Friday, May 22, 2015

Wild Wedding Cakes for a Western Wedding


She’d only crossed a few yards of lawn before she heard a grunting noise, coming from the edge of the pines to her right. She turned, eyes widening at the sight of the miniature donkey, nibbling on the dry grass, tail swishing, looking completely at home.  He lifted his head and met her eyes with his big dark ones, and his ears pricked forward in curiosity.
“Oh no,” Mandy breathed in horror, taking a careful step back.  The donkey took a few steps toward her.  “No!” she called out.  “Shoo!”
But the donkey evidently hadn’t been trained in those commands, or maybe the huge cake in her hands looked far too interesting to resist, because he broke into a jaunty trot and headed her way. 
“Go away!”  Mandy shouted and took another step back, stomach lurching as the heel of her boot caught on the raised root of a pine tree and she staggered backward, clutching the tray in desperation as the cake careened to the side. 

This scene is from a new book I’m working on, and I've had a lot of fun writing it. The heroine, Mandy,  has made her sister’s wedding cake, and it's a work of art.  She’s carrying it across the lawn to the reception, which is going on in one of their barns, when a miniature donkey that she’s rescued gets in her way.  She falls. The hero, Arch, comes out of nowhere and catches the cake.  And off we go on into what I think will be an extremely romantic story!

Before I wrote the scene, I imagined the wedding cake.  The bride and groom are both cattle ranchers, so I decided that the bottom layer would be coated in images of cattle drawn in icing.  On the second layer there would be pictures of horses and mountains because the couple loves to ride in the mountains that surround their town.  And the top layer would be covered in hearts and flowers to represent their love.  Frosting around the edge of each layer would be shaped to look like little horseshoes, for good luck.  And two pairs of cowboy boots, made from hardened sugar, would grace the top. 

And then I thought, does anyone really make cakes like this?

So of course, I Googled.  I typed in cowboy wedding cakes and clicked on images and oh my goodness, the creations that appeared on my screen far surpassed my writerly imaginings!  Here’s the link, so you can see what I came up with.  


And here are a few of my favorite images. I thought the boots and hats were adorable on this one, though it isn't the cake I imagined for my book.



 And this one has sides made to look like saddle leather!


 I love this next one.  It looks like someone painted with chocolate!   When I found it I thought that, while it wasn't exactly what I'd pictured,  Mandy's cake could look something like it.


And then I found this photo.  And it was the closest to what I'd pictured.  Not the horses and cherubs, but the way the icing is used to make the pictures.  So this, to me, feels closest to the cake that Mandy drops and Arch catches.



Aren’t these wonderful?  I’m not a baker, in fact I’m pretty hopeless in the kitchen in general, so these all seem magical to me. 

And now I have some questions for you all.  Have you ever created a really creative cake?  Or attended a wedding where there was a cake like one of these?  

 I’d love to hear about it because I’m fascinated by these elaborate cakes! So fascinated that I added a bunch of cakes to my Pinterest Page.

Oh, and the book with the donkey and the wedding cake?  It’s currently titled The Rancher’s Freedom and it's going to be published in the fall of 2016.  It’s the third in a series - there are two other connected books coming out prior to it, both in early 2016.  I’m so excited about this new series, and very challenged by the complicated characters! 

 I’ll keep you posted on my progress. But for now, thanks so much for joining me on the SuperAuthor’s Blog today!  I wish we could all sit down for a slice of delicious cake together.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Coming Attractions

Kris Fletcher


Indulge me today, folks. I want to share two upcoming events with you, one personal, one professional, both with the ability to change lives.

First up is the personal event. Throughout the month of June, I will be celebrating the release of A Family Come True by running a fundraiser – Authors and Readers for Kids, or ARK – to benefit the Alliance for Children Foundation. The details are on my website, but the long and short of it is that generous folks who make a donation to the Foundation will be eligible to win prizes given by amazing authors.

Why am I doing this? Because two of my kids, my girls, came to our family though the work of the Foundations's sister organization, the Alliance for Children. We visited the social welfare institute in China that housed our oldest daughter for her first year. We made many many visits to the Baby Home in Russia where our second daughter spent the bulk of her life until we brought her home at the age of three. I have seen, firsthand, some of the challenges faced in providing care for kiddos who know no home other than a group one. The Foundation helps support the work of the adults who care for these kids, many of whom may never know what it is to live in a family.

I believe in the vital importance of families, both in my writing and in my life. I can't adopt all the kids in need, but I can do something to help care for them. With your help, we can do even more.

The second item I want to share with you is the So You Think You Can Write Boot Camp being presented by the Harlequin editorial team. It's taking place tomorrow, May 21. You can find all the details on the SYTYCW site. If you have ever considered writing for Harlequin – a most excellent choice, I must say – you should do your best to take part in some of these events. SYTYCW is a fabulous opportunity for aspiring writers. Many Superromance authors made that first sale as a direct result of their involvement with the contest portion.
My first sale happened because wonderfully generous Harlequin American editor Kathleen Scheibling offered feedback, talked to me at conference, read my book, and then - when it became apparent that my story wasn't right for American - passed it on to the wonderful folks at Superromance. And I'm not the only one. For example:
  • Jennifer Lohmann: I entered my book Just One Taste in what I think was the first SYTYCW back in 2010. I didn't win, but that book became Reservations for Two and my first Superromance. It started my romance career. 
  • Janet Nye:  I entered the SYTYCW contest twice. In 2013, I was a finalist but did not win nor did I get offered a contract. But I did make a ton of wonderful writer friends who I still am in touch with today. Then in 2015, I entered again. I made the top ten, but again, no win. Again, some awesome new friends. Then, an out of the blue phone call from Piya Campana offering me a contract for my entry, Man Maid.  Anyone thinking about entering should. If for nothing more than the amazing camaraderie between the writers. And who knows? Maybe you CAN write. 

 So there you have it, folks: two wonderful events on the horizon. Here's hoping you can be part of both!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Question of the Month: How Do You Welcome Spring?

Spring is in full swing - we're seeing tulips and lilies, dogwoods are in full bloom and every day feels like picnic weather. What traditions
do you have to welcome spring?

Kris Fletcher: Here in central New York state, we welcome spring by racing around like fools to get the yard work done. And I mean RACING. Because around here, spring lasts about six hours.

Jeannie Watt: Here in middle of the northern Nevada desert, we try to get the weeds before they get us. We also help the neighbors brand and put the pump in the creek to water the trees.

Kristina Knight: We're in Northern Ohio, right on Lake Erie, so spring is different every day. We'll have days where the temperature refuses to go over 40 and days when it's 85 with ridiculously high humidity. RadioMan, bebe and I usually pick Saturday to go to the Marblehead Lighthouse with a picnic...we might fly a kite if it's breezy enough. Of course there is the yard work and getting the pool ready...and at some point this year we really need to re-finish the deck.

Sharon Hartley: Spring means my orchids send out new growth and it's time for me to repot.  Of course, in Miami spring is short and starts early.

Anna Sugden: Here in England, you can never rely on the weather in ‘spring’ – it can be anything from heatwave (which for us is anything in the 70’s and hotter) to snow! In sport, football (soccer) and rugby give way to cricket and tennis. In our gardens, everything starts to bloom, from the apple, cherry and magnolias to the daffodils, tulips and irises. The occasional sound of a lawnmower can be heard too. Most important is the annual decision about changing over the wardrobe – putting away the jumpers and the boots and bringing out the summer dresses and the sandals!

Jennifer Lohmann: I don't think I have any traditions to welcome spring, though now I'd like to. My dog starts loosing his undercoat, so spring means lots and lots of vacuuming. And I always look at this beautiful mock orange and think, "Next year, I'm going to be a better gardener." And then I never am. I'm not sure if that counts as a tradition. lol

Lenora Worth: I'm a Southern girl, so spring means azaleas, magnolias, and gardenias. I love the scents of spring. I love the rebirth of spring. Gives all of us a chance to breathe deeply and start fresh.

Liz Talley: ...Not to mention the smell of sweet olive and honey suckle. My mama just told me a fee days ago that when the honey suckle bloomed, her mama would let her (finally) go barefoot. That was always such a big deal in my house - I begged my parents to let me go barefoot. Something about that smell is so nostalgic and makes me want to sink my toes into the grass.

Joanne Rock: I try to commemorate spring's arrival on May Day by collecting whatever is in bloom and bringing it indoors to decorate my house. Some years, I've got more green branches than real flowers, but after months of brown trees, those are very welcome too! I also try to think of spring cleaning as less of a chore and more of a celebration... rolling up rugs, taking down heavy drapes, and opening every window. I feel like that day airs out the cobwebs from my brain as much as those in my house! But my favorite, favorite spring moment is putting the cushions on my porch swing so I can use it again.

Nan Dixon: Since Minnesota might be a little slower than most states, I love finally being able to open the windows.  And as soon as the weather is warm enough,  I eat my lunch outside. That means I need to clean the patio furniture. But the best part of spring is getting  to plant herbs!

Angel Smits: I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer.  Spring in Colorado most always involves snow.  This year it’s also involves hail, tornados and floods.  If we blink, we miss it.  There’s always that hope that I can put out some bedding plants that won’t get frozen or pummeled.  So I just keep hoping.

Tara Taylor Quinn: I live in Phoenix and for me spring is when the snow birds leave and I don’t have to wait in line at the restaurants!  It’s also orange blossom time and I go out to my trees and make sure I have little green balls forming!  That means a lot of oranges in late fall!  I love all of the flowers  in my garden oasis in my backyard, and tend to them, but I have them year round.

Mary Sullivan: Here in Toronto, I head to High Park, a huge park right in the city, to see the cherry blossoms. My sisters and I go on a weekday super-early in the morning ahead of the crowds. The trees are stunningly beautiful, like soft pink clouds. They usually bloom in April, but were postponed this year by weather, so we didn't go until last Thursday when the blossoms were at their peak.

My sister shot a video and we could hear all kinds of birds serenading us in the background. Just gorgeous. That single morning of beauty lifts my spirits and gives me energy.

Vicki Essex: Like Mary, I'm in Toronto, as well, though to me, spring means other things:

1. If the temps are above 10 C, it's flipflop and patio weather.
2. The last of the dirty snow piles are gone.
3. Time to pick up your dog's leavings from the backyard.
4. The Toronto Maple Leafs have started golf season.

Pamela Hearon: Our Spring ritual involves moving outdoors for the evening.  We have a lovely patio with an outdoor kitchen, and in the Spring, many of our evening meals are prepared and eaten there.  We have a fire pit and a hot tub for the cooler nights and fans for the warmer because in the southern extreme of the Midwest, from March on, you never know what you're going to get.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Where do you get your ideas?

That’s a common question for a reader to ask an author and I’ve been asked it a number of times. I wish I could come up with a good answer.

The truth is, ideas come from everywhere. In my first book, A PERFECT HOMECOMING, I wondered how a woman who’d never experienced true failure would react when her life fell apart. That’s how Ashleigh went from perfect, to her life falling apart, to figuring out how to cope and be happy.

When coming up with an idea for my second book, CATCHING HER RIVAL, my brain went to twin sisters separated at birth. Why twins? Probably because my sister and I, four plus years apart, are often asked if we’re twins. Then I added in the nature and nurture aspect of it and the idea was born. My heroine, Allie, got lost in the middle of her four other adopted siblings and tended to push the limits to get what she wanted. Then there’s her twin sister, Charlotte, the heroine of my third book (January 2016), who was raised an only child by an older, single mother. Charlotte wouldn’t think of doing some of the things Allie does. The twin sisters look exactly alike because of nature, but have different personalities because of nurture. Or would they have developed the same personalities even if they had grown up together? Maybe that question is a story idea I'll pursue at another time.

As I brought my current story idea to life, I wondered what would happen to a strong woman who suffered emotional abuse as a child. After I got it plotted, I realized it was a twist on Cinderella. Instead of going to the ball and meeting the prince who rescues her from her stepmother’s abuse, she left town to make a very successful life for herself. Now she has returned to face her past and she reunites with a prince of a man with wounds of his own to heal.

Story ideas seem to come to me more easily than blog ideas. Do you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask an author? That would really help me come up with more blog posts! Ask your question in the comments below and I’ll pick a lucky commenter on May 15 to win an autographed copy of my May 2015 release, CATCHING HER RIVAL. And come join the conversation in our Harlequin Superromance: Contemporary Romance with More discussion group over on Goodreads.com! We'd love to chat with you!



Friday, May 8, 2015

           It’s quiet here for the first time in ages.  I just turned in the revisions for my next book, COWBOY DADDY, which comes out in October, and I think I can take a few minutes to breathe a sigh of relief.  But only a few minutes.  My next manuscript is due in August, so I need to get back to work on that. 
            Ah, the writing life—sitting back, dreaming up great plots that magically appear on the page...  Ahem…Angel, wake up. 
            If only life were that simple. 
            I’m one of those writers who tries to balance the need and desire to write with a full-time job.  Some days I manage, others—not so much.  Plus, add in my husband’s small business that I help with and the normal demands of a family—you know that fodder for the hearth and home stories I write—and it can be a bit much. 
            One of the women I work with in the “real” world is a great friend and supporter of my creative endeavors.  She’s a graphic artist, who works an outside job as well, because, well, we both like to eat, have clothing and a roof over our heads.  And making a full-time living in any creative field is challenging. 
            So, the other day in one of those “why the bleep am I doing this” days, we ran into each other. 
            I commented that some days the real world just sucked.  She looked at me, paused and said, “This isn’t the real world.”  She leaned forward and pointed at where I have a copy of my latest book cover and said, “That’s our real world.”
            I knew she wasn’t talking about the fictional world of the Hawkins Ranch I’d created in my books, but the place where I want to be.  Where I’m happiest.  It’s not always the neatest, but that just adds to the coziness, right?  My home office, where my books are born and live is MY real world. 


           Since then, whenever it gets crazy out in that other world, I head toward my home office, or if I can't do that, I look at the photos I’ve taken.  They’ve become my touchstones, and at least mentally, I go to my “real” world.  It really is a lovely place.  And for me it’s a safe place.  I only let in the people who treat me nicely, and who I want to let in.  Even the bad guys I have control over when I’m there. 

            Do you have a safe place, or touchstones for places you think of when you need a pick me up or reassurance?  Or just a mental vacation?  I'd love to hear about them and how you make it work for you.  Thank you in advance for sharing.  
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