Saturday, March 28, 2009

Life Lists

Today my kids and I are taking my mom to see the King Tut exhibit that's visiting Atlanta. (My first grader is absurdly excited, partly because he watched all three Mummy movies with me this summer. I had to stress that there will be no actual mummies coming to life today--and, sigh, no Brendan Fraser either.) My mother says she remembers learning about Tut and the discovery of his tomb in grade school and has wanted to see this exhibit ever since, most of her life. This weekend isn't particularly good timing for her and this economy isn't particularly good for, well, anyone. But when I mentioned I could get tickets, she realized that if she didn't make time to go ahead and do it, she never would and it would be something she's always dreamed of that passed her by.

What do you dream of? I wanted to sell a book and be a mom I'm happy to say I've been blessed enough to do both! I also want to see the Grand Canyon, Australia and, maybe, one day sing in public (doing the Guitar Hero vocals for family and friends is as close as I've gotten). Items on the list can be small--I always wanted to try sushi because it sounded so exotic and sophisticated, but never did until I realized not ALL the rolls had raw fish in them--or huge. My parents backpacked across Europe in the early years of their marriage and while I'm not terribly rustic, I did at least want to go to Europe. My husband, who had never even been on a plane before we married, thought my goal of going to Europe sounded insane. To him, it was like saying I wanted to go to the moon. But that's before he got a job based out of Helsinki, Finland. He goes to Europe about three times a year! And one summer, I was lucky enough to go with him to Milan, Italy. (If you go, you must see the Cathedral) I still want--one day--to see Britain, the Louvre in Paris, and Scotland, the land of my ancestors. But it's amazing when I look back and see all that I have accomplished and enjoyed! I've swam with dolphins, I've been a RITA finalist, I tried a martini (which, blech), I've been a classroom mommy, I've seen Niagra falls, I've made people laugh, I've hiked through the Rockies (with no indoor plumbing! Another blech but totally worth it). This summer, I'll be seeing the Smithsonian/D.C. for the first time, and I can't wait!

So, what do you want to do? No matter how big or small, we all need things to look forward to and to look back on fondly.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Folks are curious about where we get our story ideas, and considering some of the books I’ve read that answer could range from funny, to interesting to Stephen King scary. I can’t speak for anyone else but for me the universe if fair game. Plot lines are as plentiful as TV waves – they’re omnipresent but invisible. For creative minds they’re there for the picking. But to be more specific, I find ideas in all sorts of situations – a snippet in the newspaper, a conversation in the grocery line or perhaps even a dream.

The inspiration for my first book (A Texas State of Mind) hit me while I was waiting at a gate in the San Antonio airport. Sitting across from me was a group of six older guys – typical Texans with John Deere hats and big belt buckles. Eavesdropping on their conversation I discovered that they made an annual poker playing trip to Las Vegas. Then I started thinking about casting them as villains, and that morphed into a group of killers who lived in a retirement community. I loved those characters. They did funky things, had affairs, participated in vigilante killings and escaped to Mexico.

My second book (Texas Born) had an even stranger origin. I was with a couple of friends at a catfish restaurant in lower Alabama (LA to the natives). It was obvious our waitress had a big time bug up her butt, so as writers we made up her back story. Before dessert was served we’d decided she’d killed her beer swilling boyfriend and dumped him in the swamp for alligator bait. That idea segued into the hunky sheriff finding bodies in the Aransas Wildlife Refuge in Texas where gators are more plentiful than people.

The plot for my February 2009 book (The Man She Married) came to me during a particularly arduous tennis lesson. Run, run, sweat, sweat, yada, yada, yada – can you say Simon Legree? Facetiously – yeah right – I told our teacher/coach that I was going to write a book and kill the tennis pro off in the second chapter. LOL
Actually, in that book he’s a stalker – but that’s close enough for fiction.

See how it works?

One of my very favorite dreams was the genesis for a plot that hasn’t been written. It’s a soul switch idea that has the “hottest” bathtub scene – whew! I’m saving that one for later.

And finally, the book I’m working on now had its beginnings in a reality show where bands were trying for a record contract. The winners were three brothers whose dad was tent revival minister. One the songs they did was a rock version of This Little Light of Mine – growing up as a Southern Baptist that was one of my favorites. In my book I changed it to three sisters.

So that’s how I do it. Does anyone have any stories they’d like to share?

Ann DeFee
The Man She Married, HAR, February 2009
Top Gun Dad, HAR, October 2009
2008 Book Buyer’s Best Award – Summer After Summer

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Congrats to Our RITA finalists

The RITA is Romance Writers of America's equivilant to the Oscar. Congrats to Cindi Myers and Linda Warrent for finaling in the Contemporary Series category. Winners will be announced at the national convention in Washington, D.C., this July.

The details:

The Right Mr. Wrong by Cindi Myers
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin American Romance (ISBN: 0373752032)
Wanda Ottewell, editor

Texas Heir by Linda Warren
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin American Romance (ISBN: 978-0-373-75230-0)
Kathleen Scheibling, editor

Winners of The Mad Writer's Tea Party Giveaways

Thank you all for making yesterday's tea party so much fun! And congratulations to the winners of the random drawing for giveaways. Click here to see the list of prizes, complete with photographs.

If Teapots Could Talk
Diane St. Jacques

polka dot mug & Murchie’s tea

mini tin of Angelwater
Theresa Ragan

mini tin of Philospher’s Brew

mini tin of Casablanca

Dragon Tears (shaped tea)
Terry Odell

Sacred Ember (shaped tea)
Gillian Layne

And as an added bonus, I'm tossing in a copy of my second book, With This Ring (ebook format).
The winner is Cheryl S.

Congratulatons to all of you!

Winners, please send your name and mailing address in an email to lee-at-leemckenzie-dot-com and I'll send your prize to you.


Until next time,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Mad Writer’s Tea Party—Let’s Have Tea!

A traditional English Afternoon Tea is one of my favorite indulgences. If you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy this little luxury, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Just forget about counting calories and fretting over carbs!

A pot of tea is, of course, a requirement, and might be served in a china or a silver pot, with milk and sugar. Some restaurants also offer a glass of sherry or wine.

The food, typically served on a two-tiered cake stand, consist of small sandwiches (cucumber, egg, salmon or ham are all common), scones served with butter, jam or fruit preserves and Devonshire cream, an assortment of pastries, such as small chocolate cakes, lemon or butter tarts and shortbread, and an assortment of fresh fruit. The fruit may be served in a nappy or arranged on the tiered stand.

This is me, about to indulge. And no, I did not eat all that food. That was tea for two, I so only ate half of what you see!

One of today’s giveaways is a copy of If Teapots Could Talk by Muriel Moffat.

This delightful little book looks at the history and etiquette of Afternoon Tea, and includes a chapter on Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, and some great recipes if you decide to make and serve your own tea.

Cucumber sandwiches are my favorite and, in my opinion, tea isn’t complete without them.

Cucumber Sandwiches

2 slices of white bread
English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Lightly spread butter and mayonnaise on one side of each slice of bread. Place slices of cucumber on one slice of the bread, and season with salt and pepper. Top with the second slice of bread. Trim off the crusts and cut the sandwich into four triangles or four rectangles.

Optional: The chef at the Empress adds a dash of horseradish to the mayonnaise, but this is not traditional.
I’m giving away some great prizes today. To be eligible to win one, simply post a comment. Winners will be announced tomorrow on The Writer Side of Life.

Ready for more tea? Please follow these links to a chat about tea parties on The Writer Side of Life, and some interesting tidbits about exotic teas on the Wet Noodle Posse blog.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Changes in Spending Habits

Our local news this past Saturday night ran one of those really quick little storys about what is selling more these days in our lagging economy. According to the newscasters, here are the top three items:

1) Condoms
2) Canned goods
3) Romance novels

Yay for number three!

I went online in search of more information on this and found an article on, Time Magazine's site. The article concurred that condoms (and female birth control) experienced the highest increase in sales the first two months of 2009 and that canned were second. No mention of a number three item or romance books. What's with that?!

The article also talked about what items had the worst drop in sales during the first two months of 2009, and those were:

1) Film and cameras
2) Sports and novelty cards
3) Magazines

This got me to thinking about what I've begun purchasing more and less of recently. I came up with my own lists:

Cathy's buying more:

1) Renting more movies at Blockbuster as opposed to going to the theater
2) Buying more Orville Redenbacher Butter microwave popcorn to go with the movies I'm renting
3) Generic brands at the grocery store (except for the popcorn - gotta have my Rendebacher)

Cathy's buying less:

1) Pantyhose - who needs 'em, they're hot anyway
2) Bottled water - I got one of those pitchers with the filter
3) Dog toys - no more trips to the pet warehouse store, the pooches are going to have to make do with my old shoes, which they were chewing up anyway.

So, what about you? What are you buying more and less of these days? I do hope romance books are on your "more" list.

Cathy McDavid

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Large Item Pick-Up

Every year, our church’s youth group sponsors a rummage sale. The weekend before the rummage sale is what’s known as Large Item Pick Up. That’s this weekend.

As far as events go, it’s not too complicated. People who want to donate furniture for the sale let the person in charge know, then teams of parents and kids go pick it up, load it into rented trucks, and haul it back to the church. Next weekend, all the stuff goes on sale and is hauled off by the buyers.

Since my son was in eighth grade, he’s always helped pick up stuff. It’s never been his favorite activity, and that’s putting it mildly. He’s got good reasons. It’s a yucky job. People donate file cabinets wedged in closets, fold-out couches stuck in basements, and exercise bikes stored in dusty garages. Office furniture, washing machines, and ugly easy chairs are all fair game for the pick up crew.

You can imagine the sore arms, legs, and backs and, well, grime that accompanies all the hauling around.

This year, my son announced that he had had enough of Large Item Pick-Up and that he didn’t want to do it anymore. His excuses were many. He already was working-if he carried furniture all Sunday, he’d really have no weekend. He's picked up furniture four years in a row-certainly the new eighth grade kids could pick up the slack.

Finally, there was the obvious. He’s a senior. He deserves a few perks. My husband and I didn’t blame him, but we were giving in, either. Which, of course, resulted in a lot of grumbling.

Then last weekend the inevitable happened. Take ten high school seniors. A sleepover, a bunch of cans and my son with a pocket knife at 3 am. Yep, he managed to come home last Saturday morning with a badly bandaged hand and a sheepish expression. The rest of the day involved four hours at the emergency room, one big tetanus shot and nine stitches in his palm.

That evening, his hand was swollen and hurting. My son was really bummed-the stitches had to stay in for ten days. But then, all the sudden, he began to perk up. He'd just realized that there was a very nice, bright silver lining! Being stupid and careless meant no lifting of furniture. No carrying around old treadmills. No spending Sunday in a UHaul. Nine stitches meant Large Item Pick Up Day would go on without him! My husband could hardly believe it.

I’m not really sure what this says, other than spring fever and senioritis have hit our family. However, I couldn't help but be amused when my husband left this morning with a scowl-while my son did his best to hide a very happy grin.

Until he heard that everyone not moving furniture today had to do laundry.

Hope everyone is having a nice weekend and that it’s been more relaxing than ours.