Monday, June 28, 2010

What to do about online piracy???

Oh my gosh, had to share this one. Toni Blake tweeted it, JoAnn Ross blogged it, now I'm repeating it. At least we can laugh as our livelihood evaporates!

Oh yeah, piracy only hurts the big corporations ... and ever single one of us who slaves over the content. Think twice about "free".

'Nuf said.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cake Finale! You Won't Believe It

I've finally found something that would pay me less per hour than writing -- something I'd thought an impossible feat. This cake occupied me for four solid days.

Let me give you a blow by blow of my adventure in creating the tier cake for my fondant class. First of all, long before I even baked the cake itself, I spent at least 9 hours creating the roses that would decorate it. And I don't think this process would increase in speed with more practice. First of all, the fondant had to be colored and each rose bud center had to be created and allowed to dry.

And this is just the first batch. Then the three additional layers of petals were added. The fondant was rolled out, cut with cookie cutters, then each petal had to be separated from the other with a knife, the edges then tooled to be thing and ruffled -- and then it was time to add it to the bud. Repeat this about a hundred and fifty times and you have enough roses to decorate this cake. Of course, they spent a day all over my kitchen drying before they could be moved.

Now it's time for the cake itself. Two ten inch layers and two six inch layers. Surprisingly the ten inch were a breeze, but those darn six inch didn't want to come out of the pan and were horrible to cover with fondant. Don't think I'll be making that size again.

Anyway, cakes baked. Then they had to be covered with a "crumb coat" of buttercream frosting. Believe me, I was tempted to stop there, you know, quit while I was ahead because it was looking pretty good.

Then came the fondant. Oh my gosh, this was an adventure. Kneading. Rolling. Draping it over the cakes. Working out the wrinkles and fitting it, then trimming. People who do this for a living have all of my admiration! But once the sweat was wiped from my brow (literally), I was surprised I hadn't messed it up totally. Then the tiers were stacked -- piece of cake. ;-) I added buttercream borders and then applied the flowers.


Now here is my daughter's beautiful cake. She might actually have a future as a baker!

Cake class is over. I kinda miss those Tuesday night's. My neighbors miss the Wednesday cake consumption. Although I'll never be a professional cake creator, I am putting my newfound knowledge to good use. The heroine in my next book is a baker ... but that's not the part of her life that creates trouble. Trouble comes from a most unforseen source... but that's a topic for another day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'll Give It A Go

I like to think of myself as open-minded and I'll try almost anything once. However, this scenario never once crossed my mind before it presented itself.

I was visiting a wonderful book club a couple of weeks ago and met a woman who is an "animal communicator." Now I've heard of these people, who, like Dr. Dolittle really can talk to the animals. My cousin -- she who cannot say no to a stray of any kind -- has been surprised by the accuracy of an animal communicator she knows. Anyway, this lovely woman at the book club offered to have a little chat with my dog, Bear, and let my readers know what it's like to be the sidekick of an author.

As I said, I'm open minded, so "Sure, I said, let's give it a go."

So here's what my Bear had to say to me through Shannon Gross (, the animal communicator:
--he'd been on his own for a while before he went to the animal shelter
--he knew that I wasn't "looking" for him when I came there, but when I saw him I knew (true) and he was glad because the cats' noises were stressing him out
--Bear says my husband needs to take his mind away from numbers sometimes (true) and that he likes the designing phase of things (ultra true)
--he says that I need to let myself enjoy putting my hands in the earth (gardening) and accept the thoughts that come while I'm working there; don't force my creativity before it's ready
--apparently Bear "sees' my characters while I'm working and says I build the women though a different process than I do the men (true)
--Bear takes his job of helping me find the calm place where the stories come from very seriously

Well, working with me or not, Bear does bring calm to my life, that much I can say is a fact.

For the next two weeks, Bear is open for questions via Shannon. Please post any questions you have for Bear on Facebook and my animal communicator friend will see if he'll share his answers with us. Like I said, I'll try anything once if it can be done without harm or peril!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thinking Time

This past weekend I spent almost every waking hour working in my yard. We've been having an unseasonably warm stretch for April here in Indiana, something I'm certain we'll pay for in May -- probably with snow. Watch it, those of you who were lulled into purchasing flowers!

Anyway, I pruned, fertilized, and edged about a million feet of mulch beds (okay, maybe it was only half a million, but seriously, it takes 16 yards of mulch to cover them). Now it's time to guilt the grown children into helping me move and spread the dump truck load of mulch that will be arriving in my driveway today.

While I was working, I looked up and there were six hawks circling overhead.
They made me think of my dad. He's been gone for nearly 21 years, but some days it seems like only yesterday he was buzzing my house in his plane and scaring my neighbors half to death. I've always thought that if there was anything to receiving your rewards in Heaven, he'd be up there flying like a hawk. He loved the wind in his face, loved flying open cockpit planes and his Piper Cub with the door open -- really low. I truly think he would have been happy as a bird.

He was not only a private pilot (recreational), but he spent endless hours building his own aircraft in our tiny garage. It began by building and flying model planes, but eventually grew into the real thing. Like everything he did, it became a near obsession. I remember hearing him out there at all hours of the night working away (my sleeplessness must be genetic). Here are my children "helping" him.

Unfortunately, he didn't get to finish this plane.

Now back to that obsession thing. He was also infatuated with books and reading -- funny thing for a guy who hated school and joined the Navy long before high school graduation. Unfortunately for me, he died before I even began writing. I often wish he was around to discuss the emotional and psychological aspects of my characters; he was the kind of guy who could see deep inside people.

Being outdoors always helps me think, I figure out lots of plot and character stuff while cutting the grass. But this weekend, working in the yard and seeing those hawks, made me feel close to my dad. And I like to think maybe he helped me just a bit with the story questions I was wrestling while I was out there working.

Thanks, Dad.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ta-Da! or, My Cake Project

As those of you who have been following my blog, I'm venturing into new and unknown territory this year, all in the name of not being the hermit everyone accuses me of being. Yoga. Cake decorating. And I have to say, I'm so very glad I have.

And, as promised, I'm posting photos of my "grand finale" cake. Now to truly appreciate this miracle, you must check my past blog featuring the "birthday blob."

First, this cake uses Royal frosting for flowers -- that's the stuff that they make the stick on letters and candle holders that you find in the baking aisle in every grocery store. When set, it's very hard. So the Sunday before our final class, my daughter (heretofore referred to as Skinny Me, you'll see why when you see her photo) and I embarked upon flower making.

Dear lord in heaven, I never thought I'd get all of the mess cleaned up.

While we were creating our beautiful spring gardens, our cakes were in the oven. Let me say, I have never in all of my years of cooking (and I do like to cook, even though my cake expertise says otherwise), had a cake fall in the oven. Sunday was my first. One layer came out looking like a sagging mattress used by a hippo. I was ready to scrap the thing (ie. eat it) and bake a new one. But Skinny Me had faith that it could be salvaged. She got out her cake leveler (a wonderful tool that, had I know about it, just might have saved me years of embarrassment). My cake turned out kinda short, but who would have known it was initially a disaster. Ready?


Can you believe it??

Now here's Skinny Me's

Of course, no one will eat either of them because they don't want to "ruin" them. We may still have these things sitting around when I'm 90.

Might be just as well, I'm not sure what mine will taste like, might be kinda rubbery since it collapsed!

We've committed to Class 3. Stay tuned for tier cakes and fondant!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Life in the Fast Lane?

Really? Fast lane? That's hardly how I see my life. But lately I seem to be meeting myself coming and going. So here's an update from my previous blogs:

I had a great brainstorming week with my writer buddy Karen White (The Lost Hours and The Girl on Legare Street -- FYI pronounced Legree Street) a few weeks ago. We worked out a few kinks (and added a few intended ones) to my current work in progress. We also brainstormed two books for her. I can't wait to read them!

I'm still dithering on a title for my newest project, but I'm leaning toward The Last Good Man.

Yoga class (ultra-beginners) is going well for both me and my mom. We still spend a lot of time laughing at ourselves. Let's just say ridiculously bad balance must be inherited. But always walk out of there feeling so much better and with more energy. You'd think that increased energy would make me more productive. Ha!

Cake class. Hummm, what can I say about cake class? I love the woman teaching it, she has such a wry sense of humor. I get to spend an evening with my daughter, always a plus. Just wish we'd been able to get my daughter-in-law to join us! This session we're only making one cake, instead of one a week. Good thing 'cause my jeans are getting way too tight. We're making flowers out of Royal Frosting (it's the kind that turns nearly rock hard when dried). The last week of class we're supposed to assemble all of our flowers on a "Grand Finale" cake. I'm sure y'all can't wait for that photo. I promise I'll post it, no matter how pathetic it is. I'll also post my daughter's so you'll be able to see what it's supposed to look like.

My book signing that benefited Best Buddies was such a success, I'm doing another benefit signing -- even did a little TV interview about it! Tomorrow I'm having a signing at a great little boutique shop in Noblesville called The Linden Tree. The shop owner and I are donating a percentage of my book sales as well as store merchandise sales to the Noblesville Education Foundation. With budget cutbacks, the teachers can use all of the help we can give them!

Today, the sun is shining -- such a wonderful sight after the long dismal winter we've experienced. I'm headed out to prune my knock-out roses and pick up what will probably be a truckload of sticks and limbs that the winter battered off our trees. I'd better get to it, winter is due back in town by Monday. Sigh.

The good news is I have managed to keep my feet in matching footwear.

Until next time,

Friday, February 19, 2010


Okay, guys, here it is, as promised. In order to appreciate this miracle, you must have read my previous post, From the Writers Cave.

In cake class this week we learned to do a shell border, the flowers on this cake, how to make clown bodies in which you stick a plastic clown head. (I don't know if I've already shared my strange dislike of clowns in all forms, but let's just say there was no way I was putting a clown on my cake. I did it on a piece of waxed paper and promptly tossed it as soon as it was finished and approved by my instructor.) We also learned how to make a decorating bag from parchment paper. Very cool skill, I might add -- saves tons of clean up. Oh yeah, we also began our instruction on making roses. Now that was fun.

Any way, here's my finished product, level and all in one piece. Drum roll, please.

It's not great, and certainly not as good as my daughter's, but it's a huge improvement for me! My chocolate frosting was really too soft to do a proper shell border on the base. Live and learn.

Don't want you to get the wrong idea, I'm actually a good cook, it's just the pretty factor in which I struggle. (sigh)

I'm missing next week's class. So it'll be a while before I can (hopefully) share further progress.

Thank you for visiting Susan's cake creations and have a great day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

From the Writers Cave

I'm becoming one of those writers. You know, the reclusive, glued to the keyboard, forgets to brush hair, can't hold a conversation with real people kind of author. I'm becoming disengaged. I mean, just look at what I had on my feet for two hours before I noticed.

Seriously. I was even up and walking around.

Guess that's what I get for having two pair of slippers under my desk.

I would blame it on the snowy weather, but I think it's more than that. I like being snowed in. I like it when my phone doesn't work.

So I'm countering my anti-social gravitation by taking some classes with my mom and my daughter, separately -- that way I have to go out twice, not just once.

My mom and I are taking a very, very, very beginners Yoga class ... you know, so we can prevent what my brother fondly calls "pre-rigor mortis." He's not very flexible, but then again, he never was, so I can't tell if he's losing ground or not. I used to be very bendy. Not so much now that I'm (ahem) older and spending most of my time in front of this computer screen. So the class. Mom and I spend more time wiping tears away from laughter than yoga-ing, but I have faith we'll get the hang of it.

Now my daughter and I are taking a cake decorating class. She's pretty good at it. I, on the other hand, have to say the only thing good about my cakes is that we get to eat them. Last week was our first week to tote in a cake to class. I made the mistake of baking devil's food and frosting it with white frosting. Let's just say I didn't shame myself by taking a photo, but believe me, that white frosting looked like cookies and cream.

Still, it was more level than any cake I've ever baked, so there's a mark for me.

My all time worst cake was one I made it for my daughter-in-law's birthday. I knew I should have stuck with a sheet cake, but no, I had to make a layer cake. It was uneven and broke into three sections after it was frosted. She was very nice and blew out the candles as if it was a normal cake. We dubbed it "the birthday blob." As you can see, we couldn't even chance piercing it with more candles.

I'll post a photo of my class cake tommrrow ... if it looks better than the birthday blob.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best Buddies Indiana Fundraiser and Book Signing

Saturday was a very special day, one I'll remember for years to come. Many new friends from Best Buddies Indiana joined me to help launch my latest romantic suspense, SLEEP NO MORE.

Best Buddies is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And what a wonderful organization it is!

I was reminded of the value of friendship, a thing many of us take for granted, and how a life without it can be so very desolate. This organization is particularly helpful to high school and college age people with intellectual disabilities, a time in everyone's life that is made richer by friendships. With this kind of social and emotional support, many people with disabilities develop the necessary social skills to better able to integrate into the flow of life and the workforce.

We had a great party at Noblesville, IN Barnes & Noble, gave away some goodies, raised some money for Best Buddies and more importantly raised people's awareness of this great organization. You see, up until recently, I didn't even know about Best Buddies Indiana. But in writing SLEEP NO MORE I created one of my all-time favorite characters, Maggie, a young woman with Mosaic Down Syndrome. During my research, I learned much, gained a better insight, and discovered Best Buddies.

I have a couple of "small world" stories, three actually. First there was the book club I visited in early January (on a horrible, frigid day, but these ladies were hearty souls who ventured out anyway). I mentioned my upcoming signing and the tie-in with Best Buddies. Lo, and behold, one of the women there was on the parents' advisory board and has a son who participates in Best Buddies. Now M.J. and her son Jeff are among my newfound friends. I'm going to get a photo up on my website of Jeff at the signing.

Small world story number 2. The woman on the right of this photo is Kim, she works for Best Buddies Indiana and was there the whole day. As Kim and I were chatting, we were discussing Noblesville, as I grew up here and live here, and discovered that her father was my band director when I was in junior high!

Small world story number 3. Katie, on the right in this photo, also works for Best Buddies. One of my friends from waaaay back, a friend of my older brother in fact, was at the signing, saw her and said, "Hey, she took care of me while I was in the hospital a while back." He and Katie had a conversation, and yes indeed, Katie was a nurses aid and took care of him. (And we have lots of hospitals in this area!)

How about that for one short afternoon?

Katie also shared a story with me that I will never, never forget. She said that while she was in high school, she did not have a person who she could call "friend." For four years, she ate lunch alone and walked the halls alone. Katie is now working to make sure others with disabilities such as hers don't have to go through their days alone. It seems such a small thing, having a friend. But you don't realize, until you walk those halls alone day after day, what a huge difference it can make in your life.

Best Buddies and the people I've met through them have enriched my own life. And I'm thinking Maggie won't be my last character with an intellectual disability.

If you'd like to know more about Best Buddies, visit

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, Old Me

I have to admit, I'm very content and don't want to screw that up with resolutions that I know myself well enough to know I'll never keep. That's not to say I don't think I need improvement. Au contraire.

I am setting goals for myself this year -- and none of them involve exercise and weight loss (not that I don't need both, it's just I'd rather fool myself into thinking I'm doing both just because I want to, not because I promised I would). Ah, mind games. I play them with my characters every day, guess it's spilling over into my real life.

My goals are simple. And achievable.

Everything hinges on this one rule: If you have thirty minutes, you can accomplish almost anything.

Really. Think of all of those things you put off. How many of them take less than thirty minutes once you set yourself to dealing with them?

If I find myself with a block of thirty minutes I'll set myself to a task. It's amazing what a person can actually accomplish in thirty minutes -- I used to know this when my children were small, somewhere along the way I lost it.

Writing is like closet space, the more you have the less efficient you are with it. For some reason I've fallen into this "I need two hours to be effective" routine. So not true, and I've found it to be counter productive. Thirty minute segments will keep my head in the game.

I need to volunteer more. My thirty minute rule will allow me to gather up those wasted minutes and put them to good use.

I want to spend more time with my mom. Aren't frequent short visits better than one long one?

I want to spend more time reading for pleasure. Again, I don't need to carve out hours to enjoy a good book. Why not plan a thirty minute break in every day for this?

You're getting the idea. In fact this blog was done during one of those thirty minute "dead times."

I think cleaning out my sock drawer is nest on the thirty-minute-to-do list. Then I'll be able to close it and be happier each and every morning.