Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Kids around the world dream of a white Christmas – just ask Bing Crosby, Thomas Kinkade and Frosty the Snowman. It doesn’t get much better than sledding on your favorite hill, sipping hot chocolate and building a snow fort. And to that I’m tempted to say bah humbug – not that I’m a Scrooge, au contraire, I love the snow but this year we endured 12 days of frozen precipitation – snow, ice, and freezing rain. We shoveled, scraped and de-iced but that wasn’t the worst of it. When the white stuff falls in the Pacific Northwest absolutely everything comes to a standstill. Schools and businesses close, buildings collapse, busses don’t run, trains freeze up, airplanes are grounded and freeways are littered with abandoned cars. We had folks stranded at the airport, the bus terminal and the train station for days prior to Christmas. Oh wow - that has to be cabin fever on steroids.

But now - hip, hip hooray - we’re in the middle of a big thaw and life is returning to normal. Stores are packed and the traffic is a killer. All’s well in our little corner of the world. So the moral of this story is the next time I start talking about a white Christmas I think I’ll simply whack myself upside the head and buy a ticket to Maui.
Wishing you a wonderful New Year
Ann DeFee
The Man She Married, HAR, February 2009
Top Gun Dad, HAR, October 2009

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

We would all like to give you a big hug and a cyber chorus of We Wish You a Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.

Joy to all and may today be merry.

The authors of Harlequin American Romance

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Deck the Halls

It’s Christmas Eve! I love the holidays, and I so often find myself wishing that time—which is already a precious commodity—would slow down so I could enjoy the preparations and shopping even more than I already do.

I especially love to decorate for the holidays, even though I’m not particularly creative in that area. But by combining some natural greenery with everyday things I have in my home, I can decorate almost nook and cranny...on a shoestring!

Here’s a smattering of the things I use, starting with locally collected holly and cedar boughs, an assortment of cones, various glassware items, and a selection of floating candles.

I found this metal moose-and-tree sleigh at a Boxing Day sale several years ago. It’s quite plain looking until it has been lined with cedar and filled with cones and pillar candles. In this picture it’s on top of the china cabinet but I might also use it as centrepiece for one of our holiday meals.

This big sea-green bowl is lined with more cedar and filled with pears (the fake kind from the dollar store) and pine cones. I think there are some redwood cones in there, too, and when we decorate the tree later today, I might add a few colored glass balls.

I really love this combination. The footed glass bowl is from a secondhand store, and I use it year round for fruit, flowers, etc. Here it’s filled with water that floats holly leaves, holly berries and a floating candle. It might be hard to tell from the photo, but it's a green Christmas-tree-shaped candle.

Continuing with that theme, this cylindrical vase is also filled with water and holly branches and topped with a floating candle. This is a deep red beeswax candle. Could anything be simpler?

My daughter suggested using wine glasses as candle holders, and I think it’s a great idea! Right side up or upside down, they make fun tea light holders. Add a few sprigs of greenery and I’m done! This arrangement is on the window sill above the kitchen sink.

For me, Christmas is all about creative fun and a festive home filled with family. If I can accomplish that with relatively little fuss and bother, great. If I can do it on a shoestring budget, even better!

How do you decorate your home? Any last-minute tips for sprucing up the house?

Wishing you a happy, happy holiday!

Lee’s blog
Lee’s website

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Baby Who Came To The Meet

So, last Friday night, there I was-at a wrestling meet-doing my usual thing. Sitting with boys and my husband and the usual crowd of parents who have become friends after hours and hours of gymnasium sitting, concession duty, and pancake breakfast flipping.

I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been pretty melancholy lately. Our son is a senior and while there were many, many times over the years I ‘couldn’t wait for him to grow up’ now that he has- I’ve been feeling a little blue. He’ll be going to the University of Alabama next year. It's GREAT for him. It feels a little far for me.

Anyway, there I was, sitting and wincing as some kid’s nose started bleeding. (really, I never imagined myself watching such things!) when a girlfriend plopped a baby in my lap.

Yep. A baby!! And a baby girl, at that! She was tiny-just eight weeks old-and she was asleep and wrapped up in so many cozy layers that she looked like a pink and yellow penguin. She smelled sweet and cute, too!

That baby was kind of a 'surprise baby'. My girlfriend’s oldest had a baby a little unexpectedly early, you might say-and now she’s on grandparent duty a bit earlier than she ever imagined. For all of us wrestling moms and dads, that little thing was truly magical. See, for all of us there, it had been over a dozen years since even our youngest kids were hold-able.

Even my senior son smiled at the way I fussed with the little girl’s tiny foot, oohing at those tiny toes, then covering them up just so. And somehow I began that little rocking sway that had been dormant for fifteen years.

Now, suddenly, in between yelling for ‘pins’ and wincing at injuries, the whole crew of us were playing a delightful game of Pass The Sleeping Baby. What a joy that was! She was light! She molded to our bodies! She sucked that pacifier like nothing you ever saw!

Then the inevitable happened. She got tired of our fussing and woke up, stared at the strangers, and promptly let us know that a wrestling meet was not her thing. Not one bit.

We did what you might expect then. We passed that baby right back to her grandma.

Late that night I went to sleep thinking about that little girl, and about my daughter who’s almost sixteen. And, of course, I thought about my boy who now has been taller than me for a couple of years. Thinking about what a joy they are. What miracles they’ve been to me. How much happiness they’ve brought.

So, during this wonderful Christmas week, I hope that each of you has someone to hold on to, too. Even if just for a bit. In the end, family and friends are really all that matters. Merry Christmas, and God bless!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Author Interview: Victoria Chancellor

This interview is with Victoria Chancellor, who has written eleven books for Harlequin American Romance and nine books for other publishers. She resides in Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, with her husband of 37 years and a variety of pets. Her daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters live right next door! She wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

How did you make your first sale?
I’d been seriously writing for about a year when I attended a regional writers conference in Beaumont, Texas. Author Susan Wiggs was one of the judges, and she insisted that her editor, Carolyn Marino of Harper, take a look at my book. Luckily for me, Harper was launching a new women’s fiction line, and less than three weeks later, Carolyn bought my book on proposal to be part of the launch. That was a historical romance, All My Dreams.

How long have you been published?
I sold my first book in November, 1990, and it came out in November, 1992. By then I had sold a short contemporary on proposal to Meteor Publishing, which is no longer in business. I thought writing was pretty neat, so I quit my day job to write part time and work for my husband’s business part time. After my first two relatively easy sales, I didn’t sell another book for over a year!

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written eleven books for Harlequin American, three short contemporaries for other publishers, one historical romance, and five paranormal romances for Dorchester Love Spell. I must admit I really love paranormal romances, especially time travels. Unfortunately for me, they aren’t popular right now. My favorite book is probably Miracle of Love, the story of a struggling Irish immigrant who brings her dying baby into St. Mary’s Cathedral in Galveston, Texas in 1896 and prays for a miracle. Although I’m not Irish or Catholic, and I’ve never had such a trauma in my life, that character became extremely real to me. My father passed away while I was in the midst of writing this book, and somehow, his faith seemed to make the story stronger.

Why did you target the American Romance Line?
My good friend Judy Christenberry was writing for American, and I had read many Americans, especially the Heart Beat and More Than Men series. Although I knew they weren’t publishing paranormals any longer, I still liked the line. I submitted a proposal about a small town police chief who had been stood up at the altar twice to Melissa Jeglinski and she bought it.

What did you do career-wise before becoming an author?
I’ve done a little bit of everything except working as a waitress. (Believe me, you don’t want to trust me with a plate of food around demanding or obnoxious people!) I started working in fine jewelry at age 14, then got married and had a child. When I was younger and lighter, I even exercised horses at Churchill Downs. I worked in offices, military security, volunteered for political campaigns, and finally went to college when I was in my 30s. My degree is in Economics and Finance, and I had a career in financial systems and analysis at EDS before getting bit by the writing bug.

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
Neither, really. The inciting incident comes first. I see something and try to think about what characters would fit into that scenario, and then I try to think about what choices they would make. If it seems interesting, then I start doing character sketches. For example, in Miracle of Love, I saw a man startled awake by a baby crying in the living room of his secured, high rise condo. He sees a woman dressed in period clothing holding a crying child. That scene made me ask a lot of questions, such as why is the baby crying? How did the woman and child get into his condo? What’s he going to do next? Romance writers should always remember that the characters must drive the story, not the other way around. If things are happening to your hero and heroine rather than them influencing what happens, you’re on the wrong track.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Since I live next door to my granddaughters, I spend a lot of time with them. I also love to scrapbook; I take a lot of photographs. I work part time as the financial manager of my husband’s company. We sell and install school furniture, and we are extremely busy every summer. I love to travel, but don’t get to go as often as I’d like.

What is your writing routine?
When I’m on book deadline (i.e. I have a contract to complete a book by a certain date) I write four to seven pages each morning, then get dressed and go to the office in the afternoon. I’m not a morning person, so I don’t get started until nine or ten o’clock. Then after dinner, I write another four to seven pages, depending on my deadline. When I don’t have a contract to turn in a book at a particular date, I’m a complete lazy bones. It takes me longer to write a proposal than it does to finish a book!

If you were stranded on an island for a month and could bring three books along, what would they be?
I would bring Rachel Gibson’s The Trouble With Valentines Day, almost anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, but most likely Natural Born Charmer (or This Heart of Mine or Nobody’s Baby But Mine) and Anne Stuart’s HAR Heart Beat, Falling Angel.

What is your dream car?
I still have my 1978 Formula Firebird, which we ordered in 1978 and I never could make myself sell. However, I’m planning to put it on eBay soon. My whole life I’ve wanted a 1963 to 1967 Corvette, but I’ll probably be too old to climb in and out by the time I could afford one. Plus, the older I get, the more I think about safety – things like air bags and seat belts take on new significance.

Are you working on anything at the present you'd like to share?

I’m writing the proposal for the last book in the Brody’s Crossing series, tentatively titled Texan in Her Heart. It’s the story of what happened when Troy and Cal Crawford’s mother left them when they were teens. I knew all along that there was a good reason, but it didn’t come to me until a few months ago.

What are you reading now?
Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I re-read Anne Stuart’s Falling Angel. It’s a wonderful holiday story about redemption and love. If you can find a copy online or in a used book story, you should get it and read it. I know it’s a paranormal, but really, Harlequin should release that book again! Anne Stuart wrote many Harlequin American Romances, but that is my favorite. I hope to write a book someday that people will feel that strongly about.