Saturday, August 30, 2008

We're Celebrating!

Harlequin American Romance celebrates 25 years of publication this year, and we're taking the months of September and October to bring you some very special blogs intermixed in with our regular author blogs.

Not only do we have some great interviews with authors currently writing for Harlequin American, but we'll also be bringing you Q & As and anecdotes from best selling authors who got their single title careers started by writing for American. As to who, well that's a surprise...our present to you.

We'll also be featuring the line's current editors who will give insight into the the world behind the books. Sept. 6 will feature endearing and enduring themes in American Romance and Oct. 6 will showcase a look into Harlequin American covers.

Be sure to pop in often and spread the word. The party's here!


Friday, August 29, 2008

What makes a house a home?

You already know the answer, but I had to be reminded of it recently.

My husband and I are thinking about moving across the country from Texas to California. Finally we're at a stage in our lives where we can swing it. We have no jobs tying us down, no kids in school, and the finances are lining up.

I've been alternately excited and terrified by the prospect of moving. It's a lot of work, and it's sure to be a financial strain. But until yesterday, I hadn't realized how emotionally taxing it will be to sell a house I've been renovating for ten years. When the Realtor suggested I paint my living room (it's currently red) I came unglued. Over my dead body will someone paint my red living room. Does she have any idea how long it took me to choose that color? How hard I worked patching the walls? The yards of masking tape involved? Never mind the agony of the actual painting, up and down that freaking ladder a hundred times.

After the Realtor left, I just stood in my beautiful living room, the only room in the house that's really perfect, and I boo-hoo'd like a baby. How could anyone not love it just as it is? What if the new owners rip down my window treatments and paint the walls white?

Will the house feel abandoned? Will it think I didn't love it enough? (It's all Warner Brothers fault I personify houses. Anybody ever see that lovely cartoon about a house ... oh, never mind.)

But then I had to laugh at myself. What is a house, anyway, but a collection of sticks and bricks and plaster? It's the people inside the house and the love among them that make a home special, and those I'll take with me. I'll still have all my special things (although the Realtor had the audacity to suggest my egg cup collection is too cluttery). I'll always have fond memories of this house, this neighborhood. But whatever new house I end up with, it will soon become my beloved home. (I hope I won't have to spend ten years renovating it, though!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Importance of Names: Stuffed Animal Edition

I was just blogging about a potentially embarrassing word faux pas of mine, and now I have my five year old to thank for embarrassing me through her word choice. Although it really wasn't her fault!

Authors have blogged on this site before about naming books and the big decisions of picking just the right character name. Well, my daughter takes naming her three zillion stuffed animals VERY seriously. She went through a surrealist phase of stringing together words and sounds that had nothing to do with the animal in question (a floppy purple unicorn is named BucklePeanut). Then there was giving them all little girl names like Cindy, Carly, Kelly--listening to her talk to them at night, it sounded like she had her own cheerleading squad in her room. Currently, she's in a very LITERAL phase. A cat named Kitty, a duck in a giant flowered hat named Hat, a frog with a polka dot tie named Polka-y, even though Dotty would be way easier to say.

And her new stuffed triceratops dinosaur. She introduced her to a woman in the checkout line as, "my friend Horny." You should have SEEN the "what kind of mother are you?" look I got.

My September release from Harlequin American Romance is A DAD FOR HER TWINS and features a single mother with a son and daughter. My editor particularly loved this book and noted that I "write children really well." Maybe because I have so much material to work with!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Murphy's Law

I’m not quite sure who Murphy is but he can take his law and – oh well, you know. Anyway have you ever had a week, a month, a year where everything (and I do mean everything) went kaput, belly-up, AWOL or defunct? That’s how it’s been for the past two months around the DeFee household.

On a cataclysmic scale our run of bad luck barely rates a blip, but man oh man, has it ever been annoying. So if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll vent – just a touch.

It all started during the last week of July with a sewer back-up. Okay – that’s a little stinky but not all that terrible - $160.
That was followed by a dead (rigor mortis) car battery. Again, that was more inconvenient than disastrous - $83.
The coup de grace for July was that my twelve-year old dishwasher leaked all over the hardwood floors. Considering our house in on the market – and the real estate market is definitely stinky – we decided it was prudent to buy a new one - $538 including tax.

The money bleeding has just begun.

August started with all the hope of a new day and a new month. Little did I know it was going to get worse. That was when my two-year old front loading, electronic genius washing machine decided to give up the ghost. Then after the replacement of a $290 tachometer motor, with no discernible improvement, the repairman conceded defeat. He said he could put in a new computer ($300+) but he couldn’t guarantee it would fix the problem – new washing machine $1,000.

Now we’re hemorrhaging money.

Concurrently some twit sent me a virus that got through my anti-virus detector. My computer/e-mail was down almost a week before I ferreted out our version of the geek squad - $89.
Did I mention I missed a stair, landed on my derriere and dropped my new Dell laptop cracking the case?

And now for adding insult to injury – and you’re going to have a hard time believing this one. Last week I was at my daughter’s house in Pennsylvania and instead of going over weight on my suitcase I mailed myself a box of stuff (USPS priority, flat rate). When it came yesterday the box looked like it had been run over by a truck and had a sticker on it stating it had been resealed at the Seattle bulk mailing room. Guess what – someone in that mail room took my one and only pair of Kenneth Cole, size eight, favorite sandals home with them. They took my shoes!!!

Enough griping – deep breath. Breathing is a good exercise. There, that’s better. So if you happen to run into Murphy whack him upside the head for me. LOL Have a great rest of the month. Personally, I’m waiting to see what happens next. Oops, I hear something furry or feathery walking around on my metal roof. Never mind – I’m going to think positive thoughts – that and go down to do the piles of laundry in my new machine.


The Man She Married, HAR, February 2009
Top Gun Dad, HAR, TBA

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympic emotions

Emotional highs and lows are a part of every romance novel. We go on an emotional roller coaster ride each time we read of a hero and heroine's journey toward their happily ever after. I love the stories of triumph over whatever odds and conflicts stand in their way. Maybe that's the same reason I love the Olympics and have really enjoyed the past two weeks.

Okay, so I'm already a sports fan, but there are a lot of sporting events on every day that I don't watch. It's the unique venue of the Olympics, how athletes from all over the globe train for years, sacrificing a great deal along the way for their shot at that gold medal and the opportunity to represent their country. The tales of personal triumph have made me smile, jump up and down, pump my fist while yelling, "Yes!", and they've made me cry. Some of the memories I've taken away from these Olympics:

1. The incredible run of Michael Phelps to become the greatest Olympian ever. I found myself getting more and more nervous with every race he swam. When Jason Lezak outswam France's Alain Bernard in the anchor leg of the first relay, I literally couldn't stay in my seat. My phone rang during that last leg, and there was no way I was answering it. I still have no idea who called. And when that final relay team ensured Michael's place in Olympic history...just wow.

2. Usain Bolt might have been the story of the track, but it was David Neville's dive for the finish line to get third in the 400m that is more memorable to me. That's what you call sacrificing yourself for your dream, risking injury to get not the gold but the bronze.

3. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh's amazing beach volleyball play and how incredibly happy they were to win. And all the while, they seemed like really nice, humble gals.

4. The opening ceremonies. They are often grand, but this year's took grand to an entirely different level. Sure, China has the people to do it -- about 1/5 of the world's population -- but they were still a feast for the eyes.

5. How Australia's Matthew Mitcham withstood the pressure and knowledge that China had won every single diving event at the Games and did one fantastic dive after another to win gold in the men's platform, the last diving event of the Games. It was the only diving event China didn't win. And he was so emotional when he won. I felt how much it meant to him.

6. Of course I was thrilled when Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson and other U.S. gymnasts won medals, but it was the story of Oksana Chusovitina of Germany (originally from Uzbekistan) that really hit me. The reason she's competing for Germany is because her young son had cancer and there were no facilities to treat him in Uzbekistan. She called a friend, a gymnastics coach in Germany, for help. Now she competes for that coach and Germany, and at 33 years of age at the Beijing Games, she was more than twice the age of many of her competitors. Still, she won the silver medal on vault.

7. Speaking of older athletes, I was also enthralled by Dara Torres and her fantastic physical condition and speed at age 41. She not only was fast but a wonderful role model for younger swimmers and a triple silver medalist.

8. Perhaps my biggest teary moment was just a short clip they ran of Germany's Matthias Steiner, the weightlifter who won the gold medal in the heaviest division, as he was on the medal stand. He held up not only his medal but also a photo of his wife, Susann, who died in a car accident last year. He said, “I thought of her before the competition. I won this for her, for friends and family. But mostly for her.” Tears are pooling in my eyes as I write about this days later. That's the kind of love we write about, only we have the luxury of giving our characters happy endings.

There are other stories, of course, ones of courage and happiness and firsts -- all filled with emotions we as writers can tap into when we create our stories. The types of emotions readers expect when they pick up one of our books.

What were some of your favorite moments of the Beijing Games? Any stories that touched your heart or made you jump up and cheer?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Unrequited Love

Earlier this month I took the train to San Francisco for the Romance Writers of America’s annual conference. I love the train. It’s a laid back and relaxing way to travel, and I always meet the most interesting people.

At dinnertime on the trip home, I was seated in the dining car with a man from the UK. He was nearing the end of a seven-week trip around the world and had just spent a few days in San Francisco, celebrating a friend’s 60th birthday.

We chatted about various things and eventually the conversation turned to our occupations. He told me he works for a marine salvage company. I told him I was a romance author.

He smiled at that and said, “I have an interesting story to tell you about romance.”

I get this a lot. People offer to share personal stories because they feel they’d make great books. What they don’t seem to realize is that it would be almost impossible for me to capture the emotional connection they have with their stories. Still, out of politeness, I listened while this man told me his.

Forty years ago he had dated a young woman and fell madly in love with her. He had to go sea for several months and when he returned, she broke the bad news—she was seeing someone else.

He was devastated, and he never saw her again. Not until he attended his best friend’s birthday party. The woman he’d fallen in love with all those years ago was his best friend’s twin sister. Yes, the same friend who had just celebrated his sixtieth birthday, which meant it was also the old girlfriend’s birthday, and yes, she was at the party in San Francisco, along with her husband of thirty-five years.

My dinner companion’s his face flushed red as he looked down at his plate and confessed, “After all those years, I discovered I still have feelings for her. Deep feelings.”

At that point I knew he wasn’t telling me this because he thought his story would make a great book. He was sharing the details because he had to, because it was all still so new and he hadn’t had a chance to talk about it with anyone, and because he assumed that a romance author would be a sympathetic listener.

I asked if he told her how he felt.

That question shocked him a little. “No!” he said. “It wouldn’t have been appropriate.”

I’m sure it wouldn’t have been. And although he had done the honorable and truly heroic thing, it was obvious that he’d considered the alternative, and perhaps regretted his decision.

Our conversation soon shifted to other topics, but after dinner I found myself thinking that his story of unrequited love just might make a great book after all. But would it be okay to rewrite history? I'd definitely want to write a happy ending for this particular hero.

Until next time,