Friday, July 27, 2007

Inspiration for book plots

Hi guys,
I've had folks ask where I get the inspiration for my books. Actually, they come from a variety of places-the paper, the news, people I see walking in the mall (especially good looking guys), eavesdropping-you name it and I can create a story out of it. My first book was inspired by a group of older guys in the San Antonio airport. What I learned from "listening" was that they make a twice a year trip to Las Vegas to gamble. From there, I segued to having them murder young whipper-snapper drug dealers. In my vivid imagination, they were in the drug trade during the Viet Nam war and as their golden years came along, they became more and more concerned about their upcoming date with Saint Peter. That's when they decided to make amends. In actuality, all they were doing was enjoying life in their John Deere ball caps and suspenders.

I grew up in a small south Texas town, and eccentric people were the norm, not the exception. Maybe that's why I have such a good imagination.

So it's off to finish the second in my Georgia series. Have a great weekend.

Ann DeFee
Georgia On His Mind - Harlequin American Romance - mid- August 2007 (it's a cutie!)
Summer After Summer - Harlequin Everlasting Love - September 2007
The Perfect Tree - Harlequin American Romance Christmas Anthology - November 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tomorrow's novelists

Recently I had a great opportunity to judge a contest for young writers (junior high and high school). For the most part, I saw the type of entries I expected--stories long on passion and enthusiasm and short on discipline. These kids knew what they liked to read and were attempting to duplicate it. I saw everything from an apocalyptic, futuristic war story filled with explosions to a YA chick-lit type story to something that read like a treatment for a B-grade slasher film. The pages were littered with hideous misspellings ("cereal killer" being my favorite), unintelligible sentence structure and random punctuation.

But I saw occasional flashes of brilliance, too--the subtle, sophisticated use of symbolism in one story; funny, sparkling dialogue in another.

My task was to offer abundant praise where possible and gentle suggestions for improvement--pretty easy for the most part.

Then there was Emily's* story. Oh, my Lord, could that little fifteen-year-old write. She described one pivotal moment in a teenager's life, and her story had it all--an endearingly flawed protagonist facing a difficult situation, a plot that hung together, a climax, and a satisfying conclusion. Her writing was filled with rich, sensory detail. Her point of view was solid. Her voice was fresh. Her spelling, grammar and punctuation--flawless.

It's a little embarrassing to be "judging" a teenager who can write circles around me! I hope someone in her life encourages her to pursue writing as a career, because she is certainly off to a brilliant start. I hope she will remember me fondly as the contest judge who gave her the encouragement she needed to pursue a dream.

*not her real name

No More Easy Sell for Me!

A few weeks ago I was watching Road Tested, where Jamie and Bobby Deen travel to towns and cities around the country to visit family-owned food businesses. There they help the owner cook up the specialty of the house, then sit down to eat. They smack their lips and rave about everything, making me always want a taste. I can get one if I want, since viewers can order all the products online. That particular night coconut (a favorite of mine) was the featured ingredient, and I could not resist. I went online and ordered several packages of both the plain and chocolate-covered treats. Neither kind was as good as Bobby and Jamie made them look. I’m thinking that with a little experimentation I could make far tastier versions of the darned things myself.

This is not the first time I’ve bought something I never realized I wanted, simply because someone talked it up. My hairdresser sold me the coolest tanning stuff for my legs. Never mind that I already had some at home, or that hers was pricey. She sprayed it on her legs and they actually shimmered. So I bought a can. Later I realized that the gel on my bathroom shelf does the same thing, plus it doesn’t pollute the air wash off in the shower. Sigh.

These are only two examples of the many times I’ve bought on impulse. It’s time for me to face the music: I’m an easy sell and always have been, and from now on, if I think I want something I plan to think about it awhile before plunking down my hard-earned money.

If anyone else out there an easy sell?
Summer Lovin’ Anthology: A Reunion Story, June 2007
Mitch Takes A Wife, August, 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Animal Rescue

I had planned to write about the RWA National Conference in Dallas, but all the excitement has already been summed up so well. And now that I’ve been home for over a week, other things are slowly starting to take priority. One of those things is animal rescue, and over the next few weeks I’ll be meeting and interviewing several people involved in this.

The first is a woman who operates a heritage farm. Tomorrow I’m going to meet her, tour the restored log barns on her property, and meet her menagerie. The animals on this farm are not traditional farm animals. Many were rescued by the SPCA and have had the good fortune to find a forever home on a farm with heated barns and a human willing to cater to every dietary whim. I’m writing a Superheroine article about her for the September issue of The Wet Noodle Posse ezine. I’ll try to remember to post a reminder, in case anyone’s interested in reading about this amazing woman.

My second interview will be with a couple who rescue Old English Sheepdogs. I became interested in sheepdog rescue because in my next Harlequin American Romance, With This Ring (December ‘07), the hero has a sheepdog named Max. Sometime this fall I’ll add pictures and information about sheepdog rescue to my website. And as a side note, if you’re an animal lover, I think you’re really going to love Max!

I deeply admire anyone who reaches out to help others, but there’s a special place in my heart for people who rescue mistreated animals, nurture them back to health, and give them a loving, caring home. Don’t you wish the world had more people like them?


Monday, July 23, 2007

Yet Another Post About Nationals

Oh, gosh. You're probably thinking, not another post about the RWA National conference. Over a week since I got home, and I'm still at loose ends. Just tonight, I looked at my calendar and thought, "Yikes! It's my day to post." And I still haven't even unpacked the last of my bags.

This year I had a particularly great time at conference, my first as a Harlequin author. One of the highlights for me is connecting with many of my long distance friends. I did get a chance to do that this year, but I also made a bunch of new friends among the Harlequin American authors.

Victoria Chancellor is just a hoot (I picked up your new book, Temporarily Texan, the other day, by the way). I think Lee McKenzie and I are twins separated at birth. We showed up at the Harlequin party wearing almost identical outfits! What with our hair being a similar color and both of us wearing glasses, it was hard to tell us apart in the dark. Cathy Gillen Thacker is my new idol. She has an amazing career, and I want to be just like her when I grow up. I also loved meeting Megan. She's so sweet and so excited about her first book coming out. Kim is another excited author. She recently won the Harlequin American contest (and who wouldn't be excited about that?) I hope to see her posting here one day in the near future.

Life immediately returned to normal by Sunday afternoon. I'm grateful my husband and daughter took such good care of the house while I was gone and that the laundry was caught up. Fortuneately, my son was out of town working on a construction job so the house wasn't quite as messy as it could be. My daughter left yesterday for her first big trip alone (she's starting her senior year in high school next month), and her first plane trip alone. I promise not to get all weepy on you. But in private, all bets are off. Cell phones are such wonderful inventions. I made her promise to call me everyday.

Well, it's back to the grindstone for me. I have a book due and line edits on the way. Too bad vacations don't last just a few days longer.

Cathy Mc

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I, too, had a great time at RWA. I loved seeing my editors and other authors, and I learned quite a bit at the workshops. But, I have to admit that one of my favorite activities at national was collecting free books. I always bring an extra suitcase and really look forward to standing in lines to meet authors, get books signed, and pack them away. This year, Harlequin had a book signing, and I was fortunate enough to pick up a whole lot of my favorite authors’ novels.

Seeing those books—and feeling that burst of anticipation to read them-reminds me of being in grade school. Every June I’d join the summer reading club hosted by our local library. I had a canvas tote to carry my books in...and a sheet of paper where I carefully recorded each book read.

Both my parents were avid readers, and my brother, sister, and I all love to read, too. Nowadays, I seem to frequent the local Barnes and Noble more than the library…but I still have that great feeling of grabbing a new friend when I hold a new book in my hands.

Especially a new book by a favorite author. So, obviously, this weekend was exciting for me because of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Though I half thought of visiting a store at midnight, I decided to get my copy yesterday. Last night, in honor of getting the new book, my husband took me to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the movies. Then, way before my two teenagers made it home, I sat in bed with my prize and started reading.

I got up early to read, too. One of my favorite activities to do on the weekends is to read in the morning while the rest of my family is asleep. Sitting, watching the birds in my backyard and enjoying a pot of coffee of my very own has always been completely satisfying.

So, we’ll run to church today. I’ll make a big southern style breakfast of biscuits and sausage and gravy. We’ll get my son off to wrestling camp. I’ll do whatever else needs to be done…but in between all that, I’ll be reading Harry. And smiling.

Because the best news is that I’ve got at least thirty other books from RWA just waiting in line to be read next. No wonder my husband has been teasing me about my exceptionally good mood! So, anyone else reading a good book?