Friday, May 30, 2008

School's Out/Summer's finally here

As I sit here and write this, school is just about out for the summer. At 11:25, the last bell will ring and the class of 2008 will be history. In my district, all the seniors always graduate the first Saturday of June.

My big summer plans are to write another novel for Harlequin American and turn it in by August 1, my deadline. I'm on page 70 something but turn into a full time writer on Wednesday, my first day without doctor appointments and that such.

I do have three workshops to attend, all related to teaching journalism. We might make two short trips to Batesville, IN, and Kansas City, but no big vacation plans.

I'm ready to write. After writing five books last year, this year I'm choosing to only do two and to space them out. I'm excited to be doing another "fall in love with the boss" corporate CEO book. Those are some of my favorites and already I'm having a lot of fun with Miranda and Chase and another quirky grandfather.

So what about you? As I say goodbye to my 21st year of teaching, what's up for you this summer? Any big plans? Any writing goals? Any reading goals?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fantasy, reality, or some of both?

As a romance writer who's been around the block, I've ended up writing a wide range of books and novellas, from the super-sweet traditional Silhouette Romance to the sexy Silhouette Desires and even one erotic short story (obscurely published under a pseudo-pseudonym--I'll never tell).

Harlequin Americans fall somewhere in the middle. The line calls for whatever level of sensuality is appropriate to the story, so a few of them are more "sweet" and some (like mine) are sexier. But every time I set out to write a love scene, I struggle with exactly how graphic I should be. As a reader I like a little more realism in a love scene. Let's face it, sex is funny sometimes, and sometimes it's disastrous. It's not always the perfect, fly-to-another-plane, mind-blowing, best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-a-person experience we romance writers tend to make it. Of course for Harlequin American I don't want too much realism, but is there such a thing as too much fantasy?

Take euphemisms. I know certain graphic words for body parts are taboo in this "Home & Hearth" line. But how many different ways can I come up with to describe an orgasm? I estimate that I have written somewhere close to 150 love scenes. In an effort to be fresh, to use something besides "her peak of desire" (whatever!) do I become laughable? I'm always trying to think of fresh but tasteful ways of describing the act of lovemaking, without getting too flowery or too obscure. The main thing is to get the emotions across, of course, because that's why women read romance. But for a woman, the physical sensations and emotions are usually wrapped up together, so I don't want to give those physical aspects short shrift.

Ah, what to do, what to do.

I was critiquing a chapter for my husband the other day. He is writing a thriller, so he doesn't have to conform to the stricter guidelines we Harlequin authors are used to. But when he came out and called the, er, male member exactly what it was, I nearly came unglued. "Ewwww! I don't want to read that!" I told him, and he just shook his head.

So what do you think, readers and writers? Do you want to close the bedroom door, or vicariously experience a love scene as pure fantasy, or see some semblance of realism? Or does it depend on your mood? Do you eagerly read love scenes, or just skim them?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dun Duh Dun DUH...Dun Duh Duh

Okay, you'll have to forgive the musical phonics--it's what my kids and I have been running around the house singing for, oh, the past month. I've mentioned before that one of the reasons I love writing for (and reading) Harlequin Americans is that we often get the chance to revisit characters and communities in follow-up books (such as I'll be doing in my 4 book "Mistletoe" series, shameless plug!or Cindi Myers did with her Crested Butte series and Holly Jacobs will be doing with her upcoming "American Dad" trilogy for HAR).

Anyway, with my predisposition for nostalgia and wanting to check in on beloved fictional characters, is it any surprise that I'm counting down the moments until my husband and I take our son to see Indy 4 this Saturday? I know, I know, Indy's a good bit older (as am I) but Harrison Ford has held up well. (Why can't we all age like him and, female counterpart in late-life gorgeousness, Helen Mirren?) I don't know that this will become my favorite Indiana Jones movie, but for me, part of the joy is reliving my own love for the character with my son. He's seen all three of the originals on DVD, but this will be his first Indiana experience on the big screen. My daughter, starting kindergarten in the fall, is too young in both age and temprament (she grosses out easily) to see the movie with us, but even she has caught Indy Excitement. I've been trying to write downstairs all week while two pairs of out-of-school kid feet tromp overhead. Shouts of "throw me the whip, no throw me the idol!" and "Snakes! I hate snakes" continue even after bedtime, when they become muttered to stuffed animals. Sadly, we only own one fedora, but we're working on that sharing concept.

I love sharing my lifelong interests with a new generation. The same applies with books, btw. Got a favorite story or character from your past? Have you shared it with a young person yet? It will be years before I let my daughter read some of the romance novels I've loved (or written!) but it was pure joy to read Judy Blume's Peter and Fudge books (with slight editing on the subject of Santa) to my kids and remember how much I laughed when I first heard the stories. We're just starting in on Chronicles of Narnia, but I may let narrator Jim Dale take over when it's time for Harry Potter. (The thought of reading thousands of pages aloud is daunting, especially with potential tongue-twisters like Severus Snape and Shrieking Shack.)

So what are some of your all-time favorite fictional people or animals?

Whatever your plans for the weekend, remember: the right hat and theme music can really make the adventure!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Matter of Style

Here’s a question – why are category books almost always written in the third person. Mysteries, especially those authored by women, are frequently done in the more personal first person style. Especially notable is Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Good old Stephanie has led us on a merry chase through the humor and mayhem of her life as a bounty hunter. And as for Joe Morelli – whew! Male mystery writers, on the other hand, seem to favor the more omniscient, story telling third person view.

And in another genre, Diana Gabaldon did a wonderful job with her Claire and Jamie stories. Using first person she was able to provide use with an incredible description of life in 18th century Scotland. Remember what I said for Joe Morelli – double ditto for Jamie Fraser.

Last September I did an Everlasting Love book (first person) titled Summer After Summer. I absolutely loved that story. Unfortunately only about thirty-three people read it (LOL), but that’s neither here nor there. RT wasn’t quite as enamored with Summer as I was but interestingly enough it’s a finalist in the Orange County RWA’s Book Buyer’s Best contest.

So as a reader what do you think – first person or third person?

Currently I’m working on a story that will include several vignettes or remembrances presented in different perspectives. My question is - have you ever read a book that’s primarily written in first person but intermittently segues into third person? If so, what is it, and how did you like it?

And when it comes to a matter of style, which do you prefer?

Ann DeFee

The Man She Married, HAR, February 2009

Georgia On His Mind, HAR, August 2007 – Virginia RWA’s Holt Merit Award in both Short Contemporary and Southern Theme.

Summer After Summer, Everlasting Love, Sept. 2007 – Orange County’s Book Buyer’s Best finalist.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The best-laid plans

I'm a bit late getting to post my blog today, but it's been that type of weekend. Memorial Day weekend for us usually includes what it does for many families -- get-togethers, cookouts, good times. Well, we did see family this weekend, and we did cook out, but we also spent time in the pediatric ward of the hospital. That wasn't part of the plans, but when we arrived at our destination we learned that our five-month-old nephew had been admitted to the hospital with bad bronchitis. Oh no, I thought, he's following in his big brother's footsteps. Big brother was hospitalized when he was one year old with pneumonia, though you'd never know it now. He has so much energy I feel like asking him if I can borrow some of it. :)

When we arrived at the hospital, my heart ached for the baby. He had the IV in the top of his head, but strangely that wasn't what bothered him. He hated the oxygen tube in his little nose and tried so hard to rip it out even though they had it taped to his face. And if you really wanted to see him upset, wait until they gave him one of the breathing treatments. He would scream and his little face would get so red.

But then there were other times when he seemed perfectly content to lay back and play with his newest toy, one of those things they place astride the baby so he can swat at all the fun stuff hanging down. His mom said that if he had to be in the hospital for more than three days, he at least deserved a new toy. I agree. And big brother was good at making little brother laugh and smile, which was good to see.

Before we hit the road this morning, we heard that the baby was going home today. He's still sick and still has to do those hated breathing treatments, but at least he can be home and so can his parents. And big brother can go home from grandpa's house. Relieved he didn't have pneumonia and that the whole family was going to be resting at home tonight, hubby and I headed back to our own home. I was driving down the road, halfway back, when I thought of this blog.

Hubby and I were talking over the weekend about how fortunate we all are now to have the medical resources to deal with things like bad bronchitis. A century ago, babies had a much more precarious grip on life. Things we knock out with a quick trip to the doctor now sometimes wiped out not only one child but entire families. I remember walking through older cemeteries and seeing the evidence of the flu pandemic of 1918. We often don't think twice about it these days, but I'm so thankful for childhood vaccines, antibiotics, medical research and the medical pioneers who made this all possible, who made it much more likely for children to live to adulthood.

I hope you and yours are safe and healthy as this American holiday weekend comes to a close.