Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oscar Frenzy by Britta Coleman

Academy Award nominations were announced this morning, and my official Oscar quest has begun.  As a lover of great stories in all forms, I make a sincere effort every year to watch as many of the nominated films as possible.  It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it. 

So far I love:

"Capote."  Philip Seymour Hoffman should win for best actor.  He's a revelation.  I highly recommend reading Capote's In Cold Blood before you take in the film.  It's a book that literally changed the face of literature, and a total page-turner.  Plus it'll help you respect the man before he comes on screen with his simpering lisp and Bergdorf scarves.

"Crash."  So many twists and turns, with characters the way they should be:  complex, flawed and beyond fascinating.  So far Matt Dillon gets my vote for supporting actor.  Never before in the same movie have I so completely hated a person, only to find an aspect of redemption I couldn't deny.  It's a movie that'll surprise you and truly make you think.

"Junebug."  Not nominated for Best Picture, but Amy Adams deserves an Oscar.  Crazy family, fish out of water storyline, and nuanced performances all steeped in rich Southern color.  It's out on DVD.  Bring hankies.

"Pride and Prejudice."  Personally, I think it's a matter of both pride and prejudice this outstanding film wasn't nominated for Best Picture.  Is it because of the unabashedly romantic storyline?  Keira Knightly makes a lovely and rebellious Elizabeth, and I'll go down on record saying I *liked* Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy.  Anyone who can emote the passion of an unfulfilled love through the singular movement of a flexed hand deserves kudos.

"Walk the Line."  My husband and I have differing opinions on this.  As a lifelong Johnny Cash fan, he didn't feel Joaquin could quite measure up to the man in black, but then again, who could?  Personally, I found his portrayal mesmerizing, authentic, and raw.  Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash could forge a second career as a country singer, and she dazzled in every scene.

"Murderball."  Nominated for Best Documentary Feature, this film about quadriplegic Olympians may have been my favorite film of last year.  It's visceral, no-holds barred storytelling with a cast full of competitive athletes who not only disdain sympathy and pandering, but look like they'd take on any street fight and win.

On my list to see:

"Brokeback Mountain."  I know, I can't believe I haven't seen it yet either.  My question:  will the film live up to the buzz?

"Memoirs of a Geisha."  Loved the book, hope the movie works.  Plus I'm a sucker for those flowing red costumes.

"Match Point."  Woody Allen and a dark, murderous story?  I'm so there.

"Hustle & Flow."  The story looks terrific, and I bet the soundtrack rocks.

"The Squid and the Whale."  Funky title, family dynamics, an excellent cast.

Okay, your turn.  What do you like, what did you hate, and what are you dying to see?  

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Woman's Journey by Shelley Bates

Okay, you guys. No fair talking about food (and spaghetti sauce in particular) when I've managed to survive two whole weeks at Curves. I've discovered that, while I'm disciplined in a whole lot of ways, exercise isn't one of them. I paid for a membership, so my left brain is forcing my unwilling body to do it!

What has this got to do with the woman's journey, you ask? Well, realizing that after 40, exercise is a necessity is a bit of a black moment of the soul, isn't it?

Anyway, I discovered a cool book recently and I have to talk about it. If you're a writer, you've probably heard of the hero's journey, with the Ordinary World and the Return with the Elixir and "Use the Force, Luke" and all that. And maybe you've scratched your head and wondered what it had to do with writing and went and watched the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice one more time.

I'd like you to meet 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. In the first half of the book, she discusses "Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters." But in the second half ... ah, the second half has something called Plotting the Feminine Journey. If you've never quite gotten the difference between the hero's Ordeal and his Resurrection some time later (how come he has to do it twice? Did he forget to ask directions the first time?) maybe these steps will resonate a little better:

Act 1: Containment
1. The Illusion of a Perfect World
2. The Betrayal or Realization
3. The Awakening - Preparing for the Journey

Act 2: Transformation
4. The Descent - Passing the Gates of Judgement
5. The Eye of the Storm
6. Death - All is Lost

Act 3: Emergence
7. Support
8. Rebirth - The Moment of Truth
9. Full Circle - Return to the Perfect World

I took one look at this and something inside me went, "Yeah! That's what I write!" Now I just have to write it, because, well, it's due in four months. Yikes!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Paula Quinn's Dad is Amazing! by Megan Crane

I don't know who's day it is to post but I can't keep this to myself:

I spent all day yesterday making Paula's Dad's spaghetti sauce recipe. And yes, it took all day.

But it was absolutely worth every moment--

It was the most delicious spaghetti & meatballs I've ever had. It got rave reviews from my significant other and two guests, and I was hailed as a culinary genius!

Try it! It's FANTASTIC!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Let's talk television by Lori Wilde

I've heard people say there's slim pickings on television this year and I'm like what? In my opinion some of the best writing is going on in TV land these days. Here's a list of my favorite shows and why.

Desperate Housewives--Okay, so it's not as good as last year and I really don't like the new mystery elements with the Applewhites, it seems extraneous. But I can't wait to tune in to see what outrageous thing Gabrielle will do next, or how Susan will embarrass herself yet again, or what honest thing Edie will say that's on everyone else's mind, or the dynamics of Lynn and Tom's relationship, or just how uptight Bree can get. These are characters with flaws to the max and yet their human frailty redeem them.

Grey's Anatomy--Maybe it's just my medical background and yes, they don't do nurses justice on this show, but man, the emotional conflict is so compelling. I mean how are Meredith, Addison and Derek going to resolve their relationships? And Sandra Oh, she's just fascinating to watch. I've loved her ever since Arliss. She's got such a great range. And poor George, will he ever find a woman to love him and his puppy dog eyes?

Medium---some of the storylines haven't been so hot but what draws me to back to this show every Monday night is the Allison's relationship with her family and her down-to-earth attitude toward her 'gift'. This show is far superior to the rip off Ghost Whisperers which I tried to watch but it was too one dimensional for my tastes.

NCIS---I admit, I was pissed when they killed off Kate and I so did not want to like Ziva, but she is one kick-butt heroine and I hate to admit it but she and Tony have much better chemistry. Kate and Tony were more like squabbling siblings. My favorite character is Abby. How can you not like her? Smart and quirky. But then there's Ducky, who I only recently realized used to play on the Man From Uncle and I had a desperate crush on him when I was six. Eee gads I'm giving away my age.

And then of course, there's Lost. My favorite. Those writers kick butt! They know how to drag things out while keeping you on the edge of your seat. The key I think is the backstory woven so intricately into the plot. This is one show I never miss. Oh, and Sawyer or Jack? I started out rooting for Kate to get together with Jack but now, it's Jack who? He's too nice. Sawyer's got that redeemable bad boy thing going on that's irresistible, even if I don't normally go for blonds.

Criminal Minds---Sometimes the writing is fabulous, other times not so hot, but Gideon has me wrapped around his little finger and poor geeky Reed. He and George from Grey's Anatomy need to get together and go chick hunting.

My Name is Earl---I really shouldn't like this one becuase it so reminds me of my ex-husband and his family and friends but I can't help it. I like Jason Lee. He's got the kindest eyes.

So what are your favorite shows?

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Household Muse by Megan Crane

One of my brand new kittens decided shortly after his arrival that he wasn't content merely to be part of the new kitten circus in our house.

And believe me, Puck is the headlining clown of said circus.

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Although to be fair, he has help, in the form of his occasionally more dignified and self-possessed sister, Ariel.

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Puck, however, felt that he should multi-task, and has taken on the mantle of the Household Muse in addition to his regular duties (i.e., getting into trouble and sleeping).

Complete with requisite position at my shoulders, sharing his brilliant ideas:

(Given the delightful expression on my face, I think it's safe to assume that I am contemplating how it is that a four and a half month kitten has come up with better ideas than me. Something I would prefer not to dwell on any further, actually, since he does not have a book due on February 6.)

(And yes, I have just written an entire post about my cat. I have become what I feared.)

What about you? Who's your Household Muse?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dads' Authentic Italian Spaghetti Sauce And Meatballs by Paula Quinn

In honor of my precious dad, (and with his permission, of course) I'm about to make your lives a little more zesty! This recipe has been in my family for years. I remember waking up on Sunday mornings to the delicious aroma of dads' homemade tomato sauce wafting through our house. I'd creep into the kitchen in my pajamas and there he'd be standing over the stove wielding a ladle in one hand and his special fork in the other. (Special because he had stretched the teeth outward in order to flip his fantastic meatballs) It's all in the wrist, you know.
Now, this recipe is a little long and involves a few steps, but trust me, it's worth it.

3 large cans of Red Pack Italian Whole Plum Tomatoes
Pure Virgin Olive Oil
2 packages of Italian pork sausage (sweet or hot)
1 basil leaf
1 whole, peeled onion
pinch of Oregano
1 tsp minced or crushed garlic

For meatballs:
1 pound of ground beef
2 eggs
1/4 cup Italian grated cheese (Romano preferred)
1/2 cup Progresso bread crumbs (flavored)
1/2 water

Start early in the day as your sausage will cook slowly and add more flavor to the sauce.
Using a blender, puree your Red Pack Tomatoes. Pour your sauce, 1 basil leaf, salt, pepper (to taste), and oregano into a large pot.

Over medium heat, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tsp of minced (or crushed) garlic (about 1 clove), and 1 whole peeled onion to frying pan. Let heat. Add Italian sausage. (The flavor of the sausage gives the sauce that extra kick) Cook until brown.Add your cooked sausage (and garlic and onion from the frying pan) to your sauce and let that baby simmer.

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 eggs, 1/4 cup Italian grated cheese, salt, and pepper to ground beef. In another bowl mix 1/2 cup bread crumbs and 1/2 cup water. Then add this to your ground beef.

Reheat the same frying pan you used to brown your pork sausage. While it's heating...and here's the fun part, squish it all up with your hands. Just dig right in and blend it all together. After it's mixed, scoop up, say, a spoonful and roll it in your palms until you have a small meatball. Drop it into your pan, and continue until you've used up your ingredients. Let the meatballs fry to a golden brown crispy outside. Turn over. (This is where Dad's trusty special fork made it's mark) Brown other side. You don't have to let the meatballs cook all the way through, as you're about to pop them into your sauce.

Cover the pot and let the whole shebang cook over a low heat for 2 to 3 hours. You can add more seasonings to taste.

Cook up some spaghetti or ziti and enjoy!

My dad is a fantastic cook and baker, with such delicious dishes under his belt as homemade lasagne, baked ziti, manicotti, and eggplant parmesan (all prepared with his sauce) Pasta Fagioli (pronounced Pasta Fazool) it sounds somewhat like an Italian curse word, but it's a wonderful Italian soup. Sesame seed cookies, homemade zeppole, and sprinkled honey balls.
Yes, I know what a fortunate daughter I am. Besides being a great cook, he's a great dad. He's 80 now, and has had a rough year with illnesses that have slowed his pace, but it doesn't stop him from calling me on the phone and telling me to come over (I live across the street) for some sausage and peppers, or stuffed artichokes, that he makes especially for me. And even in the hospital he stops every single nurse and each and every doctor to tell them about my books. He's believed in me since day one and is one of my greatest supporters (and promoters).
Tonight, he's back at the hospital, and I'm sitting here thinking about him and sharing, not only his recipe, but a little piece of my very first knight in shining armor.
Thank you, daddy. I love you.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Better Late than Never or The Joys of a Dark Hero by Diane Perkins

I know this will shock most of you. So you must sit down.(Ready?)
I watched The Phantom of Opera for the first time this week. (Don’t faint! I warned you)
I missed it in the movie theater when it came out and I never got around to renting it, even when my friend Patty (who is actually attending the Gerard Butler Conference in Edinburgh this week - I’m not kidding) told me I must. Even a woman I met for the first time at Curves told me I should rent it. I didn’t. This week it appeared on TV while my husband was channel surfing. It took him less than five minutes to change the channel--the singing, you know. But it took an even shorter time for me to order it on HBO On Demand after he went to bed.

Lots of superlative things I could say about the film - the beauty of the sets, the cinematography, the beautiful music, the wonderful performances. Oh, but the Phantom! He is the movie. Gerard Butler was magnificent, a powerful, emotional performance. I loved his rough singing voice and his physical grace and his piercing green eyes.

Butler played the dark hero to perfection, in a role that was perfection.

What could I, as a romance writer, learn from this? (If I could learn to write a hero like that, I’d hit the NY Times best-seller list for sure!) With this idea in mind I have been watching Gerry Butler play the Phantom over and over all week (just research- honest). Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. The Phantom is very sensual (I’m being careful with words here. I don’t want any filters to prevent you from reading my sage words.) He moves with sensuality, sings and speaks with it.
2. His sensuality is restrained. When he touches Christine, it is always with restraint. Not grabbing or pinching for our Phantom! This really heightens the anticipation.
3. He’s damaged. The Phantom has been unloved since childhood, mistreated and rejected. He buys into other’s perceptions of himself, as well. He believes himself unlovable.
4. Because of the above, he is vulnerable. He still can be hurt. You first see this when Christine and Raoul are on the roof, falling in love and kissing, and the Phantom is witnessing it, realizing that it is his music that caused Raoul to fall in love with her.
5. The Phantom is capable of intense emotion. When he loves, you can feel it. When he is in pain, you hear it in his voice, see it in the way he breathes, witness it in his tears. When he is angry, he is wrathful. His emotions are most raw when his weakness is exposed - when he is unmasked.
6. The Phantom is powerful (he can control the whole theatre) and dangerous (he can kill to protect what he sees as his. ). He has honor, although it is his own style.
7. He loves to the point of obsession. Christine is his reason for living. He desperately needs her love, but, feeling unlovable, will settle for possessing her.
8. Love redeems him. When Christine gives him her love, when she kisses him, he can then give up everything for her. When he sings, “It is over now, the music of the night,” he has given up everything, even the world he built for himself.

I’m sure there’s more I’m missing here. Maybe the one ingredient that will ensure my next book will hit that best-seller list. I think I need to watch The Phantom of the Opera a few more times. Perhaps buy the DVD. And the soundtrack. I’m definitely going to see the play on Broadway next time I’m in NYC (I’m checking the train schedule as we speak...) Come to think of it, maybe I should rent some other Gerard Butler movies--Dear Frankie, Tomb Raider, Attila....

Just for research.....

(Diane wants to know who your favorite dark hero is - in fiction, TV, or movies)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Annie Solomon

Do you ever listen to music and think, wow, that's my character's song? I was coming home from somewhere or other a few months ago, and George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" came on the radio (hmm...what does this tell you about my listening habits?) and I realized that was Angelina's song. She's my heroine in DEAD RINGER. In fact, I have a scene in the book where she's trying to get a rise (pun intended) out of the hero, Finn, so she dances seductively in front of him. At the time I wrote it, I couldn't think of the perfect song. Two years after the book came out, wouldn't you know it, bam! There it is on the radio.

So, that got me thinking. What song would be perfect for, say, Danny, in BLIND CURVE? I almost quoted from it in the front of the book, then didn't. But since Danny loses his sight, and the book is largely about his struggle to come to terms with that (not to mention a ruthless killer who's trying to take him out), I thought of the Jesse Colin Young song, "Darkness Darkess."

My April 2006 book, BLACKOUT, is about a woman who can't remember who she is or what she's done, but it might be so bad she almost doesn't want to know. Something David Grayish would be nice, but I haven't got there yet.

Anyway--it's fun to think about it. What song is perfect for your favorite character?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sarah McKerrigan

Ahhhh.  That's a big sigh of relief.  I just survived another book deadline.
I always tell myself I'll take a week off now, kick back, get rid of those dust bunnies collected behind my computer, reacquaint myself with my husband and kids, pet the dog.  But it never seems to happen.
Little literary ideas keep creeping their way into my domestic thoughts:
What would happen if a mail order bride from New York traveled to California during the Gold Rush, only to discover her intended had died?
How would Heath Ledger and Natalie Portman work as a couple in a historical romance?
What if a medieval knight traveled forward in time and took a job as a reenactor?
If a train is traveling west at 120 miles an hour, and another train...
Oh, wait, that's not a literary idea.  That's a recurring nightmare.
I'm afraid I've discovered the sad truth.  Writers don't write for the money or the fame or even the accomplishment.  We write because we MUST.  For writers, ideas don't stop when we write THE END on our latest novel.  Stories tug at our skirts like nagging toddlers, plot twists writhe about in our heads, and we can't look at people standing in line at the supermarket without giving them all backstories.
So though I may spend some time polishing the furniture, kissing the dog, and scratching my husband behind the ears, part of my mind will inevitably be working on my next novel.
Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night.
Riding to the rescue April 2006

Monday, January 09, 2006

What it's like

Since my first book, BITTEN & SMITTEN, hit the shelves at the beginning of this month, I can tell you that all of the things you've heard about being a "published author" are completely true.

In fact, just yesterday I was lounging outside my mansion by the pool reading through my stack of fan mail. My man-servant/masseuse Sven approached with my Pina Colada.

"Sven darling," I said.

"Yes, my goddess."

I frowned. "Sven, I've told you before. You don't have to call me your goddess. Your queen is perfectly sufficient."

"Yes, my queen."

"Would you be a dear and pick out a nice outfit for me to wear to my lunch with the movie producers? Perhaps that new dress Donatella sent over yesterday."

"Excellent, my queen. So your book is to be a movie?"

"They're only offering low seven figures for the movie rights. We shall see. Oh yes, we shall see." I frowned. "Oh, and please let Hugh Jackman know that he should definitely not leave his wife for me. Tell him to stop phoning hourly. I simply cannot take it anymore. I will not cheat on Gerard this week."

"Yes, I will do that." Sven paused. "Are you quite alright? You do not look as happy as you should be, my queen."

"Oh Sven, you know me so well. It's just that now that I'm a Published Author life is simply much too easy and gloriously wonderful. Everything I write now is perfect. I am filled with boundless confidence about my writing abilities. I am universally adored by all who read my deathless prose. I have a difficult time spending all my money let alone counting it. Also, upon publication I became completely irresistable to the opposite sex. What am I to do? I have achieved all of my goals in life. There are no more challenges left in this world for me to take on."

"So, my queen, you are saying that being a published author is everything you thought it would be?"

"And more!"

Sven smiled and began to peel off his tight t-shirt revealing rippling muscles beneath. "Then I think it's time for my queen to receive her daily massage. Roll over."

And, alas, then I woke up to reality.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My resolutions...or not

My original plan was to post a list of my New Year's Resolutions for 2006. I thought it would be a good topic for my post, because it would force me to actually make a list of resolutions. See, I don't usually make resolutions. The reason is that everything I would resolve to do is already something I' m working on! If it's important enough to make a new year's resolution about it, then I shouldn't be waiting until New Years to make the resolution, right?

So, as I was thinking of my list of resolutions, I started getting stressed because I realized that I was already working on everything on my list, and despite that, none of them had been "accomplished." They were all works in progress. I suddenly felt like a failure. I'd had these goals forever, and they weren't done yet?

Then I realized I was taking the wrong approach. I needed to cut myself a break. Instead of focusing on what goals I hadn't yet accomplished, I should be congratulating myself on the efforts I'd already been making and on the progress I'd already made. This profession (and life in general) is already so full of ways to knock yourself down, why add to the problem by focusing on how I'd fallen short, on how I wasn't "good enough?"

Instead, I made myself think about how much I'd accomplished in 2005. Surprisingly, the list was quite long. Some of them were little accomplishments, some were huge, some were personal and some were professional, but all of them deserve recognition. Yes, maybe I didn't reach all my goals, but I accomplished alot. I'll keep working, keep redefining my goals as I move forward, and I will try to remember to pay attention to each little accomplishment I make, instead of dwelling on the ways I've fallen short.

So I guess that's my resolution: no more dwelling.

Click here to visit Stephanie's blog

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Can you tell us about your new book?

BITTEN & SMITTEN (Warner Forever, January 2006) is the story of a girl named Sarah who is made into a vampire by her blind date from hell. The plot follows her trials and tribulations as a fledgling vampire who doesn't feel much different than when she was human even though there are now vampire hunters who want to show her the pointy end of a stake. She meets a hot 600-year-old vampire named Thierry just as he's about to end his long existence by jumping off a bridge and convinces him to show her the ropes of her new fang-filled world.

What was your favorite part about writing this book?
Having my character take over and write the book for me. Sarah really became a force to be reckoned with... much more sarcastic than I ever imagined her. Plus, since I'm a huge Buffy fan, it was great fun to write something about vampires while trying to be funny at the same time.

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

I always give this sort of thing way too much thought because I see the scenes of the book like a movie in my mind so I need a good cast to play the parts. Sarah would ideally played by Sandra Bullock, and Thierry would be played by Hugh Jackman.

What are you working on right now?

I have just finished the edits to my second comedic paranormal novel with Warner, ANGEL WITH ATTITUDE, a book about a fallen angel and her quest to find the Key to Heaven with a hot demon and a talking rat. No, really.

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere. Magazines, the newspaper, television, radio. A picture, a snippet of conversation. Anything might trigger a "what if" spark.

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

Give up. Don't bother writing. It's too tough a business. If after considering that advice you still want to write, you'll probably make it.

What is your favorite movie of all time?

Romancing the Stone.

Favorite book?

I have very fond memories of A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereux.

Favorite television show?

Of all time: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Currently: Lost.

Favorite author?

J.K. Rowling.

If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

Sawyer from Lost. Duh. Can I have the doctor too? Just in case of emergency.

If on that island you could only listen to 2 CDs, what would they be?

The new and fab "Confessions on a Dance Floor" by Madonna, and "So" by Peter Gabriel.

If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?

A world famous, over-paid movie star.

What are a few of your favorite websites?

Amazon.com, Rate My Kitten, and Animal Planet's Panda Cam

Visit Michelle's website | Reach Michelle by email | Purchase Bitten & Smitten

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Can you tell us about your new book?

ON BLUE FALLS POND (Warner Forever, January 2006) is a story about loss and the different ways a person finds to heal. Glory Harrison left her Tennesse hometown after a tragic fire destroys her home and kills her husband and unborn child. But when her dear Granny calls asking her to come home because he eyesight is failing and she wants to see Glory's face once more, Glory heads back to Tennessee. There she faces the past she'd fled, including Eric Wilson, the firefighter who saved her life that fateful night.

Glory doesn't remember much about the fire or the days prior to it. When her memories are prompted by her return, she isn't sure what picture will come into focus if all of the pieces become clear. Eric Wilson, as fire cheif, ruled the fire accidental, even though he had doubts. An anonymous person is taunting Glory, accusing her of starting the fire that killed her husband. Soon, those taunts become much more.

As Glory's memory returns, she and Eric must both face that the past might not be what it appeared to be -- and find a way to a future together.

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

My favorite part about writing this book was exploring the characters. I tackled several character types that were completely new to me, including a toddler showing symptoms of austim. By having such diverse characters, I was able to really examine the different ways people cope with loss. And, Granny Tula came to life, one of my all-time favorite characters.

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

Oh my, I've never thought about that. Let's see, maybe Sandra Bullock as Glory. I'm not sure about Eric ... someone who can do "conflicted" really well. Maybe Clive Owen, if he could manage a Tennesee accent! Granny Tula would need someone who could do a pragmatic and sassy woman in her early seventies, who is still fit enough to hike in the mountains. If you find her, let me know.

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I'm finishing up A KISS IN WINTER. It's the story of Caroline Rogers, a young woman who, as an eight year old, had been adopted into a rural Kentucky family. She has two younger siblings that have fallen under her guardianship after their parents die.

As the time approaches for the youngest sibling to finish high school and begin college, Caroline looks to begin her career as a photographer, traveling for a national magazine. But just when things should be coming together they start falling apart -- her borther is in trouble, her sister is becoming rebellious, psychiatrist Mick Larsen returns to town and threatens to steal her heart and tie her to a place she's ready to leave -- and someone is vandalizing all of the subjects of a calendar she's had published.

Mick has returned to Kentucky from Chicago, abandoning his career as an adolescent psychiatrist after he makes a fatal mistake. He and his doctor father are at odds over his decision, but Mick has spent his entire life trying to please his father and the results have been disastrous. He's now set on spending the rest of his life doing what he wants to do, run a farm. He's bought Caroline's old home.

Caroline is forced to ask Mick to help her figure out who is damaging the subjects of her calendar -- before the vandal attacks her December photograph, which includes both her sister and the farmhouse Mick lives in.

Where do you get your ideas?

My ideas begin very small, in snippets almost. Then I begin to ask "what if" and it grows from there. I write about small towns and families, you don't have to look far for something I've heard or read about to spark an idea.

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

My 25 year old son is currently writing his first novel, so I'm very practiced at this one. Read. Hone your skills. Read. Talk to other writers. Read more. And never, never, give up. This is a difficult business and success doesn't come overnight.

What is your favorite movie of all time?

I'm a movie addict. My current favorites are Shakespeare in Love and Braveheart (you can see I'm a romantic at heart).

Favorite book?

There are so many! Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, Lightning, and Watchers, by Dean Koontz, Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman, the Green Mile by Stephen King -- just to mention a few.

Favorite television show?

Currently "Lost" is just about the only show I watch regularly.

Favorite author?

Too many, and too dangerous to admit.

If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

Okay, is it a big island? If it's just a postage stamp, I want to be alone! If I can have my space, maybe ... my great-grandmother, she was resourceful, could eek a living out of nothing, and still have a great time.

If on that island you could only listen to 2 CDs, what would they be?

"Look on the Bright Side" by Blue Sky Goodbye and Better Than Ezra's "Before the Robots" -- Grandma Beaver wouldn't like them though.

If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?

I'd love to be a casting director or a location scout for movies.

Visit Susan's website | Reach Susan by email | Purchase On Blue Falls Pond