Saturday, September 27, 2008

Patrician or Plebian

Are you a plebian or a patrician? Susan Wiggs recently did a newletter article in which she asked what do you really read – Gravity’s Rainbow or Nora. And what do you really watch – Planet Earth or Project Runway. Would your answer reflect who you really are or who you think you should be – and is that a commoner, an aristocrat or a combination?

So here’s my dirty little secret. I’m a fan of Ice Road Truckers. That’s the History Channel’s Canadian version of CB Charlie and his eighteen-wheeler. The plot - what little there is - revolves around the trials and tribulations of delivering massive equipment across the frozen Arctic sea. It’s not exactly Emmy winning, so why do I watch it? Because it’s mindless? Or perhaps it’s that plebian gene popping up.

On the patrician side of my personality, I have an extensive collection of fine European/English porcelain and china. My husband claims I’ve never met a plate I didn’t want to take home with me. In fact, I can serve 75 of my favorite friends on Spode, Royal Doulton, Minton, Villeroy & Boch and Heinrich. That doesn’t sound quite like Ice Road Trucker fan, huh? Add that to the fact I have some antiques that date back to when good old George was king and I suppose I can tote those up on the patrician side of the ledger.

So how about those plebe credentials? Considering I spent more time in the hallowed halls of academia than a sane person should, it’s ironic that I have more than my share of common proclivities. Here are some you might recognize.

I love football. There’s nothing quite like a crisp autumn day and the pageantry and excitement of the gridiron – not to mention the uniforms and the athletes wearing them – whew! Then there’s the matter of movies. Just the thought of an angst filled drama with Portuguese subtitles makes my eyes water. Give me a romantic comedy or a rompin’, stompin’ shoot ‘em up any day of the week. And I will freely admit this – I can recite lines from Monty Python. How about music? As a kid I studied Rimsky-Korsakov, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. Now I groove to Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and Trace Adkins. How about a Honky-tonk, badoink, badoink?

And then there’s the matter of my ancestors. Keep in mind I’m a fourth generation Texan and we’re tough folks. Several years ago I discovered my great grandfather’s Confederate pension application. Seems the old boy had $25 and a cow. My sister and I think that’s a hoot. Either he was telling the truth and he was poor as a church mouse, or he was doing the 19th century version of fraud. Personally, I think it was the latter, but either way he wasn’t exactly landed gentry. I had another great grandfather who donned his bandoleer and rode with Pancho Villa.

Don’t you just love those disreputable ancestors?

So regardless of the fact I learned the correct fork to use before I was in kindergarten, I’m probably a plebe at heart – and proud of it. How about you and what do you really enjoy reading?

Ann DeFee
Goin' Down to Georgia, Harlequin American Romance, March 2008
The Man She Married, Harlequin American Romance, February 2009
Top Gun Dad, Harlequin American Romance, TBA

Winner of the 2008 Book Buyer's Best Award in the Long Contemporary category.

Friday, September 26, 2008

American newbie Trish Milburn

It's my turn at the Harlequin American newbie interview. I'm one of the newest authors for the line. My first book, A Firefighter in the Family, just came out this month, and I'm enjoying the exciting yet surreal experience.

1) How did you make your first sale?

I had written seriously for 11 years and completed 17 full manuscripts and some partials before I sold in July 2007. So it was the height of irony that when I sold my first book (which was actually my first young adult title that comes out next April), it was on a book that wasn't finished. My editor approached my agent because she'd read some of my material while she was at another publisher. She asked me to present them with some ideas, and then a chapter that met certain specifications. Yep, I wrote 17 full manuscripts and then sold on a chapter. Three months later, I realized a long-held dream by selling to Harlequin and becoming an American author. 2007 was an awesome year! :)

2) If you had to pick one word to describe your writing, what would it be?


3) Tell us about your book.

Miranda “Randi” Cooke left her family and her hometown on the Gulf Coast of Florida behind when a mistake she made as a firefighter led to tragedy. Now her job with the state fire marshal’s office has brought her back to Horizon Beach. Not only will she have to hunt down an arsonist, but she’ll also face the estrangement from her family and have to decide if she wants to give her love for former firefighter Zac Parker a second chance.

4) If you could be lazy for an entire day what would you do?

Sit under a big umbrella on the beach on the Gulf Coast reading and listening to the waves.

5) What is one thing scientists should invent?

Something that records our dreams as we're dreaming so we don't lose all those interesting story ideas and so-real emotions.

6) What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I'm a big fan of movies and several TV shows. I also love to take road trips and go hiking.

7) If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?

The end of hatred.

8) What inspired you to write your first book?

I was a long-time reader of historical romances, so the first manuscript I wrote was a western set on the Oregon Trail. It's the only historical I've written, but I enjoyed telling a story set in an exciting time in American history.

9) How long have you been writing?

I began writing that historical while I was in college back in the early '90s, but I got serious about regular writing and submitting in 1996.

10) What did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer. Shocking, I know. It first took the form of a career in journalism.

11) What got you interested in writing?

It was something I always enjoyed in school. I still have the first "book" I wrote in the 5th grade. So, the interest was there very early on.

12) What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?

How does it feel to be a New York Times bestseller? LOL. :)

13) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your

It's amazing what accelerant detection canines (dogs that search for points of ignition in fires and evidence of accelerants such as gasoline) can do in aiding officials solve arsons.

14) What's a saying you use a lot?

"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." -- Seneca

15) What's your favorite dessert?

Oh, I have so many. Chocolate cake, carrot cake, lemon pie, and Chocolate Extreme Blizzards from Dairy Queen. Oh, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

16) Do you have any talents readers might find interesting?

Alas, no.

17) What were you doing at midnight last night?

Trying to go to sleep after reading Linda Warren's Texas Heir. I turned out the light at 11:57 p.m.

18) Are you a cat or dog person?

I like both, but I lean more toward dogs.

19) If someone gave you a million dollars what would you do with the money?

I'd buy my parents a house, my sister a house, and pay off our house. Then I'd buy a hybrid car and do a big road trip of the U.S. Then save the rest.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I love the acronym kids use today. My friends and I didn’t use it when we were in high school—you know, back in the dark ages before computers and cell phones—but we were BFFs. Still are, actually. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of getting together with a group of high school friends for Sunday Brunch, and it was just like old times.

The occasion? One of our group has been living in Italy for more than thirty years and she was in town for her niece’s wedding.

Thirty years? you ask.


I’ve actually known them much longer than that. I met them in 1969, so yeah, we’ve been gal pals for nearly forty years.

Today we're five very different women with different careers and lifestyles.

(l. to r.) Annina, Domenica, Vilma, Ligia, Lee

Some of us are married, some are not. Some of us have children, and one of us is a grandmother. After all these years, what keeps our friendship so strong? If I told you that’s a secret, it wouldn’t be far from the truth.

Together we went through all the things teenagers go through—first boyfriends, first kisses, getting grounded for missing curfew, obsessing over clothes, learning to drive, sharing confidences. At the time we didn’t know those experiences would create a bond that would last a lifetime, but we’re all so glad they did. And if we were meeting now for the first time, I’d like to think we’d still become friends. Best friends. Forever.

Until next time,

Better the Second Time Around

I'm soooo happy to say I've finished another book (my 15th, this number still amazes me), have printed it out and shipped it off to my editor.

I'm soooo happy because, after ten straight days of editing, revising, and rereading, I'm pretty tired of the book. Don't hate it, just am sick of reading it...and reading it...and reading it.

I got to thinking today that between editing, revisions, line edits and AA's, I probably read my own books about 8 times. Uck! I can honestly say I've never read any other book IN THE WORLD more than twice and those books are few, not counting the favorites I read or had read to me a child. Which made me ask myself what books those were and if I could remember them.

The first book I ever read twice (as an adult or young adult) was one by Grace Livingston Hill who wrote very sweet romances suitable for readers of all ages. I was about twelve at the time, and the book was my first ever romance. Clearly the event that started me on my current path. The next book I read twice was a coming of age story about a group of eight-graders in Chicago during the forties. When I was a junior in high school, I read Gone With the Wind and then again when I was a senior.

I didn't read a book twice for many, many, many (cough, cough) years later, and that was by mistake. It was Mary Higgins Clark's book, 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart'. Now, no offense to Ms. Clark, but some of her books have similar titles and similar plots. I was about a third into the book before I was sure I'd read it before and finished only because I was on vacation, had nothing else to read, and the book was light and easy.

The last book I re-read was recently. It was Sandra Brown's 'Slow Heat in Heaven'. I loved this book when it first came out, and Sandra Brown still remains one of my favorite authors. I recently received an autographed copy of 'Slow Heat in Heaven' and decided to re-read the book for old time's sake. And despite being a bit dated, I loved it as much ever.

Which, of course, leads me to ask, do you ever read books twice and if so, which ones and why?

Cathy Mc

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Last week, the strangest thing happened. All of us in the Cincinnati area got plummeled by Hurricane Ike winds. At two o’clock on Sunday, while I was merrily checking out at Wal*Mart, a burst of wind hit the super center, everything flickered, then went dark. I got sent home without all the stuff I just spent an hour choosing. (don’t you hate stuff like that?)

When I got home, the power was out, too. None of us was too upset-after all, it was a beautiful day, just really windy! But then reality hit. Everyone’s power was out. Power lines were down. Trees and tree limbs were blocking roads. Our whole area was dark.

We were without power for four days.

Now, everyone was very aware of just how tough everyone in Texas is having things-so no one really wanted to complain. At first it was kind of fun. We had no school-which meant we didn’t have to get up at six am.

The kids and I played hours of Yahtzee and Hearts. I learned to almost like spaghetti-o’s. And, it was a real blessing to have all the windows open and not worry about it being too hot. I read three books-one by flashlight.

But by Wednesday, I’m afraid all my “Mary Sunshine” demeanor had faded to a dark, simmering irritation. I wanted to watch The Closer, I wanted my email back, and I was getting tired of boiling water on my grill. Throwing out every single thing in our refrigerator and freezer didn’t help my disposition either.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Starbucks opened for business. My husband also returned home. (somehow he always manages to miss storms, power outages, and emergency vet visits) After spending an hour drinking lattes and reading email, we met the kids back at home-

-Just in time to witness the power miraculously turn back on. Hooray! Before I knew it, things went back to normal. Everyone went to separate rooms. On went computers and televisions and stereos. Four days’ worth of clothes needed to be washed. Dishes needed to be cleaned, and an empty refrigerator needed to be filled.
Suddenly, those lazy days of being power-less were starting to not be so bad, after all. : )

Does anyone have a story to share about being without power?