Saturday, September 01, 2007

Standing up for a change

Authors are famous for sitting down. At our desks, with endless cups of coffee and the occasional doughnut or chocolate bar, typing away (rather messily) on our computer keys.

Occasionally we fire off letters or e-mails. The older I get (well past thirty-nine, thank you), the more outrage it takes to generate a protest from me. I’ve learned that a) if you aren’t careful, people misinterpret what you say and b) hardly anything ever changes, anyway.

Well, now I’m mad. Mad enough to stand up, tipping over a few cups of coffee with my usual klutziness, and possibly working off a chocolate bar or two in the process.

Here’s what happened. In addition to writing family-oriented love stories for Harlequin, I sold a paranormal romance to an ebook publisher called Triskelion, which went bankrupt. Okay, that means I lost whatever royalties they owed me. I can handle that.

Then I made a discovery that outraged me.

My contract contains a standard clause stating that, in the event of the publisher’s bankruptcy, all rights in the book revert to the author. That means I regain control over my own work, right?

Well, no. I discovered that federal bankruptcy courts routinely void these clauses. They contend that bankruptcies are adjudicated under federal law, while contracts are signed under state law, and federal law takes precedence.

In other words, a federal judge – not the publisher – intends to sell my rights and those of the other authors to the highest bidder. We don’t get that money; it goes to the secured creditors, most likely banks.

More importantly, the purchaser may be somebody I would never choose to do business with. He might rewrite my book and ruin it, or stick a pornographic cover on the front and advertise it on a porno site – with my name on it.

Sure, publishers aren’t supposed to behave that way. But what kind of clout do I have, when I never agreed to sign with this guy in the first place? He might not even be a legitimate publisher, just somebody looking to make a fast buck with Internet downloads. At the expense of my reputation.

Given the power held by federal judges, this situation can only be rectified by an act of Congress. So I’m asking everybody to write his or her senators and congressperson urging them to sponsor a bill barring bankruptcy judges from voiding these contract clauses for authors, illustrators and composers.

If you’re interested, just Google “find your U.S. senator” or “find your congressperson.” Our representatives maintain on-line message forms that are easy to fill out. If you’d like to borrow some formal wording, I’ve posted a statement on my website,

Glad I got that off my chest. Now I can paste my rear end to the desk chair where it belongs, and go back to writing my next book.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Spreading joy

This week I've gotten to be like Santa Claus. We had 3 seniors who forgot to order yearbooks and I was able to find extra copies to sell them. While I did have to charge them, senior yearbooks are so important and all 3 parents were grateful and thanked me more than necessary. I'm just glad I had those books--they contain the memories (and photos) you look back at 20 years later when you're about to go to the renunion.

A good book is also like that. I have a bunch on my keeper shelf that I revisit from time to time. They are the ones that motivated me to write (or to think I might be able to do it). They are the stories that stuck with me.

What about you? What's on your keeper shelf?


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A nice surprise

Have you ever seen the movie "Bowfinger"? Well, if you haven't, there's a scene where Steve Martin, a down-and-out screenwriter, talks about how he has this dream of someday seeing the Fed-Ex truck pull up in front of his house and deliver to him a big check from a producer.

My husband and I found that scene (in fact, the whole movie) hilarious, because of course we have similar dreams about big checks arriving from publishers. Whenever we see a Fed-Ex truck in our neighborhood heading up someone up a street that is not ours, we shout at it, "Wrong way! Our house is on the next block!" It's a very silly private joke between us.

Well, the other day a Fed-Ex truck did pull up in front of our house. And since neither of us was expecting anything, we were curious. It was a big box. But it was very lightweight, too light to be books or a manuscript. And it was from Harlequin. And I had just gotten a contract offer from Harlequin, but normally the checks arrive via my agent several weeks down the line.

Well, it turns out the box contained my 25-book pin. My long-awaited pin. My 25th book came out in 2000. I should have received the pin in 2003, the first year they started giving out pins, but somehow I fell through the cracks (probably because I write under two names). I've been begging for it ever since. Thanks to Don Lucey of Harlequin's public relations department for tracking it down and sending it to me with a very nice (but belated) congratulatory note.

Real Romance

I've been thinking about romance a lot lately (and not just because I had edits due yesterday on my March 08 HAR!) My husband and I celebrated our wedding annniversary this week--we took the kids out to dinner with us. Very romantic *g* We've been married nine years but together as a couple for several years beyond that. And this weekend, my step-brother and his very lovely fiancee will be getting married. They have a cute "meet" story worthy of any romance novel.

I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir here since I suspect most of you "get" the uplifting value of a good love story, but it always shocks me when people say they don't read romance because the books are unrealistic and don't paint the world the way it is. Let's pretend for a sec that I actually agreed with that (I don't)--what would be wrong about painting the world as it should be? People overcoming their differences to find trust, respect and compromise.

Romance novels are not about "too-perfect" people. My HAR Trouble in Tennessee featured a heroine who was, um, how shall I put this tactfully, a smart aleck with occasional self-sabotaging tendencies. Jennifer Crusie's contemporary novel Bet Me featured Min, a plump heroine who wasn't comfortable with her own body image. I just finished a historical romance this weekend by Elizabeth Hoyt (The Raven Prince) where the hero was considered "ugly" because his face was scarred from childhood small pox.

My retired aunt and uncle have been married since before I was born and they still flirt and steal away for romantic weekends--happy ever afters aren't just for fairy tales. Nor are happy endings reserved for romantic love. (One of my favorite five minutes of any movie is the opening sequence of Love, Actually where Hugh Grant does the voice over about standing in an airport watching old friends, reunited siblings, parents with their children, etc, and realizing love really IS all around us.) A friend of mine loves writing, but it can be hard to follow your dreams when publishing is a difficult and capricious business, full of bumps in the road. I'm proud to say that my friend persisted, as any worthy and determined heroine would, and today her wonderful novel, Garden Spells, is making its hardcover debut and will be excerpted in Readers' Digest in early September. I say, the world needs books that encourage love and following your dreams.

Viva la romance! Today, indulge your passion for something, whether it's finding time to dabble with those paints you put up in those closet, surprising your sweetie with a warmer than usual welcome home kiss at the end of the day, or making time to read a good book.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Where's my tiara?

Hey guys,
Do you have a tiara stuffed in your closet? I do, or at least I did until my granddaughter commmandeered it. Maybe all girls - young, old and in-between - harbor a secret desire to be a princess. That would explain the tiara phenomenon. This topic came up recently when my daughter's friend - the least likely person on the planet to own anything resembling a rhinestone - told us she'd been crowned Kick Ball Queen, complete with tiara and scepter. That was one for the books!

Maizie Carter, one of the characters in my Georgia series (Georgia on His Mind - August 2007 and Goin' Down to Georgia - March 2008) wears her Miss Peach Blossom tiara every chance she gets. Mama swears she'll be wearing it when she meets Saint Peter. She's one to talk, that woman wears pearls and a pill box hat to the Piggly Wiggly.

So the moral of this story is if you have a tiara, wear it with pride. And you might want to accessorize it with a little cleavage and something frou-frou - just for grins.


Ann DeFee
Georgia On His Mind - HAR - August 2007
Summer After Summer - Harlequin Everlasting Love - September 2007
The Perfect Tree - HAR Christmas Anthology - November 2007
Goin' Down to Georgia - HAR - March 2008

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lessons from bad television

Does anyone out there watch Amazing Grace? I do, but after what? four episodes? I’m not sure I’ll continue to tune in. The whole idea of the show, with Grace Anadarko a “fallen” human being and Earl, her guardian angel trying to help her clean up her act, sounded like a good and interesting premise. I like characters with deep flaws, and hoped the show would be as thought-provoking and well-written as Joan of Arcadia.

The writing is good—to a point. Warm-hearted, but terribly screwed-up Grace never seems to learn or grow from her experiences. She buries her problems with alcohol (she’s an alcoholic) and sleeps with a married man, as well as any other male who happens to be available when she needs someone to hold onto. Yet despite drunken nights she manages to show up at work every day and somehow perform very well as a cop. Not one of her peers seems to notice or care that she gets stinkin’ drunk every night.

When a father almost killed his son in one episode, did Grace learn anything? Not that viewers noticed. When her soon-to-die aunt confessed to sleeping with Grace’s father, did Grace learn or grow? Nope, she simply got drunk once again and slept with another officer.

If I wrote a book like that, where the sympathetic but self-destructive heroine never, ever changed, readers would toss it across the room and would never again pick up one of my novels.

I’m not saying, solve all the problems. I just want to see a little change and growth now and then. A little hope. I’m betting other viewers feel the same way.

I’m thinking that TV writers could take a lesson or two from us novelists.
Summer Lovin’ Anthology: A Reunion Story, June 2007
Mitch Takes A Wife, August 2007