Saturday, May 30, 2009

Craft Idea--Birthday Cake

Birthday cakes and cookie cakes are expensive, but our very own author Megan Kelly has a do-it-yourself cake idea that will save you lots of money and look just as cute as the bakery-made ones. And the kids will love it!

Here's an easy fix for a little reptile-lover's birthday party.

Make two bundt cakes in the child's favorite flavor. After they cool, put them on a cutting surface and cut in half (from top to bottom). Set them on a long foil covered platform (I use a cut cardboard box.) Instead of it making a circle, turn one piece around so the cake forms a backward "s." The curve around the other two pieces. You can carve one end to a point for the tail and smooth the edges off the other for a face. Frost in your chosen color (chocolate is fine, but green and/or other colors are fun too). If you use white icing, save some for the eyes or use your green. Snake eyes have "evil" slits, but you can make them round with black centers for a younger child. A piece of red or black licorice can hang out the front for a tongue; be sure to cut the end in the middle and split it in two points--if you use a flat fruit snack, you can cut it so it looks like it's forked. The ridges of the bundt cake look like scales.
I don't have a picture of mine, but here's a link with some ideas:

Have fun, Megan Kelly

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sometimes It Pays To Listen

Although I blog every week on a site relating to my alternate persona as a mystery writer, I found myself stressing a wee bit over what I should do for my first-ever blog with these amazing authors from Harlequin American.

And then I decided I should just introduce myself, maybe tell why I ventured into the romance waters...

Many of the ideas for my stories come from snippets I hear on the news--interesting little facts that take root in my mind and make it hard for me to sleep. Eventually, I start twisting and twisting the snippets until I have a workable novel.

Anyway, it was about this same time of year (two years ago) when I heard a story about a letter that had slipped behind a table in a post office only to be discovered forty years later.

I heard that and I was done. D-O-N-E. I couldn't tell you anything else the D.J. said before he finally got back to playing music. I was completely and utterly captivated by the notion of what the letter might have said...whether the sender and/or recipient were even still alive.

As the snippet continued to grow in my mind, I knew it wanted to be a story. And so I tried to create a murder plot around this misplaced letter (as that's what I wrote until that moment). For three months I tried to kill someone off in the mental plotting phase, yet none of the characters forming in my mind had any intention of dying.

What they wanted was to be part of a love story...

All fine and dandy if I knew how to write a romance. Which I didn't.

I did my best to fight with the voice in my head. I even tried to forget the story start. But I couldn't. So I stopped fighting for a moment and started thinking...about a romance I'd read that was written by Shelley Galloway (Cinderella Christmas, Harlequin American) a year or so earlier. I loved the feel of that story. The hope. The characters' growth. The overall tone.

Hmmm. Maybe I could do it.

I began reading more...all Harlequin Americans. In fairly quick fashion I became hooked on the line and the authors, finally deciding to listen to the characters in my head and give it a go.

And as I wrote, I fell in love with the genre as a writer, too. In fact, of all the books I've written to date, Kayla's Daddy (January 2010) is my favorite. Why? First and foremost, it's a beautiful story about second chances and the mountains love can climb. But that's not all. That book will always represent (for me) what can happen when I simply believe in myself enough to try.

Here's to those voices that nag you to listen...

~Laura Bradford

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Hero

As I read through the previous posts before sitting down to write my own, I was most struck by Pam Stone’s post last week about Alpha-Males. Her heroes sound like mine—up to a point. I usually begin with an Alpha-male hero in my imagination: a handsome, take-charge kind of guy with glinting eyes and shoulders broad enough to support the world. That’s about as far as I get. Somewhere in the first draft, my hero rebels, insisting on doing what he wants. Instead of leading the charge, this hot hunk might step aside and let another character carry the flag. Not that he has any interest in following anyone. He rejects the Beta-male mold, too. He just merrily blazes his own trail.

He can be so aggravating! Usually, my heroine agrees with me. The guy is almost Alpha, but not quite.

I beg him to follow the rules that I, the writer, set down in my nice, neat outline. He gives me a seductive smile, a wink and then simply does what he wants. I have to confess that my heart melts at that point, no matter how stern and irritated I try to act. I have to chase him down the path he makes, just to see where he ends up. I am usually surprised and sometimes pleased by the twists and turns. He often chooses a stronger-minded, more determined woman than I had in mind for him. I’m sure his choice will end in failure, yet somehow he manages to find happy-ever-after-ness—though I might lend a hand in fixing his messes, if he asks for my help. Nicely.

In the end, my almost Alpha charms the heroine rather than, Alpha-style, bean her on the head with a club and drag her to his cave to prove his mastery. Of course, once he falls for the heroine, he will fight to the death to win and hold her. And threats to her will tip my Almost-Alpha over into full Alpha-mode in a heartbeat. He doesn’t go into battle for much, but his woman is the center of his universe.

So, I guess I have to give up the idea of my heroes conquering the world and sweeping my heroines up a grand staircase (kicking and screaming optional). My Almost-Alphas just aren’t the type.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pardon me while I show my geekdom

Since I write for Harlequin American, I'm often thinking up stories about everyday people who could be my neighbors. I dream up small towns, casts of down-to-earth characters, and heroes and heroines who are carpenters, ranchers, firefighters, restaurant owners, police officers and the like. The hero in my May release, Her Very Own Family, is a carpenter/owner of a construction company. I like these kinds of stories and characters because they speak to all of us.

But I have a confession to make, another type of story that calls to me as a reader/viewer. I'm a total sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal geek girl, and love the heroes in them. I count Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Roswell, Smallville, Legend of the Seeker, and Stargate Atlantis among my favorite shows. Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly is probably my favorite hero from those because he's funny, full of fantastic one-liners, will do anything for his crew, has a reigned passion for the beautiful Inara, and is definitely a man of action. He's a warrior and a bit of a scoundrel, but also has a caring streak that he'd be hesitant to admit.

You know what's interesting? The characters in these types of shows often have to face the same types of issues that the characters in our hearth-and-home Harlequin American stories face -- what seems like insurmountable odds, family issues, falling for the person who seems to be totally wrong for them, trying to find their place in the world, fitting in, etc. The heroes often embody many of the same qualities we see in our American romance heroes.

Take the new Star Trek movie (which, btw, is awesome!), for example. James T. Kirk is a rebellious young man who lost his father before he ever knew him and is on a self-destructive path until given a purpose. Spock is a product of two worlds and doesn't feel as if he truly belongs in either. Leonard "Bones" McCoy is adrift with nowhere else to go after a bitter divorce. I'm sure you've all seen characters in romance novels who could fit into one of those descriptions. It just goes to show that no matter the genre or backdrop for a story, there are universal themes and situations we can all relate to and which make the basis of compelling stories. Kirk, Spock and Bones might not start out the movie as heroes, but by the end they can wear that title with pride.

Anyone else out there willing to admit some sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal geekitude? Anyone seen the new J.J. Abrams-helmed Star Trek? What did you think? Any other Captain Mal fans?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Author News Day

Happy Memorial Day!

We’re sending out a big warm welcome to Leigh Duncan, another new American Romance author. Leigh’s first book will be released in 2010. As soon as she chooses a blog day, we’ll be sure to let you know.


We have two finalists for a Bookseller's Best Award, sponsored by the Greater Detroit Chapter of Romance Writers of America:

ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS (December, 2008) by Holly Jacobs
THE COWBOY AND THE ANGEL (November, 2008) by Marin Thomas

Michele Dunaway is excited to announce that she's sold her 23rd book to Harlequin, another American Romance tentatively entitled Under Doctor's Orders and with a release date of 2010.

This month several authors have blogged about heroes, and a few more are still slated. Be sure to watch for those.

Please check back on June 6 to find out what’s “news” with the Harlequin American Romance Authors.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Will the Real Lee McKenzie Please Stand Up?

Have you ever Googled yourself? Typed your name, in quotation marks, and clicked the search button? If you have, you'll know that all sorts of interesting things might turn up, including other people who have the same name.

Google has an “alert” function that makes this process even easier. Most authors set up a Google Alert for their names, book titles, etc., and receive an email notice every time they’re mentioned on the Internet. Very useful for keeping track of things like reviews, mentions on other blogs, and so on.

It came as no surprise to me that I am not the only Lee McKenzie on the planet—both my first and last names are very common—but I will confess to being a little surprised that a number of us are women who are involved in arts and entertainment.

C. Lee McKenzie, another author, writes YA and children’s fiction. Her debut novel, Sliding on the Edge, was released last month. I haven't read her book yet, but I plan to. How could I not read a novel by another Lee McKenzie? Check out the cover on her website. The title and imagery are intriguing.

Lee Mackenzie (slightly different spelling) is an artist who lives on Canada’s west coast. Be sure to check out the Gallery on her website—her watercolors are absolutely gorgeous.

Then there is Lee McKenzie, the British sports reporter. She describes herself as “a journalist who has moved off the pages and on to the television.” Right now she covers Formula One racing for the BBC, and she also runs a media training and PR company.

I recently received a Google alert that led me to this comment on another sports journalist’s blog: “The only thing I want to know is Lee McKenzie married? And do I stand any chance whatsoever? What a woman...I could spend 2 hours just looking at that face.”

LOL! I didn’t spend a single second wondering if I was the object of that viewer’s affection, and here’s why. This is me. Lee McKenzie, Harlequin American Romance author.

I have never met these other Lees, but I’m in awe of their talent and honored to share the name with them, so I’m inviting all the other Lee McKenzies to please stand up and take a bow. What wonderful company to be in!

And now back to my opening question. Have you ever Googled yourself? What did you find out?

Until next time,

PS: Today I’m doing a giveaway on my blog, The Writer Side of Life. If you post a comment here and/or there, your name goes into the draw!