Flying Changes – Carolyn

The Malice in Memphis ghost story anthology is out! Hooray! It’s in trade paperback as well as in Ebook form on Amazon. Getting an anthology together even with a group like ours that meets once a month as well as critiques together can be challenging. Makes herding cats look like directing the Vienna Boys Choir.

Some people delivered their stories in the first week after the decision was made to concentrate on ghost stories. Some of our members, however, dawdled until we were about ready to throttle them. In the final analysis, getting good stories was more important than artificial deadlines.

We made our publication date before the rush to buy Christmas presents. Whew! Since both Memphis and ghosts are of major interest these days, the anthology would be a great Christmas present. Whatever royalty I might make will be more than eaten up by the copies I order to send to friends in Canada and the States.

If you have watched the dressage classes at the Olympics, you have seen the horses come down the center like dancers—one canter stride with the left lead, one with the right and so on. This is called a ‘flying change.’ Among my horse buddies, ‘flying change’ has come to mean an abrupt shift of subject.

So—flying change. This weekend was the annual horse show put on by the Nashoba Carriage Association in which horses and carriages drive obstacle courses, intricate patterns at different speeds, and even drive a cross country marathon. The horses range in size from miniatures to great big draft horses. The carriages run from two wheel Meadowbrooks to big elaborate steel Marathon carriages.

I tell my writer friends who write historicals that if they intend to have characters drive or ride in carriages, they really ought to come to the show and see real carriages and horses, and if possible, catch a ride with one of the drivers.

It’s much bumpier than you might think, and at a strong trot, can become hair-raising. And it is noisy! Romances often have lovers making love inside a fast carriage. They’re better coordinated then I am! How romantic is it to crack heads with your lover when you drive over an unexpected bump? Or to wind up on the floor when the carriage swerves around a sharp corner?

I absolutely love driving my big old Zoe horse. Did it yesterday, as a matter of fact. But I am fully aware that I am less in control than I am when I am in the saddle. Not that Zoe would agree. She hated being ridden and dumped me more times than I like to remember when I rode her. But she’d drive me to San Francisco and back quite happily. Horses are funny.

Back to the ghost stories… I hope you get them and enjoy them. We had a blast writing them. Every southerner has at least one ghost story. I think we have enough leftovers for a whole other book.


Malice Anthology–at last – Carolyn

At this point, it looks as though our Malice in Memphis ghost story anthology will be published in time to do a booksigning for Halloween. Nobody has told me the title of the anthology, but I think it’s Malice in Memphis Ghost Stories. Not all that creative, but at least it says what it is. It will be available on Amazon—hint, hint. Just think what lovely Christmas presents copies would make!

Everybody seems to have a ghost story to tell. At least we southerners do. When I was researching my stories, I found that even the people who swore up and down they didn’t believe in ghosts would say, “But, now that I think of it, my old Aunt Mary’s house had a ghost…” and up would come a story that they swore was absolutely true.

I think I have very little of what it takes to connect with the supernatural. I may have dozens of spirits gibbering around in my house and barn and getting grumpy because I ignore them. After George died, I did have a couple of things happen that were not explainable. I think they were George telling me he was still around and looking after me. I keep a very heavy fifty foot chain coiled outside my back door to use on my tractor. A week after the funeral, I started out the back door to go to the barn to feed the horses and found that chain stretched full length across the garage. Nobody comes up in my driveway without alarms going off, and no animal could have moved it. But something sure did.

Then a few days later I discovered that the small tool chest George kept in the garage for quick fixes was sitting in front of my car door. Not lying flat, but sitting upright. And it weighed a good twenty-five pounds.

This house bumps from time to time, but everyone’s houses do that. I know we have field mice. They come in every autumn. No idea how they get in, but the cats present dead ones to me on a regular basis. They do make noise. But I know they aren’t paranormal. They’re just cold. The deer sleep in my pasture—I find their nests like miniature crop circles. I seldom see them, however, although last spring we had a faun under my horse trailer. I disappeared fast so its mother could find it without angst.

If I have spirits in the house and barn, they are apparently benevolent spirits. The cats tell me they can see or sense them. Not me. I don’t feel George’s presence as much any longer. That, according to my psychic friends, is normal as well.

I am content to let my friends have their ESP. I’d just as soon not be aware of any ghosts. But I do like writing about them. Look for our Malice in Memphis anthology a couple of days before Halloween—the perfect publishing date.



Speaking (Pat)

A friend this past week asked me to fill in as a speaker to a church women’s group.    She was responsible for obtaining speakers and her scheduled speaker the next day had called to cancel because of illness.   She asked if I could do it on short notice.

She’s a good friend and a fellow bridge player, and I said, sure, I could.    I enjoy talking to groups  and have plenty of great statistics and info about romance writing.   No problem.

The next morning, I gathered up some old speeches and a few extra copies of books to give away as door prizes and trotted off to the meeting.   When I arrived, I noticed that at least a third of the group were senior men who, I think, expected to hear something about senior finances or health.   The last thing they wanted to hear, I suspected,  was the pleasures of romance novels although I have made believers out of the guys in my family.

Mental switch.   What could I do to interest them as well as their wives?   I went to the historical and current oddities I’ve found in doing research for various novels.   I’ve always loved to find unusual facts to plant in my books, whether they be historical or contemporary.

A few instances:

In researching a historical built around Francis Marion, the true swamp fox of the American Revolution (the movie, “The Patriot” was based on him), I discovered that he was a plantation owner, a  fifty-year-old bachelor, who gave up everything to recruit a militia band that lived in the South Carolina swamps and raided the British by day. He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.

He is credited  in large part with  winning the war in the south.    I found a diary of a militia member who rode with him who reported that  Francis Marion drank a cup of vinegar every day and urged his men to do the same.   They did not, and he was one of the rare militia men who did not get malaria.    The acidity leaked through the skin pores and repelled insects.   Not sure whether he knew the science of it, but he knew it worked and vinegar  is probably healthier than some of the insect repellents we use today.   In researching that same book, I found an account of an American patriot imprisoned on a British prison ship plagued with small pox who self-inoculated himself by sticking a pin in a small pox sore of a fellow prisoner, then sticking himself with the pin.  He was one of the few prisoners to survive.   It was years later that small pox vaccination was discovered.

Another search for a  romantic suspense book turned up unexpected tax haven for hiding funds.  One of the most popular is not in the Caribbean but on Guernsey Island, one of the British Channel Islands.    It seems an unlikely place for such activity, but the island  is controlled by no government other than its own, and this particular source of income provides a fine living for its citizens.    Another great trivia question.

I love finding all these little tidbits. And the group did as well.

Then one of the men asked how to start a book.   He had been wanting to write a family history.

I told him about a family  history authored by my uncle.  A lot of it concerned homesteading  in Arizona and is treasured by by every member of my extended family.   I added that it  would be one of the greatest gifts he could give his family and descendants.

But where to begin, he asked.

I  gave him the answer I give fiction authors.   Start at a point when everything changed for the family.   In my family’s case, it was the meeting of my grandfather and grandmother.   in a store in Arkansas.

Truman Capote once said that everyone who survives puberty has a story to tell.   I hope some of the audience Thursday were inspired to write their stories.

I had planned twenty minutes but questions carried it for an additional twenty minutes.   And it was fun.   Really fun.   Sometimes improvising — rather than following a speech — works.


public speaking – Carolyn

Our Malice meeting yessterday had a great program on public speaking. In the lists of things that people fear, public speaking apparently tops the list, followed by snakebite and death by drowning. People would rather die than speak in public! Amazing. Our instructor teaches public speaking (very well) at several of the local colleges. As writers, we are always being asked to speak, but if nothing else, if someone in an elevator asks, “What’s your book about?” You’d better be well rehearsed with giving him your twenty-five words or less. After all, it could be Stephen Spielberg.

One of the students we heard about was a girl who threw up whenever she was asked to speak. The great Helen Hayes used to throw up in the wings every night before she went on stage. She still gave a fabulous performance.

I grew up acting in several local theatre groups. I am a terrible actor, by the way. I am always too aware of how I look—hold in that stomach even if the character would slouch. I even played Salome in Oscar Wilde’s Salome when I was sixteen. Did not have a clue what I was doing, and I heard my mother in the audience gasp when the last of the seven veils came off. My mother’s gasp would have been identifiable on the top of the Empire State Building.

I actually learned to speak when I was being trained to be a Weight Watchers lecturer in Minneapolis. I haven’t kept the weight off that well, but the speakers’ training has stayed with me.

I don’t think you can fake caring about the people in the audience—I can’t, at any rate. I really do like talking to strangers and will strike up a conversation with almost anyone. One of my more reticent friends went to an agricultural show with me and was appalled when I spent my time talking to the people who raised cattle and hogs. But then I love cattle and hogs, and I love learning about anything I don’t know—gives me a wide variety of subjects.

People mostly enjoy talking about themselves. It’s the only thing that makes a writer’s research possible. Find out who knows, then ask them to tell you. I once called the office of the DEA on Sunday afternoon and asked the agent on call to describe marijuana to me. Our back yard backed up to the big dormitory at the University of Memphis. I had discovered some interesting weeds behind our garage. The agent was a little bemused, but he spent thirty minutes telling me much more than I needed to know. Yea, lo, verily, our lovely weeds were indeed weed. The nice DEA agent told me to pull them up, put them in a trash bag and stuff them in the garbage can. And not under any circumstances to throw them in the burn pile and set them alight. A couple of my friends were horrified I hadn’t passed them along.

Those people you are speaking to are mostly happy to interact with you. Talk to them like friends. Almost always, they will react like friends. And practice your twenty-five-words-or-less. Stephen Spielberg, where are you when we need you? cmc





That’s the hashtag for Tule Publishing’s new “Love at the Chocolate Shop” series, which launched yesterday with the release of MELT MY HEART, COWBOY by C.J. Carmichael. melt-my-heart-cowboy This is a lovely, sweet romance with a focus on family and being open to new possibilities. There’s a secondary character–the hero’s sister who has developmental challenges on the Autism scale–that touched my heart.

When my hubby and I were visiting our old home town, we recalled a man in our neighborhood named Lee. Lee was probably ten or more years older than us, but his mind was…”different.” He didn’t understand things like personal boundaries and social graces. He was very sharp where certain things were concerned (remember Dustin Hoffman in Rainman?) and completely oblivious about things we took for granted. He once flew to Chicago, wandered around the airport for four hours and flew back home, where his worried parents were waiting for him. A triumph and complete success in his mind. He boasted about “visiting Chicago” for months. We went to college, moved away and completely lost track of Lee. His parents were old (well, everyone over 25 was old to us back then) and I never heard mention of siblings or other family. As we drove past Lee’s family’s house, we shared our memories of him–both funny and poignant in hindsight.

I wished I’d been a bigger, kinder person to Lee. I wish I’d been more like Rosie Linn in C.J.’s book. Do you have a “Lee” in your life? I’d love to hear.

You can read the first chapter of MELT MY HEART, COWBOY here: start reading for free.

I’m so excited to have a book in this line-up. Don’t you love the covers?! chocolate-four-covers I know I mentioned the Facebook Release Party last week, but here’s the schedule. I’d love to hang out with you on Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 3-8 PM (Pacific). You’ll have to join the Main Street Marietta private group to participate–and be eligible for all the great prizes–but you’re not obligation to remain in it once the party is over. chocolate-shop-party-times-jpg Have a great autumnal weekend–and stay safe Floridians and all those in Hurricane Matthew’s path.




It’s fall, thank heaven! – Carolyn

Since I had to remove the masses of horse stuff from my old Expedition before I let it go to the dealership, not only is my den a wreck, but so is my bedroom. Since I both ride a horse and drive a horse, I accumulate tack and medications and brushes and boots and britches and on and on and on—all of which winds up in the back of my now much smaller SUV. So I have already tossed out a big garbage bag of stuff, with more to go.

And before next Saturday’s meeting, I am supposed to finish the initial edits on our Malice in Memphis writers’ groups’ third anthology of short stories about crime and ghosts in West Tennessee.

Then there’s the taxes. I don’t know any writers (although I’m sure there are plenty) who do their taxes early. Actually, mine are now done, although not paid or sent in. And it’s barely the beginning of October. My accountant—a saint on this earth—is amazed.

Somewhere among this stuff, I am supposed to be writing a three-book proposal. Un-huh.

The good news is that so far I have not managed to kill the new plants in my newly constructed flowerbeds in front of the house. I used to say I can kill philodendron. These days I’m saying I can kill poison ivy just by staring at it.

And it is finally fall! The best time of the year according to the musical comedy Plain and Fancy. Not New England nor East Tennessee fall quite yet, but the heat is off. I can actually wear jeans without dying of heatstroke. How strange that for us southerners the year opens up just as it starts to shut down for winter.

Tomorrow at our church, we are having the annual fall blessing of the animals. I wouldn’t miss it, although I wouldn’t dream of taking my two remaining cats. The big black cat is so antisocial she growls at ME. Monte, the Burmese, screams so loud and long no one could hear the service.

The blessing of the animals arose out of the opening foxhunts where riders blessed their hounds. I don’t know how they’re handling foxhunts in England these days, but in this country we have never killed foxes on our foxhunts, except by accident. Around here we don’t have enough to waste, and we love our foxes.

I don’t hunt. No fences for me, thank you. But I do know that the foxes seem to know the days the hunt is out, leave their burrows and wait for them. One of my hunting buddies says she has seen a dog fox sitting on the top rail of a three rail fence watching while hounds bounded through and ran on beneath him, never noticing that B’rer Fox was laughing down at them.

Our carriage association usually follows opening hunt in our carriages. I’ve never done that with Zoe, my big old mare. She’d think I’d taken leave of my senses if I started cantering her across a field with the carriage attached.

So I will go sedately to our blessing of the animals and pray for all of them, and for us that we care for them to the best of our ability. They deserve it.



Fascinating — and courageous — Women (Pat)

I was tidying up my office after the marathon finishing process of my next book (The SEAL’s Return) and in the process stumbled upon a news article and a bound remembrance of women who composed the WASPs during World War II.

I acquired them during a reunion of WASPs that I covered for the Atlanta Journal many years ago.   I was fascinated by their tales,  their intelligence, their daring,  I always intended to write a book about them but publishers were not interested in World War II at that time.

I wonder now that the fact that Kristine Hannah’s World War II novel,The Nightingale,  has stayed on the New York Times  Bestseller List for more than a year  might have changed the belief that World War II books do not sell.   The Nightingale, by the way, is one of my favorite books, and Kristine is one of my favorite authors as well as a very nice person.

“We’re one of the best kept secrets of World War II,” said one former WASP at the reunion in Atlanta.  She was one of 1,101 women who became civilian pilots during World War II, freeing male fliers for overseas duty.   They flight tested  new planes (more than a few were killed in doing so), transported soldiers and cargo, delivered planes to Europe and towed targets.  Thirty eight were killed.  They made $50 less that their male counterparts (a  big difference at the time) and  wore army issued mechanic’s overalls for daily wear — nothing smaller than a size 44.   The women called them “Zoot suits” and had to roll up the bottoms and cinch the waists.

Some were already pilots.   Others had never flown before.   Many of them said the reason they volunteering  was that their husbands or other loved ones were fighting overseas.  They went through the same six months training program as the men, completing ground school, basic flight training and advanced flight training.  But they never received any benefits and until this year were not allowed burial in Arlington Cemetery even if killed on duty.

In addition to the shortage of male pilots, there was another reason for the creation of the WASPS.  Putting women in the cockpit of the Super Fortress was done to shame male aviators who feared the plane that killed one test pilot, according to one source.

One officer at a base where two WASPS delivered a Fortress noted that the pilots were “two luscious femmes,” adding that flying the bomber was “quite a job for two delicate dishes of femininity.”   He went on to say that perhaps” they should take  some of our supermen for a ride and show them how to get off the ground with speed and dispatch.”

By the end of 1944, the pilot shortage was over.   That put many civilian male pilots at risk of being drafted into the ground troops  – unless they could get the women pilots’ jobs.

At that time, Congress was considering a bill that would have militarized the WASPS so the male pilots launched a massive anti-WASP campaign.  The lobby succeeded and the bill failed.    The WASPs were disbanded on Dec. 20, 1944.  It would be more than three decades before women were allowed to fly military aircraft for the United States.

They, along with a number of very successful women spies, were among the unsung heroes of World War II. .   They should not be forgottenen.


Home sweet home

Travel is great. Travel opens your eyes to new places, new possibilities. Travel rocks.

That said…it’s wonderful to be home.

I promised to share a bit more of my South Dakota trip, so here you go. This was a working vacation for my hubby, who is a general contractor. His brother wanted to build an enclosed sunroom at his place on Lake Poinsett in eastern South Dakota, and since you can’t build in the winter, it was hit the ground running once we settled in.

The project went from this:


to all five brothers working as Team Salonen:


To this:


Until we ran out of material (the walls are reclaimed barn wood) and umph. :-)

We spent our final few days exploring Sioux Falls–a really lovely, clean, progressive city that until this trip I still considered our rival from high school-LOL…


We also had a chance to catch up with old friends at a Brookings, SD, landmark: Nick’s Hamburger Shop. Kismet/great timing is a beautiful thing!


photo credit: Steve Bailey

Also during this trip, I managed to put the finishing touches on Caleb’s Christmas Wish–a book that Harlequin published in 2002. I was thrilled to get my rights back to this one because it’s such a deeply emotional story set in the foothills not far from where I live. I love the new cover from Rogenna Brewer. I hope it will attract a new group of readers who will love this book as much as I do. It’s available on pre-order now, but will be live tomorrow. I have a number of review copies (ebook any format) available, if you’re interested. (email me at


How far would you go for the sake of a child?

Black Friday. Black ice. Lives changed in a blink.

The lines in Miami financier Jake Westin’s world are crisp and easy to delineate: black and red, profit and loss. On paper. Until the day after Thanksgiving when Allison Jeffries—a woman he’s heard about for four and a half years but never met—calls to tell him the world they’ve shared from opposite sides of the country will never be the same.  Pam and Kenny Rydell–Jake’s best friend and only link to the “bad ol’ days” of his youth—died in a car accident on the way to a Sierra ski resort, leaving their son, Caleb, with his grandmother, who upon hearing the news of her only daughter’s death went into cardiac arrest. In an instant, Caleb’s godparents–two grieving strangers who never imagined the worst-case scenario becoming a reality—must decide how to best care for the little boy they both love.

Jake is determined to do the right thing for Caleb–even if that means facing demons from his own loss-filled childhood and dealing with the woman Kenny called “a sweetheart but wound too tight for her own good.” Allison suffers no illusion that she’d make a good mother. After all, hasn’t she let her computer business fill the gap left by a failed marriage and aborted pregnancy? But she’ll do anything in her power to give her godson the life Pam intended for her son–even if that means sharing a house with the charismatic stranger Pam teasingly called “Jake the Rake–a broken heart waiting to happen.”

Read the first chapter for FREE:

Amazon   BN    iBOOKS   KOBO  GooglePlay

AmazonCA     AmazonAU     AmazonUK

Happy reading, my friends!




car buying Karma – Carolyn

Why does everything have to be so hard?

Last Thursday I bought a new Escape to replace my elderly Expedition, which has nearly 170,000 miles on it. The actual car buying  was a piece of cake. The sales personnel were pleasant and helpful and made the whole process a good experience. So far so good.

I always have red cars. When I had to drive a beige rental while my door was being replaced last year I spent twenty minutes a time searching parking lots. I can actually find a red car.

My daughter christened my first red van as The Great Red Avenger. Then, when I bought the Expedition, of course it became “Son Of.” Obviously the new Escape is “Grandson Of.” I may not make it to “Great Grandson Of.” At any rate, buying the car required a good deal of shopping and a good deal of Internet searching, but in the end, I found what I was looking for.

So far so good. One of the reasons I decided to trade the Expedition was that it had refused to start occasionally on an absolutely random basis. So I had $700 worth of work done on it. Problem fixed? Oh, sure. Right. I live in the country with horses. I can’t afford to be stuck somewhere where I can’t get home to care for them and the cats.

So, the new car was to be delivered to my house on Friday afternoon while the Expedition would be driven back to the dealership. I had a bunch of errands to run on Thursday afternoon including a stop at Costco to get a big cake to take to the pot luck supper that evening at my church. Errands done, I got in the car and turned on the ignition. Guess what? It wouldn’t start. All I needed was one more day to get it off my hands. What is wrong with my Karma? I had to get a wrecker at five in the afternoon in a 105 degree heat index to bring me and the car home. Not cheap.

Of course, I missed the potluck supper and now have a gigantic chocolate cake in my refrigerator that I should not even look at, much less eat. How’s that working out for me? Don’t ask.

So I had to explain to the guys who were delivering my new Escape on Friday that they wouldn’t be able to drive the Expedition away. Frankly, they couldn’t have been nicer. The car may not be picked up by their wrecker until Tuesday, but it’s obviously not going anywhere. In the meantime I have my new Escape, which is so complicated it may take me a month of studying the owner’s manual to figure it all out. Today I managed to get the rear window windshield wiper started and had no idea how to cut it off. Nor how to turn on the radio.

And I had to clear out the Expedition, so my bedroom is now as full of mess as the taxes and manuscripts have left my den. I feel like the Collyer brothers. I am putting in for a place on that show about hoarders.

And my friend and I can’t drive Zoe after church today. It’s a heat index of 103. Where is fall when we need it?



The Book Is Done/Pat

Ah, happiness!.

I have finally finished the very last stage of “Jubal’s Return,” the fourth in the Covenant Falls series. It will be released in February.

It’s a bit different than the other soldier and dog themes in the Covenant Falls series. This time it’s Jubal and a horse, and I hope you love the ending because it is going to lead to more Covenant Falls book.

Jubal’s always going to be one of my favorite heroes. A former SEAL no longer physically fit due to injuries, he’s lost his very identity. He has no idea where he wants to go or what he wants to do until he meets a troubled teenager, a new doctor in town and a horse name Jacko.

This last stage of the editing process  was my third and final chance to improve the book.. I gave it a read-over after finishing the raw product, another after finishing revisions from my editor, and then a third reviewing any changes she might make.

This very last stage involves reviewing the copy editor’s changes and it was my last chance to make the book better. I found myself spending an hour or more on a paragraph. Then I panic when I add up in my head the time I’ll spend on succeeding paragraphs and know I can never make it as perfect as I want it to be. Next step in this process is paranoia. For loss of an improved sentence, it’s going to be a terrible book. My career is over, etc., etc.

Because of the limited time to review this copy edited stage of the book, I missed the famous Countrywood Garage Sale. I’ve blogged about it before. It’s a mammoth neighborhood garage sale of some 600 homes plus businesses and area churches. It draws approximately 25,000 people from as many as seven states. I was sitting inside at the computer when hoards of people were enjoying a nice fall day.

It’s usually great fun, and I always have heroic ambitions. I’m going to get rid of at least twenty of my more than 3,000 books. Twenty is an admirable goal for me since I admit to being a book hoarder. I almost made that goal of twenty last year, but since then I’ve  probably added  another hundred.

Wwll, maybe next year.

And now I’m off to clean up my house which has been neglected in the frantic dash toward the book’s end and I might even step outside for a breath of fall air.