Hubby did put away a lot, so that was sweet, but immediately after, he dashed off to Son #1's new X-Box 360. I didn't see him again till bedtime!!

Backing up a little time-wise, I snatched the kids early from school, and what does Son #1 say the second he gets in the car? Not, "Boy, Mom, I can't wait to bake cookies with you!" But, "Geez, this weekend's going to blow. Can I have a friend sleep over?" Thank goodness the power hasn't gone out, or things would've really gotten ugly! But wait, before I get too excited, we're supposed to get two more inches of ice around noon, and Daughter's cheer coach just announced they have practice at two!!

If your weekend has gone roughly the same as mine, I have a fun new book out this month called, HER MILITARY MAN. Promise--Constance and Garret's journey to Happily Ever After is waaaay more fun than ours here in the nutty Altom household!! LOL!!!

P.S. Hubby finally beat his video game guy, meaning I finally got a few kisses!!!