Saturday, March 01, 2008

Can I get there from here?

After a week of frustrating attempts to check plane schedules and conduct related research, I wish to publish a poem of praise to travel agents and airline clerks.

Here it goes:

When your fingers click the keys,
You sure set my mind at ease.

That might not qualify for any awards, but it comes from the heart. Doesn’t that count for something?

This year, various family members are jetting off to destinations around the globe.
For reasons too complicated to detail, I – who hate organizing anything more complicated than ordering a take-out pizza – have been put in charge of trying to determine the following:

--how to get two unaccompanied college boys from their Athens hotel to the airport at a ridiculously early hour, when everybody knows college boys can’t be awakened before noon with anything less than a stick of dynamite.

--how to fly from Los Angeles to Shanghai by way of Nashville, Tennessee (don’t ask why. Your brain might explode).

--I am not making this up.

As you may have gathered, I completed my tasks only with the assistance of some very gifted, very patient travel professionals.

To them I say, thank you.

No wonder my next trilogy from Harlequin American begins in May with a book entitled The Family Next Door. Next year, that’s as far as I’m venturing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Welcome Back, Author

While I've written books set in various cities and states, like Ann, our blogger yesterday, I keep returning to the South. I live in Georgia, was born in Tennessee, and spent my childhood moving around a lot but always on this side of the Mason Dixon line. But I'm particularly attached to the setting of my upcoming March book (An Unlikely Mommy) because I'm returning to Joyous, Tennessee...which exists only in my head.

My first ever Harlequin American was Trouble in Tennessee, set in Joyous, and my editor and I both liked the town's female mechanic, Ronnie Carter, so much that we knew she had to have her own book. It was such fun to revisit her and the other characters from the earlier book! In fact, after selling twenty something books, I'm shocked that this is the first time I've ever followed up with a linked book (it certainly won't be the last.) Unlikely Mommy isn't really a sequel--the plots aren't attached and readers of the second one will have no trouble following it if they didn't read the first--it's more a reunion, dropping back into town to see what everyone's up to or, if this is your first visit, getting to meet the citizens of Joyous.

The reason I'm so surprised that I've never done this before is because, as a reader, I LOVE books that feature ongoing characters/settings, whether it's Harry and Hogwarts, Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum New Jersey adventures or fellow HAR author Cindi Myers' Crested Butte series. In high school, I read almost entirely historicals and it always gave me a thrill when a previous favorite couple by Julie Garwood or Judith McNaught got a cameo appearance. (Now, I'm reading JD Robb's futuristic In Death and love all the characters, right down to the cranky butler.) I've read thousands of cumulative pages in George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice & Fire series and penciled in the release dates of upcoming Eloisa James (a historical duchess series) and Shana Abe (a paranormal drakon seris).

What about you guys? What sagas/series have you enjoyed in books or movies? Was there ever a favorite secondary character you wished an author would revisit that hasn't got his or her own story yet?

Back to Dixie

I love to set my books in the South. Not only does that venue provide for wonderfully eccentric characters (usually based on someone real) there’s a colorful saying for every situation. Such as bless her heart, she can’t help it she’s fat as a tub o’lard. Or my favorite, he’s as cute as a speckled pup. It’s a treasure trove of rich language.

I grew up in a small south Texas town and as an Air Force wife I lived in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and the panhandle of Florida. Now we’re planning to add to our list of Dixie states. Friday we’re heading out for a marathon house hunting trip. The problem is we’re not quite sure what area we want to live in – so in ten days (including travel time) we’re meeting with realtors in two places in Maryland, three towns in North Carolina and one in the Tidewater of Virginia. Whew - it makes me tired just thinking about it.

So as soon as we sell our place in the Pacific Northwest we’re back to having grits at breakfast, hearing yes ma’am and no ma’am, and enjoying that wonderful Southern hospitality.

Wouldn’t you know it – I just heard they’re having record cold weather. And I was looking forward to short sleeves and Capri’s. LOL


Ann DeFee

Goin’ Down to Georgia – Harlequin American Romance – March 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

People and their stories

Most, if not all, writers have heard the question, "Where do you get your ideas?" The asking of that question is always a mystery to me. Story ideas are everywhere because people and their lives are everywhere. I'm currently on a road trip, and I drove through a state and a half yesterday. Part of the way through Arkansas, I wondered how many people I'd passed during the day -- not just on the road but in all the towns and cities through which I'd traveled. Each of them has a story -- dreams, desires, hurts, secrets, faults. Each has some aspect of his or her life that could spark a tale of fiction.

Now, I don't suggest lifting someone's life story wholesale, but just think of all the people you know or the people you see on the news or read about in the papers or magazines. A handful of those jumping off points might be the couple who adopts a little girl from China, the singleton who is enjoying her life until a tragic accident leaves her responsible for her nieces and nephews, the man who comes back from military service overseas to find his girlfriend hasn't waited for him. There are stories literally everywhere, and those of us who write have the wonderful job of taking a piece from there, a tidbit from there, and mixing in our own imaginations to create a completely new story, one we hope readers will enjoy. Seriously, what could be better than being paid to make up stories, something we've probably been doing since we were little kids.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Love Letters

There aren’t many things more special than a love letter. The only thing that might make it extra special would be a postmark from, oh, let’s say . . . the village of love. Love, Saskatchewan, that is. Population: 55.

Yes, it’s a real place, located on the Canadian prairie, about 225 kilometers northeast of Saskatoon. Just follow the signs.

You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the heart-shaped welcome sign that proclaims “You are now in Love.”

For years people have been making the trip to this small village so they could mail a special letter or a Valentine and have it postmarked from Love. As requests for this service began to increase, former postmistress Pauline McKinnon suggested to Canada Post that Love should have its very own cancellation stamp. She came up with a design and Canada Post agreed.

Visit the blog of wedding photographer Kirstie Tweed to see a photo of the postmark and to read a romantic little story about a bride and groom’s pre-wedding trip to Love.

Love’s current postmistress, Joanne Munroe, has kept up the tradition and she receives hundreds of requests every year. To have your Valentines, love letters or even your wedding invitations postmarked from Love, simply send them to the Love post office. The envelope can be pre-stamped if you have Canadian postage, or you can include an international reply coupon. Then mail them to:

The Postmistress
Love Post Office
Love, SK S0J 1P0

Thinking about making the trip yourself? Wondering what to do while you’re in Love?

If you plan to be there in February, you can take in the annual Valentine Winter Festival, beginning with a pancake breakfast, followed by competitions ranging from pillow fighting to trap setting, and ending with an evening cabaret at the community center. Just be prepared for winter weather on the Canadian prairie!

At any time of year you can stop for coffee at Cupid’s CafĂ© or shop for gifts and antiques at The Love Barn.

And of course you’ll want to stop by the post office and mail that special letter. From Love. With love.