Novelists are often asked where they get their ideas, and I’m pretty sure no one in the history of asking that question has ever been given a satisfactory answer. Why? Ideas come from the Ether, which is a flimsy, cotton candy-like substance that may or may not exist in the part of writers’ brains where they also warehouse snark, commercial jingles, and images of fat orange kitties.

In other words, writers have no idea where ideas their ideas come from. Some ideas leap fully-formed into the imagination. Others are nothing more than a persistent image or a piece of music. But the one thing all good ideas have in common is their unwillingness to go away. In SWEET DREAMS, the second book in my “Dreams Come True” series, I had just such an idea for a character I wanted to write: UFO-obsessed, wannabe pastry chef Coralee. I’m actually convinced that some part of Coralee is my alter-ego.

UFOs were the mainstay of Coralee’s life, along with cooking shows, crossword puzzles and Ed, her husband. Ed was retired and rarely stirred from the Barcalounger.

“There’s been a sighting near Big Bend National Park,” Coralee said with the hushed urgency she used when discussing her “saucers”. “Any day now I expect them to come to Cuervo. You know how my Ed got took up by one. He’ll be the first to tell you, they’re none too gentle on folks.”

Later on in SWEET DREAMS, Coralee starts baking UFO cakes, much like the one shown here (props to Diana Manzanares Ruiz whose creation I discovered on Pinterest). But this is where it gets weird. I didn’t find this photo until after I’d written the scene. A cake almost identical to this one just popped in my head. As the scene unfolded, the cake seemed to describe itself. So once again, the question is raised: where do novelists get their ideas?

Since neither I nor any other writer can give you a straight answer about that, I can tell you this. Good ideas never come to those who judge the content of their minds. In other words, I allow myself to think of a LOT of truly silly stuff. And that’s okay. I welcome all thoughts, however juvenile, dark, complicated, morose, or just plain weird. I let those thoughts rattle around in my head, sometimes writing one down that speaks to me, one that might contain the germ of an idea. In other words, let yourself “think crazy”, the wackier, the better. You may be surprised where it takes you.

When I revisit those ideas in a few weeks, most of them will seem hopelessly pedestrian. But occasionally, there will be the idea that sticks. And that’s the one I usually write a book about—or in the case, a character that I add to my story.

Maybe crazy UFO-obsessed Coralee is a part of all of us. Maybe we need our inner Coralee just to deal with the stress of daily living. All I know is I hope she always loves doughy, monosyllabic Ed, baking UFO cakes and talking about her “saucers”.

I, for one, am damn glad she decided to visit me inside my head.


In a little town in the heart of Texas, the same old story can turn into happily ever after . . .

On any given day, Maggie Roby has cake batter on her sleeve, flour where the blush supposedly goes, and sore feet from standing since dawn. For her sister’s wedding day, she’s added a side of heartache. Maggie’s failed marriage taught her that love is a lie and commitment a mistake, and it was an expensive lesson. But with her bakery thriving and her life simplified to work, family, and knitting for her pug, Maggie thinks she’s bought some peace. Until Jake Sutton walks in and she realizes she isn’t safe from desire at all . . .

Jake has model-perfect looks and about a billion dollars to throw around, but Maggie also sees the same never-say-die grit she prizes in herself. The attraction between them is hotter than her oven in July. But when Jake decides to restore the old Art Deco movie theater right around the corner from her bakery, she worries that temptation is a little too close for comfort. And the added ingredient of a man from her past only complicates the mix. This time nothing less than true love will do. If she can learn to listen to her heart, she just may be able to have her cake and eat it too. . .