A Dinner Recipe From Take Two: a Hollywood Romance

‘Tis the season of eating! So it seems appropriate to share a recipe for what happens to be my daughter’s all-time favorite meal: chicken parmesan. I used this meal in a pivotal scene in my novel Take Two: a Hollywood Romance.

chicken-parmesanThe first time the hero (Zac) sees the heroine (Gina) in her home, with her teenage daughters, he is surprised to see her cooking like a normal mom (since he’s only interacted with her on a film set):

                “Oh my gosh, you’re here!” A girl jumped up from the table and threw her arms around him. “You’re really here!”

                Zac chuckled self-consciously. “I guess you don’t mind having me. You must be…”

                “I’m Allie,” she said. “And that’s my big sister Christine.”

                “We have visitors fairly often,” Christine said. “Lots of overnights for mom’s work. None as famous as you, though.”

                “Famous?” he said. “I think you’ve got me confused with someone else.” He glanced at Gina. It was odd seeing her in a kitchen, making dinner. Like a normal parent…

                “Now that introductions are done,” Gina said, “Do you have an appetite at all? Tonight’s fare is chicken parmesan.”

                To his surprise, he felt as though he could actually eat something. “I’d like that,” he said. “Though I should probably shower…”

                “Eat first,” Gina said as she placed a hotplate on the table. “Or it may be gone when you get here.”

                His mouth watered and when Allie said, “Sit here, Zac!” he did.

                “You do kind of smell like a hospital,” Allie said.

                “Allie!” Christine said.

                “I sort of still feel like that, too,” Zac said. “Sorry.”

                “It’s okay,” Allie said. “After what you’ve been through and all, we understand.”

                “Hmm.” How much did these girls of Gina’s know?


And now for the recipe…

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 34 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 Servings


  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 slices mozzarella cheese, or more
  • 1 jar (16 oz) spaghetti sauce
  • Parmesan cheese


Whisk together the egg and milk. Dip the chicken breasts in milk and egg mixture and then in bread crumbs. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken in the hot oil on both sides until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Set chicken in a baking dish.

Slice 8 pieces of mozzarella cheese and put two on each chicken breast. Pour 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce over all. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a little more mozzarella and bake at 350° for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly. Serve with spaghetti, garlic bread and a nice green salad.



TakeTwo_COVER_NEW_FAbout Take Two: A Hollywood Romance

A Harley-riding Hollywood director and single mom’s personal life collides with her leading man’s when he is poisoned on the set.

Take Two: a Hollywood Romance is the first book in the Lady Biker Series. The series features four women friends who also happen to be biker chicks. The four women, as different as can be, are bound by their mutual love of motorcycling.

The Kelly Family Goes to Mexico!

My husband and I have talked about going to Mexico for 20 years. We finally did it! Although not quite what I originally had in mind … We waited so long that what was supposed to be a romantic getaway became a family trip. (Not quite the same if you know what I mean!)

But it does make for more interesting stories. Here’s a typical exchange:

My daughter to a stranger: “My brother’s kind of an idiot, he threw his goggles up on the roof… my mom dropped her shorts in a puddle… and I lost my goggles in the ocean.”

My son: “Yeah… it kind of runs in the family.”

To which I replied: “Ah, you are secretly funny.” (from the movie The Princess and the Frog) A line that we used many times throughout the week! (But hey, nobody got sunburned.)

Unlike the last time I travelled (when I got stuck in an airport for 10-1/2 hours), getting there went remarkably smoothly (but 15 hours of travel was still exhausting). We only missed the resort once in the dark and had to backtrack – but our room was awesome.

It took us the entire first day to figure out how to get around on this huge resort. Everywhere you went, you took little train-car jobbies. It was the start of ‘waiting on others’… but they were prompt and we were ready for the slower pace.

Tulum_1Day #2 started with free breakfast at a price. Yep, you guessed it – one of those timeshare sales pitches. We also went into Playa del Carmen for groceries, which turned out to be our most authentic experience with typical Mexicans!

Day #3 we took a ‘free’ tour to Tulum (Mayan ruins). I should know better than to fall for ‘free!’ The tour was poorly run. First we spent two hours at a rug & jewelry factory (my kids were remarkably good about reading and entertaining themselves). By the time we got to the ruins it was 2pm and incredibly hot and steamy (89 degrees). In fact, it was hard to concentrate, and we certainly didn’t want to loiter in the ruins area (which had no shade). I was disappointed in the day.

Day #4: Recovery! Spent it by the pool. Clouds and rain came in the afternoon, but we just sat through it. It did, however, drop the humidity and temperature for the rest of our stay.

Xcaret_3Day #5 was my favorite day. We spent it at Xcaret which was sort of a cross between archeological ruins, a zoo and a beach. The aquarium was my son’s favorite while my daughter mostly liked the flamingos, parrots and the butterfly atrium (you’d stand there and literally dozens of butterflies would flutter around you). It had an amazing cemetery built on top of the “Crypt of Sighs.” What I found fascinating about this was the circular design that contained running water at all times. Little troughs ran from the top (where the cemetery was) around the sides of the Crypt and into a circular pattern on the floor (you can see the floor rings in this photo).

There was also an elaborate performance in the evening. In drama and music, it told the story of how the Spanish, Catholic religion came to Maya and changed the culture/religion of the area. Right up my alley!

Xcaret_familyThe last day we spent at the beach on the resort. I remembered the camera – but no batteries. OY! What was supposed to be ‘white sand’ beach was actually hard coral underfoot so not good to wade in. (Apparently some big storm washed the sand away; I don’ t know whether to believe that or not.) It was actually a cool and windy day but I took my daughter into the water at the end of the pier so she could experience the ocean. She was kind of scared when a big wave washed over her head but she was a trouper.

All in all, a nice break from the Minnesota cold. But probably not one we’d do again anytime soon. Our vacations tend to be more active: downhill skiing or white-water rafting are favorites.  In fact, I’m already saving money for my next ‘bucket list’ trip: rafting through the Grand Canyon!

Book Into Movie: My Review of “The Vow”

As my readers know, I have a fascination with how a written work (novel) is turned into a movie. So recently I read the memoir and watched the movie “The Vow.” Herein I offer my (very frank) thoughts.

Although I thought the book was lacking in emotional punch (see my review), the movie was so “Hollywood-ized” that it lost whatever might have made it different and interesting.

Personally, I don’t care for Channing Tatum as an actor; everything he does seems stilted and wooden. And I don’t think he’s that great looking (then again, neither was the romantic male in Safe Haven, so what’s up with these chick flicks?).

If you hadn’t read the book you might think this movie was OK but nothing you’ll remember a couple years from now. If you HAVE read the book, you might have noticed it’s not the same story.

The way the characters met and courted was nothing like the memoir (the real-life experience was unusual but not ‘exciting’ enough for Hollywood I’m guessing). The way the car accident happened was not at all accurate. One aspect of the book that I thought was really compelling was that the Carpenters were taken to different hospitals; Kim was badly injured yet LEFT the hospital AMA to get to his wife (whom he thought was dying). There was very little “hospital time” in the movie.

The months Krickett spent recuperating and relearning simple things (like how to walk) could have been compelling but were completely glossed over.

The family dynamics were completely made up for Hollywood; in actual life, both families were supportive of their efforts to rebuild their marriage.

And the most disappointing thing about the movie? It makes no mention – at all – of God or faith. I’m sure that’s a Hollywood thing. In the memoir, Kim Carpenter makes a big deal about the fact that they could not have put their marriage back together without faith (which I believe having been there/done that myself though not so dramatically). He also hammers home the fact that they did not consider divorce an option – that’s the point of the title “The Vow” – and yet there they are in the movie, signing divorce papers.

I can’t figure out why the Carpenters let this movie be associated with their story, since they were so adamant about the faith thing. Unless they hope it nudges people to pick up their book… but if so, readers may be quite surprised (or disappointed depending on what they expected).

Veteran’s Day READ, WRITE & REMEMBER event

Veteran’s Day is just a few days away and this year, I’m honored to be part of an active recognition of our veterans: READ, WRITE & REMEMBER.

RWR-bannerMy fellow military romance authors and I have pledged to donate a portion of our book sales to veteran and/or military charities. And we’re going to share the experience with you! What the charities are, why we choose them, and how they have impacted our writing (I’m sure there will be some awesome book excerpts too!). The organizations will also be invited to share stories about their clients or members.

We’ll spend the day (Tuesday, November 11) from 9am to 9pm EST together, online. And when it’s all over, we’ll send checks to over a dozen different organizations. It’s just a small token of our appreciation of our service members.

Much of my exposure to military came in my early years, when I was trained as an Army Combat Medic. In more recent years I’ve combined my love of all things America with my love of motorcycling.

TributeToTheTroopsSo it comes as no surprise that I’ve chosen TRIBUTE TO THE TROOPS as my charity. Many weekends throughout our short season here in Minnesota you can find bikers from this group riding right to the homes of families of the fallen. It’s an up-close, personal and impactful way to show respect for the dead AND their families. (Check out the awesome video on their home page.)

FallenHeroesFundLogoI was so impressed with the Center for the Intrepid when I visited in July that I also wanted to support amputees in particular. (The fact that my military hero in True Surrender is an amputee might have had a little to do with it too.) So I’ve teamed up with the INTREPID FALLEN HEROES FUND – the organization that spearheaded the building of the Center – to further support these amazing men and women.

So please help me and my fellow military romance authors make a difference to veterans and their families:

* Join our Facebook event here (do it now so you’ll be ready on Tuesday!)
* Tell everyone you know about it (see below for ready-made tweets you can copy and paste)
* Buy the books of the authors who will be featured (for my part, ANY of my books sold on ANY platform (amazon, nook, kobo, iTunes or direct) during the ENTIRE month of November will qualify for my donation match!)


Ready-Made Tweets – Copy and Paste!

READ WRITE & REMEMBER. Author/Reader Veterans Day event to honor US service members.http://on.fb.me/10sQ1Hx #RWRVeterans

Meet #MilitaryRomanceAuthors and the non-profits they support to benefit U.S. troops. http://on.fb.me/10sQ1Hx #RWRVeterans

Military romance authors honor American veterans Nov 11. READ, WRITE & REMEMBER. http://on.fb.me/10sQ1Hx #RWRVeterans #MilitaryRomanceAuthors

Military romance authors salute American veterans! READ, WRITE & REMEMBER. Online event Nov. 11 http://on.fb.me/10sQ1Hx #RWRVeterans

If you love #MilitaryRomance, join READ WRITE & REMEMBER for a chance to benefit U.S. veterans. Nov. 11 http://on.fb.me/10sQ1Hx #RWRVeterans

A Biker’s Kiss: Vince & Tori


A Biker’s Kiss Now Available: What Happens in Sturgis…

It’s my fourth publication but it feels like the “first time” all over again… BikersKiss_COVER_web

A BIKER’S KISS is live!

This novella is about a biker who’s not too keen on kissing and a girl who sets out to change his mind.

After all, what happens in Sturgis stays in Sturgis … or does it?

Just 99 CENTS!
Purchase eBook: Amazon

Meet Vince & Tori and the LazLo gang
Click to read a free excerpt

A Biker’s Kiss Cover Reveal

BikersKiss_COVER_webA Biker’s Kiss: Vince & Tori will be available October 20!

I don’t know about you, but seeing the finished cover is the thing that makes it real for me, makes me realize that YEA! I’ve done it again! My fourth publication and it’s like the first time all over again… :-)

I was in the midst of writing A Biker’s Kiss: Vince & Tori when one of our customers (Scott S.) posted a photo on Leader Motorcycle’s Facebook page. I was pleasantly shocked because the photo is reminiscent of a scene that I had just recently written.

I asked Scott about the photo and he told me that his daughter (then 16) had taken it. I asked if she might be interested in having it appear as the cover of a book. She was! Throw in a little designer magic (thanks Gregory!) and voila! You have a cool cover.

So what’s the story about, you ask?


Kissing is overrated.

At least in Vince’s mind. The fact that he avoids kissing hasn’t stopped him from getting what he wants from women. But now he’s shared a little too much with his co-worker, Tori—and she’s made it her personal mission to change his opinion. After all, what happens in Sturgis, stays in Sturgis. Or does it?


And now, for your reading pleasure, a short excerpt, taken from early in the story…

He couldn’t figure her out. She acted like she couldn’t care less whether he liked her or not, yet she was inviting him to her bed. Granted, it wasn’t for sex, that was clear, but…

“Even if I might’ve tried to kiss you in my half-drunk state?”

She picked up the coffee mug again, studying him. “You like kissing?”

The question came out of the blue, and he had no idea how to answer. “Pardon?”

“Personally I love kissing,” she said.

“In that monogamous, committed relationship.”

“Well, kissing can be good almost any time,” she said.

He stared at her, stumped again. “You pick some strange conversation topics, you know that?”

She smiled. “So? You must do a lot of kissing, yes?”

Touring the Burn Unit and Amputee Center at Fort Sam Houston

I recently had the opportunity to revisit Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. The last time I was there was over 20 years ago, when I trained as a Combat Medic. Much has changed since then!

burn_trauma_ORMy first stop was the Burn Center at Brooke Army Medical Center. This is where doctors and nurses work to keep severely burned patients alive — and then help them cope with the pain of life-changing wounds. Here’s a photo of the emergency suite, which is kept at 90 to 100 degrees since burn patients can’t regulate their body temperature.

Most sobering to me was that most patients don’t even remember their time in the Intensive Care area (average four months!); they are so heavily sedated for pain they wouldn’t want to anyway. Life begins again for them when they reach the Transition area. And after that, it’s still a long road of physical therapy and multiple surgeries.

This was a sobering tour, and weeks afterward, I have to say that I don’t think I could accurately write a character going through this – patient or caregiver!

Second stop was the Center for the Intrepid (CFI), which is where amputees go to get their groove back.

Military War Wounded Get Intensive Treatment At Brooke Army Medical CenterThe CFI was built as a collaboration between government and civilian (much like the fictional Medical Center in True Surrender). In fact, over 600,000 Americans contributed financially to make the CFI a reality.

The CFI is truly world class. It’s where I would have wanted to work had I gone on to become a physical therapist (my original college major). And this tour came at a perfect time, as I’ve been reacquainting myself with my amputee hero, Aaron Bricewick, as I write the script version of True Surrender.

caren_simulator2Highlights for me included the wave pool (think surfboarding indoors) and the CAREN, which is an amazing virtual reality simulator. (For a complete overview of the Center, watch the video here). I was especially gratified to find that my fictional account of Aaron’s gait analysis in True Surrender (based on internet research) was on target.

When I noticed a huge banner of an amputee riding rodeo, I asked my guide if he knew any amputees who were riding motorcycles, and/or if he’d heard of any special modifications for amputees to do so. He didn’t… but I’ll keep in touch. Because I can definitely see a biker/amputee character in a future story!

American Reporter James Foley’s Beheading has Eerie Similarities to True Surrender

This past week I’ve spent every spare minute (and even some when I was supposed to be working my full-time job) working on Draft #4 of the film script for True Surrender.

(Yes! For those of you who said that True Surrender would make an awesome Lifetime Movie – and I was surprised how often that came up – I’m finally taking the first step.)

jamesfoleyIn the midst of my submersion, something interesting happened. I’m sure you’ve heard about it: American reporter James Foley was beheaded by ISIS terrorists.

It shocked me for the obvious reasons – the reasons everyone else was shocked. Namely, the sheer violence and – well, who can really be that sick?

But it is also eerily similar to a scene in True Surrender that I happened to be working on right then, when I heard about James Foley. (And yes, I probably would have watched the whole sordid video if I could have, trash basket nearby in case I felt ill.)

We don’t ‘see’ the violence in either the book or the film script of True Surrender, but in this scene, an American military officer is killed in a ‘snuff movie’ that is shown to our hero, who then tells the heroine about it.

The details are left vague (on purpose) but the reader/viewer gets the impression the officer’s throat was slashed because of earlier events in the story:

     “I know what the doctor said about PTSD,” Holly said quietly. “And I know about the missing officer in Afghanistan.”

     Aaron drew a sharp breath as bile threatened to rush into his throat. Unconsciously his fingers tightened against her jaw.

     “Aaron?” She covered his hand with hers.

     “There’s so much I need to tell you…”

     “No more secrets,” she said.

     “No.” He needed her to know; wanted to share his life with her.

     “Promise?” she said.

     He nodded. “We got a transmission yesterday—” His voice cracked.


     “A message of unknown origin,” he said. “It was…ah…”

     He had to choke the words out around a lump in this throat the size of a golf ball. “A snuff movie.”

     “God, Aaron, you don’t mean…?”

     Aaron nodded. “They videotaped themselves killing him.”

     She couldn’t bring herself to ask for details. “Scott said it was similar to…to what you…”

     He nodded.

     “That could have been you,” she whispered.

     “He has a wife and kids,” Aaron said. “Better I should have died over there than him.”

     “Aaron, no!”

As much as I feel for James Foley, his family, and hell, the world…  this event is morbidly fascinating to me as a writer. The above scene was written in 2010 or 2011, so way before this week’s media coverage of James Foley. Fictional characters like those in True Surrender are allowed to be tortured (both physically and mentally), and villains are allowed to be too awful to believe.

I wish it weren’t so in the real world.

The Glamorous Life of an Author… Once a Year!

My life as an author is about as far from glamorous as it’s possible to be. Most of the time, I’m in my ‘writing cave’ (when I’m not parenting or trying to make a living doing something that pays better), and occasionally I get out and commiserate with other authors.

But once a year there’s the Romance Writers of America National conference, which IS actually sort of glamorous… but never happens near my home base in Minnesota. It also falls at a terrible time (late July) when I’m frantically preparing to work the Leader Motorcycle booth at the Sturgis motorcycle rally (this is the first year we’ve sat it out). Thus the reasons I hadn’t yet been.

So what was RWA like for this conference virgin?

NLW_on_RiverwalkWell, first: I’m glad a couple of “homegirls” from my local chapter were there (that’s me with Denise Devine and Lauri Robinson on the San Antonio Riverwalk). I had someone to meet for lunch and dinner, and Denise’s husband was the most awesome chauffeur a girl could ask for.

There were 1800 writers there, 99% of them women. I’m used to being around a lot of people when I work motorcycle rallies, but this was different. This was like being on crack for four days straight; the ‘buzz’ was like a pissed-off bee colony! Either I’m getting old, or there’s a BIG difference in a crowd of mostly women versus a crowd of mostly men! :-)

It took me until Day 3 to stop feeling like I was missing something important, like I needed to be everywhere at once (because of course I couldn’t). And the seminars were a mixed bag: some good, some meh. I learned not to lollygag between seminars or I’d be sitting on the floor for an hour – NOT enjoyable!

I’d hoped to make more connections with other authors, but the sheer volume of people frankly made that difficult. Highlights:

  • pictures with the “cowboys” at a reception hosted by Amazon (here we are at right!)
  • the awards ceremony, which was pretty cool (but too dark for pix)
  • meeting Heather Ashby, my ‘cyber friend’ and fellow writer whose characters I love (military heroes similar to mine!)
  • learning something new about the Alamo (which was literally kitty-corner from my hotel)

Outside the conference, we spent a little time on the Riverwalk. I had been there 20+ years ago, while attending Army Combat Medic training at Fort Sam Houston (just north of town). I have fond memories of my mates/friends drinking on the Riverwalk, but now the Riverwalk just felt claustrophobic, kitchy and just plain hot (the oppressive heat was too hard on this Minnesota native).

Possibly the best use of my time while in San Antonio was the time I spent at Brooke Army Medical Center for research related to future military/veteran characters. But that is a whole ‘nother post for a whole ‘nother day!