Jazz nd Ghosts – Carolyn

Last night my friend Pat and I went to a jazz concert, one of a series of concerts given by Germantown, the next suburb over. I already have tickets with Pat Potter (another Pat) for the symphony, but this is the first jazz concert I have been to since I lived in New York years ago. To show my age, I was in the audience at the Village Vanguard the first time Johnny Mathis sang in public. Wow—before Noah’s flood. It was obvious he was going to be a star.

I had a good friend from Brooklyn, transplanted to Memphis to produce local TV shows, who introduced me to Parker and Coltrane and some of the best. At that point, Birdland was still in operation. I, however, always preferred cool jazz. Brubeck and Getz, the Modern Jazz Quartet. I have a real hate on about what my friend called ‘honkers.’ If you listen to jazz, you know what I mean. At the end of an hour, you hope for the blessed pain relief of a migraine.

These guys last night were truly good. They ranged from Jelly Roll Morton to Fatta Hines to Armstrong and up to their own arrangements. I know this makes me a Philistine, but I prefer music with an identifiable motif if not an actual tune. I am no more fond of “noodlers” than I am of honkers. These guys were neither. After two hour-long sets, the audience would have been ready for more, except that the musicians were probably too tired to think straight, much less play actual music. Go listen to some live music. Chances are you’ll enjoy it.

On another note, the ghost stories for our ghost anthology are finally edited, and the line drawings are in hand to head each story. I hope I can send the whole shebang to the publisher next week, and that he approves what we’ve done. The first group of stories, mysteries set in Memphis and called Bluff City Mysteries, has sold quite well. I hope the ghost stories do even better.

We’re already thinking up a theme for the third anthology.

This all started as a simple writing exercise for our Malice in Memphis group of mystery writers. It worked. The ghost stories for this second anthology are tighter and more professional than the first group.

I truly believe it is possible to learn to write. Maybe some of us are born natural writers. If so, I’ve never met one of them. And even the geniuses are constantly learning, practicing, critiquing, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting in hopes of writing better. Even Shakespeare rewrote.

One of my professors in graduate school tore one of my papers apart, because she said I was using the easy word rather than the exact word. I’ve never forgotten that. I am not always successful, but I sometimes sweat bullets hunting for the exact word. Sometimes I don’t find it. But at least I’m trying.



Ode to a tree


We counted the rings. Seventeen.


We planted three coastal redwoods seventeen years ago. They went into the ground as skinny little Charlie Brown trees. Over the years they soared to impressive heights. They asked very little of us–just water and a little iron once or twice a year.

Then the California drought moved into Year Four. We reduced our watering for the lawn, which is the same system that watered the trees. I’d remember to drag a hose out and do deep watering…occasionally. Not often enough, apparently.

Drought weakened our beautiful trees and western beetles did the rest. You can read more about this horrible, invasive pest that is creating havoc in the west here:

A pest known as the polyphagous shot hole borer is attacking hundreds of trees at UC Irvine, but scientists from around the region are rallying to save them.

Read the full story: http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/07/21/53250/scientists-fight-to-save-iconic-uc-irvine-trees-fr/

Despite recent rains, fire danger will be back soon and with so many dead trees in the Sierra the Governor is considering asking for Federal help. We are doing our part by removing the dead trees, but it breaks my heart to say goodbye to these old friends.


A Twitter exchange with a very knowledgeable stranger (yes, Twitter) included this tip: “2 deep soakings a week is better than lightly watering daily. Deep roots make everything stronger.” My new mantra. Thank you, @JulieSczesny.

Hope this helps any of you dealing with drought issues.


PS: What is it with men and chain saws?


Not bad for February – Carolyn

Today was a perfect day to drive my Zoe horse. Fifty-five degrees, clear with no wind. We had a lovely drive except for the small problem when Zoe and I misjudged the corner of a big round bale of hay. I guess I’m still more used to driving a two wheel carriage than my present four. I cut the corner too close and buried my rear right wheel in the hay. Zoe was an angel. She could have freaked, or tried to back up precipitously and made the situation—only mildly bad—considerably worse. Instead she stopped dead the moment she felt the weight of the carriage behind her, then stood patiently while Beverly and I got down from the carriage. Beverly moved the rear wheel over out of the hay and I carefully moved Zoe left and freed the front wheel.

It is, by the way, absolutely a no-no to have both people on the ground at the same time for obvious reasons. At a horse show, not having someone heading the horse (reins or lead line in hand at the horse’s head) is disqualification. Not a good thing to have a horse attached to a carriage with no human agency keep said horse from running away. Or even walking away, for that matter. Zoe was actually free of rein restraint for about thirty seconds, during which she stood there as quiet as a mouse. We were very proud of her. A couple of weeks ago when we were driving, she walked into the scent of the vixen who is wintering under a dead tree in the pasture and went straight up in the air and actually lifted the front wheels of the carriage off the ground. She didn’t know what it was (or maybe she did), but she was not going to walk past its den.

I think the vixen has moved house since, probably because I’ve been out walking the pastures. She is familiar with Zoe’s scent, but a human being? No way.

In the storm last week and its attendant floods we lost a huge old tree in the back pasture. It fell over the fence line, but not actually touching it, thank Heaven. I have some major tree work to be done before the leaves come out when my tree man can see what he’s doing. I don’t want him to turn my pastures into a park, but it’s comforting to get rid of dangerous widow-makers hanging off the trees ready to fall on either my head or the horses’ heads.

Last Sunday was the dance exposition of the studio where I am learning ballroom dancing. My friend Pat and I went to applaud. I have never seen so much bling in my life. I’m toying with a mystery plot centered on a ballroom dancing studio, so I need to know as much as possible about the ins and outs. The difficulty so far is that I haven’t met a villain. As the witch says in Into the Woods, “you’re just nice,” as though it were a pejorative. I have to figure out the best possible way to screw it all up. Wish me luck.


Ah Research, How I Love It!/Pat

One of my great joys in writing is doing the research.

On my Pinterest site, I mention that curiosity is my driving force, and I tell budding writers that curiosity is a necessity.   I can’t think of anything or anyone that is not interesting in some way or form.

But that curiosity is also a curse.   I start on a voyage of checking some fact, and I end up spending an entire day or more following  the different paths it takes me.   Sometimes, those paths have nothing to do with the original quest but I become caught up in a detour..

I’ve started a new book and it involves numerous internet searches.    My hero is a Navy Seal and my heroine is a doctor who, due to family circumstances (she’s suddenly the guardian of a younger sister and a very troubled adolescent brother), decides she must move from Chicago after her brother is arrested in Chicago for auto theft..

She has to give up her much desired fellowship in pediatric surgery in a major Chicago hospital to take a temporary position as a general practice physician in Covenant Fall when her mother dies, leaving her the guardian of her siblings.   Their father had died eight years earlier in a plane crash and their mother recently died of cancer.  As an outstanding medical resident for the last three years, Lisa Murray had been gone most of the time.   Now she has full responsibility of two grieving and bitter teenagers who resent the fact she’d barely been visible for years..

So what to research?    Searches start with her medical background: residency. the requirements to transfer a medical licence from one state to another; the likely medical problems found in Colorado as opposed to Chicago.   That’s just the beginning.

And then of course, there’s Seal research which is much more fun.  That has to do with rank, training, fields of service.    In this case Jubal (his father was a rodeo star) had been held captive by extremists.   In which country?   Which terrorist group? etc.  I’ve been browsing sites about terrorists.  I hope the FBI doesn’t notice.

Conflict?   Having witnessed what guns and other weapons can do to a human body, Lisa hates guns and is not fond of anyone whose past is violent.   She particularly doesn’t want her brother exposed to a career soldier, and does everything she can to keep him from falling under Jubal’s influence.    Good luck with that.

I really like the characters and the conflict, and I’m happy to return to Covenant Falls for a few months.  I have some very good friends there.

In the meantime, the third in the Covenant Falls series, “A Soldier’s Journey,” will be available April lst. .

As a footnote, one of my Scottish romances, “The Black Knave,” was featured in Bookbub last week and, for a short time, it was #1 in Scottish romances.   Thanks to all of you who checked it out.


New again

So this happened: I got the right backs to a bunch of my previously published books. These are books that sold well and reviewed well in print, but found NO audience in digital. (Not surprising because they were more or less dumped into the market with no support along with a million or so other titles.) I’m so excited to have a chance to rebrand these books and hopefully reach a new audience. But that means starting from scratch–review-wise. If any of you, my faithful readers, are so inclined, I would gladly send you a review copy for FREE. Please email me. I’ve refreshed the text and made a few changes so I think you’ll enjoy this fun, heartfelt story.

Deb_Black Hills Baby300dpi2400x3840

I shared this fun “first kiss” scene on my FIRST KISS: TUESDAY blog, in case you missed it.

“Does the cabin have DSL? I’d like to check my email.”

She stopped and turned around. Her eyes-–an unusual shade of golden brown that could have sold a fortune in contact lenses if it could be duplicated-–opened wide a moment before she burst into laughter. “Sorry. I guess I should have sent you a picture of the place before you came. My dad ran power to the cabin when Gran was living with us, but there’s no phone. Or TV. We don’t get cable. Some people in town have satellite, but it’s never been high on my list of priorities.” She looked a little worried. “Are you going to be able to handle that?”

He shifted the strap that was biting into his flesh on his shoulder. “Of course. I just assumed that since you reached me via the Internet, I’d be able to do the same.”

“Oh, you can. In the house. I have a desktop computer. In my bedroom,” she added softly. “I…um…I’ll see about moving it to a more central place – the dining room would probably work — so you can use it, too.”

She’s a prude. Suddenly, he felt an overwhelming need to test his theory. That’s what his character would do, he was sure of it. So, he slipped the strap from his shoulder, let the heavy leather bag drop to the ground, and cleared the distance between them.

She stared at him, questioningly, mouth slightly agape.

“You can leave it where it is,” he said, removing his sunglasses so they were looking straight into each other’s eyes. “After all, we’re going to be sharing genetic material. That should entitle me to at least see the inside of your bedroom, shouldn’t it?”

Her bottom lip moved up and down, but no words came out. For the pure hell of it, he leaned in and kissed her. Neither of them closed their eyes, so he could read her instant shock. But she didn’t pull back or react in any other outward response.

That lack of reaction never happened when he kissed a woman. He’d been kissing women long enough and often enough in front of other people to know that he was damn good at it. She should be swooning. Unless he’d lost his touch.

Determined to trigger a reaction, he pulled her against him and tilted his head. This time he did close his eyes. He felt the thudding of her heartbeat that was outpacing his.

His brief moment of satisfaction was lost, though, when she let out a tiny moan, followed quickly by a sharp, “What the hell are you doing?”

She pushed on his shoulders with a strength that surprised him. He stepped back, and promptly tripped over his carry-on bag. He went down gracelessly and hard.

A pain shot down his leg and straight up his spine. “I think I’ve broken my coccyx.”

“Good. Then it will save me kicking it.”

Amazon      KOBO     iBooks     GOOGLE Play    BN

As you might be able to tell from this snippet, the road to their HEA is paved with obstacles, including a dinosaur named Seymour (as in See-more). This is an 8-book series. BH BILLIONAIRE  and BAD BOY follow in coming weeks.


Please email me at DebSalonen@gmail.com, if you’d like a FREE review copy.

Wishing you a lovely weekend in preparation for new week’s big V-day celebration.



Exercise should be fun – Carolyn

Last weekend we had snow and ice. Today it is 70 degrees and cloudless. Now, that is ridiculous! Unfortunately, my driving buddy and I can’t drive Zoe this afternoon because I have to go to a dance exhibition that my ballroom dancing group is having—one of two for the year. No, I am Not dancing! Once was enough. I am too old and too fat and too insecure and too incompetent. But I feel it incumbent upon me to go and support my fellow students. It is all very “Dancing with the Stars” complete with elaborate costumes and enough glitter to fill a riverboat barge.

One of my friends is a year older than I am, which puts him right up there with Methusaleh. I doubt, however, that Methusaleh went in for top hats, black tie and a cane. He’s very good. But then he’s been dancing several times a week for the last several years.

There have been some excellent studies that found that dancing helps the balance and keeps the brain active. From the researchers to God’s ear. Next week I hope I can get back to riding my horse, which also helps.

I basically hate exercise. I have a top of the line treadmill, which is usually half-covered by clothes I haven’t gotten around to hanging up. Boring! I even have a rack on the top where I can rest a book to read while I am walking. I still tend to forget what I’m doing and shoot myself out the back.

Riding a bicycle around here on a very busy two-lane highway is insane. Lots of people do it, and lots of people wind up stove up. Between the eighteen wheelers and the Rottweilers and hunting dogs, it’s as much as your life is worth to get out there.

I am careful both riding and driving my horses. I know they’re possibly dangerous, but they do not bore me. Ever. I try to avoid doing anything stupid, always wear a hard hat and have calm horses (for the most part).

One of my riding friends who just turned sixty was training a friend’s horse Friday when the horse bucked him off. He was out cold for five minutes and kept overnight in the hospital. This was while wearing a hard hat. Without one heaven knows how badly he would have been hurt. Apparently the little horse he was riding was not used to being asked to respond to leg and seat commands appropriately. He decided his best chance of avoidance was to get rid of the two-legged jerk on his back. It worked, too.

I never go out to the barn without my cell phone in my pocket, and it is always charged. If I were to fall out there, my Zoe would nuzzle me sweetly, then go back to eating hay.

But bad things generally do not happen around horses. Good thing. With luck I can stay around them for a while longer. They smooth out the rough patches in my soul.


This and That/Pat

Potter-BlackKnaveFirst I would like to tell you that “The Black Knave,” my first in a three book Scottish historical series, is available in e-book Saturday (today) and Sunday at Kindle for $1.99, a savings of  five dollars.  Originally published by Berkley, it was a top pick by Romantic Times, a Rita finalist and an alternate selection with the Doubleday Book Club.  You can read reviews and  a segment by going to Amazon. .  Just click below:       .


t was also on Bookbub last week and I was delighted to see it do very well.

I’m late today, partially because of Katy, my Australian Shepherd.    She’s had an operation on her back right leg ten days ago (she had one on her left leg last yea) and still needs constant attention.  We had a second vet visit today.   I’ve tended to let everything else go during the past week.  The recuperating period is eight weeks which means I have to watch her with an eagle eye to keep her from moving suddenly or biting on the wound.  .  Wish us both luck.

I’m also finishing the proposal for my next Covenant Falls book.  This will be the fourth in the series, and I love the characters.   The hero this time is Jubal Madison, a Navy Seal and the heroine is a woman doctor with two rather difficult siblings to raise.    Sometimes a book just takes off, and I can’t write fast enough.   This is one of those. There is so much conflict between the two that it’s going to be great fun to see how they can ever get together.   Even I don’t know yet.

For those not in the book business,  the  editor usually has to approve the first three chapters of a book under contract before the second of three payments is made.   The first is upon signing a contract, the second on approval of three chapters, the remainder on completion.

Between Katy, the proposal, and not nearly enough promotion of the Amazon specials, I’ve been delinquent here.   I promise to do better in the future.

I hope everyone has a great week ahead.


Winter – Poo! Carolyn

Last week I said how much I like winter down here in the south.

I lied.

Today there are 30 mile an hour winds,and  a couple of inches of snow full of enough ice to turn a snowball into a guided missile capable of cracking a skull.

I don’t mind that it’s grismal (my word—combination of gray and dismal). I don’t much mind the snow, for that matter, because the roads are pretty clear. Not that I intend to find out first hand yet. Therefore I am limited. I desperately need paperclips, but I am loath to drive to town to get them. Nuts.

I am hunkered down in the house with the cats cleaving to my warm body. So far as they are concerned, I am the softest space heater available. Monty, the Burmese, has discovered that he can crawl into the entertainment center shelf that holds the dish equipment and stay tucked in where it’s truly warm. Unfortunately, last week he apparently hit the rocker switch that controls both the dish and my new Netflicks. He disabled both at one paw swipe. Did I know how to fix either of them? Noooo. Thank the Lord my son-in-law discovered the trouble and got me back on line. I tend to leave the television on ID, the forensics channel, with the sound off, purely for background. Occasionally I check the level of blood spatter to see if there’s anything going that might help with my writing. There often is, by the way.

During the down time, I discovered that our local channels have several non-HD channels that don’t show up on the dish. I watched (or ignored) I Dream of Jeanie, Gunsmoke, and Bewitched among others. The last time I saw Betwitched, my forty-something year old daughter was Tabitha’s age.

The interesting thing about those comedies was that they did not rely completely on cussing and sex for comedy. Yes, I know there was censorship. Poor Jeanie’s genie costume could not expose her navel. I guess the media moguls figured all the males that watched it would run rampant at the sight of—actually, I don’t know whether it was an insie or an outie.

Nudity on television and in the movies doesn’t bother me one bit. As a matter of fact I hate sex scenes in which neither partner ever takes off so much as a hankie. I do wish there were equity between female nudity and male nudity, but that’s another issue.

I don’t mind the profanity either. I have been known to come up with some unladylike language myself on occasion. What I do mind is reliance on nudity and cussing in place of actual funny lines and situations. That’s just laziness. The audience has not deteriorated that far. Look at the popularity of Maggie Smith’s character in Downtown Abbey. I wish I could come up with the zingers that her writers do. So many shows that are theoretically comedic are simply mean-spirited. In my book, humiliation is not funny. That’s why I prefer Harold Lloyd to Charlie Chaplin.

Obviously I am in full curmudgeon form today. I guess it’s the ice and snow.


Yea Winter – Carolyn

My jonquils are already peeking the beginnings of their green leaves out of my front yard. Now, that is ridiculous. We generally get them blooming by the middle of February. That’s bad enough. But January? Give me a break. I LIKE winter down here. Well, most of the time anyway. So long as it is cold and dry or warm and wet, I’m okay with it. The thing is, spring means the onslaught of summer. And I hate summer. A few of my horsey friends leave for Florida the minute Christmas is over, come back for a couple of months in April, May, and June, then go off to Maine or Wyoming for the summer. Well, all righty then. I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to, which I don’t.

So far this year I haven’t put on Zoe’s horse blanket even once. Horses who have their winter coats and are not clipped for showing don’t generally need blankets here. They come with their very own. Zoe, being half Shire, is a great big fuzz ball by the first of December. Unless it is both wet—rain or snow or heaven help us, ice and sleet—with a cold wind, she’s perfectly happy unblanketed. And her poor partner in crime, little Frieda the thoroughbred, refuses to wear a blanket no matter what the conditions. But when the weather is bad, they can both come into the barn and snuggle.

A couple of weeks ago during the heavy rains and flooding, I found deer prints in the barn. And, I think, a couple of coyote prints as well. I know we have a fox family denned up under a fallen log in the back pasture. The last time we drove Zoe she had a major meltdown when we tried to drive her beside the tree. Even I could smell them. Now, you realize that Zoe has been happily grazing practically in their den without a moment’s hesitation, but she was happy to use their presence to have a silly fit.

She is a big lady, so when she has a silly fit, great is the fit thereof. She actually lifted the carriage’s front two wheels off the ground, planted her feet and started to back up. This is not a good thing with a four-wheeled carriage. We calmed her down and went another way. But came back to the same path twenty minutes later. No silly fit. Maybe the vixen and her kits were out hunting or taking a nap.

This has been a banner year for deer. Not necessarily a good thing. Too many deer in one area brings on a disease called ‘black tongue,’ or that’s what my hunting friends tell me. Their tongues swell and they can’t eat or drink. Horrible. I do not hunt, although I suspect I would if I were starving and had the means to do it, but I do not have a problem with my friends who do, so long as they are hunting for food. Around here, plenty of people need their autumn deer to get their families through the winter.

Hunting strictly for trophies? Personally, I don’t think so. I prefer a camera.



Excuse my absence please (Pat)

Sick dog today.   My Katy’s leg went out and she’s had surgery yesterday.   Came home today, and I’m babying her.

Laptop is down and my other computer is upstairs where she cannot go.

Will update next week.