Friday, February 06, 2009

Author Interview with Ann DeFee

Please welcome Ann DeFee author of eight Harlequin American Romances. Ann’s debut book was a double Rita finalist in 2006 and in 2008 she won a Book Buyer’s Best award.

How long have you been published?
My first book came out in July 2005 and with my February 2009 release that makes a grand total of eight. In addition I have Top Gun Dad slated for October 2009 and I’m working on a 2010 book.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Don’t get discouraged, keep learning your craft and submit. If you don’t send out your work it’s like wanting to win the lottery but not buying a ticket.

What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
Kidney pie at a B&B in Scotland. Or perhaps it was the mystery meat I had at a Samoan birthday party. I swear it looked like a pig leg, but that was debatable. Then there was the slimy stuff (it could have been fish or mammal, again not sure) I had at my son’s wedding reception in Copenhagen, Denmark.

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
Sometimes it’s the plot, sometimes it’s the characters. Honestly, it all seems to come out of the ether.

When you looked in the mirror this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
Wow! That hair would look right at home on Don King. It’s those curls, you know. They do whatever they want, whenever they want. LOL

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
Classics like Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird are my favorites. As you can see I’m partial to southern literature.

What are you reading now? I’m into my Rita submissions. This year it’s a case of the good, the not quite so good and the ugly. But, the nice thing about judging the Rita contest is that I read books I probably wouldn’t normally buy.

Do you re-read your books once they're in print?
Nope – I already know how they end. LOL

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
This is a shameless plug; my favorite (currently) is The Man She Married which is available in stores next week. You’ll love Maizie, the heroine. She’s been married twenty + years and her hubby’s spending way too much time watching sports, so she decides to make him jealous. Can you say “big oops.”

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?
I’ve had some very poignant and heartfelt letters. The readers make this all worthwhile.

Are you working on anything at the present you'd like to share? I’m working on The Glory Place, a story that takes place during two days of a revival preacher’s wake. It’s set in the Appalachians and features his daughter’s path to redemption.

Did you ever eat paste or Elmer's glue when you were a kid?
Are you kidding? I was more into Milky Ways and hot fudge sundaes.

What did you do career-wise before becoming an author? I’m a Certified Land Use Planner, and in that capacity I worked for a city managing real estate development projects.

What helps inspire you when you write? Do you have any ‘rituals’ (like music, candles, and a favorite scent) that helps you find your writing zone?
The thing that keeps me pecking at the keyboard is a deadline hovering over me like a vulture just waiting to pick my bones. Yew! Way too graphic.

What do you want to know about the future? This one is personal and very micro - when will I be able to sell my house? We’re in a real estate crisis, you know!

Can you taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke?
I could do that blindfolded.
If so, which do you prefer?

Have you ever made a crank phone call?
Haven’t we all? Don’t you remember the “is your refrigerator running” gag?

Who's you're personal hero--past or present?
As a group, I have to say our Founding Fathers. They had the courage of their convictions and they put their names on a document that would ensure the loss of their freedom and fortune if they ended up on the losing side. In my mind that takes incredible guts!

What is your dream car? That one’s easy – a black Porsche 911 Carrera.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be?
The Holy Lands. When I was kid (as a Southern Baptist) I was convinced the Holy Lands were at least the size of Siberia. I mean really, how could folks get lost for 40 years is a place that was no bigger than a medium sized Texas county? What’s wrong with asking directions?

If you were locked in a closet for one hour who would you want in there with you? A locksmith or a professional burglar – anyone who pick the darned thing.

If you were stranded on a deserted Island what kind of hero would you want with you--A Cowboy, a Viking Warrior, a CEO, a Forensics investigator, a Chef or an Accountant…and why?
I would actually prefer a survival specialist (did I mention that my husband was the Director of Operations for the Air Force Survival Schools? He’s even spent the night in a igloo he built) but since that wasn’t one of the options I think I’d go for a cowboy. At least he’d know how to build a fire and roast some little critters.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Don’t let this happen to you!

Last week, it happened. My Mac Cube up and died. There were no signs until instead of booting up, the little question mark flashed at me. I rebooted, with the same scary results. The kind techies at the Apple Store (who oohed and aahed over the Cube and that fact that I used it relentlessly for NINE years) tried to resurrect the hard drive. No luck. Disaster!

Luckily, I backed up a lot of stuff on my laptop–through October, 2008. No photos though, and none of the recipes I collect. My flash drive had my current wip on it—up to the day before the meltdown, when for some reason, I failed to back up. I lost some edits, but one day’s edits isn’t so bad. (Though I swear, they were the best edits ever!)

Using my 2008 income/expense spreadsheet from my laptop, I easily recreated the 2009 version. Same with my email and address book. Still lost a bunch of stuff, though, including e-fan mail and the neat online reviews and promo stuff I saved.

I know better!

On the positive side, I bought a brand new iMac. Macs no longer come fully loaded with Microsoft Office, so I purchased that and a faster, sleeker printer. All that, yet the combined cost was $1300 LESS than what I paid for the Cube and printer in 2000. Pretty cool. And my new 20-inch screen is heaven! Also, this computer is much, much faster. All to the good.

In the near future, I’ll be buying a portable hard drive. They’re tiny (about the size of my hand) and worth the cost.

Don’t do what I did–back up everything at least weekly! You'll be so glad you did.

Until later and wishing you a healthy computer and a good backup system,

Ooh, Baby!
March RT Top Pick!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The best of times, the worst of times...

I’m deep into the middle of revisions on the manuscript scheduled to become my third Harlequin American Romance. As many authors will no doubt tell you, this is both the best of times and the worst of times.

Best because we’ve got the story down on paper, the twists and turns plotted, the setting chosen, the characters brought to life.

Worst because now we have to “make it better.” To quote the members of one of my early critique groups, we must “take it home and fix it.”

This is when the struggle really begins!

We need to rewrite the book well enough to appease our internal critic/angel/mentor/mischievous child or whatever we may call the part of our subconscious that won’t allow us to rest until we’ve “fixed” everything in sight--and then some.

We need to please our editors, whose keen eyes, long memories, and years of experience make them our toughest critics and our greatest allies.

Most of all, we need to craft a story that will satisfy our loyal readers, who show their appreciation of our earlier works through cards and letters and e-mails and postings to message boards, as well as by spreading the word about our books to all their friends.

You see why I’m living the best of times and the worst of times, all wrapped into one? The pressure’s on! (smile)

Now you know what I’m going through, if you have any urge at all to send good thoughts my way, please do--I’m ready and eager to read them!

All my best to you,



Barbara White Daille

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Driver's Test

On Thursday, my daughter will turn sixteen. I’m letting her sleep in a little late, will take her out for pancakes, and then we'll make the thirty minute drive to the driver’s license bureau.

After she takes her driver’s test, I’ll shuttle her to school. From that point on, I have a feeling the rest of the day will either be all smiles and happiness, or filled with tears and angst.

Yes, the stress of the upcoming test has overshadowed everything else. I think she’s in good company.

Do you remember when you took your driver's test? I sure do. It was my dad's job to take us to the Texas Department of Public Safety. He was a busy guy, and I remember standing in line next to him in his suit, a bundle of nerves.

We waited in line for what seemed like forever. My dad, who believed girls looked their best in heels and dresses, sought to lighten the mood by teasing me about the highway patrol officers. See, there were four patrol officers there, two men and two women. One of the female officers never smiled at anyone. She was at least six feet tall. Blond and brawny. Tough. She looked exactly like the type of person you'd want to come to your rescue if you were getting mugged.

To my sixteen-year-old eyes, she looked like exactly the wrong person to sit next to when attempting to parallel park. My dad-never one to be accused of being politically correct-called her Ms. Big.

Finally, after standing in line for over an hour, my turn came up. I was directed to walk to my car, and to wait for the officer there. My dad walked me to my spot. Gave me a hug and wished me good luck. And then he looked at the officer and grimaced.

Yep, you guessed it. There was Ms. Big with a clipboard in her hands and a giant scowl on her face. I thought I was going to throw up.

We got in. I put on my seat belt. "Insurance?"

"Pardon me?"

She glared. "Insurance?"

That's when my throat went dry. I pointed to my dad, who was standing on the sidewalk in front of us, kind of giving me a thumb's up. "My dad has it."

That was the wrong answer. Ms. Big frowned. "It's supposed to be in here. With you."

And that's when she wrote me a ticket.

I am the only person I know who somehow managed to get ticketed during a driver's exam. After she signed the ticket with flair, she rolled down her window, signalled my dad over, and barked at him to hand over the insurance card.

Until that moment, I had never seen anybody order my dad around! To my shock, he pulled out his wallet, fished out the card, and handed it to her without a word.

Up went her window. Out went the next command. "Drive."

I did! And, somehow, I passed my driver's test. Twenty minutes later, I was walking back to my dad, holding two sheets of paper. One had my test score on it. The other was a fifty dollar ticket.

I sincerely hope my daughter's experience will be far less eventful. Or, maybe not. My dad and I laughed about that test for years. And, well, it is a pretty good story.

Anyone else recall their driver's exam?


Monday, February 02, 2009


CONGRATULATIONS Joey Hill! You’re the January winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Jackie Diamond, Shelley Galloway and Lisa Ruff through their Web sites.

To enter the contest simply leave a blog comment and your name will go into the drawing. Simple and painless. And FREE BOOKS.

So check back often and be sure to leave a comment. Good luck!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Go on ... lie to me

Some TV shows make me feel downright inadequate.

I don’t mean the ones with gorgeous young women whose professionally made-up faces and toned bodies set standards hardly anyone can match. Having written about TV and theater for The Associate Press in LA, I’ve seen how quickly the latest hottie can fade, and how life deals blows even to those who appear to live charmed lives.

They have my best wishes, not my envy. After all, I’ve been happily married for 30 years and have two great sons and an interesting career. That’s as much as anyone could ask.

No, it’s the whole Sherlock Holmes business that’s got me down. You know what I mean – the crime solvers with an almost magical gift for detection.

CSI isn't my problem. Those detectives have crime labs and gizmos aplenty. No one expects an ordinary person to match that.

But take the CBS series The Mentalist, whose protagonist draws brilliant conclusions from obscure evidence just like Sherlock used to do. As someone who’s written murder mysteries with twists on top of twists (as you’ll know if you’ve read my Harlequin Intrigues The Stolen Bride or And the Bride Vanishes), I feel as if I ought to be able to match Patrick Jane at least partway. But still the show fools me. (Well, sometimes.)

Things have gotten even worse with the new series Lie to Me on TNT. I don’t mean that it’s a bad series; quite the contrary. I’ve enjoyed the episodes so far. The thing is, the hero “reads” people. He knows whether they’re lying and dopes out complex and unexpected truths.

I’ve always had a knack for picking up emotions. At a social event, I can often tell from body language who’s been quarreling, who’s consumed by worry and who’s nursing a grudge. When someone tries to manipulate me, such as a salesman or a religious zealot, his tone of voice chafes my nerves. I can’t even hear what he’s saying, because his true intent rings so loud.

But this can’t-lie-to-me guy has it all down to a science. A character makes a statement, then folds his arms and steps back, and the hero points out that the fellow’s literally retreating from his position as if he doesn’t believe his own words. To reinforce the point, we’re shown newsreel footage of former President Nixon declaring “I am not a crook,” and then, yes, taking a step back and folding his arms. Right on target.

Yes, I knew (thanks to a seminar at a Romance Writers of America convention) that law-enforcement folks get trained to recognize certain telltale gestures and expressions, but I always figured I was a natural. Well, guess what? I may be a natural, but I’m not that good.

Still, it’s fun to enjoy TV’s fictional worlds in which heroes and heroines, with the help of scriptwriters, solve all the puzzles. I guess being a writer trumps being a detective, at least when it comes to sniffing out a happy ending.